Governor Signs School Choice Reform, Keeps Pledge from State-of-the-State

House Bill 90, sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Williams, streamlines program to ensure families can choose best education option

Dover, DE – After vowing in his State of the State 2013 to address unfair burdens of the school choice system on Delaware families, Governor Jack Markell signed legislation (House Bill 90) today to simplify the application process and help ensure students can attend their chosen school.

Markell made the law official in front of administrators, teachers, parents and students at Red Clay Consolidated School District’s Forest Oak Elementary School, where nearly one in three students attends as part of the choice program. The initiative, which required an update after not receiving substantive legislative attention since 1998, allows students to apply to public, charter or vocational technical schools throughout the state without regard to where they live. In the current school year, 28 percent of students utilize some form of school choice within or outside the bounds of their home district.

"Our students are our future and the key to our efforts to ensure Delaware will compete and win in the 21st century economy," said Governor Markell. "They will only perform their best if we put them in an environment that is most conducive to learning for them. This bill will help families navigate the available options and make the right educational choices for their children. “

HB 90 was spearheaded by Representative Kimberly Williams, a former PTA President at Forest Oaks Elementary school, who worked with the Governor, Senator Nicole Poore and education community leaders to craft reforms. A former Red Clay Consolidated School District board member, Rep. Williams said she was proud to help lead the effort to update the complicated school choice system.

 

“As a local PTA president and a school board member, I have been a long-time advocate for improvements to our school choice program,” said Rep. Williams, D-Stanton. “Not only does this bill make the process easier, it makes it fair. All students deserve a level playing field in the choice system. I am thrilled to have helped get this measure passed and I look forward to continuing to work with schools and educators to help our children succeed.”

Sen. Nicole Poore, D-Barb’s Farm, who guided the bill through the Senate, said the law makes needed improvements to the school choice process.

“We’re making the school choice application process easier for families to use by requiring uniform application forms and deadlines,” Poore said. “We’re also making sure that the choice program offers our children with disabilities who have IEP plans a chance to participate, and that makes this law a great opportunity for every child in Delaware.” 

HB 90 will:

  • Make it easier for parents to navigate the choice process by standardizing application forms and deadlines across traditional, vocational technical, and charter schools; allowing parents to submit choice applications through the Department of Education website; and requiring districts to hold public information sessions about choice opportunities.
  • Eliminate discrimination against choice students by requiring districts to use the same standards for choice students as they do for students in their attendance zone, and limiting the criteria a district may use to evaluate choice applications.
  • Streamline the role of school capacity in the choice process by specifying the criteria that may be used in reporting capacity and requiring districts to accept choice students until they are at 85% of capacity. 
  • Help state leaders understand and recommend changes to all public school enrollment preferences by creating a task force to explore enrollment preferences at magnet, vocational technical, and charter schools, and to develop recommendations as necessary.