School Budget Debate in Baltimore County Raises Issue of Accountability

Baltimore County Council members will hear from County School Superintendent Joe Hairston today whether or not the school budget proposal for FY 12 will include a request from County Executive Kamenetz to restore 196 teaching positions, originally planned for elimination due to attrition.  If the Superintendent does not restore the positions, some elected officials say that they will raise the issue of Hairston’s contract renewal  and they will reconsider submitting legislation that would change the school board from an appointed body to one elected by voters, for the 2012 session of the General Assembly.  The Baltimore Sun reports, the

..budget battle comes after a year in which public criticism of Hairston and the board has increased because of several perceived missteps, including the system’s failure to react quickly to school overcrowding in the York Road corridor, the sudden prohibition of some PTSA fundraising activities, and ethical questions surrounding the awarding of contracts.

County Councilwoman Vicki Almond said she and other county leaders are frustrated that they have little control over the school budget, even though it represents most of the county’s spending. The County Council can reduce the size of the budget, but cannot increase it and can’t order the superintendent to spend money on the teachers.

“The Board of Education has no accountability to us and we give them a very large percentage of the budget,” said Almond, adding that it would be unlikely that the council would cut the school budget to send a message.

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