Tag Archives: Christina School District

The Story Behind HB 85 Veto

As you may have heard by now, the Governor vetoed House Bill 85, a bill I sponsored. HB 85 would have removed the 5-mile radius that charter schools use as an enrollment preference. I chaired the Enrollment Preferences Task Force a few years ago and this is one of the items that were discussed during the task force meetings. The members of the task force agreed that the 5-mile radius should be removed – the vote was 10 to remove it, 3 to keep it and 2 abstained from voting.

I asked Sen. Sokola to be the Senate Prime Sponsor on this legislation, originally I was removing the 5-mile radius completely. Sen. Sokola is the chair of the Senate Education Committee and he was a member of the Enrollment Preferences Task Force. He heard first hand the discussion around the 5-mile radius from task force members and he knew most of the task force members agreed that the 5-mile radius should be removed. The task force was made up of many stakeholder groups including members who represented charter schools.

Sen. Sokola did not agree to support the legislation removing the 5-radius completely unless a new preference was added for students located in the portion of the regular school district that is geographically contiguous with the location of the charter school. The issue with this, this preference would exclude families from the Christina School District that live in the city in the non-contiguous part of the Christina School District. I needed Sen. Sokola to release this bill out of the Senate Education Committee. The Senate this year reduced the members of all of their committees so there are only five members on the Senate Education Committee, 3 Democrats, and 2 Republicans. I knew that three members of the Senate Education Committee were huge charter supporters. I knew if I did not have Sen. Sokola’s support the bill was going to be dead on arrival. Change can be slow, but I knew this step was not a huge one but it was moving the state forward.

The 5-mile Radius Bill and the Charter Audit Bill (which passed last year) were probably the most difficult bills that I have worked on. It is always hard running a bill knowing you had to compromise, but compromise is necessary in order to get anything done in Dover and in Washington. In order for me to get a bill passed, you must get the majority of the legislators – 21 in the House and 11 in the Senate – to support your bill and then you hope the governor will sign it.

THE BILL AND THE HOUSE

When the bill came before the House Education Committee there was little discussion about the bill. Rep. Heffernan and Rep. Matthews expressed concerns with the language surrounding the word contiguous. The House Committee meeting was fast and a motion was made by Rep. Potter to release the bill and it was signed out by 12 members of the committee – no one signed it out unfavorably. There was no arguing or debating, I had spoken to the House members about the bill and explained to them what had transpired. When the vote came to the House Floor, that is where the debate started. I applauded Rep. John Kowalko he never changes who he is as a legislator and he had issues with the bill. He made it clear his issues were not with me but with the contiguous language that was in the bill, he knew the language came from Sen. Sokola. I would assume Rep. Kowalko has constituents who attend Newark Charter School since he represents a part of the Newark area. The vote passed the House and the Democrats who voted yes knew how we got to this point. They knew that it was a step forward, not the entire step we wanted, but there was movement. I am extremely happy to see discussion around enrollment preferences and what happens when we use these preferences.

THE BILL IS NOW OFF TO THE SENATE

The bill was released from the Senate Education Committee really with no issues, there was some discussion around the contiguous language. It would head to the Senate Floor. A representative from the Governor’s office came and visited me about HB 85 a few days before the Senate was going to vote on it. The Governor’s representative stated that the Governor’s office had an issue with the bill. I asked if the Governor was going to veto the bill and he said no that is not what he was saying. I asked the Governor’s representative to ask the Governor to go and personally speak to Sen. Sokola about the bill before it went to the floor. I was hopeful that if the Governor personally spoke to Senator Sokola maybe he could convince him to support Sen. Henry’s amendment, removing the contiguous language – that never happened. One would think if you were against this bill because of a line in the bill but you supported the main point of the bill, why would you not go and speak to the person about it? (Side note: Rep. Kowalko had also filed an amendment in the House, it failed.)

Behind the Scenes

The Governor’s office should have come to me way before it got to the Senate and told me he was going to veto it. Instead, they lead me to believe that he may not veto the bill. I found out that they were going to veto the bill on July 20th, the day it got vetoed. I had heard that there was a letter being circulated by a legislator for signatures on July 19th requesting the Governor to veto House Bill 85. The letter was sent to the Governor July 19th and the very next day he vetoed it. Nothing in Dover works that fast, they knew all along that the Governor had plans on vetoing this bill. It is much easier to sign a veto statement then to go and really fight for something. I would have loved the Governor’s help early on when the bill was first filed back in March.

I want change but change comes very slow in Dover. I was not involved in politics until I was elected back in 2012, it is very disheartening at times to see what goes on in Dover. To change something, you have to fight hard, you have to be seen and heard. Change can only happen when you collectively work together and see the issue and be determined to make the necessary changes. That cannot be done through a letter or a veto statement, it must be done by communicating face-to-face and standing together.

When the enrollment task force report was released which shows the barriers that are in place in our educational system, I would guess that very few read the report. There are many things that need to change but the question is will folks step up and make those changes, I guess time will tell. When I was first elected, special education students who applied for choice could be and were denied their choice because they had an IEP or a 504 Plan, Delaware code allowed that. I assume when the choice law was created that language was added and it passed in Dover. I  worked to change that law shortly after being elected, I could not believe Delaware allowed public schools to deny access to any student let alone a student with a disability.  We deny many students access to schools, through barriers that are created by the laws we create and these laws have been in place for two decades. I hope when the time comes, people in Dover will rally together and support change! The below sentence was copied and pasted from a letter written and signed by a few legislators asking the Governor to veto HB 85.

It is one thing for charter schools to be able to self-select their students; it quite another to allow them to self-select the communities where those students live.

Legislators know schools are self-selecting and nothing has been done in two decades to change this practice!

I have requested a meeting with the Governor’s Office, Secretary Bunting, Charter Schools Network, and a few legislators to see if we can all agree to remove the 5-mile radius for good. I am filing a bill in January removing the 5-mile radius completely. I hope everyone will come out and support this bill when it is filed and not sit there quietly.

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House Bill 61 (Recording of School Board Meetings) Will Be Heard in the House Today!

A few folks will be happy to find out that House Bill 61 is on the agenda today. Here is a link to House Bill 61. House Bill 61

This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes.

Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites.The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.

 

Redistricting Committee Update

I attended the WEIC Redistricting Committee meeting last night. I have concerns about the tight timeline and have expressed my concerns to the commission. There just does not seem like there is going to be enough time given to the public to review the recommendations and to have their concerns heard or their questions answered. The final report is not completed and the public hearing comment window opens on November 30th. How is the public going to go on record when they have not been given the report or enough time to review the report?  The public hearings start in 16 days.

I know everyone on the commission and each of the committees have worked extremely hard and are committed to making positive changes for all our students. But, if you want public support we must inform them of the plans.

The next Redistricting Committee meeting will be held on November 19th from 4:00 until 6:00 at Baltz.

Below is a schedule of the public hearings.

Public Hearing

Redistricting Town Hall Meeting November 16

You are invited to learn about the proposed redistricting plan in New Castle County, that would include the Christina and Colonial School Districts and the Red Clay District.

 THE SCHOOL REDISTRICTING PLAN

Speaker:  Dan Rich, Policy Director, Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, and Professor of Public Policy, University of Delaware

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2015, 6:30 P.M

PRESENTATION FOLLOWED BY QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Kirkwood Library, 6000 Kirkwood Highway, Wilmington, DE 19808

SPONSORS:   American Association of University Women, Newark and League of Women Voters of New Castle County

THIS FORUM IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is responsible for implementing recommendations to strengthen Wilmington public education and to provide greater support for all Delaware schools with high concentrations of low-income students and English language learners.

The work of the Commission includes the development of a plan for redistricting in New Castle County, with the Christina and Colonial School Districts no longer serving Wilmington students  and the Red Clay District taking on these students.  The redistricting plan also will address the resources needed for redistricting  to be successful in better  supporting student learning. 

The forum will, provide an understanding of issues being addressed by the Wilmington  Education Improvement Commission. 

Redistricting Committee Meeting Update

I attended the Redistricting Committee Meeting today at Red Clay’s District Office located in Baltz Elementary School. Below are a few comments about the meeting. Minutes of the previous meetings can be found here.

  • Red Clay School Board will be holding a Special Board Meeting on November 2, 2015 starting at 5:30 at Red Clay’s District Office. The board may be taking action with regards to WEIC.
  • Next Redistricting Meeting will be on November 4, 2015 from 4:00 to 6:00 at Red Clay’s District Office.
  • The interim reports on the redistricting and funding plans will be released to the public after the November 17, 2015 Commission Meeting. The public will be able to comment on the report.
  • Final report due to the State Board of Education on December 17, 2015. The public will be able to comment on the report.
  • Colonial School District want to keep their students. Colonial’s data show students are performing well and are equal or above state scores.
    • Dan Rich made a comment back to Colonial School District that WEIC recommendations were not based on test scores.
  • Brandywine School District would like to maintain the current school boundaries.
    • Brandywine School Board will bring forward a board resolution at their next school board meeting with regards to WEIC.
  • DSEA is very concerned about teachers losing their job because of this plan; district lines being redrawn.
  • Dr. Daugherty replied back to DSEA and said Red Clay is not going to guarantee that Red Clay will hire everyone from the Christina schools. Christina schools will become a part of the Red Clay School District.
  • All students who wish to remain in current schools will be able to stay and transportation will be provided.
  • Timeline for implementation of plan has been moved back a year.
  • A comment was made, if the plan is just to move district lines and rename schools and not provide any resources or funding; don’t bother moving any further with this plan.

Redistricting Town Hall Meeting November 16

You are invited to learn about the proposed redistricting plan in New Castle County, that would include the Christina and Colonial School Districts and the Red Clay District.

 THE SCHOOL REDISTRICTING PLAN

Speaker:  Dan Rich, Policy Director, Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, and Professor of Public Policy, University of Delaware

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2015, 6:30 P.M

PRESENTATION FOLLOWED BY QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Kirkwood Library, 6000 Kirkwood Highway, Wilmington, DE 19808

SPONSORS:   American Association of University Women, Newark and League of Women Voters of New Castle County

THIS FORUM IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is responsible for implementing recommendations to strengthen Wilmington public education and to provide greater support for all Delaware schools with high concentrations of low-income students and English language learners.

The work of the Commission includes the development of a plan for redistricting in New Castle County, with the Christina and Colonial School Districts no longer serving Wilmington students  and the Red Clay District taking on these students.  The redistricting plan also will address the resources needed for redistricting  to be successful in better  supporting student learning. 

The forum will, provide an understanding of issues being addressed by the Wilmington  Education Improvement Commission. 

Funding Student Success Working Group Meeting – Update

A Washington Post story reported in January the following:

  • For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.

The article goes on to say:

  • It also means that education policy, funding decisions and classroom instruction must adapt to the needy children who arrive at school each day.

Today was the Funding Student Success Working Group meeting at Baltz Elementary School.There were 13 committee members present and 2 members of the public.

Most think that Delaware’s Unit funding system is functional but lacks the necessary funding for Spec. Ed Basic Students kindergarten through 3rd grades, funding for English Language Learners (ELL) and students of poverty. Our system is primarily based on a unit system with some weighted funding for Special Education students, Basic 4th – 12th grades, Intensive K – 12th grades and Complex K – 12th grades, see § 1703 Unit of pupils.

The committee handed out an Analysis of Funding for Poverty Units which provided 10% to 15% of additional units based on a weighted % of poverty in a Red Clay. The group discussed adding bands to the analysis. For example: if a school had 60% of low income students they would receive a higher weighted percentage than a school that had 20% of low income students. They are looking at whether to focus on grade level poverty or focus on schools that have a higher concentration of low income students.

  • They are going to put together an additional analysis for Christina School District.
  • Connect with the other WEIC sub-committees and coordinate to see what other state agencies could provide to schools with high numbers of low income students.
  • Have IPA look at best practices of weighted funding formulas for ELL and low income students.

Wilmington Education Improvement Commission – Redistricting Committee – 1st Meeting

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Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Website

I attended the WEIC – 1st Redistricting Committee meeting on September 10th at Baltz Elementary School. There were about 13 people sitting in the audience and about half were University of DE or Red Clay staff the other people were members of the public. Dr. Rich spoke mostly about the history of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.

One question that was asked by a member of the Redistricting Committee, “Why are the State Board of Education members not present at these meetings?”

I was wondering the same thing. The State Board will be voting on the plan, would it not make sense for them to attend the meetings so they can be well-informed when voting on the Commission’s plan.

  • Christina School District – 1 of 4 discontinuous school districts in the country. If the plan is approved, Christina will no longer serve students who live in the city unless those students choice into Christina.
  • Colonial School District – no schools in the City of Wilmington. About 300 Colonial students live in the city and about 150 of the students are choice students.
  • Red Clay School District will serve the city along with the Brandywine School District.

Below is WEIC’s tentative timeline. This document was handed out at the meeting and is labeled DRAFT, so dates could change.

  • November 30th thru December 4th  – tentative period for four public hearings.
  • December 8th – Commission meets to review possible revisions to draft plan.
  • December 15th – Commission approves the Final Plan for submission to the State Board of Education.
  • December 17th – Commission presents and submits Final Plan to State Board. This will be a discussion item on the State Board agenda, including public comment.
  • January 21st – State Board acts on Commission Redistricting Plan as a complete package.
  • February 11th – If the State Board of Education does not approve, Commission may revise and resubmit as a complete package by February 11th.
  • March 10th – If the State Board of Education does not approve, Commission may revise and resubmit as a complete package by March 10th.
  • March 31st – State Board of Education authority ends.

Tomorrow is the first Funding Student Success Committee meeting- 2:00 to 4:00 at William Penn High School.

After the Funding Student Success Committee meets the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meets from 4:00 to 6:00 at William Penn High School.

Then, the  Parent, Educator & Community Engagement Committee meets from 6:15 to 8:00 at William Penn High School.

The next Redistricting Meeting is September 24th – 4:00 at Graham Hall Room 185, 111 Academy Street, Newark, DE.

To view all future meetings, click here.