Pointing to the thousands of students on wait lists statewide, advocates rallied in New Haven Wednesday against a bill that would impose a two-year moratorium on new charter schools.
Parents and education advocates gathered in the basement of Booker T. Washington Academy to decry proposed Connecticut Senate Bill 1096, which has as its stated purpose “to place a moratorium on the approval of new charger schools by the commissioner of education and amend the requirements concerning the applications, reports, and background checks to be completed by charter schools.”
The bill would put a halt to the approval of new charter school applications by July 1, 2015, until the commissioner of education conducts a review of existing charter schools and creates a comprehensive plan. That review and plan will be due to the General Assembly by Feb. 1, 2017. Lawmakers will have until the following month to approve, deny or modify the plan.
In addition to the moratorium on new charter schools, the bill would require the the state education department to implement greater oversight of charter schools. Charter schools would be required to submit annual certified audit reports to the state and their latest IRS Form 990. The commissioner of education would be required to post those statements and any other reports on the department’s website. Charter schools also would be required to submit background records checks to the Department of Children and Families. (Read the text of the bill here.)
Attempts to reach State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, co-chair of the General Assembly Education Committee, were unsuccessful Wednesday.
The bill stemmed from the demise of a Hartford-based charter school because of financial mismanagement. (Read more about that here.) The bill’s advocates called for more transparency in the proliferation of charter schools in the state.
According to the state department of education more than 3,600 students are waitlisted for charter schools, and more than 1,600 of those are New Haven students. Anais Nunez, a charter school advocate and parent of a student at Booker T. Washington Academy (pictured), said that parents and students who want charter schools shouldn’t suffer because of “two different problems that need two different solutions.” She said her 5-year-old daughter, Leislani, is “thriving” at Booker T. Washington and “optimistic about learning.” She also would like to see her daughter Milani, who is currently in Head Start, follow in her big sister’s footsteps at the academy, and believes parents who are now on waiting list want the same for their child at a school of their choice. “Every child should have a great education,” she said.
Booker T. Washington Executive Director John Taylor (pictured) said the bill doesn’t hinder what the academy is doing now, but it could hinder opportunities for growth and expansion in the future. He urged legislators to vote against the bill. He said it is unfair to the new charter schools that are doing, or have done, the hard work of applying for a charter from the state to have to wait two years.
May Mitchell and her 18-year-old grandson Immanuel (pictured at left with her at right) attended the the rally because she said families deserve a choice about where they send their children to school, and charter schools should be a part of that choice. While Immanuel is a student at James Hillhouse High School, Mitchell has a granddaughter at Elm City College Prep Elementary.
“If the school they’re at isn’t teaching them what they need to know, why can’t they transfer to a better school—the school that we want them to go to,” she said.
Booker T. Washington Academy PTO President Sherri Thompson said she believes being able to enroll her adopted daughter in a charter school that could help her catch up after having never attended pre-kindergarten has made all the difference in her progress.
“She reads and is very good in math,” Thompson said. “She is so engaged and this is a phenomenal school. So I oppose this moratorium because more kids need these same opportunities.”