Charter Pulse

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CONNECTICUT: Budget cuts threaten state’s education reforms

charter-school-Budget-CutsAs the 2013 legislative session gets under way, state leaders should remember the promises they made to Connecticut’s students and parents when they voted to pass last year’s landmark education reform legislation, which has the potential to profoundly improve our public schools.

Last year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy led the efforts to pass groundbreaking education reform (Public Act 12-116) that was approved by General Assembly with nearly unanimous support. The bill introduced fundamental changes that are necessary to close our state’s worst-in-the-nation student achievement gap.

Since then, a dire budget crunch forced legislators to make some tough choices: December’s deficit mitigation plan cut $11.4 million from education funding, and nearly half of those cuts were to key measures in the education reform law.

For too long, our state has had the largest achievement gap in the nation, while other states enacted improvements that leave us in the dust. If we are serious about improving public education for all Connecticut children, the key pillars of last year’s reforms must be protected from more cuts, including the commissioner’s network.

Thousands of Connecticut’s students are stuck in failing schools, and the commissioner’s network was created to turn around 25 of our lowest-performing schools. In its first year, the network is helping to strengthen the quality of four of the lowest-performing schools in our state, including New Haven’s High School in the Community.

December’s deficit mitigation wiped out nearly one-third of the commissioner network’s budget. This will keep Connecticut’s highest-need students from receiving the high-quality education they deserve and, in-turn, from realizing a brighter future.

Nearly 80 percent of Connecticut’s public charter schools outperform traditional public schools in their districts, according to data from the state Department of Education. Charters have achieved these results despite getting far less funding per student than traditional public schools. In addition, parental demand for them is at a record high.

The deficit mitigation plan slashed charter school funding by $2 million, about $300 per pupil. These midyear cuts will have a devastating impact. Charter schools can handle no further cuts. Resources must be available for their students in order to provide the chance to succeed.

The statewide educator evaluation program will provide feedback and support to further empower high-performing teachers and principals, make certain that low-performing teachers get the help they need and allow for swift dismissal of those who consistently fail to improve.

This system is a fundamental step toward ensuring that all children have access to the best teachers and principals. The deficit mitigation plan cut funds from this program, too.

Public education in Connecticut is at a crossroads. If state lawmakers are serious about protecting the progress made last year, they must fight to fully implement and fund the commissioner’s network, protect per-pupil increases in charter school funding, create new high-quality public schools of choice and support full implementation of the statewide educator evaluation program.

The nation is watching Connecticut to see if it follows through on promises it made to children last year. Let’s make sure we do the right thing and continue strengthening public education.

Source: New Haven Register – by Jennifer Alexander (Acting CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now)

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This entry was posted on January 28, 2013 by in Budget cuts, Charter Schools, Connecticut and tagged .

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