Did The State Board Of Education Break The Law By Not Voting On The WEIC Redistricting Plan?

Hourglass

If the State Board does not approve the plan as submitted by the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, it shall notify the chairperson of the Commission in writing, give reasons why the plan was not approved, and allow the Commission to resubmit the plan within 60 days of the chairperson receiving the notice of denial. -Senate Bill 122, 148th General Assembly

Yesterday, the Delaware State Board of Education declined to even vote on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting final plan.  By doing so, they may have violated the letter of the law determined by Senate Bill 122.  They voted unanimously to amend their motion to vote on the plan and kicked the plan back to WEIC.  They are going to draft their questions and concerns and will present this to WEIC prior to the end of January.  The problem with the law comes when they DO vote on the plan.  If it is after January 31st, they have violated the sixty day window for a response from WEIC if they deny the plan because they have to act on it by March 31st, 2016.  The Delaware State Board of Education clearly doesn’t understand the legal process for this plan, even though the Delaware Department of Education has three Deputy Attorney Generals from the Delaware Department of Justice.

They are not sending a letter of denial, they are sending a letter addressing concerns and questions about the plan.  They should have actually voted on the plan as is, and then the sixty day window would have kicked in.  Unless the State Board of Education puts an agenda on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar seven days prior to a meeting where they will vote on the plan, which would have to be by January 24th, this Sunday, they have violated the law twice: first by not taking action on the plan prior to the sixty-day window, and then by not putting up an agenda for a public meeting seven days prior to the meeting.  WEIC is not obligated in any way whatsoever to honor the State Board of Education’s request for information.  In fact, by allowing the State Board to perform in this illegal fashion, it could land them in violation as well.  The clock is ticking…tick-tock, tick-tock…

State Board of Education Having “Workshop” On WEIC Ten Days Before They Vote On The Plan

The Delaware State Board of Education is having a workshop at 9am on January 11th concerning the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan.  The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and review the WEIC Final Proposal.  This is a public meeting as it appeared on the Delaware Public Meeting calendar.  It does not state whether public comment is allowed or not.  There is not an end time for the meeting either, but the final proposal is very long.  At the December State Board of Education meeting, WEIC leaders Tony Allen, Dan Rich and Elizabeth Lockman, along with Joe Pika, presented the proposal to the State Board.  There was a lot of discussion during the meeting about whether or not moving the Christina School District schools in Wilmington to Red Clay was the best for students.  Later on in their board meeting, President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray was visibly upset about the Christina Priority Schools getting another planning year based on the recommendations of WEIC’s predecessor, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  This will definitely be an interesting conversation on the 11th.  The State Board of Education will officially vote on the plan at their January 21st regular meeting.

In the plan, WEIC is asking for the state to chip in $6 million to fund the plan, which would bring the Christina students to Red Clay during the 2018-2019 school year.  Typically, the Governor of Delaware does not release the following Fiscal Year’s budget until the final days of January.  With the board voting on the plan on 1/21 and the budget not being publicly released until most likely a week later, how can the State Board of Education vote on this if they don’t know where the funding will come from?  I would not assume the $8 million Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn is asking for from the foreclosure crisis settlement fund, which he would like to see go towards Delaware’s 16 schools with the highest populations of low-income students, would be allocated for the WEIC initiative.  Though the funds Denn is asking for are similar in scope to what WEIC would like to see for this new Red Clay Consolidated district map, there are schools outside of that potential new district that would be included in the 16 schools he is requesting funds for.

On December 9th, Governor Markell appeared at the regular meeting of WEIC and announced Red Clay taxpayers would not have to pay for this.  If the receiving district of the Christina students (Red Clay) taxpayers aren’t paying for it, then who is?  The logical answer would be the taxpayers of Delaware, which by default would include the Red Clay taxpayers.

Oddly enough, this meeting does not appear on the State Board of Education website.  Any state board meetings usually appear on there in advance, but it is not known when this meeting was scheduled.  Delaware state law does call for any public meeting to have seven-day notification, and by it appearing on the public meeting calendar it did fulfill that requirement.

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