On September 4th, Governor Jack Markell, announced the formation of six priority schools, all located in the city of Wilmington shared by the state’s two largest districts, Christina and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts, to be controlled by the Delaware Department of Education.
Yes, re-read that last clause.
The Delaware DOE has been placed by both force of state code and hubris in the position of removing the duly elected boards and their constituent taxpayers, students, and parents from their legal responsibility of local control. Many people will cheer: it’s about time, those schools have been failing for years and the state needs to step in and fix them. A few will ask: is this even legal?
I see both of these postulates as legitimate; however, as is true with most government takeovers, there are details and devils dwelling within them. Most people who are trying to keep up with the details truly do not have the energy to check state code, federal code, and, least of all, peer reviewed research regarding the proposed methods by which the DOE is proposing to fix these six troubled schools. They also will likely not realize that the state’s lack of support for well over 20 years under a blistering attack of Democrat governors and under-educated (read: ignorant) legislators has only exacerbated the problems. Despite this, yet they are the same ones trying, yet again, to solve them.
Included in the Memorandum of Understanding (one must love this degrading terminology as it is being proffered by only one of the two parties involved) are several concerning principles:
- Union contracts negotiated in good faith are broken.
- The entire staff at each school is dismissed and forced to re-apply. (This is due to their new status as Human Capital instead of valued professionals.)
- The buildings are now controlled by the state.
- The new school leaders report to the state.
There are more issues but these are highlights. I cannot appropriately articulate the false sensibilities in this article, but suffice it to say that there is zero, and I mean zero evidence that these strategies will yield one scintilla of improved student achievement, the purported goal of said initiative.
As an elected official I have deep concerns about the children and the impact of uprooting all of the amazing, dedicated professionals currently caring for them. I will not make an argument against the idea that these schools need help, they do. However, the research base of merit pay, leaders with no rules or constraints, and state control offers no hope of sustainable improvement.
Delaware tried this 4 years ago in the Partnership Zone with failing results. The DOE turnaround department that has unloaded two leaders, closed its own website and essentially disappeared, just like its support of our schools.
Wilmington’s civic leaders need to pay attention: the false promises of the past are being revisited upon you again: right here, right now.