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Maryland Needs More High-Performing Public School Options

On Wednesday HB 1218 will be heard in the Maryland Senate EHEA Committee. The bill will create a task force to evaluate MD's charter school law--ranked second worst in the country.

 

Written by: Curtis Valentine, the Executive Director for The Maryland Campaign for Achievement Now (MarylandCAN)

As parents, my wife and I make the choices for our children’s future that they can’t make for themselves.

Unfortunately, far too many Marylanders wake up every day with no choice when it comes to where they can send their child to school. The Maryland Senate is currently debating a bill that hopes to change that.

House Bill 1218 aims to create a task force to take Maryland’s public charter school law from second worst in the country to a ranking we can be proud of. It will move us a step closer to providing more high quality public charter school options for the parents of 10,000 kids across our state sitting on charters school waiting lists instead of in charter school classrooms.

In Maryland, charter schools currently make up only 3.5 percent of all public schools and their performance is on par with traditional public schools. In fact, the 2012 MarylandCAN Report Cards show that 18 charter schools ranked in the top 20 schools in their respective elementary, middle, or high school cohort. 

Despite the success of a number of public charter schools in Maryland, our current charter law sets restrictions on how charter schools are authorized, which means fewer high-quality options for parents. Imagine Charter School in Upper Marlboro is but one example.

In 2012, over 600 parents entered into the Imagine School lottery for only 60 spaces. Since public charter schools are subject to all the rules associated with non-charter schools, they are bound by law to not consider racial or academic background in admissions. Even though all children are welcome, the limits set by our existing charter law keep high performing public charter schools from expanding or functioning at full capacity. So once again, the journey continues for the parents of the over 500 children who will not win the lottery and will have to return to the very school they believed wasn’t serving their child.    

Leaving parents who live in struggling schools districts with little choice is something Marylanders shouldn’t stand for. The effort to expand quality choices while spurring the innovation and flexibility to close our tremendous achievement gap is larger than charter schools alone. It’s about giving all Maryland parents the right to choose what’s best for their own children. That’s why the Senate must pass HB 1218. It would set-up a task force to explore the value of more flexibility around charter school operations, management and creation. More flexibility would, in turn, give parents more high-performing school choices for their children, and provide charter schools with the space to innovate and successfully support students. 

Every night, my wife and I put our children to bed knowing that their tomorrows rest on the decisions we make today. We hope to create a world around them that nurtures the best in them and challenges them to exceed their own expectations. We can do that in Maryland. Maryland’s designation as “#1 School System in America” places a spotlight on us that should be capitalized on. If there is any state that can close the achievement gap, it’s here.

If it passes, HB 1218 would explore the possibilities of legislation to give more of our children the opportunity to attend an achievement gap-busting school. Maryland can be a leader if we have the courage to unleash the tools that have proven to close achievement gaps, like high performing charter schools. In supporting HB 1218, we are empowering all Maryland’s parents to decide what’s best for their kids.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

KatieSilverSpring April 04, 2012 at 11:24 AM
No, HB 1218 does not empower "all Maryland's parents to decide what's best for their kids". If it did it would provide allowances to those who by Faith are obligated to send their children to religiously based schools. HB 1218 only further enables Maryland parents to provide a private school education with public funds. I would hope that the definition of jurisdiction would be expanded so that there is a more equitable sharing of public monies among all schools, instead of schools in wealthy areas given more money over those in poorer areas. I firmly believe that the current system allows parents in certain areas to build up "public" private academies without the designation of "private school". The school students in poorer areas of Maryland, I am thinking of western Maryland as well as the DC Metro area and Baltimore city schools, should have the same chance at an excellent education as they do when they apply to the state university system. I say no to charter schools as well as to the power of the teachers' unions. I want my tax dollars spent on educating all our students in Maryland.
jag April 04, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Hi Katie, could you clarify your position a bit - I'm confused. You're saying this bill is bad because it doesn't allow (or require) for public money to be used to fund religious schools? And, as such, richer areas are able afford nicer religious schools? And that's a problem because some people in poorer areas are "obligated to send their children to religiously based schools"? Just let me know if I'm misunderstanding any of that. Thanks.
KatieSilverSpring April 04, 2012 at 06:52 PM
No, none of that is what I was attempting to say; sorry for the confusion.
Eva Sullivan April 08, 2012 at 11:48 PM
I understand the allure of charter schools; if my child were in a "failing school" I would do anything to improve the situation. However, the focus on charter schools seems misdirected. Why aren't we spending all that money and using all that good will and energy to create innovative programs within our public schools? Why re-invent the wheel? Good programs and good people already exist. Shouldn't parents rally to change what they don't like within the system? Parents have a lot of power in our state. All it takes is leadership!

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