Connecticut board gives initial OK to two new charter schools

October 3, 2018

HARTFORD — The state gave the initial green light to two new charter schools, one in Norwalk and the other in Danbury, both of which can only open if and when the state legislature provides the funding.

It would be Danbury’s first charter school and Norwalk’s second.

The action came on Wednesday on consecutive 7-to-1 votes of the state Board of Education.

Both times, board member Erin Benham, a Meriden teacher, voted no. The actions followed a morning long public session where dozens of speakers, largely testified in support of both charters and some pointed board questions were raised about less than stellar scores given to the charter school applications.

The Danbury Prospect Charter School would start with 110 sixth graders and grow a grade each year until it is a into a 6 through 12th grade college preparatory school of 550 students five years out. It would be modeled after the Brooklyn Prospect Charter School which operates four charter schools in New York.

The Norwalk Charter School for Excellence would be a Pre-K to 5th grade elementary school, starting with 168 prekindergarten through first grade students and grow to a 392 student liberal arts school aligned with the Common Core state standards. It too has New York roots, to be modeled after the Bronx Charter School for Excellence in New York as well as the Stamford Charter School for Excellence which opened in 2015.

Timing and locations for both depend largely if the applicants can convince the legislature and the state’s new governor to invest more in charter schools than the state already does.

The two approved charter schools are among five that applied to the board when a call for applications was put out last January and the only ones recommended to the board.

The state now funds 23 charter schools, with one in Willimantic surrendering its charter over the summer before the state Board of Education could close it amid charges that it misspent $1.6 million. After two decades of slowly increasing the number of charter schools that run independent of local school board control, the state board remains supportive of them but has tightened oversight. A number — including The Bridge Academy in Bridgeport — have been put on probation in recent years and have been given shorter charters.

The state board also rejected a recent request to give several existing charter schools —including Capital Prep Harbor in Bridgeport — funding for more seats than there charters allow. The state gives its charter schools $11,250 for each approved seats that is filled.

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