ANNAPOLIS, MD (WUSA9) -- How do you fix the struggling Prince George's County schools? How do you secure the future for it's students and their families?
County Executive Rushern Baker thinks he knows, and today he won his first big victory in the state legislature. He didn't get everything he wanted, but the Prince George's County Senate delegation voted 7-1 to give the county executive a much bigger say in how the schools are run.
It came together at the last minute in a velvet-draped room at the Capital. Prince George's Senators voting on amendments to a plan that would have bypassed the elected school board and had the schools superintendent report directly to County Executive Rushern Baker.
"I knew the legislative process would be give and take," after the delegation changed the bill so the superintendent would continue to report to the school board.
But the amendments still leave the County Executive a ton of power. He'll appoint three members of the school board. And he'll pick the superintendent.
The County Executive says that's enough so he can promise to improve the schools. "If I can't do that, I think everyone has a right to bring in another person and let them try."
Just one member of the Prince George's Delegation voted no. St. Sen. C Anthony Muse, (D-Prince George's) says the process was way too rushed. "We've had four school boards in 20 years. We've had appointed and elected, and now we are going to a hybrid. It's like we're grasping at straws."
Muse is far from alone in his skepticism. But the powerful Senate President is from Prince George's, and St. Sen. Thomas V. "Mike" Miller voted yes. "I'm confident it will come to the floor and pass the Senate." "And do you think it will make a difference?" "It has to make a difference. This is our last best chance."
Some say they are already seeing hard working teachers and principals improving performance in Prince George's County Schools. Education expert Jay Matthews said in an opinion piece in the Washington Post that more students taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes.
And he says that while legislators tinker with a school board that struggles, they should make sure not to tinker with the things that are working.