Every year, on June 13th, Exceptional Delaware celebrates its anniversary. This year is, pardon the pun, no exception. You won’t see what the mission is until you read about it. But it is definitely time to reboot the mission and go back to basics. It’s about the kids. It’s about families. It’s about what is covered up and hidden. In ALL facets of education, people want quiet. They didn’t want the dirty skeletons coming out of the closet. But they are there. Like an ostrich with a head buried in the sand, so it is with Delaware education. Continue reading
I’ve gone back and forth with the WEIC redistricting plan for a while now. Some days I like it, others I don’t. I tend to think of it from more of a statewide level because I live down in Dover. But there are those who are in full support of the plan. But some aren’t in it for the right reasons. I recently heard a reference to “those kids”…those being the Wilmington Christina students. While many of the main advocates want a better outcome for these students and think a population of city kids split up between four districts is bad, there are those who don’t want those kids in Christina anymore. For the simple reason that they are a perceived burden and a problem that needs to go away. I like to call this racism. There are also some in Red Clay who don’t want more of “those kids”. That is also racism when said in the same context.
I get the folks who are afraid of their taxes going up. I understand that. Especially older citizens on a fixed income. But those who don’t want them because of their environment, or the color of their skin, or the issues they bring into schools… you need to get over it. We live in the 21st Century. The Jim Crow laws are gone. Gay people can marry. It’s a new way of looking at things. I tend to believe, and this is only my opinion, most issues of racism are inherited. Racism exists on both sides. There are white people who hate black people and black people who hate white people. I think it comes down to a matter of trust and dealing with fear.
Way back in the halcyon days of the mid 1990s, I worked in a comic book store in Trenton, NJ for a little while. I was driving home from work one night, and I took a wrong turn. I wound up in a bad neighborhood. I was approaching a stop sign when a group of African-American men started walking towards my car with baseball bats. It terrified me. I ignored the stop sign and gunned it until I was in a safer area. I didn’t report it. I just made sure I was never in that area again. Did I let that one bad situation define my views of African-Americans? No. I recognized there are good and bad people everywhere. Is there really much difference between those men who were defending their turf and a fight at a school? Probably not. Was their intention to harm me or just scare me? I may never know. Perhaps they viewed me as a threat.
Back to WEIC, I just feel like the Christina Wilmington children could possibly be a political football. I’ve discussed this with many people over the past year and a half or so. I just don’t see how transferring them from Christina to Red Clay is really going to make such a huge difference for them. They will still be in a school district. Maybe they won’t be bused as far, but I remember it taking my bus an hour on some days to get to school. If it was snowing, forget about it! As an adult, I would kill for an hour in a vehicle I don’t have to drive! To be alone with my thoughts, possibly someone to talk to. Read, listen to music, stare at the scenery, I wouldn’t mind it at all.
I get that things need to change. Personally, I think making Wilmington its own district isn’t such a bad idea. I think a lot of the other districts should combine. We really don’t need nineteen school districts in Delaware. If those in power pushed this, it would happen. But they are stuck in their ways and the way it is. Change is very hard for Delaware. I’ve realized that a lot lately. But this whole “it has to happen now” thing is beginning to irritate me. A lot. If it has to happen now, why are there so many demanding conditions on the whole thing and timetables set up that almost seem to be a detriment rather than a help?
When I hear about Red Clay’s nightmare of an inclusion plan, I worry about the Christina Wilmington special needs kids who may be headed into a district that, on the surface, claims they are a success. When I hear from parents that the flaws and issues facing that inclusion plan haven’t been solved and that the administration keeps canceling the Red Clay Inclusion Committee meetings for no reason at all, I worry we are sending them to a district that just doesn’t get it. But once you start digging a bit, you find out Red Clay really isn’t that different from Christina in a lot of respects. But what they do have is power. They have very affluent suburbs. Red Clay and Colonial own the Data Service Center. They have the ability to authorize their own charter schools. While it hasn’t been done in a long time, the option is there. Christina has this option as well, but no one has utilized it. Christina doesn’t have a Charter School of Wilmington or a Conrad to brighten their reputation (and test scores). One of them is the most discriminatory institutes of learning I have ever seen in my life while calling themselves a public school. But no one acts on this. I have to wonder why that is? We talk all the time about how we need to make life better for kids. But we allow discrimination factories in our state that the citizens of the state pay taxes to fund. What does that say about who we are as Delaware? We can say we hate it, but when the time comes to push on these issues, and I mean really push, it gets very quiet.
If WEIC truly wants to make things equitable for the children of Wilmington, they need to stop doing it under this illusion of instant change or it is gone forever. I would love instant change as well, but that doesn’t mean it is always good. The redistricting plan, if it becomes law, is going to pump tons of money into Red Clay. But it won’t last forever. What happens when that money is gone four, five years down the road? All these programs will happen based on that money. When it disappears, what happens then? Is Red Clay going to ask their citizens to pay for it? Do we truly think the state will keep paying? And why aren’t Brandywine and Colonial participating in this? That was the original plan. Do they not want “those kids” as well? I know Colonial want to keep the ones they already have, but why did they never offer to take more?
If you are robbing Peter to pay Paul, you better be damn sure you are doing it for the best of all possible reasons. If you are sending kids into a transition just for the sake of getting rid of them, you might want to take a good look in the mirror and think how it would feel if you were being tossed around like that. If you’re doing this to gain power, or an illusion power, remember this is not a game. These are children. If you truly believe their lives will be better, than go with that feeling. If you want a legacy, make sure it is a legacy for kids and not your name. Names are only as important as how things are perceived in the long run. If this ends bad, your name will be attached to it.
I know there are legislators who have or will vote yes for this because it is the political thing to do. I know some of them really haven’t researched it enough to know what they are actually voting on. I have to say, I respect the hell out of State Rep. Kim Williams. Out of all the House Democrats, she was the only one to vote no. Not because she doesn’t want a better life for these kids. Not because she thinks Red Clay isn’t as good as Christina. She voted no because she is deeply concerned about the funding for all this and what it will eventually mean for the constituents in her district. To vote against party lines like that, especially when you are the last Democrat on the roll call and you know every single other Democrat in that room already voted yes, that takes courage and strength.
I know some Senators will fight this. Even a Democrat or two. I recently heard something about a tooth and a nail. I heard about another one who is opposed to it but the power players feel they can handle this Senator. Excuse me? Handle? Is this the FBI? I didn’t know Delaware Senators had handlers. I spent a lot of time in Legislative Hall this week. I saw and heard a lot. More this week alone than I think I have the entire time I’ve gone there during the 148th General Assembly. While I’m not naming names here, I think some of the Delaware “elite” may want to put themselves in check. You only have as much power as you think you have. It can be taken away in an instant. For those who think they are above the will of the people and all that, think twice. I’m not the only one who talks, and I don’t talk as much as I could. The “elite” would most likely have something to really fear if others did. I would worry more about the things people say about you that you can’t hear. That puts a chink in your armor and you don’t even know it’s happening.
I fear this will all end badly for these kids. I agree with what some of the legislators said the other day. This is a hope bill. A hope bill with a hell of a lot of money, but even more important, children’s lives on the line. We still have the Smarter Balanced Assessment which will be the measurement of how successful this thing is. Success based on a failure of a test. I have to ask… what the hell are we really thinking this will accomplish if it based on the very flawed measurement that will define this? The same test that is making a complete mockery out of special education in our state? If this thing is so important, so “has to happen now”, I would encourage all those who have children or grandchildren that could attend Red Clay district schools send their children there. Choice them into Warner, or Bancroft, or Stubbs. Only then will the words I hear so many of you saying actually mean you truly believe this.