Governor Carney Vetoes Bill;
Steps Into The Fight To End 5-Mile Radius Preference
The amended version of HB 85 was going to very likely lead to lawsuits, and rightfully so. The bill’s primary sponsor, Representative Kim Williams, said that originally she wanted the bill to get rid of the 5-mile preference for applicants for all charter schools. She stated that it is both a racially and economically discriminatory practice that is seen amongst most charter school enrollment processes. However, there was no path to the Governor’s desk through the State Senate Education Committee, with Senator Dave Sokola from the 8th SD vocally opposing the bill prior to the amendment, citing specifically that executing it would create issues for the Newark Charter School (NCS), which is in his district. NCS is one of the main charter schools in the state that would have been directly affected by this legislation, due to the fact that it is in the Christina School District. Christina School District is the only non-geographically contiguous district in the state. Most of it is well outside the city of Wilmington, but there is a small section of it within city limits. So, by passing the original HB85, without the amendment that caused the Governor to veto it, NCS would have had to allow kids in the city of Wilmington to receive equal consideration, geographically speaking.
Some opponents of the un-amended bill stated that HB 85 had costly economic implications for the charter schools, especially for NCS. But if you have followed our previous postings, then you know that these charter schools have been able to keep extra transportation money for years, when public schools could not. So, clearly, there is money in the transportation budget for charters, specifically NCS, that has not been used, and could have been used for this purpose. Other opponents of the original bill, such as Senator Sokola, state that the charters are trying to create the feeling of a neighborhood school and that eliminating the 5-mile radius provision would undo that effort. Meanwhile, supporters of the legislation state that the practice of the charter schools’ basing their enrollment on geographical location leaves many children in less affluent areas out of consideration. Furthermore, many have rebuked this amendment and stated that it is a continuation of a blatantly racist practice that keeps African-American kids from Wilmington out of a predominately white school in Newark. By eliminating the 5-mile radius preference, Representative Williams was looking to even the playing field and allow all students whose families are paying taxes that benefit the charters in their district to be able to go to those schools. Representative Williams stated that although she knows that this bill with the amendment would not officially end the 5-mile radius preference for all schools, she felt that progress for many people affected by this issue was better than simply not doing anything for anyone.
However, due to a lack of support in the Senate from both Republicans and some Democrats, there was no way to get this through to the Governor unless they attached House Amendment 1 (HA 1). HA 1 stated that no non-geographically contiguous district would be affected by HB 85. Thus, NCS would still be allowed to use the 5-mile radius as a preference when selecting from their list of applicants. A source close to this bill stated that Governor Carney was contacted in the beginning stages of this bill, and was kept abreast of the situation, including the amendment that would exclude NCS. Yet, Governor Carney chose to remain on the sidelines and silent throughout the process. The source went on to say, “We should not be playing these kinds of political games with our children.” The amendment that led to the NCS exclusion was what caused Governor Carney to veto the legislation, stating:
“At-risk students across our state, but especially in the City of Wilmington, are not getting the education that they deserve. I believe that the sponsors of HS 1 for HB 85 wanted to expand options for students and increase diversity at Delaware charter schools by eliminating the five-mile radius as an enrollment preference. These are goals that I share.
“Despite those efforts, this legislation unfairly excludes some of our most vulnerable students. It does not simply remove the five-mile radius preference. The legislation creates a new standard that uniquely limits options for at-risk students in the Christina School District portion of the City of Wilmington – many of the kids who need our help the most – and that is something I cannot support.”
If this statement is emotionally authentic, then we have every expectation that Governor Carney will be helping do the hard work to get the next piece of legislation to combat this issue through the legislature without these types of racially-charged amendments. Governor Carney has now publicly recognized that the children of Wilmington are being discriminated against, and that the 5-mile radius is not a fair yardstick to use when choosing which students are to be allowed to attend schools. After finally recognizing the problem, Governor Carney has thrown his hat into the ring and said that this matter is important to him. Now, it’s time for him to help do the work in Dover and put an end to this practice.
You can read the full bill Here
You can read Governor Carney’s full statement on the veto here: