The Governor’s first legislative agenda includes the Public Charter School Expansion Act, a bill that would make several fundamental changes to charter school funding and administration in Maryland. The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House of Delegates on February 26 and in the Senate on March 4 and proponents and opponents to charter reforms are beginning to align. Major elements of the proposal include repealing the requirement that teachers at charter schools are public school employees, providing charter schools eligibility for State school construction funding, and allowing charter schools to apply the State Board of Education for a comprehensive waiver from regulations governing other public schools.
The Governor’s Press Release shares his vision for expanding Maryland’s charter school program,
Since the introduction of new laws over 12 years ago, just 47 charter schools currently operate in Maryland, with approximately 18,000 students enrolled. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Maryland has the fewest public charter school of any state in the nation where charter schools are permitted. Governor Hogan’s proposed legislation to Strengthen Maryland’s Public Charter School Law will deliver greater autonomy and could allow for new innovation in public charter schools through changes in the way public charter schools are regulated by education authorities.
According to the Office of the Governor, the provisions of the legislation will do the following:
- Require public charter school operators to include in their applications a plan to provide rigorous program instruction and ensure that professional staff will be well qualified and credentialed
- Provide an operating funding formula based on per pupil allocation and a capital funding stream by authorizing charter schools to be eligible for that capital improvement program
- Ensure that public charter schools have access to public facilities commensurate with other public non-charter schools
- Authorize charter school employees to be employees of the public charter school rather than of the local school system
- Exempt public charter schools from the state teacher certification requirements
- Authorize public charter school employees to form their own exclusive bargaining unit
- Allow public charter school employees to be exempt from collective bargaining agreements of local school districts
Some members of the education community have already voiced opposition to this legislation, including the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE). In its recent legislative publication, GreenSheet, MABE states that,
The proposed legislation would set charter schools above other public schools, in terms of per pupil funding and facility funding, and at the same time weaken or eliminate quality assurances for teachers and principals. In addition, the proposed legislation would allow the State Board of Education to directly oversee the operation of charter schools it authorizes.
The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), the largest union and professional association in Maryland, has also commented on the proposal. MSEA states on their website,
While we support Maryland’s charter schools and are open to further strengthening our already strong law, many of Gov. Hogan’s proposals are extreme, counterproductive ideas that would lower the state’s high standards for quality, accountability, and equity. Maryland’s high standards have supported a number of successful charter schools while avoiding the pitfalls experienced by states with lower standards. By the metrics of fostering accountability, fiscal responsibility, and educational quality, Maryland’s charter school law has proven to be one of the strongest in the country.
For more information, read the GreenSheet, the Governor’s Press Release, and read the Public Charter School Expansion and Improvement Act of 2015.