Malloy administration gives Bronx charter school chain a green-light to “save” Stamford.
The Malloy administration’s extraordinary efforts to increase the number of charter schools and privatize even more of the state’s public education system took a giant leap forward at the last State Board of Education meeting.
In a farce that included Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, just happening to have a written resolution approving four new charters rather than the promised two, the corporate education reform industry drive to undermine Connecticut’s public schools surged forward.
Malloy’s “hometown” of Stamford was one of the latest victims in the inappropriate and under-handed strategy that has been displayed by Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education.
When it comes to “education reform” the Malloy administration’s watchwords seems to be, “grab the candy before you are thrown out of the shop.”
The following piece was written by Stamford Board of Education members Jackie Heftman and Polly Rauh. It was first published in last Friday’s Stamford Advocate.
Democracy loses in charter school fight
On April 2, we went to a show trial in Hartford. Actually it was a meeting of the State Board of Education (SBOE). Sitting in the audience and later watching it on CT-N, we were reminded of the trials held in places with authoritarian dictatorships, where the outcome is decided long before the meeting begins.
The resolution that the SBOE was considering was for one more state charter school in New Haven and Bridgeport. The public agenda listed a discussion item of an additional charter school in Stamford and one more for Bridgeport. We were there to speak in opposition to another state charter school in Stamford. The Stamford Board of Education had passed a resolution at its March meeting not supporting the charter school application.
The SBOE approved the two charters in New Haven and Bridgeport, and then Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor magically produced a resolution for approval of another charter school in Bridgeport and Stamford. Both were unanimously approved. Indeed a sad day for democracy in Connecticut.
Some of the things that were put on the record were simply wrong and some were outright lies, and they should not go undisputed. If Stamford is going to be dragged into a fight over a charter school, we should begin with an understanding of the facts.
Pryor was adamant that the funding for charter schools is a separate stream of money and does not take funding away from the traditional public schools. In fact he proudly asserted that more money has been allocated to the Alliance Districts. Alliance Districts are the 30 lowest performing districts in the state. Stamford, New Haven and Bridgeport are Alliance Districts. For Stamford the allocated amount is less than $3 million dollars which is less than 1 percent of our budget. Is he kidding? What is there to be proud of? That money will get eaten up in additional transportation and special education costs for the new charter school.
The money that comes to cities and towns to help fund public schools is based on an Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula which is grossly underfunded to the tune of almost $700 million dollars this year.
[A Wait, What? note to readers: According to the CCEJF school funding lawsuit and other experts, Connecticut’s school funding formula is actually $1.5 to $2 billion underfunded leaving an unfair and disproportionate burden on local property tax payers and severely limiting resource in many Connecticut school districts].
But there seems to be money to fund state charter schools. Between Fiscal Year 2013 and Fiscal Year 2015, $233 million has been set aside to fund state charter schools. That money could have been added to the ECS stream bringing it closer to what the formula requires.
The second sad occurrence that afternoon was when Charlene Reid, head of the state charter school that wants to open here, told the SBOE that in her meetings with Stamford BOE members over the past couple of months it was suggested that because she was black she was incapable of writing the application. She also said she was accused of being a racist because she wants to open a segregated school and had experienced “micro aggression” during her time in Stamford.
We have neither met Ms. Reid nor been asked to attend a meeting with her and could find only one board member who did meet with her. No one who spoke at the public hearing in Stamford maligned Ms. Reid. Our opposition to the charter school has never been personal. She also said parents were “petrified” to publicly state their support, but when parents had the opportunity to speak at the SBOE meeting, where there is obvious support for charter schools, no one spoke. No one from Stamford said they wanted this option for their children. In fact Stamford Parent Teacher Council members came to the SBOE meeting with more than 700 petition signatures in opposition to the charter school.
Ms. Reid accused unnamed Stamford officials of having no plan to address inequities and only wanting to ignore the problem. That flies in the face of our Alliance District Improvement Plan, approved by the SBOE, which directly addresses the closing of the achievement gap. In fact in the past six years the achievement gap in the Stamford Public Schools has been reduced by 13.5 percent. Ms. Reid says the Bronx Charter School for Excellence has closed the achievement gap for all subgroups. The achievement gap is the difference between the standardized test scores for White students vs. Black and Hispanic students.
Her claim that the gap has been closed at her school is meaningless when there are no white students attending. She can claim that she has boosted the achievement of her students, but she can’t claim she has closed the achievement gap. She also belittled Stamford Superintendent Winifred Hamilton’s commitment to diversity in spite of the fact that our schools are balanced to within 10 percent of the district average, 31 percent of our administrators are minorities and we are constantly working to increase our minority teaching staff. It is obvious that she hasn’t visited any of our schools. Ms. Reid told the SBOE that she is looking forward to a collaborative relationship with SPS and our superintendent! Really?
Ms. Reid acknowledged that her school in the Bronx is 100 percent minority and 85 percent economically disadvantaged and this is the model she would bring to Stamford. If for no other reasons, we oppose this charter school coming to Stamford.
We care about all public school students receiving a high quality education in a diverse setting of students of all colors and socioeconomic backgrounds. All Stamford students deserve no less.