Malloy to appoint Charter School Champion as Connecticut’s next State Commissioner of Education?

Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

The Courant’s Rick Green is reporting that “Stefan Pryor, deputy mayor of Newark, NJ and one of the original founders of the public charter school Amistad Academy in New Haven will be named Connecticut’s next education commissioner tomorrow.”

See story here: http://blogs.courant.com/rick_green/2011/09/stefan-pryor-charter-school-fo.html

If true it would be astunning development.

Pryor who, according to Green,  apparently has no direct classroom public education experience does come highly regarded but his direct association with the charter school movement would definitely be controversial and could call into question Connecticut’s ability to respond to state Supreme Court rulings that Connecticut’s present funding system is unconstitutional.

Furthermore it will certainly raise the question about whether Connecticut is attempting to walk away from the United States Supreme Court’s most fundamental case on education – Brown vs. Board of Education which determined that racially separate but equal education violates the United States Constitution (as does racially separate and unequal education).

There will undoubtedly be a lot more discussion about Malloy’s choice if it comes to pass…

But why would it raise these questions?

Connected started funding charter schools in direct response to the racial isolation that has been taking place in Connecticut’s urban centers.  The expectation was that charter schools, like magnet schools, would attract more non-minority students so that schools would provide environments that were less racially isolated.

The Amistad Academy which Pryor helped create is Connecticut’s flagship Charter School.

Pointing to its higher attendance rates and higher test scores Amistad and charter school advocates have successfully pushed for more funding for charter schools, even at the expense of Connecticut’s public schools.  Their primary initiative – “the money follows the child” – has yet to gain widespread support but they have said they will be pushing hard for the legislation in the coming legislative session.

But Amistad is also the poster-child for the most serious policy shortcoming facing charter schools.

According to the state’s school profile data most Connecticut charter schools are significantly MORE racially isolated then the schools systems in the very communities they are designed to help.

New Haven’s public schools are about approximately 88% minority but Amistad Academy’s student body is 98.5% minority.  While about 10% of New Haven’s school population is white, Amistad’s white students make up only about 1% of the student body.

In fact, according to the reports that all school are required to file with the state of Connecticut, Amistad has become significantly more racially isolated during the past decade.

Furthermore, while Connecticut’s public schools face significant challenges responding to students with developmental issues that require special education services, Amistad and many other Charter schools report virtually no students in need of special education services.

Those who have challenged the efficacy of charter schools point out that it is a lot easier to get higher test scores if schools don’t have to attend to those students who need special help.

In any case, stay tuned.  If Malloy really is selecting a charter school advocate to lead Connecticut’s system of public schools there will be a lot more to be said.