In the grand scheme of things, six schools in the 2nd smallest state in the country really doesn’t amount to anything. But the six priority schools in Wilmington, Delaware could change the face of education. It’s not about making the schools better for the students. It’s about two forces colliding in a battle that’s been in the making for over a decade.
On one hand is Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education. Their public claim is the students aren’t reading up to their grade level, their standardized test scores are atrocious, and the beefed up funding will bring the schools back up again. On the other hand are the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated school districts. While Red Clay has already signed their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and submitted it to the Delaware Department of Education, Christina is holding out and will vote on their draft MOU at their next board meeting on January 7th.
Both school districts have vehemently and publicly opposed the priority school initiative. The biggest demands, new principals at $160,000 a year and teachers must reapply for their jobs, has insulted and demeaned many individuals throughout Delaware. Recent Freedom of Information Act requests have shown a collusion with the major media outlet in Delaware, The News Journal. Meetings with the Delaware DOE have been cut short, and language from the Secretary of Education Mark Murphy to certain members of the public have been extremely rude. Murphy refused to answer questions from the public at a Wilmington City Council meeting in October. FOIA emails have also shown that event was largely planned by the Delaware DOE and the Governor’s office.
The methodology for the priority schools has been controversial since day one. The DE DOE has focused on these six schools, all within a square mile of the Community Education Building designed to hold charter schools. Bank of America donated this building to the state, and only two charter schools reside in the large building with another one slated to open in the Fall of 2015. Prior turnaround schools, such as Booker T Elementary School in Dover and Eastside Charter School in Wilmington have been held up as the biggest gainers in test scores, but mitigating factors have contributed to those increases, whether it has been rezoning of a district or massive expulsions changing the student dynamic and decreasing the size of a class by more than half.
So why should America care about these six schools in a city that was just labeled Murdertown, USA? Three words: Governor Jack Markell. He has taken a very active interest in education in this first state to sign the constitution but the last to follow. In fact, he was on the original committees for Common Core and he holds a very powerful position among US Governors when it comes to education. Many view him as a lame duck, which he is in Delaware. But nationally the man can continue the corporate education reform until 2020.
In 2012, there was talk about US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan possibly leaving his post, whether voluntary or by force. There were two names lobbied as potential replacements: Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of schools for Washington D.C., and Delaware Governor Jack Markell. While Rhee has fallen from public favor, Markell is still seen by many in political circles as the new voice for education in America. The election of 2016 will work in Markell’s favor no matter which way it goes. If the President-elect is a Democrat, Markell could very well be picked as the new US Secretary of Education. If the country decides for a radical change and puts a 3rd Bush in office, Markell will still be picked for this slot. Jeb Bush is very high in the food chain for corporate education reform, and you can bet your bottom dollar Markell has been cozying up to the former Florida Governor.
It all comes down to the Christina School District Board of Education. As one of four school districts in Wilmington, Christina has always been the thorn in the DOE’s side. They are fighters, and they don’t take kindly to bullying by the state. Their refusal to follow the demands of the state with the priority schools has already put a chink in Markell’s armor. On October 29th, at the Rodel sponsored Vision Network conference, Markell gave a speech and publicly stated he would not hesitate to takeover these schools if it came down to it. Many in the audience were shocked at Markell’s overexertion of executive power, including many out-of-state guests.
This is what you will see if Markell takes over these six schools and turns them into charter schools:
-A precedent will be set in Delaware, and the DOE will be able to use flawed methodology via standardized test scores to “prioritize” any school in the state and turn it into a charter school.
-The DOE is already working on plans to penalize defiant school districts and potentially lead to the creation of Priority School Districts, which could then result in all schools within that district being turned into charter schools. If you don’t think this can happen, look at New Orleans and York, Pennsylvania as cities that have turned into charter school towns.
-More Teach For America, The New Teacher Project, and Relay Graduate School teachers invading Delaware schools like a Nazi Blitzkrieg out of World War II. These are teachers who excel at teaching to the test and are groomed to become future leaders of schools, with minimal training and hands-on experience in classrooms.
-The eventual busting of the unions. The education unions are among the most powerful in the country, and corporate education reformers have found a way to finally break them up. While some see these unions as a major detriment to education, they are the last man standing in the complete slaughter of public school district education.
-Even more Common Core, for not only English and Math, but also Science and Social Studies. This will result in even more standardized testing through PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Consortium. The US DOE used “waivers” to manipulate and blackmail and bribe states into accepting their reforms. If the school districts didn’t comply, they would be labeled as failing due to No Child Left Behind guidelines. Every single one of these waivers benefit the exact blueprint Markell and Rodel CEO Paul Herdman helped to create ten years ago, which has resulted in the current landscape of Delaware education.
-As more lower paid teachers come into schools, it sets up Rodel and Markell to initiate their “personalized learning” agenda through a company called 2Revolutions, which will result in the elimination of hands-on instruction in the classroom and will turn students into complete virtual zombies. This will give the students of the future more screen-time than ever. When they aren’t looking at screens all day at school, they will go home and do homework on the screen. When they aren’t focused on school, they will be on their iPads and Xbox. This “personalized learning” plan has already stated schools would need to do away with extracurricular activities like sports and band, or plays and art clubs.
-Special needs children will suffer the most from this plan, and they will be put at the bottom of the barrel. Arne Duncan has already put things in place that will eliminate the very heart of IDEA law. Do not believe for one second that states want to narrow the proficiency gap between special education students and regular students. They are using this data to make huge decisions with our schools. They will sacrifice a few of their own beloved charter schools to make this point. For every charter school that is closed, there are many more waiting in the wings.
-Minorities and low-income students will continue to be targeted and clumped together in charter schools with their own. Segregation will become the de facto method for all of education.
-Who benefits from all public school students going to charter schools, doing all their work in front of a screen, eliminating the diverse choices students have in schools, and being tested like guinea pigs in high-stakes testing? The companies that have backed all of this and the politicians who have set up the pieces on the board to allow it to happen.
Do parents and the current school districts have a choice anymore with what happens in education? Of course they do. It is not too late. Stopping Markell in Delaware would send a clear message to these companies that would benefit off the backs of our children. The time has come to stop rallying on Facebook on our state “Stop Common Core” pages and actually do something. Every single state in America that is driving these agendas needs to be stopped. Citizens need to start sending Freedom Of Information Act requests to their governors and state DOE. They need to expose these charlatans for what they are. This isn’t something that can be held off. You can’t wait and see. You have to take a stand if you are against this, and it needs to be done NOW.
If the little state of Delaware Governor Jack Markell is not held in check, he will most likely be the next US Secretary of Education and that means more of the same in education, with even more steps being taken to destroy what we have. This nonsense would continue until January 2021 at the earliest, if not longer. By then, all that public school district education has will be gone. It will become a whisper, and hundreds of thousands of educators will disappear. Markell is viewed by many in Delaware as a dictator, and if he is allowed to be set loose as the leader of education in America, all bets are off.
This is the future of education in America. Don’t let anyone fool you. Don’t let them say you are crazy. The people telling you this are already in key positions that are allowing this to happen. Once you enter this matrix world of corporate education reform, the connections these people have and the paths they take become very obvious. They are all pieces of the puzzle that lead to the complete annihilation of education as we know it.
Right now, Delaware needs your help America. We have formed a group called Delaware Parents and Teachers for Public Education. We have started a petition against the priority schools. We need your voice. We don’t just want 1,000 signatures. We want a million. We want to send a powerful message to those that want to dictate rather than collaborate. So please, sign our petition. It is not about Delaware. It’s about freedom, and voice, and our children. It’s about America.
Please go here to sign our petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/lets-make-priority-schools-a-real-priority-2