A Message For First State Liberty re: Christina Referendum

My number one question for the folks at First State Liberty: Do you pay the same amount for guns that you did twenty years ago?  I’m not asking this to be smart.  My reasoning is very simple: you pay for things every single day that cost more than it did five years ago, ten years ago, and twenty years ago.  Education is no different.  Perhaps you don’t have children in the Christina School District.  Perhaps you don’t want to pay taxes for schools your children don’t go to.  I can see your point with that.  But here’s the thing.  You pay taxes every single time you work.  You pay for programs that don’t affect anyone in your household.  Your state and federal taxes, which go up and down, go towards things I’m sure you don’t agree with.  But yet, you still pay them.  If not, you would go to jail.

You have a choice with a referendum.  You can say no.  That is certainly your right.  But I also have to believe that you care about children.  All children.  I’ve been to your website and how you completely blast the district as if it is your moral obligation to deny children the services they need.  I do take offense to that.  But you would also be surprised at something we agree on.  I know First State Liberty is against Common Core.  I know you didn’t support the opt out bill, House Bill 50, because parents already own that right.  What parents don’t own the right to, no matter how we may wish otherwise, is how to run a school district.  We can get involved, and do our best.  We can go to meetings (not just one or two before a referendum) and make our voices heard.  We can run for the district school board.  There are many ways to get involved.  I encourage all citizens to do that.

With Common Core and Race To The Top forced on every single Delaware school district and all charter schools, things changed in education.  Basically, Delaware took a $119 million dollar bribe from the US Government.  In exchange for a financial gift equal to approximately 3% of our education budget spread out over three years, offered to us during a recession, our Governor sold out Delaware education.  But the true crime didn’t stop there, because he allowed the Department of Education to keep half of it.  Meanwhile, he cut out reading programs that were actually working for our kids.  The results were disastrous.  Especially for a district like Christina.  When Christina did the same thing First State Liberty is doing now, speaking up about what has come to be seen as a failed program called the Delaware Talent Cooperative, the Delaware Department of Education took Christina’s Race To The Top money away.  For the sole reason that they dared to challenge big government.  Something your group has as their central theme.

As I’m sure you know, urban districts like Christina don’t tend to fare well overall on standardized tests.  These are not truly tests of a student’s achievement.  They are set up for children to do poorly on them.  They set the achievement levels at a point where it would be impossible for all students to score proficient.  As a result, Christina and Red Clay got the test, label and shame status thrown on them in the guise of “priority schools”.  Here is a newsflash for you: all school districts have high administrative costs.  Because of Race To The Top, districts had to hire people to oversee all of these programs that were forced on them.  As a result of Common Core implementation and changes to teacher evaluations, the pressure put on districts was greater than ever.  This happened with charter schools as well.  Some schools overcame these challenges.  They also tended to be schools that didn’t have as many low-income students, minority students, or students with disabilities.  These schools were given the spotlight while whole districts like Christina and Red Clay were given the “we are going to fix your horrible schools even if we have to take them over” treatment.  And all of this was based on the standardized test scores.  The ones that are now fully aligned with the same Common Core your group loathes.

But are you aware, or willing to share with your entire membership and on your robo-calls about the referendum, that the ratio of administrators to students results in Christina administrators overseeing more students than any other district in New Castle County?  These jobs you so desperately want to be gone or have their salaries shrunk, that are necessary based on the very mandates forced on them by the Delaware Department of Education…

From the CSD Paving The Way website:

Sometimes pictures say it better than words. For those who are concerned there are too many administrators in the Christina School District we decided to research the numbers and find out the ratio.
This is the student/ administrative staff ratio in a graphic format. In short, this shows that each administrator in the Christina School District is responsible for more students than any other district in the county.
Therefore, the misconception that there are too many administrators in this district is not true. Our number crunching based on DOE data shows that the Christina School District has the lowest number of administrators in New Castle County when compared with the number of students in the district.


Please note (as stated in the fine print on this image) this graph does NOT include student enrollment and administrator totals for the Delaware Autism Program or the Delaware School for the Deaf which would elevate those numbers.

Christina has cut admins and several teachers.  They are on bare bones.  If this referendum doesn’t pass, it has the potential of getting very ugly, very fast.  More cuts, more jobs gone.  And next year, you will be looking at the same thing only they will have to ask for MORE money in their referendum to make up for what they didn’t get from this one.  Guess what happens to all of you who live in the Christina School District?  Higher unemployment, your neighbor’s children not getting what they need to survive (yes, survive) in public education.  People won’t want to move to the Christina School District.  They will look on the Delaware DOE’s really horrible school report card and say “we shouldn’t move there”.  Without new people moving into the district, your property values will go down.  The equity you have built up over the years will slowly vanish.  Perhaps one of you will come to a new opportunity or crisis point in your life.  You may want to sell that home with the reduced equity.  How did that work out for you?

If you think Delaware school taxes are high, have you talked to anyone in Pennsylvania?  I’m pretty sure anyone in Chester, Montgomery, or Delaware County in Pennsylvania would laugh when you told them how much your school taxes are going up by.  Many folks in Maryland might say the same.  And both of those states have sales tax, something you have never paid in Delaware.

If we are going to go by figures from 2014, let’s take a look at these, from the Zero Hedge website:













What these figures don’t include are the portion of property tax that goes towards school taxes.  All are much higher in those states.  With this information clearly visible, I really have a hard time with your group’s efforts to squash referendums in our state.  But yet I don’t hear boo from First State Liberty about Markell giving more tax breaks to corporations while every single citizen in the state pays for it.  I didn’t hear anything from any of you when it was announced yesterday that Title I funding, which is supposed to help districts with low-income students, is going to wind up giving more for the state (aka, the DOE) to keep than the school districts will receive.

I think you have the right idea, wanting to curb expenses for citizens.  I have no problem with that.  But you have the wrong target.  Why isn’t the State of Delaware in your crosshairs?  Why aren’t you sending robo-calls to every Delawarean about the absolute corruption and fraud going on before our very eyes?  Is Christina just an easy target?  Step up your game.  Come to Legislative Hall when they are doing these corporate gift bills (and I’m sure there will be more by the time June 30th rolls around) and protest that.  But all you are doing now is hurting students.  Your numbers don’t add up and all the information is available to you if you really look for it.  But telling your followers that Christina is non-transparent is completely false.  The referendum has been talked about on the radio, in the News Journal, and in the local newspaper for well over a month.

I would seriously question where you are getting your information from and what the true motivations are here.  It’s very easy to rile up a crowd.  What isn’t easy is admitting you were wrong.  I saw the kind-of sort-of owning up to that on your website, but it was followed by “give us information now”.  My advice to you: if you really want to know what is happening with district funds, go to all their Citizen Budget Oversight Committee meetings.  Not just the one a week before a referendum.  Going to one meeting a year and complaining about transparency isn’t exactly what I would call a marketing strategy for your cause.  It’s like arriving late at a dinner party and getting upset all the food is gone.  But then you tell everyone there was no food!  Go to all their board meetings.  Find out what is going on.  Look at all their monthly financial reports.  If you are relying on Delaware DOE data, don’t be shocked if it isn’t exactly accurate.

In terms of the comparison between Christina to Smyrna School District letter, Christina gets more federal funds because there are more at-risk students.  Whoever read that financial document admits they don’t know the difference between local, state, and federal funds.  If a district has more at-risk students, they get more federal money.  The bigger a district is, the more admins you have.  As well, their properties are assessed at a higher rate in Smyrna than in Christina.  So that 2/3rds number?  It doesn’t exactly mesh with reality and solid math.  This isn’t rocket science.

You want to blame a district for what is clearly the state’s fault.  But in the end, all you are really doing is making it worse for the kids.  The future of Delaware.  The future of America.  Your kids.  Your grandkids.  If Christina loses with the referendum, the charters in the district lose as well.  They get their proportion of the local tax based on students in the district that go to their schools.  All you are doing is hurting the whole education system.  Who wins when we all lose?

I encourage all of you to look into your hearts and ask yourselves “What exactly are we fighting here?  Why are we going after David when Goliath is the one doing all this?”  These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.  First State Liberty and recipients of your robo-calls: Vote YES for the Christina referendum!




Published by

Kevin Ohlandt

I am a proud parent of a son with Tourette's Syndrome and several other co-morbidities. I write on this blog to educate other parents so they know a bit more about not only special education, but all the really bad things that are happening with public schools in Delaware and the USA. We are all in this together, and if our children aren't able to advocate for themselves it's up to us parents! We need to stop letting companies run our schools, and demand our children get a proper education. Our Departments of Education in our states have become weak with fear from the bullying US DOE, and we need to take back our schools!

33 thoughts on “A Message For First State Liberty re: Christina Referendum”

  1. Thank you Kevin for being honest. There will be no winners if the referendum does not pass. There are so many places for people to get involved and find out what is really going on. In fact, the more people become involved, the stronger the district I believe. I also believe, that until you are willing to get involved you have no right to criticize how things are going. If you don’t agree, show up and push for some changes! It’s not called “public” education for nothing! There’s room for everyone. I got involved because I questioned what happened last year and how things were handled. I found out that the need is real and it’s serious.

    I was at the Christina’s Honors District Band concert today and the whole time I was sitting there I kept thinking to myself two things:
    1. How amazingly talented our kids are!
    2. What will happen to all of this musical talent if the referendum doesn’t pass? Where will these kids express themselves because it won’t be as powerful or as profound as it was on that stage? I was blown away!

    And the music programs are but a small portion of what’s at stake.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Kevin! Well done!
    So many reasons to vote yes: help kids get the best education possible which benefits our district, state and nation , and the more personal gain is in increased value for your property because it will be more attractive to potential buyers because of a great school district, and of course the added plus to you knowing that you are helping build a smarter future.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kevin you swung for the fences on this and you connected. Well done, well done! Crafty Lady, I was at the concert today too! Talk about a showcase of talent! (How about that steel drum band?!)

    Thank you Kevin for speaking up for your neighbors to the north. It means a lot!


    1. So now your blaming your OWN Governor? What a joke. Why not jump on the fact that YOUR Governor is giving money every month to Bloom Energy, wow there is money right there, that could go into the schools! Or how YOUR Governor gave money to Fisker! He did this with NO incentive for them to succeed.

      And why do I say YOUR Governor? Because you voted for him!!


        1. Last time this went up for a vote (May 26, 2015) The Christina School District said; “The proposal would have raised taxes by 37 cents per $100 of assessed property value, to be phased in over three years. For the owner of the district’s average $64,000 property, that’s an increase of about $179.20 a year, or $14.93 a month.”

          I just received the “Communicator”. “This year the District is proposing a 30 cent increase per $100 of assessed property value for an increase of about $15 per month”

          Really, please try to explain that Brian or Kevin? Or is that the “Common Core” new math. This is a bunch of BS!! I appreciate you efforts in trying to show the fancy graphs, but explain this???

          Why give money to these liars????


          1. I can help with that Kevin. The average is just over $64,000. So we’ll use $64k for simplicity’s sake. Current operating rate is $1.42 per $100 assessed value. $64,000/100 = $640 x $1.42 = $908.80 current operating tax.

            $0.30 increase brings the rate to: $1.72 x $640 = $1,100.80

            $1,100.80-$908.80= $192 annual increase. $192/12=$16 per month.

            For last year in May, the ask was $0.37 phased in over 3 years. $0.28 in year one, $0.05 in year 2, $0.04 in year 3.

            The increase in year ONE last year would have equated to $14.93/month:

            Year One: $1.70 x $640 = $1,088 – $908.80 = $179.20 / 12 = $14.93

            The entire 3 year phase in would have been about $19.73 / month

            $1.79 x $640 = $1,145.60-$908.80=$236.80 / 12 = $19.73 per month over 3 years.

            We don’t lie. Check your facts before making accusations please.


  4. That’s right don’t want to be like any of the other states that’s why i’m voting against it. The results and quality of education is the problem, force Markells hand not the taxpayers if he’s to blame and he is to blame so is the D.O.E


    1. And with that solution, children lose. Children. Markell could give a crap what happens to any school district, much less Christina. Who is your state rep? Chances are pretty good they voted for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. And other bills that contributed to the complete downfall of education as we know it. But sure, let’s make children suffer. That is always a good plan…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. So your solution is to destroy local kids’ educations so some guy in Dover gets a “message”? Really? Is is that message “Look Jack, we’ll torpedo our own ship because of you! WON’T YOU FIX THIS?!”


  5. Typical politician, looking to get votes!!! Why not focus on the Dover area instead of taking money out of our pockets.


    1. I’m not sure who you are referring to as a politician, but I am not a politician. I just believe in public education and I don’t think children should suffer because people don’t want to pay more for public education, which is still much less than most other states.


  6. They are kind enough NOT to provide that information in the Communicator, because if they did. They wouldn’t get the votes!!!!


    1. But we include that info on our parent-run website: CSDpavingtheway.com and on our Facebook page. And we include it in all the stuff we’re handing out when we talk to people. And we include it when we get asked questions about it.

      You’re right, we’re totally trying to hide it. You caught us.


      1. Brian, I simply put the exact info that came from the Communicator, which came in the mail yesterday! So, someone is not giving out the correct info.
        The DOE is broken, fix the problem. What has the Christina SD done to cut costs? Let’s start there. Oh, it’s easier to raise taxes, than to make tough decisions. For example, this is from your Website:
        Restore School Budgets ~$1.5 Million
        General Supplies
        So, how does a school district run without a budget now??


        1. Anon, you are hopeless… There is a big difference between RESTORE and NO. To restore a budget, in financial terms, means bring it back to a level it once was. No budget means there is no money and the district shuts down. Why are you trying to find issues that aren’t there?


        2. Anon read my comment. The Communicator is correct. So is the info from last year when the necessary accompanying details are included for context.

          What has Christina done to cut costs? This district is pretty much bare bones. I can’t help it if you’re not paying attention to this District’s operations. You’re welcome to come sit in on any of our Citizens Budget Oversight Committee meetings to see exactly how well Christina manages it’s funds. I didn’t expect to be spoon fed info when I wanted to know how this all works. I got out there and learned it for myself.

          Kevin pretty much spoon fed you the definition of restore. School budgets were cut last year. 78 teachers were laid off, 14 paraprofessionals laid off. After school programs and transportation cut. $9million was taken out of the budget to balance it after the failed referenda.

          It’s EASIER to just raise taxes? What are you smoking? You think this is easy? I’m not happy about paying more taxes but I’m going to do it because these 15,553 kids deserve an education! This is our way of sticking it to DDOE and supporting the schools because they won’t!

          Easier to just raise taxes…I can’t even, Anon.


        3. What have they done to cut costs? Let’s see.. how about no new textbooks. You can copy what you need the kids to have, but be careful because you only get x-amount of copies per month and we are counting clicks! How about no Librarian in my son’s school, but he has to research and write his first “big” paper? Most of the sources could not come from the internet so they had to go to the library at school and one teacher helped over 35 kids locate what they needed. That took over 2 days out of the classroom. My son was lucky because I took him to the library on our own, but he missed two days of instructional time because of the fact that one teacher can’t be in two places at once. The Librarians were let go last year in the middle and high schools as part of the budget cuts. These are just the examples from the top of my head. I could come up with more if I spent time, but I have to get my kids ready for school to fight the battle this week that has been public education this year. I am weary to think how much worse it will get if we don’t pass this. My kids are suffering, so therefore I am. I will work a little extra (I already work between 50-60 hours/week) to pay a little extra if it means that my kids aren’t lost in the crowded classrooms with copied papers instead of books in their hand. But you are right about one thing, it is the political system in Dover and our state that funds our education system that is broken. But by not funding our kids, we aren’t going to fix that. Get out there and hound your representatives to make changes. Haul your butt down to Dover and make waves because that’s the only way things get changed. Until then, don’t make the kids suffer for an antiquated, broken system that they have no control over. I am working on trying to make change and so should you, but not by hurting the kids. Not by hurting my kids, please.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. “Delaware is one of the leading states in K-12 education spending and over the past six years has continued to increase per pupil spending.” Caesar Rodney Institute.

    “On average Delaware spent $13,833 per pupil in 2013, which ranked it 11th highest in the nation.” Ballotpedia https://ballotpedia.org/Public_education_in_Delaware

    AND, TA-DAH Our Governor is the 8th highest paid Governor in the United States!!!!

    We need to reduce the Governors salary, decrease the number of districts (thus eliminating waste at the top) and reduce the amount spent on each student!!


    1. Anon, we had 1 New Castle County district back in the day. Want to guess how manageable it was and how it turned out?

      Average expense per pupil is the most absurd statistic. There are 6 levels of educational need defined by DDOE. Our students with the most complex needs require the highest amount of support. This skews the average higher. In Christina for example, the actual average per general ed student (with no SpecEd needs) is just under $9,000 per student.

      Most people who claim waste at the top of school districts needs to be eliminated often can’t point to any particular position or role that should be eliminated or who would then assume the responsibilities for the job role that was cut. So, throw out some specifics Anon and we’ll see if it’s doable. General platitudes don’t help anything.


        1. Only in Delaware (I guess?) can we find people screaming for the gov’t to get out of the way, yet simultaneously demand they fix a problem…all the while voting against their own best interests by trying to undermine a school district. “Don’t pin it on us!” Seriously? These ARE *your* schools. You live in the community. Your comment was two lines, but contained endless contradictions.

          Anon, we’re capable of multitasking, you know. We can support our schools -AND- battle Dover at the same time.


          1. Brian:
            Respectfully, I appreciate your cause. Your fighting for your children’s education. You have made the choice to send your children to public schools. I also made the choice to send my children to private schools. Because we did not like the education of the public schools. All thru their schooling, we did fundraising, (this did not include going door to door or selling cookies or pizza). We volunteered in the library and during other events. We continue to support those schools, because they built a great foundation for our children’s future education.

            And, I checked my school taxes. EVERY year they have gone up!! So, I don’t know where the money is going or for what. But, apparently something in the CSD is NOT RIGHT!! Your fighting for a system, that is apparently misusing these funds!


          2. We do all of that for our kids too. But we can’t dump fundraiser money into the actual schools. So we rely on taxes. Telling me you respect my cause then tell me I’m too naive to actually understand what I’m fighting for? Our right is to send our kids to public schools. You made a choice to not avail yourself of that right on behalf of your children.

            You don’t quite know what the word respectfully means. I’m glad you put your kids through private school. There are a lot of us parents that can’t afford to do that so we rely on a public education system that has woefully misinformed people constantly attacking it because they don’t understand the financial side of it.

            Over 2 years I’ve sat on the budget Oversight Committee for this district and I can tell you without a doubt there’s no misuse here. How many budget reviews have you attended that have qualified you to attest funding misuse?

            Your school OPERATING TAX has not gone up every year. You need to look a little closer Anon. I’m happy to help you figure it out, and I mean that.


  8. Must be the Common core math. you could use your home as an example. Numerous people that I have checked with, have seen the same thing!


      1. Kevin:
        Stick with your own district. I asked Brian to show his taxes and you poke your nose into it. Stick with your own district, don’t be trying to raise my school taxes! Also, why should non-property owners have a right to vote, it’s a bunch of BS! Check your school property taxes, they HAVE gone up!

        Vote NO!!!!!!!!!


        1. Anon, this is Delaware. What happens today in Christina could very well affect the entire state. It could set a precedent for things to come. You want to live in the past 240 years ago when folks fought the British over taxing tyranny, be my guest. Me, I choose to live in the here and now. While also looking out for the future. I’m a futurist. I see the seeds being planted and what will bloom out of them. They aren’t beautiful flowers, they are dark and ugly vines, tangling up all that cross their growing limbs. I aim to put a stop to that. And you are helping it happen whether you realize it or not. So I will certainly stick my nose in it thank you very much.


          1. What a crock. It’s going to affect the entire State, cut me a break! Cape district, should not pass. They over built a High school and that didn’t go over real well. Brandywine wants special funds for Turf fields, really?
            CSD, last year they had advertising all over the place, this time their trying not to call too much attention to the vote, so hopefully, only the people who want the funds, vote for it.

            AND, I still have not seen your tax comparison……….


          2. Just because you ask me for something doesn’t mean I need to oblige you. And furthermore, the link you sent me is for New Castle County. I don’t live in New Castle County. So your boon is useless to me…


  9. “Enrollment in the district has been declining and school taxes have gone up over the last 5 years.”
    Brian Stephan-Delaware Liberal.


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