NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – The state budget crisis is leaving a lot of people feeling uncertain. Nowhere is there more uncertainty than in the state’s charter school system.
Charter school educators and advocates held a legislative breakfast Wednesday morning. There were a lot of people there to ask for more charter school money in the budget, but there were no actual legislators there to hear them. That has educators, parents and students concerned.
It took place at Common Ground High School, which is a little different than your average high school. It is in the city of New Haven, but it is also a working farm. It is also a charter school, which means it is funded differently.
“Public charter schools receive about $4,000 less per student in the state of Connecticut,” explained Cathy Dumas, the Community Outreach Liaison for a charter school called Achievement First. “This is beyond me. Can somebody help me figure out why we decided to do this?”
Charter schools rely on public funding, but exist outside the public school system. Ramzia Issa says she would have been lost in the crowd at a large public school, but is thriving as a senior in a small charter school called Highville. She is already taking 24 college credits as a high school senior.
“As a small school and everything, we’re a family,” Issa said. “Not only do I get the college experience before I enter college, but I’m prepared. I know how to handle myself and everything.”
Most of the state’s 24 charter schools are new and looking to expand, but they say their funding has remained flat, and remains far below that of public schools. They were hoping that when the state’s new fiscal year started July first that the new budget would include more money for charter schools, but as we all know, that budget still doesn’t exist.
“So I am begging the legislators, I am actually begging you to please recognize, in your budget, that Common Ground and that charter schools need the funding,” said Patricia Foster-Newton, the guardian of charter school student.
The whole event was planned in order to reach out to state legislators. Unfortunately, they are a little busy right now, leaving educators and advocates wondering if their efforts will bear fruit.
“We do good work, but we are really, really worried, I’m sure, like you, about our ability to keep doing this work,” said Common Ground High School Executive Director Liz Cox.
One school administrator made the point that while so many are focused on the effect taxes have on the state’s economic growth, if the state does does not spend the money to develop an educated workforce, then nobody is going to want to run a business in Connecticut.