Sorry for the long title. Yes, the Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force did not have any recommendations to actually consolidate any school districts in the state. But there were a ton of other recommendations that were passed by the task force. However, State Rep. Earl Jaques (the Task Force Chair) did manage to anger one citizen who came all the way down from Wilmington to give public comment. Jaques adjourned the meeting without asking if anyone wanted to give public comment even though it was on the agenda. I did ask Earl if he could readjourn the meeting before everyone left to allow the citizen to speak but he just gave his infamous head roll. Bad form Earl!
All the recommendations passed (which you can read here) with a few edits to some of them. I will get those up when they come out. I voted no on a few of the recommendations. One that really got my goat concerned professional development days for ALL employees of a district. I wasn’t opposed to the original wording which said “establish” but it was changed to “support”, as in give the local school board the ability to provide it based on its merits. I wanted “establish”, and even suggested an addendum covering special education for ALL employees, but I was told by the Committee Chair (Dr. Dusty Blakey, Superintendent of Colonial School District) it would include special education. I voted no because the addendum took out the word “establish”.
While the actual task force report won’t come out until May 7th, folks may be surprised the majority of the task force voted yes on tax increases to be created by the State which would come as either a Statewide or Countywide tax to cover a projected deficit of $125 million to “reduce class sizes, provide after school programs, wellness centers, additional reading, Math and ELL specialists, early childhood education for 2,3, and 4 year olds and other programs needed to level the playing field for children in those underserved communities.” While I support many of those items, I voted no because the task force also recommended providing additional funding for English Language Learners and students living in poverty (note it was NOT for low-income students). Four of us voted no on that. Another one of those no votes was Senator Dave Sokola. See Dave, we can agree at times! By implementing a statewide or countywide tax, that is more money coming out of taxpayer pockets and leaves the legislators off the hook. It is their job to balance the state budget and I would think there is enough “fluff” in our budget to cover those deficits. As an example, get rid of the very horrible charter school transportation slush fund. That did come up as a recommendation but since the legislation creating the task force did not include charter school matters for points of discussion that recommendation was not voted on by the task force.
Transportation was a major issue and created much discussion around it. There is a tremendous shortage of bus drivers in Delaware and the recommendation passed to look at potential raises for district bus drivers. Contractors set their own rates based on what the district can pay them. Anything more would have to come from the contractor.