Thousands Rally for Charter Schools in Connecticut

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Thousands of Connecticut parents, students and teachers rallied on New Haven’s Green last week clamoring for a quality education “for every child.”

The rally came as a result of 40,000 children in the state attending “failing schools.”

According to ConnCAN—Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, who organized the rally – over 6,000 were in attendance at the event, coming from New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford, and even New York City.  Many came dressed in neon green t-shirts adorned with the “For Every Child” theme, and many of the speakers came from charter schools.

“This is about high-quality schools. … We’re here today to take a stand … that every child in Connecticut deserves a quality education,” said Jennifer Alexander, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, before the rally began.  “We want our state leaders to take bold and swift action. … Far too many kids in our state are not getting the high-quality education they need and deserve,” Alexander said.

After calling out to several charter schools, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said “Most of the parents at the bus stop are worried. … If kids are not reading by third grade, they’re far less likely to graduate, they’re far less likely to go to college.”

He asked for an increase for pre-kindergarten “good public school options” and “fairer funding” in an effort to make sure that the quality of a child’s school is not “based on how valuable their parents’ house is. … Is it fair? Is it just?”

While public schools are funded by local property taxes and also obtain educational cost-sharing money from the state, charter schools are typically funded by a school district or the state.

After the rally, David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, said he was disappointed that none of the speakers had asked for changes concerning the state funding policies that cause charter schools to “close their doors October 1.”

Because charter schools do not get the additional funding that public schools do, they do not take on any new students during the year, and they tend to send students back to public schools who are “not fitting in.”

He added that while 18% of charter schools perform better than public schools on standardized tests, 37% do worse.

ConnCAN has been lobbying for more charter schools in the state for some time.  The group is a part of Families For Excellent Schools, which buses charter-school families to political rallies across the state in a push for the creation of pro-charter legislation.

A joint statement was issued by Harp and Harries earlier in the week in response to the rally.

“We fight every day to give 21,500 children in New Haven hope for a better future through education, and appreciate the rally’s recognition of New Haven’s work. The gathering today reflects the urgency we share with parents, students, teachers, and leaders in New Haven to improve schools for our students.

“Progress is happening in New Haven. The graduation rate is up 13 points. More students are enrolling in a second year of college. Our turnaround schools are showing progress in academic achievement and climate. However, we are not close to satisfied yet, and are committed to continuing our progress.”