The Christina School District is having their 2nd referendum vote of the year tomorrow. It is absolutely important you vote, and you vote yes. I will make one thing abundantly clear, I don’t live anywhere close to the Christina School District. So why would I support a referendum that won’t impact my family?
Two words: Priority Schools. I watched this district get labeled and shamed last year with the designation of three of their schools as “Priority Schools”. The Delaware DOE and Governor Markell decided forcing these districts to conform to their standards would help these students do better on standardized tests. I don’t subscribe to that ideology. Never have, never will. But I went to a few of their board meetings about this. I watched their board and district, along with many parents, teachers, and citizens, agonize over what each and every part of this decision would mean to the students in Christina.
The board voted in their September meeting they would not accept the Memorandum of Understanding (basically a contract) the DOE wanted them to sign. Doing so, the way it was written, would not guarantee protection for their teachers or school leaders. But when I went to these meetings, it wasn’t just about the teachers and leaders. It was about the students. I remember attending a teacher press conference before one of their meetings where I heard a teacher talk about James. James was a student Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy talked about at the first Wilmington City Council meeting. He described all the problems James had and why the priority schools would help him so much. Than a few months later, I heard a teacher’s more realistic version of James. How living in a city with a high rate of crime and violence can impact a student like James. How sometimes teachers would do his laundry because no one else would. And how malnourished James could be at times.
This was when I knew how much Christina truly cares about their students. In a way I don’t see with such compassion and caring. In the end, it came down to a resolution from an independent committee on education that saved Christina from signing over these schools to the DOE. But if this district didn’t have the heart and soul of putting students first, they would have signed that MOU right away. Instead, they formed groups to meet with true stakeholders: parents, members of the community, teachers, and administration, to find effective ways at helping these struggling students.
To the naysayers out there, I’m not sure why you don’t support students getting the supports they need. I’m not sure why you want children to be given an education in classrooms with over 30 students, one teacher, and no paraprofessional. As if many of these children didn’t suffer enough already with the stigma of being poor, you want to add to that suffering by cutting them off from what they need to get a good education? It’s $4.50 a week. Think about it. Everything goes up in price. But an extra $4.50 a week after five years to make sure your neighbor’s kid gets a good education is too much? Really?
I used to do mortgage loan originations, and when determining someone’s financial eligibility I would ask about property taxes. In some states, this is in the tens of thousands. Delaware has, with little exception, the lowest property taxes in the country. This is a benefit unparalleled in most of America. But our children need these funds to survive. Yes, survive. Most of them come from low-income, minority households. The special education population is higher than most districts. For many of these children, school IS their sanctuary. And you want to give them less? Please make the right decision tomorrow and vote yes for a district that cares deeply about their students lives and educational outcomes.