Ehrlich Presses for Charter Schools; Says State Losing Federal Funding

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 6, 2003 | Go to article overview

Ehrlich Presses for Charter Schools; Says State Losing Federal Funding


Byline: Vaishali Honawar, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SEVERN - Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said yesterday that Maryland was losing millions of dollars in federal aid by failing to enact a charter school law and urged state lawmakers to pass his version of the bill.

"There has been a collective lack of will to get this done," said Mr. Ehrlich, who introduced his bill to the General Assembly earlier this week.

Charter school advocates have said that Mr. Ehrlich's proposal is better than those in the General Assembly, which give only local school boards the authority to open charter schools.

Mr. Ehrlich's bill also grants the authority to state and local school boards, and colleges and universities.

Existing public schools can apply for become charter schools, under the Ehrlich bill.

If enacted, the bill would make Maryland eligible for a share of the $225 million earmarked for charter schools in President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.

Mr. Ehrlich made his plea yesterday at the Van Bokkelen Elementary School where he was joined by state education Superintendent Nancy E. Grasmick and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

"This bill and our charter school effort do not supplant or set aside the public education system and public schools in Maryland," Mr. Steele said. "It is designed to augment and supplement the education system."

He also said charter schools have raised test scores in math and reading, improved parent involvement and lowered per pupil costs in some cases.

Maryland is one of 11 states in the country without a charter school law.

The first charter school in the country opened in 1992 and there are now 2,700 - with 36 in the District and eight in Virginia.

Maryland has one charter school, which opened in Frederick last year, Monocacy Valley Montessori Charter School, created after the local school board agreed to review applications.

Mrs. Grasmick, a Democrat, said she has not examined Mr. Ehrlich's bill but supports charter schools.

"We are looking at different models for accelerated student performance," she said. "I suggest that we embrace the possibility of another tool in our toolbox."

Mrs Grasmick, however, also said the schools must meet state standards.

State lawmakers passed versions of a charter school bill in the House and Senate last year but failed to draft compromise legislation in conference committee.

The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee will hear Mr. Ehrlich's bill today.

Charter advocates support Mr. Ehrlich's bill because local school boards have repeatedly not allowed such schools to open.

Frederick and Montgomery county school boards now accept applications, but Montgomery County has for the past two years rejected an application from the Jaime Escalante Public Charter School. …

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