Legislation Pauses New Charter Schools in Delaware


There won't be any new charter schools in the state of Delaware until June of 2018 thanks to new legislation signed into law by Governor Jack Markell.

The new law comes as many in Wilmington are beginning to vocalize their concerns that the number of charter schools in the area have taken over local school feeding patterns and the traditional public schools.

"We are over-saturated with charter schools in the city of Wilmington," said Representative Charles Potter Jr., D-Wilmington, who authored the bill.

The city is currently home to at least one location for 13 of the 24 charter schools in the state. While one of those schools, the Maurice J. Moyer Academic Institute, is expected to close this year as a result of poor academic performance, three new charter schools are set to open in August.

One of the new three, Friere Charter School, is currently under formal review by the Delaware Department of Education for low enrollment projections, and another charter school already in the city, Prestige Academy, is also under review for the same reason. Potter believes the low enrollment to be proof that there are too many charter schools in existence in the city, competing against themselves and traditional schools for students, writes Matthew Albright for Delaware Online.

Many in the state believe charter schools should not be allowed to show preference to students who live within a five mile radius of the school, arguing that doing so could lead to resegregation. The only charter to currently make use of the preference is Newark Charter School, located in a mostly white, affluent part of town. The wait lists are so long at the school, which boasts some of the highest test scores in the state, that it is almost impossible for low-income black students to gain a seat, reports Matthew Albright for WHAS.

"Newark Charter's a good school and it's not going anywhere," Kowalko said. "But we have to assure, because it is a school funded with public money, that there is equal access for every student."

The new law requires that a strategic plan be created that factors in every type of public school, including traditional, charter, and vocational-technical, and determining where growth is most needed.

"Wilmington needs to take a look at what it has, in terms of the education of our children," the measure's co-sponsor, State Rep. Stephanie Bolden said. "We don't want our children to be a dumping ground; we don't want charters just to be going up as a ‘theme school.'"

It is expected that the plan will be created by the end of the year. If that happens, new charter schools could be approved in the state for the 2017-18 school year. All applications for the 2016-17 school year have already been denied by the Delaware Department of Education.

An additional amendment to the bill allows the mayor and city council the right to review and comment on applications for new charter schools in the city. The amendment is approved by the Delaware Charter School Network.

The ban will be lifted on June 30, 2018 if the State Board of Education and Delaware Department of Education have not created a strategic plan by then.

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