Exclusive: Pending Legislation Would Give Delaware School Boards MORE Authority To Raise Taxes Without Referendum

A bill is circulating among Delaware legislators that would give school boards more power with raising taxes.  In my view, this is just another way to shift state funding to local school boards.  The bill hasn’t even been given a number yet and it is important to know it is only in circulation, which means State Rep Earl Jaques is looking for sponsors.  I heard, through that infamous Delaware grapevine, that Senator David Sokola is on board.  Funny how Sokola didn’t mention this at all at the Education Forum the other night.  The pending bill is dated 5/11/2017 and given that Sokola is the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, he would definitely know about this.

I said it yesterday, and I’ll say it again: watch out for stealth legislation coming out between now and June 30th that will most likely tick a lot of people off.  The Delaware Education Hunger Games just went up to a new unbelievable level!

Updated, 2:52pm: State Rep. John Kowalko just released the following statement about this bill in circulation:

In one of the most blatant attempts to shift the blame and the costs for the irresponsible and destructive $37 million cuts to public education, Senator Sokola and Representative Jaques, chairs of the Senate and House Education committees, are circulating legislation that purports to enable local school boards to fund rather than cut a number of necessary programs. The elimination of these programs, due to the proposed funding cuts, will spell disaster for the children, educators and public school districts. This bill is a blatant attempt to shirk the Legislature’s responsibility to adequately fund public education and seek the necessary revenue to do so. The taxpayers should not overlook the additional fact that the proposed $37 million in cuts will not include $6 million that is left to the charter schools to fund these same programs. The prime sponsors of this proposed legislation, who have been less than aggressive supporters of equal treatment and funding between charter schools and traditional schools, instead seem to feel that the public will find tax increases imposed by a volunteer (unpaid) board of elected citizens as palatable. I imagine that another benefit will be to disguise and hide the fact that the General Assembly is abdicating its responsibility and authority to raise revenue for public services not to mention that any school board choosing to use such authority would probably doom the chances of success for any future referendums, regardless of their legitimacy. 

Rep. John Kowalko

Delaware Chancery Court Judge Rules Red Clay Violated Election Clause But Will Not Have To Redo 2015 Referendum

Vice-Chancellor Laster, a Chancery Court for the State of Delaware judge, finally ruled on the Red Clay referendum lawsuit.  The very long ruling, clocking in at 186 pages, blasts Delaware’s antiquated method of property tax assessment and delves deep into education funding as a whole for the state of Delaware.

The final ruling, issued today, found fault with Red Clay for going over the line with their Parent Events at 23 Red Clay schools during their February 2015 referendum.  But he also stated that the entire referendum process is one of great pressure for school districts and individuals in those situations can dance around what is wrong or right.  He found they did not act with intended malice but for the public good since referendum results in the positive bring public schools money to fund them.  As a result, he ruled against Red Clay redoing the entire referendum and refunding taxes already paid from it.

The lawsuit was filed by an elderly couple and their daughter through the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union.  The plaintiffs claimed they were not able to vote because of inadequate parking due to the parent events staged to bring in positive votes for the referendum.

The ruling suggests no referenda in Delaware would ever have to take place if properties were assessed based on current home values.

This is an amazing read if you are at all interested in current education funding in Delaware.  With Colonial facing a must-pass referendum or several teachers and educators will be let go, this decision could have a major bearing on any events they might be planning for their 2nd referendum attempt this year in the beginning of June.

This will be a big question for future referenda in Delaware.  Does this ruling set a precedent for all referenda that no events can be held at schools during a referendum?

Big Year For Charter Renewals Coming: Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori, Sussex Academy & Thomas Edison

Five Delaware charter schools will go through their charter renewal process next Fall.  The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Office had what I am sure was a huge task of sending out reports to the schools.  Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori Academy, Sussex Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School are all up for renewal.  With any charter school renewal, the DOE goes through everything: Academics, Financial, and Organizational.  No stone is left unturned.  With five charters and all three Delaware counties represented in these renewals, the public hearings will be everywhere.  But it looks like the Charter School Office has planned ahead and scheduled different public hearings on different days.  Last year, there was only one charter school (Academy of Dover) that went through the renewal process.  There would have been two but Prestige Academy opted to close their doors at the end of this school year.

In reviewing the below renewal reports and the charter schools responses to those reports, I didn’t have any alarm bells going off.  I do have concerns about the demographics of two of these schools, First State Montessori Academy and Sussex Academy.  At least one of these schools has some financial issues that seem to have flown under the radar for a long time now.  Hopefully more will come out during this process.  And one of them, I strongly suspect but can’t prove…yet, has a secret going all the way back to the origin of their school…

Here are all the schools renewal reports from the Charter School Office, their responses, and the timeline issued by the Charter School Office for this mammoth process:

Academia Antonia Alonso:

Early College High School

First State Montessori Academy

Sussex Academy

Thomas Edison Charter School

Charter School Renewal Timeline:

 

Matt Denn Letter Rips NCS 5 Mile Radius and HS1 For House Bill 85 But Is Unable To Offer Official Legal Opinion

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn responded yesterday to State Reps. Potter, Bolden and Kowalko’s request for a legal opinion on the constitutionality of HS1 for House Bill 85.  Denn offered valid legal reasons why he was unable to offer a legal opinion, but that he also agrees with the Enrollment Preferences Task Force recommendations for not having the 5 mile radius to begin with and believes all students within a district should be given preference to choicing into a charter school in the same district.