Thursday, July 06, 2006

'MCPS is not immune from public scrutiny'

The Montgomery County Council continues to push for the public school system to admit that it must be open to scrutiny and accountability.

The Board of Education (BoE) and Superintendent Jerry Weast have tried to operate free of scrutiny, and in February formally rejected the idea that the county Inspector General have the authority to audit county public school operations.

The board majority says the Inspector General interfered with school activity and cramped the school board (even though the board gladly cooperated with the IG when the audits were not aversarial).

Michael E. Faden, a lawyer for the County Council, has taken up the matter with the Maryland Attorney General.

"Faden argues in his letter that the inspector general's work does not interfere with school system operations or the school board's ability to do its work," according to the Washington Post.

"The issue, he says, is accountability. School system operations are the single largest expenditure in the county budget, and Faden argues that the council and the public have a right to know where the money goes."

Faden wrote, "MCPS is not immune from public and Council scrutiny."

"As its reaction to the report may indicate, the Board of Education might prefer less outside scrutiny from the Council or anyone else. But the Board's preference does not define the larger public interest. The applicable State law should not be construed to restrict, rather than enhance, public scrutiny of large school systems' finances and operations."

Photo: County Council member Steve Silverman, now running for County Executive, is trying to have it both ways. He lost his stealth plan to dig up the Seven Locks neighborhood for a pet construction project, and now that the Inspector General has come down hard on his friends, he's trying to help everyone get along. When it mattered, has opposed the Inspector General's authority over county public schools, and was a key author of a secretive campaign to privatize public school land for development projects. Indeed, he helped create the crisis that started this blog.