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State lawmaker to seek more state influence over poor performing schools

Delaware Public Media

Raising students’ academic performance in public schools is likely to be an issue state lawmakers take up again next year.

State Rep. Earl Jaques (D-Newark) said he’s preparing legislation that would allow the state to intervene more with low performing schools.

Jaques said Delaware is among the top 10 states in spending per student, but it’s not translating into academic success for some students statewide.

“I’m looking at a lot of different ways, but now if we have a school district or something that needs some help, how can the state intervene to help them," he said. "So, we’ve been looking at different states and how they do it.”

He said he’s looking at other states like Arkansas, which passed a law allowing the state to take control of chronically underperforming school districts needing intensive intervention.

Christina School District board member John Young said the Arkansas law looks similar to Delaware’s own accountability regulation, but it allows that state to remove school board members and makes it easier to dismiss teachers and other staff.

Young said he expects Jaques to get pushback if his legislation contains similar provisions. And he complains that accountability system policies already passed by First State lawmakers are highly flawed.

“The more testing that we do, the more labeling of the schools," he said. "You combine that with our choice system here in Delaware (and) the schools get reputations, in many cases undeserved," he said. "Parents then make decisions, the money follows the kids and the cycle cannot be stopped.”

Jaques adds his legislation won’t focus on just Christina schools in Wilmington, arguing they’re not necessarily the state’s lowest performing schools and there's room for improvement all over the state.

Jaques plans to release an outside study in January done by the University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration that analyzed funding formulas for public school administration positions at the building and district level.

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