On August 28th, my colleagues and I stood outside Booker T. Washington Academy waiting for those familiar yellow school buses to arrive. As each bus opened its doors, new and familiar children began to file out, some smiling with excitement, others timid with uncertainty. No matter what their hesitations are, each and every one of our students count on us to equip them with the tools they will need to succeed. However, as Connecticut faces budget uncertainty and officials continue to struggle to develop a fair and clear education funding formula, our children suffer the consequences.
Booker T. Washington Academy is dedicated to holding our students to high academic standards. Our school serves families in New Haven, West Haven, and Hamden. Approximately 82 percent of our students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. Our amazing teachers and staff provide students with rigorous curriculum, extended school day and the opportunities and support our children need and deserve. The quality of education the we offer and the hard work of our staff and scholars are clear in the most recent statewide achievement data released by the State Department. On the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) results, Booker T Washington Academy ranks number 16 in the state in third grade math. That means that, in math, our scholars are outperforming children in Connecticut’s wealthiest districts. Fully 87 percent of our students are on track for college and career readiness.
Our school was founded because our community were looking for different options for their children. We are delivering results and making the most of every precious dollar we have. But, every year, our school’s funding is at risk of going away because of the outdated and unfair way that our state funds public schools. Our kids deserve fair funding. We need state leaders to fund all of our public schools in a way that is fair, sustainable, takes into account kids’ learning needs, and includes public schools of choice. As an educator for more than 15 years, I know that schools of choice play an important role in ensuring that all student–especially kids from our most vulnerable communities–get the education they deserve to fulfill their potential and succeed.
Our community and our state needs students to be prepared to work and live in Connecticut and invest in our economy after graduation. The jobs of tomorrow will require advanced skills and degrees. People of color — including the 86 percent of students at Booker T. Washington Academy who are Black/African American — will be the majority of our future workforce. The education system in Connecticut does not adequately prepare most of these students for the future. I want to see children across the state perform as well as our scholars at Booker T. Washington.
We cannot wait any longer. The chance to fix our state’s funding formula happens once in a generation. Now is the time for our state leaders to work together to get it right and ensure no child is denied the opportunity for a great education.