Redding Consortium focuses proposed funding on early childhood services

Jarek Rutz Education, Headlines

 

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New state funding will allow Redding Consortium to help schools create more early childhood seats, services

 


Last year, the Redding Consortium for Educational Equality wasn’t included in the governor’s budget recommendations for this year.

But they are for fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1. 

Gov. John Carney plans to allocate $12.8 million to the consortium, which co-chair Matt Denn said is exactly what it wanted to expand early childhood education and wraparound services, such as after school care.

The Redding Consortium was founded in 2019 to recommend policies and practices to the governor and legislators to improve education equity and outcomes in the city of Wilmington and Northern New Castle County.

It defines educational equity as “safe, secure, and student-focused learning environments where every student is intentionally provided access to the support, resources, and opportunities they need to reach their full academic and social potential, in and out of the classroom.”

In the short-term, said Denn, the consortium is prioritizing laying the foundation  for expanding existing programs in areas such as pre-K, wraparound services and home visitation services for infants and toddlers. 

This year, the consortium has successfully implemented preschool programs at Kingswood Community Center, Latin American Community Center, A Leap of Faith Child Development Center and St. Michael’s School and Nursery. 

Through the consortium’s recommendation, the Department of Education awarded the Delaware Wraparound Services Initiative grant to The Bancroft School, The Bayard School and Kuumba Academy Charter School. 

Wraparound services are support programs offered before school, after school and during summer months that also include health services like emotional wellbeing care and behavioral health assistance. 

After a pilot program this year, the consortium realized that people providing extended services needed longer contracts that would enable them to feel secure about renting larger spaces and hiring more staff to take care of children. 

Carney has recommended $7.1 million for wraparound services in the state’s operating budget for 2023. If the budget is passed, it will make wraparound services part of the long-term budget and will be allocated year after year. 

“If you’re a pre-K provider or are a school looking to add wraparound services, you are much more inclined to seek out those funds and make real investments if you know that it’s going to be an ongoing program, and that it’s not going to disappear after a year or two,” said Denn. 

The purpose of these services is to help children with serious or complex needs succeed in their school, home and the community around them. 

This month, Kuumba Academy was awarded a one-time grant of $1.42 million to expand their afterschool and summer enrichment program housed in the Wilmington Community Education Building.

Kuumba will also use this money to partner with ChristianaCare to establish a student-based health center that will provide onsite preventative care, mental health and acute care services for all students. 

The Bayard School received $1.24 million for wraparound services while The Bancroft School received $958,000. Both schools are part of Christina School District. 

Christina School District will use the grant money to partner with the United Way of Delaware and the Life Health Center to provide students with tutoring, extra-curricular activities, preventative health care and assistance with mental health.

With the grant month, the four schools will provide a total of another 110 full-time preschool seats by November. 

Denn is optimistic about the relationship the consortium has with Carney and the state.

“He put that entire amount the consortium recommended into his proposed budget,” said Denn. “So, that was a very concrete sign of support from the governor and state.”

A full list of the consortium’s recommendations can be found here.

The Wilmington Learning Collaborative is an initiative that has parallel goals as the consortium, specific to the city of Wilmington.

“Multiple times, members of the consortium met with the Department of Education, the three districts and governor’s office while they were putting their plans together,” Denn said, “and they were very receptive to the comments that consortium members made.”

Carney recommended a $7 million allocation to the Wilmington Learning Collaborative for next fiscal year. 

Members of the Brandywine, Christina and Red Clay school districts are working now to create a memorandum of understanding about how the collaborative will work to better educate their students who live in Wilmington.

The consortium is composed of several workgroups that tackle imminent projects.

The educators workgroup is curating specifics surrounding professional development programs it had recommended in order to improve teacher retention.

The social determinants workgroup is working on the details of putting in place a database to decipher the inequalities of education between socioeconomic classes.

Enhanced data collection is one of the other consortium recommendations, tracked in three categories:

  1. Schooling data (e.g., academic performance, graduation rates)
  2. Access data (e.g. availability of clubs, sports and activities, AP classes) 
  3. Outcome data (e.g. enrollment, graduation, academic performance, and school discipline)

The intended outcome from the social determinants workgroup is to act on the data and create equitable opportunities and outcomes for students

Then there’s the governance work group, which takes on some of the longer term issues the consortium is facing, like school district governance.

The governance work group is co-chaired by Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, D-Wilmington and New Castle Councilman Jea Street. They are working on refiling legislation to give the Redding Consortium abilities to redistrict.

The groups solidified their budget recommendations in a recent meeting, and agreed to ask for at least $35 million in opportunity funding, which is money designed to help disadvantaged students. Of that, $5 million would go to mental health and reading support. 

The consortium also requested $4 million for teacher recruitment and retention. 

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