MARYLAND GOV. Larry Hogan (R) has proposed improvements to Maryland’s charter school law, currently the worst in the nation. Teachers union leaders and traditional public school officials are aghast. Lawmakers should look past their over-the-top rhetoric and bring Maryland into line with common-sense policies of other states.
The state House Ways and Means Committee is set to hold a public hearing Thursday on Mr. Hogan’s proposals to give charter schools more authority in employment and admission policies and increased public funding, including access to school construction funds. Many of the changes are standard operating procedure in other states, designed to give charters the flexibility that is vital to their ability to adapt and innovate. But, as The Post’s Ovetta Wiggins reported, opposition to the changes has been fierce and quick, including from the state’s teachers union and association of school boards.
More encouraging is that legislative leaders have said they are open to looking at ways to make it easier to open and operate charters. Maryland’s law is so restrictive that, 12 years after it allowed creation of charters, only 18,000 of Maryland’s 870,000 students attend them. A number of high-performing charter networks won’t even think about locating in the state. Most onerous are policies that tie the hands of charters in who they can hire and how they evaluate, discipline and pay staff. It makes no sense that teachers are employed by local school boards instead of charter operators or that they are subject to rules of collective bargaining agreements designed for a different system.
Some aspects of Mr. Hogan’s legislation may need refinement (the exact formula for per-pupil funding, for one) but the sky-is-falling arguments about teachers getting hired off the streets or taxpayer dollars going to waste are without merit. Charter schools will not replace traditional public schools in Maryland, and no one will ever be forced to attend a charter. But such schools could spur innovation and offer alternatives to families who need them. That may seem unimportant to families well-off enough to move to the school district of their choice, but many children don’t have that luxury. Mr. Hogan has fashioned a sensible plan to free charters from unnecessary bureaucracy while still leaving in place a strong system of oversight to ensure quality and accountability. The General Assembly should follow his lead.