Dozens of Democratic lawmakers in Maryland are mounting an effort to prevent the State Board of Education from privatizing low-performing public schools.
Late last year, the board started to discuss ways to help low-performing schools. Among its solutions: expanding charters and the use of vouchers.
Many lawmakers stood united Tuesday to announce a plan for legislation that would push back against efforts by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the State Board of Education to increase the number of charter schools in Maryland and the number of students who attend private schools on vouchers. They were joined by members of the state’s teachers union.
Under the bill, the state would tie the hands of the State Board of Education by not giving it a say in a local district’s improvement plans for low-performing schools.
“We don’t need escapes out of public schools. We need to improve our public schools,” said Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery), a former teacher who is to sponsor the “Protect Our Schools Act,” a bill that essentially prevents the state board from privatizing schools.
Board President Andrew Smarick, a former partner at Bellwether Education Partners and now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, could not be reached to comment.
“The governor believes that all children . . . deserve a chance at the best education possible,” said Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Hogan. “This administration will continue to be a strong advocate for all forms of education.”
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said the Democratic lawmakers are committed to opposing bills proposed by the governor that would increase funding for private school vouchers and would create a panel — the Maryland Public Charter School Authority — to approve new charter schools.
Currently, charters require the approval of local school districts and adhere to rules that are set by the state Department of Education.
Busch said the proposal “makes absolutely no sense” to essentially create a board for traditional public schools and a board for charter schools.
Hogan wants the state to spend $10 million over the next three years on Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today, or BOOST, a voucher program that would allow low-income students to attend private schools.
Lawmakers have questioned whether the vouchers are working as intended — to provide more options to students from poor families. More than 1,900 of the 2,464 students awarded scholarships this year were enrolled in private school last year, according to a report by the state Department of Education.