Board of Education member Jessica Martinez has a new job as an independent state lobbyist for 50 CAN, a national school choice organization.
Martinez’s passion is school choice “fighting for all children to experience the same educational exposure” be it magnet, charter or vocational schools. “As a parent I want to utilize my choice for my child,” a mantra she’s sharing with members of the state legislature.
She embraces “my child, my choice,” a national education advocacy group declaring “funding should follow children from one public school to another, regardless of whether that school is a traditional public school, a magnet school, or a public charter school.”
Martinez supports money-follows-the-child legislation that does not exist in Connecticut, essentially a student who attends a charter school in Bridgeport would receive state education funds redirected from the local school district.
The charter school industry is controversial in Bridgeport. Charters receive public funds but operate independently of traditional school districts. Opponents to charters argue they suck financial resources from traditional schools. Bridgeport with six has the most charter schools among Connecticut’s 23.
Half of Bridgeport’s charter schools have been placed on probation by the state Board of Education citing poor academic performance, excessive expulsion rates and exorbitant teacher turnover.
Still, Martinez argues, school choice is what’s best for parents and students. As an elected school board member Martinez says education access “does not do justice for the children.”
She cites, as an example, her son whom she had to pull out of Notre Dame, the private Roman Catholic high school in Fairfield, for the challenged Bassick High School in the city. “I couldn’t afford Notre Dame,” she says. “Now my son will not get the same educational opportunity” citing, in part, the lack of funding in the school district that’s led to cuts.
School choice, she says, would resolve the matter. The Bridgeport school budget is once again flat funded. Martinez says she’s lobbying City Council members to allocate more school funding, specifically redirecting the $4.5 million tax cut in Mayor Joe Ganim’s proposed spending plan for schools.
Martinez says she has no conflict lobbying for the charter school industry while serving on the school board, adding she received clearance from the board’s legal counsel. “There’s nothing for us to vote on for charter schools.”
In the video above posted last week on her Facebook page Martinez praises support from three members of the city’s legislative delegation State House members Chris Rosario and Andre Baker and State Senator Dennis Bradley for whom she served as treasurer of his winning campaign last year. Basically they support funding for charter, magnet and vocational schools above the financial proposal in Governor Ned Lamont’s budget plan. Additional funds were voted out of appropriations education subcommittee.
Currently there is no money-follows-the-child legislation before the state legislature, but that is something Martinez says she hopes becomes a reality in future sessions.