UPDATE: Representatives John Kowalko (D-RD25), Charles Potter (D-RD1), Stephanie Bolden (D-RD2), and Linwood Jackson, President of the NAACP Delaware State Conference, have requested an opinion from the Attorney General Matt Denn’s office on the legality of HS1 to HB85 as passed by the House last week:
Emotions get the best of us sometimes and in the world where social media saturates just about all aspects of our daily lives, we sometimes allow emotions to spill over into public domain prematurely. I do that. I try to approach things that I write about from the devil’s advocate point of view. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not. Last week I did not. I overreacted to the passing of a piece of legislation in the House regarding admissions preferences Delaware Charter Schools utilize. In doing so I passed on some incorrect information regarding the effects of the bill, should it be passed as-is by the Senate and signed by Governor Carney.
Last week HS1 to HB85 (K. Williams) (that’s House Substitute 1 to House Bill 85) passed the House by a vote of 27-13-1. In short, what this bill does is from the list of “admissions preferences” Delaware Charter Schools may employ, it removes the 5 mile residency radius preference, and replaces it with a residency in the contiguous portion of a non-contiguous school district that contains the Charter school.
Basically, what it means now is that any student applying for admission to a charter school in their home district receives equal preference whether they live 2.5 miles from the school or 7 miles from the school, with one exception.
HS1’s language, added at the requirement of Senator Dave Sokola (D-8) in order for the bill to move anywhere other than his desk drawer (as he’s the Senate Education Committee Chair) once it’s received in the Senate stipulates that students’ residency may only be considered “equal” in preference if they live in the same portion of any school district with one or more non-contiguous areas as the Charter school they are seeking admission to. As there is only one non-contiguous school district in the State of Delaware, and I seriously doubt we are looking to create any more of them since there are about 4 total nationwide, Senator Sokola’s language is referring specifically to the Christina School District, and only the Christina School District.
So, for the residency preference portion of Charters’ admissions pick list, if you live in the Newark area served by Christina and apply to a Newark area Charter school, you are preferred over a student who lives in the Christina School District’s Wilmington area. Same is true the other way around. If you live in the Wilmington area of Christina, you are preferred, in terms of residency, if you apply to a Wilmington area Charter that is located within Christina’s boundaries over a Newark area Christina student.
Let’s get one thing clear here: the 5-mile residency preference was absolute garbage from the get go. It was designed to discriminate against the majority of students living in any given school district, so I am thrilled to have it be launched into the sun, but I’m not sure this is better? Or maybe it is? Or maybe it’s a step in the right direction after years of inaction.
Christina is the only district affected by HS1. In any other District in the state, students may apply for admissions to any charter in their district and the school may exercise their admissions preference to grant admissions to “internal” district students before considering students from outside districts.
Christina kids don’t even get that. Wilmington students are essentially considered outside District applicants in terms of their location of residence should they apply to Aspira or Newark Charter. Newark students are considered similarly should they apply to any of the Charters located within Christina’s portion of the City of Wilmington.
Same district, same public schools, two standards for admissions preferences, depending on which side of the District you live on.
I do want to thank Representatives Kim Williams for authoring the bill initially (which would have removed all in-district location based admission preferences) and John Kowalko for trying to amend HS1 to remove the non-contiguous discrimination language added as mandated by Senator Sokola.
The bill now goes to the Senate. Read the full text of the bill here: https://legis.delaware.gov/json/BillDetail/GenerateHtmlDocument?legislationId=25538&legislationTypeId=6&docTypeId=2&legislationName=HS1