In a Wednesday afternoon hearing of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, Senator Katie Fry Hester (District 9 – Carroll and Howard Counties) detailed her proposed bipartisan legislation (Senate Bill 653) that enables county school systems to work together to provide better educational outcomes for students and creates new innovate regional schools.
Summarizing the legislation, Hester stated: “This is enabling legislation that will allow local jurisdictions to work together across school district lines to study, plan, establish, and maintain innovative regional schools.” She followed: “The aim is to enable counties to address issues of population and resource utilization while also providing for specialty training and dual enrollment programs to keep pace with the changing demographic and special education needs of our growing global economy.”
According to nonpartisan analysis from the independent Maryland Department of Legislative Services, innovative regional schools would be defined as schools that offer special courses for an innovative education program or admit students from one or more local school systems. Under Hester’s bill, local school districts would be enabled to enter into memos of understanding (MOUs) to share the resources and the responsibilities of governing and financing the schools.
Citing discrepancies in both the school populations and resources of the two counties that she represents, Hester noted that schools in the Carroll County part of her district have resources that are often underutilized while schools in the Howard County part of her district are stretched to capacity or beyond. “Local jurisdictions are the best place to think creatively outside the box,” she stated. “We must push ourselves to be creative and practical at the same time,” she concluded.
Joining Senator Hester in her sponsorship of the legislation is Republican Senator Justin Ready from District 5 in Carroll County. Having now been heard in its committee of origin, Senate Bill 269 awaits a vote of the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. All legislation must successfully pass both the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates by Sine Die on Monday, April 8th to be sent to Governor Hogan to be approved or vetoed.