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Republican state lawmakers are imploring the committee charged with selecting nominees to oversee the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform plan to reconsider its decision to decline sending a new slate of potential appointees to Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) after he cited concerns about a lack of diversity among their nominees.
Republicans representing rural parts of the state decried the lack of nominees from the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland and Southern Maryland on the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), which will be responsible for ensuring that the state and local jurisdictions fully implement the multi-billion-dollar Blueprint education reforms aimed at closing student achievement gaps and transforming Maryland’s education system over the next decade.
“Having broad geographic representation on the Board is imperative to realizing success in every jurisdiction within our state. For example, the educational challenges facing Prince George’s County, Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore are not the same and sadly, not one of these diverse areas has a representative on the board while other counties have up to four members,” Senate Minority Leader Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel) said in a statement Monday.
Simonaire acknowledged that the nominating committee has no “legal obligation” to send Hogan a new slate of nominees. According to the Blueprint legislation, the AIB shall consist of individuals who “reflect, to the extent practicable, the geographic racial, ethnic cultural, and gender diversity of the State.”
Hogan’s office sent a press release Monday afternoon compiling all letters — from Hogan, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D), the Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus and Republican lawmakers — sent to the nominating committee that condemn the lack of geographical and demographic representation among the AIB candidates. They ask the nominating committee to reopen its applications and send a new list of nominees to the governor before he has to appoint seven of the nine candidates by a Friday deadline.
Shanaysha Sauls, the chair of the nominating committee, did not immediately respond to a request to comment Monday. But in an interview earlier this month, she said the primary role of the AIB is not about representing local jurisdictions. “There’s nothing about the responsibilities of the Accountability and Implementation Board that would suggest that by having someone from a jurisdiction, that jurisdiction gets special consideration or is less or more accountable than any other jurisdiction,” she said.
“Someone living in a jurisdiction does not represent their jurisdiction. As a matter of fact, that would be a huge red flag,” Sauls said. Rather, the AIB members are supposed to represent the “spirit and the law of the Blueprint.”
Earlier this month, Sauls declined Hogan’s request to the nominating committee to send him a new slate of nominees to the AIB. Sauls said she felt that the nominating committee fulfilled its duty to select qualified nominees who, to the extent practicable, represent the diversity of the state.
Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), vice chair of the AIB nominating committee, said earlier this month that it is not possible for every jurisdiction to be represented on a seven-member panel. Out of the 43 applications the committee received, only one resided in Charles County and one in Frederick County. The majority were from Montgomery County and Baltimore.
The nominating committee, which included two panelists selected by Hogan, unanimously voted on the nine candidates. “There were checks and balances in the selection process,” Pinsky said. “At least one of the governor’s nominees had to vote for a nominee to be forwarded to the governor. It turns out the whole slate of nine was voted on unanimously.”
The main responsibility of the AIB is to hold all 24 jurisdictions accountable, not to have geographical and racial representation, he continued. “We don’t just recruit people to check boxes,” he said.
Still, Sen. Jack Bailey (R-Calvert and St. Mary’s) highlighted that rural school systems face issues that larger school systems in the state do not face, such as a harder time recruiting certified teachers. He mentioned that the Blueprint’s expansion of pre-K to include more private providers will be a challenge for rural school systems.
“It is imperative that the AIB have a member who is attuned to our unique challenges and prepared to specifically address those issues in their oversight role. If the AIB is intended to provide oversight over all of Maryland’s school systems, then it is imperative that its membership understand the needs of students from all parts of our State,” Bailey said in a statement. He asked the nominating committee to do “everything within its power” to ensure that someone from Southern Maryland is nominated to the AIB.
House Minority Leader Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany) and House Minority Whip Christopher T. Adams (R-Middle Shore) also underscored the lack of representation from the rural parts of the state. “To limit the members of the Accountability and Implementation Board only to those from Central Maryland suggests a one-size-fits-all approach from the outset – which will undoubtedly be detrimental to its success and to the success of school systems across the state,” they said in a statement Monday.
Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Lower Shore), who was a member of the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick and Carroll) and Sen. Paul D. Corderman (R-Washington) also asked the nominating committee Monday to reopen its application process to include nominees from the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland.