BOE Candidates on Charter Schools
The topic of charter schools in Frederick County has dominated the recent headlines. This is an issue that seems to be gaining traction. It is likely to come up in some form or fashion during the term of the next Board of Education. Therefore, it’s important to understand where the candidates stand on this issue.
We emailed all 12 candidates and gave them the opportunity to respond if they are for or against charter schools and why. Eight of the 12 candidates chose to respond. Here are their responses in alphabetical order, and unedited.
Tony Chmelik: I support the charter schools and school choice. Children are unique and parents need the opportunity to send their children to schools that are best suited for their needs. Since parents are paying taxes to support the public schools, they should have the ability to choose their child's school instead of being limited to the school to which the local government assigns them.
Charter schools aren't just for failing districts. Charters are a way to help all children reach their potential and help the school system reach even greater levels of achievement. Charters also provide teachers with the opportunity to have more of a voice in their work environment and shape the culture of the charter school. Charter schools, which receive less funding in cash than the regular public schools, also demonstrate that the school system could be run more efficiently.
The idea behind charter schools is that they should get the autonomy they need to implement their unique educational approach in exchange for accountability. For charters to reach their potential in Frederick County and serve more children, we need to change our approach in this county to provide equitable funding and greater autonomy that is found in other Maryland districts but not yet in Frederick. If elected, I would work to expand school choice in the county while also holding charters accountable for their results.
Colleen Cusimano: I am an advocate for charter schools. I find that many school districts have become overly bureaucratic [in] that they become unresponsive to local community needs. Charter schools must adhere to the same standardized testing and performance measures as all local schools. A number of charters around the country have found great success in using curriculum or teaching methods that are not offered in the traditional school setting. By their design, they often require communication and participation between parents and school staff/leadership.
I believe parents are great judges of what their children need in education. Permitting parents a place at the table when designing curriculum and teaching methods results in a more successful educational experience for students.
In Maryland laws have been passed that protect the right of communities to found charter schools, and every child’s right to attend them. Charters are not exclusive, but admit any student from the community – mandated to hold lotteries if enrollment exceeds spaces. Financially, our taxes provide an education to every child in a community. According to the law, the money should follow the child whether he goes to his local school, a school out-of-district, or a charter school. Here in Frederick, the equation results in about 65% of a student’s allocation going to the charter school – a significant savings for the school district in the education of that child.
Jim Hoover: I do support charter schools in Frederick County.
Charter schools are independently managed public schools open to all students. They do not charge tuition, and they do not have an entrance exam. They are publicly funded, but they are exempt from several of the rules and regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Even though they are exempt from some of the rules and regulations, I still believe that they are held to a higher level of accountability. Charter schools are bound by a contract which normally outlines projected student achievement. If the projected achievements are not met, penalties up to and including contract termination may apply.
Unlike the traditional public schools, charter schools exist on a limited term contract. To remain in existence, they must meet the terms of their contract and attract a sufficient number of students.
Some parents believe their child will receive a better education in a charter school. But, of course, other parents are completely satisfied with their child’s experience in the traditional public school system. The main objective is to ensure the best possible education for Frederick County students. The traditional public school system will always be available, charter schools should be seen as an enhancement to the public school system.
We will continue tomorrow with the responses from more candidates.