When it comes to public education, state Senate Republican leader Len Fasano clearly didn’t do his homework when he put together the GOP’s recent budget proposal. If he had, he wouldn’t have been reckless enough to propose a retroactive $12.9 million cut to public charter schools that would cause serious harm to each of the more than 9,000 charter students and their families in the state.
You read that correctly: a proposed cut to students and school budgets for the current school year. We understand that the state faces a tough budget situation — as school leaders, we experience this firsthand with our school budgets every day — but compromising our students’ education is the wrong approach.
Simply put, the impact of these cuts, if they were approved and put into place on April 1, would effectively shut down every one of Connecticut’s public charter schools.
As an example: Common Ground High School would have to lay off 16 of their current 20 teachers to balance their 4th-quarter budget and cover the cut of more than a quarter-million dollars in funding. There is absolutely no way the school could continue to function after having to lay off 80 percent of its teachers.
Booker T. Washington Academy would be challenged by their quarter-million-dollar cut. They would have to discontinue offering before- and after-school care, summer school, and the student enrichment programs that their scholars love and parents value.
The situation would be even more dire for Highville Charter School — it simply would not be able to make enough reductions in staff to weather a $650,000 cut at the end of the school year. If this proposal passed, they would have to close the school immediately and more than 450 current students would kicked to the curb two months early.
Amistad Academy, Elm City College Prep and Achievement First Amistad High School would have to close their doors early, as well. Collectively serving more than 1,700 New Haven students from grades K to 12, such a cut would be catastrophic for these schools, representing a total loss of more than $2.4 million. There would be no way to continue operating for the duration of the school year.
Not only would school closures be devastating to New Haven families and move the state backwards when it comes to providing more high-quality public schools, but imagine the strain placed on the other public schools in New Haven and similar districts, which would then have to absorb thousands of displaced children on short notice.
Republican leadership clearly did not think this proposed cut through, and we urge state Republican leaders to reconsider this ill-conceived proposal.
It would hurt kids. It would hurt families. It would hurt our communities.
Public charter schools are already severely underfunded. We simply cannot afford any cuts, let alone something as devastating as $12.9 million slashed from our budgets at the end of the school year.
Public charter school students already receive about $4,000 less in public funding than other public school students. Piling on, charter schools are the only public schools that don’t receive fair or consistent support for their facilities.
Our schools are already bracing for a tough budget pill to swallow, given the likelihood of a third consecutive year of flat funding from the state. Given the significant challenges our schools face and natural rising costs, another year at $11,000 per student would force us to make yet another round of painful budget choices.
We need a public school financing system that is more fair and more equitable, not less.
Despite being treated like second-class institutions, public charter schools are consistently demonstrating strong academic achievement. On average, charters outperform their host districts in math and English, and they are doing so with larger populations of low-income students and students of color. That success is why charter waiting lists have grown by more than 2,000 names statewide in the past year alone.
Yes, the state faces significant fiscal challenges, but it is absolutely shameful to see such an irresponsible proposal advanced by the highest ranking Republicans in the state . The evidence is clear that Sen. Fasano either never actually considered the damage that would be done to children if this proposed budget passed, or he decided to try to balance the budget of the backs of our students and families.
Thankfully Gov. Dannel Malloy — a strong and consistent supporter of school choice and public charter schools — swiftly opposed this proposed cut. We stand together with Malloy and urge Democratic legislative leaders to come up with a more responsible budget, one that does not include reckless cuts to our schools and students, many of whom come from some of the state’s most underserved communities.
Budgets are not just numbers; they represent our values. It appears we know where Sen. Fasano stands when it comes to public charter school students. We are hopeful that his Republican colleagues and Democratic legislators choose a different path.
Each of the co-authors of this forum leads one of New Haven’s state public charter schools. Together, the schools collectively educate over 2,000 New Haven children in prekindergarten through twelfth grade. Amanda Alonzy is principal of Amistad Academy; Lizanne Cox is director of Common Ground High School; Craig Drezek is executive director of Highville Charter School; Claire Polcrack is principal of Achievement First Amistad High School; Andrew Poole is principal of Elm City College Prep; John Taylor is executive director of Booker T. Washington Academy.
This piece originally appeared on the New Haven Register.