Charter School Advocates Rally Against Moratorium Bill

Markeshia Ricks PhotoPointing 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.”


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posted by: momfromnewhaven on March 18, 2015  10:12pm

Be careful, those of you who believe that charter schools are better than public schools.  You are being used to advocate for a system that drains public school money to investors who only see profit as a motive.

posted by: Theodora on March 19, 2015  7:03am

I don’t think that the strategy of charter schools bashing the public school is one that will win. ConnCAN and Achievement First so love to trot out parents and anecdotes, but when one looks behind the curtain, there is nothing there. These schools do no better than there counterparts.

I think a lot of folks can get behind the notion of school choice, but to try to gain support through negative slogans and innuendo is irresponsible. It will also cause a lot of people to keep these organizations focused on their own entitlement at arm’s length.

posted by: Teacher4Life on March 19, 2015  7:28am

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on March 19, 2015  10:36am

A salient and relevant quote from the article linked by Teacher4Life:

“If policy makers were to listen to educators – and to students and parents – they would hear that the real crisis in public education is the loss of our collective commitment to the common good. If we continue to make the kinds of choices that steer resources away from our neediest students, the false narrative of failing public schools will become a sad reality.”

“The loss of our collective commitment to the common good” should not be promoted by our most sacred institutions, the church. Our Judeo-Christian tradition promotes the prinicple of care for the neighbor and care for “the least of these” above all other commandments. Which is why I, as a Christian, refuse to promote or participate with a system built on the principle of cherry-picking the best of the least from the worst circumstances, while leaving the rest to fend for themselves with even less resources than they had before the cherry-pickers came along.

According to my political views, this is detrimental policy. According to my faith, this is sin.

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee
Immanuel Baptist Church
New Haven, CT

posted by: Tom Burns on March 23, 2015  9:22pm

Mr Samuel T Ross-Lee—don’t know who you are, but your words are special and come from above—thank you for speaking out for those left behind—for Charter Schools and their false premise and phony rhetoric only wish to enrich those who already have so much while leaving those with so little behind—I will never let these charlatans prosper while destroying our democracy and promoting the segregation we all abhor—schools are not corporations—they are community—and they are family—and with people like Samuel we will reject the prospect of even one more FAKE Charter School—I am so disturbed by the Charter School people who at first said they were our partners in making schools better-through laboratories and incubators of innovation—but instead have taken to being Public Schools competition—and Gov. Malloy and his Charter school inundated SBE follow the money without a care for a single human beings educational growth ends now—TODAY—for his National ambitions do not take precedence over my child or child’s future—he was the lesser of two evils but now he is in our sites and he is no friend to your child or mine—and he must go—there are already too many charter schools in Ct and in the country—it ends here and now—Tom