Last week was School Choice Week, highlighted by activities around the nation supporting the ability of parents to choose the best education for their children. One aspect of school choice is charter schools. There are over forty charter schools in various jurisdictions around the state – but none have ever been approved in Montgomery.
MoCo is a particularly dismal place for those trying to establish charter schools. Montgomery County Public Schools fights hard to maintain their monopoly, and they are strengthened in the iron triangle with the support of the Montgomery County Board of Education and the Montgomery County Education Association (the teachers’ union). That’s a power trio that you don’t mess with in this county.
In 2010, two applicants for charter schools found that out the hard way, as the Board of Education summarily dismissed their applications to establish public schools that would not be beholden to the MCPS bureaucracy. (In a textbook example of the foxes guarding the henhouse, the County Board of Education is given control and decision authority over charter school applications ).
One application came from Global Garden Public Charter School, envisioned as a small K-8 school in the Kensington/Wheaton area. The school would feature a longer school day and a longer school year, an IB program, and have a substantial focus on foreign language education.
Another application came from Crossway Community Charter School, a K-6 Montessori school, also in Kensington.
Upon appeal, the State has slapped the County Board for their decision to reject the applications.
- The Board of Education did not provide any rationale, in writing or orally, for turning down the 350-page application.
- TheBoard of Education used criteria for evaluating the applications that are nearly impossible to meet.
- The Board of Education did not follow state regulations for evaluating the applications
- The state’s decision also implied that several members of the Board were biased against allowing any charter school to operate in Montgomery. They cited explicit statements by Board members that were hostile to charter schools, because they might take resources away from MCPS. The State had to remind these Board members that charter schools are public schools. These Board members were not concerned with public schools, therefore; they were surely not concerned with the education of Montgomery students. They were concerned with protecting the MCPS monopoly.
- The stated also cited statements to the same effect by MCPS superintendent Weast. <Why, you have to ask, is the MCPS superintendent involved in the decision to allow competing public schools? Because MoCo can’t even manage the façade of a fair evaluation. >
The ruling from the State concluded that the County Board of Education needs to re-evaluate the applications. Unfortunately, we don’t have reason to believe that the Board will be any less biased this time around. It might help for those who are interested to contact the Montgomery County Board of Education and emphasize the need for professional evaluation, instead of defending their turf.