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Charter School Debate Persists in Connecticut After State Request for Proposals

For the first time in three years, Connecticut's Department of Education has announced it will be accepting proposals for charter schools between July 1 and August 15 of next year.

From there, the State Board of Education "will decide whether to approve the application and grant an initial certificate of approval within 90 days of receiving an application" given the legislature approves the funding of additional charter schools, says the Hartford Courant.

The announcement comes just months after a sweeping ruling delivered by Hartford Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ordered Connecticut officials to act immediately to fix what he determined to be a broken education system guided by an unfair funding formula. The state's Supreme Court agreed to hear state officials' appeal of the case, which is currently pending.

Coupled with the fact that the state faces a "$1.5 billion deficit for the coming fiscal year that begins in July," many are hopeful these issues will be sorted out in the 2017 legislative session before new charter school development begins. 

According to advocacy group Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), there are currently 24 charter schools operating within the state that collectively serve over 9,300 students.

These high-performing schools primarily serve students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds, ConnCAN says.

"Charter schools serve predominantly low-income and minority populations. More than 85% of students in Connecticut's charter schools are African American or Hispanic, more than 70% reported as low-income, 9% qualify for special education and 5% are English Language Learners,” ConnCAN said in its charter school fact sheet.

Because of Connecticut’s shoddy funding formula, ConnCAN says, the state's charter schools are too frequently underfunded when compared to other district schools.

"Connecticut's charter law is among the most outdated and lowest rated in the U.S., ranking 31st out of 43 states that have charter laws. Connecticut is one of only two states where charter schools are funded through a separate item in the state budget that must be approved every year," ConnCAN notes.

This push and shove for funding, the Hartford Courant says, has left the state's top legislators frustrated because they say they are "unfairly pressured by a powerful lobby into signing off on funding new charter schools while having to cut aid for neighborhood schools to close state budget shortfalls."

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

12/28/2016

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