State Board Approves New Charter Schools
Today a local CEA leader — representing Bridgeport teachers — made an impassioned plea to the State Board of Education asking that the board reject new charter schools in the city because the vast majority of Bridgeport students would be hurt by that action.
Despite the plea, the State Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport and the Booker T. Washington Academy in New Haven to open in the fall and the Stamford Charter School for Excellence and Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport to open for the 2015-16 school year. (New Haven teachers are not affiliated with CEA.)
Seventy-two people crowded into overflow rooms waiting for a turn to give public comment in support of and against the charter school applications. Charter school advocates told the State Board that charters provide an important choice for Connecticut students who aren’t succeeding in regular public schools.
Bridgeport already has four charter schools, but the school system’s financial problems have been mounting and a new board of education was recently elected.
- Rob Traber, incoming president of the Bridgeport Education Association, told the State Board he was there to “express the unanimous support of our executive board for the Bridgeport Board of Education’s call for a moratorium on the establishment of any new charter schools in our city.” Read his full comments here.
- Bridgeport Board of Education Chair Sauda Baraka asked the State Board of Education to respect the Bridgeport Board of Education’s vote for a moratorium on new charter schools in the district. Bridgeport is one of the most underfunded districts in the state, receiving $37 million less than required by the state’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. Baraka said that transportation and special education costs associated with accepting new charter schools in the district would take away from the district’s ability to provide a quality education to all students.
- JoAnn Kennedy, the PTSO president for Bassick High School in Bridgeport, urged state officials to adequately fund public education throughout the state. She said, “I’m here to stand up for the 20,000 plus students in Bridgeport who do not have enough teachers, elective courses, counselors, social workers, and nurses.”
- Bridgeport teacher Kathy Silver said, “I teach English Language Learners, special education students, AP students, and everyone in between. Each year my programming has received less and less funding. Charter schools will divert precious funding from our schools, and I believe my students deserve better.”
Stamford residents also spoke out against the establishment of a new charter school in their district.
- Stephanie O’Shea, co-president of the Stamford Parent Teacher Council, said that the operator of the Stamford Charter School for Excellence had not made an effort to connect with the community, and had not spoken with the city’s mayor or the district’s administration, teachers, or parents.
- Stamford Board of Education member Jackie Heftman told the State Board that Stamford public schools have made great progress closing the achievement gap in recent years. She added that the district believes each public school should look like the district as a whole, but that the new charter school will perpetuate racial isolation.
- Stamford parent Susana Vidan said, “Outsourcing our kids to charter schools isn’t going to get mom a job or raise the minimum wage. Charter schools are not the answer. We need to fund the needed resources that make a difference.”
- Stamford parent Jessica Vanderhart said that, with the addition of a new charter school, the same kids who are currently left behind “will still be left behind, and left behind with less.”