ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The House of Delegates gave final approval Saturday to a measure giving the Prince George’s County executive more control over the county’s school system.
The 81-45 vote sent the bill to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has not indicated if he will sign it but has not expressed opposition.
Under the bill, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker will be able to choose the schools superintendent. He also will be able to select the chairman and vice chairman of an expanded Board of Education. Baker had also asked for control of the school system’s $1.7 billion budget, but that was taken out of the proposal. The school board and several education associations resisted the bill.
Delegate Anne Kasier, D-Montgomery, said concerns about the measure setting a precedent for other counties appear to have been allayed by changes to the bill, which gives the county executive more responsibility and also the risk of blame that could come with it.
“So there’s a sense that not every county is going to be lining up for this model,” Kaiser said. “They may have lined up for the original model where the superintendent and county executive were getting all of the power.”
Baker has said his motivation for a new governance structure is to improve the county’s low test scores, superintendent retention and the slow rate of academic improvement compared to other Maryland counties.
William Hite, the county’s most recent superintendent, left in September to become Philadelphia’s schools chief. The county has had five superintendents in the past decade.
In other business, the House voted 107-25 for a measure to adjust how money from a state venture capital fund can be used to try to make it more effective. That bill now goes to the Senate, which will consider some changes made by delegates.
The measure affects InvestMaryland, a top initiative of O’Malley’s that was approved two years ago to help start-up companies.
Under the program, $84 million was raised by selling state insurance premium tax credits at reduced rates. However, only about $5 million has gone to companies so far. The remainder has not yet been spent.
Critics say the need for the bills is proof that the program isn’t working and that the state never should have gotten involved with a venture capital fund.
But supporters say it’s a long-term project that will take time to reach full fruition.
The House gathered for an unusual Saturday session to prepare for the last day on Monday. While there are a variety of measures still before the General Assembly, most of the major bills of the session already have been approved and sent to O’Malley for his signature.
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