When Charter Schools aren’t Given Real Autonomy

An example of the ongoing battle in some states about how much autonomy should be given to Charter Schools recently occurred in Maryland. The soon to be opened Frederick Classical Charter School (FCCS) hoped to hire 9 new teachers that fit its model of classical education. In Maryland, however, the local school system is the charter school authorizer, and Frederick County Public Schools requires charters in its jurisdiction to to follow the same HR policies as traditional public schools. For this reason, FCPS required that the charter school had to hire 6 teachers from among those already employed by the district but on return from leave or who had been laid off due to under-enrollment.

Frederick Classical Charter School leadership attempted to interview these teachers to see which ones might have the background to teach at a classical school. It was at that point that FCCS found out that the regulations of the local school district prevented FCCS from doing so. Tom Neumark, the President of FCCS, remarked, “It’s not that we don’t want [them], it’s that we don’t know them. We want to talk to them and assess if they’re a good fit for the school.”

That this took place in Maryland is no surprise. Maryland has for years scored near the bottom of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ ranking of state charter laws. Maryland also made the Hall of Shame in the Fordham Institute’s report on charter school autonomy. In addition, Maryland scored a low “D” in the report by the Center for Education Reform, which cited strictures by local school boards as a major hindrance to parents looking for more school choice through public charters. When the local school systems are the charter school authorizers, charters often have their hands tied by local regulation.

While Maryland, a state that consistently ranks at the top of many rankings of state public education, may not be winning any praise for its treatment of charter schools, many other states do not even allow charter schools. Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia all as of yet do not have laws allowing charter schools.

For more information, please visit the following website: http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/choice-words/2013/one-maryland-charter-highlights-half-broken-promise-of-autonomy.html