Almost two weeks after the Delaware Senate narrowly passed a bill which would mandate all Delaware schools would begin after Labor Day, the bill is heading to the House Education Committee on Wednesday, June 28th. The underdog of the 148th General Assembly received a boost of life when the Senate passed the bill with an 11-10 vote. The majority of the votes were not split between party, but rather location in Delaware. Most of the New Castle County Senators voted no while their counterparts in the Kent and Sussex counties voted yes. If we see a similar pattern with the House, this bill is going to Governor Markell’s desk by July 1st at the latest! It will be interesting to hear the state union’s (DSEA) take on the bill since they will have to represent each school district. Out of Delaware’s 19 school districts, only 6 reside in New Castle County.
Other bills that will be heard are House Bill 374 which would limit the term of school board seats to four years instead of five and Senate Bill 199 dealing with educator licensure and certification.
On August 4th, Delaware Governor Jack Markell will sign two bills to improve education in the City of Wilmington. House Bill 148 creates the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission while Senate Bill 122 allows the State Board of Education to redraw district lines to allow for City of Wilmington schools to shift to Red Clay Consolidated School District away from the Christina School District.
The signing will occur at Hockessin Colored School #107C, 4266 Millcreek Rd. in Hockessin, DE. I will fully admit when I heard the name of this location my eyes bulged open while my brain was feverishly wondering why they wouldn’t do the signing in the city proper. On the Facebook page, Solutions for Wilmington Schools, Wilmington Education Advisory Committee chair Tony Allen provided a link to a USA Today article on the historic location.
The “colored” schools in Delaware, as they were called, were created by Pierre DuPont in the 1920s. The Hockessin Color School #107C became the heart of a pitched legal battle regarding integration into the much better School #29, which only white people were allowed at. The legal cases involved with this situation became a part of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, and is considered an historic landmark in Delaware.
Many fear the redistricting of Wilmington schools under two school districts, Red Clay Consolidated and Brandywine is a smokescreen to create an all-charter Wilmington school district. At this time, Delaware is projected to have a $160 million deficit for FY2017 and the Delaware Department of Education is going back on the original promised amount for Red Clay’s three priority schools. The legislation, which looks great on the surface, could face numerous obstacles in the implementation.
Citizens of Wilmington have desired a reduction in school districts for decades, ever since the Secretary of State created the current four district control of Wilmington schools. While I can easily see the need for this reduction, the thorn in the foot is the charter schools in Wilmington. Not that all of them are bad, but they have taken away so much local and state funding away from the cash-poor school districts and created even more segregation in the city.
I will be writing a considerable amount about the history of segregation in Delaware education history in an upcoming article and how this led to the creation of Delaware charter schools.