Duff, Miller, and Haskell Call on Darien Board of Education to Reconsider Open Choice Program

Today, State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), Senator Pat Billie Miller (D-Stamford), and Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport), called on the Darien Board of Education to reconsider the Open Choice Program. This week the Darien Board of Education voted to not participate in the Open Choice Program and not receive students from Norwalk this fall. Senators Duff, Miller, and Haskell have released the following statement in response to this action:

"Last legislative session we were proud to expand the successful Open Choice program to include Norwalk, opening the door for students to attend public schools in surrounding towns, including Darien. Open Choice is a win-win, allowing both urban and suburban students to gain exposure to new communities and experiences. Strengthening the understandings of diversity and inclusion among our young people cannot be done with just a mission statement. Diversity and inclusion are lived, not just promised. We call on the Darien Board of Education to reconsider their rejection of the Open Choice Program and do what is best for both Darien and Norwalk students."

The Board of Education voted 5-4 last night against the Open Choice Program, with all 'No' votes coming from Republican board members. The four 'Yes' votes came from three Democratic board members and one Republican board member.

The Open Choice program allows urban students to attend public schools in nearby suburban towns. Enrollments are offered by school districts on a space-available basis in grades K-12. If the program was to move forward, it would have allowed 16 kindergartners from Norwalk to attend Darien's four elementary schools this fall.

According to the U.S. Census report, 91% of the population in Darien is white, 0.9% is Black or African American, 5.6% of the population is Asian, 0.1% is Native Hawaiian, 4.1% is Hispanic or Latino, and 2.1% is two or more races. The Open Choice program helps to diversify the classrooms which leads to better education outcomes for students. Young children benefit from different perspectives and a variety of backgrounds in the classroom. Without a program such as Open Choice, young children lose out on opportunities that make for a successful future.

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