Flunking H.B. 999: Do’s and Don’ts for Charter Legislation in Maryland

Maryland has no legislation authorizing charter schools, nothwithstanding the fact that the charter-school movement is one whose time has undoubtedly come. Regardless of Maryland’s tardiness, there are currently 787 charter schools serving students in 23 states and the District of Columbia.1 One inhibiting factor is that the powerful Maryland State Teachers’ Association is, at best, lukewarm about charter schools, claiming that “to date there has been very little interest from parents or teachers for a charter school” in Maryland.2 In 1998, an very weak charter-school bill (H.B. 999) was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly, only to be referred to a task force over the summer and fall for further study.

But we are in luck. Usually federal regulations are a death knell for local reform efforts. In the case of charter schools, though, it looks as though the feds may be our saviors. Last year, two major bills were introduced in Congress pertaining to charter schools in the states. Both proposed federal funds for states allowing charter schools. Fortunately for reformers, both demanded reasonably “strong” charter legislation. While Annapolis’ standard policy is to appease special-interest opposition to education reform, in this case it seems likely that legislators’ unquenchable thirst for other people’s money

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