Delivered during the 18th Annual Freedom Fund Dinner on Saturday, September 6, 2014 at Minquidale Fire Hall.
Welcome to our 18th Annual Freedom Fund Dinner and this year’s theme “The Struggle Continues, Where do we Go From Here.” Dr. Martin King, Jr. wrote a book in the 1960s challenging us to be committed to our community and neighborhood and to bring about a more equitable and just society. His main premise of the book was “chaos or community”.
One of the preeminent issues that is facing our society is education. The 1954 land mark case, Brown vs. Board of Education (347 U.S. 483 (1954)) decision had its roots in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1968 the Delaware General Assembly passed the Education Advancement Act. That Act was found to be unconstitutional in the matter of Evans bs. Buchanan. As a result, in 1978, a major Metroppolitan School Desegregation Order was implemented consolidating eleven districts into one.
The Order required children in the City of Wilmington to be bused to suburban schools for nine years and suburban children to be bused into the city for three years. In 1981, the Delaware department of Education and State Board of Education combined into four districts (Brandywine, Red Cay, Colonial and Christina). The end result was a scattered housing pattern and ultimately re-segregated schools and re-segregated communities and neighborhoods.
The Delaware General Assembly enacted three (3) major laws since 1996 that impacted Delaware education: The Charter School Act, The Choice Act and Neighborhood School Act. The implementation of these Acts has resulted in the creating of high poverty, segregated traditional public and charter schools. The segregated, high poverty schools were created with no additional resources. Our opinion is that the Charter School System has created a dual school system with a re-segregated Delaware.
While Delaware is involved in the “Race to Deliver” and the “Race to the Top”, we are reminded that the opportunities, which will result from this initiative should benefit all students throughout the State of Delaware. The focus should be on efforts to improve undeserved, high poverty and racially identifiable schools that are failing academically. The educational epidemic in Delaware schools is the extreme disproportionate dropout rate among Hispanics and blacks (as compared to white non-Hispanics) and the high rate of discipline suspensions/expulsions (70,000 statewide and 40,000 in New Castle County), the highest rate recorded in modern history. A correlation exists between the school related challenges, especially discipline,, and prison incarceration.
With the recent closing of City or Urban schools, it seems that nothing has changed. As Dr. King challenged back in the 1960’s to be committed to our community and neighborhoods to reverse the trend to re-segregation. MAKE SURE YOUR VOICE COUNTS AND MAKE SURE YOU VOTE!!