Why Christina Is Very Different Than The Other Wilmington School Districts: Special Education

Christina School District, Special Education

I heard a lot of comments in the past 24 hours about Christina School District’s bloated administrative costs and their higher cost per pupil.  While that may be true, did anyone bother to check why that is true?  I did, and it took five minutes to figure out what all the naysayers were unable to do.  I actually posted this in a comment on another blog earlier: https://criblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/whats-next-for-christina-school-district/#comment-3511

As for the difference in funding between Red Clay and Christina, there is a HUGE difference between one portion of their populations: special education. Based on national estimates of extra costs per special education student in America, it works out to be about $9,369 extra per student. Red Clay has 11.9% special education whereas Christina has 17.9%. If you multiply the number of students by those percentages, and then multiply that number by that average special education cost, it works out like this:

Red Clay: $22,635,504 in special education funding
Christina: $33,237,473 in special education funding

Now these are based on national averages. We all know Delaware has some of the highest per-pupil funding in the country. So that nearly 11 million dollar difference is probably about 18-25% higher. As well, Christina has the Delaware School for the Deaf, as well as many of Delaware’s DAP programs. These are not inexpensive programs, and that constitutes a lot of the differences between the two districts. This is something that would also cause additional administrative costs as there would have to be a lot of coordination with other state agencies.

So what these voters who said “No more” essentially did was cut services for many special education kids. That’s why I take such offense at the attitudes of some of these folks who voted no. While I’m sure they believed in what they were saying, I don’t think they realized this essential fact.

I’ve said this time and time again but far too many don’t want to get it.  The key to so many of the problems in Delaware stem around special education.  I wrote the other day how there are probably 20% of Delaware’s students that should be on an IEP, but only 13% actually are.  I also said this is about 50% of the problems with education in the state.  You can read about a classic example along with the comments about how special education doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room it has become in so many of our schools.  Maybe now eyes will start to open.  As for Christina, they have to figure out where to take funds away from and which jobs to cut.  And who suffers the most, the students.  And in Christina’s case, a whole lot of special education students…

9 thoughts on “Why Christina Is Very Different Than The Other Wilmington School Districts: Special Education

  1. Sounds like the state needs to come in and do an audit of DSD, since Delaware has several times the number of deaf and hard of hearing students in a special school compared to the national average. The costs are nearly double what New Jersey reports for a similar sign based program, there are nearly as many staff as students, and they were proposing to charge districts over $3700. per month, per student, for something as little as a monthly consult because the state does not permit an MOU that uses a fee for service structure. Pay attention. There is an extreme imbalance and Delaware as a state has permitted it. $103.000.00 per student taxpayer burden is outrageous! Especially when one considers that some of those enrollees were merely from families who got sold on the need to attend the school by early interventionists. Of course these early teachers go under the misleading name “statewide programs” but are employed by the School For the Deaf agency with the same funding stream and administration. Their actions have left little doubt about their motives for maintaining school enrollment numbers and supporting a sign language based school culture. This school path and culture is extremely important and valuable for a few, even today. However students with mild, moderate, and even one sided hearing loss, as well as families seeking integrated school placement are getting directed to DSD. DSD/ Statewide staff have been certain to dominate meetings and task forces to keep this dynamic going. The Listening and Spoken Language Option that concerned citizens worked so hard to create is left out of family option discussions. With today’s early identification and vastly improved technology innovations in hearing aids and cochlear implants, as well as proven benefits of inclusion for about 90% of children with hearing loss,, it is inconceivable that automatic referrals to this program are still tolerated as the accepted norm in this state. Bring on the audit please! Classes of 35 for regular education, and classes of 2 for segregated special education.- Neither should be acceptable.


    1. Eileen, you bring up many good points. I still remember you talking about these kind of issues at a GACEC meeting last year. Has nothing changed since that meeting?


  2. CSD certainly does have a high number of special education students, as does the state. It’s certainly possible that, as you claim, the number could be much higher than 13% – perhaps 20% or more.

    However, it could also be much lower. Plenty of studies indicate that we tend to over classify minority students with some form of special education – whether that is a 504 or IEP. About 70% of CSD’s student population is composed of minority students whereas RCSD is about 55%. Assuming that over classification of minority students is true, then it’s pretty reasonable to imagine that such large populations of minority students would skew up the percentage of special education students for those districts, especially for Christina.

    This is more just food for thought than anything else. There are certainly plenty of problems in the state with special education.


    1. Yes there are, and I don’t understand why the DOE and the State Board of Education don’t do more about it. I’m not going to go with lower figures on special education. That’s a very dangerous road to walk on, especially in this day and age. Things aren’t like when I was a kid. Our actual DNA has been altered in such a way that we have more children with disabilities than ever. It’s why Autism is rising, and other disabilities like Tourette Syndrome and Asperger’s is on the rise as well. For minority and low-income students, studies have also shown that they are more likely to have special education needs, be it learning disabilities or neurological disabilities. The Exceptional Children’s Group needs to stop sending parents to the mediator at Univ. of DE. That is not a solution. They need to do more than check for 17 Federal indicators on a five year audit schedule. They also need to stop trying to get “standards based IEPs” going. By the time any of the schools or districts finally get used to it, Common Core will be gone. They need to get into these schools and find out what the hell they are doing. They should be looking at all IEPs until special education stops becoming more of a problem than a help.


  3. So, CSD can’t claim any ownership of spec ed kids in Dap and Dsd. These programs operate as separate agencies. De code has encapsulated the operations within CSD, however, each child served by these programs is funded through the tuition tax levied by their home district. CSD in conjunction with doe issues the bills, including CSD billing itself for any CSD students served at these programs. So, at best CSD can only claim the spec ed costs of their own students attending these schools.


  4. Ditto to Elizabeth. CSD isn’t paying for “other district’s special ed students”-we are billed rather heartily for the services–and can’t negotiate nor question some of those unexpected increases in charges without explanation. It’s the only game in town sometimes, and holds the upper hand.


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