In your January 31, 2011 article on the state school board reversing Montgomery County’s charter school decision, a county school board member expresses concerns about the budgetary impact of charter schools. An Anne Arundel County charter middle school operates out of a ten million dollar facility, has the second highest standardized test scores in the county, has a long waiting list and has eliminated the minority achievement gap. Montgomery County’s most recent capital budget contemplates a $45 million dollar middle school (as well as fifteen other ‘additions’ and ‘modifications’ budgeted at over ten million dollars per school) and, according to the Maryland Department of Education, has a significant minority achievement gap problem. Not only are Montgomery County’s budgetary impacts self created, the county is missing opportunities that other jurisdictions have embraced to fix problems, such as the minority achievement gap, that go to its core mission.
Other jurisdictions, including several in Maryland, view charter schools as part of their educational portfolio, as a nimble and cost effective strategy to serve the varied needs and interests of area parents. Consequently, they budget for charter schools and otherwise include them in their planning. Also, as the state school board said in its opinion, “we remind the local board that the General Assembly has determined that public charter schools shall exist.” I would respectfully suggest, therefore, that good education policy, sound budgeting and, not least, state law compel Montgomery County to bring its school budgeting and planning practices into alignment with its peers.