Governor Malloy and Commissioner of Education Stephan Pryor have announced a plan to give charter schools more public funds including money that will be shifted from helping Connecticut’s poorest urban districts. The primary beneficiary of this move will likely be Achievement First, the large charter school management company that has nine schools in Connecticut. An Ironic development considering the fact that Stefan Pryor helped create Achievement First and has served as one of its Directors until he resigned to accept Malloy’s invitation to become Connecticut’s Education Commissioner.
Governor Malloy has decided to side with the charter schools in begin the “money follows the child” system in which dollars used to help pay for education in existing school districts would be transferred to the charter schools.
Governor Malloy calls for an increase in per-pupil funding for charter schools from $9,400 to $11,000 and that an additional $1,000 per-pupil would be a transferred directly for the resource poor urban districts to the big-time donor supported charter schools that have recruited students from their area.
Malloy’s plan will increase funding for charters by $21.6 million
School districts would now be required to shift money from their regular programs to Charters. The CT Post newspapers notes that “for districts like Bridgeport, which sends about 1,400 students to charter school, the cost would be $1.4 million annually.”
The loss of nearly a million and a half dollars would be a major blow to the Bridgeport Public School System but it is not the first time local school districts have been transferring funds to charters .
For example, the City of Hartford allocated $1.5 million to help renovate the old school building that Achievement First – The Hartford Academy moved into. In addition, Hartford pays Achievement First $500 annually for each Hartford student who attends Achievement First – Hartford Academy (and that is on top of the grant Achievement First gets from the state of Connecticut). Furthermore, the City of Hartford provided Achievement First with a “one-time payment” of $400,000 to “cover costs associated with the operation of the school”.
As Achievement First has expanded, the cost to the City of Hartford has also gone up. According to one estimate, Hartford now provides Achievement First with $2.35 million a year, money that could be helping Hartford overcome the existing challenges facing its traditional public schools.
While Achievement First cries poverty, they seem to skip over the fact that the state of Connecticut gave Achievement First $24 million to help build the permanent home of the Amistad Academy. It was the first grant of its kind to a charter school in Connecticut and will end up costing Connecticut taxpayers well over $35 million to pay back the bonds and interest.
Apparently Governor Malloy’s new plan dismisses these existing taxpayer-funded subsidies as calls for significant increases in funding to be given to Achievement First and other charter schools.
Under the Governor’s plan the number of charter schools allowed in the state would increase from 17 to 22 including some type of incentive that would reward local school districts to set up separate charter schools within their district.
Of course, that overlooks the problem of how does a publicly elected municipal board of education legally allow a charter school to be set up that does not, itself, include an elected board.
Achievement First also claims they need and deserve exactly the same amount of money as local public schools. However, they do not have unionized faculty and staff so they can pay less…and yet these same teachers are put into the state’s teacher retirement system which will cost Connecticut taxpayers extra tens of millions of dollars more in the years to come.
UPDATE: Malloy’s plan appears to include a proposal to address the criticism that charter schools are “creaming off” the best students, while leaving those who need extra help back in the district schools.
Readers of this blog will recall that I’ve raised serious concerns about how charter schools, especially those run by Achievement First, have managed to “cream off” the best students which has helped explain their “better performance”. Poorer students, non-English speaking students, students who go home to a household where English is not the primary language and students with special education needs show up far less often in charter schools.
The Governor’s new proposal seems to recognize that critical issue or at least alludes to it developing a proposal to address it. We’ll explore in the coming days but the Governor’s press release seems to imply that these new requirements would only apply to new charter school
His press release includes the following text:
Compel specific requirements when creating new charter schools:
- Adopt legislation requiring any new charter schools to be created only in high-need districts
- Require the State Board of Education to give new charter school application preferences to schools that:
- Propose educational programs designed specifically to serve priority student populations, including students with histories of low academic performance, students with histories of behavioral/social problems, special education students, and others
- Demonstrate strong strategies to attract, enroll, and retain priority student populations
- Propose an education program designed to serve English language learner students; or propose a location in a neighborhood with a high percentage of English language learner students, while demonstrating capacity to provide high-quality educational services to this population
- Specialize in turnarounds of low-achieving schools
Focus recruiting on priority student populations:
- Require all applicants for the establishment of new charters to submit a recruitment and retention plan detailing plans to recruit, enroll, and retain priority student populations
- Enable charter schools to propose modifications to their lottery procedures to
give preference to priority student populations
- Hold charter schools accountable for the success of their documented recruitment and retention practices for priority student populations when the State Board of Education considers schools for charter renewal
For more information on the breaking story see CTNewjunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/malloy_to_give_charter_schools_a_boost/