I am writing in response to an Op-Ed entitled “Governor must maintain focus on kids” submitted by Jeremiah Grace, director for Northeast Charter Schools Network.
First, let me start by stating unlike Mr. Grace I have never been compensated for the advocacy work I do on behalf of Bridgeport public school children, parents, teachers and the community at large. In other words, I am not a hired gun and never have been.
I was born and raised in Bridgeport, graduated from the Bridgeport public schools, my daughter recently graduated from the BPS and I am a former Bridgeport Board of Education member. I have always found it troubling when outsiders and well-compensated pro-charter school “advocates” feel that they can speak for and decide what is best for the Bridgeport community.
Mr. Grace stated that “parents know when their children aren’t being prepared to succeed, and they’ve been increasingly vocal about the need for change. Many have voted with their feet- more than 8,000 Connecticut children attend public charter schools and even more attend magnets.”
Interestingly enough, Families for Excellent Schools recently spent approximately one month speaking to Bridgeport residents and asking them to sign petitions. After spending a substantial sum of money on these efforts, the month-long initiative culminated with a rally at a Bridgeport Board of Education meeting.
After you subtracted all the paid charter school staff, including those from New York and Massachusetts, there were only 23 parents in attendance. So much for parents being “increasingly vocal about the need for change.”
In addition, every single magnet school significantly outperforms every charter school located in Bridgeport, even though these charter schools significantly underserve students that qualify for free/reduced lunch, ELL students and special needs students.
These student demographics do not traditionally perform well on standardized tests and are significantly more expensive to educate, therefore if a charter school significantly under serves these student populations, it inflates their standardized test scores.
Mr. Grace goes onto to state “more than 4,200 students languish on charter school waiting lists. In cities like New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford, they are awaiting for a path to their future.”
Charter school proponents repeatedly claim that approximately 1,200 children in Bridgeport are on charter school waiting lists. What they don’t share with you is that if a child applies to three different charter schools, they count that child three times when tabulating their waiting list numbers.
Over 6,500 students applied to enter our Bridgeport magnet schools for the 2014/2015 school year and only a little over 600 gained admissions. That means over 5,900 students did not gain admission and will be required to sit on a waiting list for 2014/2015 and re-apply next year. Unlike charter school wait lists, these figures do not count the same child multiple times. What these figures clearly demonstrate is that Bridgeport parents are seeking magnet school options in great numbers, not charter schools.
Mr. Grace closes his letter with the following plea to Gov. Dannel Malloy: “… the families of children who owe you for their opportunity to attend a charter school showed their appreciation on election day. Don’t make them regret their decision.”
In 2010, Gov. Malloy beat Tom Foley by approximately 14,000 votes in Bridgeport, and although Gov. Malloy pulled out all the stops in Bridgeport, and significantly increased his level of public appearances and campaign investments in Bridgeport, he only beat Tom Foley by approximately 12,700 votes this year.
I can promise you that the number one reason Malloy’s margin of victory narrowed was due to his collusion with Mayor Finch in the illegal takeover of our public schools, and his expansion of charter schools and privatization in our city.
As someone that has been an active parent in the community I was born and raised in, what we would like to see in Bridgeport is the full funding of our true public schools, universal Pre-K and the expansion of magnet schools which are true public schools governed by our democratically elected school board.
The vast majority of BPS parents just want to have a great neighborhood school where their child can flourish emotionally, socially and academically.
In closing, whether it is Jeremiah Grace from Northeast Charter Schools, Jennifer Alexander from ConnCAN, Dacia Toll from Achievement First Charter Schools, etc. you absolutely do not speak for the vast majority of Bridgeport parents, taxpayers and community members of Bridgeport.
We can and will speak for ourselves.
Maria Pereira of Bridgeport is a former member of the Bridgeport Board of Education.