State Representative Earl Jaques has some mighty bold plans in the 150th General Assembly. The biggest and most controversial will be a bill that would have the state takeover the Christina School District. It is in the works and he is looking for sponsors.
For those who read the article I posted last March, this really shouldn’t come as a shock. The Delaware Department of Education and a bunch of the Newark area legislators have wanted to dismantle Christina School District for as long as I’ve been blogging. Long before that I’m sure! Jaques tried to make it seem like this idea was not a back-door conversation but failed in his pitiful attempt. None of the other attendees at the March District Consolidation Task Force meeting recalled anything ever being said about this. But Jaques is cocky and arrogant enough to not really give a crap what anyone says. He will do what he wants when he wants. No one really holds him in check so why wouldn’t he?
What is their beef with the district? So many things. The low test scores of all those pesky poor black children. The mold and other environmental issues going on in so many of the schools. The poorly run district. The fact Christina can never be as great as Newark Charter School.
So how will it work? The State Board of Education will be given the authority to vote on whether the state can takeover a school district for academic “failure”. Earl said it as plain as day last March. He definitely cashed in his chips way too early as evidenced by Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting turning white as a ghost when he said it. She said absolutely nothing about it at that meeting. As well, DelawareCAN put this question out in one of their surveys to candidates:
Delaware law currently allows the state to intervene in a district if there are years of financial mismanagement. The state should have the authority to intervene in a district or school if students are persistently underserved academically.
It is going to happen if the General Assembly passes Jaques’ legislation. At that point, the question gets even more twisty. So the state takes over Christina. What then? Does that mean the Delaware DOE is the state agency that rules the district? Is that the real reason Governor John Carney created the Office of Innovation and Improvement? But this would also mean the DOE would inherit all of Christina. That would include the Delaware Autism Program run by Christina for many autistic kids in the state. It would also mean the Delaware School for the Deaf and the STERCK program would be run by the Delaware DOE. In addition, the DOE would get all the financial issues Christina faces. All those lawsuits would go to the DOE. Can we really trust the Delaware DOE to do things better than Christina School District? Under their watch, many charter schools have gone under while the DOE looks away like nothing ever happened.
Meanwhile, Superintendent Richard Gregg is attempting to turn things around at the three high schools in Christina. He wants to turn them into magnet schools. But Newark city officials and the University of Delaware publicly stated they think the district is severely impacting economic development according to the Newark Post. Gregg said the following:
“We’re looking at a way to bring the district back up to a reputation that it once enjoyed, and it’s not going to happen overnight because we didn’t have this occur overnight,” he said. “This happened over years of experiences and circumstances. So, we’re working hard to figure out ways to improve the reputation of the district in the community.”
But for Richard Gregg and the rest of Christina, it might be a case of being too late. This is something charter advocates like the Rodel Foundation, DelawareCAN, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network would love to see happen. If the state wound up converting Christina’s schools into charters down the road, it would make entities that support them seem like they were justified in their Christina bashing over the years. Because those entities have so much sway of the Delaware Chamber of Commerce, lobbying non-stop over the years for this has put a continual target on Christina’s back. And when you have legislators, like Jaques and Senator David Sokola, who also happen to be in charge of the Education Committees in the House and Senate, it is a recipe for legislation like this. The signs are all here.
For those who think this can’t be done, think again. New York did it in Buffalo. Buffalo’s priority schools were taken over by the state. It could have happened in 2015 with the Christina priority schools but the outcry from the district and supporters of the district caused Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE to back down from their very foolish demands. But Governor Carney is different and so is the Delaware DOE under him. They are led by Secretary Bunting who will do whatever Carney wants without any hesitation. She owes him. He protects her from sneaky-snake bloggers who uncover her knowing about financial theft when she was the Superintendent of the Indian River School District. But either way, Carney will find a way to cremate Christina.