- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Momentum is building for Gov. Robert Ehrlich's proposal for charter schools, despite the intense opposition of teachers unions and the state PTA. Mr. Ehrlich's bill would create three chartering authorities: the state school board, local school boards and public universities. But the bill before the Maryland Senate, which was changed in that chamber's education committee, would leave local school boards as the only chartering authority. This would be a serious mistake, because local boards are often hostile to the very concept of charter schools.

For example, parents, teachers and others twice presented detailed plans to the Montgomery County school board to establish the Jaime Escalante Charter School, but were turned down each time. "Multiple chartering authority is really important," said Ellen Paul of the Alliance for Better Children. "We see, even in other states, that school boards do not welcome charters and can be hostile to the idea."

Right now, the major field of battle is the Maryland Senate, where Sen. Andrew Harris, Baltimore County Republican, is lobbying his colleagues to reinstate Mr. Ehrlich's plan to create multiple chartering authorities. "The state is finally hearing that the people want a charter school bill. We need to do this right now," said Joni Gardner, president of the Maryland Charter Schools Network.

Maryland is one of 11 states with no charter school law, and Mr. Ehrlich has made passing such a measure this year one of his top legislative priorities. Apparently, members of the General Assembly need to hear from their constituents that it's time to enact legislation that strips local school boards of their monopoly in deciding whether charter schools can be established.

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