On July 19, the unelected, governor-appointed Connecticut State Board of Education approved 504 additional seats in state charter schools for next year, with 154 of those seats going to Capital Preparatory Harbor School in Bridgeport. Go figure: Connecticut is in a budget crisis with every expense being monitored, yet new charter school seats, which cost the state $11,000 each, are being initiated. The cost will be more than $5.5 million.
“Equity is great to talk about until someone has to give up something.” Quesnel’s quote, in particular, struck me because it perfectly encapsulates the situation here in Connecticut. For all the talk of consensus after Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s scathing 90-page ruling, neither state Republicans or Democrats included meaningful reform of the Education Cost Sharing Grant, the main grant the state uses to distribute school funding, in their proposed budget plans this year.
Having sent my daughter to public schools for more than a decade, I can see the difference between a normal school and an extraordinary one. An extraordinary public school guides students from childhood into the beginning of adulthood, never giving up on them or letting them fall by the wayside. That’s what Achievement First Hartford did for Nyjah. It’s the kind of life changing school that every family should be able to choose, and the kind of school I’m happy to fight for.
In some ways, it can be easy as teachers of young children to understand the power our voices have in our students’ lives, and in their self-esteem. Our words can urge a child to struggle through a difficult problem, or shape the way they see themselves. Despite this, we often forget the power we can wield outside the four walls of our classroom.
For some Connecticut cities and towns, it has been and continues to be the best of times, at the expense of others for whom it has been and continues to be the worst of times. And those at the state Capitol, like Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, continue to ignore the state’s education funding inequity or claim they are helpless to resolve it.
The lawsuit decided last fall and currently in appeal, CCJEF v. Rell, confirmed what we already know about the way we fund public education in Connecticut: while we might spend enough to educate our state’s public school students, we do not share our funding equitably. The reality is that many of our highest need communities need more resources to support their students. This is too important to wait to address for another year.
I look forward to a day when quality and equitable educational opportunities for all students is not just a vision, but a reality. Until that day comes, I know I have an obligation to use my voice as a classroom teacher to inform legislator’s decisions and help drive progress in the right direction.
If you really love teachers, you’ll support teacher pension reform. If you talk to teachers -– retired or current -– you will know that they are worried that the retirement fund they’ve been paying into won’t be there for them in the future. And they have good reason to worry.
Despite all the fiscal and other challenges paralyzing Connecticut, there is an opportunity in the 2017 legislative session to take the first real step toward comprehensive, rational and constitutional education funding reform. That first step is authorizing an education adequacy cost study be conducted in our state as called for in Substitute House Bill 7270.
To the chairmen of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee:
I am furious that your committee would even consider the education funding package that thankfully melted down last Tuesday. I am furious that the proposal perpetuates rather than corrects the gross inequities in ECS funding that have existed for at least the past four years. …
Posted on a wall in my second-grade classroom is a motivational poster that states, “We’re all in this together!” These five powerful words remind my second-grade students the importance of unity, perseverance, and teamwork. This simple catch phrase empowers them to tackle any challenges that they face. It reinforces that they are supported by the adults in their lives and their peers in the classroom. As my students tackle the challenges of the current school year, this mindset affords them the opportunity to be “all in” and invested in their own learning.