Contact: Linda Conner Lambeck
HARTFORD – The state received seven applications for new charter schools this week, including one for a Montessori school in Bridgeport that would be run in conjunction with the city school board.
The Center for Montessori in the Public Sector is being pitched by a group of local residents and parents, including Nate Snow, who taught for three years in Bridgeport under the Teach for America program. Snow is now executive director of Teach for America – Connecticut and is on the board of Excel, a local education advocacy group. He said Thursday that this initiative is not connected with either organization.
“This started with the idea of helping kids in the community,” said Snow.
The six other applications submitted by the April 1 deadline included schools proposed in Norwalk, Waterbury, Windham, and three in New Haven, including another Center for Montessori. Snow is not involved with the New Haven Montessori proposal.
Both of the Montessori schools would be so-called local charter schools, which are governed by the local school board but receive an additional $3,000 per student and as much as $500,000 in start-up costs. The other five would be state charter schools, which get all their funding from the state.
All 17 of the existing charter schools in Connecticut are state charter schools and receive $10,200 per student. The last new charter school was granted approval in 2007.
A concept that has been in existence in the state since 1997, state charter schools operate independent of local school board control and some state rules. The idea is to encourage innovation and school choice. Charters cannot charge tuition. Local charter schools would get some form of flexibility but would have to allow for collective bargaining rules.
Debra Kurshan, chief turnaround officer for the state Department of Education said she was encouraged by the response to the call for new charter school.
More than two-dozen groups initially submitted letters of interest to the department to start charter schools, but many were subsequently withdrawn, including one by Rev. Kenneth Moales Jr., who is now chairman of the city school board in Bridgeport.
Applications for local charters must be reviewed by the local boards of education, which have 60 days to review them, hold public hearings, survey teacher and parent interest and vote. If approved, the plan goes to the state Department of Education, commissioner and ultimately the state Board of Education.
Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas said a representative from the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector recently approached his office and told him they were partnering with a group of Bridgeport parents to develop and submit an application.
“We will shortly begin the process with our Board of Education of reviewing this application and making a determination as to whether we will support this proposal moving forward,” Vallas said.
The state gives preference to Charter schools that serve English language learners and students who are low income, have low academic performance, need special education or who have a history of behavior or social difficulties.
The number ultimately approved also depends on state funding.