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AG Denn avoids involvement in General Assembly's charter school fight

Anne Hoffman/Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s attorney general has decided to stay out of a contentious fight in the General Assembly over charter school enrollment.


Three state lawmakers and the NAACP asked Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn this week to weigh in on legislation they say shuts poor minorities out of some charter schools.


Currently, only students within five-miles of a few popular charters have preference when applying there. House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 would change the preference to anyone within "the school district that is geographically contiguous with the location of the charter school."

State Rep. Charles Potter Jr. (D-Wilmington North) said that language specifically targets poor minorities in Downtown Wilmington since they’re the only students in a noncontiguous district.


“To have legislation like this come up is a setback. If we allow people to start segregate and discriminate with the school system, then what’s next”? Potter said. 


But in a response Monday, Denn sidestepped the issue, saying he doesn’t provide legal guidance to individual lawmakers except in rare circumstances.


In the letter Denn said the State House of Representatives has a number of lawyers on staff who can handle the issue. And he cited a similar case in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (STUDENT DOE 1 v. LOWER MERION SCHOOL DIST.) where judges allowed similar legislation to stand.  


In response to the letter, Potter said he'll now try to convince the authors of the bill to make it apply to all students.


Proponents of the bill say it expands preference without harming any students.


Inner city Wilmington students don’t have preference in the contiguous portion of the Christina School District under the current 5-mile radius standard.


The bill passed the House last week and now heads to the Senate. 

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