Gov. Hogan’s charter bill is in trouble; Md. lawmakers striking key provisions.

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Maryland senators are planning to strike key provisions of a bill proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to increase the number of charter schools in the state, dealing a major blow to the governor’s plan to provide parents with more education options.

Senate leaders said Friday that the measure that could make it to the floor this week will be vastly different from the one Hogan proposed. The governor’s sweeping charter reform plan would have given charter operators the power to hire and fire, to set admissions criteria and to receive more public funding.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said senators formed a work group to study changes to Hogan’s bill. A similar work group in the House is headed by Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery. The Senate group is considering a measure that would offer charters some flexibility, give them more say in who can attend their schools and clearly define whether teachers at charter schools work for the local school boards or the charter schools.

“It’s progress,” Miller said.

But charter school advocates disagree. They have argued for years that Maryland’s requirements are some of the worst in the nation and have kept charters from opening in the state. They said the changes being considered by the senators will do little to encourage more charters in Maryland.

“I don’t see new schools being able to open,” said Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform, a national charter school advocacy group that is pushing for Hogan’s bill to remain intact. “The ones that have opened have done so with great resistance.”

The major stumbling block, advocates said, is the Senate’s plan to remove a provision that would have freed charter schools from adhering to state labor contracts. The state teachers union strongly opposes the move.

Under Hogan’s bill, charter school operators would have greater autonomy to hire and fire teachers, who under the current rules are employed by local school districts, not by individual charters. Teachers would be exempt from state certification. Charters would have a greater say over who attends their schools, with the option of giving preference to students based on geography or having a low family income. Charters would receive a guaranteed and higher percentage of per-pupil funding at the state, local and federal level. They also would be able to compete with traditional public school districts for school construction funds.

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