Group Says Charter Schools Entitled To More State Aid
February 06, 2009
Even though charter schools got a funding increase in Gov. M. Jodi Rell's austere budget, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now says more money is needed.
It's money that ConnCAN says Rell promised, and that the state's charter schools need if they are to grow as planned.
Several charter schools, including Achievement First in Hartford, are expanding one grade at time. For example, Achievement First opened in 2008 with kindergarten, first and fifth grades. Next year, the school plans to add second and sixth grades.
But the $44 million allocation for 2009-2010 for charter schools, an increase of $3.38 million, doesn't provide enough money to add grades at the existing schools, said Alex Johnston, chief executive officer for ConnCAN.
"It's clear that something is amiss here," said Johnston. "There's a real discrepancy between the governor's budget summary and then the actual amount that was entered into the line item."
Rell's budget summary says the current per-student state funding rate would continue, and anticipated enrollment growth would be funded.
A spokesman for the state Office of Policy and Management defended Rell's proposal, saying it allows for 750 new students to attend charter schools over the next two years.
"We are able to fund the existing system and add slots at a time when we're making cuts all over the place," said OPM spokesman Jeffrey Beckham. "We wish we could do more, but we don't have the money right now."
Johnston said the state's 18 charter schools expect enrollment to grow by about 1,300 students over the next two years. And there are students attending charter schools this year who were not funded by the state. Last year, Rell said those students would be funded in the future.
Johnston said ConnCAN hopes the 2009-2010 budget figures are a mistake, and they are waiting to receive clarification from Rell's budget office.
Mark Linabury, the acting chief of the bureau of choice programs for the state Department of Education, said his office is still reviewing the budget proposal and wouldn't make any comments until it fully understood the ramifications.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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