Charter Schools

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The gubernatorial candidates in Delaware appeared yesterday during a town hall at Delaware State University that focused on issues affecting the African American community.

Both Democratic Representative John Carney and Republican State Senate Colin Bonini said that there was a need for greater access to preschool and greater scrutiny of state government for systemic discrimination.

Both said the efforts were needed to deal with high unemployment rate in the community.

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A lawsuit has been filed against the Christina School District by 15 charter schools who claim that local officials have kept them from getting millions of dollars in tax revenue.

In addition, the suit alleges that the Department of Education has been complicit in depriving the charter schools their fair share of the money going back years.

The suit was sparked by a readjustment by the Department in the formula for the amount of money that should go to charter schools from local tax revenues.

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Public school districts across the nation have been struggling to keep up with the new regulations and testing required by Washington -- from No Child Left Behind to Race to the Top.  Delmarva Public Radio's Don Rush spoke with Frederika Jenner, president of the Delaware State Education Association about the challenges the school districts face.

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DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware's state House of Representatives Education Committee is set to consider a bill requiring all public high schools in Delaware, other than charter schools, to have school-based health centers.

The bill to be discussed Wednesday says the state will pay startup costs for any school that doesn't have a health center. The state also would fund the operational costs of each center for at least one school per fiscal year until all schools are in compliance.

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A proposed change to Virginia's constitution aimed at expanding the number charter schools has failed in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Senate voted 21-19 to reject the constitutional amendment granting the Virginia Board of Education the power to approve charter schools. That authority is currently in the hands of local school districts, which have been hesitant to do so.

The Republican-controlled house has already approved similar legislation, but it will likely meet the same fate as the Senate bill.

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The Virginia House GOP plans to roll out their agenda on education-related issues.

Republican delegates have planned a news conference Tuesday to present their legislation related on education.

In a speech earlier this month, House GOP Speaker William J. Howell said he supports a "major amendment" to the Virginia Constitution aimed at promoting charter schools.

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There is a battle brewing over how charter schools are audited in Delaware.

The Wilmington News Journal reports that state Representative Kim Williams (D-Wilmington) would like the state auditor to choose and oversee the companies that do the financial reports.

But state Senator Dave Sokola (D-Wilmington) wants a measure that would tighten the current practice of allowing the charter schools to work out their individual contracts with the auditing companies.

The measures come on the heels of a number of scandals that have hit the charter schools in the First State.

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With a tight state budget one of the oldest charter schools in Delaware is struggling to find funds to expand its facilities.

Delaware Military Academy which serves 566 students wants to construct 10 classrooms as well as an athletic facility on 33-thousand square feet of land.

The Wilmington News Journal reports that the school is up for renewal from the Red Clay School District.

But the paper reports that Delaware lawmakers say more charter school funding will be tough to get.

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NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) - Democratic leaders of the legislature's budget-writing committee don't seem interested in changing voting requirements for passage of the state's annual spending plan.

But a task force meeting for the first time Thursday in response to a resolution sponsored by Republican Sen. Colin Bonini is trying to fashion an argument to defend the status quo.

The budget bill traditionally has been treated as needing only a simple majority, even though Delaware's constitution requires a three-fourths vote to appropriate public money to any corporation.

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NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) - State lawmakers and officials are discussing whether the annual state budget passed by the General Assembly should require more than a simple majority of votes for passage.

Thursday's meeting stems from a resolution passed by lawmakers on the final night of this year's session.

The resolution, sponsored by Republican Sen. Colin Bonini, notes that the budget bill has been treated as needing only a simple majority, even though the state constitution requires a three-fourths vote to appropriate public money to any corporation.

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DOVER, Del. (AP) - State education officials are holding a public hearing regarding the proposed relocation of a charter school whose two leaders were fired for repeatedly using school credit cards for personal use.

The first of two scheduled public hearings will be held Monday evening to consider a request by Family Foundations Academy to modify its charter.

Don Rush

DOVER, Del. (AP) - State officials placed four charter schools on probation, but decided not to close them after investigating enrollment and financial concerns.

The Wilmington News Journal reports the schools will still be open in the fall, including two new ones Thursday. Officials say two new charter schools - Freire Charter School and Delaware Design Lab High School - will open this fall as scheduled. The other two - Academy of Dover and Prestige Academy - will stay open, assuming they meet the terms of their probation.

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The Delaware Senate gave the final okay to a measure that clamps a moratorium on all new charter schools in Wilmington through 2018.

The measure now goes to the Governor for his signature.

But the Senate vote fell along party lines with Republicans charging that the measure is part of an anti-charter school movement in the state legislature.

The state House of Representatives and the Senate are controlled by Democrats.

The measure comes after the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee called for a temporary halt on additional charter schools in that city.

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DOVER, Del. (AP) - The state Senate is poised to vote on a bill establishing a moratorium on new charter schools in Delaware.

The legislation to be voted on Tuesday creates a moratorium until June 2018 or until the state school board develops a strategic plan for the number of charter, traditional and vocational/technical schools in Delaware.

The legislation also calls for input to be accepted from the mayor and city council of Wilmington before any new charters are approved there.

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Getting enough students into the classroom has become a problem for three Delaware charter schools.

State officials say that Freire Charter School, Delaware Lab Design Lab High School and Prestige Academy have been placed on formal review.

Freire and Design Lab are brand new.

Prestige has been around for just over a half a dozen years.

The state required charter schools to reach at lead 80 percent enrollment by the first of this month.

This affects the amount of funding they will receive from the state of Delaware.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - It's crunch time for the Maryland General Assembly, and lawmakers still have a budget to pass.

The 90-day legislative session is scheduled to end Monday at midnight.

Gov. Larry Hogan proposed a budget compromise on Saturday, but it's unclear if the Legislature is willing and able to pass some of Hogan's legislative initiatives that the governor says are important to the deal.

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Charter schools could be getting a closer look from the Delaware State Auditor’s office.

The legislation sponsored by Representative Kim Williams was sparked by allegations that leaders of the Family Foundations Academy made personal purchases of more than $94-thousand on the institution’s credit card.

Williams noted that the state auditor already oversees district and vo-tech schools.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - The Maryland Senate is giving good marks to Gov. Larry Hogan's charter school bill.

On Monday, the Senate voted 46-1 in support of the amended bill, which some lawmakers called a "balanced approach" to the governor's initiative.

In an interview on Monday with The Associated Press, Hogan said the amendments "basically gutted" his bill.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A Senate committee is likely to vote this week on what direction the Maryland charter school law should go in the future.

Sen. Joan Conway, D-Baltimore City, chairwoman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, told reporters Tuesday her committee is considering an amended version of Gov. Larry Hogan's bill to expand the state's charter school law.

There will be no new charter schools in Delaware for the moment.

Governor Jack Markell wants to develop a strategic plan that would take into account the student needs.

Markell said the questions to be reviewed might include how to meet the needs of the growing number of students whose second language is English.

The Wilmington News Journal reports that once the review is finished the state can then develop a plan for the school system.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Gov. Larry Hogan is holding a news conference with education leaders to talk about his charter school bill.

The governor also plans to discuss a bill to create tax credits for people who make voluntary contributions to private or parochial schools at the event on Thursday.

The news conference is being held as the governor's charter school measure is scheduled for a hearing Thursday afternoon before lawmakers. The bill is designed to make it easier to operate charter schools in Maryland.

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BALTIMORE (AP) - Gov. Larry Hogan is visiting a Baltimore charter school with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to discuss his proposed bill that would strengthen Maryland's charter school law.

Hogan is scheduled to participate in a reading exercise and talk with students at the Empowerment Academy in Baltimore. Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford is also set to join the visit.

The Republican governor is looking to expand choices for students and their families as well as make it easier for charter schools to operate in Maryland.

Don Rush

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - A group formed by Gov. Jack Markell to study ways to improve educational opportunities for children in Delaware's largest city is continuing its work after issuing an interim report with a host of recommendations.

The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee was to meet Monday night at Stubbs Elementary School, with a focus on engaging the public in it work.

Among the recommendations the committee has proposed are getting rid of two of the four school districts that currently serve city residents and a moratorium on new charter schools.

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Governor Larry Hogan laid out an ambitious plan in his first state of the state address beginning with a promise to begin his efforts to bring tax relief to Marylanders.

The Republican blamed high taxes, over regulation and an anti-business atmosphere for the struggling state economy.

Hogan’s tax program ranged from repealing income taxes on pensions for retired military, police, fire and first responders to doing away with automatic increase in the gas tax and a cut in personal property taxes for small business.

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WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - Less than a year after attorneys agreed to dismiss a federal lawsuit challenging a decision by Delaware education officials to close Reach Academy, the future of the struggling, all-girls charter school is once again before a federal judge.

The judge was to hold an initial hearing Friday in yet another lawsuit by supporters seeking to keep Reach Academy open.

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The Reach Academy for Girls charter school will be closing.

But Delaware Secretary Education Mark Murphy and the State Board of Education allowed Gateway Lab School to stay open but will be required to improve its test scores or face closure.

Meanwhile, Murphy delayed a decision on Family Foundations Academy.

He said that there were serious allegations of financial mismanagement that have arisen over the last few days.

The Education Secretary said regulators needed time to review them before acting.

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Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is returning to the state he once presided over as Lt. Governor.

He will be delivering the Commencement Speech tomorrow at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Steele was the first African American to be elected statewide in Maryland and subsequently made a failed senate bid.

During his time in the administration of Governor Bob Ehrlich he worked to reform the state’s Minority Business Enterprise program and championed charter schools in the state.

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WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union and Community Legal Aid Society are targeting Delaware's charter school laws, saying they violate the rights of minority students and students with disabilities.
 
The two groups filed a complaint Wednesday with the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education against the state and the Red Clay school district in northern Delaware. It alleges Delaware's charter school law and policies have significantly contributed to the resegregation of public schools.
 

Don Rush

DOVER, Del. (AP) - The Delaware Board of Education could gain new power to restrict charter schools if they will affect surrounding school districts.

The Wilmington News Journal reports the General Assembly gave final approval to a bill Tuesday night. It would allow the Board of Education to restrict geographic areas, grades and the academic emphasis of charter schools.

The House passed the bill 24-13, despite Republican opposition. The bill awaits Gov. Jack Markell's signature.

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The Delaware Secretary Mark Murphy and the state Board of Education has given approval to four new charter schools while rejecting one application.

These included Freire Charter School, Delaware STEM Academy, Great Oaks Charter School and the Mapleton Charter School at Whitehall.

The four new schools are located in Wilmington, Southern New Castle County and Appoquinimink.

Three are expected to open in Fall 2015, while Whitehall is set to open in 2016.

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