Wilmington Education Advisory Committee STRENGTHENING WILMINGTON EDUCATION: AN ACTION AGENDA FINAL REPORT March 31, 2015
I am pulling various paragraphs out of the report to comment on. Please go online to view the entire report.
Changing district lines will not automatically translate to higher student achievement, but it will will remove obstacles that limit our capacity to focus our full capacity and efforts on student success. It will give greater responsibility to a single district for improving the education of the vast majority of Wilmington children. To fulfill that responsibility, Red Clay will need the will, the money, and an improved approach to addressing the challenges of schools with high concentrations of low-income children.
One of my concerns is Red Clay’s capacity to effectively handle this responsibility. Red Clay parents had to unite and tell Red Clay taking the class size waiver in high needs school wasn’t acceptable. Red Clay like Christina had state intervention to address re: 3 priority schools. I support reducing the number of school district within the city of Wilmington. However, the committee has realized at this point in time Red Clay lack the capacity with this statement, “To fulfill that responsibility, Red Clay will need the will, the money, and an improved approach to addressing the challenges of schools with high concentrations of low-income children.” Those calling for such a merger prior to addressing these issues shouldn’t be at the table of decision-making. Delaware has a fundamentally flawed school funding mechanism. Some say just re-asset property values. Sure quick fix in the short-term but what happens during the next referendum attempt? What impact would a major property tax have on industry and jobs. Don’t forget all properties are taxed including commercial property (except legally exempt). The time has come to fund traditional public schools and charters the same way we do votechs. Votech funding is via legislative action where the so-called burden in on the legislator. No more referendums! “improved approach to addressing the challenges”. More money doesn’t provide improved approaches.
Equally irrational is the notion that the state with the nation’s third-highest percentage of students enrolled in charter schools, most concentrated in Wilmington, had approved a growth in charter enrollment of 90 percent over the next five years with no plan for its charter schools or for how they should connect with the other parts of the public education system.
The problem is the charter school law. Allow preferences for schools to be designed to serve at-risk students drives desegregation and distracts from creating schools that serve all students within from at-risk to honors and AP. Creating “public” school exclusively for honors and AP student and ones for struggling and at-risk students is segregation of minds and sadly most of the at-risk students are poor and minority. Charter School of Wilmington creation had nothing to do with closing the achievement gap. It had everything to do with the status quo affluent parents who want their children in schools without at-risk students. We need one kind of public school that serves all students based on those individual needs.
We cannot continue to operate and fund at taxpayer expense two largely disconnected and often competing public education systems (three, if we consider the separately governed votech schools). This arrangement will not support educational improvement for all of our students. We need a statewide strategic plan for the development of public education that includes the desired number, type, and mix of charter, district, and vo-tech schools, and also a charter consortium that supports the sharing of best practices among charters and between charters and district schools.
And for what it’s worth, the only benefit to have Red Clay chartered schools within Red Clay is that sense of district control and oversight. Charter School of Wilmington board of directors illegally vote to change enrollment preference putting Red Clay student further down the preference list. They did this under the nose of the Red Clay’s school board and as assigned district charter oversight personnel looked the other way. Perhaps it’s time to take the Delaware Department of Education out of the charter school authoring equation and only allow school district to authorize charter schools in a way end the competition and create a better connection to the goals and needs of the district. Choice and innovation are welcomed. Also, decentralizing charter school approval and oversight to the local school district we can eliminate the department within DE DOE that oversees charter schools. Red Clay though less hands on with their charter schools allows their charter school the autonomy to be self-governed on a day to day operations. No matter how you cut is, transparency is an equalizer and we need to enhance that transparency and allow parents and the taxpayers to become effective watchdogs. We’ve seen with charters where transparency is lacking the effects on finances and services to children. As far as DE DOE, they have a member on Moyer’s CBOC and yet Moyer still uses a commercial credit-card vs state issued P-card. DE DOE lacks that capacity to be effective.
Our report also calls upon the state to activate its existing infrastructure and reallocate its resources to better address the needs of low-income students in Wilmington and across Delaware. To be clear, this is more than a Wilmington problem. According to the Southern Education Foundation, in 2013, 51 percent of Delaware children qualified as low income based on their eligibility for the Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program. Addressing the needs of these children and their families and providing the needed supports for schools with high concentrations of low-income students is a statewide challenge and needs to be met in a comprehensive manner.
I am on board with this 100%
We also believe that the system for funding public schools is antiquated and no longer effectively serves student needs. We propose changes that will ensure that the most challenged schools are well-resourced and adequately support the needs of their students. This includes attracting and supporting the best teachers in the toughest classrooms. We need to change the state’s funding formula to better address the needs of all Delaware schools with large concentrations of low-income students and English language learners. We also are proposing a close review of the revenue base that supports Delaware in general and its public education system in particular. It is a well-known fact that the foundations of public education funding are weak at both the state and local levels. It is a grave concern that property reassessment has not been done in New Castle County since 1983, Kent County since 1986, and in Sussex County sometime between 1972 and 1974.
Re-assessment is not the answer! Requiring the legislators to set the tax rates per district is the best answers. No more operational and capital referendums. Also, a capital funding for charter schools can be formulated. It works for Votechs! Also, the will be an economical impact by radically reassessment of property and you can be rent for the poor will go up! All is passed on to the consumers and businesses feeling the tax-bite may translate to employee layoffs.
Finally, let us not forget the voices of the people whose children are most affected. Throughout our review process, we have heard calls for a re-imagined Wilmington School District. In my view, this is a largely nostalgic reaction to a time that once was, where Wilmington communities were still racially segregated but were also multi-income and made up of professionals of color living in close proximity to the working poor. Today, those communities are different. Suburban flight among all races has left most Wilmington communities with significantly fewer resources than existed 40 years ago and, equally problematic, with many fewer role-models of achievement. You couldn’t build a Wilmington School District today without recognizing its immediate economic peril and the concentrated challenges that such a school district would face. We don’t surmise any more success in that construct than what exists today. Instead, we believe that the Wilmington city government should mobilize representative voices for their community’s children, and that the proposed City Office of Education and Public Policy should bring those voices to the forefront, particularly for those parents who otherwise simply cannot navigate the complexities of the current ill-constructed system.
I’ll relax on the the call for a stand alone Wilmington school district but tell me will there be city traditional middle and high schools? Also if the committee is concern about segregation issue I hope they call for an end to charter school admission preference leaving only two, for those living in the school district where the charter school is located. Also with open admission with no testing or peeking at the students records all within a transparent lottery process if there are more applicants than seats.
To change that path, we need a broad-based, cross-sector coalition to act boldly and without equivocation, right now, on the recommendations of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee. The time to act is now.
So move on well intended ideas and visions without putting in place new laws re: need-based funding, changes in charter school law, address the antiquated method of funding public schools.
Tony if I packed your parachute would you jump without making sure it was packed properly?