Posts Tagged ‘charters’

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.


Megacharter update: capacity balloons to 2800 students

April 9, 2014 4 comments

The Longwood Foundation-sponsored Community Education Building will accept another round of applications this spring for occupancy in the fall of 2015. This round of applications is for middle and high schools only. Current tenants are Kuumba Academy (K-8) and Academia Antonia Alonso (K-5), which will move in by this summer.

Since its announcement in 2012, the planned capacity of the building has ballooned to 2800 students.
. This comes at a time when six charters are up for either initial approval or expansion this spring. One of them (Great Oaks) has met with CEB about locating in the building.

A while back I wrote:

…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.

And in fact, the Red Clay board cited negative charter impact on its schools when it voted to oppose HB 165 last summer, which provided additional funding and relaxed oversight of charters. The bill passed over the objections of the state’s most populous districts (Red Clay, Christina, and Capital), which predictably started the current gold rusn of charter applications.

This year, Red Clay wrote a letter to the State Board of Education detailing the negative impact the new charters would have on the district, and warns that:

“Three high school openings in one area would necessitate the closing of another school.”

CEB has also announced the building will provide “wrap-around life services (healthcare and wellness services, after-school enrichment, etc.” So far, no word on how organizations should apply, or which services will be available.

Timeline for the current CEB application process is:

Application instructions and data template released – April 28, 2014
Deadline for submission of written application and data template – COB May 30, 2014
Notification of Finalists by June 13, 2014
Finalist In-Person Interviews by June 27, 2014
School selection notification by July 15, 2014

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Enrollment Preferences Task Force meeting cancelled and will be rescheduled

April 4, 2014 Comments off

Monday’s meeting of the Enrollment Preferences Task Force (meeting #5) is cancelled and will be rescheduled, according to co-chair Kim Williams. Stay tuned for the new date.

ACLU letter finds choice/charter questions “likely” violate several Federal statutes

March 30, 2014 1 comment

A February 27 letter from the Wilmington ACLU notes that certain questions asked on applications for Delaware charters, Vo-Techs, and other choice schools are likely in violation of Federal statutes:

The questions probably lead to a disparate effect on groups who are protected by two federal statutes, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Since there is no need to ask those questions during the admissions process, it is likely that asking them violates both statutes.

This is in contrast to a memo from the Delaware Attorney General’s office, which did not find any legal prohibition against the same set of questions. The ACLU letter notes of the AG memo:

The memorandum recognized the regulations under Title VI and Section 504 that require data collection, but did not consider the federal regulations at 34 C.F.R. § 100.3(b)(2) and 28 C.F.R. § 41.51(b)(3)(i), which prohibit questions that have a disparate effect on protected groups

The Enrollment Preferences Task Force received the letter from the ACLU, and it was distributed at the March 24 meeting of the task force. Here it is:

Public hearings on charters Tuesday/Wednesday this week

March 30, 2014 Comments off

All meetings are in the Townsend Building in Dover:

John G. Townsend Building Cabinet Room
401 Federal Street
Second Floor
Dover, DE, 19901

Tuesday April 1 5:00 pm. New charter application hearings for Mapleton Charter School at Whitehall, Delaware STEM High School, and Freire Charter School.

Tuesday April 1 5:00 pm. Charter modification application for Odyssey Charter School.

Wednesday April 2 6:00 pm. New charter application hearings for Great Oaks Charter School and Pike Creek Charter Middle School.

Wednesday April 2 6:00 pm. Charter modification application for the New Maurice Moyer Academy Charter School.

The following links to the 2013-2014 applications don’t seem to be available from the web page of the charter office – I had to find them the hard way:

2013-2014 New Charter Applications
2013-2014 Charter Modification Applications

All upcoming charter meetings:


Sussex League of Women Voters calls for action on education inequities

March 29, 2014 Comments off

From the Cape Gazette:

State must address educational inequities

By Jane Lord and Charlotte F. King | Mar 28, 2014
A page one article in the March 25 Cape Gazette cites the concerns of school officials and citizens in Sussex County that there is need for more diversity in charter and vo-tech schools, as well as more equitable allocation of resources. The League of Women Voters of Sussex County and of Delaware strongly share this concern, particularly since state- level education officials have long been aware of the diversity issues raised in this article.

During the Minner administration, the Delaware State Board of Education and the Delaware Department of Education commissioned a report on Delaware’s charter schools, headed up by a nationally recognized authority on education evaluation, Dr. Gary Miron of Western Michigan University. Miron’s March 2007 report on a comprehensive study (240 pages) of Delaware charter schools had the following statement in its conclusions:

While moderate success is obvious in the charter schools, a number of negative or unanticipated outcomes need to be watched and considered carefully. These include accelerating the resegregation of public schools by race, class and ability, and the disproportionate diversion of district and state resources (both financial and human resources) from districts to the more recently established charter schools.

A bedrock principle underlying our public education system is that every child is provided with an equal opportunity to fulfill their potential and become a productive citizen in our community. It appears that this principle has been seriously compromised for at least seven years by those responsible at the highest level in our state’s educational hierarchy. Action by the governor seems called for, now.

Jane Lord
League of Women Voters of Sussex County
Charlotte F. King
League of Women Voters of Delaware

A remarkable document

March 26, 2014 6 comments

A remarkable document landed in my inbox recently. It is a 103-page transcript of the 1995 Delaware Senate debate on SB 200 – Delaware’s charter school law. It is sort of like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls under a rock in your back yard, or finding the bill for the Last Supper stuck in an old pot.

Here it is: SB 200 Transcript

The filename says it is “Vol. 2,” and I suspect there is a Vol.1 still to be found. If anyone has it, please send it to me at (hey, it can’t hurt to ask).

There don’t seem to be any surprising revelations, though Kilroy hasn’t yet gone over it with his new bionic eye. The first 48 pages of the transcript are debating amendments to the bill. The rest of the transcript is fairly mundane, except for some fairly tense questioning of Bill Manning (then President of the Red Clay board) by Senator Marshall.

Marshall presciently grilled Manning about the potential for the new school eventually coming to serve mostly the economically advantaged, while leaving lower income students behind. Manning replied – well, you read it:

SENATOR MARSHALL: Understanding that the harshest critics of charter schools around the nation where they’ve been in place and operating, is the issue of the schools skimming off the top and creating an elitist academy with public money.
My concern is looking at the focus of the charter schools by attracting the best at times for a specific educational discipline offered by that charter school; and the concern of recruitment.
I looked at children throughout New Castle County in moderate low income neighborhoods, I looked at the City, the west side, the east side, hilltop, I need to understand how your board and how you will guarantee fairness and equal access to every student from every unit.

MR. MANNING: Thank you Senator. Let me approach that question two different ways because I hear the creaming argument over and over again with respect to schools of choice.
One thing that particularly bothers me about that argument is that whoever is making the argument, whether you’re a member of the State PTA or whether you’re a Superintendent from a school district 100 miles away from a district that wants to try a charter, that person is basically saying I know better than the parents of that child where that child ought to attend. But that’s an argument that I’ve never really understood, and it’s always been a little offensive to me.
You also hear the suggestion that for some reason children whose parents are college educated and have jobs that pay more will somehow get the better end of the deal. Which suggests that children of parents who for some reason don’t have a college education somehow aren’t able to cope in this system and aren’t able to make good choices for their children. I don’t believe that. And in Red Clay the experience is just the opposite.

There’s more in that vein; go read the whole thing.

Another thing that may be of interest: the roll call vote. I was surprised by how close it was 11-8, with 2 not voting.

MADAM PRESIDENT: Mr. Secretary would you please call the roll on Senate Substitute No. 1 for Senate Bill No. 200 as amended.
MR. SECRETARY: Senator Adams?
SENATOR ADAMS: Not voting.
MR. SECRETARY: Not voting. Senator Amick?
MR. SECRETARY: No. Senator Bair?
MR. SECRETARY: Yes. Senator Blevins?
MR. SECRETARY: Yes. Senator Bonini?
MR. SECRETARY: Yes. Senator Connor?
MR. SECRETARY: No. Senator Cook?
MR. SECRETARY: No. Senator Cordrey? Absent. Senator Haig?
MR. SECRETARY: Yes. Senator Henry?
SENATOR HENRY: Not voting.
MR. SECRETARY: Not voting. Senator Marshall?
MR. SECRETARY: Yes. Senator McBride? Absent. Senator McDowell?
MR. SECRETARY: Not voting. Senator Reed?
MR. SECRETARY: Yes. Senator Sharp?
MR. SECRETARY: No. Senator Sokola?
MR. SECRETARY: Yes. Senator Sorenson?
MR. SECRETARY: Yes. Senator Still?
SENATOR STILL: Not voting.
MR. SECRETARY: Not voting. Senator Vaughn?
MR. SECRETARY: No. Senator Venables?
MR. SECRETARY: No. Senator Voshell?
SENATOR CORDREY: Madam President.
MADAM PRESIDENT: Senator Cordrey.
MR. SECRETARY: Senator Cordrey from absent to voting no.
MR. SECRETARY: Senator McBride from absent to voting yes.
SENATOR STILL: Not voting to yes.
MR. SECRETARY: Senator Still from not voting to voting yes.
SENATOR HENRY: From not voting to voting yes.
MR. SECRETARY: Senator Henry from not voting to voting yes. Madam President the roll call on Senate Substitute No. 1 for Senate Bill No. 200 is amended by Senate Amendments No. 5, 1 and 6; eleven yes, eight no and two not voting.
MADAM PRESIDENT: Senate Substitute No. 1 for Senate Bill No. 200 having received the required number of votes is declared passed the Senate.


Choice enrollment reform resolution making the rounds

March 25, 2014 5 comments

A resolution promoting diversity policies in choice schools, including Vo-Techs and charters, is making the rounds of all the Delaware school boards:

In order to bring socioeconomic, racial and special needs equality, fairness and balance to our public schools, we resolve to support policy, regulation and legislation that would require choice or receiving schools to mirror the demographics of the sending school district […] Once adopted, this regulation, legislation or policy, would apply to every public school in the state of Delaware including vocational, technical and charter schools.
(full text of the resolution)

(Hmmm… reminds me of The Lowery Doctrine.)

The resolution was authored by Seaford board member Frank Parks, and has already been adopted by the boards of Seaford, Cape Henlopen, and Christina. According to the resolution, the Delaware School Board Association has made it a legislative priority.

Apparently cherry-picking and white-flight academies are alive and well in Sussex too. The Cape Gazette lays it out:

Frank Parks, a Seaford school board member, says charter and vo-tech schools cherry pick top students from traditional school districts, leaving high numbers of minority students behind while creating an exclusive education for high-performing students. […]

While Sussex County student population is about 24 percent African-American, only 2 percent of Sussex Academy students are African-American. Sussex Tech is somewhat closer to the county profile, but still, only 17 percent of students are black.

The gap is even greater for low-income students – 62 percent of the county students are considered low-income while Sussex Tech has a low-income students population of 33 percent and Sussex Academy has 18 percent.

More food for thought for the Enrollment Preferences Task Force as it begins to form its recommendations. I know this resolution was on Brandywine’s agenda last night… How’d it do? I can’t imagine this being adopted by Red Clay.

Charter expo Saturday Nov. 23

November 22, 2013 4 comments

Sat, November 23, 9am-12pm
Studio 1, The Grand Opera House

You have a choice in your child’s education! Come learn more about charter school options for your child for the 2014-2015 school year. This school year, New Castle County is home to 16 charter schools. In the 2014-2015 school year, four of our existing charter schools will expand and our county will welcome four new charter schools. Next year, parents in our county will have more options for their child’s education than ever before. Meet and greet leaders, teachers, and staff from charter schools across New Castle County. Connect with local community organizations and businesses that provide a variety of supports for students and families.

TEACHERS WANTED: Charter school leaders are looking for hardworking, educated teachers and staff members for the 2014-2015 school year. Get a jump start on your career at the New Castle County Charter School Expo!

One question parents should as is why the Delaware Department of Justice is puzzling over whether the questions on charter applications are out of bounds or not (see: Does your momma pick watermelons?)

The November meeting, [of the Ebrollment Preferences Task Force] scheduled for this Wednesday, November 20th, has been cancelled. The Department of Justice is still working on answering the legal questions that were submitted on October 22nd, 2013.

Pick up some applications yourself and join the investigation.


Does your momma pick watermelons?

October 25, 2013 7 comments

:ast night the HB 90 task force began to sharpen its focus, taking a look at specific information charters and VoTechs request on their admission applications. Co-chair Kim Williams read out a list of questions she had gathered from actual applications.

When read out loud the whole list seemed to go on and on, with each question odder and more inappropriate than the last. Jaws dropped when she read: “has a parent or guardian worked on a farm, in the fields or in a factory with fruits, vegetables or animals; has the parent or guardian every worked with watermelons, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, apples, chicken, or shellfish,”. Remember, this is information parents must provide in order to be considered for admission. Here’s the whole list:

The questions that were asked on the applications: race of a student, specifically if the student was Hispanic/Latino, student’s social security number, photo id, IEP or 504 Plan, citizenship, what languages are spoken in the home, place of birth, place of parent’s employment, health problems, parents married, separated, has your child repeated a grade, where does the child live: with both parents, mother, father, grandmother; does your child receive services: inclusion, occupational therapy, hearing support, speech therapy, or counseling; does your child take medication, wear glasses or wear a hearing aid; has a parent or guardian worked on a farm, in the fields or in a factory with fruits, vegetables or animals; has the parent or guardian every worked with watermelons, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, applies, chicken, or shellfish; has your family changed homes in the last three years? Schools asking parents if they need transportation. Please check if your student has any area of interest in these sports. What ways do you feel that this school will serve your child?

Copies of the items requested on the application: birth certificate, copy of the parent or students social security card, medical records, proof of residence, most recent report card etc.

Once the discussion resumed, the charter and VoTech representatives were unfazed and were full of justifications why their school needed extra information. But then Rep. Williams asked “That’s fine, but why do you need that information BEFORE the admission decision has been made? Why can’t you collect it AFTER admission?” And the silence was deafening.

You might think that requiring a common application form would solve these kinds of issues. Kilroy has the form; go take a look.

The problem is although charters, VoTechs and magnet schools are required to use the common form, they are still allowed to ask whatever supplemental questions they want. All they have to do is staple the common form on the front of the supplemental questions, and they are compliant. Even on the online application, the supplemental information were just added “as is” with no questions asked. Nobody is checking to see if the supplemental questions are fair or even legal.

One of the dodges offered by the charter folks was “That information is not used in the admission decision,” and sometimes it says so right on the application. But I’m not impressed. As Rep. Williams noted, “Most applications state that you must return all items requested, if you do not, your application will not be processed.”

I say the surest way to make sure information isn’t misused is to not collect it in the first place.

The discussion went around for a while longer, but didn’t get much further, which is fine because the issue had at least been unmistakably laid on the table.

The problem is asking these questions will remain legal until some parent challenges them, which leaves enforcement up to parents, probably only after a denial. That is wrong. It is an opportunity for leadership from the Department of Education or our district leaders.

So as the task force moves toward its directive of producing recommendations this January, here’s an idea: An application should not contain any questions that exceed your charter (or whatever documented admission criteria they use). If it’s not in your charter, it’s not on your application. That would be a piece of real charter/VpTech reform that can be accomplished within the scope of the Enrollment Preferences task force.