Bruce Ravage, Executive Director and founder of Park City Prep in Bridgeport recently submitted an insightful letter to the editor to the Connecticut Post, which I think readers will appreciate.
To give you some background, this letter was a response to an error-ladened rant submitted to the Connecticut Post by former board member Maria Pereira, which claimed that charter schools have done nothing but drain resources:
“Bridgeport’s funding by the state is not diminished one iota by the existence of charter schools; in fact, Bridgeport gets to keep its per-pupil allocation from the state for all students who leave their traditional public schools to attend a public charter school, even though Bridgeport no longer has to educate them.
The result is a windfall for the Bridgeport schools to the tune of approximately $33 million dollars over the next two years.
When Bridgeport provides buses to transport students to public charter schools, they do not have to run as many buses to their own district schools, and are actually entitled to reimbursement by the state for providing that service.
As far as special education is concerned, Bridgeport, like every city across the nation, bears financial responsibility for the costs associated with that service for its residents, regardless of which school they attend.
If the special education students in the charter schools returned to their local district schools, Bridgeport would simply have to hire additional teachers to service them.
It is important for the public to understand that even if all 22 of the state’s charter schools were to close, Bridgeport simply would have to reabsorb the thousands of students currently attending the five Bridgeport charter schools, pay for educating them, bus them to and from school and continue to provide special education funding, and do so without any additional funding.
The state of Connecticut created a separate budget for funding the charter schools in order to redress the perennial under-performance of students in cities like Bridgeport, Hartford, New London and others. In Connecticut, the charter schools have consistently and dramatically reversed this pattern of chronic underperformance and have
demonstrated that they can close the achievement gap that the traditional public schools in these districts have not been successful in doing.
Ms. Pereira claims that a “preponderance of leading research shows that the number one indicator of a student’s academic success is…poverty.” If she is accurate in that claim, let’s compare apples to apples. Looking only at the performance of students who receive free or reduced-price meals – a proxy for poverty – on the 2013 Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMT’s), only 63 percent of those students in grade 8 in Bridgeport’s public schools scored at the “proficient” level in mathematics, whereas students in that same sub-group in the four charter schools in Bridgeport averaged 86 percent proficiency. In reading, the charter schools outperformed the traditional public schools 78 percent to 60 percent and in writing, 83 percent to 63 percent.
How is it that the very same population of students in the charter schools could out-perform their counterparts in the traditional schools by such a wide margin? Clearly, something powerful is at work in the charter schools that is not happening to the same extent in many of the traditional public schools. Ms. Pereira would have you believe that the taxpayers and parents of Bridgeport are being fooled by “deceptive campaigns” to “con” them, when, in fact, she is not presenting the actual facts herself.
It is high time that all of us agree that we should be working together to ensure that all of Bridgeport’s students get every available opportunity to attend a school that will ensure that they will receive a quality education, which will prepare them for future success.
Denying students an opportunity to attend a school with a proven track record of success is neither sensible nor ethical.
Maria Pereira would be well-advised to spend more time improving the schools that are presently under-performing than criticizing those which are succeeding. For thousands of Bridgeport’s students, charter schools have, indeed, been “the answer.”
Instead of finding fault, let’s look at what is working and see how we can replicate that for all of Bridgeport’s students.”
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