Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) took his pitch to expand charter schools on the road on Wednesday, making a short visit to a charter school in Baltimore where he read passages from “The Little Engine That Could” to several dozen second- and third-graders.
Hogan made the visit to Empowerment Academy, one of the oldest and highest-achieving public charters in the state, with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) and Del. Antonio L. Hayes (D-Baltimore), a member of the school’s board of trustees, by his side.
“This is a great opportunity to see firsthand the impact charters are having in our state,” Hogan said. “I was so impressed with the work. I know these kids are outperforming kids in other schools. I was really taken aback by these young kids and how impressive they were.”
Hogan recently introduced a bill that would revamp the way charter schools operate in the state, removing restrictions regarding employment and offering financial benefits to charters for the operation and construction or renovation of buildings.
Hogan said the bill is designed to remove rules that have limited the number of charters operating in Maryland.
Among some of the provisions in the bill: allowing charter school employees to be employees of the charter school instead of employees of the local school district; exempting teachers from being state certified; allowing public charters to form their own bargaining units; providing a funding formula for charters based on per-pupil spending; and allowing charters to vie for funds from the state’s capital improvement program.
“We believe very strongly that every single child in Maryland deserves a world-class education regardless of what neighborhood they grow up in,” Hogan said.
“We’ve got some of the best schools here in the nation in Maryland, and if you’re lucky enough to grow up in Howard County or Montgomery County you’ve got some of the best public schools. We’ve got some very good schools here in Baltimore city, but we have some schools that aren’t performing as well. And we want to try as many options as we can for kids to make sure they can get a great education. We think charter schools is one of those options.”
Earlier in the day, Senate President Thomas Mike V. Miller (D-Calvert) said Democrats are worried that allowing charter schools to hire teachers without following union rules amounts to “union busting.”
He said the Senate plans to find “elements of the bill” to pass and that the governor “will be pleased” by the eventual compromise. But, he said, Hogan will first need to agree to restore some of the public education funding to his proposed budget.
“And then, and only then, will we make certain that the governor also gets his charter school bill,” Miller said, adding that he had not spoken to Hogan about a compromise.
After being introduced to a room full of uniform-clad students, Hogan asked the children whether they knew what each of the men did. He started with his job.
“What does the governor do?” he asked.
Tiny hands sprung in the air.
“He makes the laws,” said one girl. Hogan politely corrected her, trying to give the state legislators their due. “Well, the legislators do that, the governor enforces them,” he said.
“He does the paperwork on very important stuff,” a boy said.
“Yes, on some boring stuff,” Hogan replied.
After reading the book and before Hogan left the room, some of the students had some questions of their own.
One little boy was overheard asking where was Anthony Brown.
Nia Davis, a third-grader, ran up to the governor and asked if he was taking money away from the schools.
Hogan, visibly surprised, told the youngster he was not doing that.
Nia ran back to her seat with pride, telling other students and an adult nearby that she was able to ask a question and get it answered. “He said he wasn’t taking money away from schools,” she said with a beaming smile.
Jenna Johnson contributed to this story.