Home > Uncategorized > About the Red Clay referendum

About the Red Clay referendum

February 2, 2012

Update: A commenter at DL points out that the referendum will be on two separate lines – one for the new school, and another for the renovations. So that changes my viewpoint about Pandora’s questions somewhat, and gives voters more flexibility in sending a message about support for city schools.

There’s been some discussion about the Red Clay referendum over at DelawareLiberal. Pandora has a great post on it, and asks a question that seems to sum up the concerns:

Should Red Clay be allowed to open another new school without a serious plan designed, funded, and put in place, to help its other [city] schools?

On the face of it, my answer to that question is “Hell, no!”

But then I started looking into it. It turns out that this referendum spends as much in the city renovating city schools as it does building the new suburban school (about $20 million). […]

Check out the two Certificates Of Necessity for the referendum. There is one CN for the new suburban school, and a separate CN for renovations to multiple Red Clay schools, including many city schools.

The renovations CN totals $98 million for renovating Red Clay schools, including $20 million for city schools. These renovations are things like boilers, roofs, and new windows.

The numbers below are from a quick look at the renovations CN; feel free to double-check the numbers:

Highlands – $1.3 million
Lewis – $660K
Warner – $4.58 million
Shortlidge – $1.06 million
Cab – $12.3 million

Remember that this is a capital referendum. But the kind of improvements to city schools Pandora suggests we should hold out for would likely require an operating funds referendum. Here’s what Red Clay Superintendent Merv Daugherty has to say on that topic.

In 2008, voters approved an operating referendum to fund new and existing programs, pay salaries and provide updated materials, among other operational costs. With precise budgeting and careful spending, the increase continues to support the district’s operational budget. Red Clay officials have projected that an operational referendum will not be needed for at least three years.

Now that last sentence is probably maddening if you believe city schools need more operational funding. But it is hard to see how opposing a capital referendum will help direct more operational funding to city schools. My guess is that the city schools could badly use the repairs provided by this referendum.

Pandora also asks:

Why would any city resident vote for this referendum? Can anyone provide a reason?

That $20 million in renovations to city schools might be a good answer. I think in the end, far more tax money will be flowing from the suburbs to the city, than from the city to the suburbs.

Honest people can disagree on the referendum for many reasons, but just know that if you vote No on this referendum if you vote no on the renovations line of the referendum, you are voting against $20 million in renovations to city schools.

  1. February 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Honest people can disagree on the referendum for many reasons, but just know that if you vote No on this referendum, you are voting against $20 million in renovations to city schools.

    City schools that many city residents can’t use. And, believe me, I tried. Red Clay, through Choice, re-segregated it’s city schools. Remember, Brandywine Springs started as an all choice school which resulted in the first wave of suburban flight. North Star allowed room for the remainder to get out of city and other struggling schools.

    Remember also, that Red Clay’s proposal for the Neighborhood School’s Law was an “All Choice” district.

    And I’m not against renovating existing schools. I do, however, find your cost comparisons argument unsatisfactory- simply because you want to compare schools by capital financial dollars without factoring in the fact that not all RCCD schools are created equally. (It kinda reminds me of how certain people focus on the dollar amount Mitt Romney pays in taxes and not the actual percentage.) In order for your financial comparison to hold up than no one in the suburban communities would have an educational problem with sending their children to city schools?

    In my opinion, and I would venture a guess that you are not a city resident, RCCD should make a commitment to improving all existing schools before we give them another new school.

    And, yes, we can respectfully disagree.

  2. February 2, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    FYI, I have a second-grader with homeroom in a trailer (which is brand new and actually one of the nicer parts of the school). But the overcapacity puts a strain on the library, cafeteria, and class size. Even so, I’m very susceptible to your argument about new suburban schools taking away from city schools. I’m still not sure how I will vote on the school, for exactly hte reasons you describe, although I have never yet voted against a school referendum. I’m definitely supporting the renovations line, though.

    I will point out that in your comparisons of poverty levels, you are comparing some pretty good times eleven years ago against the tough times today. Poverty has gone up everywhere but city residents who were low income to begin with are hardest hit. That may partly explain the disproportionate increase in low-income students in city schools.

    I think city schools should be the crown jewels, and suburban parents should be fighting to get their kids into them. For centuries people have been sending their children to town for their schooling. I’d love for my kids to have a traditional city experience. I’m not sure how to get there in Wilmington though. My guess is there will need to be a plan for the schools of course, but that plan will need to be dwarfed by a state and federal level plan to provide support to the neighborhoods and families.

  3. kilroysdelaware
    February 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Referendum two part vote

    I will for renovations and upgrades for existing schools Question 1
    I will not vote for a new school Question 2

  4. February 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Are you aware that Heritage is under capacity? I have no idea why since it’s so close to other overcrowded schools.

  5. February 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Heritage is my alma mater!

    Where are you finding the capacity numbers? Not doubting you, but I can’t find them. Also the web page showing which schools are open or closed for choice seem to be closed off, since it’s not choice season.

    Yes, Kilroy, two lines makes all the difference. I updated the post as soon as I found out.

  6. February 2, 2012 at 1:09 pm


    There’s a 2008 pdf you can get to by googling “red clay schools capacity numbers”

  1. February 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm
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