Up with Charter Schools . . . Down with Red Tape

Article excerpt

The Task Force on Charter Schools, appointed last year by the Maryland General Assembly to craft legislation and finally get the state on the charter-school bandwagon, thinks it has carried out its mandate. It has not. What the task force has done is mocking the charter-school movement.

The task force wants to impose the same restrictions on charter schools that now govern public schools. This is not the way to go. In fact, the legislation needs to move in the opposite direction. Charter schools, which are publicly funded yet privately run, are by their very nature less beholden to the bureaucracy than public schools. Does Maryland want trouble like the District whose web of bureaucracy meant charter-school teachers went unpaid because the elected officials didn't do their job?

The Maryland task force is moving in that direction. Its slew of rules and regulations means that all employees of a charter school, from the janitor on up to the principal, must live in the county in which the school is located and must remain in a union. How dare the state dictate where a non-state employee live? How dare the state grant unions' wishes over workers' rights? For much of everything else that really matters - teaching staff, curriculum, testing programs - a charter must receive a waiver or abide by state, county and local laws. As far as the task force is concerned, the only freedom will be in allowing each county to decide how many charter schools will set up within their borders.

The Maryland legislature is not expected to get on with the task force's draft legislation until sometime in January. …