Christmas Grandstanding

My local Senator and one of my local Delegates have decided to use this Christmas season as an opportunity to grandstand.

Over the weekend Senator Bryan Simonaire and his daughter Delegate-Elect Meagan Simonaire announced that they were going to sponsor a bill to take the power of holiday naming out of the hands of local school boards. Seriously.

The father-daughter combo of Sen. Bryan and Del.-elect Meagan Simonaire have put together their first joint announcement on legislation.

They are teaming up to protect Christmas from Grinches — or the Anne Arundel County Board of Education.

Their proposed Christmas Protection Act of 2015 would require local jurisdictions that want to rebrand or remove the Christmas holiday from school calendars to bring that decision before the state.

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“The bottom line is I don’t want the Anne Arundel County school board removing Christmas from public schools,” the senator said. “I want it reviewed at the state level.”

Lost in the mix of all of this, of course, is the fact that the aforementioned Anne Arundel County Public School system refers to Christmas as Christmas on their calendars. But Simonaire-the-Elder says that he is concerned that the unelected School Board in Anne Arundel County would have the opportunity to change the name of the holiday “without representing the people”, to paraphrase the Capital article.

There’s a lot of unusual things about this entire episode. Senator Simonaire has been at the forefront of trying to establish an elected School Board in Anne Arundel County, something that both Greg Kline and I have worked in support of over the years. One of the reasons that we support that is to ensure that voters have a voice in to how our tax dollars are being spent and to ensure that the members of the School Board are held accountable for their decisions. However, the Simonaires bill contains two ideological inconsistencies

  • The bill is a knee-jerk reaction to a change in the calendar that occurred in Montgomery County by a school board that itself is elected; and,
  • The bill refers the decision of the unelected Anne Arundel County School Board to additional review to the State Board of Education, which itself is also unelected.

Of all of the issues facing our public schools right now, this seems like a reasonably low priority. However, it is problematic and ideologically inconsistent for the Simonaires to be trying to take power from local Boards of Education while simultaneously trying to empower voters decide who well serve on these Boards of Ed. If the idea is to devolve control of the schools to locally representative Boards of Education than the idea of taking decision-making authority, even about benign and non-substantive matters such as this one, out of their hands and giving it to the State undermines their argument and makes it harder to argue that voters should be empowered with these decisions.

There are plenty of ways to discuss Christmas, and there are plenty of real issues in the War on Christmas. But grandstanding on the naming of the Christmas holiday in a county where it isn’t an issue while contradicting your own position on local control of schools is not the best way to do it.

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