Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Maryland Disappoints Charters

Maryland's Governor Larry Hogan had a dream, a dream of a state where charters could bloom more easily, more plentifully, and more profitably.

And so he was pushing a bill, a bill that would allow Maryland to catch up to other states in the chartery race for riches. The bill would let charters hire and fire staff at will (Maryland's charter teachers are actually employed by the local district). Teachers wouldn't have to be certified. Charters would have more ability to pick and choose students. Charters would get more money per student and also get a shot at construction funding. Perhaps most importantly, charters would finally have a recourse if mean old local school boards turned them down; they would be able to appeal to the State Board of Education to override the decision of local elected officials. So, democracy.

The Democrats are in control of the Maryland legislature, and they correctly identified the bill as union busting and bad for students. Compromise was sought.

The Senate committee later passed along a version of the bill that was either "watered down" or "improved" depending on your point of view.

That was late March. This week the legislature passed the bill. Sort of. Says the AP

Hogan initially tried to get more input for the state board of education on charter school operations. His expansion plan also waived certain teacher certifications and opened the possibility for new collective bargaining agreements.

But Senate and House committees made roughly a dozen amendments that largely reversed those proposals in Hogan’s measure.

You can tell the charteristas are Not Pleased, as witnessed by a statement released by Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform, a group that is deeply committed to profitable entrepreneurship via the charter biz.

 “Late last night, The Maryland General Assembly took a step backwards in passing a dramatically revised charter school bill, making it less likely that parents and educators will be able to create and advance innovative public school opportunities for children.

Yes, because only charters can innovate. This would be the perfect moment to list off some of the innovations that have come out of charter schools. Kara? Kara???
“The bill removes the State Board’s check and balance authority to review school district actions on charter applications, which by extension removes a Governor’s authority to impact charter school decisions through his or her appointments to the board.

So, the governor won't be able to override the decisions of local elected officials. But if charters are awesometastic, won't local officials line up to have them?

“The bill requires an invasive study by the State Department of Education of all charter school operations, compliance of which will require additional staff and resources. This was clearly an effort by opponents to tie up small, underfunded charter schools with more bureaucracy, not less.

Oh nooosss!!!! Charters will have to be accountable! That is so unfair!! Comply with regulations!! Sooooo unfair!

“The bill further removes authority for charter schools by making every operational feature subject to agreement with school districts, which more often than not deny basic freedoms to charter operators to hire and train their own personnel. It also furthers funding inequality for public school students attending public charter schools.

"Basic freedoms" to hire and fire whoever, whenever!? They won't be able to unilaterally ignore the wishes of the local taxpayers and their elected officials. Lordy, that's awful!

“The bill makes changes in the ability of charter schools to make preferences on who they enroll, which is not a major accomplishment. Nor is the proclaimed victory of advocates over so-called flexibility, which validates authority that already exists for districts and the state to consider requested waivers from various rules and regulations.

>You're not going to let us cherry pick the students? How do you expect us to be awesomely successful?

“I’m appalled that this bill is considered progress when by definition it puts school districts and unions more fully in control of charter creation, operations and outcomes. Mr. Governor, I urge you to grab a cup of coffee - or a beer - and sit down to read this bill for yourself, and you too will be appalled at what the General Assembly has done to your well-intentioned proposal.

“While the Governor’s team has embraced this bill, I urge the Governor to veto this bill and start fresh with the next session.”

In case you missed it, she's appalled. Appalled!! Democracy and rules are stupid, and only stupid public schools should have to follow them. Charters in other states can do whatever they want to in order to generate profit-- why is Maryland being such a stick in the mud? Charter operators have a God-given right to make their own rules so that they can suck up some tax dollars.

Congratulations Maryland. Congrats on having a not-entirely-craven legislature, and for standing up for public in simple ways that apparently escape some of your neighbor states.

The biggest irony here is that many aspects of the Maryland law are actually contrary to what the US Senate is currently considering in the ESEA rewrite. We can only hope that they, and maybe some neighboring states, get a little inspiration from this small victory for public education.


  1. Yay for Maryland, land of my birth!

  2. My grandson is in the top charter school in the country. I am here to tell you they do NOT cherry pick students. He was held back one year and was in special ed through 4th grade. In 5th grade he couldn't write a sentence. A paragraph? Forget about it. Math was just as bad. He was in lala land but well behaved. I have no idea why his 5th grade teacher made him one of five that he picked for Pruess School. He got a D in home room the first semester because he couldn't keep his book bag organized as required. He struggled but finally got it together. He was almost required to go to Saturday school because his grades were not up to par. He has pulled it off though, he is a junior and has a 4.3 GPA and is at the top of his class. The same principal has been there since the school started, Scott Barton, he is fabulous. So from where I sit the regular public grade school he was in was really bad, and it was mostly white kids in an upper middle class neighborhood. I have three others in a different magnet school in San Diego and they are not getting good education either. Their school is also in an upper, upper middle class neighborhood with mostly white kids. Thank the lord one was picked for Pruess next year. So I don't think ALL charters are as you describe. Frankly I think most kids will learn to the level they are taught and the standards never go up, only down. Is Pruess the lone ranger?

  3. Patsy, Congrats. But your sample size is pretty tiny. I teach in a regular old public school that receives lots of new students who used to be in charters every year. Every student we receive is well-behaved. None of them are academically up to speed. We have never received an awesome student from a charter. So is it fair to say that the charters either:
    A. Don't produce great students; or
    B. Purge the most struggling.

    See, my anecdotal evidence is far different from yours. But it's true.

    So when you say "I am here to tell you they do NOT cherry pick students", well, they do. Just maybe not yours specifically.