On Tuesday afternoon, hidden throughout the Connecticut State Legislative Office Building stood parents and students waging a silent protest.
“I want what was promised,” said Elizabeth Moore, a Stamford parent of three, who was one of nearly a dozen parents who stood for over two hours in silence, with black ribbon over their mouths, holding clipboard signs amidst the clogged hallways of the state capitol.
“It took a lot for me to take my son out of school and try to figure out how to work with this school system,” said Moore, who’s frustrated her middle child may be forced to switch schools. “For all that to just get thrown away after two years is just unfair. For me and my son.”
Moore’s son is a second grader at Stamford Charter School For Excellence, one of the charter schools that may be unable to expand if Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget proposal is approved.
At the moment Stamford Charter School only goes up to second grade. Two years ago, the school’s applications was approved, allowing the school to open with grades pre-k through first, with the idea that the school would expand a grade a year until it reached to fifth grade.
“Stamford just opened up a new magnet school,” said Moore. “They’re getting all the funding and they’re expanding it to pre-k through second grade, and they’re not going through what Stamford Charter School went through.”
Melissa Asare, another parent participating in the rally is in a similar position. Asare’s daughter just started kindergarten at Stamford Charter School For Excellence.
“I came here, and I continue to come here because her charter school is awesome,” said Asare.
Charter Schools Parent Feel Shut Out Of The Conversation
Connecticut is one of two states in the country (Hawaii is the other) that funds charter schools through a separate block grant, unconnected to the state’s public school operations grant, known in Connecticut as the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant.
This means there’s an additional political hurdle when comes to funding. Charter schools are initially approved first by the state board of education, then every year the legislature must approve the funding of the budget line-item that funds all charter schools.
Organizations, like the Connecticut School finance Project, have recently come out against this way of funding schools, arguing that the tangled web of funding formulas is unfair and doesn’t serve children well.
Right now, Charter schools get $11,000 per student, this year the governor proposed an increase of that per-student expenditure to $11,482. The problem is, while these schools are getting more per-student, the budget doesn’t put money aside for “scaling” schools — for Stamford Charter School this means no money to expand to third grade.
“Stamford Charter School for Excellence, Brass City Charter School, Explorations Charter School, Booker T Washington Academy. These are just some to name that are trying to get either new seats or new grades, or both for their schools to be at scale,” said Northeast Charter School Network Advocacy Manager Jose Alfaro.
Alfaro trains parents to advocate for themselves and was responsible for coming up with the idea of “The Day Of Silence,” which he says connects well with what parents are feeling.
“There are different schools that are affected and impacted in different ways, but ultimately, If you’re not growing at scale, you’re telling parents that their kids can’t go to the schools that they chose to go to.”
“ It’s not about extra money. It’s no more or no less,” said Asare. ” Why are we getting $11,000? We just want our schools to be open.”