OP-ED | Fund Public Charter Schools Fairly
There’s a lot at stake for Bridgeport students in the upcoming budget negotiations in Hartford.
By now, even students know that Connecticut’s financial situation is troubled at best. Due to this unstable fiscal environment, our state leaders will soon face the challenge of deciding which programs to cut and which ones to keep.
As a student in one of Bridgeport’s public charter schools, I’ll say this: in this season of tough decisions, one area that can’t afford to lose another dollar is public education. Our leaders must keep their commitment to students.
Governor Malloy knows that our public charter schools deserve the same resources as traditional public schools. Speaking about his budget priorities at a recent town hall in New Haven, the Governor made it clear that he understands the position our schools are in: they have done amazing things with limited funds, but they need support from the state to thrive in the long term.
The Governor has kept his promise to public charter school students by providing us with enough money to advance from one grade to the next. Any cuts by the legislature will prevent current students from moving on to a new grade in the schools they love. Our students deserve better.
Public charter school students have been underfunded for years. On average, students like my classmates and I receive almost $4,000 fewer dollars from the state per year than our peers in traditional public schools. There’s no rhyme or reason behind this unequal funding — charter school students are underfunded simply because we chose a different type of public school.
This is particularly hard for me, because my experience in a public charter school has changed my life. Before I started at Capital Prep, I attended six Bridgeport Public Schools, all of which I hated. I was unmotivated, I rarely did my homework or participated in class, and my teachers didn’t understand my needs. I tried moving from school to school, but never found one where I felt like I could realize my potential. Bridgeport Public Schools made me feel trapped — stuck in schools where my needs weren’t being met.
Capital Prep changed that. After only a few months there, I transformed as a student. For the first time in my life, I was excited to wake up for school and learn with my peers. Today, my favorite subject is math. I actually enjoy doing my homework, and I look forward to showing my family what I learned in school that day.
At Capital Prep, I’m challenged on a regular basis with college level assignments that make me excited to go to college someday. My dream is to go to Berkeley and major in business and finance, and then I want to attend Yale for my law degree.
More students deserve the transformative educational experience that public charter schools have provided for me and my classmates. That’s why it’s so important that the legislature keeps its promise to public charter school students and doesn’t make any further cuts to education spending.
Here’s the bottom line: my classmates and I are Connecticut’s future. We were born here, we were raised here, and we want to do everything we can to improve our communities so that more children from Bridgeport have a shot at attending college. Governor Malloy’s budget recognizes that in order to protect that future, you have to invest in it. Now our legislators need to do the same.
Jermaine Smith is a student at Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport.
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