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O'Malley: Federal funds could be 'challenge pay' for principals


Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) floated the idea Monday morning of using federal education dollars for which Maryland is competing as "challenge pay" to lure principals to low-performing schools.

O'Malley's comments regarding "Race to the Top" funding came during an appearance before a coalition of education, business and civic leaders that examines education and workforce issues.

The governor told the group, known as the P-20 Council, that Maryland is well-positioned to win $150 million to $250 million in grants from the new federal program, an initiative being championed by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan that offers incentives to states to adopt progressive education policy. O'Malley did not say how much of that money he would envision being earmarked for "challenge pay."

Rewarding principals who take on tough assignments is not a new idea for O'Malley. As a candidate in 2006, he proposed $200,000 signing bonuses. As governor, O'Malley has never formally proposed such an initiative, partly due to tough budget times, aides say.

During his remarks Monday, O'Malley said that quality principals would serve as "a magnet" to attract better teachers to low-performing schools. Duncan has talked about offering "combat pay" to teachers who work in such schools.

"It you have a quality leader, it's not a combat zone," O'Malley said.

During the discussion, State Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick raised two "thorny issues" that Maryland might need to examine in response to the direction of federal reforms: charter schools and teacher tenure.

The state's charter law is regarded as more restrictive than in many states. "I think we're going to have to talk about that," Grasmick said.

O'Malley told reporters after his appearance that he is open to the idea, but said: "I'm not sure there is a need."

Grasmick also suggested that the state might need to take another look at a tenure policy that makes it far more difficult to remove teachers after two or three years on the job. She made no specific recommendations but noted that the trend nationally is toward a longer period before qualifying for tenure.

O'Malley said school districts could move more aggressively under the current law to remove underperforming teachers than some do.

By John Wagner  |  November 16, 2009; 11:06 AM ET
Categories:  Governor , John Wagner  
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Next: Now It's Your Turn: Can Ehrlich win in 2010?


Under Maryland's charter law, all employees of a charter school are employees of the regular school system. That means that Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast gets to hire and fire every employee, including the CEO, of any charter school that is brazen enough to compete with him. No wonder there is not even one.

Let's hope the feds take this into account in awarding stimulus money to Maryland.

John Hoven

Posted by: jhoven | November 18, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

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