Last week, the State Board of Education took a stand for Connecticut’s children and approved four new public charter schools. As a result of that historic decision, thousands of children will have access to the high-quality education they deserve.
The new schools will be located in Bridgeport, Stamford and New Haven. Each school will be led by educators, based on instructional models with proven track records. These are schools from which close to 100 percent of students graduate, schools where no child is denied the chance for a great education simply because they can’t afford one.
That is real and long overdue progress. Now, we must protect this progress and continue to take steps to ensure that all kids get the education they need to achieve their goals.
Two of these schools—New Haven’s Booker T. Washington Academy and Bridgeport’s Great Oaks School – are scheduled to open this fall. The funding for these two schools is included in the state’s biennial budget approved by legislators last year. State leaders must preserve that funding, so that the hundreds of students hoping to attend Booker T. Washington Academy and Great Oaks School have the opportunity they have been waiting for.
The state Board of Education also approved two schools set to open in the fall of 2015—Bridgeport’s Capital Prep Harbor School and the Stamford Charter School for Excellence. We look to state leaders next year to ensure that these successful school models become a reality for students and families.
The state board’s decision has raised concerns about funding for both public charter and traditional public schools, suggesting that we must either fairly fund schools based on student need or invest in creating new schools. The fact is, these two ideas are not mutually exclusive. Both are critical and must be part of a larger conversation about our state’s fundamentally broken school funding system that is not serving our children well.
In the process, we must stay focused on improving results for kids. These four schools are a critical part of our state’s efforts to improve outcomes for all students and build a brighter future for Connecticut.
These schools represent real progress for the thousands of kids in Connecticut who are aren’t getting a fair chance at the education they need to go to college, to get decent jobs, or to build thriving communities. In Stamford, large achievement gaps persist and about half of all low-income students are below “goal” or grade-level in reading, writing, math and science. In Bridgeport and New Haven, one out of three kids won’t graduate high school. Only half of the Latino and African American 3rd graders in those cities are reading at grade level. When they reach 10th grade, that number drops to less than four in 10.
To be clear, there has been some progress in these cities — particularly in New Haven and Stamford. That progress must continue. In fact, the current pace and scale of that progress for kids must be accelerated. The bottom line is that thousands of kids are not yet being prepared for the bright futures they deserve. Over 4,000 families are currently waiting for access to better options. The supply of quality options does not meet demand.
In approving these schools, the state Board of Education clearly recognized that kids can’t wait — they need better schools now. We turn to state legislators, with a mid-term budget before them and a biennial budget right around the corner, to decide whether our kids get the education they deserve or are kept waiting.
Jennifer Alexander is the CEO of ConnCAN (Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now).