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The Return of Alvin Thornton

Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) has chosen former school board chairman Alvin Thornton, the onetime head of a crucial statewide commission on school funding, to once again lead the county Board of Education.

This marks the fourth time that Thornton, an outspoken advocate for enhanced funding for school systems in lower-income communities, has been asked to lead the Board of Education in Prince George’s, which has the second largest student population in the state.

In 1999, Thornton was appointed by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) to chair the Commission on Education Finance, Equity and Excellence, which became known as the Thornton Commission. The panel created an aid formula to ensure that school systems around Maryland had the resources necessary to meet the constitutional requirement for a quality education.

“Dr. Thornton brings with him a wealth of institutional knowledge with his extensive background in both education and education finance,” Alsobrooks said in a statement Wednesday.

“At a time when we are getting ready to go to Annapolis to seek the necessary funding we need to support a school system that educates students who face numerous challenges outside the classroom, his expertise will help to make certain that we receive every dollar that our children deserve.”

A commission headed by former University of Maryland Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan is expected to recommend later this month that the state dramatically boost classroom spending.

“It’s really important to have a school board chair who understands the importance of fully funding our schools,” said Theresa Mitchell Dudley, head of the county teachers’ union.

“He gets it. He understands it shouldn’t depend on what Zip Code students live in to get a high-quality education.”

Although the Prince George’s County Public Schools system has made gains in recent years, it still lags behind most other county systems on a range of indicators, including student test scores, graduation rates, college admissions and attendance.

Thornton taught political science at Howard University for nearly four decades, and he served as the senior academic adviser to the university president.

He told Maryland Matters he is “looking forward to assisting with the development of a shared local, state and federal governing consensus around our children.”

Thornton will take the helm of a 13-person panel that includes nine members elected from districts and four appointed by the County Executive and County Council.

His appointment does not require Council approval.

Last week Alsobrooks announced that Paul Monteiro, chief of staff to Howard University’s president, will fill one of two vacant positions on the Board of Education. Monteiro, a former mid-level Obama administration official, ran well behind Alsobrooks in the Democratic primary for county executive this year.

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The Return of Alvin Thornton