What Happened AFTER The WEIC Vote

Immediately after the Wilmington redistricting bills passed the House, local and state media interviewed State Rep. Charles Potter and Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Chair Tony Allen.  Both stated this is a positive step forward.  Allen reiterated that if the funding isn’t there, the plan will be suspended by the commission.  He stressed the funding is critical at this point.

TonyAllenAfterHouseWEICVote

Afterwards, Delaware Governor Jack Markell came down from his Legislative Hall office and offered congratulations to Jea Street, Tony Allen, and Senator Margaret Rose-Henry.  After that, Markell, Allen, Dan Rich, Senator Henry and the Governor’s Education Policy Advisor, Meghan Wallace all went up to Markell’s office for a closed-door discussion.

JeaStreet

Rumors are swirling that New Castle County will be giving money towards the redistricting plan.  There has been no verification of this, how much money, or what the source of the money would be.

The redistricting resolution heads to the Senate now.  I’m hearing the full Senate vote will be much harder than the House.  Which means it may not have 100% Democrat Senate support either.  No one is offering names in the leaky corridors of Legislative Hall.

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Do Or Die Time For WEIC As House Votes On Redistricting Resolution Tomorrow

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission faces a full House vote tomorrow to determine if their redistricting plan survives or dies on the vine.  Both House Joint Resolution #12 and House Bill #424 are on the House agenda tomorrow.  Expect the full WEIC contingent to attend the vote.  My advice: arrive early and count on sitting in the balcony.  Bring a seat cushion.

I have a feeling how the vote will go down tomorrow, but I’m going to hold off on my prediction until after.  Let’s just say this will be a very lively discussion on the floor.  Funding is going to be the number one argument.  Speaking of funding, I found out tonight that the Education Funding Improvement Committee (EFIC) had their final meeting yesterday and their report is due to the General Assembly by June 30th.  There will be zero recommendations from the committee on unit-based or weighted funding formulas for Delaware education.  None of the members of the committee could get a consensus on any one recommendation.

There was a considerable amount of House members going in and out of the House floor during their regular session.  More than usual.  I expect there to be a flurry of activity tomorrow before the vote.  Any legislator that is on the fence is going to get pounded all day tomorrow prior to the vote.  I imagine the House Republicans are going to all vote no, but I’ve been wrong on these things before.

The very frightening scenario coming out of this legislative session is based on three things not happening: the WEIC redistricting plan, no legislation determining an equitable education funding formula, and House Bill 30 not passing (or even getting a vote).  That will mean for all the work and time people on these committees are have advocated for a change in education funding will have been in vain.  It will be for nothing.  I actually warned WEIC at their very first meeting that having too many groups discussing education funding was going to be an issue.  I also warned them not having representation from Kent and Sussex County would be a problem as well.  No one ever listens to the blogger!

I think this is what Jack wanted all along.  A way for him to skate out of Delaware and be seen as an education hero, but none of the parties could come to a consensus.  Never mind that a lot of the issues are based on policies he brought forth as Governor in failed education reform.  He will say he tried his best, but it was a rigged game from the start and he knows it.  After the General Assembly leaves in the wee hours of July 1st, Jack will already have vetoed House Bill 399 in his mind.  He will become the lamest of ducks and he will begin counting the days until he moves on to bigger and things.  And he won’t go alone.  I’m already hearing very strange rumors to that effect, but for now they are just rumor.  All I can say is watch for Jack and friends to keep playing the art of misdirection and don’t believe everything you hear coming out of Jack’s mouth.  What may appear to be devastating for some will just be a part of the game.   John Carney doesn’t have a playbook so he is just going to copy Jack’s.  He is already beginning to round up different groups based on Jack’s agendas to begin his campaign, or lack thereof.

I will be blogging live from the House tomorrow and the second the vote goes down, you will know.  You can also listen by clicking on the audio for the House on the General Assembly website, just below the bill search section.  They will be convening on the House floor for their voting session at 3pm.  Before that, the House Education Committee will meet at 1:30 to discuss legislation pertaining to charter school audits, school bullying reporting, and school board terms.

If you don’t care about the WEIC redistricting vote, you should.  This is not just a Wilmington bill, but a Delaware one.  What happens in Wilmington impacts the entire state, good or bad.  I’ve gone back and forth on the redistricting more times than I can count.  I changed my mind again as recently as today.  The plan is epic in scope but the key will be implementation.  Everything rides on that.  But even if it passes and the Governor signs it, there are still ways for not only WEIC to stop the plan, but also the boards of Red Clay and Christina.  One thing to remember is that if the House and Senate passes the redistricting plan, it will be an unfunded mandate.  It will then be up to the Joint Finance Committee to allocate the “necessary and sufficient funding” of $7.5 million over the next two fiscal years for a total of $15 million.  As well as the transition costs.  The kill switch is there if that funding is not put into the budget.  Plain and simple.  As Tony Allen said today at the House Education Committee meeting, if the funding isn’t there, the commission voted unanimously to stop everything.

Every single Delaware State Representative needs to keep their own constituencies in mind when casting their vote tomorrow.  Will this be good for all of Delaware and their own district?  We will know the answer to this one in less than 24 hours…

To see the Executive Summary of WEIC, read below:

Jea Street Threatens To Sue Delaware If WEIC Bills Don’t Pass

“When it comes to justice for children of color in the city, it has never been the General Assembly, it has always been the courts or the federal government that acts,” Street said.  “I don’t think this is going to be any different.”

Civil rights advocate Jea Street told the News Journal he will sue the state of Delaware if the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan doesn’t pass.  The Delaware General Assembly has a limited amount of time to act on the plan.  There are six more voting days in the House of Representatives and nine in the Senate.  One of the bills was released from the House Education Committee but two others haven’t been heard yet.  If the bills pass the House, they must go to the Senate Education Committee.  Time is running out but so is the patience of advocates like Street.

Most other states have created systems that give extra funds to high-poverty schools, but Delaware’s system, he says, assumes a school in a violence- and poverty-wracked neighborhood can operate with the same resources as a school in a quiet, wealthy suburb.  “You talk to any expert, they’ll tell you that’s not how it works,” Street said.

Street was front and center during the press conference announcing the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the state and Red Clay Consolidated.  I haven’t heard Street talk about that lawsuit since it was announced.  That lawsuit alleged Delaware and Red Clay allowed charter schools to use discriminatory practices for enrollment purposes citing schools such as Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy.  I don’t see him beating on that drum anymore.  That lawsuit has been lingering for over a year and a half while the Office of Civil Rights stalls on the investigation.  I have to wonder why the News Journal doesn’t talk about that when they are writing an article about discrimination in Wilmington.

On the other hand, I agree with Street.  Delaware passes the baton to the courts or the feds when things don’t change in the General Assembly.  But when the article talks about the schools in Wilmington being operated by districts in the suburbs, the Wilmington schools will still be handled by a district from the suburbs.  The inequities he is talking about will still be there, but they will be more concentrated in one district.  From what I’m hearing, the Education Funding Improvement Commission report is delayed and may not be out by June 30th.  Having gone to one of the meetings, no one could seem to agree on any one viable strategy.  I’ve found Delaware likes to talk about education… a lot!  But when it comes time to make the crucial decisions, everyone sits like a deer in the headlights.  In the meantime, children suffer.  We spend tons of money on research and reports but we don’t do anything with it.  We had that huge Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  The DOE paid Public Consulting Group somewhere around $50,000 to do that report.  And what do we  have to show for it?  Absolutely nothing.  It is money that could have been used on something viable, like an extra teacher in one of these schools.  Instead we piss away money on absolute nonsense!

WEIC Redistricting Bill Tabled in House Education Committee To Add Proposed Amendments

At the House Education Committee meeting today in Delaware, House Joint Resolution #12 which would have allowed the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan to move forward, was tabled.  State Rep. Charles Potter, in his introductory statements, recommended the bill be tabled to add amendments which would otherwise have caused the plan to die in the House Education Committee.  While no amendments have been added to the legislation as of yet, it is most likely in regards to the issue of property assessments.  One of the recommendations of the redistricting plan is to allow the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education to incrementally raise property taxes without a referendum.  Many House Republicans oppose this.  Once the amendment is added I will certainly put it up.

Several supporters of the bill gave public comment to urge the General Assembly to move forward.  A few opposed the legislation based on inequality for students throughout the state.  Many members of the House Education Committee were either not present or skipped the meeting entirely.

While some spoke about how this will provide extra funding for students with disabilities, there is no mention of this in Governor Markell’s proposed budget.  I advised I support the bill if that funding is restored AND State Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 30 is approved to provide this essential funding for ALL students with disabilities in basic special education in grades Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

State Rep. Helene Keeley gave a very powerful speech before the committee voted about the situation with students in Wilmington and how the drug epidemic has ravaged the city.  The committee will meet next week to discuss HJR #12 with the soon to be added amendment.

Colonial To WEIC: We Don’t Want Our Wilmington Students Going To Red Clay Schools

Our only role at this point is to save those babies from having to attend Red Clay because we’re already doing a great job…we need to prevent these children from going to this district. -Mel Spotts, Colonial Board of Education

I always knew some twist was going to come along in the whole Wilmington redistricting initiative.  Something would happen during the process that would cause people to say “Where the hell did that come from?”  That happened last night at the Colonial School District Board of Education meeting.  To end the suspense, the Colonial board voted 7-0 to keep their Wilmington students.  Let me repeat this, they do not want their Wilmington students leaving their school district and going to the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Approximately 350 students.  You can listen to the audio recording here.

Unlike Christina and Red Clay, the Colonial board never passed a resolution in favor of the recommendations or findings from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  Existing Delaware law, in addition to the legislation from Senate Bill 122, allows for the bypass of a referendum if the school district boards involved in the redistricting effort passed a resolution in favor of it.  Colonial, in researching their board minutes, never did.  The only involvement with WEAC was a presentation to the school district on 2/23/15, but this was a workshop and just a presentation.

What this means for the whole Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is not known.  This is the monkey wrench thrown into the gears of the entire plan.  In my opinion, Colonial was underestimated and not given the proper attention they should have received.  All of the focus seems to be on Red Clay and Christina.  Colonial seems to be very concerned about the approximate 350 students that would be affected by the redistricting to Red Clay schools.  In their audio recording from their board meeting last night, board member Mel Spotts stated:

I would like to make a motion, based on the data provided, that our students in the Colonial School District stay within our borderlines and are not a part of Wilmington reconfiguration.

The board then passed the motion on a unanimous 7-0 vote to let the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission know they are out of the redistricting process.  What this will do the future of the WEIC/redistricting initiative is going to be a big question in the coming weeks.  But I am fairly certain WEIC Chair Tony Allen and Governor Markell will not be happy about this.  I’m sure the phone calls will be coming fast and furious to Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey very soon, if not already.

I’m also hearing implementation of the redistricting, if it even goes through at this point in time, won’t be until 2018.

*To clarify, if the Wilmington redistricting does go through it is understood that Brandywine School District would receive these students which Ms. Spotts understood later on in the WEIC portion of the board meeting.  But the motion still passed.

*As well I reworded the portion with Senate Bill 122 to clarify what is in existing Delaware code prior to SB122 and what came as a result of it.