by Madyson Lubba
In Connecticut, demand for better public schools has increased dramatically. In fact, of the more than 160 school districts in the state, more than 70 send children to public charter schools. However, Connecticut has been slow to approve new charter schools in order to keep up with demand. As a result, 65,000 kids are stuck in failing schools, and almost 4,000 names are on charter waitlists. Notably, some charter students have to travel great distances in order to attend their school of choice.
With only 17 public charter schools currently open in Connecticut, it isn’t a surprise that many families in the state aren’t located close to a high-performing charter, particularly if they live outside of one of the major population centers.
In all of the fifteen lowest-performing districts, students have decided to attend a charter school. Some are traveling more than 40 miles from their hometown. In the case of Highville Charter School, students from four different counties travel up to 60 miles each way every day.
While the largest groups of students attending charter schools are located in cities like Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford, it is hard to ignore the demand for charters in the surrounding communities, as is evident by the spread of charter school attendance across the state. Stretching from areas as far northwest as Salisbury, to as far southeast as Stonington, communities across the state send students to the 10 districts that house charter schools.
With one charter set to open this school year, and at least two opening in fall 2014, parents and students will have more options, something the numbers show that they want. However, Connecticut has one of the weakest charter laws in the country, and it is vital that we continue to work with the General Assembly to strengthen our charter law. Only then can we create an environment where all families have access to a high quality public school.