Throughout the history of the United States, new immigrant communities have had to struggle to achieve equality and proper representation in our society. Today, as the Latino community has become the largest minority group in the country, this struggle continues.
In Danbury, where a majority of the student population is increasingly of Latino descent, their struggle for equality is gaining momentum. This community continues to be underserved, and its struggle for more representation and resources has garnered increased urgency. The lack of opportunity has created a scenario where many Latino students are struggling to achieve. And Latino professionals have had a difficult time breaking down barriers to gain adequate access to employment opportunities. With a dismal percentage of Latino teachers and administrators and a high dropout rate of English Language Learner students, Danbury’s Latino community has begun to take matters into their own hands.
L.E.A.D., Latinos for Educational Advocacy in Danbury, was created in order to give a voice and representation to a community that will soon be the majority in the city. One of the core projects the leaders of L.E.A.D. have been working on is the opening of Danbury Prospect Charter School. This school will immediately bring much needed relief to the problems of overcrowding faced by the city of Danbury as well as addressing some of the most pressing concerns of the Latino community.
Danbury Prospect Charter School would implement diversity by design, which will make it a priority to have a highly qualified and diverse teaching staff serving an equally diverse student body. The school will also create over 100 jobs in the downtown area and has already secured the funds to create their own campus in the downtown area. Danbury Prospect would be a public charter school that would serve grades six-12 and can eventually serve about 770 students. The Latino community is advocating for this school because their needs have not been met by the current system. Too many of our students are being lost and we believe it is imperative that this school opens in the fall of 2021.
We believe any opposition to this school and its opening is not in the best interest of Danbury children. It will deny this under- served demographic a much needed educational opportunity and must be confronted at all levels.
L.E.A.D. has begun to create alliances with other like minded organizations and especially Latino legislators who deeply care about addressing the lack of representation the Latino community in Danbury is receiving.
The leaders of L.E.A.D. are also calling for an independent committee to recruit, develop and hire more minority teachers. In addition, the group is asking for African American and Latino history to be implemented in all of the city schools. These demands are no longer being asked by a minority group, but actually represent the wishes of the majority of the students and parents in the district, one that will surely have a majority Latino population in a couple of years.
Several Latino leaders and legislators in Hartford have become concerned with the situation in Danbury. The plight of an entire Latino community cannot be ignored and we as a community and legislators must take proper steps to ensure equal education for all.
We are asking Gov. Ned Lamont to include Danbury Prospect Charter School in his executive budget. It is our sincere hope that the Danbury delegation along with the city’s leadership acknowledge the needs of our Latino community and begin immediately to address our concerns.
The Latino leaders in Hartford will not sit idly by and allow our community to continue to be ignored. Through the work of L.E.A.D. and other organizations, we are confident that in the coming months the Latino community will gain the proper attention and sense of urgency they deserve on this issue.
We strive for this community to have the resources it needs to flourish. And as many other immigrant groups of the past, it is our sincere hope that the Danbury Latino community also gains this important educational option we so desperately need. We look forward to being present with all stakeholders as we cut the ribbon to the new campus for Danbury Prospect and rejoice in a more robust and equitable community for all the residents of Danbury.
State Sen. Dennis Bradley, a Democrat, represents the Senate District 23, which includes parts of Bridgeport and Stratford. He is also on the L.E.A.D. Executive Committee.