Testimony on proposed legislation: Howard 10-23, “FOR the purpose of altering the membership of the Howard County Board of Education to consist of both elected and appointed members beginning in a certain year; and generally relating to the Howard County Board of Education.”
Senator Lam, Delegate Watson, and the honorable members of the Howard County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly:
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization working to protect and expand voting rights and ensure everyone is represented in our democracy. The League was founded in Chicago in 1920 after a 72-years long campaign by suffragists, going back to 1848, to obtain the right for women to vote in this country. We cherish the right of citizens to vote. It’s right there in our name.
The process to elect our Board of Education has already undergone significant changes. In 2017, the Board of Education was expanded from five to seven members; then, in 2019 most board members were to be elected by councilmanic district rather than at-large, as had previously been the case. This bill would be the third revision of the mode of selecting members for the Board of Education in a six year period, and the reason for this change is obscure.
We now have a Board of Education elected under the conditions approved three years ago. Now, for the first time, the citizens of Howard County have the advantage of true diversity of racial, ethnic and geographic representation on the Board of Education.
Wasn’t the goal of election by councilmanic districts to diversify the membership of the Board? It seems to have worked as intended.
We have further concerns about this proposal, including, but not limited to: a lack of transparency, politicization of a non-partisan board, undermining of the independence of the board, and unequal representation of citizens across the county.
The League believes that Voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed. We also prefer election systems that help ensure minority views and interests have some influence in selecting elected officials; maximize the power of each voter’s vote, and help promote more openness and responsiveness between candidates and constituents. The League’s position is clear. The Board of Education should be elected, not appointed.
Citizens who run for the Board of Education do not select a political party, they are non-partisan. By creating appointed positions, you will be encouraging candidates to appeal to the majority party in power, at the time, so that they can be appointed.
The League of Women Voters of Howard County supports an elected Howard County Board of Education. Therefore, we oppose Howard 10-23.
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