Education Funding Lawsuit Filed By Delaware ACLU, What Happened To That Other Complaint?

I heard about this one last week.  Tony Allen, the Chair of the Wilmington Education Committee, warned about this a year ago.  Now the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the Delaware NAACP and Delawareans For Educational Opportunity, filed a lawsuit against the State of Delaware over education funding.  Unbeknownst to most Delawareans, however, another Delaware ACLU complaint disappeared.

According to The News Journal, the Delaware Dept. of Education released the following statement about the suit:

The Delaware Department of Education has not seen any complaint from these groups and will respond to any litigation against it in court. It is the goal of the Department to assist Delaware’s schools in preparing every student to succeed in college or career and life.

Yeah, pretty much the same thing the DOE said back in 2014 when a complaint against them and Red Clay was filed with the Office of Civil Rights over discrimination in Delaware charter schools.

Who is named in the lawsuit? Governor Carney, Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, State Treasurer Ken Simpler, and the heads of each county finance office.

To read the complaint, please see below with some exclusive news appearing shortly after.

Jessica Bies at the News Journal wrote in the above article:

According to the lawsuit, the state is failing students from low-income families, students with disabilities and students who are learning English. Test scores for these disadvantaged students are far below state standards set by the Delaware Department of Education in its new plan, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

What the lawsuit wants seems to contradict with what Delaware Governor John Carney wants:

But Gov. John Carney, listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, has said he is not in favor of needs-based funding, in part because it gives extra money to school districts serving at-risk kids without holding them accountable for how they use it. He has also said there is neither the financial nor political support for such a measure.

Yeah, okay Carney.  Whatever.  We both know how you exert pressure on the General Assembly to do YOUR bidding.

But whatever happened to that old complaint filed in December, 2014?  The one the Delaware ACLU filed with the Office of Civil Rights alleging discrimination in certain Delaware charter schools?  The Office of Civil Rights rejected that complaint.  This never made the press and the Delaware ACLU never released anything on it.  Nothing can be found on the Delaware ACLU or OCR websites.  But it happened.  I reached out to the Delaware ACLU early last week to get information on this.  They directed me to Richard Morse, who is now with Delaware Community Legal Aid.  Mr. Morse did not return my call.  I guess someone wanted that complaint to die a quick and painful death.

This lawsuit cannot be ignored though.  It was filed with the Delaware Chancery Court today.  This could be a game-changer folks!

On Facebook last week, I wrote about knowing some things coming up but I couldn’t write about them yet.  This was two of them.

 

Delaware Chancery Court Judge Rules Red Clay Violated Election Clause But Will Not Have To Redo 2015 Referendum

Vice-Chancellor Laster, a Chancery Court for the State of Delaware judge, finally ruled on the Red Clay referendum lawsuit.  The very long ruling, clocking in at 186 pages, blasts Delaware’s antiquated method of property tax assessment and delves deep into education funding as a whole for the state of Delaware.

The final ruling, issued today, found fault with Red Clay for going over the line with their Parent Events at 23 Red Clay schools during their February 2015 referendum.  But he also stated that the entire referendum process is one of great pressure for school districts and individuals in those situations can dance around what is wrong or right.  He found they did not act with intended malice but for the public good since referendum results in the positive bring public schools money to fund them.  As a result, he ruled against Red Clay redoing the entire referendum and refunding taxes already paid from it.

The lawsuit was filed by an elderly couple and their daughter through the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union.  The plaintiffs claimed they were not able to vote because of inadequate parking due to the parent events staged to bring in positive votes for the referendum.

The ruling suggests no referenda in Delaware would ever have to take place if properties were assessed based on current home values.

This is an amazing read if you are at all interested in current education funding in Delaware.  With Colonial facing a must-pass referendum or several teachers and educators will be let go, this decision could have a major bearing on any events they might be planning for their 2nd referendum attempt this year in the beginning of June.

This will be a big question for future referenda in Delaware.  Does this ruling set a precedent for all referenda that no events can be held at schools during a referendum?

Letter To Attorney General Matt Denn About Referendums In Delaware

I was asked to share the following letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn about referendums in Delaware.  There are many districts gearing up for their own referendums: Brandywine, Christina, Appoquinimink and I’m sure there are others.  What do you think?  Should referendums stop being a social gathering?

Letter to Attorney General Matt Denn

After making inquiries to the Board of Elections I was advised to
contact your office for further help.

The recent decision by Chancery Court to proceed with the Lawsuit
against the Red Clay school district exposes the unethical and
blatantly dishonest tactics used by School Boards in their desperate
attempts to win referendums. It is essential you investigate these
abuses so that voting Citizens are not subjected to this constant
badgering which has eroded public confidence in the voting process.
Another case in point is the Milford School board, which held its 3rd
referendum in just 18 months. While permitted, this relentless use of
referendum to raise taxes that had failed twice before has resulted in
voter fatigue and charges of Voter fraud.

School Boards have a saying “just try again”. Milford has said “we
did” and when that didn’t work they cheated, bullied and lied.
Delaware Law guarantees all elections shall have Free and Equal access
however the Superintendent and Milford School Board have colluded to
deny those in opposition from this fundamental right.

Cheated; they checked the Board of Elections and saw that there were
250 more No votes at LuLu Ross Elementary in the May 2015 referendum.
So they eliminated LuLu Ross as a polling location thwarting the
people in that community their right to vote. They replaced it with
the High School where Senior students were enticed to cut class to
vote yes. In the previous referendum the Seniors were transported by
bus to Banneker Elementary to vote. The bus was supposedly paid for by
a quasi- official lobbying group which was initially headquartered at
the Superintendent’s office. Students were essentially pressured to
vote yes because of the constant threats that all sports and numerous
personnel would be eliminated.

Bullied; they scheduled a non-essential family night at Banneker which
was another polling site the very same night the polls were open to
voters. This activity could have been rescheduled but instead the
parking lot was full of cars and the hallways were full of young
students. This was a deliberate attempt by the Board to fill the
parking lot with families and vehicles to discourage the Handicapped
and Elderly who traditionally vote no from exercising their legal
right to “Free and Equal Access”.

Lied to; the School Board, along with the Superintendent and CFO told
the public they had slashed the budget, fired personnel and eliminated
many programs. Only problem with this was the truth; the actual 2015
budget was $51,006.000 whereas the 2016 projected budget was
$49,961,000.  A reduction of only $45,000.  Are these the deceptive
tactics and legacy the Superintendent and Board want to set as
acceptable behavior to our students and citizens?

Questions that need to be answered in by your office;

Did anyone within the Milford School system or its lobby organization
known as Buccaneer Tomorrow use any means of communication, written or
verbal to “encourage H.S. students to vote?  Did this constitute a
violation of Delaware law governing electioneering within the
designated voting area?

Did anyone within the school system contact parents of students asking
them to vote for the referendum using school resources and was this a
violation of Delaware law?

Why were voting booths eliminated at LuLu Ross?

Why was the non-essential family math night at Banneker not
rescheduled so as to not interfere with the People’s right to Vote?

Was there a Quid Pro Quo made with the Teachers Union regarding Raises?

Spyro Stamat
10284 Webb Farm Rd
Lincoln, De 19960

Delaware Chancery Court Suggests Red Clay Redo Their Last Referendum In Legal Opinion

This hasn’t been discussed in mainstream media too much, but the Delaware Chancery Court just wrote a legal opinion concerning Red Clay’s last referendum.  The Red Clay Consolidated School District wanted to case dismissed, but the Chancery Vice Chancellor Laster denied the dismissal on October 7th. The entire opinion can be read here.  Keep in mind this is not an actual verdict, merely an opinion by a judge. Key highlights from this legal opinion are as follows:

Finally, to the extent this decision has erred by treating the Family-Focused Events as a reward for voting, at a minimum they were selectively targeted get-out-the-vote events designed to appeal to a readily identifiable group that Red Clay believed would support the tax increase. Viewed as such, the Complaint states a viable challenge under the Elections Clause to the Family-Focused Events. The Abbott decision stated that the purpose of the Elections Clause ―is to ensure that the right of citizens to vote in an election is unfettered.‖ 2008 WL 821522, at *19 (Del. Ch. Mar. 27, 2008.

The opinion goes into great detail about the events going on at various Red Clay schools the same day as the referendum.

Using the Family-Focused Events, Red Clay encouraged and facilitated voting by families with school-aged and pre-school-aged children. By doing so, Red Clay made the election unequal, not through traditionally negative means, but through positive means. Whether Red Clay‘s conduct went too far is necessarily a matter of degree, but for pleading-stage purposes, the plaintiffs have stated a claim under the Elections Clause.

The heart of the complaint behind this case was a woman brought her elderly parents to a school to vote.  She claimed parking was a huge issue and there were empty school busses taking up spots.  She claims her parents, who are disabled, were not given unfettered access to the polling booth.

Moreover, in the current case, Red Clay‘s selective get-out-the-vote efforts had negative effects on the elderly and disabled. As the Abbott decision recognized, a potential violation of the Elections Clause exists if the plaintiffs allege that ―their access to the polls was disturbed….‖ 2008 WL 821522, at *20.

Vice-Chancellor Laster denied the dismissal request by the Red Clay attorneys:

In challenging Red Clay‘s electoral interventions as a whole, the Complaint states a claim on which relief can be granted under both federal and state law. Red Clay‘s motion to dismiss is therefore denied.

The Vice Chancellor basically said if Red Clay does the Referendum again without some of the contested events taking place, and they have the same results, it would render the case moot.

Red Clay has the option of addressing the plaintiffs‘ contentions by returning to the electorate. This decision has concluded that the plaintiffs would not be able to state a claim for relief if Red Clay only engaged in certain types of conduct and avoided others, such as the Family-Focused Events and electioneering in close proximity to the voting rooms. If Red Clay called for a new special election and limited its electoral interventions, and if Red Clay‘s voters ratified the result of the February 2015 election by voting in favor of the tax increase, then this litigation would be moot.

This will certainly be an interesting case to watch if it does make it to trial.  There was a lot of heat put on Red Clay based on the events of this referendum, and even though Attorney General Matt Denn did not find anything wrong, several Delaware legislators did.  The final decision in this could change the way referendums in Delaware occur.  Or maybe someone will finally get the good sense to do away with it for good!