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Charter Students Rally Lawmakers To Restore Funding

by | May 7, 2015 6:48pm
() Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education, State Budget, State Capitol

Elizabeth Regan photo

The sounds of hip hop and R&B from a local radio station turned the north steps of the state Capitol into a dance party Thursday afternoon as charter school proponents rallied for the restoration of funding for two new charter schools in Stamford and Bridgeport.

About 1,500 charter school students, parents, and supporters surrounded an elaborate stage and sound system in fluorescent “For Every Child” T-shirts. When DJ Bigg Man stepped aside, those who took over the microphone included Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, several state legislators, and many people personally affected by the threat to charter schools.

Malloy said arguments about what type of schools the state should fund are dividing the educational community when it should be united around building great schools for all children.

“Let’s work together for outcomes that are best serving our young people, particularly in our urban environments,” Malloy said. “Let’s not be afraid to experiment, let’s not be afraid to learn lessons from one another and bring them back to the schools that we want to improve. Let’s make sure that we work together and, yes, let’s make sure that we fund charter schools in the state of Connecticut.”

The two new schools hoping that Malloy gets his way are the Stamford Charter School for Excellence in Stamford and Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport.

The governor’s proposed budget for charter school seats was roughly $32 million for the next two years. The Appropriations Committee slashed that amount by about $21 million, leaving only enough to keep the state’s 22 existing charter schools open. An alternative budget submitted by the Republicans also failed to fund the two new schools.

State Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford and state Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, co-chairs of the Appropriations Committee, said when they released their spending plan that the decision on charter schools was a balanced approach to meeting the educational needs of students across the state.

“Like the Republicans, we did not choose to fund new charters at this time with so many difficult cuts, and no new magnets either,” Bye said last week.

Formal budget negotiations between majority Democrats and Malloy are expected to start in the next few days.

Jeremiah Grace, state director of the Northeast Charter Schools network, said the Stamford charter school slated to open in August has signed a lease despite the budget uncertainty.

“I think, for them, they are acting under extreme faith that the school will be funded, much like what happened in 2013 when [the Appropriations Committee] took out funding for the four schools and the General Assembly appropriated that money,” he said.

The Coalition for Every Child said there are 861 students who will be directly affected if the two new schools don’t open their doors with the start of the next school year.

Shyheim Russell, a sophomore at Achievement First Hartford High, spoke in support of those students who would not get the same benefits he’s received as a charter school student if the funding doesn’t come through.

“I now want to attend MIT after I graduate. Before I came to Achievement First, I would’ve never considered that a possibility or even considered college. Public charter school students like me and my Achievement First Hartford High classmates shouldn’t have to worry every year whether there will be state funding so we can continue to advance through to the next grade at our school.”

Russell asked state legislators to fight with him — and the 861 students like him — to work toward access to great public schools for all students.

There are currently more than 3,600 names on wait lists for charter schools in the state, according to the Coalition For Every Child.

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(11) Archived Comments

posted by: ocoandasoc | May 7, 2015  10:56pm

It’s not that the legislature doesn’t want to give parents and students better schools, it’s just that they won’t cross the teachers unions to get them.

posted by: Pro-Public Education | May 8, 2015  8:58am

The press lease from the Coalition For Every Child stated there would be “thousands” of attendees, yet estimates are now that there were approximately one thousand attendees. They even bused in charter school staff, parents, and children from Boston & NY. So those that do not reside in our state and do not pay a dime in state taxes think they should have a say in what happens in CT? Then they bus in innocent children and use five and six year olds as props holding signs they cannot even read. There was a rally held in Bridgeport this past Monday. Only nine adults and two children attended.

The only opinions that should matter are those of Bridgeport and Stamford residents. And, we have made it abundantly clear that we do not want them. Our elected Boards of Education voted against them as did our parent organizations which represent approximately 50,000 public school parents.

Stop with your ridiculous propaganda that there is a swell of support for these two new charter schools in Bridgeport & Stamford. It is an absolute lie.

posted by: Lady Jane | May 9, 2015  7:12am

There are some questions that should be asked…
Where did the money come from for all those buses?
Who is paying for all the staff and teachers that accompanied them on the lobbying trip?
Did the students take time off from school to attend the lobbying day?
Was any federal or state funding used for the lobbying?

It seems to me that this whole ad campaign must cost a lot of money and I wonder who is funding it? Are the charter schools so flush in money that they can afford to spend millions on lobbying?

posted by: Truth_To_Power | May 9, 2015  8:35am

Pro-public: Only a public sector worker would have the audacity to complain about children being used to make a point, when the educational establishment has been enriching themselves and sticking it to private sector taxpayers for years, all ‘for the children’.

posted by: cseeger | May 9, 2015  1:04pm

ABC: It’s not that simple. For every student that attends a charter school, funding is pulled from the public schools. So the public schools are worse off simply for having charters exist—which I suspect is part of the reason why the funding mechanism works the way it does. So even if you don’t want your child to go to a charter school, if your neighbor does, your child is negatively affected.

Not to mention charter schools are run for-profit off public funds and refuse to disclose their books to the public. Does that sound right to you?

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 10, 2015  7:22pm

As usual, charter proponents are telling informed CT residents that their facts are incorrect, when in fact they are not. ABC, for instance, neglects to state that while the school cannot be for profit, the schools are paying large fees to charter management companies. You might want to look into the salary structure and profits of those companies. OH WAIT…YOU CAN’T! Because although charter schools claim to be “public” when it comes to taking taxpayer dollars, they claim to be “private” when it comes to transparency. Just look at some of the statements that came out of FUSE when the state tried to investigate the Michael Sharpe fiasco. And who was supporting Eva Moskowitz in her lawsuit to prevent audits by NY state comptroller? NE Charter School Association…oh and all the hedge fund guys on her board: https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/success-academy-tax-documents-moskowitz-can-afford-the-rent/  (But it’s all for the kids, right, ABC?)  As for the hilarious laughable statement that ABC made on another thread that charter schools put more money into the surrounding school systems - tell that to Bridgeport, where special ed teachers in the public school system are creating IEPs for (the few) SPED kids in charter schools - that’s when they don’t have adequate resources for SPED in the school system to begin with. Don’t believe the propaganda. Because that is what it is.

As for this: “And you need to remember that the kids at the rally were students at charter schools - so they actually could read the signs.”

ABC, I went to Cloonan and Westhill in Stamford, and I graduated with honors from a reasonably prestigious university. When I got there, I was just as well-  if not better -prepared than many of my classmates who attended elite private schools. Your prejudice is unbecoming and undermines your credibility.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 12, 2015  5:34am

Oh really ABC?  I can find transparent information on any charter advocacy group on Guide Star? So why has FES, for example, got two separate listings with the Office of State Ethics. OH…maybe it’s because they had high priced lawyers find them the “hedge fund loophole”. http://goo.gl/IcMSnQ

As for your constant claim that charters are producing far better results, you also consistently fail to address the real problems underlying those claims - that charters aren’t serving a like population, as Jennifer Jacobsen pointed out quite clearly in her chart here: http://goo.gl/rhPlqx

And that’s before we even get to the issue of kindergarten suspensions, or pushing out special ed kids which you claim doesn’t happen but does: http://goo.gl/rhPlqx

And let’s not forget the lawsuit against Achievement First on Special Ed - but you ignore all of that, because let me guess - are you paid a high salary by ConnCan or on their board?

But reading this: “As for my “prejudice”, let the record show that I did not respond to your provocation!  I’m still interested in raising the tone of the debate, though!” after you wrote this: “And you need to remember that the kids at the rally were students at charter schools - so they actually could read the signs.” Well, that goes beyond “chutzpah”.  I am reminded of a discussion I was having with some of my literary friends just yesterday about Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test: “Many important business leaders and politicians are in fact high-flying, high-functioning psychopaths.” That you can make such an inflammatory, insulting remark about public school students and then, when called on it, attempt to claim the higher moral ground, is beyond creepy. It’s seriously disturbing.

posted by: whatsprogressiveaboutprogressives? | May 12, 2015  11:29am

This is absolutely appalling . Suspending the monthly bond committee meeting should have been the first order of business last year.  Bonding money for government sponsored daycare is ridiculous.. If things continue at this level I predict state government officials traveling to Detroit and asking those city officials what they did to overcome insolvency.
The script for this tragedy is already playing out before the curtains have even been drawn on the stage.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 12, 2015  11:48am

And once again, ABC, you conveniently ignore all the facts raised, labeling them “baiting” and try to make this a personal issue about me and my children. Shame on you. Especially since you made assumptions about my kids’ school attendence and were wrong.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 12, 2015  12:35pm

“Bottom line is that charters ought to exist because parents want to send their kids to them.”

So using ABC’s “logic”...Universal Single Payer Healthcare ought to exist because parents want it and it benefits kids. See also, paid maternity leave.

posted by: whatsprogressiveaboutprogressives? | May 12, 2015  1:37pm

Oops, my bad. I should have posted my previous comment under the bond commission article.