Right now, the promise of a great public education in our state is under lock and key, accessible only to those who are lucky enough to be born into a certain neighborhood, class or race. However, our state leaders have the power to change that dynamic by ensuring that no child is unfairly denied the opportunity to get the great education they need to achieve.
Last week, thousands of parents rallied for great schools on the Capitol. Tens of thousands more contacted their legislators and pleaded for the life-changing opportunities that would be provided if the state decides to fund new high-quality school options.
Instead of hearing their cries, state legislators on the Appropriations Committee chose to cut funding for those two new schools and slash dollars that would allow existing high-quality public charter schools to serve more students.
This action denies opportunity to hundreds of families, including the more than 300 families whose children have already been accepted into the two new schools, Capital Preparatory Harbor School in Bridgeport and Stamford Charter School for Excellence.
I understand the budget environment this year is extremely tough, but we cannot continue to shortchange our public schools, families and students. While our state has made progress in recent years, that progress isn’t fast enough and hasn’t moved far enough for the low-income and minority children and families who are disproportionately affected by our state’s lowest performing schools.
They need a great education now, and failure to deliver one not only undermines a child’s right to an equitable education, but also weakens our state’s civic and economic future.
As advocates, we cannot be willing to accept anything less than a society in which all children succeed no matter where they live, who their parents are, or their household income. To achieve this goal, we must holistically tackle the complex issues our children and their families across the state face, including ensuring every child has access to a quality education. Our state leaders have a moral obligation to prioritize educational equity and expand access to great schools.
Each session, we engage in the same political fights that yield only incremental progress towards the goal of providing quality education for all children. These unproductive debates, which pit traditional schools against public charter schools, underscore the need to solve our fundamentally broken funding model that currently plagues our education system.
These debates also inhibit the bold action our students need and leaves us with few efficient funding alternatives. Time and again, state Task Forces and Commissions have shown that our funding formula and laws must be fixed, but our state has not yet addressed this problem.
In the short term, we urge state leaders to restore the governor’s proposed funding for high-quality options in this biennial budget and give hundreds of children the opportunity they are waiting for. Longer term, our governor and legislative leaders must fix the crumbled foundation on which our schools stand by fixing school funding, prioritizing educational equity and expanding access to great schools for all communities.
If we are to provide every child with the education they deserve, we must move past these endless fights that do little for our children. To set Connecticut on a path that truly puts high-quality schools within the reach of every child, we must have an unwavering focus on what works for kids and allocate resources accordingly.
That means coming together to comprehensively reimagine the way we fund our schools, such that all children, at all types of schools, across every town, are funded fairly, consistently and sustainably and ensure that each student in the state of Connecticut gets a great school and world class education.