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Gov. Larry Hogan announces plan to boost charter schools in Maryland

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday announced a series of initiatives to try to boost charter schools in the state.

Speaking at College Park Academy in Prince George’s County, Hogan proposed new legislation and increased funding for charter schools in Maryland — including $2.6 million in his fiscal year 2020 budget for construction projects at charter schools and dedicating $1.2 million to charter schools from the Health School Facility Fund, which is reserved for critical repairs to heating and air conditioning systems.

Hogan also touted legislation he is pushing called the Public Charter School Facility Fund Act of 2019, which would provide $1,600 in per-pupil funding for each public charter school student to be distributed through the Maryland State Department of Education.

While charter schools are public schools in Maryland, funded by taxpayers and governed by local Boards of Education, they operate independently from central office administration — a dynamic that sometimes sparks conflict with traditional public schools.

Sean Johnson, legislative director for the Maryland teachers union, criticized Hogan’s plan in a statement. He said the governor’s proposals would ultimately deprive traditional public schools of much-needed funding.

“Right now, we have a fair process for both charter schools and traditional public schools to request facilities funding from their school district,” Johnson said. “The last thing we want to do is rig that process by creating a separate fund just for charters and therefore take $30 million away from traditional public school facilities.”

Hogan said he finds opposition to charter schools in Maryland “frustrating.” He said some in charge of local school systems are “openly hostile” to charters.

“We have long waiting lists. The public is demanding these schools,” Hogan said, citing College Park Academy. “I know that they work. I know these kids are getting a great education.”

Hogan was joined at his announcement by Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland, College Park — which assists College Park Academy — and Maryland State Sen. Jim Rosapepe, a Democrat who represents Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, as well as Marsha Reeves, the director of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) Harmony Academy, a charter school in Baltimore.

The governor emphasized charter schools’ status as public schools and said his plans were modeled off Obama administration Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s ideas, not those from the Trump administration.

“It’s not a Betsy DeVos-Donald Trump-Larry Hogan plot to take over the schools,” Hogan said, referring to President Trump’s education secretary. “This is a President Obama-Arne Duncan-liberal Democratic proposal to fix schools. I supported it.”

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