Tony Allen: Lawsuit Coming If We Don’t Fix Wilmington Schools

Tony Allen issued a stern warning about Wilmington schools.  He said a lawsuit is coming soon if we don’t fix it.

Last Wednesday evening, the Progressive Democrats of Delaware held a panel on Delaware education funding.  The panelists were myself, Tony Allen (the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission), Brian Stephan (on the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee), and State Rep. Paul Baumbach.

The main emphasis of the panel was to discuss the pros and cons of implementing a weighted funding system for Delaware schools.  In this type of system, students with higher needs would have more money allocated to them.  These would include low-income students, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.  For the last, this already takes place with the exception of basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

All the panelists were in agreement that the system we have is not working at all.  While I don’t necessarily have an issue with a weighted funding system, the devil is in the details.  But beneath the surface, as I stated towards the end of the panel, is the huge elephant in the room concerning accountability.  Not for standardized tests but where money is currently going.  There is no viable mechanism in Delaware to ensure the funds we are using in public education are truly going to the needs of students.  Our state auditor is supposed to audit every single traditional school district for all expenses, but when was the last time we saw one of those reports unless it was part of an official audit inspection?  There is no consistency with where funds are going.  There are so many sub-groups of payment allocations with many overlapping each other.  It is a beast to understand.  Coding expenses in definitive places is a must, but no one seems to want to address that at a state level.  It is my contention that throwing more money into the system is a recipe for disaster.

Say the advocates for better education in Wilmington schools do file a lawsuit.  What would the result be?  The feds have made important decisions in the past that put temporary band-aids on the issues but eventually the situation with “failing schools” comes up again and again.  The definition of a “failing school” is now tied to standardized tests.  It is the heart of all accountability in public education.  But it fails to address the issues facing students of poverty, spoken languages that are not English, and disabilities that are neurologically based.  The “one size fits all” mentality, which the Delaware Dept. of Education is still pushing in their first draft of the Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, doesn’t work.

Tony Allen told the group he was disappointed the WEIC Redistricting Plan didn’t pass in the General Assembly.  He said, without hesitation, that he fears a lawsuit will have to happen to truly address the issues facing Wilmington students.  He did concede that one of the biggest issues facing WEIC was not having representation from Kent and Sussex counties in the group.  This was something I advised WEIC about in public comment at their very first meeting in August of 2015.  It was also why I didn’t go to as many meetings as I could have.  But will a federal lawsuit fix Wilmington schools?

In my opinion, the biggest problem in Delaware education among high-needs students is a problem no judge, accountability system, General Assembly, or any advocate can fix: hopelessness.  In our biggest cities in the state, and reaching out into the suburbs and rural areas, is a drug problem of epic proportions.  And with African-American youth, that comes with a potential of joining a gang.  Until that problem is fixed, we will continue to spin our wheels trying to fix education.  We can have after-school programs and more guidance counselors in our schools.  That will help, but it will NOT solve the problem.  I don’t have the answer to that.  I don’t know who does.  But until we can fix that problem, making our schools the penicillin for the disease facing our state will not get to the heart of the issue.  With the drugs and gangs come extreme violence and people getting shot in the streets.  This “be tough or die” mentality is the deadliest issue facing Delaware.  And when those issues come into our schools, that is when education gets put in the bulls-eye of blame.

I have no doubt, at some point, Tony Allen, Jea Street and others will file some huge lawsuit against the State of Delaware.  And many will look towards a judge to solve all our problems.  It won’t.  Until we get really tough on hopelessness, we will fail.

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10 thoughts on “Tony Allen: Lawsuit Coming If We Don’t Fix Wilmington Schools

  1. To answer my own question: A lawsuit would most likely seek to find student rights are being violated in some way, and the court could impose a deadline for the state to come up with a remedy.

    My point is, depending on how the lawsuit was drawn and how the conclusion is worded, is the current WEIC plan the remedy? Probably not.

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  2. Tony Allen, please stop blaming the state for a problem that is all rooted in the black community. When you have a community that acts like a bunch of animals in the streets, what the hell do you expect in the schools?

    Anyone who thinks a lawsuit will fix this is just as stupid as Tony and his cronies.

    Until society changes, the schools will not.

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  3. Key to any remedy is willingness on the part of all stakeholders in Dover to agree to alter the current education funding formula. The current equalization formula is ‘frozen’. Some kind of weighted funding recipe is what the courts would likely mandate.

    Without any political will, Dover won’t lift a finger to start a statewide property reassessment process which would go a long way to help free up more education dollars.

    The video of the panel discussion will be posted ASAP on the PDD YouTube channel. I will send you a link.

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  4. WEIC has not answered the question, is Wilmington willing to be responsible for its own district, that they control, or do they want to parasite the entire City on the backs of a few Suburban land owners?
    There is only one solution. In order to establish a Wilmington District, Brandywine must be tapped to take the Far East side City students. This would make Red Clay and Brandywine equal with about 5000 City students each. This would help by eliminating the extreme busing by allowing Brandywine to cover the entire Eastside. A five year limit should be in place to setup a Wilmington District before both Districts reunite the City students in their own District under their own control. At that time the two Suburban Districts could merge.
    Currently, Red Clay, a Priority District, is overwhelmed with special needs students and no vision. The Vo Tech schools should become the model for the new Districts, just as the Charter schools have become vocation based. An entire industry of option schools, like Independence School, has been created to provide the education we should expect in our Public Schools.

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  5. I would love to just once see advocates for additional funding also advocate for additional accountability. How does it make any sense to write a bigger blank check with no accountability for results? Show me any process without proper controls and I’ll show you a process that is both inefficient and ineffective.

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    1. At the panel I spoke at last week, I advised everyone that before we go dumping more money into education, we need more accountability for how current funds are spent, which means the state needs to set up a uniform and consistent coding system for where each dollar goes. But I know you are talking about accountability in the academic sense. If that accountability is tied to state assessments, I don’t subscribe to that point of view. I believe the work students are doing all year long should be a better reflection. Is the student ready to go on to the next grade? If not, don’t let them pass. It does the student, teachers, school, and society a tremendous disservice.

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    2. And if I could add, I truly don’t believe the full-scale ed tech invasion will help that issue. I’ve already heard reports of students being told their unit test will be “open iPhone”. Students will wise up to that real fast and won’t learn anything.

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