The State Board of Education today listened to teachers’ concerns about fairness in education funding and responded by rejecting increases in enrollment for three charter schools that would have cost the state $627,000.
At a time when state budget cuts are currently hurting students and teachers at neighborhood public schools, CEA President Sheila Cohen said it would have been unconscionable for the state “to divert precious education funds to expand charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools and to the detriment of all students, but especially minority students in the state’s poorest school districts.”
CEA Executive Director Don Williams joined many CEA and AFT-Connecticut members who spoke out before the board at its meeting today. “As our traditional public schools struggle with budget cuts, they also have accepted thousands of students in need from Puerto Rico, and have not received one dime in additional state educational funding,” he said.
Stratford Education Association Vice-President for Secondary Schools Kristen Record told the board that, due to $2.9 million in ECS cuts some students in Stratford no longer have a librarian or school counselor, academic classes have been cut, and class sizes have increased dramatically—even in the earliest grades.
“By continuing to expand a parallel system of schools that does not provide equal opportunity to all students, the children of my public school district have become victims of a system that is neither fair nor equitable,” Record said.
She added that, on top of ECS cuts that have hurt districts around the state, the 2017 state budget also eliminated funding for the state’s beginning teacher mentoring program—TEAM. “The elimination of TEAM funding has decimated our ability to support our new teachers and effectively help them become the best teachers they can be,” Record said.
Michael Brosnan, the Bridgeport Public Schools beginning teacher coordinator, said that there are 21,400 students in Bridgeport Public Schools, 35 guidance counselors, and 40 social workers across the entire city. That’s over 500 students per counselor—twice the recommended level.
“We have welcomed over 180 student refugees from Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria and, as you may have guessed, flat funding effects our second language learner programs as well,” Brosnan said. “Siphoning monies away from public schools in favor of selective charter organizations is a reckless choice.”
Williams urged, “Please consider what message your action today will send to the charter schools that do play by the rules, and spend their money on their students instead of huge management fees.”
After hearing the issues raised by the teachers, board members reacted negatively to the deliberate over-enrollment by the charters, which happened while the state budget was still unknown this fall. Board member Joe Vrabely called it “gaming the system.” The board voted 7 to 1 against authorizing additional funding to the charter schools.