Are We Violating Delaware’s Constitution?

Section 6. No property tax receipts received by a public school district as a result of a property tax levied for a particular purpose shall be used for any other purpose except upon the favorable vote of a majority of the eligible voters in the district voting on the question.

Are we breaking the law by sending local funds to other LEA’s without first asking our residents?

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13 thoughts on “Are We Violating Delaware’s Constitution?

  1. Brian Stephan

    “as a result of a property tax levied for a particular purpose” is probably the line that permits it to happen. The particular purpose of the tax in this case would be funding the education of a public school student, as charters are considered public schools. So it’s probably not unconstitutional (or it would be a very tough argument to make).

    Although if it were, I’d figure that the school choice program would also violate our state constitution when it comes to sending students across district lines.

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    1. Kim Williams - State Representative 19th District Post author

      When a resident goes into the voting booth to vote, there is specific language on the ballot stating where the funds will be spent. I bet if you ask your neighbors to see if they knew their money does not necessarily stay in the district, their money actually may leave the district, they would be very surprised. We are asking our residents to increase taxes for their district, the district in which they live, we are not asking them whether or not they approve raising taxes to support other schools. Most people I talk to are not aware, even families who are very involved in their kid’s school, that this is taking place.

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  2. wtfindelaware

    For discussion purposes, say that it is violating the constitution. Now what? Do we send 1,000s of students back to schools that are unprepared for the influx. Do we tell parents, that they now have no choice? Do we tell students that you are stuck in the school system in the area that you live in?

    What would this do for competition? If a school system remains transfixed in place now, what would happen if they now had nothing to compete against?

    Would this really be a good thing?

    Is this something that someone would actually endorse?

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    1. Kim Williams - State Representative 19th District Post author

      Competition, how is there competition when schools are able to select the students that they want? How is there competition when schools are able to tell a family that your child really is not a good fit? How is there competition when a school tells a family whose child needs special education services that their child would be better served at their feeder school? How is there competition when the application is 12 pages long and requires families to do so many things that they get lost in the application process? How is there competition when transportation is an issue for families who would like to choice their child but can’t because they have no way of getting their child to the school? How is there competition when I know my child has an amazing talent but I cannot afford the private music lessons, dance lessons, art lessons, and I cannot get my child to the audition on a Saturday because I work two jobs? How is there competition when schools can deny a student access because of their middle school grades? How is there competition when one of the writing prompts asks a student what does it feel like to get sunburn and to write about it and this child cannot describe what it feels like to get sunburn? How is there competition when a school tells a family you must meet with the principal before we will even consider your child? How is there competition when a school threatens your child with expulsion unless you leave quietly? How is there competition when a school can dechoice a student and send that student back to their feeder school, instead of working with the student and providing the necessary resources to help the student? How is there competition when a question is asked of a parent have you ever worked on a mushroom farm?

      They foster a system that everyone has the right to apply but there are many layers to weed out the undesirables (in their opinion) and all of this is being done on taxpayer dollars. The end result is the weakening of the public school system.

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      1. wtfindelaware

        Whoa. I am not making a judgement one way or another. I was just proposing the what if discussion. Could all schools really handle an influx of kids back into the system? I am sorry that I struck a nerve with you; however, competition does force businesses to improve. That is why monopolies are a bad thing. If you can only buy one thing from one place, what is there to stop a massive price increase.

        The same is true of schools. If you retain every kid every year, what motivation is there to do better. Without systemic pressure to continue to improve to retain students why would they.

        Now don’t get me wrong. Teachers are fantastic. Almost all teachers try to do great things for all kids. It is the upper layers of the systems that fail kids and teachers. Too often the systems fail everyone. If there is no pressure to improve….most would not.

        That is all that I was trying to state.

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      2. Brian Stephan

        I understand what you’re saying about creating incentive for competition in education, but I have to disagree in that public schools are not profit seeking enterprises. Competition in the business sense is driven by profit generation. Our public schools (at least the traditional district ones) do not operate for profit. One of the original ideas for the creation of charters was indeed to provide a viable alternative/competitor to district schools. We can’t really see true competition when charters employ selective admission and selective expulsion criteria that districts cannot match. That’s about as anti-competitive and monopolistic as you can get when it comes to student demographics and population.

        If charters are expected to be competition for districts, then they need to use the same admissions process as districts: accept everyone. They also should use the same 4-component tax school funding system, and not siphon their residential district’s funding.

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  3. Natalie Ganc

    The Blueberry Story:
    The teacher gives the businessman a lesson

    “If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn’t be in business very long!”

    I stood before an auditorium filled with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of inservice. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife.

    I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that had become famous in the middle1980s when People magazine chose our blueberry as the “Best Ice Cream in America.”

    I was convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and out of step with the needs of our emerging “knowledge society.” Second, educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure, and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! TQM! Continuous improvement!

    In retrospect, the speech was perfectly balanced — equal parts ignorance and arrogance.

    As soon as I finished, a woman’s hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant. She was, in fact, a razor-edged, veteran, high school English teacher who had been waiting to unload.

    She began quietly, “We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream.”

    I smugly replied, “Best ice cream in America, Ma’am.”

    “How nice,” she said. “Is it rich and smooth?”

    “Sixteen percent butterfat,” I crowed.

    “Premium ingredients?” she inquired.

    “Super-premium! Nothing but triple A.” I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming.

    “Mr. Vollmer,” she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, “when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?”

    In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap…. I was dead meat, but I wasn’t going to lie.

    “I send them back.”

    She jumped to her feet. “That’s right!” she barked, “and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it’s not a business. It’s school!”

    In an explosion, all 290 teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians, and secretaries jumped to their feet and yelled, “Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!”

    And so began my long transformation.

    Since then, I have visited hundreds of schools. I have learned that a school is not a business. Schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue stream, and they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night.

    None of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when, and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a post-industrial society. But educators cannot do this alone; these changes can occur only with the understanding, trust, permission, and active support of the surrounding community. For the most important thing I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve, and therefore, to improve public education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America.

    Copyright 2011 Jamie Robert Vollmer

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  4. wtfindelaware

    Okay…so what is the answer?

    Kids are not blueberries. We can’t reject the shipment. Okay…I get that.

    So what is the answer to improving schools, that everyone seems to think is Charter Schools fault. Why is it their fault? Well, people believe that they take only the best students? That they steal money from well meaning schools?

    So what is the answer?

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    1. Kim Williams - State Representative 19th District Post author

      The answer is for the State Board to approve the best charter schools, the ones who will bring in a different program and accept all students who want to attend. Don’t put application requirements in place that deter families from applying. The State Board needs to stop approving all charters who simple meet the requirements. We need wonderful, successful programs in place that will attract families so students can be successful and enjoy learning.

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  5. wtfindelaware

    Okay, the original question was around the idea of violating the constitution to send property tax funds outside of the district for which they were originally intended or approved for. What about district school choice? Does that violate the constitution?
    HB 90, encourage school choice in Delaware to provide parent quality options for their children. Again, if the idea of school choice violates the constitution around funding, does this not mean that we are again taking the options away from parents.

    I have to ask again…
    Would this really be a good thing?
    Is this something that someone would actually endorse?

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