And then there are those people who do both.
As we contemplate how it is possible that elected officials like Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy remain steadfastly committed to his anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-Common Core testing and pro-charter school corporate education reform initiatives we might do well to remember the words of the great Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, who observed that fools are those who “believe what isn’t true [and/or] refuse to believe what is true.”
The damage that Malloy and his cadre of “reformers” have done to public education in Connecticut, and continue to do, has been significantly exacerbated by the utter failure of the Democrat controlled Connecticut General Assembly to stand up to Malloy’s bullying.
Incredibly, the majority of State Senators and State Representatives have abdicated their responsibility when it comes to promoting public education.
Rather that step forward and fulfill their constitutional and moral duty as participants in our representative democracy, they have relegated themselves, doing little more than rubber stamping the very policies that are hurting Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers of their districts.
With little to no support from the Legislative Branch of Government, the role of the Judicial Branch becomes all the more important.
Public education advocate and commentator Wendy Lecker had another MUST READ column in this past weekend’s Stamford Advocate.
In her column, Wendy Lecker alerts us to the fact that we’ve apparently and unfortunately reached the point where the courts must step in and guide our elected officials toward policies that help, not hurt, public education in Connecticut.
Wendy Lecker’s piece, entitled, “Do courts need to guide Malloy about education?” was first published in the Stamford Advocate and can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Do-courts-need-to-guide-Malloy-6514492.php
Wendy Lecker Writes;
Charter schools want it both ways. To get taxpayer dollars, they want to call themselves public schools. However, they do not want to educate the same children as public schools, or be subject to the same rules. Courts are beginning to challenge this duplicity. In Texas and Arizona, courts have ruled that charters are not entitled to the same funding as public schools. Now, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that charter schools not public schools at all and it is unconstitutional to divert any money intended for public schools to them.
Central to the Washington court’s decision was the connection between public schools and local democracy. The court noted that local control is the “most important feature” of a public school because it vests in local voters the power, through their elected agents, to run the schools that educate their children.
Charters in Washington are authorized by state agencies and governed by unelected boards. The court concluded that charter schools are not true public schools because they are “devoid of local control from their inception to their daily operation.”
This ruling follows another major decision by Washington’s Supreme Court, holding the legislature in contempt for failing to adequately fund its public schools, and fining it $100,000 a day.
The refusal to fund public schools and simultaneous willingness to divert money to privately run charter schools has parallels to Connecticut.
In January, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will have to defend the state’s failure to fund our public schools as the CCJEF school funding trial he has failed to thwart finally begins.
While spending millions of taxpayer dollars trying to prevent children in underfunded school districts from having their day in court, the Malloy administration has aggressively expanded privately run charter schools and funded them at levels higher than schools in our poorest districts receive. Charter schools receive $11,000 per pupil annually from the state, while children in Bridgeport public schools, for example, receive less than $9,000 per pupil annually in ECS funding. New Britain Schools receive less than $8,000 per pupil. Connecticut charter schools also tend to serve less needy, therefore less expensive-to-educate, students than their district counterparts.
Moreover, the state, in violation of its own laws, concentrates charters in a few districts, forcing those financially strapped districts to pay additional millions to the charter schools for special education and transportation.
The Malloy administration applies a double standard to charters on one hand and underfunded public schools on the other. As I have documented, the State Board of Education routinely reauthorizes charter schools despite their failures, while poor districts are subject to state takeover despite the state acknowledging that the districts’ troubles are financial . The SBE even blindly handed over tens of millions of dollars to a convicted embezzler/charter operator, Michael Sharpe.
Furthermore, despite strong Connecticut legal precedent barring school segregation, the state does nothing to stop rampant charter segregation. Ironically, the state recently claimed stellar progress on desegregation and asked to be released from court oversight in the Sheff v. O’Neill desegregation case.
Like Washington, Connecticut has a long tradition of local control over its public schools. In 2012, our Supreme Court voided the illegal state takeover of the Bridgeport board of education. The decision highlighted the importance of local control over education. The court stressed that Connecticut law has long recognized need to protect the democratic will of the people who elect their local boards of education. The court noted that local boards are most responsive to the needs of the local district and the will of the local population. The court further emphasized that local control “fosters a beneficial and symbiotic relationship between the parents, students and local school administrators, a relationship that should not be lightly disregarded.”
Yet in its zeal to expand and dole out taxpayer dollars to privately-run charters, the state has run roughshod over local control. Connecticut’s State Board of Education authorizes charter schools, which often appoint outsiders to their unelected boards. SBE steamrolls the will of the people. Last year, the SBE authorized new charter schools in Bridgeport and Stamford, disregarding the vociferous opposition of the elected school board in each city.
While the Malloy administration fights fair funding and desegregation of public schools, it has nearly doubled financial support for privately run, segregated charters.
Perhaps it is time for our courts to step in, like they did in Washington, and remind the governor of the true nature of public schools: Schools that serve every child and are accountable to the voters in every district.
Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.