So, About Those Attorney Fees For The Charter Lawsuit…

Longwood Foundation

Who is the benefactor to the 15 charter schools suing the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education?  You know, the one where the almighty (or are they?) charter schools want more money?  Led and initiated by Newark Charter School who got fourteen other charters to follow suit.  Literally.  As in a lawsuit.  But they had a little problem they had to take care of first.  The damn attorney fees.

I imagine taking a case like this would involve a lot of prep work and discovery.  Saul Ewing, LLP is the law firm representing the fifteen charter schools in their lawsuit against the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education.  As the named parties are represented by their own counsel, the charters would have to be able to definitively prove their case.  Or at least a perception of their case.  That’s what attorneys do.  Make a jury or judge believe their side of the story, whether it is right or wrong.  It is always about the belief.  But who is paying Saul Ewing for this lawsuit?

Saul Ewing represents many charter schools in Delaware.  The lead attorney on this case used to be the President of the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education.  He was there when the original Delaware charter school law was written in 1995.  Some would say it was his own idea.  But William Manning needed a legislator to pull it off.  Someone who was young and impressionable and able to flex just enough political muscle to get it done.  Enter Delaware Senator David Sokola.  The man who just won yet another term in the Delaware Senate in a very close race with Republican Meredith Chapman.  He also helped in the creation of Newark Charter School.  At one point he sat on their Board of Directors.  Sokola is the master of spin with Delaware education.  Which is only fitting since he is also a certified instructor for spinning classes!

Up until recently, David Sokola worked for DuPont.  Some of the oldest money in Delaware.  Centuries of political clout and the wherewithal to make things happen in Delaware.  They got Jack Markell into power along with many others.  They also created the colored schools in Delaware that the federal courts got rid of over fifty years ago.  But DuPont began the Longwood Foundation years ago.  They have been a fervent and financial supporter of charter schools in this state.  They are also paying for the bulk of the attorney fees in the charter school lawsuit.  Bet you didn’t know that!

On election night, I happened to be in a position where I saw a very top-ranking Republican official in Delaware openly cheer when Dave Sokola beat Meredith Chapman.  To put this in perspective, had Chapman won the Senate seat, the Republicans would now be in control of the Delaware Senate.  But this top-ranking official who was happy about Sokola’s victory seems to think that isn’t important.  It says the party really doesn’t matter in the game of corporate education reform.  The politicians are just the puppets and the corporations are the puppet masters.

The original goal of charter schools was they were supposed to be models of innovation for school districts.  That has not happened.  Not even close.  With the election of Donald Trump, the charter school question will get louder.  The teacher unions, parents, and supporters of public education will need to Trump’s $20 billion dollar plan for new charter schools.  But here in Delaware, the issue will be muddied by the 15 charter schools suing the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  I hope other issues come up, like why charter schools are allowed to keep the funds that exceed what they spend on transportation.  Every year, in the epilogue of the state budget, there is this “charter school transportation slush fund” for charters.  Say they budget a million for transportation, but they only spend $800,000.  They get to keep that other $200,000.  While not every charter has benefited from this free gift, most have.  But they want to complain about Christina using referendum funds for their own district?  And they pull in the Longwood Foundation, Saul Ewing, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network to help them out in a lawsuit?  Completely ridiculous.  And who are their legislative cheerleaders?  Sokola, obviously.  But there are others I’m sure.  You just have to follow the bread crumbs around Newark Charter School.

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