John Kowalko Doesn’t Hate Charter Schools But…

DE State Rep. John Kowalko

When you think of those who don’t support charter schools in Delaware, one of the first names that pops up is State Representative John Kowalko, from the 25th Rep. District.  Known for his arguments against charter schools, specifically Delaware’s biggest- Newark Charter School, it can be easy to make the assumption Kowalko hates charter schools.  However, that is not the case.

Earlier this weekend, Kowalko sent out an email to his constituents with his thoughts and beefs on Delaware charter schools.

Dear all,

I am sending this short essay to you in order to clarify some of the misconceptions regarding my thoughts on Charter Schools and to illuminate some of my concerns.

All matriculating Christina District eighth graders that are schooled and reside in Wilmington are bused to one of three Newark area High Schools. Newark High, Glasgow High and Christians High. These are the only high schools Christina has available to those students. These high schools are all within the 5 mile radius carve out for Newark Charter High. None of the same matriculating Wilmington/Christina students is permitted to participate in the lottery selection process for the publicly funded Newark Charter High School. The school has the right to accept only lottery applications from residents within the 5 mile radius of Newark Charter when the lottery is full (which it always is). Despite repeated bills I’ve authored and sponsored to eliminate the 5 mile radius exclusion option that literally closes access to the “fully publicly” funded Newark Charter High School for Wilmington students this policy remains in force. I’ve never called for or asked for dissolution of Newark Charter. I’ve never sought to deny equal public funding for Newark Charter operational expenses. I’ve never fought to cut Newark Charter’s state transportation stipend (approx. $885 per student vs. $550 per traditional school student). I’ve acknowledged the student success of Newark Charter and worked with and nominated one of its brilliant young students Lillian P. for the DNREC “Young Environmentalist” award, for which she was chosen.

However I do not and never will support “publicly” funded schools that have exclusive admissions policies and standards, schools that do not come close to mirroring the ethnic, cultural, minority and socioeconomic diversity and ratios of the surrounding communities. I do not support these publicly funded entities from having access to taxpayer funded “Performance funds” and “Capital Improvement” funds that are “ONLY” accessible to Charter Schools. I do not support budget language (every year) that contravenes existing Delaware code that allows Charter Schools, and only Charter Schools to keep excess/unused money allocated for student transportation and not return it to the General Fund (as all other traditional public schools must). I do not and never will support a system that uses taxpayer money to fund publicly funded schools (with little to no oversight) yet refuses and denies admission to certain of those very same taxpayers children.

Representative John Kowalko  

13 thoughts on “John Kowalko Doesn’t Hate Charter Schools But…

  1. Must be feeling the heat from Rash…

    He is being a bit disingenous here, he fought long and hard against the NCS expansion.

    Can’t run and hide from his record here…


    1. You can even find public statements by Rep. Kowalko saying the exact same thing when the Newark Charter expansion was under consideration as he is saying now. Or you can just make up lies. The bravely anonymous xyz may want to look in the mirror before calling others “disingenuous.”

      REPRESENTATIVE KOWALKO: Thank you, Mr. Carwell. I’m glad there are members of the State School Board here, because I intend to address my remarks to them, and I was hoping that Secretary Lowery would be here. I will be addressing my remarks to the State School Board members and the Secretary of Education Lowery, but I hope what I have to say here is relayed to Governor Markell and all policymakers in Delaware. I find it rather unsettling that the opportunity of the public to speak at a forum for or against any pending policy decision is only allowed to occur after significant discussion by only one side has been heard and tacit approval has been granted on the matter. The question of the authenticity of such a procedure has been brought to my attention by many concerned citizens. This process, currently set by DOE regulations, is an indefensible abridgment of the rights of the public to effectively participate in a contested discussion. This appalling lack of timely access to legitimately question the purported facts that should be honestly and objectively evaluated has not been created or assisted by the State Board of Education members, but it’s important that you members realize and accept your full responsibility here. You are not limited to being arbiters of whether or not the minimum constraints of a law have been met and allow a decision to proceed solely on that criterion. You are tasked with determine the effect on public education, existing public education opportunities, effect on the community, effect on all public school children, and the impact financially and otherwise that will be felt throughout the entire state public education community. Therefore, I hope every one of you, State Board members and Dr. Lowery, will very seriously consider the difference between the letter of the law and the intent of the law. In a thoughtfully, well-written law, these items are not mutually exclusive. Laws are written and passed by men and women that occasionally blur that line between word and intent. The current charter school legislation, albeit well intended, blurs that line in many ways. Your challenge is to honestly and objectively consider when that conflict occurs and is applicable to your authority and responsibility in rendering judgment. Any application written in good faith may comply with the letter of the law while not necessarily conforming to the intent of the law and, therefore, having negative effects that must be considered by you. I will point out two to three instances of these inconsistencies in Title 14, Chapter 5 of the code regarding charter schools for your deliberations: Subchapter 511, Paragraph 2 states, “A request for modification to increase a school’s total authorized enrollment by more than 15 percent shall be considered a major modification, regardless of whether the additional students will attend school at the current location or a separate.” This mandates when impact of a modification must be considered but does not preclude consideration of a major impact, such as was presented to you earlier, being considered when it is 14 percent, as the current proposal says. Therefore, you should give very serious consideration to the impact study printed today by Christina School District, the most dramatically affected school district in the state. Paragraph four explicitly enumerates the same. In the Title 14, Chapter 5, Subchapter 506, paragraph four and five, it references discrimination and desegregation policies. This is another example of compliance with the letter of the law, and certainly no deliberate attempt to circumvent the law, but you should consider the reality of the situation regarding the law’s intent. The five-mile radius option has been applied in conformity with the law and the presence and the availability of other K to 8 schools in that radius, and it justifies its legitimacy. The fact, however, is that the available public high schools for all matriculating Christina District 8th graders are in the Newark area, and the five-mile radius, self-feeding existing system for lottery access to the proposed NCS high school creation would exclude all of those other students from being able to participate and have equal access through lottery. This could lead to an unintended but actual resegregation and discrimination. A study of the impact report by Christina School District validates this presumption and should also lead to a serious consideration of the fact that all Christina District taxpayers will contribute to the finances of the proposed high school while being precluded from equal access to that institution they are paying for. I will sum it up. Finally, I ask the Board and the Secretary to consider that the original intent of the charter school creation was and is to allow for a serious and innovative implementation of methodology, curriculum, and practices that would be replicated in the standard public school environment. To date, there has been no evidence of that transference of success being seriously offered or accepted by any charter school to any existing school. To expect that self replication of a distinct student body from K to 12 under existing public school policy is doable is not realistic and creating a standalone 20th school district with an autonomous superintendent and administration should not be viewed as a solution or alternative to needed education reform for Delaware’s public school system. Thank you.


  2. This is Delaware’s game that pretends Wilmington does not qualify for it’s own District. Busing nearly every student has great costs. Red Clay spends $16 million dollars per year and the Governor is trying to lessen the State’s involvement. The students are stressed by leaving their home for long rides to schools that are almost collapsing due to the dual function requirement that every student to be “College ready”, while acquiring work skills may be the end goal of most.


  3. I’ve already explained this and many other happenings with one sentence lifted out of a book (that is already on its third edition, which to me sounds like it already has passed the test of time).

    “Complex systems tend to produce complex responses (not solutions) to problems.” This one is one of many, many complex responses that are not solutions to the problems.

    Let’s start from the beginning, WHY are there only THREE Public High Schools in Newark? What has happened? Let me elaborate on this – there are numerous elementary schools, quite a number of junior/middle, but only three megamonsters, Christiana, Newark and Glasgow? Furthermore, is there is such a need for public high schools in Wilmington, what stopped introducing new public high schools next to the riverfront, “bustling suburbs”? Would it not be the logical place to build two or three new schools?

    Let’s refine this a bit more – since there is such a demand for places in the charter schools, why not start designing, building, running public schools that would be AS GOOD as, say, Newark Charter? Now that the unexpected 10mils are about to rain down on Delaware would be a perfect time! I even know where to recruit good teachers (I am not tremendously concerned about administrators – they are dime a dozen and should not be in a short supply) – in Maryland! That’s where they went, running away from the huge mess DOE and teachers union created! I personally know few that also run across the river to NJ, and some run as far as Philly – now would be a good time!

    Yes, I know, I am not “in the system”, I don’t know how it works (slowly) and don’t know what is needed, blah-blah-blah. As a parent I am appalled how slow it is to figure out the obvious – more schools are needed, and since charters are mercilessly pommeled from all sides why not look into creating something, no, not like Sweden or Finland – those are far, far, places in a galaxy far, far away, that are basically out of reach – US public schools in 1960s through 1970s before “scientific restructuring” and “insurance industry” castrated them into feeble shadows of themselves. Watching reruns of “Brady Bunch” should return those memories back – normal public schools where kids are taught how to fix their own cars, a choice of different foreign languages (not just in addition, INSTEAD of the compulsory/mandatory spanglish), dedicated well-paid teachers/mentors and very, very few administrators who are actually useful and are actually paid no more than the most senior teacher (imho, they should be paid slightly more than janitors).

    Ready, set, go …


  4. Sorry, but he is fibbing a bit. I went to every meeting at the city and the state level, when NCS was asking to expand to a high school. Kowolko practically frothed at the mouth with his complete hatred of the school. I didn’t even know who he was until those meetings and I have always pitied the people that he supposedly represents. He is completely biased. His hatred was clear. His only intent was to destroy a school that was actually successful.


  5. Lie 1 – “I’ve never fought to cut Newark Charter’s state transportation stipend (approx. $885 per student vs. $550 per traditional school student).”
    Your own blog refutes this. Look just above Synopsis.
    I’m sure more could be found in looking at his previous blog posts (here & other sites) and records from the Assembly minutes.
    This guy does not deserve another term. It is time for him to go.


    1. Actually, a compromise was reached this year on the charter school transportation slush fund. And Kowalko was a huge part of that. What makes that particular “fund” not so special is that it is gimme money. Charter school transportation funds are set at a given rate. This “bonus” was put in epilogue language every year once the final budget came out before a vote. Over the years, more and more legislators saw the error in it and how it wasn’t justified. While Kowalko led the charge on that, there was no basis (legally or regulatory) for the charters to keep extra money like this. So it isn’t truly a “cut”, it was righting a wrong. There is a HUGE difference.


      1. Just because you agree with him doesn’t mean it’s not a lie.
        He says he never fought to cut the stipend. Your own post says otherwise:
        “Anyone who follows end of June politics in Delaware knows that State Rep. John Kowalko fights this every single year. This year is no exception but he is even more offended about them actually putting a bill in a bill. He has his amendment ready to go:

        AMEND Senate Bill No. 235 on page 233 by deleting ‘If the actual negotiated or bid costs are lower than the maximum rate, the charter school may keep the difference to provide services to low-income and/or English-Language Learners.'”
        That is a call for cutting the funding.
        You can try to cover the lie all you want but the fact remains that his letter is a blatant lie.
        The fact that he’d rather insult people who disagree with him on these blog sites than listen to what they say and debate makes him less worthy to hold office.
        He does not deserve to be re-elected. Why it took this long to put up an opponent is beyond me.


        1. You are playing word salad guest. It was raised for no reason other than free money to charters. If you want to call it a cut, be my guest. But it is NOT written into Delaware state code that this shall be an ongoing process. It is a last minute sneak in epilogue language for the budget. Which means anyone who doesn’t vote for the budget on the Dem side is ostracized by leadership. It is shady.


  6. I have had kids in both Christina and NCS. The one consistent feature of messages from John Kowalko on this issue is that they contain NO plans for improving Christina schools. Rather that working to improve our local schools so they are are better able to compete with NCS, he constantly comes up with different ways to dismantle NCS. The result is that, overall, not only is he not fighting to improve the school options available to his constituents, he is attempting to reduce the number of seats at NCS available to the children within the district he represents.

    Let’s say, for all the years that Kowalko has fought against NCS, he had been working to improve CSD schools. Less students would be fighting to get in to NCS because they’d have the option of higher quality, safer, public schools. Perhaps then, the demand for NCS would decline, possibly allowing room for students outside of the radius.

    To be clear, NONE of the students Kowalko is fighting to get in to NCS live within the district he represents. They’d be taking seats away from kids within his district. And he’s doing nothing to improve CSD. That means that he is essentially fighting to decrease the quality education options available to the children of his constituents.

    While his views are laudable regarding access to equitable education for all kids in Delaware, as a representative of this district, his responsibility is to fight for the best for the people that LIVE HERE. His constituents have expressed that he is expressly fighting AGAINST their best interests, and he has no regard for that. He is so confident that, in this blue town, he will be elected over and over again, that he doesn’t feel the need to listen to the needs of his constituents. No matter the party, that’s not how a representative assembly is meant to operate. It will be a good day when a more reasonable and community minded (not just attending events to feed his ego, but actually listening to and working for the views of his constituents) Democrat challenges Kowalko in the primary.


    1. He’s never fought NCS. Sadly, his message has been distorted by a pernicious, subtle, and frankly racist filter.

      The only reason all of his district is in the NCS preference area is the existence of the 5-mile radius that excludes more CSD students than it permits. Fighting for that equity isn’t an ill-directed folly, it’s his job.

      The fear here, the real fear, is that NCS gets exposed as not the “best” school if equitable access is permitted. But if NCS is as awesome as its supporters claim (and I’m not saying it isn’t, just like Mr. Kowalko), why aren’t they at the ABSOLUTE forefront of demanding access be widened? Answer that.

      The “truth” is that John Kowalko seems to believe NCS is the best public school in his area and he cares about the kids not getting access so much that he fights to get them in. How’s that anti-NCS?


      1. Standard John Young reply. NCS supporters are racist.
        Where is the equity in access to your (CSD) schools when they are filled by the feeder population? Why haven’t you pushed for open application access to all CSD schools so that all students have equal access to the schools with the best reputations? Why hasn’t Kowalko? If you and he truly believed in what you claim, you would push for an open application process to all CSD schools. You would then provide an open lottery to each school. Instead, CSD schools give preference to those students closet to the schools based on feeder maps.
        Feeder patterns are the same as the five mile radius. You and Kowalko oppose charter schools and have a history of rude and abusive online behavior towards those who disagree with you. Newark and CSD will be better off when both of you are no longer in office.


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