State school board members are puppets and shouldn’t get involvded in education legislation issues

Lawmakers want more consideration of charters’ impactMatthew Albright, The News Journal

Two weeks ago, the board and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy approved four new charter schools to open in New Castle County over the next few years, potentially adding 2,360 charter seats in the county. Townsend, Williams and Blevins were among 20 state lawmakers who wrote to the board before that decision voicing “deep concerns” about the amount of money and number of students traditional districts could lose.

As they voted to approve the schools, several state board members voiced frustration that applications had to be approved as long as they met the right criteria, no matter what impact they had on surrounding district schools.

“If next year we were to have 20 charter schools come before this board, and they all use this format, they will all be approved,” said member Pat Heffernan. “I just want to make that very clear to the public.”

The State board members who had reservations about approving the charter applications could have voted no! Heff is you feel the “Framework” of the Delaware State Board of Education is wrong then resigns! 

“We just approved a [science, technology, engineering and math] high school in Wilmington. But what if a school nearby had just invested tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars into a STEM program?” Townsend said. “We need to be asking ourselves, is this an effective coordination of resources?”

You hit the nail on the head Rep Townsend, charter schools should not replicate existing schools charters or traditional public schools. Red Clay’s Dickinson high school has been rebuilding itself offers STEM, IB and even has culinary program. 

Charter advocates believe the proposal would deny students and parents the option to enroll in schools they think could better serve their kids.

“It’s about giving parents the choice to do what’s best for their children, not having somebody tell them what they have to do and where they have to go,” said Chuck Taylor, president of the Delaware Charter School Network and former charter school head.

Chuck the pro charter school folks claims parents are screaming for charter schools yet three slated to open next fall couldn’t even fill 50% of their seats and now are under review! 

Taylor said this discussion already took place when lawmakers changed the charter law last year, saying he was “disappointed” that it was coming back up again after the law had changed.

“The argument you hear being made isn’t about what’s good for kids, it’s what’s good for these districts. It’s about politics,” he said. “Make your schools competitive and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.”

The call for charter wasn’t about a competitive contest! Charter schools were to be labs aka incubators of innovations and in most cases charters have replicated failure when it comes to at-risk students. How about if we add school vouchers to the equation? Perhaps parents might like that option and if charters don’t like it they need be more competitive! Or we can drop back and rewrite the law and eliminate the specific interest clause to end the cherry-picking. I am for add vouchers! Let’s expand those choices.

Townsend said he agrees that competition and dynamism in the school system are important, and pointed to charters like Kuumba Academy and Gateway Lab school as places where “great things are happening.”

“The problem is that we haven’t sat down and had a broader conversation about what we can learn from Kuumba or a school like it and apply it across all our schools,” he said. “Instead, we’re just opening more and more charters. That’s not a sustainable solution.”

Right on Townsend!

Donna Johnson, the state board’s executive director, said it would be “inappropriate” for state board members to comment on the proposal until a bill had been filed. She said the board did not ask lawmakers to file a bill, but acknowledged that it “speaks directly to a concern that was voiced by multiple board members.”

“There must be a definition of impact. We would like to see a formalized rubric that we would use going forward,” Johnson said. “It should not be something that’s used based purely on emotion. Impact should be considered in some kind of research-based manner.”

She is right, the state board served at the pleasure of the Governor, Therefore, they should mimic the governor’s agenda. It’s time we elect stand board of education members and end the agenda circus of the governor.

28 responses to “State school board members are puppets and shouldn’t get involvded in education legislation issues

  1. “It should not be something that’s used based purely on emotion. Impact should be considered in some kind of research-based manner.”

    I can’t stop laughing.I mean I just can’t.


  2. That would be Sen. Townsend, thank you very much…… (not Rep.)


  3. The solution, as often expressed here, is to fund charters independent of the district property tax school system… Fund all charters with a line item in the state budget, Let all property tax money stay in the district… Then, if a parent wishes to put their child into a private school (charter), the money does not change hands and it improves the student teacher ratio for all…..

    And it would be wise to remind all, that contrary to upChuck Taylor’s statement…. we did not have this discussion in time last year because the charter group that put together the legislation, did so illegally and in secret… The only discussion was: here is something good; vote yes…..

    We are having it now because we can see the horrible ramifications this special interest legislation is impacting upon public schools….


    • check out this gem from ex-Mayor Baker.

      would be hilarious if not so wickedly uninformed. Will surely be on Rodel’s blog tomorrow.


    • kavips makes an important point: the state AG’s office even ruled, last summer, that the meetings of the charter school working group, fall 2012, violated public meeting laws. That’s what it took to ram what became HB 165 through growing public opposition. Not the “extensive public input” that our DOE chief of staff claims shaped the law. Public input was quashed whenever possible, including illegally (but no penalty was imposed for that). So now we’ll have a drawn-out and contentious redo, piece by piece, of what was done so abysmally the first time.

      Hats off to Sen. Townsend for his courage, thoughtfulness and persistence. DE kids need more legislators like him (a Glasgow HS grad, btw).


    • “Then, if a parent wishes to put their child into a private school (charter), the money does not change hands and it improves the student teacher ratio for all…..”

      Charters are public therefore the funding remains the same.

      If I may translate what you said? ‘Residents, pay your taxes to the school district but if your local school refuses to acknowledge it’s academic and behavioral failings AND you seek an alternative school situation for your child, please leave your money at the door (which is supposed to be paying for YOUR child’s education) so that we may continue to use it in the district even though it isn’t educating your child. No hard feelings, we just want your money.’

      At present, parents who choose private schools already pay twice for their children’s education. Once in district taxes and second to the school actually educating them. That to you is fair and reasonable because it serves your view of the greater good right?


    • In my experience with DE private schools so far (six years, for two of our three children–youngest is in a CSD elementary), I have not heard other private school parents complain about the use of their property tax dollars to fund other children’s education, while they choose to pay tuition for their own kids. Most seem to recognize that the public schools serve a different function than private, and that their tuition dollars are the trade-off for a school that is not obliged to admit or retain every child who might like to attend. The school is not a public service–it’s essentially a private club, subject only to restrictions against discrimination that the state applies to every organization. For families who want private schools, for whatever reason (exemption from state requirements, religious preferences, snobbery or other chauvinism), you can’t beat DE for rock-bottom property tax obligations.

      I have, on the other hand, heard MANY private school parents complain about selective charters–as effectively private schools for which parents are NOT charged tuition, and which drain the genuinely public system. That’s the inequity.


    • To M Ryder: Yep, pretty much that’s it.. If you want to buy a house in a certain neighborhood, that is just the price that comes with that house. If you don’t want to pay it, live in a refrigerator box somewhere and send your kids to private school.

      Don’t expect anyone who can afford up to $80,000 in spare change to put 2 kids through “private” schools, to have people feel sorry for them that they have to pay $234 dollars in local school taxes… If you can’t afford a paltry $234 dollars, again, live in a refrigerator box somewhere….


    • Again Kavips uses hyperbole for her point. $80k for private school – yes, three of them in the state. They are more like $4-6k a year. a far cry from $80. and $234 in taxes is more like $1234. Do we live in a box, no, but we do without a lot for the sacrifice of having a stable k-8 environment for our kids.


    • To Arthur: probably so.

      Tuition for the 2013-2014 academic year is $51,500″

      Sanford School: Grades 9- 12 $24,375

      Tower Hill: Grade 12 $26,955

      Cost of having a teenager per year: $10,610 (regardless of school)

      and on property taxes: Taking Brandywine’s rate of $2.0185 per $100 of property worth.. in order to achieve your total listed above the property must be worth: $61,100, so it looks like the one got missed in front of my total above.

      But that still makes this really great point. The tax comes with the house… You want the house, considered it like a pool fee you don’t really use, but must pay in order to own a house next to the golf course….. At least It impresses friends and improves the value of your property!

      Thus to correct the above…

      Boo, hoo, hoo, Awwwwwww…. My life is ruined, ruined!… I got two kids in private school costing me $103,000 a year, and I have to pay $1234 in school taxes… Life is not fair… Woe be to me… Waaaaaaahhhh…

      Uhhh. sorry… No sympathy from here, Jack… Go find a box…..


    • Again, 103,000 a year?? more like $6000.


    • You’re coming in from the orb cloud. got links? I can’t follow even what you are even trying to say, without something substantial… Keep in mind there is a one link maximum before WordPress throws your comment into moderation… Who knows how long it will be before Kilroy finds it and pulls it out…


    • kavips did you use the two highest private schools in Delaware as your example? lol, typical kavips 🙂


    • Yes ma’am, I did. 🙂


  4. The SBE members do not serve at the pleasure of the Governor, that is incorrect. They are appointed and then confirmed by the Senate with 6 year terms, that’s not “at the pleasure”

    The “framework” for evaluating the progress of existing charter schools is not what Mr. Heffernan is complaining about its the language in Delaware law that says the school shall be approved if they meet the basic criteria. Not sure why a person should be suggested to resign if they disagree with the law. I would think if a person saw problems with the law they should work with legislators to make changes…

    Additionally this article sounds as if the Board is asking to consider impact, but wants to set up a thoughtful way of including impact in the decision making process with defined procedures and criteria. I don’t see that as exactly what the DOE is saying in their quote, but I can also appreciate that the Board wants to do it correctly with some thought and not just create a reactionary policy.


  5. Greg MAZZOTTA

    Rep. Townsend, I would welcome your inquiry as to the status of Quality Education in Delaware, since 2000, as well as the trajectory
    as seen in: Maryland, Texas, Missouri, and other states.

    We will be presenting the 2013 Baldrige/Education recipient, Pewaukee (WI) S. D. in Wayne, PA this fall. They will share their journey of Performance Excellence with the PA State Quality Award Program. Perhaps, a Delaware group might want an insight as to what they abandon in 2002 and 2013 with the departure of Seaford’s Superintendent.

    Where’s the Gov.’s Executive Order for all state organizations to adopt methodologies regarding CQI – continuous quality improvement?


  6. Kilroy-“You hit the nail on the head Rep Townsend, charter schools should not replicate existing schools charters or traditional public schools. Red Clay’s Dickinson high school has been rebuilding itself offers STEM, IB and even has culinary program.”

    I’ll ask again, why would a charter organizer (group) endeavor to replicate what is in the local school? Answers:1. Because it isn’t really offered. 2. TPS didn’t offer programs until pressure from charter programs necessitated the schools to attempt to provide them. Chicken-egg argument.
    If the caliber of programs and environment parents were seeking were available NO parent would go through the hassle of charter schools. They aren’t so they do.

    Hats off to Dickinson for the effort but most districts have not offered, let alone been willing to acknowledge what parents are seeking.


    • To the extent that charter parents are attracted by public schools without the most challenged students in their community, no TPS can legally offer that option. Current 9th grade low-income numbers, in CSD area: 70% at Newark HS, 80% Glasgow HS, 73% Christiana HS, 15% Newark Charter HS. [Combined Af-American & Hispanic student percentages track very closely with low-income numbers: 64%, 72%, & 73% at the CSD HSchools, vs. 15% at the charter.] Even if all four Hschools offered the same curriculum and disciplinary policies [and charter counseling out is much less burdensome than TPS expulsion–the latter constraints are imposed in defense of the student’s constitutional right to a publicly funded education], the blunt reality is that most parents will prefer a school that enrolls the smallest % of low-income students, when both high- and low-poverty schools are available at the same tax “price.” When the only way to get a 15% low-income public HS is to move to a high-tax district far from their workplaces, like Unionville or Swarthmore, many DE parents don’t or can’t make that choice–but if there’s no differential in cost or inconvenience, the low-poverty public school is very attractive.

      Let’s be honest about what some of our most coveted charter school choices are offering, and why TPS’s can’t “compete” with that crucial element–the absence of the highest needs kids.


    • At M Ryder: You forgot number 3. (Why would a charter replicate an existing school?)

      3. To get a tenant for a piece of property one owns….

      You make the mistake of assuming high moral values are behind most charter schools. That is just marketing to attract the attention of parents. “Ooooo, look at the pretty pictures!) As for delivery, there is no good track record, except for two as noted above, those that skim off the top….

      Charter Schools pay the rent. If you have an unused piece of property, a charter school is good for 7 years of top dollar payments. In that case, who cares if children learn? That is why this charter law that was secretly made last year, needs erased. All these legislators’ concerns are seriously on target.

      If one uses the value added model, even Kuumba falls short of Warner as was so eloquently rebutted against former Mayor Baker’s op-ed piece yesterday. .


  7. Charter schools have a way of filtering out the troubled kids with special needs. They either don’t accept them from the beginning or they tire out the parents so much that they transfer the kids out. It happened to my daughter, and many others. Where is the transparency with that Mr. Taylor? Where is the choice? It’s all a mirage with smoke and mirrors.


    • Charter Schools simply can’t afford troubled kids with special needs. It bites too much into their profits. Like pre-existing condition under old insurance plans, they simply HAVE to get dropped like a hot potato.

      It’s the old MC Hammer routine: “Can’t Touch This….”


    • Too bad for the charter schools that Federal IDEA regulation is much bigger than they are.


    • Mage, have you been in touch with DE ACLU about your “counseling out” experience? It is not legal, and ACLU is one group trying to get a clearer picture of what is going on in the charter sector in that regard, for possible legal action. You might call them and ask to speak with Shannon. This goes for anyone else who has bee encouraged to remove a child from a charter, too–particularly if the child’s special needs or the family’s poverty were the reason for the school’s efforts to get rid of them.


    • The families I know at NCS with special needs kids are so thankful for the school. Some have even stated that if their child wasn’t there, they would probably home school them. I guess it’s a case by case basis, just like in the traditional schools. There are families who are happy and those who are not.
      Eve, I don’t see where it says Mage’s child/children were ‘counseled out’ ??


    • Eve, my wording may not have been clear enough. When I said “they transfer the kids out” I meant the parents. My child’s school was pretty transparent about them not being to handle her disabilities on quite a few occasions. You will be hearing much more about that and other circumstances regarding this very soon. I’m very aware about the ACLU is investigating Delaware’s charter schools. And they will hear our story as well. But the timing is not quite there yet.


    • Thanks for the clarification, Mage. Maybe “counseling out” is not the right phrase for what you’re describing, though it is an example of a public charter making it clear that they cannot provide services for a particular child and would strongly recommend that s/he go elsewhere. Anyway, I’m glad that you’re aware of the ACLU option and other ways of applying pressure.

      pm, I have also heard several NCS parents of spec ed kids say how much better that school is for their child than their district school was. On the other hand, it’s also my understanding (from the data available showing “breakdowns” of spec ed children by diagnostic category, or whatever the appropriate phrase is–I am not very familiar with spec ed policies) that, like many charters, NCS has few to zero students in the higher special needs categories. So in my understanding, their good service to the least-needy group of spec ed kids (again, there are three umbrella categories that relate to state funding for spec ed students, but don’t remember the terms!) is somewhat counterbalanced by the absence of higher needs spec ed kids–who then attend district schools, if they choose public services. I have wondered whether schools like NCS are able to provide good spec ed services for the small % of spec ed kids they enroll in part because that % IS so small–that is, the spec ed teachers are not as overwhelmed as they can be elsewhere. But I don’t understand enough about spec ed funding per student to know whether that’s a plausible explanation.

      It’s my general impression that the vast majority of students whom NCS enrolls & retains are well served & happy. The systemic issue concerns which categories of students they aren’t enrolling, and how that affects surrounding public schools that are required to enroll those children, in terms of resources and overall educational environment (the schools that most students in the taxpaying community attend). We could administer a lot of public services by splitting taxpayers–by lottery or by the preferences of the service’s administrators–into elite and ordinary programs, and those in the elite sector would be delighted (medicare, social security, whatever). But for a lot of obvious reasons, we almost never do this. Selective charters & magnets are the only examples of tax-funded programs run in this way that come to my mind, off-hand.


    • Eve, my best advice would be to look at any charter’s website. They are required to put their financial info on there. See how much money is coming from Federal IDEA B, and how much the school has allocated to students up to the point in time that financial statement was produced. Another option is to look on Delaware Checkbook and see how much schools are paying in legal fees. If you see a dramatic increase, something may seriously be going wrong at a school.