Year after year, Connecticut’s district school system fails thousands of families. Every child across the state deserves an excellent public education and the chance to pursue their dreams, but students stuck in low-performing district schools are repeatedly denied this opportunity.

In Bridgeport, where I live with my four school-age children, this crisis is especially severe. One-third of our district schools have chronically low performance, preventing one-third of the children in our community from realizing their full potential. At many of Bridgeport’s low-performing public schools, the quality of instruction is so poor that students barely know how to read, write, or solve basic math problems.

This is completely unacceptable. When Bridgeport’s children are limited to failing district schools, their futures are limited as well.

I have been fortunate enough to have my children attend some great public charter schools. Currently, each child is enrolled in a different school: Capital Prep, Columbus Elementary, Curiale Elementary and Park City Magnet here in Bridgeport.

Every day, I see the difference in the education they receive at these schools and how it has impacted their lives. Thanks to the caring teachers and rigorous academic programs at his school, my oldest son has become more engaged in his studies and more involved in our family. Thanks to her school’s strong extracurricular options, my daughter has improved her self-control.

Charter schools like the ones my children attend have answered many parents’ prayers, encouraging this kind of personal and academic growth and providing an appealing alternative to failing district schools. However, despite these schools’ high performance, they receive $4,000 less per student per year in state aid than Connecticut’s low-performing district schools.

This funding gap has had a real impact on charter schools in Bridgeport and throughout the state. Without sufficient state aid, Connecticut’s charters have stretched their budgets thin to keep up with increased demand, struggling to provide more and more students with the resources they need. If this pattern continues, it will seriously threaten the future of hundreds of schools that change thousands of children’s lives.

Charter schools need more support from Connecticut. As the state government prepares for a new round of budget cuts, parents and advocates like myself are asking our elected leaders to step up. We need to expand access to great schools, like high-quality public charter schools, for every family. We also need to close the funding gap between public charter and district schools, ensuring the long-term sustainability of public charter schools and allowing them t0 grow to meet rising demand.

All of Connecticut’s public school children, whether enrolled in a charter or district school, should have equal opportunities for success in and beyond the classroom. In order for this vision to become a reality, Connecticut must start treating all public schools equally and providing them with the same level of per-pupil funding.

Students like my four children, their classmates in Bridgeport, and their peers across the state are Connecticut’s future, and it’s in all of our best interest for them to be well-educated and well-prepared for the road ahead. Connecticut’s state leaders need to unite and work together to make success attainable for every child.

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