An amendment proposed by a Republican senator would increase the number of elected school board members to the Baltimore County Board of Education.
The amendment requested by Sen. Joseph Getty would increase the proposed elected school board to seven members—the same number rejected by a Senate committee last year.
"I think we should go back to that standard," said Getty, who represents Carroll County and portions of Baltimore County from Cockeysville north to the Pennsylvania line.
Getty said he still intends to vote for an elected school board whether it includes six or seven elected members. Seven districts corresponding with the council districts would make the change easier for voters to digest, he said.
"If you all of a sudden create six new districts it makes it indecipherable," Getty said.
Getty's amendment is the latest in a series of proposed changes that have prevented the county's eight senators from voting on the bill—a necessary step if the measure is to receive final committee approval.
The change, if approved by the county delegation, would return the bill to essentially the same form it was in last year when it was held up in committee by Sen. Joan Carter Conway.
It would also appear to solve a concern over the potential costs to the county Board of Elections, which will be responsible for implementing the new districts.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz cited the concern about additional costs incurred by the board in a recent letter opposing the school board bill.
It would, however, override an amendment sought by Sen. Delores Kelley to make the new school board districts the same in population with only a 3 percent variation over or under the target number. Current council districts have a plus or minus 5 percent variation.
It is not clear if the amendment to align the school board districts with council districts will find favor in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. That committee last year struck the language and created the current version of the bill.
Conway, who chairs the committee, cited concerns that having only four appointed members on the school board would reduce racial diversity on the panel.
Conway was opposed, at the time, to electing the board members from the county's seven council districts.
"Baltimore County only has one black councilman on the council and based on the population it should have more," Conway said, adding that the school board is more diverse because of appointments made by the governor.
"The governor has the sensitivity to make those appointments," Conway said last March.
Sen. J.B. Jennings, a supporter of the bill and a member of the committee, said he doubts the committee will be willing to support a return to the original bill.
"The concern of the committee was that they didn't like that the number of elected members out-weighed the number of appointed members," Jennings said. "They decided to try to equalize that."
Jennings said he plans to argue that the bill only affects Baltimore County and is one that legislators want.
"We should be able to have it unless someone can bring in valid points about an issue they've had with a similar school board," Jennings said.
Sen. Bobby Zirkin, sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, acknowledged the concerns of the committee but the amendment would "remove all the fiscal implications."
"[The committee] obviously had a problem with it but the delegation should do what it thinks is right and the committee will do what they think is right," Zirkin said. "Obviously, the committee has the last say. In the end, I'm less concerned about whether it's seven elected members or six as long as we get a process that brings democracy to the citizens of Baltimore County."