Montgomery County is rightly proud of its public school system, which is widely regarded as one of the best in the state. Perhaps that’s why, nearly eight years after state lawmakers passed a law allowing for the establishment of charter schools — alternative institutions that receive public funds but operate independently — the Montgomery County school board has yet to approve a single application to open one.
Is that because no one has come up with a credible plan for a school that would give parents more choices for educating their children? Or is it because local school officials simply don’t want the competition?
The state school board looked into the matter last year, after Montgomery County school officials turned down the applications of two groups that wanted to set up new charter schools in the district. What they found goes a long way toward explaining why school reform advocates like the Washington-based Center for Education Reform have rated Maryland’s charter school law as one of the weakest in the nation. Despite passing important reforms last year regarding lengthening of the time it takes teachers to earn tenure and linking student test scores with teacher evaluations, lawmakers need to take another look at strengthening the state’s charter school law if Maryland is to build on those gains.