Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller on Tuesday urged fellow senators to make "a good faith effort" to pass some version of the governor's bill to expand charter schools - especially if they wanted more money for public schools.
The charter school bill is one of Gov. Larry Hogan's top legislative goals, but it has been floundering in committees as next week's cross-over deadline approaches. Just a week remains before each chamber is required to pass bills they want the other to consider. So far, Hogan has won approval for just one bill in his legislative package.
Miller said there was a "tacit understanding" between Democratic legislative leaders and Hogan that the governor would send more money to public schools if the legislature passed his bill to make it easier to open and run charter schools.
Last week, lawmakers took initial steps to re-craft Hogan's $40 billion budget in a way that gave $130 million to schools than Hogan had proposed. Several of the maneuvers require Hogan's consent.
Miller suggested Tuesday that the Democratic legislature's winning of Republican Hogan's approval could be tied to the charter school bill.
"Most of the concerns of our constituents have been taken care of. There are other constituents that [Hogan] cares about that need to be taken care of," Miller told senators.
A spokeswoman for Hogan declined to comment on whether such a tacit agreement had been reached, but said it's "encouraging to see that Senate and House leadership are talking about ways to get this important legislation passed."
Hogan's wide-ranging charter school bill would rewrite the rules on hiring teachers, funding, approving and managing charters, which are public schools run by private institutions. The state's teachers union has objected to the bill partly because it exempts charter school employees from the union.
Both the House of Delegate and the Senate formed work groups to reshape Hogan's charter school law, but neither have taken a vote yet.
Miller said he expects lawmakers to remove many of the "tough provisions" to Hogan's proposal. The bill would also requires local school districts to pay a higher amount to charters, exempts schools from hiring state-certified teachers and allows charters more say over which students it will accept. Instead, Miller predicted "incremental steps" unlikely to satisfy either opponents nor supporters.
"It's not going to be what anyone wants," he said.