There are a finite number of students in Delaware schools. Sure, the number enrolled steadily grows over the years, but there are only so many schools. We know in Delaware that some districts are having lower enrollments thus creating lower capacities in those buildings. The Delaware Department of Education really doesn’t care about that. But if they can make sure charter schools grow, let’s do it! Let’s take a look at the Delaware DOE’s plans for the huge grant they just got!
Delaware received a big grant from the United States Department of Education. Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education, is a fervent charter school and private school supporter. While her voucher plans have met with resistance, her charter plans are in full bloom. The $10.4 million award will help to “bolster charter schools in Delaware”. While the number of seats this award is meant to give charter schools, one has to wonder where these students will come from. Are these new students who have never attended school in Delaware? Are they students that will choice out of traditional school districts? I would bet most of them will be from the latter. Which means that will be less students in traditional school districts.
Some charter schools have not reached their full capacity yet. Each year charters are allowed to go to 105% of their approved enrollment. Some charters can’t even make 80%, like the late Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security. Charters can request modifications to increase their enrollment. Some do it to decrease their enrollments. So how does $10.4 million dollars have any effect on that? We know the number of new charter school seats will go up in the next five years when Sussex Montessori School opens in 2020. Was the DAPSS closure factored in to this grant application? I doubt it! I just don’t see how these federal funds are going to change the charter landscape in Delaware.
We’ve seen some district and charter collaboration. Like Red Clay teaming up with Charter School of Wilmington and Odyssey to share bus routes. Colonial was willing to play ball with DAPSS (even though DAPSS was playing a totally different game). But that collaboration shouldn’t cost money. So once again, what does $10.4 million really buy? Some of that money will go to the Delaware DOE.
So let’s look at the objectives of this grant.
#1: Increase and expand the number of high-quality educational opportunities for Delaware’s students by 12% through sub grants for the expansion and replication of highly effective charter schools in Delaware.
Does this mean Newark Charter School will get bigger? Does this mean we could see Newark Charter School 2 after legislation passes to effectively nuke the Christina School District? Timing is everything.
#2: Increase and expand the number of high-quality educational opportunities for Delaware’s students by 7% through sub grants for the planning and program design for new charter schools.
New charter school applications are created by groups of people interested in starting a new charter school. Part of the application process and the board showing how serious about the school they are is their ability to raise funds for the new charter. But with this grant the DOE will just give them free money.
#3: Increase parent engagement and awareness of school choice opportunities with a focus on educationally disadvantaged student populations.
In other words, let’s infuse money into public relations for charter schools. Does that mean the Delaware Charter Schools Network will get some of this $10.4 million? Will Rodel and DelawareCAN get money for “helping out” with the massive p.r. campaign about to be unleashed on Delaware?
#4: Foster partnerships to share best practices among Delaware’s public charter schools and traditional school districts to raise achievement for all students in the state, particularly for educationally disadvantaged students.
This sentence. Does this mean traditional school districts will get some of the $10.4 million so they can “share” best practices? Or is the award just for charters?
#5: Support efforts to strengthen the charter school authorizing process by enhancing the evaluation tools used by authorizers to report on the impact of charter schools on student achievement, families, and communities.
This is word salad. What the hell does it even mean? Whenever I see “support efforts” I cringe. As the Delaware DOE is the biggest authorizer of charter schools that means they will get the bulk of this part of the grant. They had four people working in that office when all the charter fraud went on. Four people, for 24 charter schools. As Red Clay is an authorizer for two charters, does that mean they will get some of the bling? Furthermore, when you talk about “student achievement” is this solely based on Smarter Balanced and SAT scores? Will this grant force certain charter schools to accept more minorities and special education students? Will it level out the high scores those charters get because of their enrollment practices that keep those sub-groups of students at lower percentages?