Gov. Hogan Promotes Bill to Strengthen Charter School Law - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Gov. Hogan Promotes Bill to Strengthen Charter School Law

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BALTIMORE (AP) - Gov. Larry Hogan drew inspiration from the children's book "The Little Engine That Could," as he visited a western Baltimore school Wednesday and promoted his bill to strengthen the state's charter school law.

Joined by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Hogan stopped by the Empowerment Academy to read the well-known story about a train engine that teaches optimism in the face of obstacles, to 2nd and 3rd grade students.

"We're here because we care about people doing a good job in educating our kids," Hogan said. "We believe very strongly that every single child in Maryland deserves a world class education, regardless of what neighborhood they grow up in."

Empowerment Academy, a pre-kindergarten through 8th grade charter school, opened in 2003. It's one of 31 charter schools in Baltimore City. School officials said another four charter schools are opening in the city for the 2015-16 school year, and applications for the 2016-17 are currently being accepted.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that have more freedom than conventional schools to establish their curriculum and set policies. They are often operated by nonprofit organizations or groups of parents.

Academy Principal Marie Parfait-Davis said there is a "pretty hefty waiting list" for the Academy's pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. She attributed the school's popularity to its reputation for student and community success.

"It's been a pillar in the community," Parfait-Davis said. "Without us being here most likely it would be an abandoned building, part of the blight."

The state's charter school program started in 2003 with what Hogan called a "watered down bill that enabled us to do some, but didn't enable us to do as much as we'd like to do." Today, Maryland has 53 charter schools.

Among Hogan's proposed changes, charter schools would be able to qualify for the state's capital improvement program, as well as exempt employees from state teacher certification.

Officials with the Maryland State Education Association say they don't see the justification for expanding the law or exempting charter school teachers from certification. They say the proposed legislation would also redirect funds from public schools.

"We feel our law is strong and keeps certified teachers in schools," said MSEA Vice President Cheryl Bost.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller shares the group's skepticism. Miller, who has expressed support for increasing charter schools in Maryland, told reporters Wednesday that Hogan's measure won't pass unless the governor restores cuts in public school funding formulas in his budget plan.

During his school visit, however, Hogan said Miller would push charter schools through the Senate, though it might not be the exact bill proposed by his administration.

"This is one that I think it's not a Republican issue, a Democrat issue, it's not a liberal or conservative issue," Hogan said. "This is about kids and providing more opportunities for them to get a good education."

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