Hartford, CT — In the final days of the legislative session, state leaders came to an agreement on a biennial state budget that invests new money into schools that serve predominantly Black, brown, and low-income students, including the state’s 21 public charter schools. The budget also funds the opening of new public charter schools in Connecticut for the first time in nearly a decade, but disregards the calls from two communities who so desperately needed them.
The budget for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 accelerates scheduled school funding in an effort to level the educational playing field for communities serving the students of highest need.
“This additional funding is an incremental, but critical step toward creating an equitable education system that works for every student in our state,” said Ruben Felipe, Executive Director of the Connecticut Charter Schools Association. “But, in the face of a racial education funding gap of more than $700 million, this budget fails to address the magnitude of the problem and leaves students at schools of choice underfunded.”
While the budget does not fully fund public charter schools as intended in H.B. 5003, they will see $15 million in increased funding for the charter school line item over two years, the bulk of which is set to be distributed in fiscal year 2025.
“Underserved communities had to go above and beyond just to achieve even a portion of the full funding they require for the state’s 11,000 public charter school students,” Felipe said. “It should not be so difficult for marginalized residents to make progress toward a needs-based system when they have followed every step of the process to achieve that goal.”
For the first time since 2015, the budget sets forth the opening of two new public charter schools in Connecticut, allocating funding to Norwalk Charter School of Excellence in Norwalk and the Edmonds Cofield Preparatory Academy for Young Men in New Haven.
However, lawmakers excluded proposed schools in Danbury and Middletown, with the latter being removed from the budget in the final hours without cause or justification.
“Despite following the approval process to the letter, earning the highest scores of any proposed school, and garnering enormous public support, Capital Prep Middletown fell victim to back-room dealing and an amendment that removed their funding at the 11th hour,” Felipe added. “The notion of two legislators making politically-motivated decisions outside of the public discourse that dictate whether or not underserved students are getting quality educational opportunities is unconscionable and should prompt concern among lawmakers and constituents alike.”
“Families were denied schools of choice headed by Black leaders and were once again ignored by a system that too often disregards voices of the Black and brown communities and low-income families. For those in Danbury, despite growing support and expanding need for a new school, they are left with nothing after a fifth legislative session of trying to get a new school approved and funded,” Felipe said. “If communities such as Danbury and Middletown can exceed expectations and meet every benchmark of the process and still be denied, what hope will other communities have in making their voices heard? The largest achievement gap in the country will only grow wider if Black and brown communities continue to be treated as second-class citizens. We will continue to work tirelessly to support those families and we will not stop fighting for choices for their children.”
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The Connecticut Charter Schools Association is a nonprofit membership organization that serves as a unified voice for the state’s 21 public charter schools and represents the interests of more than 11,000 students and their families at both the state and local levels.