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Red Clay meeting on referendum Monday 6:30 at Cab Calloway

September 21, 2014 Comments off

It’s referendum time again! Red Clay is proposing an operating referendum for February 2015. Proposal summary is here.

Community Meeting – Referendum Information – Community Input

Cab Calloway Library
6:30pm – 8:30pm

This time, I want to see the ballot question acknowledge that a portion of the increase is going to charter schools. This referendum is going to be a lot of fun happening simultaneously with the Priority Schools hustle, which gives the appearance that the increase will be intended to finance the state-mandated administrators. Good times a-coming!

Also, it looks like a third of the new revenue is going to the purchase of consumer gadgets like iPads and Chromebooks. Seriously?


Comcast expands access to low-cost internet service

August 6, 2014 Comments off

I first wrote about Comcast’s Internet Essentials program in 2012. The program provides $10/month Internet access to low-income families, along with credits for computer hardware and training. Families with a child who receives free or reduced school lunch are eligible. One criticism has been that families with past due Comcast bills were not eligible – which meant a lot of families could not take advantage of the offer.

But now, Comcast has relaxed that restriction, offering what it calls an “amnesty.” Families who have past due Comcast bills that are over a year old may be eligible for the low-cost program. In addition, the first six months are FREE. Comcast’s announcement is here.

The offer of amnesty and six months free is only offered if you apply before September 20. Applications are distributed and submitted through your child’s school. So call you school for an application, and get it to them well before September 20. Comcast has already begun a publicity push for this program – I heard coverage on the radio today. Schools, get on the ball and stuff those applications in the Welcome Back packets!

A broadband Internet connection can make a world of difference to a struggling family for school, for consumer decisions, and for employment opportunities.

Delaware charters to congratulate themselves

June 25, 2014 2 comments

The Delaware Charter Schools Network is accepting nominations for its awards with the acutely ironic name “IDEA Awards.” (Click here for the nomination form.)

From WDEL:

The Delaware Charter Schools Network (DCSN) is seeking to shine the spotlight on innovative programs for their annual IDEA awards.

“Bringing to light those programs so other teachers, other leaders can see them and go, ‘Wait a minute! That would be great for my kids,” said Kendall Massett, director of the DCN.

But no one program should be duplicated, instead, it should be modeled.

“You have different kids, you have different people. It needs to be adapted to you community, to your kids, and to your ability to make those things happen,” Massett said.

Awards are given in various categories to school leaders, teachers, parents and students.

There is a long list of award categories:

Community Ties Award: For a school, staff member(s), student(s), or a community organization
Cornerstone Award: For a Parent or Group of Parents
Impact Award: For a Charter School Leader
Giving Back Award: For a Charter School Student or Alumnus
Innovation Award: For a Teacher or Group of Teachers (Elementary, Middle, and High School)
Dedication Award: For a School Staff Member or Group of Staff Members (Elementary, Middle, and High School)

You have until September 15, 2014 to apply or nominate someone you know who’s making a difference. To apply, click here.

UPDATE: Enrollment Preferences Task Force meeting #6 tonight

June 23, 2014 2 comments

UPDATE 6/25 In reply to kavips, who asked what happened at the meeting:

I said it would be tedious, and I wasn’t lying. The group is going though a twenty-something page list of questions (the watermelon questions) and discussing and taking a straw poll on each to determine if it belongs on the pre-acceptance application, or only on enrollment forms after acceptance. Plus a few other nuances. I would characterize the discussions as “politely contentious.” Tedious, but necessary in order to get to the point of even being able to think about making recommendations.

Some of the discussions got so elongated that the moderator resorted to the “parking lot” tactic (no, not taking the offender out to the parking lot for a good beating). Rather, the “parking lot” was a poster-sized sheet where topics were “parked” for future discussion, so the group could continue to plow through the list. I am not sure how far they got in the list; I think I may have fallen asleep 🙂

But I will say that the topics that ended up “parked” were telling, because they went to the heart of the “specific interest” preference. The big ones I recall were essay questions, and prior report cards. When asked on a pre-admission application, these are the kinds of questions that give the choice to the school, not the family. And those were the ones that sparked the most discussion and could not be settled in one night.

Buena Vista @6:30pm. Legislative web site for the task force is here.

The group has a list of questions asked on existing choice applications, and is now identifying whether each question belongs on pre-acceptance application, or should be collected only after acceptance. The group discusses each item and holds a (nonbinding) vote on each one. It can be a tedious process, but the discussions sometimes touch raw nerves and highight some of the areas of contention.

At the May meeting, one of the parent members cogently asked the group to evaluate each item in light of the question she posed: “Whose choice is it?” Is the family choosing a school, or is the school choosing its students?

The specific interest clause came under scrutiny several times. Delaware’s charter law contains the poorly defined and highly malleable provision that a charter school may give admission preference to “Students who have a specific interest in the school’s teaching methods, philosophy, or educational focus.” Charter School of Wilmington notoriously uses an admission test as a dubious measure of “specific interest” in its STEM mission. A number of members suggested that filling out the application was a sufficient sign of interest, and that a test measured knowledge , not interest. Personally I think an admission test is a measure of the advantages the student has had previously.

Happy Bloomsday 2014

June 16, 2014 Comments off

For absent friends.

Stop micro-charters now (SB 234)

May 31, 2014 14 comments

It’s nearly June and on cue there is late-breaking charter mischief afoot in the General Assembly. This year it is micro-charters. Current law says that a charter school must have at least 200 students [to open]. But a new bill, SB 234, would remove that language and allow the creation of even smaller charters (h/t Kilroy).

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Sokola and Rep. Scott, the chairs of their respective education committees, so there is going to be some muscle and political capital behind this bill. And as usual there is no public discussion on the need for this bill, and no time for parents to organize. Although interestingly, the bill has not drawn any other co-sponsors. I suspect the vote will be based simply on factional loyalties to the sponsors, rather than any real need or demand for the bill.

Why is this happening now? Where is the burning need for smaller charters? What public purpose is served?

The answer is found in the recent embarrassments the charter lobby has suffered due to several new charters failing to draw sufficient enrollment. The spectacle threatens to undermine the lobby’s contention that charters exist because they are demanded by parents. One of the underenrolled schools, Academia Antonio Alonso, plays a key role in the megacharter showcase, the Community Education Building.

According to Jennifer Nagourney, director of the Charter Schools Office in the State Department of Education, the department has three options: impose remedial measures on the schools, revoke their charters, or allow them to open as planned.

But apparently Sen. Sokola and Rep. Scott have found a fourth option: loosen the law to make the deficiencies legal.

This comes at a time when the public and legislators are becoming aware of the negative impact charters have on our district schools, by drawing away funds for key programs. Another bill (SB 209) has passed the Senate and is pending in the House, which allows the state to impose conditions on charters based on their projected impact to district schools.

So the last thing we need is to lower the bar on the creation of new charters, especially marginal charters with dubious financial viabilty, who will wreak their havoc on neighboring schools, and then likely fail and walk away from the trauma caused to their students.

Do we really want storefront charters fragmenting public education even further? We expect schools of all kinds to operate with a scale that permits organization and a reasonable economy of scale. Micro-charters will inevitably become personality-driven fiefdoms with no internal mechanics of governance (remember Pencader?). What’s next, kitchen-table charters?

No thank you, we will keep our referendums please

May 22, 2014 Comments off

I have no problem with paying school taxes; in fact there are lots of programs and enhancements I would gladly pay more taxes for. But I would like it to be subject to referendum to maintain some semblance of accountability:

State Rep. Darryl Scott, who isn’t running for re-election, says House Bill 355 will be filed next week.

The measure would revise a provision in current law that requires a school district to hold a successful public referendum before a school board may approve any tax increases to fund non-capital budget expenditures.

Under the bill, a school board could raise its local tax rate by up to 3 percent per year without a referendum. Larger increases and revenue enhancements for the purposes of funding capital projects, like new school construction, would remain subject to referenda in all cases. (from wdel)

Do… not… want.

And certainly not while local school taxes are being skimmed for charters.

Enrollment Preferences Task Force meeting tonight (Thursday May 22)

May 22, 2014 Comments off

Enrollment Preferences Task Force meeting #5 is tonight, 6:30pm @Buena Vista.The legislative web site for the task force is here.

Yes charters, that means you

May 22, 2014 1 comment

On the heels of newly clarified Federal civil rights guidelines for public school enrollment, and the Red Clay board’s task force looking into charter enrollment disparities, there is this:

Federal Civil Rights Laws Apply Equally to Charter Schools, Guidance Says

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued guidance today clarifying that charter schools have the same obligations to abide by federal civil rights laws as regular public schools. The “Dear Colleague” letter by Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon includes specific guidance for charter schools related to admissions, students with disabilities, English-language learners, and discipline.

In addition to those areas, charter schools should ensure their policies and practices comply with all federal civil rights law, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination based on disability, Lhamon wrote.

(from Charters & Choice blog)

The full text of the guidance letter is here.

Delaware charters may feel comfortable that their civil rights obligations are satisfied by the assertion that “anybody may apply.” But the fact is, charter enrollments are heavily skewed toward whiter, richer, and non-disabled students, especially in the “top performing” charters. The guidance elaborates:

As explained in greater depth in the Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools, charter schools should consider approaches that do not rely on the race of individual students before adopting approaches that do. Race-neutral approaches can take racial impact into account to promote diversity or avoid racial isolation; examples include targeting specific media outlets in which to advertise, reaching out to particular community groups, or using lotteries that give extra weight based on the socioeconomic status of a child’s parents. If a charter school determines that race-neutral approaches would be unworkable or ineffective, it may employ generalized race-based approaches, which use race as an express criterion (such as locating a school based on the overall racial composition of neighborhoods or feeder schools) but do not ely on the race of individual students If race-neutral and generalized race-based approaches would be unworkable, a charter school may consider an individual student’s race under appropriate factual circumstances.

And, if there was ever any doubt about charters’ obligation to students with disabilities, there is this:

Free appropriate public education for students with disabilities.

Under Sect ion 504, every student with a disability enrolled in a public school, including a public charter school, must be provided a free appropriate public education – that is, regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet his or her individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met. Evaluation and placement procedures are among the requirements that must be followed if a student needs, or is believed to need, special education or related services due to a disability.

Go Kenny!

May 15, 2014 2 comments

From WDEL:

Red Clay’s School Board creates a new committee to investigate charter and magnet school admissions policies for possible prejudice.

Board member Kenneth Rivera, District C, introduced the topic at Wednesday night’s meeting.

“If you look at the demographics at some of the schools, it is a vast disproportionate number of students who are of low income, special ed, certain races who are not attending certain schools,” Rivera says. “So my question is, why?”

As commenter Publius often notes over at Kilroy’s, Red Clay is simply responding to demand. WDEL continues:

There’s no doubt charter and magnet schools in Red Clay School District are a popular option.

Yes, and separate drinking fountains were once a popular option in certain quarters.

But race aside,

Numbers also show 53.9 percent of kids in Red Clay are considered low-income, but 5.7 percent of Charter School of Wilmington students are low-income. […]

Rivera says action needs to be taken to ensure institutional hurdles aren’t stacking the odds against race or economic groups.

“What are the proactive measures we are taking as a district, because we do value diversity and we do value the opportunity for everyone to have an equal chance to attend these schools,” Rivera says.

But here’s a hint Kenny. Expand your horizons – resegregation isn’t just about charters, it is also about other decisions made by the Red Clay board. Take a look at feeder patterns, and the impact of “choice only” Brandywine Springs, and the fact that Red Clay doesn’t have any neighborhood secondary schools in the city.