Gov. Martin O’Malley fancies himself the “education governor” of Maryland. This means, in blue states like Maryland, that he does the bidding of the teachers’ unions that have devastated public education. The National Education Association recognized his “contributions” four years ago as the “Education Governor of the Year.”
The governor talks the talk but avoids the walk to genuine education reform. He occasionally says a good thing about charter schools. But so does New York’s quasi-Marxist Mayor Bill de Blasio, who wants to devastate charter schools. It’s no surprise that the charter school movement considers Maryland hostile territory. Last week, the Center for Education Reform rated Maryland No. 39 among the states favorable to charter schools. The state dropped two places from two years ago. Under the onetime “Education Governor of the Year” the charter schools are threatened and intimidated.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools earlier this year ranked Maryland as No. 43 in the list of states friendly to charter schools. That’s a drop from the state’s previous ranking, too.
The teachers’ union regards charter schools as a threat because they work, as public schools with a difference. They operate free from crippling union contracts and micro-regulation that makes it difficult for gifted teachers to make a difference in conventional public schools. Charter schools have compiled a remarkable record in cities and states where they are allowed to flourish. This is particularly evident in the inner cities where poor minority students have suffered for decades in schools that are called “schools” only to be polite.
In Maryland, charter schools are usually charter schools in name only because they are burdened, as charter schools elsewhere usually are not, with union contracts and micro-regulation. In New York City, Bill de Blasio promised the teachers union that he would eliminate the threat of charter schools to the dull, dreary and destructive way of doing things in conventional public schools.
The day Mr. de Blasio became mayor, 70,000 students were enrolled in charter schools and tens of thousands more were waiting to get into one. That is changing. Bill Phillips, president of Northeast Charter Schools, says that “If New York City has been a national model for growing charters, I think Mayor de Blasio is laying out a blueprint for killing charter expansion.” That’s delivering on your campaign promises.
Mr. de Blasio has targeted two inner-city schools whose students have compiled some of the best test scores in the city. Last year, 96 percent of the sixth graders at two Success Academy schools passed achievement tests, the highest in the state. If the mayor forces these schools to close, their students will be forced into conventional public schools where only 3 percent of the students pass the tests.
Alarmed by his campaign promises to the teachers’ union, 17,000 New Yorkers marched even before Mr. de Blasio took office to highlight and protest his promised assault on their children’s schools. In Maryland, Gov. O’Malley, the stealth enemy of educating poor kids, goes about his work quietly, but with equally devastating effects. It’s called “putting the kids last.”