Bridgeport · Students

The Day Editorial: Don’t Renege On Support For Charter Schools

The Day has published a powerful editorial on the consequences of the state Appropriations Committee’s budget proposal, which guts $20.9 million in funding for charter schools.

It’s not just new schools that would be defunded by these cuts. Schools with proven track records of success like New Beginnings Family Academy in Bridgeport would be denied the ability to expand existing classrooms – and as The Day points out, the consequences could be much steeper than even that:

The consequence of the frustration that festers in many of the nation’s urban neighborhoods has played out in violent scenes depicted on our high-def, widescreen televisions. The spark has been allegations of police misconduct toward black suspects, but bleakness and despair dried the tinder.

Contrast that with the reaction Ronelle P. Swagerty, CEO of the New Beginnings Family Academy in Bridgeport, receives when she calls a parent to say their child’s name was picked in the school’s enrollment lottery.

“We make their day. They screech, they cry and they always accept the seats because they are hopeful,” said Ms. Swagerty.

That hope comes in a neighborhood where the high school dropout rate is nearly 50 percent and public schools produce among the lowest standardized test scores in the state. At New Beginnings, children in pre-K through grade 8 score significantly higher in standardized tests than their public school peers, and in grades 6-8 they match state averages. The 470 students are 98 percent black and Hispanic, 13 percent receive special education services, and 91 percent qualify for free or reduced lunches, an indicator of poverty…

Public schools and the teacher unions are threatened by the growth of charter schools and the competition they present for state taxpayer dollars. Few of the charter schools are unionized. But the fact is families have indicated by their actions that they want choices and are excited by some of the successes seen in charter schools.

Charter schools can serve as educational laboratories, experimenting with expanded class days, presenting subject matter through engaging formats and boosting the expectation of students and families. Rather than feeling threatened, teachers and administrators in public schools should be challenged by school choice to improve performance, better engage parents and embrace innovation.

Reneging on promises to support the modest growth of charter schools, and so school choice, solves nothing.

“Teen pregnancy, domestic violence, drug abuse, underemployment, unemployment — all of these things happen as a result of a lack of quality education. And we have schools in Connecticut that are innovative and trying to address these social ills, that are in many cases doing a phenomenal job,” said Ms. Swagerty “(They are) getting more kids into great high schools, getting more kids to and through college, and we just need an opportunity to continue to do that work,”



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