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Posts Tagged ‘HB90’

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.

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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:

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
president
League of Women Voters of Sussex County
Charlotte F. King
president
League of Women Voters of Delaware

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.

Enrollment Preferences Task Force meeting tonight, 6:30 @Buena Vista

March 24, 2014 2 comments

The fourth meeting of the Enrollment Preferences Task Force is at 6:30 tonight at Buena Vista. Here is the legislative web site for the task force including all minutes, agendas, and other documents.

I have been delinquent in blogging lately, especially on this Task Force – life gets in the way sometimes. I am not a member of the Task Force but I have attended the first three meetings, and I am going to this one tonight. But first, I owe you a recounting of the previous meeting (Meeting #3).

Back in October, the group identified a number of dubiously intrusive questions that charters, Vo-Techs, and other choice schools were asking on their applications. Co-chair Kim Williams forwarded the list to the Delaware Attorney General’s office asking for some guidelines on whether some of those quesions were lawful. This question was important enough that the next meeting was postponed until an answer came back. Meeting #3 was the big reveal – The DOJ taped two ten-foot poles together, but still didn’t want to touch that one:

In reviewing the list of questions presented, I did not find any current legal requirements that would prohibit the list of questions, tests, or auditions presented.
(full text of report)

But while the DOJ was not willing to take on the charter lobby with this rebort, there is plenty to suggest that there is in fact a problem:

While it may be advisable as the best practice for an RLEA to have a two step process separating admission and enrollment information, it is not legally mandated. Each RLEA has the legal responsibility to ensure that they are complying with state and federal law and in doing so they should review their application process and practices carefully to make sure they are consistent with the law and do not have a chilling effect on the enrollment. (emphasis mine)

Nice punt, to suggest that the schools should determine whether their own questions are consistent with the law. In effect, DOJ is (probably correctly) handing the issue back the to legislature and the task force recommendations, all but inviting them to take action:

If pursued through successful legislation, those recommendations would then become legally binding restrictions.

Most of Meeting #3 was structured in workshop format, with small groups working on ways to separate application info from enrollment info, as suggested by the DOJ. It looks like that is where the group is headed, and tonight it will begin discussions on forming recommendations.

This is a time for public education advocates to stay on their toes and watch for untoward legislation being advanced from sources outside the task force. I remember all too well how HB 165 seemed to come out of the blue after the conclusion of the illegally secretive Governor’s Working Group on Charters. Fortunately, the Enrollment Preferences Task Force is transparent and wide open to the public, thanks to HB 90 sponsor Kim Williams. So get down to Buena Vista tonight and take advantage of the open access.

Enrollment Preferences Task Force meeting tonight

January 29, 2014 3 comments

The last few meetings of the Enrollment Preferences Task Force have been cancelled or postponed for various reasons, but it looks like it is back on track now. The third meeting is tonight at 6:30.

Note the new location in Dover (Townsend Building, Cabinet Room, second floor). Public notice is here.

As a bonus, the Charter/District Collaboration Study Group is meeting in the same room at 4:30, so if you are going to Dover you can make it a two-fer. Public notice is here; no agenda is posted.

At the October meeting of the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, questions were raised about the kinds of questions charters and choice schools were asking on their admission applications prior to their admission decision, and whether those questions were permissible. These discussions were documented here in Does your momma pick watermelons?

After the meeting, Rep. Kim Williams submitted the questions to the Delaware Attorney General’s office for clarification. This was a serious enough issue that when the AG had not responded, the November meeting of the Task Force was cancelled pending the information.

The December meeting of the Task Force was also cancelled because of a scheduling problem with the venue (Buena Vista).

But tonight the meeting will resume the discussion and share the response from the Attorney General, plus some other interesting items. Agenda is here.

I Welcome and Introductions

II Approve minutes from meeting held on 10/24/2013

III Reviewing HB90 purpose, accomplishments and current meeting goals
Brief overview of forwarded documents:
Blue Collar Task Force Recommendations
Repairing Delaware’s Fractured Public Education System by Dan Rich, UD
Deputy Attorney General’s Letter dated 12/16/2013

IV Examining application – categories and questions

V Public comment

VI Next steps

VII Adjourn

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.