Byline: Vaishali Honawar, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has presented a bill to the General Assembly to increase the number of charter schools in Maryland by allowing public universities and other government agencies to submit applications.
Supporters of the Ehrlich bill say it is stronger than those in the House and Senate, which allow only county school boards to open the schools. They also say Maryland is overdue because it is one of 13 states without a law on charter schools.
In his State of the State address last week, Mr. Ehrlich urged Annapolis lawmakers to pass a bill that had "teeth."
Mr. Ehrlich filed the bill last week and tomorrow is expected to announce more details, which will include allowing the state board of education to open charter schools.
A hearing for the bill has been scheduled for Thursday before the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
"Most local school boards won't do anything for charters," said Joni Gardner, president of the Maryland Charter School Network, an advocacy group of parents and educators.
Charter schools have become a popular alternative for parents dissatisfied with the education their children receive in public schools. They often are run by private groups using tax money, and they attract many students failing in public school systems. More than 2,400 charter schools have opened in the United States since 1992.
Advocates say school boards are responsible for improving public education and as a result are reluctant to give money to charter schools.
"School boards obviously think they're doing a really good job and do not want to try and change themselves," said Sen. Janet Greenip, an Anne Arundel County Republican who helped write Mr. Ehrlich's bill.
The District has one the country's best charter laws because two education boards have the authority to approve charter schools. Virginia gives only local school boards the authority.
Maryland has one charter school in Frederick County and three experimental schools in Baltimore.A group has failed for three years to open the Jaime Escalante Public Charter School in Montgomery County. …