Charter school advocacy organization Families for Excellent Schools, a growing presence in city education, has commenced a citywide grassroots “Unite Bridgeport” campaign to register new voters, receive input about the direction of city schools and share the gospel about the role of charter schools in the city.
Organizers say they believe residents are tired of the political infighting over public schools. The goal over the next few months is to conduct 30,000 door-to-door conversations with residents. Canvassers hired by the organization are city residents trained at the B:Hive collaborative workspace Downtown.
Twelve canvassers hit the streets over the weekend, says Kara Neidhardt, Connecticut state director for FES. “Our goal is to get up to 25 total in the week.”
FES expects to complete the work by the end of September, and to present a petition to the Bridgeport Board of Education that calls on the board to advance policies that work for kids, say organizers.
The advancement of charter schools–publicly funded but operating independently of the traditional school district–is a controversial topic in Bridgeport with members of the Board of Education split on effectiveness. The charter group FUSE was recently ousted from its management of Dunbar school.
In June, following disclosure he had a criminal past and falsely claimed he had a doctorate, Michael Sharpe resigned as the chief executive of the company that manages the low-performing Dunbar School. A few weeks later a community outreach coordinator working at Dunbar School resigned upon disclosure he had a criminal history that includes multiple drug offenses and is also listed as a low-risk level on a sex offender registry in Texas.
The state and city terminated its relationship with FUSE.
In addition, there’s the debate about student performance standards under charter schools. Bridgeport has four charter schools. Former Bridgeport school chief Paul Vallas and outgoing Connecticut Commission of Education Stefan Pryor are proponents of charter schools.
FES is a growing presence at school board meetings. Formed in 2011 with a focus on the charter school movement in New York and Connecticut, FES is based in political advocacy financed by Wall Street backers.
The FES mantra: “Through organizing and political work, we work to amplify the voices of families over the din of electioneering and special interest campaigning. Rather than speak on behalf of public school parents, Families for Excellent Schools empowers parents to speak for themselves.”
Opponents to charter schools argue they don’t outperform magnet schools both of which require a lottery to gain entry, as well as underserved students qualifying for free/reduced price lunch, special needs and English-language learners.
Our staff of sixteen comes from leadership positions at charter management organizations, labor unions, and political campaigns. Based in the best practices of these fields, we’ve developed a hybrid organizing/mobilizing model that is unique in the sector: we develop neighborhood chapters that support parent-to-parent organizing, training, and campaign work, and we work directly with schools to mobilize families for legislative and issue advocacy …