And so the organized opposition to public charter schools and the education of high-needs Black, Hispanic, white, Asian and other students marches on as reflected in the opinion piece by Lucas Pimentel of Latinos for Educational Advocacy and Diversity.
George Wallace Lamont, George Wallace Kushner, George Wallace Looney, George Wallace Duff, George Wallace Ritter and George Wallace Rojas have concluded another legislative session in Hartford and did not give a line item to the approved public charter schools in Danbury or Norwalk so that they could open.
These schools had previously been approved by the Connecticut Department of Education in 2018, but there are countless politicians in Connecticut who stand in the schoolhouse door and together bar access to educational opportunity for poor students. The Danbury charter school is affiliated with Latinos for Educational Advocacy and Diversity and the Norwalk charter is related to the Stamford Charter School for Excellence, one of Connecticut’s highest performing public school. You would think they merit a line item to open. But you would be wrong.
Why are the governor and the legislative leaders like George Wallace? In 1963, Democrat Governor George Wallace led a “stand-in-the-school-house-door protest” at the University of Alabama to prevent two Black students from enrolling in contravention of the Brown v. Board of Ed., Supreme Court decision striking down the Jim Crow concept of separate-but-equal that had been enshrined in a long-standing Supreme Court precedent, of Plessy v. Ferguson from 1896, which had stood for fifty-eight years.
Today, countless politicians such as Gov. Ned Lamont and legislative leaders Kushner, Looney, Rojas, Duff and Ritter stand in the schoolhouse door. The Connecticut public school monopoly has restricted educational choice for high-needs Black, Hispanic, white, Asian and other students by limiting Connecticut public charter schools to only about 2% of the public school population, which is about 10,000 students. These students are primarily high-needs Black and Hispanic students seeking an alternative to the failed public school monopoly. There are over 6,000 mostly high-needs black and Hispanic students on wait lists to get into a public charter school, but the enemies of school choice limit the available seats through the political power of a muscular faction, our teachers’ unions.
In spite of all of their good qualities, Governor Lamont and legislative leaders Looney, Duff, Ritter and Rojas quake before the public teachers unions and deny school choice for high-needs Black and Hispanic students. Although 20 percent of Connecticut public charter schools are unionized, if educational choice were granted to Connecticut’s students, the teachers unions fear that there would be an expansion of public charters schools and fewer union dues paid to the fat and happy union bosses who preside over a failed public education system.
In 2017-2018 in the Connecticut public school system, Black third to eighth graders were at or above grade level in English 31-36% and at or above grade level in math 17-30%. Hispanic third to eighth graders were at or above grade level in English 32-38% and at or above grade level in math 19-32 %. Black third graders at Stamford Charter School for Excellence, a public charter school, on the other hand, were at or above grade level in English at 83% and in math 91%. Hispanic third graders at SCSE were at or above grade level in English at 73% and in math at 100%.
The Connecticut public school system has failed BIPOC students for 40 years. The statistics are even worse for Blacks and Hispanics as they ‘”progress” in the Connecticut public school system. By eighth grade, they were at 17 and 19% at or above grade level in math. The numbers got worse with each year. This is the result of a public school monopoly that puts teachers and their unions first and students third. How is than an enlightened education system: adults before children?
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We have been fooled for 40 years, and the media runs cover for our failed public school monopoly and reiterates the talking-points of the teachers’ unions against school choice for all of our students, high-needs and not high-needs. It is a faction warned against by Madison in Federalist Papers #10 that “there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party [our children/students] . . .” And our students, Black, Hispanic, white, Asian and others, have all been sacrificed to the power of the public school monopoly.
In Connecticut, “Truth-to-power” and “good trouble” both stop at the public union door and go no further. The same happened after the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Nothing changed. Some people claimed that Black lives matter in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, but many of these same people have held fast that Black lives education doesn’t matter, so they remain in the school house door blocking the funding of already approved public charter schools.
It behooves Governor Lamont to call a special session of the legislature and put through line items for all public charter schools approved by the Connecticut Board of Education, post haste, which would be navigated through the legislature by legislative leaders Looney, Duff, Ritter and Rojas. Until that happens, the George Wallace moniker will remain.
Peter Thalheim lives in Stamford.