I just don’t get it. What is it with this Governor and parents? House Bill 240, the legislation behind the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning (SAIL) Program was officially released today. I have several issues with this legislation. Before I get into that though, I do believe afterschool programs for kids are extremely helpful if done right and in moderation. But I have grave reservations with this program due to data release, the use of non-profits in this, and the amount of time kids are away from their homes. I agree that activities students can get involved in after school are very dangerous, especially in our cities. But this bill seems like it is very rushed. It is already on the Delaware House Education Committee meeting tomorrow.
First off, as per the below legislation, the whole purpose of this is so students can “meet challenging State academic standards“. As part of this program, a new council would be developed called The Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Council. Sure, you would want to have some type of organization for a program like this. Surely parents would be a part of this, right? Wrong! There are NO slots for parents on this council. But it will have three members of non-profit organizations. No Delaware PTA representation, no teachers, no special education teachers, no charter school representation, no health providers, no psychologists or psychiatrists, and NO PARENTS! They want Delaware students and schools that “meet the approved state indication for low socioeconomic status” to be eligible for the SAIL program, but they don’t want ANY parents on this council? They expect to have children staying afterschool for four to five days a week for three hours and they don’t want parent input?
Since this looks like it will be partly run by non-profits, the idea of a “data share” between teachers and the afterschool coordinators that are NOT employees of the state or the schools is frightening in my opinion. “A computer based student information system” will be implemented with what? What safeguards are in place to prevent student data from getting out there more than what it already has?
As a “means to measure the program“, school attendance and grades and at least one (but it can be all) of these factors shall be used: behavior evaluation through school discipline reports, surveys of teachers, standardized test scores, criminal justice records, physical health evaluations, student and parent surveys, class participation, course completion, homework completion, and afterschool program attendance. That is a huge amount of data that would be put into outside hands, away from the school district and local control.
It seems like Delaware and the feds want children from low socioeconomic backgrounds to essentially became wards of the state for the vast majority of their academic lives. And the potential data sharing has red flags all over it. I could easily see Rodel becoming involved in this initiative. I would NOT want my child’s health or behavioral or any type of information going to them, period. And who decides who gets the program and who doesn’t? The Delaware Department of Education. I cannot support this bill as written. I’m sure more will come out about it, and I would hope to God our legislators have the good sense to ask all the questions I have and more.
According to the Every Student Succeeds Act, these “21st Century Community Learning Centers” will require 95% of the grant funds will go to the Local Education Authority (districts or charter schools), only 1% can be used for administrative purposes, and the rest can be used for state activities. If this law is already indicating non-profits must be used, isn’t that already stripping the local school districts of any control over how the program is created? Yes, there are three Superintendents on the SAIL Council, the DSEA President, and the Secretary of Education (or his designated representative), but that is an extremely small amount of representation for programs that have 95% of the funds going to the districts or charters. And sorry, I don’t trust the DOE or their ability to disperse these funds with fidelity and honesty.
According to this release from the National Council of State Legislatures, activities for these programs can include “music and the arts as tools to support student success through the promotion of constructive student engagement, problem solving, and conflict resolution.” I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that was the purpose of students learning music and art. I thought it was so they could expand their creativity. Who writes these things? It doesn’t sound like anyone who is around children and teenagers too much. This guidance also states “mental health services” could be used at the learning centers. The potential for abuse and manipulation in that arena is too frightening for words…
Schools are not parents. They will never replace parents. I recognize that students in poverty and neglect suffer immensely without proper parental supports, but this solution is very radical and very dangerous. Valerie Longhurst may have put this bill together, but this legislation is just a small part of the corporate education reform movement that is taking students away from parental control more and more every single day. Our children are OUR children, and they don’t belong to you. I would really like it if they get their grubby hands out of our children’s minds and schools.
To read the full legislation, please read below: