Beware parents, teachers, school administrators, local education officials and Connecticut taxpayers!
Not satisfied with diverting more than $110 million a year to privately owned, but publicly funded, charter school companies in Connecticut, the charter school industry is about to make a massive grab for even more public funds via a gimmick called “Money Follows the Child.”
Counting on the support from the ally, Governor Dannel Malloy, the charter school industry is intent on leaving Connecticut public schools will fewer resources and Connecticut residents with higher tax bills.
In her latest commentary piece entitled, Charter lobby chases cut of public funds, and first published in the Stamford Advocate, public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, lays out the issue.
As soon as Connecticut’s school funding decision in the CCJEF case was rendered, charter lobbyists in Connecticut began salivating at the prospect of using their political influence to craft a new school funding system that would benefit charter schools. Families for Excellent schools planned a rally for “fair funding” for charter schools and ConnCAN kicked its propaganda machine into high gear with polls and statements about the horrors of inequitable funding in Connecticut. The case is now on appeal, but the charter lobby is pressing its agenda now.
The embrace of the CCJEF decision by the charter lobby was extremely disingenuous, given that since the case was filed in 2005, neither ConnCAN nor any of the charter advocates even acknowledged the existence of CCJEF.
CCJEF was never about funding privately managed charter schools serving 1 percent of Connecticut students. The CCJEF plaintiffs seek adequate and equitable funding for the vast majority of children who attend Connecticut’s public schools — particularly in Connecticut’s poorest school districts.
However, ConnCAN, Families for Excellent Schools and Northeast Charter Network now see their opportunity to use the language of equity to serve their interests.
If you think it is illogical to call diverting public money intended for poor school districts serving the many to privately managed schools that serve the few “equity,” you are not alone.
In a growing body of case law, courts across the country are rejecting attempts to use their state constitutions to obtain equal funding for charter schools.
The most recent loss was suffered this month in New York by Northeast Charter Network — a well-funded lobby active in Connecticut — where an appellate court dismissed its attempt to get equal facilities funding for charter schools in Buffalo and Rochester.
New York’s decision is consistent with decisions in Arizona and New Jersey, where charter advocates sued for equal funding, and in Massachusetts, where charter advocates attempted to force the state to lift the charter cap. Washington State’s Supreme Court also ruled that charter schools are not entitled to equal funding, though on different grounds.
Charter advocates used similar arguments in these cases. They claimed that poor school districts have low student outcomes, so if a child chooses to go to a charter school they claim has better outcomes, that charter school has the right to equal funding.
In deciding these cases, courts have exposed the claims of charter schools as being at odds with the nature and purpose of the constitutional right to an adequate education.
First and foremost, these courts point out, charter schools do not have a constitutional right to anything. State constitutions protect children, not schools.
Choice is not a constitutional right, either. As the Massachusetts court explained, while the state must educate all children, there is no “constitutional right to choose a particular flavor of education.” Charters are the prime example of how school “choice” undermines constitutional notions of equality, as they often increase segregation, fail to serve English Language Learners, students with disabilities and other vulnerable children, and impose disproportionately harsh discipline on children of color.
The courts also note that while a state must adequately fund public education, there is no right to two parallel public school systems. They ruled that if a child can attend a district public school that is fully funded, then her right to an education is sufficiently safeguarded.
The courts emphasize that if the public school is not fully funded, the solution is certainly not to divert public funds to a charter school. As the New York court observed, funneling public dollars into a charter school is inconsistent with the State’s constitutional obligation, because “to divert public education funds away from the traditional public schools and toward charter schools would benefit a select few at the expense of” the majority of students in public schools.
These courts also note that charter schools are not like public schools. They are exempt from requirements that traditional public schools must follow. Most notably, they do not have to serve all children in a district nor provide all programs that public schools must provide. They were always envisioned as transitory, and can have their charter revoked if authorizing agencies conduct proper oversight.
Connecticut must reform its school funding system. But it cannot be misled by the charter lobby’s warped “save a few, forget the rest” mentality. Our leaders must ensure a well-funded public school system that serves all children, no matter what their needs. True equity means an adequate education for all.
You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s commentary piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Charter-lobby-chases-cut-of-public-10594980.php