It Was Bound To Happen – Charters Sue Christina & State

Filed in Education by on October 5, 2016

Charters are just not going to give up & go away without a fight.

As you may be aware, the issue of public school districts hiding money from deserving Charters has been brought up before. Many times. Most recently in August, when the results of a months long funding adjustment made by DOE were first made public in the form of recalculated charter bills sent to the Districts. That was when the General Assembly, District leaders, and the public first became aware that changes were made and it eventually became clear that what started as a “statewide adjustment” of local per student funding was really just a thinly veiled attack on Christina School District originating from the Western Newark area.

I don’t know the details of the suit yet, but the history behind it was covered here, here, and here. As I look into this, I’ll update.

**This post will be updated**

As always, Kevin O. has the scoop on the who & what:

kavips with a great deconstruction of the lawsuit:

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About the Author ()

A dad, husband, and public education supporter. Small tent progressive/liberal. Christina School District Citizen's Budget Oversight Committee member, who knows a bit about a lot when it comes to the convoluted mess that is education funding in the State of Delaware.

Comments (20)

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  1. chris says:

    It’s about time the charters got off their asses. If they are being short changed, then good for them. Get what you are justly owed from DOE!

  2. Christy says:

    You are fast! Can’t wait to hear how you debunk these assumptive theories of scandalous money hiding. It is so unfounded. Calculations to charters change as programming and cost per pupil changes in every district throughout the state not just Christina. It just so happens that Christina continues to include more programming like additional early education opportunities back in 2011(?) and things like that impact the bottom line. That bottom line changing does not mean new monies go to charter, things are excluded for a reason. This isn’t haphazard money laundering. And the money spent on any law suit will just end up taking away money for the schools and students. *ears are smoking*

  3. Brian says:

    chris, off their asses? They’ve been heckling Christina for years about this. Yet have never been able to isolate and illustrate how/when/where they’re legitimately being denied money.

    I’m glad you used the term “justly owed” because my contention is that they are “justly” owed no more than they have received over the last 8 years.

  4. liberalgeek says:

    It’s weird that the summary of this post has more content than the post itself.

  5. chris says:

    I guess we will see who prevails in court. Hopefully, the judges will take the politics out of it and just call it straight.

  6. cassandra_m says:

    And yet Christina has high needs schools that don’t have enough resources.

    Wonder if there is any connection to WEIC in this action? I think that this is meant to come back up in the GA and that implementation would need to be attached to specific funding. Are these charters looking to get to funding first?

  7. Brian says:

    cassandra, funding for what though? This suit alleges Christina has been hiding existing funds from charters for years. Money they say they should have gotten all along for programs already in place.

    Remember that Christina had to cut $9 million out of its budget last year because of the failed referenda. Remember that Charter funding that comes from districts is calculated on the previous year’s expenses. Which means, all the pain that Christina went through last year with the $9 million cut was to be felt *this* year by Charters.

    The timing of the suit (as well as the original funding formula changes DOE claims to have started working on this past April, a mere 48 hours after Dept of Elections certified Christina’s successful referendum results) is very suspect to me.

  8. The complaint against Christina, the one against the DOE, and a Motion to Expedite Proceedings are all here, the ones filed with the Delaware Chancery Court yesterday by 15 charters and a handful of parents representing their minor children…

    All 15 charters named in the lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE, the complaint against Christina, the complaint against the DOE, and a Motion To Expedite Proceedings… all await within…

  9. If this goes back to 2008, then that puts Lillian Lowery as Secretary of Education smack dab in the middle of this. Why is she not named in the complaint?

  10. Brian says:

    Kevin, I think this stems primarily from the attempt by “DOE” to adjust the formula this year. If they were successful in having the changes go through, I believe this suit would have still been brought for the ‘retroactive’ damages being alleged by the plaintiffs.

    Since Godowsky rebuffed their attempt to change the formula, they threw him in the suit as well and just packaged the two instances together in one suit.

  11. So if Meece and his merry band of charter buddies instigated the DOE and pressured them into changing the formula, based on what I have no idea, and then the DOE reverses course, how can Christina be held liable for that? Furthermore, I have it in writing that Godowsky didn’t even know about this until after the charter bills went out in August. How can the DOE change the formula, including exceptions which have to be signed off by the Secretary but weren’t cause he didn’t even know about it… what a clusterf*ck!

  12. Steve Newton says:

    I think everybody is missing a major point here. Five years ago the Charter School Network could never have orchestrated this lawsuit, because it went way against the image that charter schools were attempting to project (remember the students chanting, Mao-style, on The Green, “We’re public schools, too!”?). Charters had an overall positive image within the State and almost unanimity of support in the legislature, as evidenced by the creation of the Charter Performance Fund and the neat little loopholes carved out explicitly for charters in the transportation regulations.

    Fast forward… Charters’ images are taking a beating, both nationally and in Delaware. Legislative support is slipping. The ACLU filed (an admittedly largely symbolic because so poorly written) discrimination suit. Several charters have failed … badly.

    The blue-chip charters like CSW, NCS, Odyssey, and a few others have gotten a giant wake-up call. They are safe only as long as there are other, weaker charters to go down the tubes. Once they are all that’s left, they’re actually in deep trouble, unless …

    … unless they’ve got judicial protection. Here’s where the gloves come off. Like tobacco companies facing litigation they’ve reached a tipping point wherein it is now more essential to protect themselves via the courts than to maintain a pristine image. They can tie this up (despite the plea for expedition) for a long time, and if this one works there will be others. In the end, however, winning this or any other suit is only the means to an end.

    The end is that those same blue-chip charters and the Charter School Network, having failed to set up a comprehensive, competitive “public” school system in Delaware, will identify those schools they NEED to survive, and those schools will try to cut a long-term deal with the State to be grandfathered past any changes in the future in exchange for no longer supporting the weaker charters or advocating any new charters. They will trade their protect status as a semi-public, semi-private network of schools for the abandonment of their old take over plan.

    That this, or something like it, would happen has been obvious since the political power of the charters peaked 2-3 years ago, and has now entered a visible decline.

  13. puck says:

    Suppose the charters do win this case. Christina will then have to make further cutbacks, and if anyone ever had any doubts, it will be clear that charters do take resources from public schools. The spectacle of the white and prosperous families of Newark Charter mugging the minority and high-poverty Christina may finally inspire legislative or judicial reform of the charter law.

    So before you get on board with any new up-and-coming Democrats, find out where they stand on charters and school funding. Dave Sokola proves that you can be right on everthing but education.

  14. john kowalko says:

    Before you get on board with any new up-and-coming REPUBLICANS or Democrats, find out where they stand (and what they are willing to “publicly” avow or disavow) on charters and school funding. Promises whispered to individuals are written on “rice” paper like the old-time bookies used to use. As soon as the authorities close in to confiscate/review the evidence (of that commitment) the mere touch of a match makes it disappear into a wisp of smoke. A wise old sage once said ” get it in writing”

    Representative John Kowalko

  15. puck says:

    Thank you for the edit.

  16. Dan says:

    Steve Newton, why are the “blue chip” charters better off with the existence of more and weaker charters? Why would the blue chip charters be in deep trouble if they were all that’s left?

  17. pandora says:

    One reason… If the only charters left standing are the ones that are overwhelmingly white and affluent, with extremely low ELL, special ed and low income students, then it exposes that the “secret sauce” of charters is who they let in (and keep in) their schools rather than what goes on in their classrooms.

    Having a mix of charters gives the “blue chip/public-private” schools cover.


    “Christina will then have to make further cutbacks, and if anyone ever had any doubts, it will be clear that charters do take resources from public schools.”

    Is exactly right. It’s already happening. The question is… will the public (those who didn’t win the “lottery” = vast majority) continue to tolerate their children’s public schools losing programs to finance private charter schools that don’t serve their children, community or property values.

  18. carpetbaggerfromthenorth says:

    Digging through the court documents it looks like they’re trying to starve the Christina district into submission. In their request for an order for status quo that ask the court to block CSD from spending any monies from its local fund (paragraph 18), not just the 7 million they are disputing. Since local funds are about 45% of CSD’s budget is local, that would pretty much cripple the district and force them to settle on unfavorable terms. The charters, meanwhile, will be able to continue receiving their portion of the local funds directly from the state as laid out in the Charter law that requires the state to pay the local share (borrowed from the districts future state revenue) in the event that a district doesn’t pay a charter (Title ยง 509 b(2)).

  19. Jason330 says:

    That sounds pretty diabolical.

  20. Steve Newton says:


    Because the “blue chip” charters are realists. The charter vs traditional public school debate in Delaware is actually pretty much over, and charters–as an alternative school system lost. When charters were expanding rapidly is was in the interest of the blue chips to be surrounded by a halo of less successful charters who could take the flak for them, with the idea that eventually winning enough resources for those charters would pump them up and put at least one traditional school district effectively out of business. Then the Charter School Network would be in the driver’s seat as an alternative DOE for charters.

    But they lost the battle for the “hearts and minds.” So the secondary strategy is now “survival of the fittest.” CSW, NCS, Sussex Academy–about a half dozen charters are literally the only ones in impregnable condition. Their strategy is now to forego the pretense of playing nice with others and to dump the loser charters, build a wall around themselves, and go to court to institutionalize themselves as recipients of public money. Look for them to argue that DOE not the districts should determine exactly what money they get–supported by white papers from the Charter School Network. Watch for a bill providing conduit funding to those blue chips sometime next year.

    The blue chips are getting ready to toss everybody else off the wagon in order to secure their own futures.