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Charter school preference bill passes Delaware Senate

Delaware Public Media

A controversial bill that gets rid of a geographic enrollment preference for charter schools is headed to the governor’s desk.

The proposal would forbid charters from using a five-mile radius as a screening tool for prospective students – instead using the school district boundaries where it's located as a way to keep kids local.

But the bill specifically leaves out a sliver of the Christina School District in Wilmington, which critics say excludes poor, minority students from getting a preference for Newark Charter.

Supporters say keeping kids close to the school creates a neighborhood feel that leads to more parental involvement and avoids issues with shuttling them back and forth.

“You are then obligated to get your child to the charter school or to a bus stop that’s already in line with that charter school. Right now, there aren’t any bus stops in the city of Wilmington for the Newark Charter School,” said Sen. Dave Sokola (D-Newark), who co-sponsored the bill.

Sen. Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington West), who represents much of the Christina island within the city, says inner city students should still have the option.

“I do believe that there are parents that would make the effort, the sacrifice, would get their children to wherever they need to go in order to get their charter school education,” Marshall said.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate tried to unite both pieces of Christina under the bill, but efforts in both chambers failed.

Students from across the state can still apply for a slot at Newark Charter. About 3,200 kids are on the wait list, making it highly unlikely for those without an enrollment preference to get in.

The bill now needs Gov. John Carney’s (D) signature, who says he’s reviewing the proposal.

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