In the final minutes of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session, the State Senate received back from the House of Delegates Senate Bill 595, a charter school bill completely unrecognizable from its original form.
“Has everyone recorded the vote? Anyone who wish to change their vote? Anyone who wishes to explain the vote? If not it’s the same old gang, folks,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said cheerfully, prompting laughter in the chamber.
“46-1. Thank you so much. Senate Bill 595 has received a constitutional majority, is declared passed,” Miller said.
The bill that the Maryland House and Senate passed represents a giant step backwards for an F-graded charter school law. In its original form, Governor Hogan’s charter school legislation, the Public Charter School Improvement Act of 2015, while modest, contained many positive provisions to improve Maryland’s charter school environment before Senate members completely gutted it a few weeks ago.
SB 595 removes flexibility critical for charter educators and administrators, making charter schools’ operational decisions subject to agreement with the local districts. The “flexibility” touted by some just validates authority that already exists for districts and states to consider waivers from rules and regulations.
Not only that, the State Board’s check and balance authority to review charter applications is gone, removing the Governor’s ability to influence charter schools through State Board appointments.
Public charter schools in Maryland will continue to face funding inequities in comparison to their traditional public school counterparts.
Following passage, Senate members continued to pat themselves on the back for what they thought was a job well done. At this point, all their “hard work” on amending SB 595 must be met with a veto.