My number one question for the folks at First State Liberty: Do you pay the same amount for guns that you did twenty years ago? I’m not asking this to be smart. My reasoning is very simple: you pay for things every single day that cost more than it did five years ago, ten years ago, and twenty years ago. Education is no different. Perhaps you don’t have children in the Christina School District. Perhaps you don’t want to pay taxes for schools your children don’t go to. I can see your point with that. But here’s the thing. You pay taxes every single time you work. You pay for programs that don’t affect anyone in your household. Your state and federal taxes, which go up and down, go towards things I’m sure you don’t agree with. But yet, you still pay them. If not, you would go to jail.
You have a choice with a referendum. You can say no. That is certainly your right. But I also have to believe that you care about children. All children. I’ve been to your website and how you completely blast the district as if it is your moral obligation to deny children the services they need. I do take offense to that. But you would also be surprised at something we agree on. I know First State Liberty is against Common Core. I know you didn’t support the opt out bill, House Bill 50, because parents already own that right. What parents don’t own the right to, no matter how we may wish otherwise, is how to run a school district. We can get involved, and do our best. We can go to meetings (not just one or two before a referendum) and make our voices heard. We can run for the district school board. There are many ways to get involved. I encourage all citizens to do that.
With Common Core and Race To The Top forced on every single Delaware school district and all charter schools, things changed in education. Basically, Delaware took a $119 million dollar bribe from the US Government. In exchange for a financial gift equal to approximately 3% of our education budget spread out over three years, offered to us during a recession, our Governor sold out Delaware education. But the true crime didn’t stop there, because he allowed the Department of Education to keep half of it. Meanwhile, he cut out reading programs that were actually working for our kids. The results were disastrous. Especially for a district like Christina. When Christina did the same thing First State Liberty is doing now, speaking up about what has come to be seen as a failed program called the Delaware Talent Cooperative, the Delaware Department of Education took Christina’s Race To The Top money away. For the sole reason that they dared to challenge big government. Something your group has as their central theme.
As I’m sure you know, urban districts like Christina don’t tend to fare well overall on standardized tests. These are not truly tests of a student’s achievement. They are set up for children to do poorly on them. They set the achievement levels at a point where it would be impossible for all students to score proficient. As a result, Christina and Red Clay got the test, label and shame status thrown on them in the guise of “priority schools”. Here is a newsflash for you: all school districts have high administrative costs. Because of Race To The Top, districts had to hire people to oversee all of these programs that were forced on them. As a result of Common Core implementation and changes to teacher evaluations, the pressure put on districts was greater than ever. This happened with charter schools as well. Some schools overcame these challenges. They also tended to be schools that didn’t have as many low-income students, minority students, or students with disabilities. These schools were given the spotlight while whole districts like Christina and Red Clay were given the “we are going to fix your horrible schools even if we have to take them over” treatment. And all of this was based on the standardized test scores. The ones that are now fully aligned with the same Common Core your group loathes.
But are you aware, or willing to share with your entire membership and on your robo-calls about the referendum, that the ratio of administrators to students results in Christina administrators overseeing more students than any other district in New Castle County? These jobs you so desperately want to be gone or have their salaries shrunk, that are necessary based on the very mandates forced on them by the Delaware Department of Education…
From the CSD Paving The Way website:
Please note (as stated in the fine print on this image) this graph does NOT include student enrollment and administrator totals for the Delaware Autism Program or the Delaware School for the Deaf which would elevate those numbers.
Christina has cut admins and several teachers. They are on bare bones. If this referendum doesn’t pass, it has the potential of getting very ugly, very fast. More cuts, more jobs gone. And next year, you will be looking at the same thing only they will have to ask for MORE money in their referendum to make up for what they didn’t get from this one. Guess what happens to all of you who live in the Christina School District? Higher unemployment, your neighbor’s children not getting what they need to survive (yes, survive) in public education. People won’t want to move to the Christina School District. They will look on the Delaware DOE’s really horrible school report card and say “we shouldn’t move there”. Without new people moving into the district, your property values will go down. The equity you have built up over the years will slowly vanish. Perhaps one of you will come to a new opportunity or crisis point in your life. You may want to sell that home with the reduced equity. How did that work out for you?
If you think Delaware school taxes are high, have you talked to anyone in Pennsylvania? I’m pretty sure anyone in Chester, Montgomery, or Delaware County in Pennsylvania would laugh when you told them how much your school taxes are going up by. Many folks in Maryland might say the same. And both of those states have sales tax, something you have never paid in Delaware.
If we are going to go by figures from 2014, let’s take a look at these, from the Zero Hedge website:
What these figures don’t include are the portion of property tax that goes towards school taxes. All are much higher in those states. With this information clearly visible, I really have a hard time with your group’s efforts to squash referendums in our state. But yet I don’t hear boo from First State Liberty about Markell giving more tax breaks to corporations while every single citizen in the state pays for it. I didn’t hear anything from any of you when it was announced yesterday that Title I funding, which is supposed to help districts with low-income students, is going to wind up giving more for the state (aka, the DOE) to keep than the school districts will receive.
I think you have the right idea, wanting to curb expenses for citizens. I have no problem with that. But you have the wrong target. Why isn’t the State of Delaware in your crosshairs? Why aren’t you sending robo-calls to every Delawarean about the absolute corruption and fraud going on before our very eyes? Is Christina just an easy target? Step up your game. Come to Legislative Hall when they are doing these corporate gift bills (and I’m sure there will be more by the time June 30th rolls around) and protest that. But all you are doing now is hurting students. Your numbers don’t add up and all the information is available to you if you really look for it. But telling your followers that Christina is non-transparent is completely false. The referendum has been talked about on the radio, in the News Journal, and in the local newspaper for well over a month.
I would seriously question where you are getting your information from and what the true motivations are here. It’s very easy to rile up a crowd. What isn’t easy is admitting you were wrong. I saw the kind-of sort-of owning up to that on your website, but it was followed by “give us information now”. My advice to you: if you really want to know what is happening with district funds, go to all their Citizen Budget Oversight Committee meetings. Not just the one a week before a referendum. Going to one meeting a year and complaining about transparency isn’t exactly what I would call a marketing strategy for your cause. It’s like arriving late at a dinner party and getting upset all the food is gone. But then you tell everyone there was no food! Go to all their board meetings. Find out what is going on. Look at all their monthly financial reports. If you are relying on Delaware DOE data, don’t be shocked if it isn’t exactly accurate.
In terms of the comparison between Christina to Smyrna School District letter, Christina gets more federal funds because there are more at-risk students. Whoever read that financial document admits they don’t know the difference between local, state, and federal funds. If a district has more at-risk students, they get more federal money. The bigger a district is, the more admins you have. As well, their properties are assessed at a higher rate in Smyrna than in Christina. So that 2/3rds number? It doesn’t exactly mesh with reality and solid math. This isn’t rocket science.
You want to blame a district for what is clearly the state’s fault. But in the end, all you are really doing is making it worse for the kids. The future of Delaware. The future of America. Your kids. Your grandkids. If Christina loses with the referendum, the charters in the district lose as well. They get their proportion of the local tax based on students in the district that go to their schools. All you are doing is hurting the whole education system. Who wins when we all lose?
I encourage all of you to look into your hearts and ask yourselves “What exactly are we fighting here? Why are we going after David when Goliath is the one doing all this?” These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. First State Liberty and recipients of your robo-calls: Vote YES for the Christina referendum!