The Deliberate Destruction Of Public Education

Filed in Delaware, National by on November 29, 2012

In Michigan, Bloomfield Hills School District’s superintendent, Rob Glass, has written a letter and posted it on his District’s website.  In all my years on the education front, I have never seen such a direct and urgent letter from a superintendent.  Everyone needs to read this, because what he’s talking about has happened, and probably will happen, in Delaware.

An urgent call to action from Superintendent Rob Glass

Posted: November 28, 2012

Dear Parents and Citizens: This is an urgent call to action affecting your Bloomfield Hills Schools and public education in Michigan. A package of bills designed to corporatize and dismantle public education is being hastily pushed through this current ‘lame duck’ legislative session. If we do not take immediate action, I believe great damage will be done to public education, including our school system. We have just three weeks to take action before it’s too late. The bills are:

  • House Bill 6004 and Senate Bill 1358- Would expand a separate and statewide school district (the EAA) overseen by a governor-appointed chancellor and functioning outside the authority of the State Board of Education or state school superintendent. These schools are exempt from the same laws and quality measures of community-governed public schools. The EAA can seize unused school buildings (built and financed by local taxpayers) and force sale or lease to charter, non-public or EAA schools.
  • House Bill 5923- Creates several new forms of charter and online schools with no limit on the number. Bundled with HB 6004/SB1358, many of these schools could be created by the EAA. Public schools are not allowed to create these new schools unless they charter them. Selective enrollment/dis-enrollment policies will likely lead to greater segregation in our public schools. This bill creates new schools without changing the overall funding available, further diluting resources for community-governed public schools.
  • Senate Bill 620- Known as the ‘Parent Trigger’ bill, this would allow the lowest achieving 5% of schools to be converted to a charter school while allowing parents or teachers to petition for the desired reform model. This bill will not directly affect our district, but disenfranchises voters, ends their local control, and unconstitutionally hands taxpayer-owned property over to for-profit companies. Characterized as parent-empowerment, this bill does little to develop deep, community-wide parent engagement and organization.

I’ve never considered myself a conspiracy theorist—until now. This package of bills is the latest in a yearlong barrage of ideologically-driven bills designed to weaken and defund locally-controlled public education, handing scarce taxpayer dollars over to for-profit entities operating under a different set of rules. I believe this is fundamentally wrong. State School Superintendent Mike Flanagan and State Board of Education President John Austin and others have also expressed various concerns, as has the Detroit Free Press. http://www.mlive.com/opinion/grandrapids/index.ssf/2012/11/john_austin_new_school_choice.html http://www.freep.com/article/20121120/OPINION01/121120056 We embrace change, innovation and personalization.We’re passionate about providing choices and options for students. We compete strongly in the educational marketplace. We must never stop improving. This is not a laissez faire plea to defend the status quo. This is about making sure this tidal wave of untested legislation does not sweep away the valued programs our local community has proudly built into its cherished school system. If you are concerned about these bills, please do the following:

  1. Attend one of the following grassroots legislative meetings. http://www.bloomfield.org/news/item/index.aspx?pageaction=ViewSinglePublic&LinkID=201&ModuleID=113&NEWSPID=1
  2. Stay informed by registering for updates through ‘Capwiz.’ http://www.tricountyalliance.org/
  3. Call and e-mail your legislator and respectfully ask them to OPPOSE these bills (see contact information below).
  4. Enlist ten others to do the same, and please remain active.

Public education in Michigan can and must remain strong, but it will only happen if we act NOW.

Sincerely, Rob Glass Superintendent

That’s quite a letter.  What do we know about the Bloomfield Hills School District?  I’ll let a guy from Michigan tell you.

As in, one of the wealthiest and most Republican areas in Michigan.

As in, Mitt Romney’s home town, also the home town of Cranbrook.

Believe me, Rob Glass is NOT known for panicking or over-hyping issues, and I guarantee you that he’s gonna catch a lot of flack for speaking out so strongly on a political issue–especially speaking out against a series of bills being pushed–HARD–by Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the Republican-held state legislature.

So all those happily chugging along schools and school districts in Delaware should pay attention.  This is going to hit your school district eventually.

Now let’s take a look at those bills:

House Bill 6004 and Senate Bill 1358- Would expand a separate and statewide school district (the EAA) overseen by a governor-appointed chancellor and functioning outside the authority of the State Board of Education or state school superintendent. These schools are exempt from the same laws and quality measures of community-governed public schools. The EAA can seize unused school buildings (built and financed by local taxpayers) and force sale or lease to charter, non-public or EAA schools.

This one breaks down into three parts.

1.  Would expand a separate and statewide school district (the EAA) overseen by a governor-appointed chancellor and functioning outside the authority of the State Board of Education or state school superintendent.

Talk about no accountability and no local control.  This new (separate and statewide) district would be run and overseen by the governor’s office, not answerable to the State Board of Education or state school superintendent – and apparently not answerable to citizens.  So, step one is to create a separate school district without any local control.

2.   These schools are exempt from the same laws and quality measures of community-governed public schools.

Without reading any further we can see that we are talking about Charter Schools.  In Delaware, Charters aren’t held to the same laws as public schools.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m through referring to Charter Schools as Public Schools, because, other than receiving tax payer funds, they don’t play by the same rules.

3.  The EAA can seize unused school buildings (built and financed by local taxpayers) and force sale or lease to charter, non-public or EAA schools.

So this new school district, who answers to no one, can seize unused schools, that taxpayers built and financed, for their use.  Nonsense, you say.  Well… what if I told you that this law was already on the books in Delaware (Title 14, 504A, #6):

provided, that a school district must make unused buildings or space (defined as space no longer needed, permanently or temporarily, for non-charter school purposes) buildings or space in buildings available to a charter school, and shall bargain in good faith over the cost of rent, services and maintenance related to such space;

Notice the word “must.”  Years ago, Red Clay and Prestige Academy attempted to take over “unused” space at Warner Elementary by citing this very law.  And they would have succeeded if the community hadn’t organized and stopped it, mainly by relying on a technicality – lack of adequate parking.  But I have no doubt that if the parking space existed Prestige would be operating out of Warner, no matter what the community wanted.

Now let’s look at what the second bill does:

House Bill 5923- Creates several new forms of charter and online schools with no limit on the number. Bundled with HB 6004/SB1358, many of these schools could be created by the EAA. Public schools are not allowed to create these new schools unless they charter them. Selective enrollment/dis-enrollment policies will likely lead to greater segregation in our public schools. This bill creates new schools without changing the overall funding available, further diluting resources for community-governed public schools.

We’ll break this bill into two parts:

1.  Creates several new forms of charter and online schools with no limit on the number. Bundled with HB 6004/SB1358, many of these schools could be created by the EAA. Public schools are not allowed to create these new schools unless they charter them.

I can’t figure out the new excitement over online schools.  Are they targeting home schooling population?  Are they being designed for problem students?  Or, more likely, are they a way to suck up all those delicious tax payer dollars while not having to provide a physical location and a full teaching/administrative staff.  (Oh, I’m sure they’ll have a big administrative staff, receiving a big administrative salary.)

Notice, also, how public schools aren’t allowed to create new schools unless they’re charter schools.  No more Magnet Schools.  No more control.

2.  Selective enrollment/dis-enrollment policies will likely lead to greater segregation in our public schools. This bill creates new schools without changing the overall funding available, further diluting resources for community-governed public schools.

“Selective enrollment/dis-enrollment policies will likely lead to greater segregation in our public schools.”  Ya think?  Isn’t this the point?  In Delaware, we are already living this.  Charters (as well as Choice and the Neighborhood Schools Act) lead to re-segregation.

Re-segregation is a feature, not a bug.  And Charters are pretty adept at manipulating their populations, and then feigning outrage if you dare to point it out.  Newark Charter School operates for years without a cafeteria and a free and reduced lunch program and then acts surprised when their low income population is 15.8% and Special Ed is 5.9%.  The Charter School of Wilmington requires an admission’s test and has a low income population of 2.6% and a Special Ed population of 0.2%.  Odyssey Charter (which has been in the news lately.  They are expanding (K-12) and the surrounding community isn’t happy with the proposed size of the new school, but, given the land use laws that apply to schools, the community may not have a voice.) is a Greek Language Charter School (Greek Language?  Unless you’re Greek, who is this school for?  Who are they courting, or not courting?) with a low income population of 13.2% and a Special Ed population of 3.6%.

Even Kuumba Academy’s numbers – which charter supporters love to toss out as an example of a high performing minority charter school – are heading in an interesting direction.  In 2010-2011, Kuumba’s low income population was 75.9%.  Last year it was 48.8%.  That’s quite a drop.  What about Kuumba’s Special Ed population?  Well, in 2010-2011 it was 5.9%.  2011-2012 it dropped to 2.7%.  Re-segregation exists beyond race.

Altho… I really want to know how many Kuumba graduates end up at The Charter School of Wilmington, or even in high school AP courses.  Because wouldn’t they be there in disproportionate numbers given Kuumba’s reported, and much touted, success?  And if they aren’t at CSW (or in AP) what does that tell us about Kuumba’s success?  Is it real?  Or is Kuumba only managing to clear the standardized test bar (the lowest educational bar out there) which makes it better than low performing public schools, but not good enough to get into high performing charters or AP classes?  Not sure how to find out, but I’m really curious.

I could go on about this nonsense all day, but this post is getting too long – and I’ve probably lost most of you!

Let’s return to the final Michigan bill:

Senate Bill 620- Known as the ‘Parent Trigger’ bill, this would allow the lowest achieving 5% of schools to be converted to a charter school while allowing parents or teachers to petition for the desired reform model. This bill will not directly affect our district, but disenfranchises voters, ends their local control, and unconstitutionally hands taxpayer-owned property over to for-profit companies. Characterized as parent-empowerment, this bill does little to develop deep, community-wide parent engagement and organization.

Now, if Charters had a proven model and good track record maybe I could see the point, but they don’t.  CREDO at Stanford University:

While the report recognized a robust national demand for more charter schools from parents and local communities, it found that 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent of charter schools showed gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, with 46 percent of charter schools demonstrating no significant difference.

Everybody got that?  17% of charter schools performing significantly better that traditional public schools is nothing to brag about – unless you were one of the lucky ones who got your child in one of those schools.  And that number sounds about right when we look at Delaware charter schools.

You should also be aware that this Michigan law concerning “Parent Triggers” and converting public schools to charter schools exists, in a somewhat similar form, in Delaware. (Section 507, a)

(a) A public school may only be converted to a charter school by approval of the board of the school district in which it is located and that the charter application received the approval of over 50% of the teachers and over 50% of the parents residing in the attendance area of the school with a child or children under the age of 18 years, who, after 30 days prior written notice to all teachers and parents eligible to vote, attend a public meeting held for the specific purpose of voting on the proposed conversion; provided, however, that such approval shall not be required where a district school board converts a choice school or program with a specific career or academic subject matter focus already approved as of the effective date of this chapter to a charter school with the same focus. The employees of a school converted to a charter school who are not employed by the charter school shall be accorded the rights available to them under the provisions of their collective bargaining agreement and shall, to the extent permissible under their collective bargaining agreement, be given preference in filling positions in the school district.

Let’s break this down:

1.  A public school may only be converted to a charter school by approval of the board of the school district in which it is located and that the charter application received the approval of over 50% of the teachers and over 50% of the parents residing in the attendance area of the school with a child or children under the age of 18 years, who, after 30 days prior written notice to all teachers and parents eligible to vote, attend a public meeting held for the specific purpose of voting on the proposed conversion;

There’s your “parent trigger” but it also requires a “teacher trigger” so… that’s good?  Hold on a minute!  What is this?

provided, however, that such approval shall not be required where a district school board converts a choice school or program with a specific career or academic subject matter focus already approved as of the effective date of this chapter to a charter school with the same focus.

Am I reading this correctly?  Is this a “School Board Trigger” that can function without parent or teacher consent?  Does this “specific career or academic subject matter focus” mean that Cab Calloway and Conrad Schools of Science (both RCCD magnet schools with specific interest) could be converted to charter schools should the RCCD board choose to do so?  Sure sounds that way.

There is a war on public schools and teacher’s unions – which has nothing to do with actually educating children.  And like most wars it clearly identifies the enemy (public schools and teacher unions) and arms its supporters with propaganda.  Go read the CREDO report and then give a round of applause to the leaders of the Charter School Movement for the effective selling of snake oil.  Because pretending all charters are created equal and are awesome is an amazing feat.  Altho… not all charter parents buy into this.  The ones in those 17% of successful charters – like the Charter School of Wilmington and Newark Charter – have a vested interest in keeping those at Pencader, Moyer and even Kuumba drinking the snake oil.  After all, if they keep those parents convinced that all charters are created equal they can continue living in their perfectly segregated educational world – a world that doesn’t come close to resembling most charter schools, yet alone public schools.  A world where educational success is based on who you let in your charter school and not on what you’re doing in the classroom.

UPDATE: Mike O., The Seventh Type,  has a post up entitled “Two Secret Meetings” dealing with these very issues in Delaware.  Go read it.

Two different groups of movers and shakers have been meeting in secret for months now to make major changes in Delaware’s public education landscape. The lever they will pull to move and shake the landscape will be charter schools. This spring we will likely get our first chance for public comment, but by then it will be too late to reverse the changes or even to make more than trivial revisions.

If charter schools are public schools, why is all the planning and decision-making private?

That’s a good question.  My answer:  Charter Schools are NOT Public Schools.

Let’s be clear about the magnitude of CEB. The plan is to provide 2000-2200 student seats with four or more charter schools in the building. This is a number that will overturn the capacity planning chessboard all over New Castle County. Existing schools will likely shrink, be repurposed, and will close. What representative body agreed to this?

After CEB selects its tenants, they will still have to go through the normal charter school application process (or modification, in the case of existing charters) with the State Board of Education. That is the first formal opportunity for public input. But by the time the application is presented, the charter law virtually guarantees it will be approved as long as the application follows the rules. Without ever asking if Wilmington even wants a 2200-seat school with a so-far unknown grade levels, and with admission policies to-be-determined.

Despite the big red bow, without local control this building is not for you, your children, or your school system.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Mike also points out that the second meeting “is composed of people you’ve heard of or might have voted for, selected by the governor’s office. It does look like there was some intent to include charter stakeholders as well as traditional public school stakeholders. Unfortunately there is no representation from Red Clay and Christina, whose schools are likely to be highly impacted by the 2200 new seats. And there is only one parent representative (via the Delaware PTA), which leaves parent viewpoints underrepresented, especially city parents.”

How could this committee not have representatives from Red Clay and Christina?  It almost seems deliberate.  I’ve been saying for quite some time that the plan was to turn the city of Wilmington into an all Charter District, and I still believe that – mainly because suburban communities have been looking for a way to dump city kids for years.

But this seems bigger than the city, and suburban residents should pay attention – and be careful what they wish for.  The 2,200 seat city mega-charter strikes me as the test case which will expand outward.  Charters are poised to take over and the only thing that will change is the end of teacher’s unions.  Education won’t improve – See CREDO report.  Oh, they’ll have to keep a couple of public schools to dump “undesirable” students – because Charters can’t succeed if they have to educate everyone – but those public schools will be few and far between.

Mike O. agrees.  He closes with:

And northern Delaware is in fact on the cusp of a dramatic charter expansion not approved by any voters.

[...]

The underlying risk is that a greatly expanded charter presence would harm traditional public schools, at worst turning them into second-class dumping grounds and forcing Districts to close or repurpose schools. Suburban parents who are used to tuning out Wilmington issues should take note: the new mega-charters will have an impact on suburban schools.

Go read it, and if you still think this won’t impact you… think again.

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A stay-at-home mom with an obsession for National politics.

Comments (39)

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  1. Another Mike says:

    I’m not really taking a side on this issue, but I wanted to point out one thing that jumped out at me.

    “provided, that a school district must make unused buildings or space (defined as space no longer needed, permanently or temporarily, for non-charter school purposes) buildings or space in buildings available to a charter school, and shall bargain in good faith over the cost of rent, services and maintenance related to such space”

    A few years ago Odyssey Charter School wanted to move into Darley Road School in Claymont when it was closed, but the Brandywine School Board wanted nothing to do with them. The building is now being used by the Boys and Girls Club. Not one unused school building in BSD has been made available to a charter school despite the law.

    Also, I suggest Mike O. shake some branches to find out what these meetings have been about. If they involve charter schools, they may be subject to FOIA provisions. Particularly the second group, which was appointed by the governor. That alone should qualify it as a public body. It is filled with government employees as well.

    There are a lot of good points made in this post.

  2. pandora says:

    True, Mike. I remember the BSD issue, but am not sure of the exact details concerning how they stopped it. I can tell you that Red Clay has done this successfully in regards to the Charter School of Wilmington and unsuccessfully with Warner several times – the first time was in the early/mid 2000s and then again with Prestige. Red Clay loved it some charters.

    Just for fun, go look at the names of those involved in upcoming and existing charters. Count up the former RCCD school board members, their family members and former RCCD administrators/family currently on those lists.

  3. cassandra_m says:

    Great blogging, P. It looks like once again city parents and stakeholders are being used as lab rats so that people with no real stake get to impose a vision that has nothing to do with education of kids. All the while smiling and talking as though the kids are what they are in it for. It is really frustrating, since from where I sit it doesn’t look like there are many people who aren’t just presiding over and enabling a genuine dismantling of the system.

  4. pandora says:

    Thanks, Cassandra!

    What it looks like we’ll end up with is a few public dumping ground schools for the kids charters don’t want. By that point there really won’t be a public education system so charters could start charging tuition!

  5. jenl says:

    Great post. Unfortunately the administrative bureaucracy of public school districts and schools also has virtually nothing to do with educating kids (with a few exceptions). It has provided a career path and higher salaries for “educators” who don’t want to teach. The real educators are those individuals who teach our children – teachers. The others siphon $$$’s from the system and ultimately from our children’s educational needs.

  6. pandora says:

    True, Jeni, and I’ve written in the past that we could fire 50% of public school administrators and no one would notice. Lots of makey-up work by administrators.

  7. John Young says:

    @cassandra: dead on.

  8. geezer says:

    Pandora: Agreed. But realize that much of that paperwork is due to federal compliance documentation on dozens of things. I don’t know if northern NCCo schools are still tracking racial data, but I”d guess they are, so that’s more of what looks like busywork.

    I’m not pointing fingers at demons. I’m just saying that if you want data on things, people must compile that data, and other people must quality-check the front-line compilers to assure performance…you get the idea.

    Is it wasted time, money and effort? I guess it depends on how much data and compliance you want and what you’ll pay to get them.

  9. pandora says:

    They get an awfully big paycheck for compiling data. Seriously, there are a lot of high paid administrators whose job it is to come up with new programs/procedures for them (themselves) to implement and oversee. It’s a vicious circle.

  10. cassandra m says:

    Geezer is right — lots of Federal dollars come with fairly hefty reporting requirements. But then, this is an area where it seems that consolidation of school districts (and therefore overhead) might help.

  11. John Young says:

    Consolidation savings are over exaggerated IMO. Leveling up salaries when combining locals to the highest CBA will add millions in expense and is left out of most analyses, like Wagners report (http://www.delawareonline.com/assets/pdf/BL1476461130.PDF) which only tallied the admin savings while not considering the teachers..

  12. Steve Newton says:

    OK just got to this; had to read it twice to digest it all.

    First thought: I don’t know what the funding ratio in Michigan is, but you have to wonder how 6004/1385 could ever work unless it somehow also diverts not just state but local funding per individual student–otherwise, even with the building cost figured in it is difficult to see how these schools could be financially viable. My bet is that if such language isn’t in this bill it is going to be following very soon.

    Second thought: while it is convenient (and, to a large extent accurate) to point out the GOP connection, it could just as easily be argued that about 70% of this legislation is a direct extension of what kilroy calls the Arne Duncan kool-aid–we seem to be seeing bipartisan support these days for dismantling the public schools in favor of suburban enclave schools, which is an interesting disconnect from the tradition GOP vs Dem, conservative vs liberal break-down. There are a lot of strange bedfellows in school “reform” (or should I say “deform”).

    Final thought (for the evening): a lot of these new schools are going to flame out and fail pretty badly, so let’s just add a friendly amendment: parents who sign their children up into a charter or EAA school must also sign an agreement opting their student out of the public schools for a minimum of three years; in other words you pull out of the publics, no safety net–either your experiment makes it or you agree to foot the bill for private school or another charter for a certain amount of time. No exceptions.

  13. heragain says:

    Great post, pandora.

    Yep, agree with almost everything you said . Most charter schools are private schools on a public dime. However, the online schools aren’t aimed at current homeschoolers. They’re part of the ‘secondary’ segregation you alluded to, and many homeschoolers were first to be affected by that.

    You see, it’s not all that easy to get services for kids with learning differences or special needs, no matter what the law says. Many of the homeschooling families I know started in the public school system, but withdrew kids who were relentlessly harassed socially, denied appropriate accommodations by teachers or administrators, and left to muddle through the same insane conditions we ask of many of our more neurotypical students. The class sizes, standardized testing and generally overstretched resources that are tough on everyone hit the special-ed kids hardest. If their parents had the option, often they figured their kids would be better off at home. So they’re being removed from the system, where their test scores won’t collapse what little hope everyone has.

    As online schools grow in accessibility, you’ll see more and more pressure on the parents to put those kids in them, where they can “benefit” from “one on one tutoring” without the “distractions” of a regular school environment. I’ve heard a lot of stories from parents in places where the “cyber school” business has taken off about how easy it is to be pushed into them. It’s generally a lot tougher to move the other way, though, and I’n severely ‘under-impressed’ by their results. The same is true, by the way for the ‘home tutors’ sent out for kids with long-lasting illnesses. Mostly dreadful. But by the time you’v e had a couple of semesters of ‘cyber school” it’s pretty hard to catch up with the kids in brick and mortar environments, even if you can get ‘readmitted” to them.

    It’s a sad state of affairs, to be sure.

    However, can I say i was totally freaking OUTRAGED by TNJ article about schools taking ‘instructional time’ to do college applications. They already use ‘school days’ for pep rallies, practice tests, standardized tests, and writing letters to the editor supporting funding referenda. Maybe the in-school environment will just finish dropping to cyber level, instead of movement the other way.

  14. Steve Newton says:

    @heragain: “The same is true, by the way for the ‘home tutors’ sent out for kids with long-lasting illnesses.”

    That hasn’t been my experience. My son has a chronic illness and has had to have tutors for multiple subjects since sixth grade (he’s now a junior). Some of the tutors have been provided by the school system, some through a tutoring agency, and some we have found ourselves. There have been roughly a dozen of them over the past five years, and only one of them has been a disaster. The rest of have been at least as effective as the regular classroom teachers, and some have been more so.

    Just sayin’.

  15. pandora says:

    Take a look at what’s happening in Chester, PA:

    This summer I wrote about the Corbett administration’s fox-guarding-the-henhouse plan of placing a leading advocate for charter schools in charge of drafting a blueprint to “save” public education in the beleaguered Chester-Upland school district. Interestingly, the plan announced by that pick, Joe Watkins, called for radical change and steep cuts but would have kept the district intact until 2015. Except that the, ahem, Republicans on the board rejected this plan, so now it’s not clear what happens but you have to think the privatization of schools in the poverty-stricken Delco community will come sooner rather than later. If you didn’t know better, you’d almost think the fix was in from Day One.

    I still believe this is where the city of Wilmington is heading. They’ll start there, counting on the least resistance from a set of parents who aren’t happy with their district schools – counting on the most vulnerable of our citizenship to not speak out.

    And I think that in order to make their privatizing education plan work they needed the assistance of school district neglect (either voluntarily or due to circumstances outside their control). After all, why would city residents complain about a mega-charter given their public school options?

    So they’ll start with the city… and suburban parents, many of whom are eager to dump city kids out of their suburban schools, won’t say a word. BIG mistake. Like the article says above… the fix is in. And it’s heading to Hockessin.

    It’s already arrived at Westgate Farms. If Odyssey Charter gets its way – and it looks like they will since they seem to be in compliance with the zoning laws – it will grow from 591 students to 1,700 students. Where do you think those students will come from? Not the city of Wilmington.

  16. jenl says:

    “Most charter schools are private schools on a public dime”

    Exactly.

  17. It drives me crazy that I don’t have time to read all of this now. Good stuff.

  18. heragain says:

    @SteveNewton , I’m delighted to hear your experience has been good. Most of the reports I get on that are from out of state, although I knew one local young lady who was home tutored due to Epstein/Barr (which I’ve probably spelled wrong, lol) She was too weak to do anything until her parents left the house, but had plenty of energy after that, and the light requirements of her tutor did her no favors.

    I think, as with many things, it relies more on the advocacy of the parents than most people realize.

  19. Steve Newton says:

    @heragain “I think, as with many things, it relies more on the advocacy of the parents than most people realize.”

    Don’t disagree with you at all, although I have say that I work a lot with the homebound community in Red Clay and Christina (as well as some districts in other states) and I can say that in general the guidance counselors and the building administrators have been pretty good about insuring the quality of tutors. Their biggest problem, in fact, is that they often cannot find sufficient tutors of the quality they need to meet the demand (as an example, my son is taking two courses homebound and three courses on part days, and has five different tutors; two of them had been with him for more than a year, so that was good, two were provided by a local for-profit agency and have been excellent, but it took two and one-half months to find a qualified calculus tutor who could work with our schedule)

  20. Dana Garrett says:

    Steve Newton writes:”a lot of these new schools are going to flame out and fail pretty badly, so let’s just add a friendly amendment: parents who sign their children up into a charter or EAA school must also sign an agreement opting their student out of the public schools for a minimum of three years; in other words you pull out of the publics, no safety net….”

    Steve, you’ve said this before and I objected to it along the same lines I am about to object to it now. As I recall, you didn’t respond to my objection before. I’m confident you had a good reason. I hope you will respond to it now.

    Tell me, Steve, on what philosophical, conventional, or legal grounds can the best interests of a child be deliberately jeopardized––indeed, this case, positively harmed––by the bad decisions made by its parents? No “safety net, ” you say, for the parents, as if we were talking about the educational experiences of the parents. But we are talking about the educational experiences of children, experiences that could have lifelong consequences for them. But it seems you are willing to jeopardize the welfare of the children to give consequences to the parents for their mistake. Surely, your Libertarianism notwithstanding, you can manage a minimum of paternalism for the sake of kids.

  21. John Young says:

    Dana,

    I agree. So why does the DEDOE / DIAA hold kids INSIDE failing schools and prevent them from playing sports if they break a one year commitment in order to seek a better public school in line with Title 1 provisions.

    The system is so perverted it is beyond description.

  22. Steve Newton says:

    Dana

    I acknowledge your point, and you may be correct, BUT . . .

    By allowing the parents to have an open door to return back into the system with no consequences is also to the direct detriment of the kids who could not get out in the first place. Who is looking out for them?

    Secondly, it is the parents who put kids into charters et al without examining the risks of potential financial failure who have endangered their own children’s education.

    I am (to be completely honest) making more of a hyperbolic rhetorical point than a serious policy suggestion: by I mean the underlying idea very seriously–parents need to assume some part of the risk when they decide to pull out of the regular public schools.

    How that assumption of the risk should be configured is open to debate as far as I am concerned.

  23. Roland D. Lebay says:

    @pandora

    RE: Chester City Schools–

    Chester Upland School District has been a disaster for decades. They were taken over by the State in the ’90s & promptly handed back to the locals because the State had no idea how to handle an underfunded shit-hole excuse for a school system.

    The locals (elected officials & the beleaguered minority of parents who actually show up for school-related meetings) have tried mightily, yet repeatedly failed to get the school district to meet the minimum standards. $100s of millions in State and local money have been spent w/ very little to show for it in the way of results. The charter school industry has been eyeballing CUSD for at least 20 years. IIRC, there have been a few test runs w/ a few schools in that time. None were especially successful, and as far as I know, no charter school company has successfully turned around a failing, low income, low tax-base, low parent-involvement school district. This is a money grab by charter school corporations.

  24. pandora says:

    Agreed, Roland.

    I’ve reached the conclusion that what we are seeing in Delaware, and in Michigan, Pennsylvania, etc., is a decades long plan coming to fruition.

    In Delaware, it started with city schools – schools that would end up housing our most vulnerable and least organized populations. I believe there was a strategy to create failing city schools.

    If you look at the history of Red Clay you can see what happened. (I’m not saying only RCCD did this. I am using them as an example because I lived it – and grew hoarse from trying to stop what was happening at the time. What happened was bigger than Red Clay.)

    Choice comes into play, followed by the opening of an all choice school, Brandywine Springs (which I’ll remind everyone again how RCCD opened that school against the wishes of referendum voters who voted against opening that school). But, make no mistake, that school was the key to what we see happening today.

    Now, everyone with a brain knew what would happen to RCCD’s city schools once Brandywine Springs opened, and sure enough there was a large sucking sound accompanied by white suburban flight.

    The Neighborhood Schools Act quickly followed (children must be assigned to schools closest to home and schools returned to a K-5 configuration).

    During this time RCCD’s board and administrators didn’t do one thing to keep/make city schools desirable or better – even though everyone knew what would happen. (Instant high poverty, racially identifiable schools.) Nope, they sat back and watched/let them fail.

    To me, that was criminal, but looking back on it I am starting to see how these actions laid the groundwork for the charter movement and the new 2,200 seat mega-charter downtown. After all, if people were unhappy with their public schools, then offering them an alternative would have appeal. IMO, parents were herded into charters by denying them a real choice. Ironic, no? Because choice isn’t a choice if you have to choose anything but your feeder school.

    Now this charter movement has moved beyond the city limits. Suddenly, suburbanites – who were perfectly okay with dumping city kids out of their schools – are being faced with the charter invasion, and they aren’t happy. Go check out what’s happening with Odyssey. Little did these suburbanites know that the rules (or rather, lack of rules) governing charters would turn on them and they would find themselves losing control. Don’t want a charter school in your neighborhood? Too bad, you’re getting one, and you don’t have a say/vote.

    10 years ago I pointed out that this would happen, but the suburban population I was begging to help me turned a blind eye. After all, the district was giving them everything they wanted – new, low poverty schools. Their silence was cheaply bought.

    And now, sadly, I think it’s too late to stop what could have been stopped a decade ago. Odyssey will probably open, and all those “involved” and “active” parents who couldn’t see beyond their own interests are about to discover they’ve lost their clout and their voice.

  25. Point of order – Odyssey is already ‘in their neighborhood’.

    That isn’t the problem.

    The problem is the odious land use plan they have submitted to cram a mega-school campus onto a 16 acre parcel on a graveyard next to a creek on an already congested major commuter route.

    Check out the record plan and see if they aren’t being ridiculous. This plan does not conform to the code. They are using a loophole with the state’s blessing to say that they are in compliance. There is yet no storm water report nor a traffic study submitted. No one thinks they will pass.

    The neighbors would be happy with a regular-sized campus for the parcel size. Odyssey can keep one of two other sites it currently occupys nearby and construct a smaller school project at this site and there would be no objection.

  26. Mike O. says:

    Look what just popped up in the Community News: Fitness-based charter proposed for Pike Creek

  27. pandora says:

    And here we go with another suburban charter. What public schools will take the hit?

    Nancy, I probably worded my point incorrectly. My point is that the neighborhood has lost control, and their only hope lies with a technicality – storm water/traffic. It doesn’t lie with whether or not they want, or need, a K-12 school. They have no voice, no vote, on that. And if the reports on storm water/traffic come back saying Odyssey is in compliance then Odyssey will open – no matter what the community says. Sorry I wasn’t clearer.

  28. meatball says:

    A fitnessed based school sounds like a wonderful idea, especially at the middle school level. Schools helping to ingrain healthy lifestyles benefits all of us.

  29. mediawatch says:

    MB,
    Actually it’s Ramone who has the wonderful idea. Own a failing business? Well, just figure out a way to reconfigure your building to put kids in it. Maybe you can turn your swimming coaches into teachers (hey, the state has something called “alternate routes to certification” just for you), and you’re on your way. Oh — it helps too if you’re a Republican legislator who can mouth the mantra of the Democratic First Lady. Isn’t that the Delaware Way?

  30. Mike O. says:

    I don’t know who the leadership team is. The applications are due soon so I guess we’ll find out then. But yeah, clearly the gold rush is on. This does cast a new light on negotiations for charter reform in the General Assembly, especially capital funding.

  31. Dana Garrett says:

    Thanks, Steve, for the clarification.

  32. Pooker Jones says:

    Question, if a Red Clay Charter fails who gets the building? Another Charter? The charter raised the money to buy the building, not Red Clay, so if the Charter fails who owns it?

  33. pandora says:

    I would think the charter owns it.

  34. Steve Newton says:

    The “charter” is kind of imprecise, I think. Charters are corporations, technically, so if the corporation fails because of financial reasons it owns the building but may have to sell it to satisfy the debt.

    That, of course, would not apply to CSW, which is paying for the use of half of the old Wilmington High School building that would revert to RCCSD.

  35. heragain says:

    Pandora, this didn’t start 10 years ago. This has been in the works since segregation. I started school in a small school district that was folded into a larger one. That was my first experience of ‘busing’ and ‘losing neighborhood control” of schools. It totally sucked. (By the way, it was a brand new building, which the district recently tore down.) I went to a public high school that took “choice’ kids from the city… and their behavior, was, on the whole, a scandal, because only kids who couldn’t get along in their local schools would EVER have left them. Now I live in the same neighborhood, a solid D, full of teachers, neighborhood, there are almost NO children who attend the feeder pattern for 12 years. They go to private and charter schools, mostly, or they move within district to other schools. In a middle class neighborhood where most parents have advanced degrees, our public schooled students are unlikely to graduate high school with a C average, and they know even less than that implies.

    I do not know the solution. But every glimpse I get of the problem makes me fearful.