David Hornbeck was the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools from 1976 to 1988 and the superintendent of the Philadelphia school district from 1994 to 2000. For years he was a supporter of charter schools, seeing them as an important tool in the school reform arsenal, and as Philadelphia’s superintendent, he recommended that more than 30 charter schools be allowed to open. Now, in a reversal that is rare in education, he said this: “The last 20 years make it clear I was wrong.”
Hornbeck wrote an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun in opposition to a legislative proposal legislation championed by new Gov. Larry Hogan to make it easier for charter schools to obtain more public funding than they now get, exempt charter school employees from Maryland’s teacher certification requirements, and allow charters to seek a waiver that would relieve them of adhering to all of the laws and regulations that govern traditional public schools.
Hogan would like to see the number of charter schools in Maryland significantly increase; now there are 47 that were founded since the state began allowing them in 2003, with another five traditional public schools having converted to charter.
Hornbeck wrote in the op-ed that charter schools across the country have not broadly improved student performance, saying “it’s mixed at best.” He also wrote:
*Charter school funding is harming traditional public schools:
According to Moody’s Investors Service, charter schools pose the greatest credit challenge to school districts in economically weak urban areas and may even affect their credit ratings.
*States that have passed charter school laws considered to be “strong” are not really doing better than other states:
Advocates say we need a “stronger” charter law, noting that Maryland ranks near the bottom. Pennsylvania’s law is ranked much higher, yet its charter growth is contributing significantly to a funding crisis that includes draconian cuts to teachers, nurses, arts, music and counselors in Philadelphia.
*Charter schools by and large do not enroll the most challenged students because children with parents who have the wherewithal to apply for a charter create “a select pool of students and a corollary depletion of those students in non-charter schools.”
He made some other interesting points, which you can read in full here. Ultimately, Hornbeck said that school reform works when practices known to work are employed, including quality teachers and lower class sizes for young students.