OF DELAWARE EDUCATION
Green Party Candidate for Attorney General
"PEOPLE FIRST IN
THE FIRST STATE ... IT'S ABOUT TIME!"
One may ask why a candidate for
Attorney General is addressing the issue of education. One reason
is, of course, because our children's education is so very
important. In addition, the office of attorney general
occupies an intersection of law and public policy, where there is
much opportunity to have policy impact on state government
agencies and the legislature. As Delaware's Attorney General, I
expect to constantly put forward an agenda that maintains that
access to quality education for all Delaware children will make
for the development of a stronger, diverse community and generate
opportunity for a thriving democracy.
An underlying component of my view
on education is that children are in school to learn to be
creative, critical and informed thinkers so as adults they will
draw upon accumulated knowledge, have the skills to carefully
analyze it, and use it to create thoughtful responses and
solutions. Schools need to resist the temptation to "mass produce"
children that fit into corporate niches only to meet corporations'
needs. I believe that educators hold a tremendously important role
in helping children grow into adults who can make informed choices
and decisions based on creative and critical thinking. Such skills
are vital to our states economic vitality and the survival of our
I am deeply concerned about the
intervention in our schools of corporations that promote a culture
of consumption and waste. Schools should avoid exposing our
children to commercial advertising. As attorney general, I would
call for elimination of corporate advertising and military
recruitment (i.e., JROTC), in Delaware public schools. Corporate
advertising in schools promotes a culture of over-consumption and
poor nutrition (e.g., snack foods). It continues the exposure of
our children to excessive marketing sometimes leading to over-competitiveness
(e.g., who has the name brand clothes, who's parents drive the
expensive luxury cars, etc.). JROTC represents an unneeded
militarization of our children. We tell our children that "might
does not make right" and "if someone wants to fight, walk
away" yet, by allowing JROTC in our schools, impressionable
children are given the opposite message with regards to using
violence to solve problems.
Our teachers are underpaid,
overworked and too often not supplied with necessary resources. To
address these and other teacher concerns, I support teachers right
to unionize. Teachers have the right to work under duly
established contracts developed in fair, open and honest
collective bargaining. To aid unions, I support the repeal of the
Taft-Hartley ACT which undermines the viability of all
Testing is a valuable part of
evaluation techniques that provides a solid overview of students'
performance. Testing can also help teachers focus on materials
which need to be taught in a quality education setting.
Unfortunately, Delaware's "high stakes" testing can easily
pressure teachers into "teaching the test," rather than
teaching subject matter. What's more, some very capable students
don't test well. Likewise, as we have learned from other
standardized assessment instruments, these tests often do not
adequately address cultural differences. Furthermore, I don't
think the needs of students receiving special education services
are adequately addressed by the current testing program. The
promotion of children to the next grade should not depend solely
on the results of any test. Many children do not do well when
faced with the stress of a test that may have serious implications
for their future. Europeans found out many years ago that
high-stakes testing is a mistake and have moved towards a
multi-faceted evaluation method. Their children generally score
higher than ours on standardized testing. As attorney general, I
would insist that the current state testing system not be
implemented in its current construction. I would work to establish
an evaluation system that uses a combination of grades, teacher
and parent recommendation, and testing results should be used in
making promotion decisions.
Delaware's testing program can also
lead to an inaccurate and ultimately unfair method of evaluating
teachers and schools. I support multidimensional means of
evaluating our students, teachers and schools such as grades,
direct observation of work performance and parent/child ratings in
addition to standardized testing. The use of state testing results
in evaluating teacher/school performance is far too narrow a means
to obtain accurate results. With small schools, administrators
should have greater opportunity to observe teachers in their
classrooms. Teachers should be evaluated by a combination of
factors including direct observation by the school administrator
completing their performance reviews, reports by parents/students,
and the academic progress of students in their classes. Schools
should be evaluated in a similar fashion as teachers.
Increasingly many Delaware families
are unable to meet the cost of tuition and room and board in
Delaware's public universities, let alone at more expensive
private colleges and universities. As tuition at the UofD
and elsewhere rises rapidly ahead of people's wages, the number of
poor and middle class students able to afford post-secondary
education has decreased dramatically. Because of this, I support
tuition free post secondary (collegiate and vocational) public
education for all Delaware students who maintain a 2.5 or above
high school grade point average. Short of tuition-free schooling,
student loans should be available, repayable as a proportion of
future earnings, rather than at a fixed rate. Scholarship aid for
the additional costs of room and board should be made available to
families who would have difficulty paying. Doing so would ensure
that every child that wants a college education and is
academically capable can get one.
As attorney general I would
advocate for small, community-based schools. Smaller schools allow
for better administration of schools by keeping them within
manageable size. Smaller, community-based schools allow neighbors
and schools to more easily communicate and cooperate with each
other in the education of children. Smaller, community-based
schools allow everyone, including students, to have a greater
sense of belonging and ownership in the school, fostering
increased school pride in its accomplishments.
I favor local schools and local control of schools. Schools close
to home mean safer children and more involved parents. However, I
am concerned that the proposed neighborhood school law would
effectively re-segregate our schools where children of poorer
families will get an inferior education. Until our neighborhoods
and communities are desegregated, providing for diversity of
culture and race is an important goal of all schools.
Large groups of children are harder
to manage than smaller ones. By limiting the overall size of
classrooms, teachers can be free to be more innovative and
creative in their instruction. Discipline problems are reduced
with smaller groups of children where they know they are protected
and cared for individually. As attorney general, I will work for
improved student/teacher ratio and a smaller number of children in
the classroom. Having smaller student/teacher ratios is a proven
way to improve children's academic performance that should be used
with all students, not just a select few who are having
academic/behavioral problems. Having smaller student/teacher
ratios allows the teachers to spend more time on instruction and
less on discipline. With smaller classrooms, teachers are given
greater opportunity to do what they do best - teach.
When elected, I would insist on
federal and state education policy that ensures equal opportunity
to a quality education. Educational funding formulas in Delaware
need to be adjusted to avoid gross inequalities between districts
and schools. Currently, some schools and districts are not funded
at an equitable level. I support educational funding formulas that
avoid gross inequalities between districts and schools, especially
in ensuring equal access to education for minority, deprived,
special needs and exceptional children. The current system of
funding schools thru district referendum is unfair and unjust to
mainly urban and rural children who do not live in a wealthy
district. The quality of our children's public education should
not depend on where they live. I support measures to ensure equal
funding of school districts and individual schools. I recommend
ending the current system of school district referendum that
allows for wealthier areas in the state to have greater funding
for schools in their district and establishing a system of state
wide funding of education where each school district gets equal
funding based on the number of students served.
Other issues of importance that I
- Educational diversity where
teachers and students continually strive for truth in the
realm of ideas.
- A creative and noncompetitive
education at every age level and the inclusion of cultural
diversity in all curricula.
- A variety of educational
approaches that lend themselves to individual leaning styles.
- Involve parents to help support
their children's education.
- Holding students responsible,
key to developing intrinsic capabilities, as they strive
to achieve their fullest potential.
- Creating in our schools the
freedom of artistic expression which is a key element in
empowering communities and moving us towards sustainability
and respect for diversity.
- Substantive reforms towards "workplace
democracy' where schools are controlled by parent/teacher
- Having the state Department of
Education and local school boards deliver more programmatic
support and put decision making at the grassroots level
i.e., the classroom teacher and school administrators.
We need to stop disinvesting in
education and start putting education at the top of the social and
economic agenda. Teachers are to often underpaid and overworked.
They should be given professional status including salaries
comparable to related professions requiring advanced education,
training and responsibility. As attorney general, I would work to
accomplish these goals.