Hundreds gather against charter school cuts at state Capitol

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HARTFORD -- Organizers of an afternoon rally at the state Capitol to protest cuts to charter schools weren't wrong when they said they were expecting a large crowd.

Those attending the rally, sponsored by The Coalition for Every Child, completely filled the north steps of the Capitol. The group describes itself as community members who work toward better education opportunities for Connecticut school age students.

Gov. Dan Malloy feels now is a perfect time to continue charter school growth due to the success that they have shown.

The governor proposed $32 million in his two-year budget plan for charter school expansion, but the Appropriations Committee countered that with a proposal of just $11 million.

“We’ve increased funding to charters and magnets over the last decade by 1,500 to 1,600 percent. and our everyday public schools, during that same period, by about 60 percent,” said Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford), the co-chair of the Appropriations Committee.

About 8,000 students attend Connecticut’s 22 charter schools, but there are at least 4,000 kids relegated to waiting lists. And if the legislature’s Appropriations Committee gets their way, the waiting list will keep growing. The level of funding will impact two new charter schools in Bridgeport and Stamford set to open in the fall, but will also increase the number of seats in existing charter schools by more than 800.

Dr. Steve Perry, whose Capital Preparatory Schools company is scheduled to open the Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport in the fall, says the senator is comparing apples to rocks.

“The increase in funding doesn’t even provide any level of parity,” said Perry. “The current traditional urban school is getting about $15,000 per pupil, per year. In those same communities, charter schools are getting $11,000 per pupil.”

After speaking briefly at the rally, Malloy told Fox CT, with a smile, “I suspect  it’s all ($32 million) gonna be back in there when we’re said and done.”

With only one month left in the current legislative session, lawmakers are being lobbied hard. Thus far in 2015, six charter school advocacy groups have spent a total of nearly $400,000 to sway votes, in part with regular television commercials, largely financed by corporate and private donations.

Dr. Perry, the architect of Hartford’s successful Capital Prep Magnet School, says his model works.

“In our school in Hartford, 100 percent of our graduates are accepted to four year colleges,” said Perry, who will remain as the school’s principal through the end of this school year. “Ninty-four percent enroll in the fall and 86 percent are still in college after their second year. And 70 percent graduate with a bachelor’s degree.”

Perry adds that the state has produced multiple reports that show children who attend charter schools outperform children in traditional schools by 86 percent.