Last month in his executive budget, Gov. Ned Lamont proposed funding for an Open Choice Program that would bus 50 elementary school children out of Danbury to receive an education. At the same time, he excluded Danbury Prospect Charter School from his budget.
This decision was a severe disappointment to all who have fought hard to bring the charter school to Danbury. What’s worse, it clearly signals the intentions of the Danbury Democratic delegation: to ignore the demands of Black and brown constituents who have spent years advocating for Danbury Prospect. It’s a slap in the face to a community who has traditionally been underserved and who desperately needs better representation in local, statewide and national government.
We are fighting for Danbury Prospect because of its diverse-by-design model that educates students from all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. One of the school’s main pillars is to celebrate diversity, both among students and teachers. It is a school with an international reputation for excellence and an amazing track record of success. Beyond these accolades, the school is a long-term solution that would grow to serve 770 students in grades 6-12; Danbury desperately needs more middle and high school seats.
For the last five years, thousands of parent advocates in Danbury have jumped through hoops to prove to legislators that our educational demands were worth pursuing. First to gain the school’s charter and then to fight our own local delegation for the funds to open. We even went as far as securing a $25 million dollar donation for the building, but this did not change the mind of our legislators who have remained opposed to our charter school seemingly on principle.
We explained tirelessly to our elected leaders that not only did thousands of their constituents support the charter school, but also that the state’s charter school funding stream would actually save Danbury taxpayers money while helping to solve our district’s overcrowding crisis. They didn’t listen. The people who did listen were Black and Latino legislators across the state, a group who has shown us and our advocacy for Danbury Prospect Charter School much support. Somehow, not a single democratic Danbury representative has turned our pleas for this school into action.
Instead of funding Danbury Prospect, the governor and state legislators add insult to injury by proposing that we allocate those funds instead for the busing of our young children far across district lines to get the education they deserve in a program called Open Choice. Historically, this model has been proven to isolate children and cause undue hardship to communities of color. What’s more, there is not a major constituency in Danbury that is asking for this program. There is a large constituency asking for the funding of Danbury Prospect Charter School.
We are the only major Connecticut city without a charter school. Our legislators have exploited our citizens’ lack of knowledge about charter schools to hide their true political intentions. It’s one thing for legislators to disagree on the tenets of a charter school in Danbury. It is an entirely different thing to propose no alternative solutions while propagating misinformation about how charter schools operate and serve children.
We don’t want a hand out. We don’t want Danbury to become another decaying urban center choked by high taxes. We are concerned that our legislators are steering us in that direction. All we’re asking for is the chance to build a school that could become a home base for our community to develop leaders, provide a world class education, and become a model for equity.
The Executive Board of Latinos for Educational Advocacy in Danbury: Gaby Perez, Gloria Castillo, Doralis Florentino, Juana Quesada, Elizabeth Quinonez, Gabriela Ramon, Jose L. Pimentel, Carlota Suing-Chin, Maria Matos, Sandra Ferreira-Molina.