In a state where opportunity is heralded as an ideal, it’s disheartening to see Connecticut lag behind in supporting some of its most promising and needed educational ventures, namely charter schools.
A hard look at the state’s approval and funding mechanisms for charter schools leaves lots to be desired — especially when we realize that the majority of children, about 90%, are Black and brown. The lack of adequate support for charter schools doesn’t just hint at systemic neglect; it screams of an inequity that needs immediate rectification.
The children of Connecticut deserve better.
The disturbing disparities in funding aren’t just numbers; they are stories of potential lost, dreams abandoned and futures put on hold. The underfunding of charter schools isn’t just a budgetary oversight; it’s a societal misstep that undermines the very essence of equal opportunity.
Charter schools have shown time and again their value in fostering innovation, providing specialized curriculums, and offering an alternative to traditional public schools. Yet, we’ve seen community dreams trampled on, with places like Danbury and Middletown becoming political pawns in a larger game of legislative chess.
This brings us to the heart-wrenching situation of the Danbury Charter School. Approved but unfunded back in 2018, the Danbury Charter School should have been a beacon of hope and inclusion for our community. Next year, the school’s first cohort would be proudly wearing their graduation gowns, ready to step into the world as empowered young adults. Instead, hundreds of these potential students lost that chance. Hundreds of parents lost the opportunity to give their children a high quality education. The heart of Danbury has not been able to reap the economic benefit in the form of a new school, and the hundreds of jobs and opportunities it would have brought for the past five years.
This neglect of an approved school left unfunded has been sent a clear message that our community doesn’t matter. That our lived experiences are trumped by those with a savior syndrome who have a very narrow view of the educational needs of such a diverse city — a city that has been forced to be stuck in the past by uncompromising politics. A city where anyone who supports an educational option for their children gets vilified. A city in desperate need of true leadership at the state and local level to help us wake up from this horrible nightmare.
To the legislators of color, and particularly to the Black and Hispanic Caucus: This is your call to arms. The injustice is now spreading and it is enabling other white legislators to unilaterally block access to educational options to students of color as in the case of Middletown during the last session.
Another community that now joins Danbury in the ranks of the voiceless and underserved. To the state leadership: you have the responsibility and the power to fix this situation. We ask that during the next legislative session you take steps to ensure that both Danbury and Middletown get their charter school funded and you work to ensure there is a more democratic and transparent process for the funding of approved charter schools.
The plight of places like Danbury and Middletown isn’t just a local issue; it’s a stain on the conscience and fabric of our state, a telling indicator of our priorities. To our state leaders and the Black and Hispanic Caucus, you stand as our hope, as our true representatives, and you must act to protect and defend those who you have sworn to protect.
It’s essential to understand that the advocates for the Charter Schools in Danbury and Middletown, will never waver in their commitment to the communities they represent.
In the case of Danbury, how many more years must Danbury wait? How many more sessions must Danbury endure the reality that our dream of a better future for children is nothing but ashes in our mouths? For how many years must Danbury continue to be denied, ignored, and humiliated? How many more schools do we need to see get funding before Danbury? For how long will this injustice stand?
State leaders, BPRC, the ball is in your court. Our communities, parents, and most importantly, our children, look to you with hope. The process for charter school approval and funding should not be a battleground but a seamless pathway to better education. The current state of affairs doesn’t just look bad on our leadership; it undermines the very essence of our democratic values.
The time for change is now. We owe it to the children of Danbury and to every Connecticut child who hopes for an education that’s fair, inclusive, and empowering. Let’s not fail them any longer.
Lucas Pimentel is CEO of LEAD (Latinos for Educational Advocacy and Diversity).