DANBURY CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING DEBATE TAKES FRONT STAGE AT STATE BUDGET HEARING
Wednesday, April 19, 2023 Time: 10:50 AM
UPDATE 11:00 AM: Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito released the following statement:
“I am incredibly disappointed in the actions taken by the majority of the Appropriations Committee in not including funding for the Danbury Charter School, and then rejecting the amendment proposed by Danbury’s Representative Rachel Chaleski to include funding. To be clear, the funding for the Danbury Charter School was in the Governor’s budget but was removed by a select group of politicians. I also want to thank Representative Callahan, as well as the Republicans and Democrats who voted in support of the amendment,” said Esposito.
UPDATE: 10:30 AM: State Rep. Rachel Chaleski released the following statement:
Rep. Chaleski Advocates for Charter School Funding,Disappointed With Budget Proposal
HARTFORD – State Representative Rachel Chaleski (R-138) expressed disappointment that funding for the Danbury Charter School was not included among the three other pending charters that were included in the proposed budget document approved Tuesday by the legislature's Appropriations Committee. Chaleski advocated for fair and equitable funding for Danbury students by offering an amendment allocating money for the Danbury Charter School over the course of the next two years, which was rejected 20-33.
"Danbury's charter was approved in 2018 after the same rigorous process that all other large cities have opened their charters. That process included multiple opportunities for the community stakeholders to be heard that showed overwhelming support and need. Since then, these stakeholders have engaged in the legislative process year after year at both local and state levels to continually show their support," noted Chaleski.
The Danbury School District has experienced high student growth, coupled with rising levels of high needs students."
Our Danbury City leaders, the Mayor, majority of the City Council and majority of the Board Of Education, have pledged their support of the charter. At the same time, Mayor Dean Esposito supports HB 5003 to fully fund our traditional schools at the state level and intends to fully fund the BOE's recent budget request at the local level. Danbury will not lose ECS money should we have a public charter, in the same way we do not lose money when a student decides to go to a private school or technical school or vo-ag. This is not a funding issue. It is a choice issue. It is an equity issue," said Chaleski.
Student enrollment grows each year by about the same number of students the charter would phase-in students.
"The Danbury Charter School is a much-needed resource to address the various needs of our children, giving them the same access to programs that are succeeding to close the achievement gap across Connecticut. Danbury has the largest high school in the state with 3,600 students and while it works for some, not everyone can thrive in such an environment. For years, our community has been asking the legislature for this option to help address our current and future needs and to provide this opportunity for families," said Chaleski.
Chaleski added, "This budget document is a work in progress, and I'm looking forward to continued negotiations. To fund other new charters, but not Danbury's is discriminatory in nature.
"As part of a holistic approach to advocating for the Danbury Charter School, Chaleski backed a bill in the Education Committee titled An Act Concerning the Charter School Approval Process. SB 1096 would still have the state Board of Education approve a charter but does not have to wait for the legislature to decide to fund it.
"We cannot let one or two people decide against the majority of the will of the people and for that reason,the legislature has moved SB 1096 forward. I am public school advocate, have served on our local Board of Education for five years, and am a mother to two children in the public school system currently," said Chaleski.
During yesterday's meeting of the Appropriations Committee, State Representative Rachel Chaleski offered an amendment to replace the funding for a charter school in Danbury, which was removed from the budget by efforts from State Senator Julie Kushner and the Democratic members of the city delegation.
Charter schools have been a topic of contention in local and state election cycles since the state approved establishing a charter school in the city in 2018.
Running on a pro-charter school agenda, Danbury CT Republican Town Committee have won several key local and state races, including Mayor Dean Esposito victory, reclaiming majority status on the Board of Education, majority expansion on the city council, and the public rejection of anti-charter school critic Ken Gucker for re-election last year.
State Rep. Chaleski's amendment caused Democratic leadership to scramble to caucus for over 30 minutes, which a conversation with Gov. Ned Lamont's office and repeated attempts to persuade State Rep. Chaleski to withdraw her amendment.
The amendment also placed pro-charter school Democratic state lawmakers in the uncomfortable position of voting against a school system they publicly support.
Here's video footage of the hour-long amendment discussion (note: video of the 30-minute recess for the caucus was removed).
04.25.22 (RADIO): WSHU Latino group call on Connecticut lawmakers to open a Danbury charter school
06.03.22 (OP-ED): KUSHNER: "Career Academy ‘a great deal for Danbury"
On September 26, 2007, ten plaintiffs filed suit in response to an arrest of aday laborers at a public park in Danbury, Connecticut. Plaintiffs amended their complaint on November 26, 2007.
The amended complaint states that plaintiffs sought to remedy the continued discriminatory and unauthorized enforcement of federal immigration laws against the Latino residents of the City of Danbury by Danbury's mayor and its police department.
Plaintiffs allege that the arrests violated their Fourth Amendment rights and the Connecticut Constitution because defendants conducted the arrests without valid warrants, in the absence of exigent circumstances, and without probable cause to believe that plaintiffs were engaged in unlawful activity. In addition, plaintiffs allege that defendants improperly stopped, detained, investigated, searched and arrested plaintiffs. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights when they intentionally targeted plaintiffs, and arrested and detained them on the basis of their race, ethnicity and perceived national origin. Plaintiffs raise First Amendment, Due Process and tort claims.
Plaintiffs request declaratory relief, damages and attorneys fees.