We are living through yet another unimaginable crisis; I say yet another because, for me and so many of my neighbors, stress and crisis are more of a norm as we work to survive. My name is Bria Lindsay, and I am a single mother of three girls, a school bus driver and a Bridgeport resident.
During my high school years, I was allowed to pass a class or classes when I shouldn’t have; I strongly believe there were classes that I should have retaken, not because I was incapable, but because I barely did the work. Becoming a mother made me realize that allowing myself or my children to settle for what’s easy is unacceptable. I decided that I would set higher expectations for my children at home and expect their teachers to do the same. Having attended school in several different states throughout my life, I have seen firsthand the array of courses and opportunities that simply weren’t made available to all students. It was for this reason that I began searching for different options for my girls.
I believe that all parents, regardless of race or class, should have the opportunity to choose the best school for their child’s education, especially when faced with Connecticut’s glaring achievement gap, which is among the worst in the country. My children are among the lucky few that received a seat at a local charter school, Achievement First Bridgeport Academy. At Achievement First, my kids have blossomed. They are not falling through the cracks; they are expected to give their all. Achievement First is one of many charter schools in our state aiming to educate the Black and brown communities; Connecticut’s 21 public charter schools provide quality educational options to nearly 11,000 mostly low-income and minority students in low-performing districts throughout the state. These schools deliver excellent results, are closing the achievement gap, and need the support to continue serving communities and children like mine, especially as they work to bring our children back to school safely this fall.
As a single mother and bus driver, I echo the fears and frustration that so many parents, school leaders, teachers, faculty and students are experiencing as we prepare for an uncertain fall semester. I too am worried about what my children, and my bus-full of students, will have to do if I contract COVID-19. Who will care for my children? How many students will I have unknowingly infected? Who will drive the bus?
Even before this crisis, our state’s schools were underfunded. Now, to accommodate social distancing, our schools are being asked to spend additional dollars that they simply do not have. The cost of PPE supplies, additional staff including nurses, and the reconfiguration of the entire school building cost money that the schools just don’t have. If our state’s leaders want our schools to open, they must first make an investment in education that allows them to open safely.
In a time when our communities are already struggling to cope with the disproportionate impact of the nationwide pandemic, we cannot allow for our elected leaders to place our children at an even larger disadvantage and health risk by cutting funding for education. The proposed $4 million cut to the charter line item will only further hinder the success of our state’s Black and brown children. I urge my fellow community members to make their voices heard; don’t allow for our children to be further disenfranchised by allowing our elected leaders to use education as an easy budgeting scapegoat. Now, more than ever before, it is critical that we fund our schools.
Bria Lindsay is a Bridgeport resident.