We haven’t seen a new Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting bill in a few weeks. This one actually made me laugh. Not only does it re-summarize the last bill but it also guarantees funding (for future General Assemblies to make sure the funding is there) for what WEIC will give Red Clay if the House Joint Resolution passes. How much more legislation does this thing need? And people said opt out took up a lot of time last year! But the key part of this is the clause at the end which talks about “encouraged, but not required”.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that this would eventually give basic special education funding throughout the state to all kids in Kindergarten to 3rd grade. But here is the big question: will the rest of the districts and charters get a curve on the 3rd grade Smarter Balanced Assessment because they don’t have this funding yet? This whole WEIC thing is supposed to about righting wrongs and equity, right? So here we go, once more, setting up inequity to address equity.
What is this whole part about “school districts are encouraged, but not required, to match up to 30 percent of said funding.” Right there you are saying the state will only give about 77% of the funding for these high-needs kids. What if the districts don’t feel so encouraged to provide that funding? Will the state pony up the rest or is it just a “too bad, so sad” kind of situation? And that is in the synopsis. In the actual House Bill 425 legalese part all it says is “recommendations on resources”. There is nothing in the actual law that states this 30% language. And doesn’t this bill ignore the part in the WEIC redistricting plan that states all New Castle County schools would have all this funding in the next few years? That doesn’t sound like one a year. And how do charter schools fit into this funding mechanism? When do they get these extra funds? I like State Rep. Stephanie Bolden, and I think she has a very big heart. But everyone is bending over backwards to get the redistricting plan passed, we now have three pending bills our General Assembly will have to pass in their next six legislative sessions in order for this thing to move forward. This monster keeps growing more limbs! This “once in a lifetime chance” has more stakes in it than a beer tent at Firefly…
At least now we know what this three county thing is that Larry Nagengast mentioned a few weeks ago. But what the hell? You can’t write laws with words like “encouraged but not required”. It gives all of them an in or an out. How can we talk about equity when there is a choice for some to take part and some not to? They are either ALL IN or ALL OUT, no squeezing through the cracks here. And, oh yeah, where is this NEW money coming from? You know, the funding that would go to Indian River and Capital. I didn’t see that in the budget. We have 21 days left until June 30th. Expect fireworks!
In the meantime, I want to put up “encouraged, but not required” in the 2016 Hall of Fame along with “shall vs. may”…
In December of 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware and the Delaware Community Legal Aid filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education. The complaint was against the State of Delaware and the Red Clay Consolidated School District. The allegations in the complaint were around how the state and Red Clay, as charter school authorizers, allowed charters to develop segregation and discriminatory practices in their enrollment. Almost three months later, after the ACLU gathered information from people around the state, they submitted the information to the Office of Civil Rights in their regional Philadelphia office. Since then, their has been no official resolution on the matter.
Back in February, the Racial Justice Program of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation based out of New York reached out to the Office of Civil Rights for a status update. This is what they received back:
None of the charter schools listed in the complaint officially changed any of their admissions policies as a result of this. The Delaware Enrollment Preferences Task Force submitted their final report to the General Assembly shortly before the holidays last year, and not one piece of legislation has come out to address the issues. There is still a great amount of inequity in some Delaware charters compared to their neighboring school districts. I find it ironic both the Delaware DOE and the US DOE are so concerned about civil rights groups when it comes to high-stakes testing and how opt out could bring us back to “dark days” as some have put it. But when it comes to visible and transparent discrimination and segregation, the one office in the federal Government who could actually do something about it is sitting on it.
In looking at the OCR website at ed.gov there have been OCR complaints filed and resolved after the Delaware ACLU and Delaware Community Legal Aid filed their complaint. One was filed in September of 2015 and received a resolution in February of this year. The only cases showing from Delaware involved ones with Colonial School District, PolyTech and Family Foundations Academy from 2014. The longstanding Christina OCR resolution doesn’t show on the list because it only counts resolutions from 2013 and up.
I don’t see civil rights groups in Wilmington screaming about this. Why is that? When it comes to education and segregation, this is a shining example. Why are they so quiet on this issue but will say they know Smarter Balanced is a bad test but it is the only measurement for minority students to know if they are succeeding or not compared to their peers? I have to wonder how much influence the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell may have in making this drag out. Or possibly even higher up than them. Are any of our Delaware congressmen following up on this? John Carney? Tom Carper? Chris Coons? Or how about even Delaware’s own Vice-President Joe Biden? I’m certain this isn’t a resolution the Delaware Charter Schools Network wants to come out any time soon.
We need to rally civil rights groups on issues like this and not ones about opposition of parent opt out of high-stakes tests. I am calling on ALL Civil Rights groups to hammer the Office of Civil Rights office in Philadelphia, phone number (215) 656-8541, to make sure they are not stalling on this very important case.
Thank you to Richard Morse, Esq. for the Delaware ACLU in responding to my request to his office for information and allowing me to publish the response from the Office of Civil Rights.