Delaware Policies Have Concentrated Disadvantaged Students in the Lowest-Funded Schools and Diluted their Parents’ Political Power

Civil rights groups sue Delaware over education funding for low-income, disadvantaged students

 

The effect of Delaware’s integration policy since 1975 on overcoming the effects of residential segregation on school segregation was dramatic. In 1995, the federal court found that New Castle County had among the most integrated schools in the country.

Finding that its role was complete in 1995, the federal court removed supervision over the operations of the New Castle County districts. However, Delaware abandoned the enrollment and transportation policies that led to racial integration.

In 2000, the General Assembly passed the Neighborhood Schools Act, 14 Del. C. § 220, which required, with limited exceptions, that the four New Castle County districts develop plans that assign every student to the school closest to the student’s residence, without regard to any consideration other than geographic distance and the “natural boundaries” of neighborhoods.

As foreseen by Judge Wright in 1975, these so – called “natural boundaries” — which in fact were boundaries created by formal and informal racial segregation — led to the rapid re-segregation of schools in New Castle County, because the degree of racial segregation in housing is little changed since 1975.

In the same year as the lifting of federal supervision, the General Assembly passed the Charter School Act, enabling individual schools to employ 22 admissions requirements with a disparate impact on low-income students, students with disabilities and students of color.

The result of the Neighborhood Schools Act and Charter School Act has been overwhelming re-segregation.

For example, in the 2016 – 2017 school year, Warner and Shortlidge Elementary Schools were 2.6% and 3.3% white, respectively (while the district in which they are located is 43.6% white). By contrast, Heritage Elementary School, in the same district but outside the City of Wilmington, was 70% white. The highest-performing charter school in the area, the Charter School of Wilmington, was 6.3% black. The percentage of black students enrolled in predominantly non-white schools in 2010 was ten times h igher than 1989.

The effect of these policies is to place the most disadvantaged students in racially segregated, high-poverty schools, which are the same schools least served by the education policies of the state.

Compounding this history, the high-poverty students living in Wilmington remain divided among four different school districts, so that the parents of those children do not have the political ability to compel those four school districts to increase the support for those children.

This structure for New Castle County districts has divided the local responsibility for addressing the needs of Wilmington’s disadvantaged children among four school boards and administrations, making addressing those needs more difficult and less urgent to each of the school boards.

 

Racism, constitutionally American, is unconstitutional, un-American. Still separate and unequal after all these years.

“This is not a brand new idea,” she said. “The inequities have been very clear.”

Tack-Hooper, with the ACLU, said the lawsuit…does ask that [the court] finds the current funding system unconstitutional and in need of change.

The lawsuit also mentions racial discrimination and outlines the history of desegregation in Delaware. It contends that the Neighborhood Schools Act passed in 2000 and the Charter School Act has led to re-segregation in some places.

The suit claims the state has long recognized that disadvantaged students are performing poorly in comparison to their peers, and the problem has been detailed in state-commissioned task force reports issued in 2001, 2008 and 2015.

Those reports lay out educational standards and interventions necessary to support achievement, including smaller class sizes; expanded school time; highly qualified, specially trained teachers; a focus on early literacy; current technology; effective family engagement; and partnerships with health, family welfare and specialized education service providers.

Yet, the lawsuit says many schools in Delaware are not provided with enough resources to follow these recommendations and recent spending cuts have made them even further out of reach.

“The state often provides more support to children who are well off than it provides to children living in poverty. The state must meet its constitutional obligation to adequately educate all students.”

The lawsuit also mentions racial discrimination and outlines the history of desegregation in Delaware. It contends that the Neighborhood Schools Act passed in 2000 and the Charter School Act has led to re-segregation in some places.

For example, in the 2016-2017 school year, Red Clay’s Warner and Shortlidge Elementary schools were 2.6 percent and 3.3 percent white, respectively, while the district in which they are located is 43.6 percent white.

By contrast, Heritage Elementary School, in the same district but outside the city of Wilmington, was 70 percent white. The highest-performing charter school in the area, the Charter School of Wilmington, was 6.3 percent black.

The percentage of black students enrolled in predominantly non-white schools in 2010 was ten times higher than 1989.

Louis Redding, Delaware’s first black lawyer, did not join the legal team in Brown v. Board of Education to create a system where African-American and low-income kids were relegated to rundown school buildings with inadequate resources, however.

“It would have been unthinkable to him,” Jackson said.

Share →