Yesterday we had 4 bills announced (read more here and here) from members of District 12 that relate in some way to the Howard County Public School System. I thought I would provide my initial thoughts on those bills:

Senator Clarence Lam has announced that he will introduce (HoCo 04-20) for consideration by the Howard County Delegation in the 2020 legislation session that will require all county home buyers be notified that they are not assured any specific school assignment through the inclusion of a disclaimer at the time of home purchase closing.

  • Now based on my initial thoughts on this topic…this is a wonderful idea that I believe most everyone can get behind. No one that buys a home is “guaranteed” anything when it comes to the school system that they attend in this county and seems reasonable to add that statement when buying a home in this county. Many people I follow on social media has made this suggestion so I see no issues with it going forward.

Delegate Eric Ebersole will introduced a bill (HoCo 2-20) to prohibit the identification of a specific school assignment in any advertising for real estate or new residential construction in Howard County.

  • Now this is very similar to the Howard County Council Resolution that Opel Jones has introduced (CR134-2019)…yet takes it a step further. The council resolution is a recommendation to stop this type of advertisement…while the bill possibly headed to Annapolis is a bill to say stop it. There are going to be 1st amendment issues with this legislation and I expect it not to pass as is. I hope Delegate Ebersole rethinks this bill before he really submits it…because I can see it having serious opposition both from local industries and from those that think legislation limiting 1st amendment rights are wrong. As long as the truth is told in advertising…I am not sure you can (or should) limit that type of advertising.

Senator Lam will introduced HoCo 01-20, which aims to reduce overcrowded county schools by requiring the Board of Education to initiate the school boundary review process when school capacity falls outside of target utilization (90-110%) or report to the Delegation on a plan to address over and under-utilized schools.

  • Ok wow…this one. I get the idea of it…but it does not work (in my opinion) on paper. We may be doing redistricting yearly if this bill moves forward and is approved (or HCPSS or the HoCoBOE will be explaining why we are not doing it annually). Even the significant plan submitted this year does not accomplish this goal…if the current plan is approved as is there are 2 high schools over 110% (119% and 111%) and 3 additional high schools at 109% or 110%. That is just high school data…not to mention middle schools or elementary schools. This bill seriously needs to be evaluated before it moves forward…unless the state delegation goal is total anarchy locally.
  • The statement in the announcement of “Because the state provides a substantial amount of capital funding for school construction, we have a responsibility to ensure that this money is spent efficiently and that seats generated from state funding are filled”…seriously…where is the money for High school 14? Where is the state money for renovations needed at Talbot Springs ES and Hammond HS? I would recommend that you do not make statements like this when we have serious needs in our school system that may not be fulfilled next year or in the near future.

Delegate Hill will file a bill (HoCo 06-20) aimed at facilitating effective tracking of the county’s progress in addressing academic achievement gaps based on socioeconomic and limited English proficiency disparities.

  • I guess I get this bill…but don’t we get this annually from the school system already (at least most of it)? Maybe the point is to have greater input from the state legislation on this issue…but I think the data does already exist. The question on this one is…is the goal of the reporting and “recommendation” discussions a setup for future legislation to force the HoCoBOE to do the bidding of the state delegation? I am not totally sure what the purpose of this one is…but on the surface I do not have a specific issue with it…I am all for giving the State Delegation data…as well as the public. I want as much good data as possible…but based on some comments in public meetings…I seriously question the amount of good data available from our local school system (a different issue all together I know…but something not to be ignored).

Now look…these are just my initial thoughts on these topics. I am sure many discussions will happen (hopefully public discussions…but based on what happened last year…maybe not).  If you think I am wrong with my initial thoughts…please let me know in the comments.

One last thing…the members proposing these bills are elected from District 12…those members represent Howard County and Baltimore County. One has to ask the question(s)…are similar bills headed to the state for Baltimore County? If not…why not? Is Howard County so BAD that we (HoCo) need this legislation and Baltimore County does not? Why would these bills only be right for our jurisdiction? We saw this happen in 2019 (bills only for HoCo from members of this “team”) and one has to ask…if you represent both jurisdictions…why only submit these type of bills that affect our county in this way….while not submitting similar bills that do the same to Baltimore County?

I can not wait to see what members of Team 13 and members from District 9 (A and B) have to say about these bills. On one hand it would not surprise me to see the other four Democrats support it and the two Republicans oppose it (the bills above)…but maybe some of them will not take a political party view and take a realistic view to these bills (as I have tried to do with my comments).

I look forward to following the stuff noted above in the future.

Scott E

1 COMMENT

  1. My realtor has always been so forward with me about redistricting and school districts that I thought it was part of state law. A quick google shows that it’s just a recommendation from NAR. I fully support the first bill you mention, and think an asterisk with a similar no guarantee language should be included on any advertisements for homes for purchase. I *do* find it misleading to advertise a home as tied to a school district with no mention of how long. It implies forever, as many friends I know seem to be shocked at redistricting the past few years. But I think those policies should be state-wide

    I also agree that legislating the redistricting process seems to be the wrong approach. Policy is much more flexible than laws can ever be.

    The sudden focus on socioeconomic segregation in the county surprises me. Yes, we are more segregated than we should be. But also, we’re much less segregated than every other county in the state. As a hoco teacher I know has put it, “Howard county poor kids always know that they’re poor”. I *do* think our school policies could be doing more to address segregation, and I don’t think “we’re better than everyone else” is a reason to ignore the issues, but it also seems strange to have had this come up as such a focal point this year. With the long commutes some of the kids would have in the proposed plan, it strikes me more as value signaling than actually addressing the problem.

    I am extremely bothered by the racist commentary that has come out of the county as a result of the proposed plan. I think addressing integration in our schools is important for so many reasons (including maintaining stable home values, for those that like to make that argument). I would really like to do more to help alleviate the fears and expand these people’s minds to seeing the experiences of others. I hope the county can figure out ways to work on that going forward.

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