Charter Schools

PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS (2001)
Support For: The following criteria in any legislation or regulations governing the establishment of Public Charter Schools:
  • a. Public Charter Schools must be non sectarian, non religious, non profit, and not home-based;
  • b. Applications may be submitted by a variety of groups or organizations, including, but not limited to, parents, teachers and institutions of higher learning;
  • c. Local boards of education determine which groups or organizations will be granted contracts i.e., "charters"), with the right to an appeal of that decision to the State Board of Education;
  • d. Waivers (to be specified in the contract) may include some public school regulations governing curriculum, calendar, and teaching methodology. No waivers may be granted from regulations governing fiscal accountability, nor (as specified by federal regulations) from civil rights or health and safety standards;
  • e. Quarterly financial reports should be made to the local school board;
  • f. Academic standards, including testing, required of other public school students must be met;
  • g. Admission must be non-discriminatory and open on a first-come, first-served basis to all students who wish to apply, and
  • h. Public Charter Schools must be funded at the same per pupil level as students in other public schools. 
No consensus was reached on whether we support or oppose Public Charter Schools.
 
Background:
 
Delegates to the 1999 LWVMD Convention adopted a Study to develop League positions on charter schools, vouchers, and possibly, other alternatives to the traditional public education system. Consensus was reached on the above criteria, which any applicant should meet before being granted authority to operate a Public Charter School. With regard to the seventh criteria: federal law requires that a lottery be used where more students apply than there is space available.
 
No consensus was reached on whether teachers in those schools must be certified, be union members, or what number of public charter schools should be allowed. And, most importantly, no consensus was reached on whether LWVMD supports or opposes Public Charter Schools.
 
Local boards of education already have the authority, under current law to establish Public Charter Schools. LWVMD Study focused on issues that the Maryland State Board of Education should consider important when providing policy and guidance for the local boards of education. Public Charter Schools are generally formed by teachers, parents and/or local organizations in a school district. Many local school district officials see Public Charter Schools as competition for funds and a direct "attack" on their ability to provide quality education.
 
Common characteristics of Public Charter Schools are: small size (usually fewer than 300 students); some degree of autonomy over curriculum, staffing, and budget; significant parent involvement; innovative programs, a lower proportion of students with disabilities; enroll the same proportion of low-income students as other public schools, and usually eligible for Title I funding.
 
Action:
  • Supported including the above criteria in legislation related to charter schools (2001, 2002 the bills were defeated, 2003 achieved ).
  • Supported changes to the public charter school law that would allow revision of the admission process and better define funding “commensurate” with other public schools. LWVMD opposed provisions of the bill that would allow for profit entities to operate charter schools. (2007 – not achieved)