It's time for Montgomery to embrace charters
In the Jan. 31 Metro article on the Maryland State Board of Education reversing Montgomery County's charter school decision ["Frustration for champions of charters"], a county Board of Education member expressed concerns about the budgetary
impact of charter schools.
An Anne Arundel County charter middle school operates out of a $10 million facility, has the second-highest standardized test scores in the county, has a long waiting list and has eliminated the minority achievement gap. Montgomery County's most recent capital budget contemplates a $45 million middle school (as well as many other "additions" and "modifications" budgeted at millions more per school) and, according to the Maryland State Board of Education, has a significant minority achievement gap. Not only are Montgomery's budgetary impacts self-created, but the county also is missing opportunities that other jurisdictions have embraced to fix problems -- such as the minority achievement gap -- that go to its core mission.
Other jurisdictions, including several in Maryland, view charter schools as part of their educational portfolio, as a nimble and cost-effective strategy to serve the varied needs and interests of parents. Consequently, they budget for charter schools and otherwise include them in their planning. Also, as the state school board said in its opinion, "we remind the local board that the General Assembly has determined that public charter schools shall exist."
I would respectfully suggest, therefore, that good education policy, sound budgeting and, not least, state law compel Montgomery County to bring its school budgeting and planning practices into alignment with its peers.
The writer is president of the Maryland Charter School Network.
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