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GM Response Letter Re Newark Charter High School

GM Response Letter Re Newark Charter High School

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Published by DDCDELAWARE

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Published by: DDCDELAWARE on Mar 02, 2012
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11/19/2013

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Mrs.
Lois Hoffman’s
sincere letter shows that she is an advocate for diversity in schoolsand serving the needs of all students, whether they are rich or poor. We at Newark 
Charter School couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, her facts are largely based on
 misinformation and misperceptions. Thank you for the opportunity to provide clarity.
Mrs. Hoffman asserts that Newark Charter School’s 15% low income demographic (it is
actually 16.1
%) is low compared to the area (undefined what she means by “the area”
).According to 2010 Census data, the State of Delaware is 11 % low income.While Newark Charter School is not located in the urban Wilmington community orother communities with higher rates of poverty, most
of Delaware’s charter schools are.
For example, Kuumba Academy, Edison Charter School, East Side Charter School,Delaware College Prep Academy, and Reach Academy, Academy of Dover, and FamilyFoundations were created, in part, to target the needs of low-income families. Othercharter schools are located in Middletown, Clayton, Georgetown, New Castle, andNewark and serve the needs of different populations.It is important to note that, just a few months ago, Newark Charter School made frontpage news when it offered to merge with a struggling Reach Academy
 – 
a school whosepopulation was almost entirely African American and predominantly low-income. Thatschool was on the brink of closure. At no gain to itself, Newark Charter School offeredto take every student at that school and provide them with a Blue Ribbon Schoolexperience through Newark Charter School. I mention this to demonstrate that Mrs.Hoffman and Newark Charter School appear to agree key ideas.District schools, too, serve different communities based on geography and communitydemographics. For example, in Red Clay District, Brandywine Springs, North Star andLinden Hill schools all have lower poverty rates than does Newark Charter School.Schools that transport students from urban areas tend to have a higher low-incomepopulation of students compared to schools that draw from the community in which theyare located. As a charter school, we cannot
“engineer” our student population in order to
make the demographics come out a certain way
. Delaware’s charter law, which predates
the existence of Newark Charter School by six years, encourages charter schools to give afive-mile radius preference to students. The intent is to enable parents to be involved in
their children’s education. This is consistent with Delaware’s Neighborhood
SchoolsAct, which requires the same of district schools.While families in Wilmington can apply to our school, it is true that the lottery and five-mile radius preference, coupled with the nearly 2,000 student waiting list, make theirchances of enrollment low. However, this same is true for students living in wealthierareas such as Greenville, Pike Creek Valley and Hockessin. Students in affluent areasoutside the Newark community have the same chances as do students in less affluentareas.
 
Mrs. Hoff 
man asserts that “Christina students in the City of Wilmington have no choice but to be bussed into Newark for high school.” This is untrue. Cab Calloway High
School and Howard High School of Technology, Moyer Academy and The CharterSchool of Wilmington are all high schools operating in the City of Wilmington.Students in the City of Wilmington have the same opportunity to apply for school choiceas other students. This means they can apply to any number of district, vo-tech, magnetand charter high schools that are close to Wilmington (Delaware Military Academy,Pencader Charter High School, Conrad Schools of Science, Delcastle, etc.). In fact, themajority of our own eighth grade students attend choice high school schools.The good news is that more public charter high schools are on the way. The DelawareMET school will be located in Wilmington and serve students in grades 9-12. The EarlyCollege High School at Delaware State University plans to address the needs of underserved populations with a challenging STEM curriculum. Recently, the Bank of Delaware donated a building in the City of Wilmington that will house four new charterschools. It is likely that at least one of them will be a high school.Mrs. Hoffman writes that charter schools
“tout themselves as public schools.” Again, let
me correct this misstatement: Charter schools are public schools and Delaware law givesthem the same legal standing as a public school district (LEA).
Mrs. Hoffman uses the inflammatory term “publicly funded segregation” in regard to
Newark Charter High School. I take offense to her words. This is the actual racialbreakdown of Newark Charter School compared to the City of Newark and the State of Delaware:Racial Distribution: Newark Charter City of Newark State of DelawareCaucasian 67.5% 82.4% 68.9%African American 11.2% 6.7% 21.4%Asian 11.6% 6.7% 3.2%Hispanic 4.2% 4.8% 8.2%Multi-Racial 5.5% 2.3% 2.7%Mrs. Hoffman brings up a point about Newark Charter School not having a cafeteria.The irony is that our expansion plan (which she opposes) includes a cafeteria and kitchenserving 1,140 students. The students in the new facility will participate in the free andreduced lunch program.Since Mrs. Hoffman values equity, I hope she would agree with me in equitable fundingfor all public schools. In Delaware, charter schools receive no capital funding. And stateand local funding is approximately $3,000 less per pupil compared to district schools.Newark Charter School had to open its school in rented trailers for two years before itcould afford its own building. Had capital funding been available at that time, a cafeteriawould almost certainly have been included. The school has always offered free andreduced lunch eligible students the same discounts on the food service it does provide on
 
at least a weekly basis. We receive no funding for this subsidy so we rely on our ownoperating funds. The same applies to anyone who requests financial assistance with fieldtrips. We have even purchased clothes for students and donated computers for use intheir homes.Mrs. Hoffman writes
, “Would you send your child to a school that doesn’t value them?”
If she would like to speak with any one of our
students’ parents I am 100% sure they
would tell her that Newark Charter School values every student, rich or poor. Thisincludes one of our students whose parent is homeless. The school collected nearly$1,000 worth of gifts and cash to give this family at Christmas this year.
Mrs. Hoffman states that “Choice is no choice if the seats are all taken. The ironycontinues since Newark Charter School’s expansion plan
(which she opposes) wouldopen up 260 new seats for children in grades K-4 in the first year. While charter schoolsare trying to open and to expand in Delaware, special interest groups continue to thwartour efforts.Finally, Mrs. Hoffman repeats one of the biggest misconceptions of all
 – 
that charterschools deprive districts
of funds. “You
are taki
ng resources from someone else,” shewrites. “
In Christina, those resources are finite. Public funds shifted to a charter schooltakes money out of the hands of children who need it most.
The
funds in a district are never “finite.” The funds increase or decrease based on
enrollment because funding is proportionate to the students that need to be served. Thereis no fixed pool of funds.Charter schools assume 100% of the expenses from the district when a child comes tothem. The money follows the child. Since the child is no longer in Christina District, wewould not expect the district to keep that money. Ironically, the district does get to keepsome of the money that should go to the charter school student because the district isallowed to exempt funds in five different categories before the transfer of funds is made.There is a net gain when a child transfers to a private school, since the district gets tokeep all of that money while foregoing all of the expenses.M
rs. Hoffman states that Christina’s three existing high schools facilities “will get rundown” as the s
chools get older. But districts, unlike charter schools, can holdreferendums, with matching State funds, to build and renovate their buildings. Just thisweek, Red Clay District got voter approval for $39 million to renovate its schools.Charter Schools cannot hold referendums. As stated, we receive no capital funding.What option will Newark Charter School have when its
 buildings get older and “run
 
down?”
 
I hope this response is adequate for your request. If not, please don’t hesitate to call.
 Sincerely,

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