Delaware

It Is, And Always Has Been, The Politics Behind WEIC

Via delawareonline:

Carney on Tuesday told the commission that with a projected $350 million budget deficit, putting aside money for low-income students and English language learners was neither economically nor politically feasible. He spoke instead of “opportunity grants” for schools and restructuring Title I funding to better help students with special educational needs, promising he and his staff would come up with a plan that would help improve educational outcomes in Delaware.

It’s the politics of money. Carney, of course, could raise taxes, but all signs point to that not happening. Especially due to who these taxes would benefit – mostly poor, mostly black/brown children. Because, let’s face it, when people think of WEIC they think of city kids – even though “”It’s worth noting that 50 percent of Delaware public school students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, a long-held low-income standard for children and their families,” Tony Allen added. That’s far more than city children.

So yeah, it’s politics – driven by a state that has allowed its schools to re-segregate along racial and socioeconomic lines. A state that has allowed public education to create winners and losers. Correcting what the state and school districts allowed to happen is going to cost money to fix. Make no mistake, this problem was no accident. It. Was. Deliberate. The Neighborhood Schools Act, Charters, Magnets, Choice all were designed to lead to this outcome. If you didn’t see this happening, you were willfully blind.

It’s hardly surprising that asking taxpayers in gerrymandered affluent public schools to help pay for schools they made sure they’d never step foot in, or to help the neediest children, would be a deal breaker. That’s the politics. There is nothing to be gained politically by asking the haves to help the have nots. There is only punishment at the voting booth.

You’d think everyone would see the benefits to equitable funding. Better schools lead to a better economy and less crime – two things everyone agrees needs to be addressed. But talk is cheap.

And don’t even get me started on Carney and his staff will come up with another plan. Are you kidding me? A well-researched plan already exists. Tossing it on the trash heap to reinvent the wheel is nothing but a stall tactic. Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows what’s needed. What’s missing is the political backbone to do what’s right. Carney saying we need another plan is a slap in the face to the WEIC committee who put in hundreds (thousands?) of hours studying and working on this issue. But scraping WEIC’s work was always the way this was going to end. Yeah, I’m that cynical.

If we rule out equitable funding then what would this “other plan” address? It wouldn’t be smaller class sizes, more educational resources, more teachers, more psychologists, etc. because all of those things cost money. So, give me an idea of what the Governor’s new plan would include. Uniforms? Not kidding. If money is off the table, then what exactly will this new plan consist of?

And it’s no secret that high needs schools need more. So, if you want a new plan may I suggest starting with these charts. The blue line is percentage of poverty at the school. Orange – ELA scores. Grey – Math scores:

Red Clay:

rccsd_sbac

Christina:

christina_sbac

Colonial:

colonial_sbac

Brandyine:

brandywine_sbac

And here’s one for Charter Schools:

charterpovertycorrected

That’s the reality. Those charts show exactly what’s going on. Poverty impacts education. It requires more. Politically that’s a losing proposition. I get that. I don’t respect that mindset, but I get it. Doing what’s right will take courage. And if our elected officials don’t address equitable funding then they should stop with all the talk about improving the economy and reducing crime, because a better economy and reduced crime won’t happen unless we help these children – but I guess we can’t since it’s not politically feasible. Whatever “politically feasible” means.

8 comments on “It Is, And Always Has Been, The Politics Behind WEIC

  1. Thanks for this. Exactly spot on. Forget the gov — can we put the pressure on key legislators instead?

  2. There is no incentive on either side of the aisle to address equitable funding or reforming the funding system. It’s like a divorce where one person walks out with the clothes on their back leaving the other person living in the house with all the possessions. There’s absolutely no incentive for the person with the house/possessions to proceed to the settlement phase of the divorce – which would result in their having to give up some things or write a check. Okay, probably not the perfect analogy, but close enough.

  3. pandora, you’re right. Politicians being politicians need incentive to stick their necks out for anything that might be controversial for them when their reelection campaigns kick off.

    In the long run, making funding more equitable will end up shifting resources from lower needs to higher needs, because we don’t have an infinite amount of funding available. The NIMBY crowd has been quite vocal about this. “Don’t take MY kid’s funding away for those kids!”

    I remember sitting through several Red Clay forums on WEIC…some of the public comments were quite disheartening.

  4. It also occurs to me that those bar charts should be updated…

  5. Steven H Newton

    The actual education agenda in Delaware over the past two and one-half decades has been driven by two (and pretty much only two) impulses: (a) dismantling the traditional public school system and (b) corporate profits.

    The first is the fairly obvious combination of choice-charter-magnet-(and soon) vouchers necessary to transfer resources (wealth) away from lower-SES children directly to the middle- and upper classes. The necessary precondition to this transfer was the carefully executed destruction of the concept of education as a “public good,” the idea that quality public education for all benefits all, and the erosion of the ideal of any social responsibility for those better off to take care of those less well off. Absolutely brilliant Lakoff-style framing (obviously conservatives read his books, and liberals forgot them after Obama used them so effectively in 2008) is moving “public schools” to “government schools” [capitalizing on anti-government sentiment], and eroding the nature of public schools through slogans like “charter schools are public schools” [which is, disturbingly, the educational equivalent of “All Lives Matter”]. It’s also notable that defenders of the traditional American public school haven’t responded very adroitly to this all; “Why shouldn’t parents have a choice?” could have been opposed by “The only choices in Wilmington are false choices”–but it didn’t happen. Opponents of public schools have so far won the public war of sound bites and memes.

    The corporate war on education is something that a lot of people in Delaware talk about, but few actually understand its depth and breadth. Because we have data consultants [and data coaches] and data-driven instruction and assessments we have become a profit center for several multi-BILLION-dollar education corporations. We have been so brainwashed that we have made a fetish out of gathering and analyzing data to the point of gathering data on instruction becoming MORE IMPORTANT than actual high-quality instruction. Rodel and ETS all the usual suspects are involved, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg…

    Consider teachers and teacher preparation programs. Now, in Delaware, to become a teacher, you must first pass Praxis 1 (an ETS product), then Praxis 2 (another ETS product in each discipline area), and then PPAT (an ETS test to prove that you can write lesson plans that make it easy to extract data for data analytics). The average middle-school candidate as an undergraduate will pay ETS (at a minimum, assuming ALL tests are passed on the first try) for Praxis 1 Reading, Praxis 1 Writing, Praxis 1 Math, Praxis 2 in first content area, Praxis 2 in second content area, and PPAT–that’s SIX tests from ETS that you must take and pass. Given that it take the average undergraduate about 1.5 tries on most of these tests, that’s NINE tests you take, at prices from $57-97 per shot, not counting money forked out for study materials. I kind of wonder why we even have final exams in these college courses, since they don’t really matter.

    And now the State of Delaware is requiring experienced teachers from other states with valid teaching certificates to fork out the money to take the PPAT just to have the reciprocity of their teaching certificates honored. (By the way, PPAT is a time-intensive portfolio-based assessment that requires between 25-40 hours to complete.)

    We are now officially insane. It is incorrect to accuse Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Betsy DeVos of attempting to kill public education. Public education as a near universally shared American value got killed off effectively about ten years ago with No Child Left Behind, in which the impossibility of succeeding was a feature not a bug in the program. Trump, Pence, and DeVos are simply carving up the carcass.

    Which is why there is no political will to improve public education for poor kids in Wilmington and across the State … because there is no longer a general consensus that such is a valid use for government funds.

    Wow. Even for me this got a lot longer than I intended. Sorry. But I’m tired of mincing words. We are no longer defending public education–we are going to have to rebuild the consensus for its necessity from the ground up.

    • One reason combating the sound bites and memes from opponents of public schools is difficult is because they frame those bites and memes in the powerful language of superiority and fear. Yep, I’m going to have to break this down.

      Superiority: The driving message here to parents is that they should be proud of the fact that they cared enough to get their children out of public schools. This mindset requires a major buy-in – and boy, have we been buying. It explains the explosion of charters/magnets/choice (and soon to be vouchers and Voucher Schools – because if anyone believes Tower Hill, Sanford, Archmere, etc. will be opening their doors they’re nuts). It didn’t matter if the charter/magnet/choice school was educationally better (and in many cases they weren’t), it only mattered that your child “escaped” from those public schools – and you had the good sense to make that happen.

      Peer pressure is a big motivator. Adult peer pressure like, “Are you really sending your child to McKean?” or “We’re at XXX charter school because we care about our kids.” These parents put forth their choice/charter/magnet school in the same way some people flash their Gucci handbag or Armani tie. There choice is high end. It’s a designer school – because they “care” enough to get the very best, unlike you. And it’s amazing how that designer label gets slapped on every choice/charter/magnet school, no matter how different.

      This became obvious when you found parents choosing schools like Pencader because they didn’t get into the Charter School of Wilmington. In reality, those two schools aren’t educationally comparable, which tells you that education wasn’t the prime motivator.

      Which brings us to…

      Fear: This emotion is very real and very powerful. Most people don’t even consider actual schools until they have children. Sure, buying a house in a “good” school district is a selling point, but we all now know that that reputation no longer applies to most school districts. It applies to attendance zones – which most people don’t know. (If you understand attendance zones then you know there are areas in RCCD, Christina, etc. that you will never purchase a home in – unless your plan includes private school – so a districts “reputation” is only as good as your address. And that’s a problem school districts don’t address, and they don’t have to because… Choice!)

      And even if they know their feeder, by the time little Billy or Mary reaches school age they have been bombarded with horror stories – most of which (thanks to the Neighborhood Schools Act) revolve around middle and high schools when little Billy or Mary will be in a classroom with those kids. I’m not going to sugarcoat that statement. It’s true, and if you’ve ever attended a school board/WEIC meeting you’ll hear this sentiment loud and clear during the public comment section.

      Fear also takes another route. “Am I screwing up my child’s life if I make the wrong school choice?” There’s so much pressure to not make a mistake – and with all the superior attitudes being thrown at parents (even questioning their parenting!) it’s easy to see how fear drives people to make any choice other than public school – even bad choices. And it doesn’t help that parents don’t understand how choice works. Given the endless marketing campaign it’s easy to see why people think and say, “I’ll choice my child into this school and if I’m not happy I’ll just choice them into another school.” Choice. Does. Not. Work. That. Way. There are entry points.

      So… how do you combat a marketing campaign that tells you that putting your child in public school makes you a bad parent, one who doesn’t care enough to choose the designer label? There’s so much propaganda – most of it coming from people who have no idea what goes on in our public schools.

      “Which is why there is no political will to improve public education for poor kids in Wilmington and across the State … because there is no longer a general consensus that such is a valid use for government funds.”

      Racism explains so much of this. This consensus relies of the belief that no amount of resources will help those children. It’s ugly… and effective.

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