Two Sides to the Same District

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.

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.

CHRISTINA SCHOOL DISTRICT – 5-mile radius admissions preference option repealed by HS1 to HB85. Students in Delaware, in-district, and within the 5 mile radius could be given admissions preference over students in district but outside the 5 mile radius of the 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 SCHOOL DISTRICT – HS1 to HB85 enables Charters to prioritize applications from students living in the “section” of the non-contiguous District that the school is located in.

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:

7 comments on “Two Sides to the Same District

  1. Eve Buckley

    Thank you, Brian. It should be noted that (unless I am misunderstanding) HS1 to HB 85 provides an OPTION that charter schools can use, in prioritizing admissions. Not all charters will choose to adopt it, just as very few have employed the “five mile radius” preference (two, I think: NCS & FSMA) . So this new provision will ONLY apply to charters that choose to use it, and is primarily likely to be used by the schools that previously employed a five-mile radius preference (which will no longer be legal if this bill passes, but they can automatically switch to this geographic preference).

    Las Americas Aspira does not employ a radius preference, and neither does Kuumba, etc. I don’t know that there is any reason to believe they will do so now (though they could presumably try to alter their charter in this manner, as a “minor modification?”).

    • Correct, this is now an option Charters may exercise in terms of ranking the applications for admissions, just as the option to employ 5 mile radii existed. Not all use it, not all will use it, but the mere existence of an intra-district geographic admissions preference based a non-contiguous boundary design created by court action should be insulting to just about everyone who pays taxes.

      If the charter is in the district you’re living in, there should be no option for a Charter to levy a preference on admissions dependent on which “part” of the District you live in. There are enough other admissions preferences which may be utilized to ‘control’ the number of admissions to the schools.

      • Eve Buckley

        Agreed on all counts–just want to make sure everyone reading understands how this is likely to work in practice. Thanks

  2. So… a Christina charter can discriminate against a Christina tax payer due to where they live in the Christina district? If so, the charter should be denied that portion of taxes.

    This is just more of the charter’s secret sauce. It’s not what goes on in the classroom, it’s who they allow in.

    This strikes me as pretty in your face. You’d think Sokola and co. would be less obvious.

    • Eve Buckley

      I think they (Sokola and co.) are getting a bit desperate; I agree that this is pretty brazen and hard to sugarcoat as anything other than a last ditch bid to keep Christina’s city children out of Newark charter school, which in my view is what the school exists to accomplish (that is, undoing the Christina district geography formed as a result of court-ordered desegregation, and reproducing a suburban-only k-12 district).

      • Yep. You’d think they’d be smart enough to not make this so brazen and ugly. (I’m sure the usual suspects will get all offended when the ugliness is pointed out. Altho, this latest stunt makes that pretty damn hard.)

        Seriously, tho… any charter that chooses this option should be denied funds from the areas discriminated against. Why should a city resident pay school taxes toward a school in their flippin’ district that they’re barred from attending. Hit charters where it always hurts… money.

  3. Knave Holdnit

    Easy way to fix the whole Christina vs. 5mile radius vs. court ordered deseg. district boundary kerfluffle. Consolidate NCC districts into 1 or 2 geographically contiguous districts with students attending their neighbor hood schools with rational feeder patterns. Wait, that would not take any ‘smarts’ at all. It is as obvious as the brazen act of social engineering that has failed throughout the country. The difference is, consolidation would work to eliminate all the petty fiefdom control, streamline traffic, reduce costs and focus some resources where they are presently missing. One issue being ignored is that since charters are not funded the same way as districts, they do not have the resources to bus kids all over creation. (They shouldn’t be bused all over creation anyway). A feeder pattern is the only rational way to ascertain how a district transports children. And a 5 mile radius is already larger than any traditional school’s feeder pattern.

    The “ugliness” is the socialistic methodologies and approaches being used that do NOT provide pathways to educational success. The ‘ugliness’ is the twisting of the word ‘fairness’ and ‘need’. Why should a suburban parent be paying for the transportation of a city kid to a school 20 miles outside the city and vice versa? Hit the politicians where it hurts, elect some representatives that will stop appeasing the lunacy of transfer payment redistribution.

    Charter schools have been a REACTION to traditional districts ignoring, in some cases thumbing their nose at, parents and students’ requests for improved education. They are a reaction rather than a cause. Now that Charters are affecting district strangleholds on revenue and education, the traditional districts and their supporters are crying foul. Where have you been, when parents have complained about poor student discipline and poor academic performance for the last 15~20 years? You were claiming you just needed more money to get the job done. Well they got more money with every referendum and still no improvements. So the ugliness IS that traditional schools ignored the requests of a large portion of residents/ students, so some of those students left. It is truly as ugly as it gets when presented with the truth, you obfuscate and deflect. What if traditional schools stopped enabling poor discipline and poor academic performance and started demanding students behave themselves and really apply themselves to school work? I’m pretty sure the earth would stop on its axis on that day.

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