Delaware ACLU Planning To Sue State Over Education Funding

In a shocking announcement, the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union wants to sue the State of Delaware over education funding.  But the announcement was not made by the ACLU but rather a Capital School District Board of Education member at their meeting last evening. Continue reading “Delaware ACLU Planning To Sue State Over Education Funding”

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The Man Who Wants To Expand Charter School of Wilmington Models Across New Castle County

Kevin Dombrowski wants the Charter School of Wilmington model to expand around New Castle County according to an article by the Delaware Business Times yesterday.  Dombrowski works in Wilmington as the Senior Vice President of Global Business Development for Morningstar Inc.  The article was about his selection as an honoree of the DBT40, which are 40 emerging Delaware businesss leaders and innovators.  Dombrowski has also been heavily involved with the KIPP charter school chain.  He currently serves on the Leadership Council for KIPP Philadelphia Schools and was a board member at KIPP Chicago for three years from 2009-2011 according to his LinkedIn account.

I would work to remove the barriers in place to practical educational reform in Delaware. Specifically, I would remove restrictions on new charter school developments and build out a plan to launch several new versions of the Charter School of Wilmington throughout New Castle County to meet the excess student demand and to provide more exceptional public school options for families in the area.

Now I’m not sure how much Mr. Dombrowski follows education in Delaware.  I’m not sure if he is aware CSW has long been mentioned as a very controversial school based on their selective enrollment preferences.  I don’t know if he knows even the Delaware Dept. of Education will not consider CSW as a reward school based on those preferences (something that seems to have escaped their notice with Newark Charter School, but I digress).  I don’t think New Castle County could survive replication of Charter School of Wilmington as a chain of sorts.  Unless, of course, they did away with those selective enrollment preferences that result in very low numbers of minorities (except Asians), students with disabilities, and low-income students.   Then, and only then, would we be able to measure the true success of CSW.  Mr. Dombrowski, were you aware that CSW was one of the named schools in the American Civil Liberties Union complaint filed with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights?

The Sad Legacy Of Delaware Senator David Sokola

It’s hard to believe it has been almost 22 months since the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union and Delaware Community Legal Aid announced their complaint against the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  That complaint is sitting in the Philadelphia Office of Civil Rights collecting dust.  I read the complaint again this morning.  There is a legislator whose name is mentioned a few times in this complaint as the author of legislation that contributed to segregation in Delaware… Senator David Sokola.

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I’ve noticed in the past week that the upcoming General Election in Delaware has many wondering if Sokola’s accomplishments outside of education should give him a second chance.  I’ve argued that no matter what Meredith Chapman’s stances on education are, they pale in comparison to what Sokola has wrought.  To be honest, aside from a video interview with Delaware United and a citizen commenting on a Facebook thread that Chapman supports a parent’s right to opt out of the state assessment, I have not heard enough from her to get a good picture of her views on education.

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Knowing what occurred in Delaware because of certain charter schools and their enrollment practices, I thought this would be a slam-dunk in the Office of Civil Rights.  But that office, an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Education, has been strangely silent.  I am aware these complaints take years to reach a ruling.  But the complaint itself says enough about Senator Sokola that any citizen reading it should be able to have a clear picture in their mind.  The complaint also talks about the ignored warnings and omens from many that came with Sokola’s legislation which led to de facto segregation in parts of Delaware.  I have never heard Sokola apologize for this.  I’ve never seen any indication that he understands any of this.

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David Sokola is a very intelligent man.  He is someone who sees data and facts.   His favorite word is “heartburn” when talking about legislation he doesn’t like.  I’ve heard from many about his support for non-education bills that were very progressive in nature.  But as I’ve always said, if you support legislation that will ultimately harm children, that is not very progressive.  Like the citizens of Delaware who offered warnings before harmful Sokola legislation passed in the Delaware General Assembly, I offer a warning to Delaware.  If the citizens of the 8th Senate District vote Sokola back into another term, Delaware children will suffer.  Numbers don’t lie, and even if those charter schools changed their enrollment preferences to get rid of pre-enrollment assessments, 5 mile radius, sibling preferences, employee preferences, or the many other little things that contributed to the eventual outcomes we now see, it will be years before the situation balances between those three charter schools and the districts around them.

The complaint against the Delaware DOE and Red Clay is below.

Regulation 616 Rears Its Ugly Head Again And Gets Blasted By Delaware ACLU

The approach the Department is taking shortchanges our most vulnerable children and puts Delaware’s future at risk.

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At the end of last year, the Delaware Department of Education proposed amendments to Regulation 616 concerning due process procedures for alternative placement meetings and expulsion hearings.  In a nutshell, this regulation would make it easier to strip away the rights of students and parents in regards to school discipline.  This prompted a wave of negative comments from many concerned organizations and citizens in Delaware.  It started with the Smyrna School District Assistant Superintendent and went from there.  The State Board of Education tabled the changes at their December, 2016 board meeting.  Now Reg. 616 is back.  It was published in the June Registrar of Regulations.

As I wrote last year when this god awful and horrible regulation was introduced, this bill appears to be tailor made for charter schools.  To kick out the unwanted.  Why does the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education even consider this kind of nonsense?  Especially since there were laws passed dealing with this exact sort of thing.  Furthermore, Senate Bill 239, if passed, would have been the opposite of this bill.  I’m hearing this bill will come back roaring in the 149th General Assembly.  It was a question of timing for why it didn’t pass this spring.

Disproportionality is a big word these days and it needs to be.  We are seeing the results of what can happen when the pendulum swings too far in one direction.  The Delaware DOE and the State Board are taking a huge step backwards in a time when they should be getting out of this mindset.  If our charter schools want to completely change the direction of Delaware schools while everyone else is saying no, perhaps the time has come for them to change.  This isn’t Little House on the Prairie anymore.  They need to stop relying on funding from the state and the citizens who actually produce the funding for them to run as quasi-corporations and become what they should have been in the first place: private schools charging tuition.  Let’s see how successful they are then when they aren’t using their “autonomy” when it suits them best and then ditching that concept when things aren’t equal.

REGULATION 616

ACLU COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616

ATTORNEY GENERAL’S COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616

DSCYF COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616

GACEC COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616

SCPD COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616

DE Community Legal Aid Disabilities Law Program Needs Public Input NOW!!!!

The Disabilities Law Program of Community Legal Aid has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that the State of Delaware permits the charter schools to engage in practices that reduce the number of students with disabilities, students of color and students whose first language is not English who attend the schools.  They are looking for individuals to add to their complaint this month.  They are looking for students of color or students with disabilities who were denied entry to a charter school or did not apply to a specific charter school because of what they had heard about the school, and for families who did not apply to high performing charter schools because they did not know they were public schools.   They are also looking for students who have been pushed out of charters because of their disability needs.

If you or your friends have had these experiences, please contact Marissa Band,  (302) 575-0600, ext. 228, or Richard Morse, (302) 654-5326, ext. 103, for possible inclusion in the complaint.

 

Delaware DOE & Red Clay Respond To ACLU Complaint, What Happens Next, & My Demand From Delaware

In an article by the Hockessin Community News, both the Delaware Department of Education and the Red Clay Consolidated School District responded to the announcement yesterday of a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union and Community Legal Aid, Inc. submitted to the Office of Civil Rights regarding charter school discrimination against minorities, low-income students and special needs children.

The Delaware DOE’s response:

“We are committed to providing access to great educational opportunities for every Delaware student, from birth through higher education, and we are proud of the academic progress our low-income students and children of color have made in recent years, including by closing the gap between minority and non-minority students,” said Alison May, press spokesperson for the Delaware DOE.

May said that the state’s efforts to expand access has doubled the number of low-income children in “high-quality” early childhood programs, and has helped 100 percent of the state’s college-ready students apply to college regardless of their income.

“We will continue to expand and accelerate our efforts to make great education a reality for all of our students,” she said.

Red Clay’s response:

Red Clay Public Information Officer Pati Nash said that the district is now and always has been committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion in their schools.

“We will continue to be guided by those principles,” Nash said. “And continue providing an excellent education to our students and the community we serve.”

Newcastle Councilman of the 10th District Jea Street said:

“This is not only a New Castle County problem – this is statewide,” Street said, now in his 41st year as a student advocate. He later added, “I support this and I appreciate this (complaint).”

The article went on to explain what will happen next. The complaint has been issued to the United States Office of Civil Rights and the US Department of Education. This is not something that will be handled out of the regional Office of Civil Rights out of Philadelphia. An investigation will be done to see if the complaint has merit, which the legal director of the Delaware ACLU, Richard Morse, believes will happen.

A declaration on the complaint was submitted by Eve Buckley. Buckley resides in Newark, DE and is a history professor at University of Delaware. In the declaration Buckley compared Newark Charter School’s enrollment preference to those of private schools, which are not beholden to many laws due to private funding and the fact they receive no state or federal funds for their operations. Charter schools do receive federal and state funds, so any laws applicable to the regular public school districts apply to charter schools as well.

On Facebook and other forums, many citizens of Delaware have gone back and forth on the issue. Some feel it is something that should have happened years ago while others want the status quo. Many others blame the whole situation with bussing around Wilmington as the chief contributor of the problem. Unfortunately, some comments have been racist and discriminatory.

I find the Delaware DOE’s response to be typical, but very weak. To cite examples of pre-school children and juniors and seniors in high school on how they promote equity is ignoring the main victims of this complaint, all the students in-between. Once again, the Delaware DOE takes an opportunity to proudly announce how the gap is being reduced between these sub-groups and “regular” students based on standardized testing scores. The Delaware DOE, in my opinion, has been blissfully ignorant of everything else happening in schools unless it is related to education reform policies. They have allowed this to happen by essentially doing nothing about it. There are many other factors contributing to this, but the DOE could have done something about it as the state agency for education.

What I find very surprising is how this is just a charter school issue. There are other schools that have some of these same practices. Polytech, in Kent County, is just one example. Some online have said the magnet schools and vocational schools in Delaware have used enrollment preference in their applications as well. Yes, the charters are the primary target in this complaint, but in my opinion, ANY school that uses any type of discriminatory practices to weed out any sub-group in the surrounding community is just as guilty.

I take grave offense to the treatment of the special needs children in this state. If they aren’t denied entrance to a charter school, many are denied the special education services that should be given to them under Federal law. I have brought up this topic at just about every IEP Task Force meeting to be a topic in the report to Governor Markell. I met with Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the director of the Exceptional Children’s Resources Group at the Delaware DOE last summer, and her response to why the Delaware DOE does not audit schools for denied IEPs is because the “due process system is more than fair.”

It wasn’t until last night at the IEP Task Force that a member actually brought it up. Bill Doolittle, representing the Governor’s Advisory Council of Exceptional Citizens, stated that if the task force is reviewing the entire IEP process, and evaluations are an integral part of the discovery phase of an IEP request, then an IEP denial should absolutely be included in the conversation. It is too late for this to go into Governor Markell’s report due January 1st, but if the IEP Task Force continues past January (which Lieutenant Governor/soon to be Attorney General Matt Denn said is “highly” likely), it may come up as a topic. If nothing is done about IEP denials being audited in the state of Delaware very soon, I will be submitting my own complaint to both the US Office of Civil Rights as well as the US Department of Education. Enough is enough. Far too many students and their families have suffered as a result of an IEP denial. Far too many students who did not receive services at a young age when they should have end up spending time in residential treatment centers because of this practice. How many tears have to be shed? How many families have to be torn apart before this DOE acts? If they don’t act, I will.

Read more: http://www.hockessincommunitynews.com/article/20141203/News/141209902#ixzz3Kz1CeiWP