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Latino group call on Connecticut lawmakers to open a Danbury charter school

LEAD Photo.jpg
Mike Lyle
WSHU Public Radio
Lucas Pimental and Sandra Ferreira, leadership of Latinos for Educational Advocacy and Diversity, known as LEAD, rally at the state Capitol on Thursday.

This story has been updated to clarify budgetary negotiations that led to the rally for the charter school in Danbury, including the number of students who would attend and the school's relationship to the state's Open Choice program.

A Connecticut Latino group is leading the charge to get state officials to open a Danbury charter school.

The schools’ plans to open were delayed until at least next year without financial assistance from the state General Assembly. The school would have opened with an initial 110 students and and eventually grow to 770 students from Danbury.

Sandra Ferreira, the deputy CEO of Latinos for Educational Advocacy and Diversity, known as LEAD, said parents who seek equity in schooling need to have their voices heard.

“The community has come to us and they have testified,” Ferreira said. “They have written op-eds. We’ve done thousands and thousands of ways that we can reach all of our state legislatures so they see that it's the community that wants it.”

The charter school was approved by the state Department of Education in 2018, but has lacked funding to open, the group said. LEAD blames Democrats in charge of the budget process for removing the funds from draft budget this legislative session. "With this last action and a repeated unwillingness to compromise, we will not stand quiet," Ferreira said.

The group also opposes a different solution to schooling equity: the Open Choice initiative. It would allow 50 Danbury students to nearby districts in other towns. LEAD wants to expand educational options for students.

Other cities, such as Bridgeport and New Haven, have similar programs, since open-choice schooling became a statewide program in 1997, which has roots to programs from the 1960s during the Civil Rights movement.

“We are not going to give up on our school that started this,” said Lucas Pimental, the CEO of LEAD. “We will be here today, tomorrow and as long as it takes, four people are not going to deny us what we’ve fought so hard to get.”

LEAD plans to rally and march in Danbury on Sunday, May 1. The current legislative session concludes on May 5.

Mike Lyle is a former reporter and host at WSHU.