Delaware Governor Markell hides under a rock when it comes to charter school reform

Governor Jack Markell, the state board of education’s approval of Newark Charter School’s expansion was the right vote. The issues surrounding the approval are results of flaws within the charter school law. You and I know who penned that law and it wasn’t in the interest of fair and equitable education.

The issue of diversity in student population has been ongoing and you yourself raised concerns about re-segregation. I support diversity and see the charter school law that allows segregation even by choice counterproductive.

From the News Journal; “Lowery issued her recommendation last week to allow the expansion as long as Newark Charter met certain conditions to diversify its student body. Without specifying how it should accomplish this, Lowery said Newark Charter must do significant outreach to attract more minority applicants. Currently, about a third of the students are racial or ethnic minorities. The school also will need to add free and reduced-price lunches for low-income students, a change charter school leaders had agreed to during the application process”.

Lowery’s position has merit but it is only a reaction to The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware complaint not the obvious concern thats been brewing for years. Jack you and Lowery can brushoff complaints and concerns from the people but when organizations step-in the issues become a concern because of potential political backlash on you. However, in the scope of things, Lowery opened a can of worms that go far beyond Newark Charter School and questions the entire charter school system. The sad part is, the new head of the Delaware Charter Schools Network is out of touch and lacks real capacity for understanding the issues. Currently she is rallying parents to descend on Dover to asked for more funding for charter schools. Hello queen, the roof is on fire and  asking for buckets of money is wrongheaded.

Jack, in no way what I am about to say is supporting Newark Charter School. Lowery’s conditions on Newark Charter School to create a more diversified student population is illegal. Lowery is imposing stipulations on one school charter school whereas it needs to be on all charter schools. Under Title 14, Chapter 5, Section 506 Restrictions that pertains to student admission preference, those preference comes with the word “may”! Lowery is imposing the word “must”. The worms are crawling out of the can Jack! Are we heading to a law where charter schools student population “must” be reflective of the racial and ethic diversity of the surrounding area of 5 miles at best? If that were the case, then we need to question schools near 100% African-American. Hey professor need your help here. I am not trying to make this sound like reverse discrimination but rather highlight the concerns many raised about re-segregation. Lowery actions puts the Charter School of Wilmington is direct fire of similar action. Red Clay School District is the approving and oversight authority for Charter School of Wilmington and may have to align itself with that of Secretary Lowery if in fact what she has requested of Newark Charter School is legal. Her actions suggest Newark Charter School is circumventing the intent of desegregation. 

Jack, do we need changes in the charter school laws? Yes! You may see me as opposition to your administration and perhaps charter schools. But we can agree on the first part! During our phone conversations prior to the your primary elections against John Carney you led me to believe you were in full charge and had an education plan with great concerns regarding the achievement-gap. I did raise concerns about the influence of the business round-table and Rodel by name. Damn Jack, I took the bait and jumped political ship and voted for you. That was a bold move for someone who had a leadership position in the opposing party. What I did was put what I thought was social justice before politics. But, I was hoodwinked by your obsessive ego that is fixated on future political goals. Jack keeping your naysayer blinders on keeps you from being an effective leader. You are an obvious shoe-in for a second term isn’t about your success but rather the opposition’s failure to call you out on critical education issues. Education represents nearly one-third the state budget and is the key to Delaware’s economic future. Its kind of odd there is no republican response to all these failures in your education plans and cracks in the charter school foundation. You and I know the republican company you keep and the obvious education reform connection joins the left and the right. Skipper called you the “change agent” but in reality you are his pool boy. Jack, I think its time for you to man-up and form OMG yes, a committee to review what changes we need in the charter school law and how to implement them allowing existing charter schools to adapt rather than shoving a new law up their asses.

Jack, beside concerns with the charter school laws we have issue with the Delaware Department of Education leadership capacity when it comes to the charter school division. Its time to purge those inflicted with the little man syndrome. Also, the Delaware Department of Education mission should be partnership and support. We must end this ridged authoritarian posture the department has taken. I am all for giving people in organization empowerment to get the job done at the same time reducing the need for micromanagement. But   when employee of DE DOE act as if they have the power of elected officials we have a problem. Jack, Delaware education is at its best when assigned leaders are at their’s. You make Lillian Lowery and obvious political puppet and embedded Rodel clones that in my opinion holds her back from earning the respect for the position and more importantly as a key leader in Delaware’s education. Everyone I meet and discuss education issues with agree Lillian Lowery is a wonderful person. But sorry to say, the political poison in the air holds her back from being a great leader which is a loss to all of us. 

Jack, we can’t call charter schools public schools if they don’t want to be one! Charter schools that target at-risk students are more prone to fail than those who cherry pick. School ratings are important but can stigmatize a good school. A successful school plan that finds the means to extract the best and brightest or students with engaged parents ins’t really a successful school but rather successful at manipulating  the system. The Delaware charter school law is nothing more that a deck of cards that are marked. We need a simple charter school law that give sibling preferences and preferences to employees children but end it there! Applying to a charter school should be as simple as applying to a traditional public school. There should be no question on an application such as handicap, income and current grades. Those things shouldn’t have anything to do with enrolling in a public school. Once in, those records will indicated what services students will need. Let’s just called it blind-justice school admissions. Trust in the system starts with trust in the people who manage those systems. Allowing bankers to run our schools is nothing more than allowing the Mafia to run our police departments. 

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20 Responses

  1. Kilroy – you are forgetting that according to Lowery, Meece agreed to the conditions. There/’s nothing illegal about using the power of persuasion.

  2. Come on Mike! Do you really think he had a choice or would make it a legal challenge? Lowery opened a can of worms that acknowledges the concerns for re-segregation. Though she has the authority the fact remains we can hold one charter school to this new standard and not the others, I think its a wake-up call for Wilmington Charter.

    I hope to see you at Kenny Rivera’s fundraiser.

  3. Could charters take DDOE to court on diversity conditions and win? Maybe.

    But Lowery has a certain moral authority here, if not a legal one.

    Are charters going to launch a protracted legal battle to to stay richer and whiter? What a spectacle that would be!! I think they are smart enough not to pick that fight.

  4. No discussion about the consequences of “choice.” Does this law need to be changed?

  5. “Charter schools that target at-risk students are more prone to fail than those who cherry pick. School ratings are important but can stigmatize a good school.”

    If school ratings stigmatize a good school the ratings are wrong.
    Charter associations are trying to build measures that control for variables other than school input to be able to distinguish high-achieving schools from low-achieving ones.
    See for instance: http://www.calcharters.org/advocacy/accountability/portraitofthemovement/
    You can also see in this (possibly partial report as it comes from the california charter schools association) it is possible to develop assessments of schools that allow for a fair evaluation of schools that target low-income students.

  6. “Currently she is rallying parents to descend on Dover to asked for more funding for charter schools. Hello queen, the roof is on fire and asking for buckets of money is wrongheaded.”- and I hope they get it!! If you want the charter school laws to change, and I think they should too, then won’t they need money to make those changes? Won’t it take money for NCS to do fliers or whatever it is they will do to get the word on the school out? and to do lunch? Pencader still suffers because of people who are no longer even there.They can’t be the good school that they have been without money.
    The money they are asking for per student will still not match what the district schools receive per student.

  7. Pencadermom:

    The traditional public schools are highly regulated, much more than charter schools (even assuming that the laws are enforced).
    The way public funding is allocated allows TPS to remain somewhat competitive.
    If you put them on the same level in terms of public financial support they cannot compete with the less regulated Charters. This is true in any other sector of the economy. Everything else constant less regulated institutions have a competitive advantage over others.
    This is part of what is wrong with the way charters have been introduced in the education system throughout the country. There is no understanding that we are talking about different regulation environments and it is no reasonable to expect institutions working under different sets of constraints to perform at the same level.

  8. I think the DDOE needs to be changed, if they had kept an eye on the ball we would not be here. They did not supervise and did not have any plain to guarantee that “equal access” and “choice” really happened.
    NCS is not a choice, the choice is to enter the lottery which are different things.

  9. http://www.aplaceintheworldfilm.com/
    An interesting line in the middle of this short preview is “diversity is something you create”

    And I don’t think the charters SHOULD get capital. It would only come with more strings and the freer they are to do education, the better.

    There is only choice when there is at least one empty seat in each school.

    I’ve been doing research since I’ve been out of town and it appears to me that the best thing we could do for the kids of Christina – if we can’t simply break it up and start over – is to build a top flight HS in Wilmington and close at least one of Christiana/Glasgow/Newark. How would we do that? Could/would CSD sponsor a charter in the donated building in Wilm? That would be a bold move!

  10. It is fair to look into changing charter school laws that could improve education for at-risk/low income population. BUT, when do we ALSO look beyond this to charge the district school to drop their victim crap and be held accountable for their failure to their community. Even without charter schools, they lost the confidence of their community primarily to private schools many years ago. And if you are basing demographics on the 5-mile radius, you must include the private school children in that assessment, as they can return to public schools at any time.
    I am not a fan of the current school assessments as shown on the DOE site, because they are inconsistent. Such assessments should take factors such as special ed population, and income disparity as part of a formula, no argument And in defense of NHS, although it is not ranked at the bottom of the DOE site based on DCAS testing, I found a ranking on Delaware Today that showed their SAT scores as 3rd in the state. Confusing to say the least.

  11. correction above in regards to NHS “although it IS ranked at the bottom of the DOE site based on DCAS testing….”

  12. Newark, Newark high school is not a choice for all Glasgow or Christina feeder famiiles either, their seats fill up first. And vo-tech turned down 500 families this year

  13. “NCS is not a choice, the choice is to enter the lottery which are different things.”
    same as entrance in the Cambridge program for a Glasgow High kid (even if they qualified) is not a choice IF the slots are filled at NHS.
    Choice is a whole other ball of wax, that frankly district schools have used to their advantage for years. How many athletes at Newark High over the years have been “choiced” in to make a winning football team? Does NHS benefit from getting these athletes? Those numbers would be eye opening.

  14. “And I don’t think the charters SHOULD get capital. It would only come with more strings and the freer they are to do education, the better. “- even with everything that just happened with NCS? Were you not a little nervous that yesterday, or last week, could have gone in a different direction? I think charter schools should be overseen to a degree. If more money comes with more strings, I say give some money and a couple strings. :) Sorry, don’t know how else to word it quickly, trying to get out the door. I agree on the education part, if it is working, then I want the state to stay out too, but if the state is going to cry foul on certain things, they should be overseeing those things in the first place. I am actually thinking more about Pencader last summer. The original board of directors mismanaged the money and put the school in debt over a miillion dollars. Most of those people were gone before it even got noticed. Should a really good school close because of what a few people did? Or should the state have caught this sooner before the debt got that high?

  15. if we can’t simply break it up and start over – is to build a top flight HS in Wilmington and close at least one of Christiana/Glasgow/Newark. How would we do that? Could/would CSD sponsor a charter in the donated building in Wilm? That would be a bold move!

    We have two great classic traditional high schools in Wilmington already:

    – Kick CSW and Cab out and restore Wilmington High. I hear there is plenty of new charter space opening up around the corner. Cab should be thrilled to be closer to the theater district. Yeah, I know, it’s in a different school district – work it out.

    – Kick out the elementary school and restore P. S. du Pont High School. Didn’t I hear a few months ago there was extra elementary school capacity in Wilmington?

  16. Pencadermom:

    The lack of choice is a problem at all levels. Charters came into the picture to deal with the impossibility of most families to choose the best schools for their kids in the existing TPS systems. Unfortunately the laissez-faire model does not work and Charters became part of the problem.
    Currently we have something close to a voucher program for some kids, that are able to get a great education with public funding and other kids that would like the same types of benefits cannot.
    It is not either kids (or families) fault but this creates unreasonable inequities.

  17. Pencadermom:
    I understand the point you are making about Pencader, and it would be a shame to let a school fail because of some incompetent financial administration. But this is the model for charters, they are privately run schools with some public funding, that are expected to either succeed both academically and financially or fail.
    They are started by groups of independent citizens and most of its business is their responsibility. If they make bad academic choices they fail, if they make bad financial choices they fail.
    Otherwise you start having to allocate more public money to school that made bad financial decisions to support an academic plan that is good but not sustainable.

  18. Sounds like the main problems w/the law and application process is that student performance can’t be taken into account when considering an application and the district impact is not considered at all. I am all for changing those things. 5 mile radius won’t change unless they are going to take it away from Non Charter Public schools as well.

  19. @newark… again I ask you or anyone. When does CSD stop playing victim and realize their failure to its community. It is the charter schools job to find a way to increase diversity. It is CSD job to repair its reputation and look in the mirror to fix its problems. This is the largest school district in the state and it needs to act like it. You want to blame charters, go ahead, you want to blame choice, go for it. Take those away and what do you have? A miracle recovery?

  20. @Mike O
    You touch on one of the reasons to break up the current Districts. I meant, a great HS in Wilmington that is an option for CSD kids.

    If “work it out” means abolish the current school districts and start over, I’m in.

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