After a failed attempt in his first year in office, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is trying once again to increase the number of charter schools in Maryland by proposing to loosen the rules that govern the publicly-funded, independently-run schools and create an independent body with the power to authorize such institutions.
Hogan said Wednesday that he will propose legislation that would give charter schools oversight over hiring and firing, more power to set an admissions criteria, greater access to capital funds and an increased say over curriculum, books and professional development.
The bill would also create a panel, known as the Maryland Public Charter School Authority, to approve new charter schools. Currently, charters must be are approved by local school districts and adhere to rules set by the state Department of Education.
Hogan, a champion of school choice, said the state’s current charter-school law is “restrictive, vague and has consistently rendered the state unable to compete for millions of dollars of federal charter-school grants.”
“I believe that every child in Maryland deserves access to a world-class education regardless of what neighborhood they happen to grow up in,” Hogan said in a statement. “The proposals we are announcing today ensure that we will continue to increase the choices available to Maryland families and provide high-quality education for all Maryland children.”
Hogan tried to overhaul the state’s charter law in 2015, but the General Assembly watered down the legislation.
Wednesday’s announcement drew fierce opposition from the state teachers’ union, which said the governor’s proposal undermines important protections against fraud, waste and abuse.
“Gov. Hogan’s proposal amounts to an open invitation to for-profit entities to set up shop in Maryland and make money off our kids’ education,” said Sean Johnson, government relations director of the Maryland State Education Association. “His proposal to create an independent authorizing board for charter schools would lead to the same school privatization and fraud we have seen in other states.”
Union officials also accused the governor of an “outright lie” in the news release announcing his proposal. The release said local boards of education “have funded public charter schools at far lesser rates than traditional schools.”
A recent report by the American Institutes for Research, which studied the funding for charter and traditional schools in Maryland, found that all but one school district funds charter schools at a higher per student rate than traditional public schools.
Shareese Churchill, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said his statement referred to the fact that charter schools currently cannot compete with traditional charter schools for construction funds, creating a disparity. Hogan’s proposal would make those funds available.