- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Republican candidate for Maryland governor, said he would advocate a charter school law if he is elected. Such a law has failed for the past several years in the state's legislature.
Maryland is one of 13 states in the country without a charter school law. Mr. Ehrlich said the state is losing $225 million in federal aid each year under the No Child Left Behind Act because of its lack of charter school legislation.
"I absolutely support bringing charter schools into Maryland," Mr. Ehrlich said Friday. "I want freedom to break out. This is an empowerment issue for me, so poor parents have a choice."
The General Assembly has struggled for years with charter school legislation, but no bill has been passed by both houses. At the close of the last session, a bill that is considered weak by charter school advocates was in conference committee.
Although he would sign the bill if the legislature passes it, Mr. Ehrlich said he would also continue to press for a more "expansive" law for charter schools.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has also expressed support for charter schools.
"Lieutenant Governor Townsend believes all students deserve a high quality of education, and our school systems should be supportive of each child's different needs," said Townsend spokeswoman Kate Phillips. Miss Phillips would not comment on the bill in the legislature but said it appears to fit in with Mrs. Townsend's support of charters.
Some charter advocates are not so sure.
"If she wins, I do not see any charter schools opening in Maryland," said Joseph Hawkins, co-founder of the Jaime Escalante Public Charter School, which the Montgomery County school board has rejected twice.
He said Gov. Parris N. Glendening's administration is content with its education-reform plans after passage of a bill that grants additional funding to schools over the next five years.
"They already believe they have solved all serious problems in the state," Mr. Hawkins said.
The District has what advocates consider one of the strongest laws for publicly funded but independently operated schools. The city, which approved its charter law in 1996, has two separate chartering authorities: the public school board and an independently run panel. More than 30 charter schools operate in the city.
In Virginia charter schools are allowed only if they serve special-needs students. The state, which passed a charter law in 1998, has nine charter schools, none of them in Northern Virginia.
In Maryland some school boards, including in Montgomery and Frederick counties, have voted to review charter applications. The state's only full-fledged charter school, Monocacy Valley Montessori School in Frederick, opened this year.

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