Rushern Baker, Prince George's County school leaders face tough questioning from Maryland lawmakers

- A confrontation played out in Annapolis between Prince George’s County leaders over the school system and how it is being run.

On Tuesday, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell and School Board chair Dr. Segun Eubanks faced tough questions from Prince George’s County state lawmakers who are considering changing the structure of the school system after a host of problems.

Several years ago, lawmakers voted to allow Baker extraordinary control over the school system after a high turnover of superintendents. It allowed Baker to select the superintendent as well as part of the school board. In most districts, an all-elected board chooses the superintendent. 

Maryland State Del. Jay Walker (D-Prince George’s), the co-chair of the Prince George’s County House Delegation, asked about accountability.

“Who do we hold accountable for fraudulent graduation rates? Walker asked. “Who do we hold accountable for nepotism in the school system? Who do we hold accountable for graduates crying on their graduation day? Who do we held accountable for sexual predators taking advantage of our kids in our school system?” 

In response, Baker said he is responsible. He didn't point to his choice for head of schools and said he still stands behind Dr. Maxwell.

FOX 5 asked Baker what he says to those who believe the experiment to give him greater control over the school system has failed.

“I would tell them to look at the progress we've made in Prince George’s County,” Baker said. “I think the number of people putting their children back in our school system, you look at the scholarships the children are getting, look at the programs that we’re coming up with.”

Walker said he has seen no evidence this system of governance benefits students.

“I asked [Baker] time and time again to show me something that has been better and there has been no indicators here,” Walker said. “It hasn't been test scores, it hasn't been attendance, it hasn't been college readiness. So we need to find accountability.”

When asked if he had faith in Dr. Maxwell as head of Prince George’s County Public Schools, Walker responded, “Absolutely not.”

The process to potentially take away the county executive's control of the school system is just beginning, with efforts underway to make it a reality this legislation session.

Baker is running for Maryland governor, so he is definitely leaving his county post later this year, but he said he will still fight for this governance structure of the school system because he believes it is best for the county.

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