Open message to all Delaware state legislators re: Delaware public education

Radical change in addressing problems plaguing Delaware’s public education isn’t going to occur overnight. However, the foundation for that change needs to start 2015 legislative session.

Last year H.B.#23 that would of required all traditional public school boards, votech school boards and charter school boards to record the “public” sessions of their board meetings and place online within 7 days was held hostage and fell to a desk-drawer veto. H.B. #23 successfully passed the House Education Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. The Speaker of The House refused to move it from the ready list to the House Agenda. I am asking legislators to pick up the pieces and pass this critical piece of transparency legislation. Currently Red Clay, Christina, Capital, Brandywine, Delmar, Colonial school districts voluntarily record the public sessions of their board meetings and place online within 7-10 days of their board meetings. These recordings do not represent the board’s official minutes but rather enhances transparency and communication to the parents and public.

Current without such requirements school board’s provide school board meeting agendas and hold their monthly meetings. The public must wait until after the following month’s board meeting to view board minutes often up to 10 days or more. Therefore, what took place at monthly meetings don’t reach the public until 40 days later. Because of the one meeting rule, before a board votes on an action item the community has no way of knowing what the action items will be until the next meeting agenda is public usually 7 days before the meeting. The current method is inefficient and outdated. With recordings provided 7 days after a board meeting, parents and the public can listen to board conversation and discussions on action items to follow re: following month. This way parents and the community can be better informed and have the ability to weigh-in on the issues more informed

Board recordings will not only benefit the public but also afford state legislators whom many can’t attend every traditional, voctech and charter school board meeting in their districts the opportunity to listen to board meetings at a convenient time. As for the Delaware Department of Education, these recordings with enhance their oversight ability as would it for the Delaware State Board of Education. The concerns about cost of digital recording equipment are over-exaggerated. Many of us view the online state checkbook registry and P-card expenditures and can all bring into questions some of the expenditures. Why keep the public in the dark in regards to school boards?

Delaware cannot effectively move forward without meaningful school reform if transparency isn’t the foundation towards change. Legislators, we are in the information technology age! Our smart phones can communicate with the thermostats to our furnaces at home and even turn on lights! A day will come textbooks will be a thing of the past where E-readers will replacement. We have the tools to advance transparency! 

Another big concern that needs to be address is the “specific interest” admission preferences to charter schools. It comes down to this, charter schools are public schools and charter school doors must swing the same way for all public school children. Once inside a public school academic offerings can require specific interest such as honors and AP programs. However the school is still obligated to provide services to at-risk and special needs students. Currently the discriminatory factors and creation of at-risk charter schools by default is fueling civil rights concerns. The lid is boiling and without addressing these concerns charter schools that are part of “choice” will fall. 

Choice public school: The City of Wilmington is divided by four school districts, Red Clay, Christina, Brandywine and Colonial school district.  Red Clay for an example doesn’t have a traditional middle or high school in Wilmington. Therefore children living in Wilmington are force to ride a bus to suburban Red Clay middle and high schools. Force busing still exists and it’s out-bound Wilmington. The Choice school law is part of the equalizers of the Neighborhood School Act district plans and those plans were not to circumvent the intent of NSA that was to ensure the intent of desegregation wasn’t defaced. However, without preferential choice transportation poor often African-American Wilmington students are being held hostage to forced busing as their parents can afford adequate transportation to meet the transportation demands on parents. Requiring school districts serving Wilmington to offer free preferential choice transportation will defuse some of the de facto segregation elements. Also, consideration must be given to students living in Wilmington without traditional middle and high schools like in Red Clay’s case. These middle and high school students must be given first choice in suburban Red Clay middle and high schools over out-of-district and in-district choice students including their sibling preference. The other option is for in Red Clay’s case is to offer traditional middle and high school services within the city of Wilmington stand-alone or in joint cooperation with other school districts serving Wilmington. Would it be far-fetched if Red Clay and Christina or Brandywine partnered to create such schools? We can’t turn our backs on such a civil rights issue. The pot is boiling and what I suggest could at best help to release some steam! The alternative could be far more demanding!

Best of luck to all of you during the upcoming legislative session. 

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