Education Commissioner and Charter Leaders Celebrate 20th Anniversary of CT Charter Movement

Posted on 06 / 21 / 2016 0 Reactions

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Connecticut’s public charter school movement turned 20 years old this month, marking two decades of providing students with innovative and new educational opportunities and parents with real public school choice.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, June 21, 2016
CONTACT: Michael Shulansky, mshulansky@necharters.org860-922-4595 

Education Commissioner and Charter Leaders Celebrate 20th Anniversary of CT Charter Movement

New Haven, CT – Connecticut’s public charter school movement turned 20 years old this month, marking two decades of providing students with innovative and new educational opportunities and parents with real public school choice.

“Charter schools are an important part of the public school landscape in Connecticut and of the overall vision of creating equity and excellence in education. We value school choice as a way to give parents options when finding a school that meets their family’s unique needs and as a way to inspire innovation in education,” said Commissioner of Education Dianna R. Wentzell.

To view a searchable, comprehensive timeline of public charter school news and milestones from the past two decades, visit: http://bit.ly/charter20th

Over these 20 years, Connecticut’s public charter schools have proven to be effective schools and popular choices with families. Some key facts and charter milestones include:

  • STATE CHARTER LAW SIGNED: Connecticut’s charter law was passed by the State Legislature in May 1996, and signed on June 4, 1996 by Governor John Rowland.
  • CHARTERS APPROVED: Over the past twenty years, thirty-three state and local public charter schools have opened in Connecticut. Of those, nine have closed or transitioned to district or magnet public schools.
  • FIRST CHARTERS: Connecticut’s State Board of Education voted on the first round of public charter schools on February 27, 1997, approving 12 charters; 10 state and 2 local. (A state charter school receives operates independently of the local board of education of the district in which it is located, while a local charter school is converted from any other type of public school into and negotiates funding and governance with the local district.)
  • CHARTER ENROLLMENT: Since Connecticut’s first charter schools opened, charter enrollment has grown from about 1,000 children to over 9,000 children this year.
  • CHARTER WAITLISTS: Charter waitlists have been consistently growing since 1997. This past year, they grew by 60% to nearly 6,000 names.
  • CHARTER DEMOGRAPHICS: Charters have historically served kids of color and kids from low-income families. Currently, CT public charter schools educate a population that is 59% Black, 28% Hispanic, and 71% low-income.
  • CHARTER FUNDING: Charter school students continue to receive less for their education funding compared to district school peers. Charter schools currently receive $11,000 per student in state funding – $4,000 less on average than students in traditional district schools.

“We’re extremely proud of the work charters have been doing over the past two decades to serve families in our state. Charters not only provide families with a public tuition-free option for their children but also empower parents to take more control over their children’s education. This is particularly true among families that cannot afford private school tuition or homes in neighborhoods with better schools,” said Jeremiah Grace, Connecticut State Director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network.

“Connecticut’s 24 public charter schools are a diverse group that offer innovative, life-changing opportunities for children. Charters are closing the state’s long-running achievement gaps, and proving that all children can excel in the classroom, regardless of the color of their skin or how much money their parents have. We look forward to the next 20 years – and it is imperative that our state continue to support and expand access to public charter schools,” continued Mr. Grace.

“My foray into the charter school world in 2002, after 34 years as an educator, gave me an opportunity to provide a quality education for far more students than ever before,” said Bruce Ravage, who led Norwalk’s Side by Side Charter School from 2002-2005 before founding Park City Prep Charter School in 2006, where he is currently executive director. “Gradually, charters here have grown in both number and size, and although equitable funding remains an issue, funding has increased significantly from what it was when I started fourteen years ago.”

“It has been gratifying to see bipartisan support in the legislature and from both the current and former governor, who have recognized the importance of the work charters have done to help close the achievement gap,” continued Ravage. “I am confident that the success of our students is compelling enough evidence of our worth to enable the charter school movement to continue to grow in the years to come.”

In honor of the 20th anniversary, the Northeast Charter Schools Network spent the past 20 days profiling graduates from charter schools across our state. You can read their stories here: http://www.extracreditblog.org/20grads.

The Northeast Charter Schools Network, along with Connecticut’s charter school parents, children and educators, will continue to celebrate the 20th anniversary throughout the year with various events, stories in the press, podcasts, and blogs.

About the Northeast Charter Schools Network: The Northeast Charter Schools Network is the membership and advocacy organization for the more than 250 public charter schools in Connecticut and New York. Its mission is to support and expand high quality charter schools.

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