BRIDGEPORT – More than precarious state funding stands in the way of efforts to open a local charter school in the city. A local parent is planning to challenge the proposal. He has started an on-line petition and also plans to show up Monday with others when a city school board committee meets to discuss the idea.
The board’s Ad Hoc Community Engagement Committee plans to meet at 5 p.m. at the Aquaculture Center, 60 St. Stephens Road. The full board meets at 6:30 p.m.
Eric Alicea, a parent at Classical Studies Academy, started a petition on the Change.org website, asking that planning for the school be stopped. By Sunday evening, according to the website, 69 people had signed the petition, most using only their first names.
Earlier this month, the state received seven applications for new charter schools, including a Montessori school in Bridgeport that would be run in conjunction with the city school board.
The Center for Montessori in the Public Sector was pitched by a group of local residents and parents, including Nate Snow, who taught two years in Bridgeport under the Teach for America program. Snow is now executive director of Teach for America – Connecticut and is on the board of Excel, a local education advocacy group. The charter school idea, he said, is his own. Other founders of the school would be Anne Watkins, Carl Horton, Espirina Baptiste and Elena Padin. All are city residents. There is talk about putting the school in the former Whittier School on the city’s West End.
Unlike state charter schools, that get their operating funds from the state, local charter schools get most of their money from the district, with the state kicking in an extra per-pupil funding. Last year, the state’s education reform legislation earmarked about $3,000 extra per student in a local charter. This year, however, there is concern that some funding promised for reform efforts at traditional public schools will be cut.
Applications for local charters must be reviewed by the local boards of education, which have 60 days to review them, hold public hearings, survey teacher and parent interest and vote. If approved, the plan goes to the state Department of Education, commissioner and ultimately the state Board of Education.
“The Bridgeport Board of Education is the most underfunded School District in the State of Connecticut. It does not make any sense for an already struggling school system to be required to fund a school that is not under its full purview and fiduciary responsibility,’ said Alicea’s petition. He asks only Bridgeport residents to sign.
Tammy Boyle, a Columbus School parent, said the state is already shortchanging the district to the tune of $40 million already and by her estimation, a charter school would siphon millions from the budget and “steal the little education our children have now to benefit the more fortunate children that get to go to these schools. Aall students should be treated equal no matter what school they go to,” she said.