- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — A commission led by Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican, issued 30 recommendations yesterday on improving how Maryland educates public school students, including greater use of public charter schools.

“Unless we embrace some of these innovations, the crisis we face will be even more acute,” said Nancy S. Grasmick, superintendent of Maryland public schools.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who appointed the commission, said some changes could be made administratively and that others will require legislation. He promised, however, that parents, students and others would “see tangible byproducts of this report.”

The report from the Governor’s Commission on Quality Education in Maryland drew criticism from the Maryland State Teachers Association and from some Democrats.

“This is really a disappointing recitation of recommendations that have not, on their face, identified any workable or effective solutions,” said Patricia A. Foerster, president of the teachers association.

Mrs. Foerster also said “some of the recommendations have promise,” but that she would need more time to review the report.

The first recommendation, and perhaps the most disputed, calls for a new pay system to replace the uniform-salary scales negotiated between local school boards and teachers unions. The new system would pay more money to teachers who are more effective, have greater knowledge of their subjects and work in difficult schools.

The commission recommended expanding charter schools, saying they offer more choices to parents and have “the potential of improved learning outcomes for students.”

Charter schools are public schools that receive tax dollars but operate independently of school boards.

The commission said conventional public schools also should have more autonomy from school boards, with principals given more power to make personnel and management decisions.

“Maryland needs to cut the red tape currently choking the schoolhouse and driving up the cost of simple repairs,” the report said.

Democrats said too much secrecy surrounded the commission, which held few public sessions and issued a final report that was not voted on nor seen by all members.

Delegate Nancy J. King, Montgomery Democrat and commission member, said she didn’t know what was in the report until it was posted on the governor’s office Web site.

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