CAC laws/regulations

I have researched below a brief legal history of AACPS Board of Education policy 501.01, starting with the Maryland statute that led to its creation. Without the help of Maryland's Dept. of Legislative Services, I would not have been able to do this.  

There are four sets of rules that regulate the CACs:
1) Maryland state law (the state mandates that AACPS have a countywide CAC and that members of a CAC can set their own agenda)
2) AACPS policy (created by the Board of Education)
3) AACPS administrative regulations (which implements the Board of Education policy; this is where the details are)
4) Countywide CAC bylaws and motions (there are no independent bylaws but over the years there have been procedural motions, most of which appear to have been lost and forgotten)

The laws are hierarchically organized in the sense that each lower level law must not conflict with a type of law above it.  Thus, for example, AACPS policy must be consistent with the Maryland General Assembly's statutes.  

Here is the original Maryland state statute concerning CACs in Anne Arundel County, passed in 1970:

Article 77, Section 49(a) Generally--

Except in Anne Arundel County, for which provision is made by subsection (b) of this section, it shall be the policy of county boards of education to establish such citizen-advisory committees as they deem necessary to facilitate the activities and programs of the boards and any school or schools under their supervision.

Article 77, Section 49(b) Anne Arundel County--

(1) The Anne Arundel County Board of Education shall establish citizen-advisory committees to advise the board and facilitate the activities and programs of the board in any school or schools under its supervision.  The committee shall be so constituted as to be representative of the community as a whole.

(2) The members of the citizen-advisory committee serving one school shall be selected from among the parents of the students attending that school and interested citizens from the community.

(3) One committee shall be established to serve the county generally.  This committee shall be composed of representatives selected generally from each school region.

A few salient points: the 1970 law made citizen advisory committees voluntary in all counties except Anne Arundel County, where it was made mandatory.   The citizen advisory committee is also presented as enhancing participatory democracy, which involves empowering citizens with a public forum in which to communicate with and presumably influence their democratic representatives.  With participatory democracy, agendas are set from the bottom up as well as from the top down. 

In 1973, citizen advisory committees were also made mandatory in Worcester County.

Article 77, Section 49(c) Worcester County--

The Worcester County Board of Education shall establish citizen-advisory committees to facilitate the activities and programs of the board in any school or schools under its supervision.  The committees shall be so constituted as to be representative of the community as a whole.

In 1973, the AACPS Board of Education instituted policies to implement the 1970 statute above.  Much of the language in current AACPS policy 501.01 can still be traced back to the 1970 statute.

In 1976, the General Assembly decided to make a countywide citizen advisory committee mandatory for all counties in Maryland.  But in doing so, it watered down the original language.

Section 4-112 of the Education Article--

(a) Each county board shall establish at least one citizen advisory committee to advise the board and to facilitate its activities and programs in the public schools.
(b) Similar advisory committees may be established for:
(1) An individual school; or
(2) A group of schools within a region.
(c) A committee established under this section may include parents, teachers, students, and other citizens as members.

The requirement for a countywide CAC remains, but not the requirement for local CACs.  The language allowing a CAC to set its own agenda remains, but not the language of CACs as representative institutions.  However, both the requirement of local CACs and the requirement of CACs as representative institutions remains in the current AACPS policy 501.01.

I believe that the Report and Recommendations of the Task Force to Evaluate the Final Report of the Governor's Study Commission on Structure and Governance of Education, issued in December 1975, just before the 1976 legislative session, accurately represents the legislative intent behind the 1976 revision:

On page 29 of its Report, the Study Commission recommended that a "parent advisory council" be created in each public elementary and secondary school.  The councils "would be chosen through a representative process and would be given practical assignments that could include advising the school on the expenditure of funds; advising the principal on the purposes and programs of the school; exploring the need for parent education; and making an annual evaluation and presentation to the local board of education, both in writing and in person.

Article 77, §49 already permits local boards to establish citizen advisory committees.  In Anne Arundel and Worcester counties, this is mandated.   We believe that the present law already authorizes the boards to implement the Study Commission's recommendation; however, the language in §49 could be made more clear.  We recommend that the section be rewritten to require the creation of a county-wide citizen advisory committee in each county, composed of a fairly representative group of citizens in the county, including parents, teachers, and students.  In addition, the local boards should be authorized to appoint similar advisory committees either in particular schools or on a regional basis.

I have tried to research the legal history of CACs at the AACPS level of government as well as the state level but so far have been unsuccessful getting the following documents:
  • AACPS CAC policy adopted on August 1, 1973, predecessor to CAC policy 501.01
  • AACPS administrative regulations adopted December 6, 1989
  • AACPS administrative regulations revised April 5, 1994
It appears that AACPS only keeps the current version of its policies and administrative regulations.  Neither the liaison to the Countywide CAC, the Board's Administrative Assistant, nor the Board's Attorney could find these historical documents.  I checked every County library and found that none currently keep copies of the policies and regulations.  This was especially ironic for me because in 2002 I complained  to AACPS officials, as well as a group of more than 150 parents from across the county, that I couldn't find the current policy and administrative regulations online.  The officials replied that the policies and administrative regulations were available at all the local libraries in the County.  But when I went to my local county library in Severna Park, all I could find were outdated versions of the policies and administrative regulations.  They hadn't been updated for many years.  But now that I actually want the historical records, the library system no longer archives them because all the relevant policies and administrative regulations are presumably online.  I also asked Maryland's Department of Legislative Services, the research arm of the Maryland General Assembly, whether they have the regulatory archives of local school boards, and they replied no and referred me back to AACPS.  

Something seems wrong to me when it is so hard for an average citizen to ferret out the history of current laws, when such history has a great bearing on understanding the meaning of those laws.  When only insiders but not average citizens have access to historical documents, a core principle of democracy, which is that all should have equal access to the law, is perverted.  

--Jim Snider, Chair
Countywide CAC

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This is the detailed set of rules that is supposed to guide the CACs and AACPS. In practice, most of these rules have either been ignored or only selectively enforced.  Nov 12, 2010, 7:28 PM J.H. Snider

This one page policy seeks to implement the Maryland General Assembly statute mandating that AACPS create a CAC system.  Nov 12, 2010, 7:25 PM J.H. Snider