BY CHRISTINE STUART
Wearing shirts that said, “Charter Schools Are Public Schools,“ a group of parents, teachers, and students from the state’s 17 charter schools came to the Capitol to help Gov. Dannel P. Malloy make his case to the General Assembly.
Dacia Toll, CEO and president of Achievement First, which operates nine charter schools in Connecticut, said she’s been coming to Hartford for 13 years advocating for more funding for charters. It took 13 years, but “we finally have a governor who faces down that achievement gap and says, ‘not on my watch’,” Toll told the crowd Tuesday.
And while the group didn’t get every they wanted Malloy’s budget increases the state’s per-pupil funding for charter schools from $9,400 to $11,000 while increasing the contribution from local school districts to $1,000 per student.
The group had a chance to thank Malloy with posters and chants for the boost in funding when he made an appearance at the rally outside the state Capitol.
“There are a lot of people who think my talking about closing the achievement gap is fantasy, but you’re living proof that it’s not fantasy,” Malloy told the crowd. “A lot of people think that in urban environments people are less anxious to be educated and will find other things to do with their time and you’re living proof that’s not the case.”
But the legislation, which is 163-pages long, makes many changes, some such as tenure are controversial, while others aren’t.
Malloy acknowledged that these reforms need to be adopted by the legislature in a relatively short period of time “in which we either win, or we lose.”
“This is our day, this is our opportunity,” Malloy said. “There has never been a moment where we were closer to success or closer to disappointment, but disappointment in this setting will set us back many, many years.”
But Malloy accepts that his proposal will have to make it through the legislature and may not come out looking exactly as he proposed it.
“There’s a process and I engaged in that process today,” Malloy said. “You know governor’s have not appeared before committee’s too often and had not taken questions, except under subpoena.”
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, who also spoke at the charter school rally, said he thinks Malloy wants “all of it,” but whether he gets it remains to be seen.
McKinney said in terms of Malloy’s proposals to close the achievement gap he’s on board, but there are some things such as forced regionalization that he doesn’t like and still things such as the nexus between tenure and certification he needs to research further.
“It’s an important step. It’s a long overdue step, but I think we’re going to learn once they pass how the teacher evaluations work,” McKinney said.
The most controversial part of Malloy’s plan is tenure and how teachers will be evaluated and certified by the state. The two teacher unions and several teachers spoke against that part of the legislation Tuesday during an Education Committee public hearing. The charter school students testified to the Appropriations Committee Tuesday evening.