Child advocacy group to state ed board: stop hiding charter school applications

As seven groups vying to open new charter schools in the state wait to find out if the State Board of Education will approve their applications so they can open, a child advocacy group is calling on the board to release the applications.

“Without access to the application documents, the public will not be able to review [the] aspects of the charter school applications. We request that the State Department of Education release the applications for new charter schools,” Senior Policy Fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children Robert Cotto Jr. said to the state board Wednesday.

brief two-page description of all the applications was released last month by the State Department of Education, however requests made by The Connecticut Mirror for the full applications were denied.

A spokeswoman for the department said the documents will not be released because they are agreements that are still being negotiated between the applicants and the state.

State law requires that these applications include the financial plans, school governance procedures, instructional plans, plans to promote diversity and other educational standards. The law also requires that a public hearing be held on the application in the neighborhood where the school will be located and that the plan be voted on by the State Board of Education.

Nowhere in the charter application section in state law does it carve out an exemption that these documents not be released to the public.

“Such applications are public documents subject to disclosure under Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act,” Cotto told the board, citing the state Freedom of Information Act.

Board Chairman Allan B. Taylor seemed surprised to hear these applications were not being released.

“Thank you for calling that to our attention,” he responded to Cotto’s testimony to the state board.

If the board approves these applications in the coming months, whether the legislature appropriates the funding will determine if they open their doors.

The governor is proposing that the state spend $11 million over the next two years to open nine new charter schools. The legislature’s budget committee is proposing that nearly $1 million be provided to open four new charter schools that reach agreements with their local school systems. These “local” charter schools are reimbursed $3,000 per student as opposed to the $10,200 state charters receive.