Boston city councilor Frank Baker has proposed changing the way School Committee members are chosen so that some would be elected, rather than appointed by the mayor.
Under Baker’s plan, introduced Wednesday, three members of the board would be elected at large to four-year terms, and four members would be picked by the mayor. Baker said that electing some members would give residents a more direct say on school policy.
“We want to have some independence on the board,” said Baker, who represents Dorchester. “They’re not beholden to the public, and, when it comes down to it, they’re all appointed by the mayor. And at the end of the day, they’re probably going to do what he asks.”
For the measure to be approved, it must first be endorsed by the City Council, then by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and finally by the Legislature.
Menino opposes changing the committee-selection process, believing that an appointed board removes politics from education decisions, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.
“It has been a decision that is in the best interest of the education of our children and a policy that has been widely supported nationwide,” said Dot Joyce. “The days of politics in education are over .”
Baker’s plan renewed debate on an issue that has flared many times in the past two decades. Until 1992, the city had an elected School Committee of 13 members who were often at odds with the mayor and school superintendent. The panel was also criticized for being too beholden to the teachers union, which can have great influence in local elections.
That system was rejected by a voter referendum, supported by Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, in favor of a seven-member panel appointed by the mayor. A home rule petition submitted by the mayor and City Council was enacted by the Legislature in 1991, and the first appointed Boston School Committee was seated in January 1992.
Baker acknowledged that the committee was politicized in the past. But he said that times have changed and that “the people who would run this year . . . are going to make decisions on what’s best for the city.”
Others, however, see the hybrid model, with some elected members and some appointed, as a failed system.