Without Capital Prep Harbor, it’s a rock or a hard place

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As a parent, I want my daughter to have a better life than mine. I want her to graduate high school, get into a good college, and get a great job. I know my parents wanted that for me.

Education can make that happen. Honestly, I believe it’s the only way to make that happen. That’s why I was so happy to see my daughter win the lottery this past April, and get one of 250 seats at Capital Prep Harbor in our home of Bridgeport.

Capital Prep Harbor is a public charter school – modeled after the extremely successful Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford. It’s scheduled to open this fall.

I’ve heard so many stories from Capital Prep graduates, parents, and educators: Capital Prep changes the lives of its students, turning them into lifelong learners and community leaders. I’m proud to say I’ve secured that for my daughter, and I’m excited to see her grow as a student and a person.

But unfortunately, when I say Capital Prep Harbor will be open this fall, I’m saying it with a great deal of caution and a huge helping of faith. The truth is, Capital Prep Harbor’s future, and consequently, my daughter’s future, is far from secure.

The state Appropriations Committee proposed defunding Capital Prep Harbor, along with other charter schools across the state. They didn’t do it because we’re in a budget deficit; they did it because they don’t recognize the great work charter schools are doing for Connecticut children – including families that can’t afford other options, and kids of color, like my daughter.

I was told this school would open and that my daughter would have a seat there. I’m not alone. In Bridgeport and other cities across our state, there are over a thousand parents like me hoping our kids get this life-changing experience.

It’s hard for me to understand why state leaders would try to cut Capital Prep Harbor, because it was already approved, and charters don’t get any new funding this year even though they still have thousands of dollars less to educate their students. It’s as though even though charter schools are public schools, their students and their families are treated like second-class citizens.

That’s tragic. The future of my daughter and her peers are the future of Connecticut. We need to invest in them. We can’t give our children a better life if we don’t educate them.

The American dream isn’t available to most Bridgeport kids. In a city where nearly all students are on free or reduced-price lunch and in a world where poor children have high odds of staying poor, we’re not doing enough to give children the opportunities they need to get ahead.

I can’t afford private school for my daughter, and I can’t afford to move to another community where the school district school is better. If my daughter doesn’t go to Capital Prep Harbor, she’d be at Geraldine Johnson school next year, which is one of the lowest-performing schools in the state.

Without Capital Prep Harbor, I’d be between a rock and a hard place. That’s why this school is a blessing for families like mine. That’s why over 600 of us applied. That’s a statement. We want more, better schools for our kids.

As a single parent, I’m doing everything I can for my daughter. I’ve applied to a better school for her, and she got in! If state leaders deny her that opportunity because of politics, that’s discrimination. That’s letting her down.

Please hear my voice, and the voices of parents like me. We’re fighting for our children and their future because education is the difference between success and the streets.

State legislators need to support Capital Prep Harbor. If the school isn’t funded in the state budget, it will be devastating to my daughter and hundreds of other families in Bridgeport. I hope they do the right thing for these children.

Dana Arco works in Milford and lives in Bridgeport with her 12-year-old daughter, Jada Moses. 

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