Proposal Floating To Have State Board Use Charter Performance Framework For Potential State Takeover Of School Districts

State Takeover of School Districts

All hell broke loose at Smyrna High School’s auditorium tonight.  The Chair of the School District Consolidation Task Force talked about a recommendation for state takeover of struggling school districts.

State Representative Earl Jaques, as the Chair of the School District Consolidation Task Force, dropped the mother of all bombs at the latest meeting tonight.  When going over all the sub-committee reports, Jaques discussed potential proposals for the task force to discuss moving forward.  He brought up how the state holds charter schools accountable based on their Performance Framework.  He said a proposal from one of the Structure Sub-Committee meetings dealt with a proposal to give the State Board of Education the authority to have the charter Performance Framework for traditional school districts and if a district (not a school) did not meet those performance benchmarks they could be eligible for state takeover.  Another option could be to have that struggling district merge with another district.

This caused most of the task force members in attendance to collectively say “that wasn’t in the minutes” or “I attended all of those meetings and that was never discussed”.  At first Jaques said it was at one of the meetings in Seaford but then “remembered” it was at a meeting in Cape Henlopen.  Even with that, DSEA Executive Director

Jeff Taschner said he was at all the Structure Subcommittee meetings and never remembered that talking point.  I was sitting next to Taschner who was taking diligent notes over everything discussed at the meeting tonight.

As I am a member of the finance sub-committee, I also sit on the full task force.  I asked Jaques for more clarification on this potential recommendation.  He said it has been discussed with the State Board of Education President, Dr. Dennis Loftus, who is on board with this potential future, according to Jaques.  I told him I am vehemently against this proposal.  This caused Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey to ask if the full task force would have the ability to vote on this proposal if it moves forward.  Jaques said they would.

The Superintendents at the meeting, Polytech’s Mark Dufendach, Capital’s Dan Shelton, and Blakey had a look of horror on their face when this was thrown out there.  Delaware School Board Association Executive Director John Marinucci said any such proposal would have to have input from all school boards.  Tammy Croce of the Delaware Association of School Administrators did not want to give comment about it but appeared to be thoroughly disgusted.  On the other side of the long table sat Jon Sheehan, Governor Carney’s Education Policy Advisor.  He had nothing to say about the subject.

After the meeting, while I was talking to another task force member, Jaques came up to me and said “I’m surprised this isn’t on your blog yet.”  To which I responded, “It will be.”  Then Earl, in his own way, said “What did you think would happen if Christina didn’t sign that MOU?”  Which is news to me because there was NEVER an indication of a threat, or even a veiled threat, if they didn’t sign it.

Anyone involved in Delaware education politics could have told you this task force was not about actually consolidating school districts.  I always felt there were ulterior motives at play.  Jaques played his hand tonight, in front of the whole task force.  Finally, the curtain has lifted.  I’ve been around Jaques long enough to know, at heart, he is a soldier and he does what he is told.  This isn’t his idea.  This is a task force about school district consolidation.  It should not, and never should have been, used as a lynchpin for matters outside of that realm.  Jaques has used this task force, as the Chair, for his own agenda.  I will say Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting looked white as a ghost as she sat next to Earl.  She looked at me and knew this would be a blog post tonight.  I have no idea if she knew of this potential recommendation or if she was shocked it was discussed like it was.

Embedded in Regulation 103 is an apparatus for state takeover of school districts.  But there is no mechanism in Title 14 giving the State Board of Education, who are not publicly elected, the ability to use a matrix based on charter schools to decide on a takeover of an entire school district or force them to merge with another district.

I reviewed the entire task force agenda and minutes on their website.  There was absolutely nothing in ANY of the minutes with this proposal.  In fact, there are no minutes from the Structure Sub-Committee.  It does show an agenda for the Seaford meeting on 12/13/17.  But there were no structure sub-committee meetings held in the Cape Henlopen School District.

This will cause an uproar in Delaware like none seen before if this moves anywhere past the basic discussion from the meeting tonight.  When I heard this, I almost resigned from any affiliation with this task force, but my vote could be needed down the road.  I do not believe the State Board of Education, with folks appointed by the Governor, should have any authority to close a school district.  Districts are NOT charter schools.  They are different animals as charter advocates love to tell us.  But this plan to judge districts the same way charters are will be the worst idea ever in Delaware education.

Updated, 9:05pm: I just emailed State Rep. Earl Jaques and his legislative aide to have ALL minutes of the Structure Sub-Committee minutes uploaded to the General Assembly website.  Another member in attendance, Robert Overmiller, said the true bomb tonight was the revelation about a secret meeting where the final recommendations for the task force will be selected.

Updated, 9:07pm: So much for the Delaware DOE being a “support” organization.  We are right back to the dark days of “Partnership Zones”, “Priority Schools” and “Race To The Top”.

Updated, 9:34pm: It is my opinion State Rep. Earl Jaques has been holding secret meetings under the auspices of this task force.  He should be held accountable for this as all meetings of this task force should be public, with minutes and agendas posted for every single regular meeting and sub-committee meeting.  He is abusing his authority as the Chair of the task force and making decisions without input from the entire task force.  While this task force is meant to make recommendations for the General Assembly to consider for potential legislation, Jaques is using the task force.


11 thoughts on “Proposal Floating To Have State Board Use Charter Performance Framework For Potential State Takeover Of School Districts

  1. I’m sure you had to know this was eventually coming. I wish I were surprised. What gets me is Delaware, as a state, isn’t exactly breaking school performance records. What makes the SBOE qualified to intervene in “struggling” districts? And what exactly has the DOE or State done in the last 10 years that’s really boosted performance in ‘struggling’ districts besides change the measuring stick every other year (only to have similar outcomes)?

    Cue Lloyd Bridges from the movie Airplane: “Looks like I picked the wrong week to get back into public ed in Delaware”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are using ESSA guidelines. Proficiency and growth in English and Math, attendance rates in elementary and middle school, college and career prep in high schools, high school graduation rates, things like that.

      But if we use Charter frameworks for anything, we better also be able to use their funding methods *haha*


  2. One inconsistency here, Kevin. First you say Jaques is a soldier, i.e., “I’m just following orders.” A couple sentences later, you say he used the task force for his own agenda. Well, which is it? If it’s really Carney pulling the strings, then he has suddenly shifted from being Markell Lite to Markell 2.0, or maybe it’s Markell 3.0. Let’s see how this plays out in the next day or two.
    Bigger issue — tied to Brian’s comment — once again the state is looking for another system to evaluate/rate schools and districts. And, as Brian points out, no matter what system they use, the outcome will be the same.
    What is truly shameful about this operation is that all schools — both district and charter — would be a hell of a lot better off if the time, energy and money spent on creating new analytics had instead been used to actually improve schools — like improving funding for high-poverty schools, English-language learners, K-3 special education.
    What’s wrong with the system is that we’re spending millions on analytics hoping that deep down inside we find the academic equivalent of some mysterious gene buried in our DNA when we already know enough about what’s wrong and should now be spending our time trying to fix it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good observations Mediawatch. When I say Earl is furthering his own agenda, I am talking about using his position as Chair of the task force, without giving the rest of the task force the transparency or ability to vote on things. That is Earl’s agenda at play here. Do I think these are his own ideas with the whole system of using the State Board to vote on state takeover of school districts? Hell no. Someone planted this idea in him because they know he would play it out.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The problem is in the measurement of this perceived school success- the almighty standardized state assessment. Which is totally flawed by the way. Three years of bad results but we want to use those scores to once again, test, label, punish, and shame. They couldn’t successfully get the teachers, so they went after the schools with priority or partnership nonsense. When that didn’t work, now they want to go over the whole district. I predicted this possibility years ago. But to compare charters to districts is preposterous. If charters don’t want a kid, they get rid of him. Where do you think that student goes? The school district, who is left to pick up the wreckage of the charter’s failed ability to properly educate a student in THEIR public school. It happens all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. These comments are so right on.
    It’s interesting that a bill to have School Board members removed by the State Board was floated this fall and now another idea to have whole districts taken over, based on a vote by the unelected State Board. I can’t help believing these are intertwined.
    Ah, if only, if only we actually worked on the real issue- POVERTY!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Connie,
      “Ah, if only, if only we actually worked on the real issue- POVERTY!”

      Let’s be very clear, the purpose of education is NOT to solve Poverty. To project that role onto educators or the educational system is completely inappropriate.

      [“It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.

      Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”]

      Remarkable words especially in today’s media driven misdirection and bias. Also remarkable given education leaning toward liberal ideologies instead of the scientific method of weighing facts.

      Is it the role of government to ‘solve’ poverty?

      “Americans actually specified the purpose of their government, right out loud, so that there would be no ambiguity on the topic:

      “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,”

      Maybe as a function of helping the common good, government works towards solving the condition of poverty, but it is not a directive that government merely be the conduit of transfer payments FROM some citizens TO other citizens. That isn’t a solution, it is a forced charity.

      This is the point where education has a role: “Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.”

      If a district, administrator, board member, or teacher is NOT enabling a person with; the skills to facilitate the “legitimate” (not ridiculous) goals of their life, then therein lies the problem. If a district is failing to provide sufficient education, then it deserves to be taken over. Pass rates of 30% on standardized tests do NOT demonstrate that districts are fulfilling their obligation to facilitate the students’ goals of their lives. Government has a responsibility to address the problem. That isn’t a recommendation or endorsement of DOE. It is simply a fact that DOE and the State government OWE its citizens redress for failed services.


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