Speakers at a town hall Tuesday night said Delaware’s education system is in crisis, Delaware’s students are being indoctrinated by the woke agenda and that America is falling behind in international comparisons.
About 30 people attended the Save Our Schools Town Hall in Dover sponsored by Citizens for Delaware Schools.
It is the first of three offering conservative views on education designed to help residents make an informed decision when they go to the polls for the May 9 school board elections.
Elana Fishbein of the national nonprofit No Left Turn in Education is an immigrant from Israel who said in the meeting that America is the shining city on a hill because people’s rights and freedoms are protected by the constitution.
People risk their lives to enter the United States “because they know they have rights in the country, and they are protected.”
One of those is allowing parents to be the primary authority in their children’s education, an idea she thinks has been lost.
Fishbein joked that she “interrogates” her son when he gets home from school, going class by class and asking him what he learned. When she hasn’t been okay with aspects of his classes, she’s called the school administration to exempt her child.
She encouraged the crowd to do the same.
Once, her son came home and told her that his teacher was talking about transgender people. She was sure he’d never heard that word at home.
“I know that an eight-year old is still figuring out their own identity and their brain is still developing and they’re not really understanding what’s going on with their life,” she said.
She wrote a letter to her son’s superintendent and school board in 2020 about lessons she thought were inappropriate, and she has still not heard back.
Schools don’t adequately communicate with parents about their children are studying, she said.
Fishbein read an excerpt from the 1979 law that established the federal Department of Education, which said “parents have their primary responsibility for the education of their children, and state, localities and private institutions and the primary responsibility for supporting that parental role.”
She believes reducing parental influence in schools has led to America’s waning global dominance.
“We dropped from being leaders in the world to starting to be at the bottom of the barrel,” she said.
Tanya Hettler, director of the Center for Education Excellence at the Caesar Rodney Institute, a conservative Delaware think tank, focused on student test scores.
Delaware’s students perform on standardized tests such as the SATs, the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Delaware pays for all high school juniors to take the SATs. It uses the Smarter Balanced Assessment to test third through eighth graders each year. Every two years, fourth and eighth grade students from every state take the National Assessment.
Delaware had the fourth worst overall test scores on the National Assessment in 2022 when averaging those rankings for fourth and eighth grade math and reading, she said.
At the same time, she said, the First State is ninth in the nation in spending per student, at about $18,000 per student.
Only a quarter of students are proficient in English language arts and math according to those assessment tests, she said. Virtual classes and other stresses caused by COVID-19 certainly made matters worse, she said, but scores have been on the decline for years, she said.
Although students performed better on the Smarter Balanced exam for 2022, less than half of the students were proficient in math and reading, she said.
“This is not okay,” she said, “So, please come out to vote on May 9, and tell others this information and get them to come out with you.”
Discipline in schools
The third speaker was Beth Conaway, a retired teacher and administrator of 31 years, who was a former principal of Milton Elementary School.
She said schools lack discipline and restorative practices like counseling don’t punish a student who misbehaves.
She acknowledged that she doesn’t want students missing class time, but said keeping a misbehaving student in the class is a detriment to good students and teachers.
“We know children are coming to school with trauma, living in homes that are difficult and as a result they’re acting out,” she said. “A lot of times it’s because they have no control in their own lives.”
Codes of conduct need to be enforced, she said, but often aren’t.
Students need to feel safe physically, emotionally and socially, she said, but sometimes suspension and discipline is necessary to protect the students who are trying to learn.
The lack of disciplinary actions creates even more stress for teachers, who don’t want to work in a chaotic environment.
The final speaker, Celeste Bunting, director of personnel at the Indian River School District, said people are simply not applying to teacher jobs anymore.
“There are fewer people going into education,” she said. “I’ve attended probably 200 to 250 career fairs since I’ve been a personnel director. I’ve been at career fairs when you have 1,000 applicants, and in the last couple of years you may have 200.”
Potential teachers need additional pathways to become certified, she said, because there aren’t enough majors and programs at Delaware’s colleges for students to pursue teaching.
More town halls
Sussex County’s town hall is Wednesday, April 19, at Sussex Central High School, 26026 Patriots Way in Georgetown.
New Castle County’s town hall is Thursday, April 20, at Aetna Fire Hall, 410 Ogletown Road in Newark.
To attend the public meetings, click here to register.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
Share this Post