Advocates Plan To Reach Out To Include More 'Priority' Students With Special Needs
BY KATHLEEN MEGAN
February 09, 2012
State charter school advocates who gathered at the Legislative Office Building Thursday to voice their support for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed education package pledged to reach out to and include more students with disabilities and poor academic achievement in charter schools.
Malloy's proposal would raise state funding for charter schools from $9,400 per student to $12,000 — bringing it closer to what the state pays per child in traditional public schools.
Jane Cravedi, who has a child in a charter school in Hartford, praised the governor's strong support for charter schools' "right to equitable and predictable funding."
Michael Sharpe, chief executive officer of Jumoke Academy in Hartford and president of the Connecticut Charter School Network, said, "We know a funding gap remains when the state average is more than $13,000 for traditional public schools, but we are incredibly, incredibly pleased with Gov. Malloy's proposed budget."
Sharpe said that at his school the new funding, if approved, would go largely to increasing teacher salaries.
"We've held our teachers' salaries flat for a number of years," he said. "I promised them: The first time we get a funding increase, it will go toward your salaries."
He said Jumoke Academy teachers' salaries are "dragging behind the Hartford salary scale by three to four years."
Malloy's spending plan includes money to add 381 students to the existing 17 state charter schools and to create up to five new charter schools.
Sharpe said the state's charter schools now serve 6,000 students and have nearly 7,000 students on waiting lists.
Malloy also proposed that anyone applying to run a new charter school would have to submit a plan detailing how "priority students" — including students with special educational needs or low academic performance — would be recruited and retained. Critics have said charter schools don't enroll enough of these students.
Sharpe said charter school leaders plan to reach out to parents of priority students and make sure they enter the lotteries from which students are chosen for the schools.
"We recognize how important it is to reflect the population that our districts serve," Sharpe said. "We will do whatever we can working with the community to encourage more applications from that pool of parents. We're not going to be passive. We're going to be active."
He said charter schools do include special education students but at a slightly lower rate than traditional schools. Special education students account for an average of about 10 percent of those enrolled at traditional schools, he said, compared with an average of about 8 percent at charter schools.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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