MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — State Rep. Quentin Williams (D-Middletown) had planned to join charter school advocates Tuesday in the nation’s capitol.
The late representative, who died in a wrong-way car crash last month, was a fierce advocate for charter schools, according to the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, which dedicated its 2023 Day of Advocacy in Williams’ memory.
“He wanted to come and roll his sleeves up and talk to representatives and in the Connecticut congressional delegation, like Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, and Jim Hines, and Johanna Hayes,” said Ron Rice, the senior director of government relations for the national alliance. “And the whole delegation who knew him very well, and knew of his spirit, and knew of his commitment, and knew of his love for charter schools, but not just our school students, but students everywhere, and public education — its commitment to great public education for all kids, and his commitment that one size does not fit all, and we need various models in various ways to meet the needs of every child that’s desirous of having a good education.”
Williams was the director of advocacy and policy for Excellence Community Schools, which opened the Stamford Charter School for Excellence. He was also Rice’s fraternity brother.
“As a friend, there was nobody that could crack a joke like he could crack,” Rice said.
The 2023 Day of Advocacy brought 52 charter school leaders of color to Washington, D.C., to advocate for students through a series of 85 meetings. Leaders from 21 states participated, including Connecticut’s Elevate Charter Schools CEO John Taylor.
It was the eighth year for the event.
Nationally, 69% of charter school students are students of color, according to the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools. Charter schools also employ teachers of color at higher rates than district schools.
Rice said the Day of Advocacy started after a legislator asked why only white men were advocating for charter schools on the Hill.
“And I had to look in the mirror and wonder why,” Rice said. “And so we bring this day up to highlight charter schools led by people of color, who are representatives of their communities, who represent the kids that they actually educate, and are high-quality, high-performing and making a difference.”
The group lobbying for increasing the federal Charter School Program to allow high-quality, high-performing charter schools on a waiting list to open. The alliance said the funding is especially crucial for areas that would serve students of color, who historically have had less access to funds to open schools.
An election Tuesday will decide who will fill Williams’ legislative seat.