Monday, February 28, 2011

Charter School Applicants Seek Judicial Review of MD State Board of Ed. Appeal Decision

Contact:  Ashley Del Sole, Global Garden Public Charter School, Inc. ~ ~ (240) 498-2286

Montgomery County Public Charter School Applicants Seek Judicial Review of Maryland State Board of Education Appeal Decision

Montgomery County, MD, February 28, 2011 – On Thursday, Feb 24, Global Garden Public Charter School, Inc., filed a petition for judicial review in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County of the Maryland State Board of Education Opinion 11-01, released January 25.  Global Garden had appealed the June denial of its application to open Montgomery County’s first public charter school.
According to that unanimous opinion, the Montgomery County local Board of Education erred in denying Global Garden’s application. In a strongly worded decision, the State Board of Education asserted that the Montgomery Board's resolution to deny was inadequately articulated and that in several ways the review process was ill-conducted and subject to bias.
However, despite reversing and remanding the case “so that the local board may reconsider its decision in light of the rulings we have made in this case,” the State Board has declined to provide any more specific guidelines for this reconsideration.  Global Garden believes that the State Board’s rulings include a requirement for charter school applicants to receive meaningful technical assistance, substantive feedback, and the opportunity to cure deficiencies in the application, and that it intended the Montgomery Board to use the 90 days allotted to provide some of the procedural benefits it previously denied Global Garden.
The Montgomery Board, in contrast, has indicated that it intends merely to elaborate in writing its reasons for its decision. To date, despite a letter to MCPS and the Montgomery Board intended to initiate dialogue immediately following the Opinion on January 28, Global Garden has not been contacted directly by any member of MCPS staff or of the Montgomery County Board of Education. 
 Both groups have written to the State Board in an attempt to gain some further direction on what steps it intended would be taken.  In each case, the President of the State Board, James H. DeGraffenreidt, has responded briefly to state that “[t]he purpose of the remand was to require the local board to provide a legally supportable rationale for its decision or, alternatively, to grant the charter if its review reveals that there is no legally supportable rationale for denying the charter.” (Letter to Global Garden counsel, Feb. 24, 2011, attached)
Meanwhile, MCPS has established a revised public charter school application process which would require Global Garden to submit a new application by April 1, 25 days in advance of the 90-day deadline for the Montgomery Board to conclude its “reconsideration.”  In his letter, Mr. DeGraffenreidt suggests that “Global Garden may choose to submit an application…in the next round of charter school application review in Montgomery County.”  Rather than submit a new application for review under a flawed process that limits technical assistance to the presubmission period and excludes any opportunity to cure deficiencies, Global Garden has opted instead to seek judicial review of the State Board’s decision.
It hopes to establish that in cases where the local board fails to carry out its responsibility to provide a fair review, “The secondary public chartering authority for the granting of a charter shall be the State Board acting in its appeal review capacity”  (§9–103 Maryland Public Charter School Law, 2003).  Without judicial or legislative intervention to strengthen both State Board authority and local board accountability, charter school applicants are doomed to repeating a cycle leading to endless appeals, not innovative educational options.  Coincidentally, a bill has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly (HB 1067) to clarify that the Board can and should conduct a review of a denied application on its merits and can order the local board to grant the charter if warranted.
 “We were pleased that the State Board expressed such strong support for a fair process in their unanimous Opinion, but in the end, Global Garden has nothing to show for its win,” says Ashley Del Sole, Global Garden Founding Board member.  “So far our application has never received a thorough, unbiased review on its merits, and that’s all we’ve ever asked for.”

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