Maryland

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2003
Year Charter School Law Was Enacted
49
Estimated Number of Charter Schools in 2017-18
23,900
Estimated Number of Charter School Students in 2017-18
61
out of
240
Total Score

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While Maryland’s law does not cap public charter school growth, it allows only district authorizers and provides little autonomy, insufficient accountability, and inequitable funding to charter schools.

Maryland’s law needs improvement across the board. Potential starting points include expanding authorizing options, beefing up the law in relation to the model law’s four quality-control components (Components #6 through #9), increasing operational autonomy, ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities, and ensuring transparency regarding educational service providers.

*Since Maryland does not allow full-time virtual charter schools, the highest score possible is 228 for the remaining 20 components. However, we converted this score to one that is comparable to the states that allow full-time virtual charter schools. Maryland received 59 out of the 228 points available for the remaining 20 components, or 26 percent. We then multiplied the total points possible for all 21 components (240) by 26 percent to get a score comparable to the other states (61).

Component Scores

Are there caps on the growth of charter schools in this state?

Maryland law does not place any caps on charter school growth.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
1A
No numeric or geographic limits are placed on the number of charter public schools or students.
N/A
1B
If caps exist, there is room for growth.

Are a variety of charter schools allowed?

Maryland law allows new start-ups and public school conversions.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
2A
New startups.
Yes
2B
Public school conversions.

Are non-district authorizers available to which charter applicants may directly apply?

Maryland law provides county school boards as the only authorizer option. However, an applicant may appeal a county school board’s denial to the state board of education. If the state board reverses the decision, it shall remand the matter to the county board and may direct the county board to grant a charter and may, if necessary, mediate with the county board and the applicant to implement the charter.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
3A
The state allows an applicant anywhere in the state to apply directly to a non-district authorizer(s).

Is an authorizer and overall program accountability system required?

Maryland law includes a small number of the model law's provisions for authorizer and overall program accountability.Maryland law requires that the Maryland Department of Education annually report to the General Assembly any updates and amendments (1) made to a local board’s public charter school policy and (2) to the implementation of the charter school statute.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
4A
Registration process for school boards to affirm their interest in authorizing.
N/A
4B
Application process for other eligible authorizing entities (except a state charter schools commission).
No
4C
Authorizer submission of annual report.
No
4D
The ability for the state to conduct a review of an authorizer’s performance.
No
4E
The ability for the state to sanction an authorizer for poor performance, including suspending an authorizer’s authority to approve new schools.
Yes
4F
Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

Is there adequate authorizer funding?

Maryland law does not include any of the model law's provisions for adequate authorizer funding.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
5A
A uniform statewide formula that guarantees annual authorizer funding that is not subject to annual legislative appropriations.
No
5B
Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.
No
5C
Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.
No
5D
Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

Are there transparent charter application, review, and decisionmaking processes?

Maryland law includes a small number of the model law’s provision for transparent charter application, review, and decision-making processes. Maryland law provides application elements for all schools.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
6A
Application elements for all schools.
No
6B
Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.
No
6C
Additional application elements specific to using educational service providers.
No
6D
Additional application elements specific to replications.
No
6E
Requirement for thorough evaluation of each application, including an in-person interview and a public meeting.
No
6F
Application approval criteria.
No
6G
All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

Are performance-based charter contracts required?

Maryland law does not include any of the model law's provisions for performance-based charter contracts.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
7A
Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.
No
7B
Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.
No
7C
Defining academic, financial, and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.
No
7D
Providing an initial term of five operating years.

Are there comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes?

Maryland law includes a small number of the model law's provisions for comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes. Maryland law requires public charter schools to meet the same audit requirements as county school boards.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
8A
Required annual school performance reports.
Yes
8B
Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., generally accepted accounting principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).
No
8C
Authorizer authority to conduct oversight activities.
No
8D
Authorizer notification to its schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.
No
8E
Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.
No
8F
Authorizer may not request duplicative data submission from its charter schools and may not use performance framework to create cumbersome reporting requirements.

Are there clear processes for renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions?

Maryland law includes a small number of the model law's clear processes for renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions. Maryland law permits an eligible public charter school to submit to the public chartering authority an application for contract renewal.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
9A
Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.
Yes
9B
Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.
No
9C
Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.
No
9D
Ability to have a differentiated process for renewal of high-performing charter schools.
No
9E
Authorizers must use clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.
No
9F
Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract.
No
9G
Requirement that authorizers close chronically low-performing charter schools unless exceptional circumstances exist.
No
9H
Authorizers must have the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.
No
9I
Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or nonrenewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.
No
9J
Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).
No
9K
All charter renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions must be made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for nonrenewals and revocations in writing.
No
9L
Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.
No
9M
Any transfer of charter contracts from one authorizer to another are only allowed if they are approved by the state.

Is there transparency regarding educational service providers?

Maryland law does not include any of the model law’s provisions for educational service providers. However, in practice, the state allows non-profit educational service providers to operate all or parts of charter schools.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
10A
All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and nonprofit) are allowed to operate all or parts of schools.
No
10B
The charter application requires (1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, and (2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.
No
10C
A performance contract is required between the independent charter school board and the ESP, with such contract approved by the school’s authorizer.
No
10D
School governing boards operate as entities completely independent of any ESP, individuals compensated by an ESP are prohibited from serving as voting members on such boards, and existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.
No
10E
Provides that charter school governing boards must have access to ESP records necessary to oversee the ESP contract.
No
10F
An ESP must annually provide information to its charter school governing board on how that ESP spends public funding it receives when the ESP is performing a public function under applicable state law.
No
10G
Requires that similar criminal history record checks and fingerprinting requirements applicable to other public schools shall also be mandatory for on-site employees of ESPs who regularly come into contact with students.

Are the schools fiscally and legally autonomous with independent charter school boards?

Maryland law does not include any of the model law's provisions for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent public charter school boards.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
11A
Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds; incur debt; and pledge, assign, or encumber assets as collateral).
No
11B
Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).
No
11C
Independent school governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

Are there clear student enrollment and lottery procedures?

Maryland law requires charter schools to be open to all students on a space-available basis.
According to Maryland law, a charter school is subject to federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination.
Maryland law allows a public charter school to give priority to the sibling of a student admitted through the lottery process or a currently enrolled student for any spaces in the school that become available throughout the school year.
Maryland law provides that a county board may grant a waiver from lottery requirements to a converted public charter school that provides guaranteed placement to students who live within the geographic attendance area established by the county board, is a low-performing school as identified by the county board, is above the county average rate for the percentage of students who are eligible for free and reduced price meals, and meets a strategic need of the local school system, as identified in the county board’s public charter school policy that shall include serving a high-need population, increasing student performance, increasing enrollment, or increasing student diversity.
Maryland law allows the state board of education to grant a waiver to a public charter school from the requirement to be open to all students on a space-available basis if the school is located on a property within a federal military base in the state and will admit students with parents who are not assigned to the base to at least 35% of its total available space as part of its initial cohort of students. If a public charter school is granted such a waiver, state law still requires it to admit all students on a lottery basis and to take reasonable steps to maintain the 35% to 65% ratio intended as part of the initial cohort of students in a grade.
Maryland law allows a public charter school to give greater weight to a student’s lottery status if the student is eligible for free or reduced price meals, is a student with disabilities, is a student with limited English proficiency, is homeless, or is a sibling of a student currently enrolled in the public charter school for which the sibling is applying.
Maryland law allows a public charter school to create a geographic attendance area with a median income that is equal to or less than the median income of the county for the school. Such a public charter school may provide guaranteed placement through a lottery to students who live within the geographic attendance area for up to 35% of the available space of the school (with the possibility of more under certain circumstances).
Maryland law allows a public charter school to provide guaranteed placement to up to 35% of the available space of the school to students who attended a public charter school during the previous school year that is operated by the same operator. A public charter school qualifies for this provision if the operator operates two or more public charter schools in the county and, when combined, the charters operated by the operator form an integrated multiyear academic program.
Maryland law requires charter schools to admit students on a lottery basis if more students apply than can be accommodated

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
12A
Open enrollment to any student in the state.
Yes
12B
Anti-discrimination provisions regarding admissions.
No
12C
Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions and for prior-year students within charter schools.
Yes
12D
Lottery requirements.

Is there automatic exemption from many state and district laws and regulations?

Instead of providing automatic exemptions from most state and district laws and regulations, Maryland law allows charter schools to seek waivers from a county board for policies that are the policies of the county board and from the state board for policies that are the policies of the state board, except from provisions of law or regulation relating to audit requirements, the measurement of student academic achievement and the health, safety or civil rights of a student or an employee of the charter.
Maryland law creates a mechanism by which eligible public charter schools may receive certain autonomies. The law defines an eligible public charter school as one that has been in existence for at least five years and demonstrates to the county school board a history of sound fiscal management and student achievement that exceeds the average in the local school system in which the school is located on statewide assessments and other measures developed by the state board.

If the county school board approves, an eligible charter school is exempt from textbook, instructional program, curriculum, professional development, and scheduling requirements, a requirement to establish a school community council, a requirement to establish a school improvement plan (except for Title I schools), a requirement to provide school activity fund disclosure statements (except for schools with a school activity fund), and class size or staffing ratios (except for prekindergarten classes). An eligible public charter school may not be assigned a principal without the written consent of the operator of the eligible public charter school. Staff members shall be assigned or transferred to an eligible public charter school if the staff member expresses in writing that the staff member wants to work in that eligible public charter school and the school requests in writing that the staff member be assigned or transferred to the school provided there is an existing vacancy. Such a transfer must take place as designated by the agreement of the local bargaining unit in the local school system. However, nothing related to these new potential autonomies for an eligible public charter school takes precedence over an agreement of a local bargaining unit in a local school system.

Maryland law does not exempt charter schools from state teacher certification requirements.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
13A
Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.
No
13B
Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

Is there an automatic collective bargaining exemption?

The state of Maryland requires collective bargaining for all public school teachers, including public charter school teachers, on four topics: wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment, and transfers and reassignments. Two topics, evaluation and grievance procedures, may be bargained. And collective bargaining on two topics, the length of the school year and class load and size, is expressly prohibited. Maryland law provides that a charter school’s teachers are covered by the school district collective bargaining agreement, although a charter school and a local teachers union may mutually agree to negotiate amendments to the existing agreement to address the needs of the particular public charter school, including amendments to work days, work hours, school year, procedures for transfers that are consistent with the instructional mission of the school, and extra duty assignments.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, Maryland allowed mandatory agency fees. The Supreme Court decision renders that state law unconstitutional. In anticipation of the Janus ruling, Maryland enacted a new law in spring 2018 that requires teachers unions to have access to new employee orientations and mandates that employers provide unions with employees’ contact information.
In Maryland, employers may directly certify a union as employees’ exclusive representative when the organization demonstrates 50 percent support from the employees in a bargaining unit and if there are no competing claims. If the union cannot demonstrate 50 percent support, or if another organization demonstrates support from at least 10 percent of employees, an election must be held. In such an election, the ballot must include each organization with 10 percent support as well as a choice for no representation. Maryland law provides for a two-week window for election, and a runoff election may be held if no organization receives a majority of votes. Elections may not be held more frequently than every two years. However, two years after an election, a new election can be initiated by a petition signed by more than 20 percent of employees.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
N/A
14A
Charter schools authorized by nonlocal board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.
Some
14B
Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

Are multischool charter contracts and/or multicharter contract boards allowed?

Maryland law is silent regarding these arrangements.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
15A
Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.
No
15B
Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

Is there eligibility and access to extracurricular and interscholastic activities?

Maryland law is silent about charter eligibility and access.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
16A
Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all extracurricular and interscholastic activities available to noncharter public school students and employees.
No
16B
Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extracurricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at noncharter public schools.

Is there clear identification of special education responsibilities?

Maryland law is silent about special education responsibilities and funding. In practice, the district authorizer is the LEA.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
17A
Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.
No
17B
Clarity regarding the flow of federal, state, and local special education funds to the designated LEA.
No
17C
Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).
No
17D
Clarity that charter schools have access to all regional and state services and supports available to traditional districts.

Is there equitable operational funding and equal access to all state and federal categorical funding?

Maryland law requires county boards to disburse to charters an amount of county, state, and federal money that is commensurate with the amount disbursed to other public schools in the local jurisdiction.
In a national study of charter school funding (University of Arkansas, Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, 2014), Maryland charter schools were receiving on average $11,754 per pupil in public funds, while traditional public schools would have received $18,053 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $6,299 per pupil - or 34.8% - less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals some continued inequities for operational, but the significant inequities exist for capital funding (see component #19 for information on capital issues).

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
18A
Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.
Some
18B
Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.
No
18C
Funding for transportation similar to school districts.
No
18D
Annual report offering district and charter school funding comparisons and including annual recommendations to the legislature for any needed equity enhancements.

Is there equitable access to capital funding and facilities?

Maryland law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for equitable access to capital funding and facilities.
Maryland law provides that charter schools are eligible for tax-exempt debt from the Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority, but they are not backed by the “full faith and credit” of the State of Maryland.

If, with the approval of the state superintendent of education, a county school board determines that a school site or building no longer is needed for school purposes and after the county commissioners or county council have provided required notice, Maryland law requires county school boards to notify public charter schools about school sites and buildings available for occupation and use on terms determined by the county school board. However, the law does not give charter schools the right of first refusal to purchase or lease these sites or buildings at or below fair market value.

According to the law, any portion of a building or property occupied and used by a public charter school shall be exempt from property taxes under state law for the duration of the occupation and use of the building or property as a public charter school.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Facilities Funding
No
19A
A per-pupil facilities allowance that annually reflects actual average district capital costs.
No
19B
A state grant program for charter school facilities.
No
19C
Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to noncharter public schools.
Access to Public Space
No
19D
A requirement for districts to provide school district space or funding to charter schools if the majority of that schools’ students reside in that district.
No
19E
Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.
Access to Financing Tools
No
19F
A state loan program for charter school facilities.
Some
19G
Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allowing charter schools to have their own bonding authority
No
19H
Pledging the moral obligation of the state to help charter schools obtain more favorable bond financing terms.
No
19I
The creation and funding of a state charter school debt reserve fund.
No
19J
The inclusion of charter schools in school district bonding and mill levy requests.
No
19K
A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for charter school facilities.
Other
No
19L
Charter schools allowed to contract at or below fair market value with a school district, a college or university, or any other public or for-profit or nonprofit private entity for the use of facility for a school building.
No
19M
Certain entities allowed to provide space to charter schools within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations.
Yes
19N
Charter school facilities exempt from ad valorem taxes and other assessment fees not applicable to other public schools.

Is there access to relevant employee retirement systems?

Maryland law requires participation in the relevant employee retirement systems.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
20A
Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.
No
20B
Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).

Are there provisions for full-time virtual charter schools?

Maryland law does not allow full-time virtual charter schools.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
N/A
21A
An authorizing structure whereby full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from more than one district may be approved only by an authorizer with statewide chartering jurisdiction and authority, full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from one school district may be authorized by that school district, and a cap is placed on the total amount of funding that an authorizer may withhold from a full-time virtual charter school.
N/A
21B
Legally permissible criteria and processes for enrollment based on the existence of supports needed for student success.
N/A
21C
Enrollment level provisions that establish maximum enrollment levels for each year of a charter contract, with any increases in enrollment from one year to the next based on whether the school meets its performance requirements.
N/A
21D
Accountability provisions that include virtual-specific goals regarding student enrollment, attendance, engagement, achievement, truancy, and attrition.
N/A
21E
Funding levels per student based on costs proposed and justified by the operators.
N/A
21F
Performance-based funding whereby full-time virtual charter schools are funded via a performance-based funding system based on meeting the accountability performance provisions.