The Chair of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, Tony Allen, sent a legislative priorities letter to the Delaware General Assembly today. While praising State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 30 (special education funding for K-3 students), State Rep. Debra Heffernan’s House Bill 117 (funding for schools w/low-income students), and State Rep. Charles Potter’s House Bill 56 (charter school moratorium), Allen is looking for the General Assembly to put forth two additional pieces of legislation. And these are big! Here they are:
The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s Chair, Tony Allen, responsed to the recently passed Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education Resolution in regards to the committee’s recommendations for redistricting in Wilmington. The below document has Allen’s response, and the actual resolution passed by the board on 4/15/15.
Having read the entire Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s Final Report, I’m left with more questions than answers. Going into this, I did not expect the report to solve all the education problems in Delaware, let alone Wilmington. The report has lots of data and many letters from the usual groups involved in education in Delaware.
My first impression: This report fails to recognize the damaging effect charter schools have on traditional school districts. Funding has been stripped from school districts while charters have mostly been allowed to flourish not only with state and local funds, but also numerous donations by companies such as The Longwood Foundation and Innovative Schools.
One thing I was happy to see was this:
“Converting all Wilmington schools to charter schools authorized by a newly created Wilmington Charter District is neither desirable on educational grounds nor practical on political grounds. Charter schools are playing a central and growing role in Wilmington public education. However, Wilmington children require the full array of educational options that is possible only with a continued reliance on district, charter, and vo-tech schools.”
Amen! I know Tony Allen and many members of WEAC have a deep and abiding love of all things charter, but to have them take over would be tantamount to a disaster of epic proportions. But there is quite a bit in the report showing why charters will continue to grow in Wilmington with no anecdotal proof of how they came about these figures other than growing trends. If the charter school moratorium for new charter applications becomes law, how are they basing the 2017 numbers and beyond?
Another example of a misleading report comes from the section showcasing a report by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. This group attended the last Enrollment Preference Task Force meeting and advised the committee that charter schools should not have specific interest as an enrollment preference unless it serves students who need it the most: Title I, low-income, minority, students with disabilities, ELL, and others in those groups. The WEAC report did not mention this very specific item which helped widen many of the gaps between schools in Wilmington and parts of Sussex County. It did touch on certain “enrollment preferences” and recommends this be adapted to best national practices.
What this report fails to do is to bolster traditional school districts. It seems geared towards getting more kids into charters but at the same time calling for more collaboration between the traditional school districts, charters and vo-techs. This is dangerous territory to plant your flag in.
There is very little about students with disabilities in the report as well. There are a few mentions, but absolutely nothing about what will be a growing trend and how to account for this. I imagine groups and committees will spin out of this report, but it is a large enough issue that I feel it should have been addressed in this report because it is a priority in our state.
The report calls for a Charter Consortium, with more power than the Delaware Charter Schools Network. This consortium would include all Wilmington charters to share best practices and have one organization perform financial and management duties. While this would not be a KIPP-like takeover as I have predicted in the past, it could grant charters in the state even more power than they have now, which is very extensive and carries a lot of political muscle among our legislators.
I do have reservations concerning Red Clay being the sole district with Wilmington local schools. I have not seen any indication that Brandywine would take any of these schools, so I have to assume Red Clay would bear the brunt of the consolidation. Christina and Colonial would be out, and Red Clay would be the sole traditional school district. My thought is this: they don’t do a good job with the three charters in their district so how can they add on a large number of schools and be able to effectively run all these schools?
The devil is in the details, as they say, and I expected more in the details in this report. What comes of this will be the key, and I anxiously await what happens next. But the mystery behind all of this is the national issue of ESEA authorization. If something changes on a Federal level in regards to curriculum and standardized testing, it could change many aspects of this report and what comes next. I would urge the legislators in Delaware to show restraint until what happens on a national level is determined first.
After months of hard work, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee issued its final report today. This mammoth 204 page report has many suggestions based on interviews, research and community input. Please read the below report. I will post my own thoughts in an update on this article after I have read through the entire report.
The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee is completely transparent with their meetings with individuals outside the committee. I applaud this level of transparency! Tony Allen, the Chair of WEAC, has been extremely busy. When does this man sleep?
This morning, the New Castle County school districts had a meeting, and some districts were not too happy about not being included on the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC). They are also very upset they were not consulted prior to the recommendations put forth by WEAC.
From Delaware State Representative Paul Baumbach’s Facebook post:
At this meeting, of the New Castle County school districts, in addition to an overview by House Education Chair Earl Jaques and Senate Education Chair David Sokola, there was a heated series of statements and questions regarding the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s work. Frankly, some of the questions (why wasn’t my school board included in the Governor’s task force) simply point to the structural challenges facing public schools in Wilmington–the city is divided amongst FOUR traditional school district, one VoTech district, and slews of individual public charter schools. The frustration vented at this meeting merely confirms the need to act on the Committee’s recommendations.
And from State Rep. Kim Williams Facebook page:
Several legislators attended this morning’s New Castle County Combined Boards of Education meeting. Local school board members, administrators and lawmakers discussed topics such as priority schools, standardized testing and the work of the Wilmington Education Advisory Group.
And from State Rep. Edward Osienski’s Facebook page:
There was a lot of strong discussion this morning at the New Castle County Combined Boards of Education meeting. School board members, administrators and legislators talked about issues affecting education like priority schools, redistricting and standardized testing. These types of conversations are going to be ongoing all session with many different groups.
I would have to guess the upset districts were Christina and Colonial. If Christina board member George Evans was there, which my sources are saying he was, than it is a guarantee words were said!
Other legislators in attendance were State Rep. Stephanie Bolden, Senator David Sokola, and everyone’s favorite State Rep., good old Earl Jaques. (shameless plug: please sign the iPetition to request he be removed from the House Education Committee, here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/we-want-delaware-state-rep-earl-jaques-to-step )
From the 1/28/15 House Education Committee meeting. Tony Allen, the chair of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, gave a presentation to the Senate and the House on the recommendations from WEAC. This has some really good information, and consider it a primer before the big event tomorrow night at the Chase Waterfront Center. That’s right, tomorrow is the huge Imagine Delaware forum. You should really go, it will affect education in all of Delaware!
Tony Allen, the chair of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee wrote a letter in response to the letter from Secretary of Education Mark Murphy to the Christina School District about the three priority schools. Many people were confused about the DOE letter since it gave the options to close, revert to charter, or give the schools to a management company. But embedded in the letter was also a recommendation to work with the DOE based on the recommendations of WEAC to redistrict Wilmington and take the Christina schools in the city and give them to Red Clay Consolidated. Please read the letter from Tony Allen:
The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, which came about due to an executive order by Delaware Governor Markell, issued their executive summary today. As expected, the issue of Wilmington having four school districts within it’s boundaries was a major topic of discussion and recommendations. Before the committee gives their final report, they want public input from all citizens of Delaware, but most importantly, those already residing within Wilmington.
The biggest change the committee is suggesting is taking Christina and Colonial School Districts out of Wilmington. This would leave Red Clay Consolidated, Brandywine, and New Castle County Vo-Tech as the sole school districts in Wilmington, aside from the numerous charter schools already there. The report recommends Red Clay take over all of Christina’s schools in Wilmington. It doesn’t say anything about Colonial.
The charters in Wilmington should strategize together and work together with best practices from each school. The report also agrees with the Wilmington City Council and their moratorium on new charter school applications.
I’m not sure how I feel about this report yet. Something has to be done, but I don’t like how they are so quick to throw Christina out. Red Clay gave in to the priority schools much quicker than Christina. Hell, Christina’s union hasn’t even signed off on the MOUs at this point, if they will at all.
The full report can be read here. Please note this is NOT the final report: