Once again, Governor Hogan has announced his preference for an expanded Charter School Program in Maryland, similar to what he had introduced two years ago. Among the possible components of this expanded plan are: a separate charter school authorizing board, removing charters from the jurisdiction and oversight of local school boards, allowing charter school administrators to establish their own credentialing system for hiring teachers and staff, and creating a “separate-but-equal” revenue stream just for these public charter schools. Such a radical change in state charter school law would remove the protections that charter teachers and support staff enjoy through the collective bargaining agreements between the teachers’ unions and the local school boards.
If the Governor is successful in implementing these changes to charter school administration, Maryland would, in effect, create two school systems, one in which school teachers and staff are held to a vigorous and transparent standard of professionalism, and one in which the charters can create their own rules and standards without any meaningful local oversight. The suggestion that the Governor would create a separate revenue stream for this essentially entirely new public school system is especially alarming given the finding from researchers that Maryland is currently underfunding its school system by nearly $2 billion.
Other states that have adopted procedures similar to those the Governor proposes have experienced serious difficulties. Charter schools in New York, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, and Minnesota have been plagued by administrative mismanagement, financial transgressions, and charter school closings. Maryland charter schools, because of their local oversight, have not had these problems. In Maryland, charter schools are public schools that are part of the local school system, and thus have local oversight, while maintaining the freedom to be incubators of innovation that are a benefit to their students.
Maryland already did an overhaul of its charter system just two years ago, with new standards of flexibility put in place to meet the needs of charters-as-incubators of innovation. With this bill, the Governor seems to be wanting to change charter school law for its own sake, rather than really taking a close look at what is working in Maryland’s strong charter law. Any claims that Maryland’s law is weak or stifling of innovation are unfounded, largely made not by professional educators or researchers, but by national charter chains who base their findings on non-educational standards (such as whether or not teachers are even allowed to have a union—the national charter chains score Maryland low because of this, even though studies of other highly successful school systems nationwide show that teacher’s rights through collective bargaining play a key role in improving school quality).
AFT-Maryland opposes HB878/SB704 and its proposed fundamental changes to existing charter school authorizing, oversight, and financing procedures.
For more information, contact Todd Reynolds, Political Coordinator, AFT-Maryland, at email@example.com.