Delaware Education

FINALLY- The Real Reason for the District Consolidation Task Force

Look at that. It only took a few months for the actual impetus behind the School District "Consolidation" Task Force to reveal itself.

Look at that. It only took a few months for the actual impetus behind the School District “Consolidation” Task Force to reveal itself. Kevin Ohlandt has the scoop:

“State Representative Earl Jaques, as the Chair of the School District Consolidation Task Force, dropped the mother of all bombs at the latest meeting tonight. When going over all the sub-committee reports, Jaques discussed potential proposals for the task force to discuss moving forward. He brought up how the state holds charter schools accountable based on their Performance Framework. He said a proposal from one of the Structure Sub-Committee meetings dealt with a proposal to give the State Board of Education the authority to have the charter Performance Framework for traditional school districts and if a district (not a school) did not meet those performance benchmarks they could be eligible for state takeover. Another option could be to have that struggling district merge with another district.”

Note the last sentence. I know I’m armchair quarterbacking here because I’ve been out of the education scene in Delaware for quite a while- BUT, this is a trial balloon. Jaques floated this and immediately followed it up with “OR merge with another district” to gauge reaction. Judging by the responses in the room that Kevin describes, this trial balloon was made of lead.

Look, it should come as no surprise to anyone who followed DE Education for even 5 minutes that Christina School District has been the bane of certain State Legislators’ existence. It should also be no surprise that the State of Delaware continues to find underhanded ways to attempt to 1) Take it over (again) 2) Force it to merge with another District (probably Colonial) or 3) Hi. I’m Troy McClure, you may remember me from such initiatives as “Partnership Zones”, “Priority Schools”, Christina Wilmington Consolidation, and now the “School District Takeover Force”.

Every. Single. Time. one of these “plans” is proposed it follows the same formula: throw a bone to the primary drivers for academic struggle, poverty, trauma, hunger, language barrier, but fail to provide anything of substance to help. Then point to the district and say “You’re not improving!”. And lastly, find a roundabout way to threaten a takeover.

You (Jaques) are going to tell me that the State takeover of Christina (or ANY district for that matter) is going to “Fix” its academic struggles? Based on what success stories? This is not like taking over one school and turning it around. A school district is *slightly* more complex.

ESPECIALLY when academic struggles are not limited to Christina alone. It’s all over the State. It’s all over the damn country as a matter of fact.

Much wringing of hands has occured in Leg Hall over the last several years about how to boost DE’s public school system. Many commissions, teams, task forces, MOUs, resolutions, orders by fiat, have attempted to “fix” the school system. Yet here we are. The threat of takeover for poor performance while educators say the same things to lawmakers: Poverty. Trauma. Hunger. Language. Address those needs. How you ask? If only we had a group of people- an association, perhaps an EDUCATION association (or a several of them!) to help navigate the complex paths. And before someone throws this in the comments, no I am not insinuating that throwing money at Districts will fix it, because it won’t. The way Delaware approaches systematic education HAS to change. The system is broken. Has been for some time. People continue to try and get enough lawmakers to pay attention so a transformation process can begin.

Hostile takeover has been and remains the dumbest frigging idea I’ve heard come out of Dover regarding education.

I apologize for the cynicism & sarcasm, but for God’s sake, it’s the SAME damn thing being proposed AGAIN. Round and round we (continue to) go.

24 comments on “FINALLY- The Real Reason for the District Consolidation Task Force

  1. Glad to see you back Brian! We all knew there was something going on behind the scenes. Different beat, same drummer. Rinse, wash, repeat. Earl is a broken record. I don’t usually catch these meetings. But for some reason something was telling me to go to this one.

  2. Jack Polidori

    Recommended background listening: get a CD audio of the original charter school law (then a bill) debate [available free of charge] in the State Senate. Make note of who spoke, what each person said, where they are now, and then consider the content of today’s posted article….and the intervening years of history. This debate followed the great and continuing deseg battles of the 1970s and the belove
    And the very best of luck to the ACLU and other plaintiffs in the pending school finance case. May ‘The Force’ be with you.

  3. Jack Polidori

    Sorry for the incomplete sentence toward the end. Tough for an old guy to scroll and see on these miniature screens. Mea culpa.

  4. This!

    “You (Jaques) are going to tell me that the State takeover of Christina (or ANY district for that matter) is going to “Fix” its academic struggles? Based on what success stories? This is not like taking over one school and turning it around. A school district is *slightly* more complex.”

    This is the million dollar question. What’s the plan once the State takes over a public school district? Turn it into a charter school district? Privatize it? That’s always been the plan so far.

    I can’t figure out what they’d plan to do once they took over districts – and I’m betting their idea is based on taking over more than one district. This seems bigger than Christina.

    I keep coming back to the plan of closing 3 Christina city schools. Is this tied in somehow?

    What exactly will the State do to improve schools once it takes over a district? Add more teachers/paras? Equitable funding? Add school psychologists, counselors, interventionists, etc., smaller class sizes? I just cracked myself up! Hey, while they’re at it, maybe they can make the GA fund the latest plan for Christina’s city schools!

    I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but that statement by Jaques is the tip of the iceberg. There must have been discussions (meetings?) about this idea. Kevin says he’s read the minutes and can find no mention of this proposal – and yet, Jaques claimed the proposal was put forth by one of the committees. Jaques needs to prove where this proposal came from.

    All of this is exhausting. Everyone knows what struggling schools/districts need. So far, no one puts those things into any of their proposals. This isn’t about improving/helping schools and school districts. So, what’s it really about?

    • It’s one thing to write about this. But no words could capture the looks on the faces of the district people on this task force. What was a fairly simple and going nowhere Delaware task force meeting quickly turned into a display of shock, anger, and instant resentment. I want to know WHERE this proposal is coming from.

    • Yes, that is the question: What would taking over the district accomplish? What problem(s) does it solve? Somebody must think it solves a problem or it wouldn’t be considered. So what is that problem, and who benefits from the change?

      It’s all well and good to posit a hidden agenda, but you have to figure out a motive to have any idea why this is being hatched. Revenge or taking power from parents or any such explanation that centers on the negative effects won’t cut it. Frankly, I can’t imagine why anybody in the realm of education would want to take over a large, cash-strapped district with myriad social problems as well, but I haven’t followed the issue closely for over a decade now. If anyone has a guess, clue me in.

      • cassandram

        Taking over Christina would let the State do the things that Brian listed — things they’ve been blocked from doing in the past. All of these strategies come under the category of Do Something About Christina and the Wilmington Schools. All of these items have little cost and little impact to classrooms, but those doing this get to 1) Make the suburban parents of Christina happy and 2) claim some victory. It doesn’t matter that these solutions have no real impact on classroom effect. It *does* matter to be seen as doing something, especially if it looks Tough on Wilmington Kids.

        My opinion only.

  5. John Young

    Look, it should come as no surprise to anyone who followed DE Education for even 5 minutes that Christina School District has been the bane of certain State Legislators’ existence.

    or said the same…

    Look, it should come as no surprise to anyone who followed DE Education for even 5 minutes that certain State Legislators’ existence have been the bane of the Christina School District.

  6. The societal problems Mr. Ess lists are not unique to Christina. Poverty, trauma, hunger and language are also present in surrounding districts yet the state isn’t threatening to take those over, so those cannot be the proximate cause of the desire for a takeover.

    Again, there must be something to gain, and with all respect to Cassandra, “proclaiming a victory” is not among them, as there will be no victory to proclaim unless takeover/consolidation actually solves a problem.

    With all respect to Mr. Young, the General Assembly is not the proper forum for education policy. The Department of Education is part of the executive branch. The GA just has to approve the funding. This is the source of most of your frustration — the people you are asking to fix it do not have the power to do so, though they’ll pretend otherwise and then squabble endlessly about it without results.

    The governor’s office should be your target, because that’s where the charter-friendly obstacles to good policy reside. Long as it would take, electing a real Democrat to that office instead of a corporate Democrat would still be the shortest route to success.

  7. cassandram

    Again, there must be something to gain, and with all respect to Cassandra, “proclaiming a victory” is not among them, as there will be no victory to proclaim unless takeover/consolidation actually solves a problem.

    Seriously? Do you still live in Delaware? Quick, tell me what Race to the Top accomplished. Bet you remember the hype, but can’t come up with any long term impact. What did the change from DSTP to Smarter Balanced accomplish? Bet you remember the hype, not not any impacts. It is the habit of this Department to find something new and shiny, hype it to death and then find the next new and shiny. The hype and the PR is the game. If it actually does something all the better, but when you are chasing talking points, that is unlikely

    • You’re talking about window dressing. There is no hype and PR in proclaiming, “We took over the Christina School District.” It’s an entirely different concept than “Look at what’s new and shiny.” And a far more expensive one.

      RTTT, etc., are window dressing. Christina’s money problems are deep and chronic. They created a monster with charters and they don’t know how to get the monster back in the lab, which is what comes of Democrats playing with Republican toys.

      “This department” is not independent of the governor’s office. Our last three governors have been an incompetent, a closet Republican and now an incompetent who’s a closet Republican.

      Christina School District has a $260 million budget, and loses nearly 10% of that total in payments to charter schools. That’s the problem, and everything else is dancing around the problem.

      • There is plenty of hype to be had in labeling a district failing and saying it should be given to the state. It never has to actually happen. The narrative is set in the labeling. The method proposed (charter performance framework) is telling. And the more I think about this the more I think that’s the point. A charter based mechanism that labels districts/schools and applies punishments and rewards. Right now, this points to another accountability proposal – which always leads to privatization, charters and/or closing schools.

        Not so sure this is even about the entire Christina district. Given the history of all these proposals, I think this is about city schools.

        Bear with me, I’m thinking out loud.

        First, I don’t think this is about taking over districts. I think it’s about taking over individual schools (start with districts and bargain down to schools?), giving them charter performance deadlines (not enough funding, tho) and if they don’t reach those goals then privatizing them, turning them into charters or closing them. There’s the consolidation.

        Second, I don’t think it’s a coincidence this trial balloon of Jaques and co. comes so soon after the Governor’s plan for Christina’s city schools. After all, separating those schools from district control was part of the initial plan. And when you take 5 schools and turn them into 2 then you only have 2 struggling schools not 5. I’m not saying that they don’t care about these kids, but in an venue where numbers and bad PowerPoints count turning 5 struggling schools into 2 gets put forth as success.

        The only thing I’m sure of is that Jaques didn’t misspeak. It was deliberate. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t have anything to with the consolidation task force. This proposal didn’t come out of thin air. There’s a plan.

        • cassandram

          I’m with you on this. And once they go through their effort to privatize, they will declare victory and go home. Even though the kids will still be underserved.

          • Agreed. They count on district, teachers and community push back. That allows them to say they tried, but others stood in their way. See: Priority Schools

            Everyone knew that getting the funding for the latest Christina city school plan was near impossible, but if the plan stalled due to the district, teachers and/or the community it wouldn’t reach the funding point. The narrative endures.

            • Oh, well then, you’ve decided. Trouble is, you’re still looking at this from the point of view of what you’re losing, instead of what they’re supposedly gaining. They aren’t doing this just to screw you and all Christina. That’s not why people do things. They do things to GAIN something.

              This is just conspiracy mongering. There is no such “plan” to turn the entire Christina school district into charters, and you haven’t a shred of evidence that there is.

              The issue is MONEY. Someday you’ll figure this out and what’s going on will become much clearer for you.

              • cassandram

                Awesome mansplaining from someone who admits he hasn’t followed this issue for more than a decade.

                • Human nature hasn’t changed in the past decade. Less-than-awesome response on your part, though. Already out of other ammunition?

                  • Just to be clear, I don’t know where the money is or who wants it or how they’ll get it. It’s just that your claimed motives for these nefarious enemies of the district’s don’t make sense. For your interpretation to be true, the motives would have to be those I said were poor explanations.

                    People in an inferior position in a struggle often mistakenly believe that, because they are the opposition, their enemy is after them. No. They would be after what they’re after whether you were there or not. You’re just in their way.

                    Figure out what it is they want, because what you’ve offered so far is fairy dust.

                    • Never said I decided a thing. In fact, I was quite clear on this point. Never said there was a “plan” to turn the entire Christina school district into charters” (where did you pull that one from?) – There was, however, most definitely a plan to turn the city into a charter district. Never claimed this wasn’t about money – in fact, I wrote an entire post about money and consolidating Christina’s city schools.

                      And the idea that there has to be a “GAIN” tells me you haven’t been paying attention. What was the gain with WEIC, Partnership Zones, Priority Schools, Focus schools, etc.?

                      If you’d read what I wrote you would see I put forth possible gains – consolidating and closing schools. That plan actually exists. If you read the words “charter performance framework” then you’d know this idea doesn’t have anything to do with the School District Consolidation Task Force – this “new, tossed in” proposal isn’t about redrawing district lines.

                      There are people on this blog who spend a lot of time following education, attending meetings, crunching numbers and researching this topic. You admitted you don’t follow this subject and asked if anyone had a guess to “clue you in”. People then clued you in to their guesses.

        • john kowalko

          “I’m not saying that they don’t care about these kids” Well I was and still am saying it. Ripping children from the comfort of nearby neighborhood schools and warehousing them into two barracks like monolithic structures that are unsuitable for those age groups and offering pennies on the dollar without even attempting to fund smaller classroom sizes and/or Reading and Math specialists allows me to think and say it with plenty of conviction and confidence.
          Representative John Kowalko

  8. Carper, Minner, Markell All 2 term Democrats and now Carney. Or should I say incompetent Democrats (in your words). Own it, Alby, you put them there!

    • This is the kind of mindless cheerleading that shows you’re an idiot.

      I’m a Democrat for primary purposes only. I don’t support the party and I actively work against many of its elected officials. But for you politics boils down to picking sides. You never have anything of value to say, so why do you insist on saying it?

      Your childishness makes me wonder what sort of business you own. It’s clearly one that requires no adult supervision.

      • @Pandora, not siding with Alby, but you insinuated the point……….”Right now, this points to another accountability proposal – which always leads to privatization, charters and/or closing schools.”

  9. elizabeth

    Consider this: The Delaware Autism program resides with Christiana. When we parents created that program it was the ONLY program for autistic children attached to the school district and placed in Code so they couldn’t take if from us. That program is costly because he need for highly trained, specialized children teacher and support staff to deal with the ratios. Is any legislator looking after the needs of that program. It could never survive a charter method of teaching. Could a merge get rid of that program?

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