The "Baltimore and Beyond" report recommendation for "public charter schools" is not new -- it is the liberal version of the voucher plans advanced 20 years ago -- but it is in consonance with the latest thrust in education reform.
Under the "Baltimore and Beyond" proposals, teachers, principals or civic organizations could form their own schools, independent of the local school bureaucracy. The schools would receive a per-pupil payment from state and local governments equal to the average spent in public schools. They would be subject to state teacher certification and testing, but beyond that would have broad latitude to teach what and how they want. Parents would choose schools for their children.
A number of states and local school districts are currently experimenting with allowing student and parent choice. The assumption is that in a competitive market place, schools will have to do better in order to attract and retain students. The Bush administration's "education strategy," issued two weeks ago, also calls for choice, including "all schools that serve the public and are accountable to public authority, regardless of who runs them."