As I sat at the meeting of the education committee of the Connecticut General Assembly in early spring and heard the CEO of the charter school advocacy group, ConnCAN, say that Connecticut needed more seats in charter schools in order to save students from “being trapped in failing schools”, I had questions.
First of all, if thousands of children are suffering, why is the concern with just helping a handful of them? Only 1.5% of Connecticut’s public school students are in charter schools. What about the other 98.5%? Do we have a lifeboat mentality in which a few are rescued and the rest go down with what charter school advocates are happy to call a sinking ship? How is that fair?
Secondly, what happened to Sheff vs. O’Neill, the court case which set clear goals for integrating schools in Connecticut? All of the charter school students accompanying the CEO of ConnCAN to the legislative hearing were children of color. Clearly, the enrollment of Connecticut’s charter schools mirrors the national figures as reported by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, which states: “Charter schools are more racially isolated than traditional public schools 1n virtually every state and every metropolitan area in the nation.” The report points out that 70% of charter school students are in schools in which 90-100% of the students are students of color, which is double the number of students segregated in that way in traditional public schools.
Thirdly, how do we know which schools are “failing” and which are not? Nationally, about 50% of charter schools perform the same as their traditional public school counterparts although the charter school student population is more selective and has fewer special education students and fewer students with English as a second language. The other 50% of charter schools are about equally divided between some doing better than traditional public schools and others doing worse than traditional public schools. Clearly, being a charter school does not exempt a school from being a “failing school”. If charter schools offered an education that is innovative and exciting, then surely the suburban parents would clamor for them to be in their communities.
Fourthly, how can a school build a good curriculum and sound pedagogy when the staff has a high rate of turnover? Charter schools have a 20-45% teacher turnover rate with young, uncertified teachers who have no teaching Call To Action: Support NAACP | Real Learning CT: