June 9, 2010

Ehrlich highlights call for more Md. charter schools

Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) on Wednesday visited a Baltimore public charter school with an international emphasis, seeking to refocus attention on a policy priority highlighted during the announcement of his comeback campaign two months ago.

"I love charter schools," Ehrlich told students at the Baltimore International Academy. "That's why I'm here -- to highlight what you're doing at this school."

Maryland joined the charter school movement at Ehrlich's behest during his term as governor, which ended following his 2006 defeat by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). In April, as Ehrlich announced his bid to get his job back, he called for doubling the number of charter schools in Maryland, which has grown to 42 under O'Malley. Most of Maryland's charter schools are located in Baltimore. The Baltimore International Academy is an international language immersion school, and Ehrlich was greeted as he arrived by four students speaking the languages in which they are taught starting in kindergarten: Spanish, French, Chinese and Russian.

As he dropped in classrooms, Ehrlich seemed taken aback as he watched kindergarten students taught in Chinese and was treated to a song in Russian by another small class. "Finally, something I can understand," he joked when arriving in a Spanish-language class. Besides expanding the number of public charter schools, Ehrlich said he will also propose changing the process by which they are approved. Under the current system, local school officials decide whether to allow new ones.

The Washington Post editorial board has been among the critics of that process. A recent editorial said it was akin to "letting McDonald's decide if Burger King can move in next door."

In an interview following a later address to a Harford County business group focused on education, Ehrlich said the reform of charter schools will be just one component of education plans he will outline in coming weeks. SOURCE: Washington Post

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