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CONNECTICUT: A tentative pitch for Danbury’s first charter school

danbury-charter-schoolDANBURY — Bethel resident Gregory Middleton has sent a letter of interest to the state about starting an elementary performing arts charter school in the city.

It would be the city’s first charter school, which has a magnet school with students from half a dozen area towns hosted by Danbury public schools,

“It’s a dream, but I haven’t reached out to anyone yet,” Middleton said Friday.

Middleton was among two dozen people who expressed interest in running a state-funded charter school, of which the majority came from Bridgeport.

There are 17 charter schools in the state. They are publicly funded schools that run independent of local school board control.

Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor solicited the charter proposals even though it’s uncertain the state would have money for them.

Middleton said he was a former educator, but he is now an administrator with a nonprofit group.

According to his letter of interest to the state, Middleton said the idea would be to implement the expeditionary learning model, which features project-based learning. Children would learn voice, orchestra, dance, band and theater, as well as academics.

Neither Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton nor Danbury schools Superintendent Sal Pascarella had heard about the idea, but Boughton is a proponent of charters.

“I think that as part of a long-term strategy to offer parents choice, a charter school is a solution,” Boughton said, “but they are best run by nonprofits that have relationships with the state Department of Education.”

School district and city officials have talked for several years about the idea of starting a performing arts program at the high school level. But the problem for charters is funding, Boughton said, because now the state per-pupil aid for charter schools does not pay the cost of their education.

So any charter program would need someone to underwrite part of the cost, like a host school district, which is what New Haven does for its charter schools.

In the last legislative session, per-pupil funding for charter schools increased to $11,500. Last month, the state rescinded $2 million from charter school funding in the current fiscal year to help seal a statewide budget deficit.

“This could start the conversation,” Boughton said. “There should be a public charter school in Danbury, and not just one.”

The state’s formal Request for Proposals process for new charters is anticipated within the next month.

Source: NewsTimes.com – by Eileen FitzGerald

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This entry was posted on January 15, 2013 by in Charter Schools, Connecticut, Funding and tagged , , .

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