Archive for the ‘Funding and Equity’ Category

11 Key Quotes from Education Funding Lawsuit Opinion

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Last week, Vice Chancellor Travis Laster rejected the state’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit claiming the state’s current school funding formula is unconstitutional. In addition to explaining why the court has legal authority to rule on the case under the Education Clause of the state constitution, Judge Laster also had lots to say about Delaware’s education funding system in general.

 

Didn’t read the 135-page opinion? Here are 11 quotes from Judge Laster that jumped out to me:

 

On why this is a systemic problem:

  1. “The plaintiffs assert that the ‘system of public schools’ is failing Disadvantaged Students, not the hardworking and well-intentioned professionals who do their best within the constraints that the system imposes.”
  2. “In Delaware…the educational funding system generally provides more support for more privileged children than it provides for impoverished children. Put differently, schools with more Disadvantaged Students receive less financial support from the State than schools with fewer Disadvantaged Students. Likewise, school districts with poorer tax bases receive less funding from the State than school districts with wealthier tax bases.”

 

Put differently, schools with more Disadvantaged Students receive less financial support from the State than schools with fewer Disadvantaged Students. Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster

 

On how this effects low income students, for example:

  1. “For many of Delaware’s public schools, an inverse relationship exists between the number of low-income students in a school and the amount of funding that goes to the school: The more low-income students in a school, the less State funding the school receives.”
  2. “Given the incremental needs of low-income students relative to their wealthier peers, schools that predominantly serve low-income students logically should receive more resources than schools that do not.”
  3. “Unlike thirty-five other states, Delaware does not provide any additional funding for low-income students. The unit funding approach that Delaware uses does not take low-income status into account.”

 

On English learners:

  1. “Precisely because these students are learning English, they need more resources and support to succeed. Schools who serve larger numbers of students who are learning English as a second language logically should reserve more resources than schools that do not. Delaware does not provide any additional funding for educating students who are learning English as a second language. Delaware is one of only four states that does not allocate any additional funding to serve the unique needs of these students.”

 

Given the incremental needs of low-income students relative to their wealthier peers, schools that predominantly serve low-income students logically should receive more resources than schools that do not.Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster

 

On the inequities baked into the unit system:

  1. To counter the effects of poverty, one might expect that Delaware would provide more funding to school districts with less valuable tax bases. To its credit, Delaware offers Division III funding to offset the financial advantage possessed by wealthier districts. But the effects of Division III funding are swamped by the far larger effect of the Division I funds that pay personnel costs.
  2. Under the existing system, Delaware provides more funding to districts with wealthier tax bases than it does to poorer districts. In 2013–14, for example, the tax basis in the Brandywine School District was 1.5 times more valuable per student than the tax base in the Woodbridge School District. Yet the State provided funding to the Brandywine School District that was equivalent to $1,694 more per pupil than the funding it provided to the Woodbridge School District. During the same year, the value of the tax base in the Appoquinimink School District exceeded the value of the tax base in the Caesar Rodney School District by more than $100,000 per student, yet the State allocated funding to the Appoquinimink School District that was equivalent to $450 more per pupil than it provided to the Caesar Rodney School District.

 

On the prescriptiveness of the unit system:

  1. “With limited exceptions, the “unit funding” approach treats all students as if they were the same. If a High-Need School wishes to hire reading specialists or counselors, it has less unit funding to pay for teachers and other personnel. To make the numbers work, High-Need Schools must find the money by cutting elsewhere.”
  2. “If school districts had greater flexibility in deploying funds, they could shift money within districts to support their High-Need Schools. State law effectively forecloses that option by requiring that 98% of the funding generated by a school’s units be used at the school accounting for the units.”

 

On the “state-level consensus” and years of commission and task force recommendations:

  1. “The various reports exhibit a remarkable consensus about the key steps that the State needs to take to address the problems with Delaware’s public schools and improve educational outcomes for Disadvantaged Students. Foremost among the recommendations is to restructure how Delaware funds its public schools.”

 

For more on the suit brought by Delawareans for Educational Opportunity and the Delaware NAACP, read on here.

“It’s difficult because I have no one to talk to”—English Learner Students Share their Stories

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Being a student is a very broad concept. Each of us experience school and life differently. As a result, we cannot assume a student’s struggles or successes come from the same place.

 

During my journey from Venezuela to William Penn High School, I got to meet peers from the most diverse backgrounds; some from Turkey, Poland, Congo, Wilmington, Dominican Republic—almost from every continent. Talking to them, I realized that although our journeys were unique—we all had something in common. Compared to our native English-speaking classmates, we English learning students have fewer opportunities available to us, despite the fact that we require additional resources to succeed.

 

I developed more curiosity about the topic. In April, I spoke at the Education Funding Summit hosted by the Education Equity Delaware coalition. During this experience, I learned that Delaware provides no funding for EL students. Even when it is required to ensure students are making progress, there are no requirements for how to support ELs in academic subject areas, and 10 percent of ELs spend more than six years in the EL program, while the average must be three years.

 

Being an intern at Rodel for the summer gave me a great chance to dig deeper. I interviewed seven students to learn more about their experiences in school. I believe strongly that it is important for students to have a voice in this important issue.

 

My first day in school the only thing I remember is that I didn’t know English at all and no one was helping me.Delaware English Learner Student

 

Students were from a variety of schools as well as backgrounds. Some interviews were by phone, Google forms or on paper. However, the actual value was the difference between each response.

 

One of the student’s responses is the perfect summary of an English learner’s first experience in school: ‘‘My first day in school the only thing I remember is that I didn’t know English at all and no one was helping me.’’ The language barrier can have other pitfalls, another student told me: ‘‘When I wake up,” he said, “the only thing I see on my phone notification label is my email. It’s difficult because I don’t have no one to talk to.’’

 

Violence was another factor that minority students described at their school environments. ‘‘The majority of the schools I’ve attended have had major violence issues,” said one student from Wilmington. “It’s hard to flourish and excel in a violent environment that is supposed to be safe and nourishing.”

 

Students expressed how hard success seems to attain as an outsider. But their resolve was stronger. Once student said, “I’ve been showing people that I am able to go higher because most of them stopped me from going to higher classes.”

 

On the other hand, students that attend more affluent schools did not face as many barriers. ‘‘I have not experienced any challenge, and I have seen peers struggle financially which hinders them from having equal opportunity,” one student said.

 

All EL student experiences should be like that: a smooth and fair process, no matter your background, income-level, or native language. What if the educational system provided equal resources to all students? Just imagine the possibilities of having access to great teachers, guidance and school counselors, metal health, rigorous coursework, and more. These resources matter for all students—especially ELs.

Meet Valentina Maza

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Hola! My name is Valentina Maza. I am a native of Venezuela and currently a rising senior at William Penn High School.

 

Two years ago I moved to the United States by myself to pursue my dream of going to a top college in America. Soon after I arrived I realized that achieving my dream would require much more than a great amount of hard work, self-advocacy, and persistence. I learned that there was the so-called “opportunity gap” that set students from immigrant backgrounds and students who are English learners, on a very different academic path. I also learned that without prompt policy changes, especially those that pertain to equitable school funding, opportunities for students like me in this country will continue to be gravely limited and not aligned with our potential.

 

Over the past two years I have been working hard to make sure I can squeeze myself into a very narrow window of opportunity. I have been selected to be a part of such prestigious opportunities like TeenSHARP, a program that guides me along my academic journey toward my goal of entering a top university. At TeenSHARP I also founded a Spanish club called ‘Hola.’ I became the president of the ASPIRA club at my school, a position that allowed me to connect with and advocate for other Spanish-speaking students. I have the honor of being the only student member of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the governor’s Advisory Council on English Learners. I was a semifinalist in the Diamond Challenge where I created my own social venture with my best friend, Tatiana Romero. Our project was called: Education in Times of Immigration.

 

During the last weeks of the summer, I will be working as an intern with the Rodel Foundation. Fortunately, Rodel gave me the opportunity to work on issues that connect with my life experiences and my passions. For instance: postsecondary success exemplifies an ambition of mine, and now as a part of Rodel a purpose of action. Moreover, I will lend my perspectives as a former EL student to the organization’s ongoing advocacy for equitable opportunities for English learners.

 

While I am thrilled to have these experiences, I also know how few students have access to them. That is why I am excited about working with Rodel this summer. Learning more about how to advocate for students so that every single one of us can live up to our potential will be a huge step forward in my life.

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