Fearing the clan who dress in white but not standing guard against those clansman dressed for success is allowing racism to continue in stealth mode and harm the promise of public education equal for all children. Poverty in public education has become a profit center with many roads leading to Wall Street and the Bush Family.
Why is it taking so long to get a U.S. Navy ship to the suspected sight of the crash debris of Flight 370?
SENATOR MARSHALL: Understanding that the harshest critics of charter schools around the nation where they’ve been in place and operating, is the issue of the schools skimming off the top and creating an elitist academy with public money.
My concern is looking at the focus of the charter schools by attracting the best at times for a specific educational discipline offered by that charter school; and the concern of recruitment.
I looked at children throughout New Castle County in moderate low income neighborhoods, I looked at the City, the west side, the east side, hilltop, I need to understand how your board and how you will guarantee fairness and equal access to every student from every unit
MR. MANNING: Thank you Senator. Let me approach that question two different ways because I hear the creaming argument over and over again with respect to schools of choice.
One thing that particularly bothers me about that argument is that whoever is making the argument, whether you’re a member of the State PTA or whether you’re a Superintendent from a school district 100 miles away from a district that wants to try a charter, that person is basically saying I know better than the parents of that child where that child ought to attend. But that’s an argument that I’ve never really understood, and it’s always been a little offensive to me.
You also hear the suggestion that for some reason children whose parents are college educated and have jobs that pay more will somehow get the better end of the deal. Which suggests that children of parents who for some reason don’t have a college education somehow aren’t able to cope in this system and aren’t able to make good choices for their children. I don’t believe that. And in Red Clay the experience is just the opposite.
In Red Clay we’ve had schools of choice for the last three or four years. And no school of choice has ever been populated on any basis other than a percentage, which mirrors the District in virtually every respect. Socioeconomically, racially, schools of choice mirror their community.
But let me get more specific about this particular school that has been proposed for Wilmington High. I can tell you that the proponents and the participants in that charter consortium every one of them have come to the table saying, Governor one thing I want to make sure is that this is a school that provides an opportunity to every child in this district, every child in this area and I want to make sure that this school is not marked as an elitist school. Not a school that you can only get into if you do well in science and math in grades one through eight.
So what can we do to make sure that doesn’t happen? Well the first thing you want to do is to make sure that you promote the school in the entire community. I can tell you that that has worked successfully in some of our choice programs already and that the intention of this charter group is to do just that with a very elaborate solicitation and marketing program.
You might also want to make sure that children who might not have done very well in math and science up to the point of ninth grade, nevertheless, have an opportunity to benefit by this school, which will be excellent in math and science.
Well that suggests that you need some catch up. That you need to take those children who have an interest in attending that school, perhaps have an affinity for those subjects but just haven’t done well at them up until that point and give them the extra boost that they need in order to be prepared for ninth grade at this school, which is going to be a rigorous academic year.
And for that reason there is an organization called D.A.R.E. and it is an organization that is dedicated to the promotion of engineering sciences through the study of engineering and sciences among the minority population. It runs a very successful program in Red Clay now and that organization has agreed to run a summer program for children who need some remediation before that ninth year begins.
This will be a school which not only caters to those children who have already displayed excellence in math and science and takes them one step farther; it will also be a school that reaches out to those kids who think they want to succeed in that area and it says for you we have a special summer remediation program that you probably can’t get elsewhere. That’s going to be part of this program. I say it’s going to be part of this program, although I really ought to say as a member of the school board, that we’re going to wait and see the application.
There are some things that I probably can’t tell you about the admissions process and the application process. But I do know what’s in the minds of the consortium that has come together and agreed to sponsor this school. And I can tell you that that’s upper most in their thinking.
One other feature about this school, but I think it will apply to other charter schools as well, is this school made sure that it had a place for everyone. I believe that we will, as time goes by, read in the newspaper every June that graduates of this school have also graduated from the best medical schools in the Country, the best engineering schools in the Country and are headed for PhDs and professional pursuits.
We’re also going to see for example the Medical Center benefit by an infusion of workers who come right from high school, who choose not to go to college, and who need a preparation in the business that the Medical Center attends to, which is healthcare. That’s going to be available at this school. The Medical Center is a very important participant.
This is a school designed to take kids who want to go to higher education and perhaps graduate school and is also designed to provide kids who want to go right to work after school with better preparation, more job specific preparation than they’ll probably get in their regular high school.
So for all those reasons it is not fair and it is certainly not accurate to say about this school that it will be an elites’ school in the sense that you meant. However, I think it will be an elites’ school in another sense.
The children who will come from all over that District and will come indeed from all over the County I hope, will achieve at a level perhaps not equaled at any other school in that area. And in that sense, it will be elite.
There will be a rigorous academic program, well resourced and the children will come to this school for that reason. I believe when kids come to a school for a particular reason they are more likely to succeed. I hope I’ve answered your question.
MADAM PRESIDENT: Senator Marshall.
SENATOR MARSHALL: Madam President. Mr. Manning you did, but I’d follow up with one other question. How do we guarantee the parents who have the high level of concern that a charter school is really towards a private public school? And if you look at the executives and the managers involved in the private sector, their background is college and maybe more than one degree.
They encourage their employees and their family to seek out college and yet in order to get that fair balance in the student population, you can’t have that attitude prevail at the management level of the school. And here we’re handing it over to the private sector and saying you’re going to handle recruitment and set up standards. I mean how do we overcome that the poor kid from the Eastside or the Westside of Wilmington will not be given a fair opportunity?
MR. MANNING: You do a couple of things. First I should say that those managers that you’re talking about employ people; they hire people. They know what skills people need in order to succeed in this marketplace particularly those kids who haven’t gone onto college.
I think we shouldn’t ever assume that any rising ninth grader is not going to go to college. That should be a level of achievement or a goal perhaps for every ninth grader in this State. There will be some however who don’t. And the charge of this school, and I would say any high school has the same responsibility, is to make sure that those who don’t go on can nevertheless have a set of skills that they can market immediately.
I can’t think of a school in New Castle County, say perhaps for the Vo-Tech Schools that will do a better job than the school that is imagined for the Academy of Math and Science.
I mentioned the Medical Center. The Medical Center wants to make sure that it has a stock of future technicians out there. Those will be children who by large don’t have college degrees, but they need skills. And the skills that the Medical Center wants to acquaint these children with won’t be skills that you pick up in our high schools right now.
The final answer to your question is, you make sure that each one of those kids who lives in the areas that you described has a guidance counselor in eighth grade that is looking out for them and says this is a school for this kid and has the opportunity to get that child in that school.
Make sure that each parent of such a child has a video tape in their hands showing them in their own living room the benefits of this school and you make sure you hear from those parents. And there will be an effort to do that.
SENATOR MARSHALL: Madam President just one final comment. I think what you have conveyed is that the schools will not be exclusively a college prep institution but a welcome to all students who may just plan to complete twelfth grade and move on to the workplace.
MR. MANNING: That’s one of the fundamental precepts of this experiment.
MADAM PRESIDENT: Senator Sharp.
SENATOR SHARP: Thank you Madam President. Welcome Mr. Manning.
MR. MANNING: Thank you Senator.
SENATOR SHARP: Mr. Manning under the charter school concept that you folks are planning for Wilmington High School, what happens to those kids who are now attending Wilmington High School who live out in my area where you’ve extended the feeder pattern and brought kids all the way out from Kirkwood Highway into Wilmington High School? What happens to them? Where would they go to school?
MR. MANNING: Those who are currently attending Wilmington High will continue to attend Wilmington High. You’re talking about the upper classman who are there now?
SENATOR SHARP: I’m talking about the kids that are in that feeder pattern whether they’re in the school today or scheduled to go there in September.
MR. MANNING: If they are in the feeder pattern but aren’t in the school, they’ll have the same choice that everyone else has in the District; the choice to go to any one of our four schools. That’s the group that is ninth grade and below; the rising ninth graders and below.
If you are in the school now…
SENATOR SHARP: Excuse me for a minute that only applies up to the certain racial quotas?
MR. MANNING: No, no.
SENATOR SHARP: You can’t have a racially identifiable school can you under the court order?
MR. MANNING: We haven’t had a racially identifiable school that is a choice school yet. So there is no reason to limit what the computer does when it sorts out the applications for a choice school.
SENATOR SHARP: Choice is a relatively new project that you’ve tried; I think this is the first year for it, is it not?
MR. MANNING: We have schools of choice that are now going into their third or fourth year; I can’t remember which, at Wilmington High School for example…
SENATOR SHARP: Yeah but that’s a little different concept than what you’re talking about.
MR. MANNING: Last year for the first year…this will be the second year coming up where children can choose their schools from all over the district. Now last year…
SENATOR SHARP: Aren’t they still governed though by this court order?
MR. MANNING: Yes sir they are. Last year we had an experience with that.
SENATOR SHARP: Then my question again would be, for the kids who live in my district, my neighborhood, who are now forced to go into Wilmington High School, can’t go across the street to Dickinson because of the court order and because of your feeder pattern. When and if Wilmington High School becomes a charter school, where will those kids go to school if there’s not room in that charter school?
MR. MANNING: If the court order isn’t lifted then those children will have to…the choices will continue…they won’t have choices, they’ll have to go to Wilmington High School if the Federal Judge says so. We’re obviously working to correct that and I think we will be successful.
SENATOR SHARP: Excuse me let me back up just a minute then. How can it be a charter school if the kids have to go there, which they do now?
MR. MANNING: I’m sorry I should have said this in the beginning. The charter school that we’re talking about will only be a portion of what goes on in that building. Just as is the case right now there are several schools within that school. The charter school that the DuPont Company, Bell Atlantic, Zeneca, The Medical Center, and I’m sure I’m leaving somebody else out, which I apologize; that applies only to the new Academy of Math and Science; which is only a portion of what’s going on at Wilmington High.
SENATOR SHARP: How many students?
MR. MANNING: It hasn’t opened yet.
SENTATOR SHARP: Well I mean how many openings? You’ve only got “x” number of seats in the school. How many students will be in the charter school?
MR. MANNING: It’s designed to have entering classes of up to 200 children.
SENATOR SHARP: So you’ll have a freshman class, 9th grade I guess of 200?
MR. MANNING: Yes. That’s the max.
SENATOR SHARP: And how many freshmen do you normally have in the school?
MR. MANNING: I’m going to say entering classes have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 children in that school. But that’s an average and I’d rather you didn’t hold me to that because I don’t know the specific number.
SENATOR SHARP: Okay but you said that 200 of the freshman class would be in the charter school but you’re also telling me that that’s a total of the freshman class. So you have a student body of 800?
MR. MANNING: The charter school if it takes as many children as it hopes to take, 200 children per grade, would have 800. The school itself, the building, has a capacity, and please don’t hold me to this but if I’m in the right neighborhood of roughly 1,600. And that makes room for the other educational programs that are going on in that building, for example the Calloway School has 300 kids.
SENATOR SHARP: You’ve confused me a little bit.
MR. MANNING: I’m sorry.
SENATOR SHARP: You say you have a capacity in the building for 1,600 students?
MR. MANNING: Roughly yes.
SENATOR SHARP: Okay I won’t hold you to that; 1,550, 1,650, somewhere in that neighborhood. We’ll use 1,600 for round figures.
MR. MANNING: Thank you.
SENATOR SHARP: And you only have 800 in the school?
MR. MANNING: In the Academy of Math and Science. There will be other schools…
SENATOR SHARP: No at the present time there are 800 students attending that school.
MR. MANNING: Oh roughly.
SENATOR SHARP: Okay. Where are you going to get all of these students? I’m having a hard time and I’m looking at this purely from an appropriable point of view; my District, my neighborhood, my kids, who are now forced to go to Wilmington High School.
MR. MANNING: They are forced to go to Wilmington High School because of an order that was entered in 1978 which hopefully will be lifted. I can’t, as much as I’d like to, I can’t do anything about that.
SENATOR SHARP: I understand.
MR. MANNING: We will provide a school for those children, a full blown traditional high school for those children, to the extent the court order continues to require those children to go to Wilmington High. And there is room to do that.
SENATOR SHARP: So even with all this the kids in my neighborhood who would like to go back to Dickinson, which is a half a mile up the road or closer for most of them, would still not be able to go to Dickinson. Keeping in mind the court order, we don’t know what’s going to happen with that. So they’re still going to have to go to Wilmington High School. Now we’re going to throw the charter school in there. Those kids may not be eligible to be charter school students.
MR. MANNING: Every child is eligible to be a charter school student. There are no admission…
SENATOR SHARP: Well there’s some criteria isn’t there?
MR. MANNING: No. The decision has been made not to impose admissions criteria on this school.
SENATOR SHARP: You just got done saying with math and science.
MR. MANNING: That’s correct.
SENATOR SHARP: Not every child is suited or able to do well with a math and science curriculum.
MR. MANNING: But there is no rule imposed by the District that says you can come and you can’t. That’s a decision…
SENATOR SHARP: But they’re going to be eliminated purely by their academic ability.
MR. MANNING: No.
SENATOR SHARP: Well if you’re not proficient in math and science, how are you going to take that in a charter school?
MR. MANNING: If you’re not proficient in math and science than presumably you wouldn’t seek admission to this school.
SENATOR SHARP: Well then you’re running me around a circle Mr. Manning; I’m starting to get a headache.
MR. MANNING: I’m sorry.
SENATOR SHARP: I’m talking about the kids in my neighborhood who have to go in there. You said they could go into charter school. I’m saying maybe they are not proficient. You said well they wouldn’t have to go to that school. Then where in the hell are these kids going to school?
MR. MANNING: To the extent that there are children who will remain forced under a court order to go to Wilmington High School, they will have the option of attending the Academy of Math and Science or the current traditional program that is there right now. And those two programs will be run side by side for as long as the Federal Court requires the attendance of certain kids at that school. Does that answer your question?
SENATOR SHARP: No. But I’m not going to continue this conversation. But I can tell you this I think what we’re talking about here and what this Legislation does will be extremely unfair to the kids that I represent.
MR. MANNING: The children that you represent have made choices this spring for what school they want to attend. They have the option of attending any of the four schools in the district and those choices will be honored unless the Federal Court says you have to make them go to Wilmington High.
SENATOR SHARP: Mr. Manning do you remember last year when the kids made those choices…
MR. MANNING: Yes sir.
SENATOR SHARP: …and you guys pulled the plug on them a week before school started?
MR. MANNING: Yes sir. And this year we have made sure that every child sending in the application and telling us what their choices are, and that’s every kid in the District including yours; we have made sure that every one in the District knows that this plan, which has nothing to do with a charter school, this plan may yet be foiled by the continued presence of that court order. But we’re trying as hard as we can to get that lifted.
MADAM PRESIDENT: Senator Marshall.
SENATOR MARSHALL: Madam President I move to excuse the witness.
MADAM PRESIDENT: Senator Venables you have a question for the witness?
SENATOR VENABLES: Yes Madam President. Mr. Manning you’ve been in the chamber I think most of the afternoon. You’ve probably heard most of the statements concerning pilot programs. You’ve heard that probably we need to go a little slower in this.
Those two things kind of worry me a little bit and I think that as members of the Senate we ought to use all the wisdom we can gather in this issue and maybe some of the wisdom that we brought with us when we came up here.
Do you see any validity in what was said here this afternoon as far as a pilot program? It sounded like to me that you are very enthusiastic about this school.
MR. MANNING: Yes I am.
SENATOR VENABLES: And I am to some degree enthusiastic about a charter school. But, I’m also enthusiastic you know that maybe we do need one particular charter school to start with to see how the thing works.
The discussion that I just heard between Senator Sharp and yourself even maybe gives more strength to that issue that maybe we need to see how this thing is going to work before we unleash this in different districts all through the State.
MR. MANNING: Senator, the Bill as I understand it particularly with the amendments that were included today with the Bill, creates no risk that you or this body will be unleashing this throughout the State. Because it now takes care to ensure that the parents and the teachers of schools throughout the State and the school boards throughout the State will be the ultimate bodies to decide whether any school becomes a charter school. It won’t be dictated from Dover.
SENATOR VENABLES: Well I don’t mean it to be dictated but I think the scenario that Senator Marshall was talking about, maybe you do have 50 percent of these people that fall in the category that would want to start this charter school and maybe convince the Superintendent to go along with it.
MR. MANNING: Right.
SENATOR VENABLES: Wouldn’t that give them the power to do it over the objections of the other people that might not want to?
MR. MANNING: Yes there’s a one word answer to that question and it’s yes. There will be a point if the question comes up with respect to any particular school where the majority of the teachers and the majority of the parents are asked to express their preference; whether they should become a charter school or not.
I don’t know how else to decide whether there is a consensus in the community for doing that other than asking them. But I say again, that’s much better in my view. Asking the community to decide that question is better than having the State Board of Education decide, having a local board of education exclusively decide or having folks in this room decide.
This Bill does nothing but create opportunity for individual districts. It doesn’t require them to take advantage of anything.
SENATOR VENABLES: I understand that and I feel a lot better with the Bill with the amendments on it than I did without the amendments. But at this particular point do you understand what the so called, maybe it’s not a mad rush, but the rush to implement this so quick? Are we going to lose the opportunity if we do more research or if we hold public hearings on this the way it was suggested by the PTA?
MR.MANNING: Those public hearings have been provided for in an amendment which I understand was put on the Bill earlier this afternoon. And the important public hearings that need to be held on whether any school becomes a charter school, I would submit with all due respect, are not public hearings in front of the State Board and are not public hearings in front of DPI. They are public hearings in the area which is considering whether to become a charter school or not. And the same evidence that Ms. Krause wants to talk about can be discussed by the community that’s actually going to be affected.
There’s no need to prolong the extension of the invitation to local districts and to individual schools to become a charter school. That opportunity should be made available now. You’re not making the decision that any school is going to become a charter school. But it seems to me that a decision ought to be made in that school community, not here. And there’s no reason to delay this process any further so that people in some committee that’s created at the State level can look at data that is readily available to every school district in this State.
SENATOR VENABLES: Thank you.
MR. MANNING: Thank you.
MADAM PRESIDENT: Senator McDowell.
SENATOR McDOWELL: Thank you Madam President. Mr. Manning when you talk about public hearings occurring at the school district level, let me ask you if we pass this Legislation and a school district, let’s say Red Clay, decides it wants to do a charter school, they have public hearings. People come and say, they don’t want charter schools and the Red Clay Board goes in and has a charter school. What remedy is there?
MR. MANNING: If you pose in your hypothetical with respect to most of the charter school opportunities created by this Bill that the people say they don’t want a charter school, then under the terms of the amendment that was just passed, except for special circumstances, the school does not become a charter school.
SENATOR McDOWELL: And it has to be 50 percent of the teachers and the parents. So you actually hold a referendum?
MR. MANNING: Senator that’s what I understand as required by that amendment. I have only seen it today so I don’t know.
SENATOR McDOWELL: Maybe I should have brought that up with the amendments here. I just don’t know how that’s going to…
MR. MANNING: I understood that to be the testimony on this floor when that amendment was before the Senate. That it would require those votes among those two groups of folks, teachers and parents.
SENATOR McDOWELL: For the record, you said that you’ve got 200 slots for the Math Academy that you’re setting up in Red Clay, is that correct?
MR. MANNING: That is a general target. I need to say that the group that has come forward and said we’re willing to assist this school and expect we’re going to be its sponsor, has yet to file an application. Obviously they haven’t filed an application because this Legislation hasn’t yet passed.
We’ll learn a lot more about how they propose to proceed as that application comes in. I’m in a sense speculating based on conversation that I’ve heard. That conversation says roughly 200 kids per class.
SENATOR McDOWELL: You have an existing choice in math at Wilmington High, is that not right?
MR. MANNING: The Academy of Math and Science, yes. And there will be…
SENATOR McDOWELL: An extra 200 slots you referred to?
MR. MANNING: That was up to 200, there will not be 200…
SENATOR McDOWELL: And how many applications have you had?
MR. MANNING: I think it’s somewhere around 60 the last time I looked.
SENATOR McDOWELL: And out of a student base of what?
MR. MANNING: All rising ninth graders, which would make it 1,200.
SENATOR McDOWELL: Sixty out of 1,200.
MR. MANNING: That’s about right.
SENATOR McDOWELL: Thank you.
MR. MANNING: That application procedure will continue through the summer and we expect those numbers of applications to grow.
MADAM PRESIDENT: Senator Marshall.
SENATOR MARSHALL: Madam President I move to excuse the witness.
MADAM PRESIDENT: Without objection the witness is excused. Thank you very much. Senator Sokola.
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