New charter schools coming to Connecticut?

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor is looking for those interested in opening a new charter school in the state to contact his department.

“We aim to see what the constellation of interest is,” Pryor told members of the State Board of Education Wednesday.

Pryor is seeking letters of interest from charter-school operators by early January. The department will then put out a formal request for proposals that operators will then need to fill out with more detailed information.

The department’s proposed budget to the governor includes the anticipation that at least four new charter schools will open over the next two years. If legislators decide to appropriate the $21.4 million necessary to open these schools and expand enrollment at the state’s existing charter schools it would add 1,863 new charter seats, a 29 percent increase over the next two school years.

With 1.1 percent of Connecticut students currently attending charter schools, the state trails behind the national average in the amount of students in charters. It’s not for a lack of interest. Charter school operators do not have good success rates when they apply to open in the state.

However, their luck may soon change, as Pryor is supportive of charter schools in the state. Before being named the state’s education chief, Pryor played a leading role in opening Achievement First’s Amistad Academy in New Haven.

The new education reform law calls for four new charter schools to open by 2017. However, for these schools to open, state legislators will need to find the $10,500 to $11,100 for each student enrolled. The state currently faces a projected deficit as large as $1.2 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.