Are State Republican Leaders Serious? Bridgeport Parents React To GOP Proposed Plan That Could Shut Down Charter Schools

“This proposal is absolutely outrageous and unacceptable,” said outspoken education advocate and Achievement First parent Claudia Phillips.

Phillips is upset over a proposal announced by state Republican lawmakers last week that would retroactively cut funding for charter schools by $12.9 million this year. According the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), if passed, this proposal would reduce per-pupil expenditures at charter schools by about $1,200 to approximately $9,800 — or about $6,000 less than the state average. 

What makes this even crazier is that these proposed cuts would go into effect on April 1st. Charter schools throughout the state would somehow have to operate with only half of their fourth-quarter payments. Are state Republicans serious? How do they expect these schools to operate?

“Our children are already operating with the bare minimum,” said Phillips. “The ECS formula dictates that Connecticut children should get $11,525 at minimum. Our kids only get eleven thousand per scholar.”

Even here in Bridgeport, which is often cited as one of the most underfunded districts in the state, on average, charter schools students still receive $2,000 less than their traditional public schools counterparts. On top of that, they’ve been flat funded for years.

Phillips wasn’t alone in her outrage. Melissa Baez, one of the thousands of parents across the city who are hoping their child wins a spot at one of Bridgeport’s schools of choice, said she didn’t care that theses were desperate budget times when Bridgeport kids weren’t getting a quality education.

“There are plenty of others places where we can make cuts and unfortunately they had to go for education.” said Baez. “I’m shocked that would even be an option to cut education for children.”

Baez isn’t wrong. While state GOP leaders are proposing draconian cuts to charter schools, many that serve largely low-income and minority students, unions leaders have been reluctant to come to the table

A graduate of Bridgeport Public Schools, Baez already has three children in Achievement First Elementary School, but since hearing of the proposed cuts is now worried that her son might not have the same opportunities her daughters were afforded.

“For them to tell me that my child shouldn’t have a choice to go to a charter schools, they have to go to public schools, I’m disgusted and horrified.”

Bridgeport parents weren’t the only ones shocked by the proposal. Bruce Ravage, founder and executive director of Park City Prep Charter School in Bridgeport, called the proposal astounding.

“Why take it out on those that are funded the least,” said Ravage. “It defies logic.”

Ravage said that there wasn’t specific contingency plan, but such drastic cuts would have a ripple effect next year. The cuts could have an effect on the number of students the school would be able to serve.

“It’s really offensive to so many of our needy families,” said Ravage. “So many of these schools serve the neediest population.”

Some schools across the state are reporting that they have to shut down in April. It’s entirely possible that this could be the case in Bridgeport as well. How would Bridgeport Public Schools and parents cope with thousands of students being forcing from charters into Bridgeport’s district schools? Bridgeport Schools already have a projected deficit.

Put simply, this Republican proposal would be devastating to students and families across Bridgeport.

Thankfully, the GOP doesn’t hold the state purse strings.

The good news is that there are no cuts to charters schools within the Democratic budget plan released on Wednesday, and thus far, Gov. Malloy has been a consistent advocate and protector of charter school funding.

Hopefully, during budget negotiations Democratic leaders stick to their guns.



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