Last week, I marched with more than 3,000 parents, teachers, students, and community members from every corner of Connecticut to fight for a single cause: equitable funding for public charter school students.
Shockingly, Connecticut is one of just two states in the entire country that fund charter schools through a separate line item in the state budget. This has a serious impact on our kids.
The average charter school student in Connecticut receives $2,800 less for his or her education than a student in a traditional public school. What makes this even worse is the fact that charter schools serve the kids who need the most support. Even though three-quarters of charter school students are low-income students of color, they get just 76 cents on the dollar compared to kids in other public schools. Our kids deserve better.
You see, when our students receive less funding than their peers in other public schools or more affluent communities, they receive a clear message – because of where you live and the school you attend, you are less valuable.
I know what it feels like to have others view you in this way. I grew up in Bridgeport and attended public schools there. School was not a place where I wanted to be, and it was not a place where I felt valued. That set me on a path toward the street life. I spent thirteen years in prison because of it. It wasn’t until I was incarcerated that I decided to turn my life around. I earned my college degree, and got certified as a substance abuse counselor and minister. Today, I work with men and women to help them reenter society after being incarcerated. Often, the biggest hurdle is helping them understand their own value to society.
This belief – in the value of every student and person in Connecticut – is why I joined with over 3,000 people to march last week, and that is why I will continue to fight for as long as it takes to make sure all public school children are treated equally.
Though our fight for fair funding is just beginning, the current budget crunch is worrisome. Last year, some politicians in Hartford tried to cut funding for charter schools. Thanks to the parents across the state who mobilized in opposition to these cuts, and the support of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, we fought off these cuts. But with a new budget comes new negotiations. As parents, we want to make one thing clear: cutting funding for our children’s education cannot be an option.
Instead, our leaders should begin a dialogue about how to fund all children equally, and end our unfair school funding system. Because until all children in New Haven – and across the rest of the state – are funded equally, we will continue to send the wrong message to our kids.
Louis Reed is a father of five from Bridgeport.
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