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Politics & Government

Future uncertain for Wilmington redistricting, Smarter Balanced under Carney

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Eli Chen/Delaware Public Media
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Congressman John Carney (D) says he won’t commit to redistricting Wilmington schools should he be elected governor.  That was part of a new education agenda his campaign released Tuesday.

The controversial plan would shift city students from the Christina School District to the Red Clay School District.  It also suggested a host of new funding measures. A number of lawmakers balked at the proposal.

“The redistricting piece has to be something where the next governor, in my view, needs to sit down with all the stakeholders involved and figure out the best way educationally for those students that live in City of Wilmington as we move forward,” Carney said.

The proposal from the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) stalled in the legislature this year over questions of funding and pitted city lawmakers against their suburban and rural colleagues.

It barely passed the House 24-15 with two absent, but state senators resoundingly rejected with only six votes in favor.

Representatives and senators around Red Clay appeared skeptical when backers promised school districts they wouldn’t bear significant costs as a result of the shift.

Republicans also cried foul that Wilmington schools with high concentrations of students living in poverty would receive extra funding, while their rural districts suffer from similar circumstances.

While Carney may not end up implementing a redistricting plan, he says he wants to create a grant program for schools can compete for to get extra cash to help teach students.

Another dedicated funding stream for high poverty schools is in the mix, but hasn’t been fully developed yet.

WEIC continues to form a revised plan to present during the upcoming legislative session.

Carney’s education proposals are his first release of a substantive policy position since beginning his campaign more than a year ago.

They largely mirror Gov. Jack Markell’s (D) initiatives, including strengthening early childhood education, carving out leadership roles for teachers and expanding high school career programs.

One big difference, though, is that he wants to transform the state education department into a support agency rather than a regulatory one.

That means he wants to settle on an education strategy and standardized test instead of changing course every few years.

“We keep bouncing from one reform to another looking for a silver bullet and there isn’t a silver bullet. It’s a long-term commitment to addressing educational needs from every stage – from early childhood through elementary and secondary school,” Carney said.

Carney wouldn’t say whether he’d keep the controversial Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is based on the Common Core State Standards, as part of the curriculum – something Markell vigorously defended during his tenure.

“I think you want to have an assessment that is tied to the Common Core, which Smarter Balanced is, and I think to the extend that you can leverage the expenses that many states have made is a great thing to do,” Markell told Delaware Public Media Tuesday.

“But things evolve, new governors come in with their own plans and I’ve done the best I can while I’m governor and I’m sure he’ll do the same when he is.”

To accomplish many of his goals Carney will need a cash infusion that currently looks unlikely.

New state revenue forecasts released this week show the General Assembly may have even less money to work with than the budget signed earlier this summer.

After last week’s primary, he faces Republican state Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover South), Libertarian Sean Goward and Andrew Groff of the Green Party in the general election.

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