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 From: Town Square Live: In a letter to school districts that Gov. John Carney wants to join the Wilmington Learning Collaborative, he said he plans to put another $14 million into city school efforts.

Carney wants the boards of the Red Clay, Brandywine and Christina districts to join the collaborative, which would create a new entity to oversee the Wilmington students in those three districts.

If created Carney plans to put $7 million into its efforts to help raise city learners’ abilities and scores.

The other $7 million would go into meeting some of the recommendations of the Redding Consortium for Educational Equity, although a Monday press release did not say which of Redding’s recommendations it would be funding.

In February, the consortium asked for four things:

  • $8.8 million in focused services for children from birth through ag that would expand early childhood home visits; support development screenings and provide free high-quality full-day Pre-K services to 3- and 4-year-olds in high-poverty areas.
  • $2 million per school for greater access to before-school programs, after-school programs, summer programs and school-based health centers: $2 million per school
  • $2 million to enhance data collection to better address race-related inequities.
  • $1.3 million plus $4,000 per scholarship to improve teacher recruitment and retention. Part of that would be used to create whole-school professional learning packages in five high-need schools in Wilmington.

Both the Learning Collaborative and the Redding Consortium are focused on aiding children in Wilmington, particularly children in poverty, who often fall behind the state and national standards.

“Unfortunately, we know city students are not getting the education they need and deserve,” Carney said in the letter to the school boards. “We have much work to be done to ensure all of our third graders are reading on grade level, to set them up for future academic success. Wilmington children, families and educators need additional support. I stand ready to offer that support – and I hope you’ll join me.”

The collaborative, a project of the governor’s office and the Department of Education, believes that’s partly because the city’s young students are split among four school districts under a confusing ruling trying to ensure desegregation. The organizers have held more than 100 meetings with boards, teachers and community members, and Carney has posted on Facebook about how he’s walking through neighborhoods knocking on doors to spread the word.

Red Clay, Brandywine and Christina districts all have schools in the city limits. Colonial also has city students, but they are bussed into the suburbs and don’t stay in the city for classes.

The number of city students in each district comprises 15% or fewer of its student body, which means decisions made for the majority of students often don’t work for them.

The collaborative will be designed to focus on programs and resources that bear on issues that affect city learners in much greater degree than they do suburban learners, including poverty, crime, trauma, food insecurity, transiency as families move, and more teachers leaving city schools.

One thing that the collaborative may be able to do is create a unified curriculum for city students. Many of the students move often, and moving into a new district can mean a completely different curriculum with different requirements.

Christina is expected for vote on the issue Tuesday, Jan. 11. Red Clay’s vote is expected Jan. 19, and Brandywine’s vote may come Feb. 7.

A vote would authorize each district’s superintendents to begin negotiating a memorandum of understanding that would detail the set-up and makeup of a collaborative board, how it would be staffed and how it would operate. The goal is to have it operational by July 1, when a new state fiscal year begins.

If things go as organizers want, many of the ideas for improvement would come from teachers and others who already have knowledge of the situation and have seen things that can work and won’t work.

“The Wilmington Learning Collaborative model is one that we’ve seen work in other states.,” Carney said in in the letter. “It is a partnership among city schools to work together on behalf of our children in Wilmington – and to empower educators who know best what city students need. It will create a hyper focus on the challenges facing Wilmington students and educators.”

Carney pointed out that the General Assembly has approved significant new funding for schools across Delaware that include Opportunity Funding, K-3 Basic Special Education funding, and additional mental health staff.

“I believe city educators are doing everything within their power to help our children succeed,” he said. “They need our support. I know you feel the same way. That’s what this plan is about: empowering educators on the ground and giving them support they need to improve outcomes for our children who need our help the most.”