Archive for February, 2012

News Journal confirms referendum funding gap, opens door to broader investigation

February 15, 2012 Comments off

The News Journal yesterday verified the observation on this blog last week that:

…in the 2009 Appoquinimink referendum, the state contributed $3 for every $1 from Appo. But for Red Clay’s current referendum, the state is contributing only $1.50 for every dollar from Red Clay.

It was pretty clear from the referendum documents that this was the case. But it is nice to receive independent confirmation from professional journalists.

Raising more questions than answers, the News Journal report also included links to state law here and here, providing formulas for calculating the state share of referendums. State worksheets for the Appo and Red Clay calculations were not provided.

The law prescribes a dizzying series of calculations which are difficult to verify independently. Each step itself requires initial calculations using tax and market information that is not readily available. I worked on it for about an hour last night and didn’t get very far, lacking information required by the formula. At some point I will put up a post laying out the steps in detail, but I can’t devote any more time to it right now.

The formulas are based on assessed value of property in the district. So even if the formulas are followed, the result can be manipulated significantly by the assessment values, and indications are that this is in fact the case.

[,,,] Read more…

Flag on the field, players transfer to new schools

February 14, 2012 2 comments

It’s only a matter of time before somebody tries to start a football charter school:

With Red Lion working way back to DIAA, dozens of athletes depart

The dramatic reversal in priorities resulted in about 40 athletes leaving Red Lion at the end of the first semester on Jan. 27, athletic director Ken Howard said. It’s unclear where most of those athletes are now enrolled, adding intrigue to a long-running saga.

Who and what is the Shared Learning Collaborative? (Part 1)

February 13, 2012 11 comments

Part 1 of a 2 part seriesPart 1 | Part 2

Okay, here we go with another education reform organization, one which Delaware had a hand in creating, and which will be a player in Delaware schools soon: the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC). Some of its participants are already on the scene here in Delaware. The partners are names you have probably heard before: Wireless Generation, Double Line Partners, McKinsey & Company, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and more.

The technical notes on the SLC web site are sketchy, so I’ll have to make some educated guesses. But basically: the vendors and consultants who built the new school data systems in Texas and Delaware have gotten together and are now going to give that system away for free, and make a tremendous amount of money doing it.

[…] Read more…

An Abbott ruling for Delaware

February 11, 2012 1 comment

If we are looking for ways to add stronger programming to disadvantaged schools in Wilmington or elsewhere, an Abbott ruling for Delaware might be a useful goal for advocates.

In 1985, the Education Law Center sued to address state funding disparities for New Jersey’s most disadvantaged school districts (Abbott vs. Burke). The suit was successful, and created a number of Abbott districts in New Jersey:

Abbott districts are school districts in New Jersey that are provided remedies to ensure that their students receive public education in accordance with New Jersey’s state constitution. They were created in 1985 as a result of the first ruling of Abbott v. Burke, a case filed by the Education Law Center. The ruling asserted that public primary and secondary education in poor communities throughout the state was unconstitutionally substandard.[1] There are currently thirty-one Abbott districts in New Jersey.

Prior to 2011, the State of NJ did not release the total amount spent per pupil on schooling. Since the Abbott original ruling in 1985, New Jersey increased spending such that Abbott disctrict students received 22% more per pupil (at $20,859) vs. non-Abbott districts (at $17,051) in 2011.

The basis of the suit was the provision in the New Jersey Constitution stating:

…the Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years.

Delaware’s constitution has the same provision. […] Read more…

State portion of school referendums

February 10, 2012 11 comments

Follow-up: News Journal confirms referendum funding gap, opens door to broader investigation

Update 2: Joanne and I have made peace. Joanne is awesome! I am going to move to Appo just so I can vote for her!!


Update: Well look at this – I poked the state, and Appo screamed… I didn’t think there was that kind of relationship, but now I’m not so sure:

Joanne Christian, on February 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm said:

Well Mike O.–you are officially now a tool. The referendums described had NOTHING to do with any school programs–it is all bricks and mortar. And Appo is not going to referendum this year so far, because our growth has slowed down w/ the economy and we can take a breather in building. But go ahead, spread away your lack of knowledge in how all of this works and create an air of conspiracy models, and nefarious sub-plots in funding and further mislead the public in public education. Best to stick w/ what you know in getting your blog beyond Basic Enquirer edition.

I have my first hate mail! I’ve arrived!!

While we’ve all been focusing on suburban and city parents in this Red Clay referendum, maybe we’ve taken our eye off the elephant in the room: the state contribution.

It turns out that in the 2009 Appoquinimink referendum, the state contributed $3 for every $1 from Appo. But for Red Clay’s current referendum, the state is contributing only $1.50 for every dollar from Red Clay.

Am I missing something that would explain the difference?

Perhaps if the state were to match Red Clay at the same rate as Appo, Red Clay could build the new suburban school AND afford to fund new programs in the city. Or something else that would be a step forward for both city and suburbs.

I was looking at the 2009 referendum in Appoquinimink. Really impressive stuff. You should go download the presentation, and make sure you go to the end and see the awesome architectural concept drawings, mostly for later phases, but still. And check out the aquatic center!

This was the “no tax increase” referendum, which was passed without actually raising taxes – mainly because of growth, and retirement of past debt. Oh, and also because the state provided three dollars for every one dollar Appoquinimink residents provided.

So then of course I looked at next month’s Red Clay referendum, and it turns out the state is only providing $1.50 for every dollar from Red Clay. Keep in mind Appo has an overall 21% rate of low-income students vs. 44% for Red Clay.

State Local Total State match per local dollar
Appo 2009 $48,486,900.00 $16,162,200.00 $64,649,100.00 $3.00
Red Clay 2012 $70,594,100.00 $47,062,800.00 $117,656,900.00 $1.50

So let me get this straight: Appo gets 3:1 state funding with NO tax increase, while Red Clay gets 3:2 state funding AND a tax increase. What were they was DDOE and the General Assembly thinking?

Red Clay referendum meeting at Skyline on Thursday

February 7, 2012 31 comments

Update #2: I learned about this meeting via an automated phone call, and I don’t see it listed on the Red Clay website, which only lists the Shortlidge and Highlands meetings. Are city and suburban residents being selectively notified? I’d hate to think that is going on. Probably not, or if so it is unintentional. Never attribute to malice, etc.

Update: I’m going to leave this as an open thread for folks to report and compare their experiences of the city and the suburban meetings. Please share!

Red Clay will hold a public meeting at Skyline Middle School on Thursday, February 9 @7pm. Click here for more info.

In some hallways you can still smell the ditto fumes

February 7, 2012 Comments off

Involved parent and former Washington Post journalist Tracy Thompson:

As the parent of two children enrolled in public school in suburban Washington, D.C., I speak from experience when I say that schools have not really entered the digital age. For all their talk of “one laptop for every child” and all the push for computer labs, the average public school still communicates on paper. On any given afternoon, millions of school-age children across this country walk in the door of their homes loaded down like pack mules with paper homework assignments, notes from the teacher, PTA notices, flyers about bake sales, behavior charts, school calendars, fund-raiser exhortations and sign-up sheets for this or that. Your kids may be able to surf the Internet in their sleep, they may text like fiends under the dinner table, but during school hours they live in an environment where print still reigns supreme.

Red Clay sample ballot

February 5, 2012 6 comments

Here’s the link to the Department of Elections information page about the Red Clay referendum, with info in English and Spanish, including info on polling places and eligibility:

The Department of Elections site also includes a link to a sample ballot. The sample ballot clearly shows that there are two lines on the ballot: one for the renovations across the district ($98 million, including $20 million for city schools), and another line for construction of the new suburban school (about $20 million).

Welcome DelawareLiberal readers!

February 2, 2012 2 comments

Thanks for the shout-out, Pandora!

I basically had been doing a lot of research and gathering info on some of our data systems, which I posted last week. But now I keep finding new things to post, and my biggest problem is how to slow down. See you around…

About the Red Clay referendum

February 2, 2012 7 comments

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). […] Read more…