Officials with the College Park Academy in Prince George’s County wanted to reserve spots for the children of University of Maryland employees who live in the city. The Frederick Classical Charter School sought to hire teachers who might lack state certification but were skilled in grammar, logic and rhetoric.
Each request was denied because of what charter school operators describe as the rigid requirements that Maryland imposes on the publicly funded, independently run schools.
But Gov. Larry Hogan (R) wants to loosen those requirements, with legislation that would give charter schools greater oversight of hiring and firing, more power to set admissions criteria, and increased access to public funding.
Hogan’s bill would more closely align the charter school effort launched under Maryland’s last Republican governor with what is typical of charter schools in other states. It has drawn quick and fierce opposition from teacher’s unions and public school officials but a more mixed reaction from Democratic legislative leaders, who say the bill might offer Annapolis a rare chance at bipartisan compromise.
“This is one that I think is not a Republican issue or Democrat issue,” Hogan said during a visit to a Baltimore charter school last week. “It’s not a liberal or conservative issue. It’s about kids and providing more opportunities for them to get a good education.”
The number of charter schools in the United States has nearly doubled in the past decade, increasing from 3,400 to more than 6,700, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The alliance says Maryland’s strict charter rules discourage some of the nation’s best charter school operators from coming to the state.
There are 47 charter schools currently operating in Maryland that were founded since the state began allowing them in 2003; another five existing schools have converted to charter operation. In neighboring Washington — where charters are embraced and educate 44 percent of the city’s public school students — there are 112 charter schools, the alliance says. The alliance estimates that there are now 1,184 charters in California and 653 in Florida, the states with the largest number of the schools.