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Former AG launches effort to help Delaware's disadvantaged children

Delaware’s last Attorney General is turning his attention to education. 


Former Attorney General Matt Denn spoke to legislators, advocates and business leaders at Wilmington’s Warner Elementary School Friday to announce creation of Action for Delaware's Children.

The group plans to advocate for legislative change to benefit disadvantaged students. 

The group’s initial priorities include expansion of state funding for the nurse-families partnership program, more summer and before- and after-school programming, and more reentry services for youths coming out of juvenile correction facilities. 

“The state provides mentoring for kids that are coming out of our level 5 facilities, [but] does not provide cognitive-behavioral therapy supports for them, does not provide vocational training for them," said Denn. “There are established examples around the country that do that, that achieve real results.”

Former state senator Liane Sorenson is working with the new initiative. 


She said at Friday’s conference the group is pushing for the state to add $2.25 million per year to funding for competitive grants for outside of school time programs — and tighten the guidelines so they target low-income children she argues need the funding most.

Former head of the Delaware State PTA Terri Hodges leads the new group’s board.

“What we’re trying to do is create a village,” she said. “We want to build a stronger village to rally around all of our children out there throughout the state of Delaware that are at-risk.”

Denn says the new group will differentiate itself in the education advocacy field by engaging voters.

“We believe very strongly that legislators respond most directly to the people that send them to office,” he said. “Where we can be most successful is doing some grassroots education, grassroots advocacy, so that when legislators go to their civic association ... they’ll hear about these issues from their constituents. Whereas now they might hear about road issues or other issues that may directly affect the folks who send them to office, we would like them to hear about these issues affecting high-risk kids.” 

State Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, who has endorsed the new group’s legislative agenda, thinks issues such as youth recidivism rates should be addressed collaboratively.


 “The fact that our youth recidivism rates are as outrageous as they are, that’s a problem,” she said. “So if this group is coming in and showing evidence-based practice, we need to do it. ... That’s not saying there’s no room for other organizations. I think we can all band together in some way.”

The new group launches as others are taking a hard look at the education system in Delaware. 

The Redding Consortium formed by Gov. John Carney and the General Assembly is examining redistricting and other possible solutions to the education inequities faced by low-income, minority and English language learning children in the City of Wilmington.

A suit by civil rights advocates pending against the state challenges how schools in Delaware are funded. 


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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