The Center for Education Reform held a panel yesterday to discuss the status of charter school laws across the country. Leading experts from across the country offered insights about how to pass a strong charter school law that encourages innovation and greater parental choice in public education.
Former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. discussed the challenges he faced in bringing charter schools to Maryland, including a lack of pubic awareness, opposition from teacher’s unions and their allies in the legislature, and continued resistance from opponents once a law had been passed. But Ehrlich pointed out that the challenge was worth it—with over two dozen charter schools in Maryland now in operation, they have become a “political winner” and are making a difference in the classroom, saving lives of kids who otherwise would have been trapped in poor public schools.
Former D.C. City Council Member Kevin Chavous declared that “We are on the cusp of a revolution in education.” Mr. Chavous likened the revolution to that which marked the end for the Berlin Wall, noting that charter schools will be one of the landing places when the fall happens. Mr. Chavous highlighted key factors of importance to the success of charter schools, which included: legal, operational and fiscal autonomy, adequate funding, a reduction in regulation, and multiple charter authorities.
Eugene Hickok, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education and recent Heritage Bradley Fellow, discussed the importance of embracing support wherever you can find it. Mr. Hickok noted the tremendous gains made by charter schools in Pennsylvania.
The panelists considered and discussed mistakes that had been made in the charter school movement—including trying to find support among the teachers unions which have fought tooth and nail to oppose charter schools. Missouri Representative Rodney Hubbard (D-St. Louis) emphasized the importance of doing more to educate the urban community about the benefits of school choice.
Altogether, the panelists were encouraged by the progress made by charter schools over the past fifteen years. 40 states and Washington, D.C. now have charter schools. Over 1.2 million children now attend charter schools. To see if your state had a strong charter school law, visit the Center for Education Reform.