Chambers of Commerce don’t typically provide input regarding matters related to public education, as we “don’t get involved with those sort of matters.” However, the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce strongly believes that public education has a direct correlation to the economic strength and well-being of our community.

It is not by chance that the City of Danbury and the Danbury labor market in general each year is the envy of the state with a multitude of economic metrics including the lowest unemployment rate and job growth. This is a direct result, among many other reasons, of a welcoming business environment with stable and prudent financial planning by our community leaders.

With a vibrant economy, a superior quality of life and a very diverse community, it is no wonder that Danbury is an attractive place to live, work, play and be educated in.

On the topic of education, there is no secret that the City of Danbury has been grappling with a very real, and very fluid situation as it pertains to the growing student enrollment in Danbury Public Schools. We would agree with many of those who have voiced their thoughts, comments and suggestions regarding this matter that there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution. Which means we should look at all options when it comes to public education.

Connecticut is home to some of the best schools in our country. We have a rich history of creating innovative educational opportunities, such as magnet schools that helped propel school integration in Hartford and charter schools that have brought tremendous educational opportunities to Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven’s school systems.

As the fastest growing, mid-sized city in Connecticut, Danbury is now reaching a crucial decision point to ensure each student receives a quality public education. In the past six months, 10,000 residents from neighboring states have changed their addresses to Connecticut, nearly 2,000 of those to Danbury, and schools are already experiencing increased enrollment. Danbury experienced a 5.6 percent increase in enrollment last year. This rapid rise in enrollment, while welcomed, is unsustainable without additional educational options.

Danbury has been presented with an opportunity to open Danbury Prospect Charter School, a 6th-12th grade charter public school operated by world renowned charter school operator Prospect Schools. Not only would this school be able to enroll students for Fall 2021 and grow to serve nearly 800 students, it also would allow Danbury to access an entirely new funding stream for education from the state.

Right now, Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven receive approximately $21 million, $35 million and $30 million respectively in additional educational funding from their charter schools. The additional funding that opening Danbury Prospect would provide Danbury would ultimately net out to nearly $7 million additional annually and result in an increase in annual funding for each Danbury Public School students of $650 each year.

Now more than ever, we need creative solutions to difficult financial challenges when it comes to the funding of our public schools, and the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce sees Danbury Prospect Charter School as one of the solutions.

P.J. Prunty is President & CEO of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce.