After 10 years in operation, Connecticut's charter schools have, with a few exceptions, proved themselves to be effective alternatives to regular public schools.
Standardized test scores show that charter schools have been particularly adept at closing the achievement gap between low-income, non-white students and their white suburban counterparts.
The key to charter school success has been their ability to experiment with curriculum and school organization, free of many bureaucratic and union rules that govern most public schools. Strong parental support for the schools is also a factor.
Because of their performance, charter schools deserve more nurturing than they have received up to now from state government. Legislation that would provide that is working its way through the General Assembly.
The bill increases the state's per-pupil grant to charter schools from $8,000 to $8,650 during the 2007-2008 fiscal year and to $9,300 during the 2008-2009 fiscal year. Conventional public schools receive an average grant of about $11,000 per student.
The measure also increases the number of students that existing charters can enroll, thus allowing them to add more grades as they expand, and commits the state to approving more charter school applications.
Critics argue that charter schools always intended to be a less costly alternative to district schools and therefore don't merit additional revenue. But they fail to recognize that the price of goods, employees and services goes up year to year.
Charter schools also want their funding indexed to the state's regular education spending per pupil, which would ensure them automatic increases rather having them rely constantly on legislative approval for their needs. That makes sense. Successful programs shouldn't have to beg for their money.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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