Are Red Clay’s Administrative Costs Out Of Control?

Red Clay Consolidated School District

A gentleman by the name of Jack Wells, a frequent commenter on Kilroy’s Delaware, has been hammering at Red Clay Consolidated School District for years over their administrative costs.  He makes my charter school financial stuff look weak in comparison!  I tend to focus on the Department of Education’s finances, but one of the major complaints I hear in Delaware is how administrative costs are out of control.  Every school district and charter school in Delaware should have a Jack Wells looking out for these types of things.

What has Mr. Wells upset right now?  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan.  More specifically, the clause indicating the Red Clay board may raise taxes without a referendum…


  1. Chart 1 shows total state, federal and local funds received by the district during the period 2006/07 through 2013/14 as reported by our State’s Department of Education.  {Excludes 2 special schools.}
  2. Chart 2 shows the same information for the period 2006/07 through 2015/16, figures for 2015/16 were taken from the districts 2015/16 Budget. {DDOE has not published revenue information since 2013-2014.}


%                                                   %

State        Total          Fed             Local        Total       Total

116,745,319  54.82    14,604,025   81,607,040   38.32  212,956,384  2013/14

113,643,134  62.06    11,867,910   57,580,215   31.44  183,091,259  2006/07

3,102,185  10.38      2,736,115   24,026,825   80.45    29,865,125  Total Increase


119,089,298   53.44   11,747,926   92,107,040   41.33  222,844,264  2015/16

113,643,134   62.06   11,867,910   57,580,215   31.44  183,091,259  2006/07

5,446,164   13.70  {-} 219,984   34,526,825   86.85    39,753,005  Total Increase


These charts show that in 2006-2007 the state provided 62.06% of the revenue and the property owners provided 31.44%, eight years later the state was providing only 53.44 percent, property owners 41.33%, and the districts delinquent school taxes had skyrocketed. During this period the state cut funding to our schools while continuing to fund overhead in our districts and DDOE. The fact are clear, funding overhead is a priority over funding our schools.

In 2014 after property owners provided the district an additional $24,026,825, that represented 80.45 percent of the total increase in revenue.  The Board than told community, if you do not approve increasing your current operating tax rate by 19.97 percent, we will have to terminate teachers, paraprofessionals, activities, etc.,  To prevent these cuts, the community approved increasing the tax rate, than the board voted to deny property owners the right to vote to raise the tax rate.

Chart two includes the additional $10.5 million received this year as a result of the rate increase, since the increased tax rate will be phrased in over 3 years, local revenue with continue to increase. Since the referendum was approved, the district built a new 600 student K-5 school, regular and special enrollment student declined, regular units decreased while special education Div. I Units increased. {Chart below shows changes in enrollment and units.}

Regular      Units   Special  Units

Enrollment  Earned  Needs  Earned

14,364        777       2175      309     2014

13,925        752       2169      321     2016

{-}439   {-}  25     {-}  6        12

When property owners provide 86.85 % of the total increase in revenue, and the Board still has insufficient revenue to provide funding for ELL and low income children, the board has a major problem.  Rather than doing a review on how and where funds were being used by program, and than allocating funding by priority, the WEIC, the board and the boards Community Financial Review Committee recommended doing away with referendums and authorizing the board to raise taxes.  NOW THAT IS A SLAP IN THE FACE TO THE PROPERTY OWNERS, SHOCKING.

I strongly oppose providing the Red Clay School Board authority to raised local taxes without a referendum and wonder why after the property owners provided 86.85% of all the additional revenue, they determined it was necessary to do away with referendums. NOW THAT IS VERY TROUBLING. 

Jack Wells

As a taxpayer, I would find this very troubling.  Charter school and DOE finances are tough enough to figure out, but Mr. Wells brings up many valid points concerning district funds and spending.  I know Christina had to make a lot of sacrifices when their referendums didn’t pass last year.  Teachers lost jobs or were sent to other schools.  Some board members even turned in their district-paid cell phones last summer.  But I also know there are several districts with folks making over $100,000 across the state.  If the Every Student Succeeds Act actually does give more state and local control and less fed mandates, does this mean there would no longer be a need for so much district administration?  Or would it actually increase?  Dare I actually crack the yolk of district funding?  I think Brian Stephan from Delaware Liberal (who is on the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee in the Christina School District) and Jack Wells should hold a forum on district spending!

I plan on sharing a lot of Mr. Well’s material (with his permission) since it is so brilliant!  What do you think?  I would love to hear from some district admins, especially in Red Clay, about their side of this.  It is a conversation that is not going to go away.  One big takeaway I have from all this is that Jack Markell can talk education all he wants, but in his administration, the percentage of funding to education has actually gone down percentage-wise.  Jack Markell likes to talk big, but he leaves it up to the districts and yes, even the charters, to carry more of the financial burden for his (not-so) moments of brilliance.

10 thoughts on “Are Red Clay’s Administrative Costs Out Of Control?

  1. Just be careful. Sometimes the numbers hide reality. I agree that the information is great to have, and I made it onto a listserv from him that has been very interesting. I save all those emails. But last year one thing that became very apparent was the falsehood of this stubborn insistence that Christina has more administrators than other districts when in reality Christina has special programs that require administrators at a higher level than normal. Just be careful.


  2. “These charts show that in 2006-2007 the state provided 62.06% of the revenue and the property owners provided 31.44%, eight years later the state was providing only 53.44 percent, property owners 41.33%, and the districts delinquent school taxes had skyrocketed. During this period the state cut funding to our schools while continuing to fund overhead in our districts and DDOE. The fact are clear, funding overhead is a priority over funding our schools.”

    This is not exclusive to Red Clay. All northern DE school districts have had their share of state funding shrink year after year. Christina’s state share was over 60% in the time frame Mr. Wells references. Now it’s below 55% on average. He’s not describing district financial mismanagement he’s describing the State slowly removing its responsibility to provide education for our kids.

    The increasing share of public education costs being borne by residents isn’t the disease, it’s a symptom. Public school enrollment is increasing in this state, and the state continues to reduce the amount it pays for education, leaving district taxpayers to foot the rest. It’s an irreparably broken funding system (the aforementioned disease) and we need a new one.

    Also, districts in New Castle County rely on the County to collect delinquent tax payments. Kent and Sussex use the Courts of Chancery. Delinquent school taxes usually aren’t high on the County’s priority list.

    As far as referenda go, I think they need to be done away with as well. Not right away, but eventually. I think forcing districts to essentially live and die on one vote every 3-5 years is ridiculous. I think allowing Boards to adjust operating taxes to account for inflation without referendum is acceptable, but any major increases for new projects or initiatives and whatnot should still go to referendum.


    1. I know Race To The Top, which provided $119 million in Federal funding but less than half went to the actual school district, created a great deal of administrative costs for districts. Without knowing the actual demographics in great detail, would it be safe to assume Red Clay has greater wealth among its residents over Christina, thus they would receive more in local funding?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The reason I ask: I used to live in Newtown, PA. This is a VERY WEALTHY area. Their school district, Council Rock, gets bucketloads of cash from school taxes. Twenty years ago, the average teacher pay was $100,000.00. I always thought that was insane. While no district in Delaware has that kind of money, do areas like Hockessin have more wealth in them?


  3. That’s absolutely not a safe assumption to make Kevin. Median household income in both Red Clay and Christina are quite similar. Additionally, while Christina has marginally higher % low income students, Red Clay still has over 1/3 of their students coming from low income backgrounds. Remember, market price of your home today has absolutely zilch to do with what it’s tax assessment is: property worth in 1983 dollars in New Castle County. (think of what $1 got you in 1983, and what $1 gets you now) Assessments on Hockessin properties probably aren’t what you might be thinking they are.


    1. That makes sense. I forgot about the whole outdated “gotta go with numbers when Come On Eileen was #1 on the charts” property assessment deal. If they made school districts as equitable as senate and state rep districts, maybe that would solve the problem! Or not…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I should also add Delaware is one of the few states where a majority of education funding actually comes from the State. Our neighboring states rely heavily on local taxes to pay for their education systems with exceptions typically being in your major metropolitan areas (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, etc).


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