Tony Allen presents an action agenda for strengthening education in Wilmington during a UD School of Education talk.

SOE colloquium

Allen outlines redistricting plan aimed at strengthening Wilmington schools


8:49 a.m., Dec. 1, 2015--Tony Allen discussed “Strengthening Wilmington Education: An Action Agenda” during a University of Delaware School of Education colloquium presentation held Nov. 18.

Allen chairs the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC), and is a member of the University’s Board of Trustees.

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The final presenter in the school’s fall colloquium series, Allen outlined WEAC’s recommendations for improving educational outcomes and WEIC’s progress in implementing those recommendations.

Allen identified three major challenges for Wilmington families related to educational outcomes: school governance, high levels of poverty across the state and inadequate resources. 

With 18 independent governing units serving 11,500 Wilmington students, the governance of Wilmington public education is both fragmented and ineffective. Allen emphasized the need for a coordinated and unified plan among the four traditional school districts, one vocational-technical school district, and 13 charter schools. 

Allen also emphasized that childhood poverty is a major challenge, not only in Wilmington but across the state. 

“We believe high quality public education for all children is paramount, and it’s not only a Wilmington problem. Fifty-one percent of all public school students in Delaware are low-income,” said Allen. “While the problem is particularly acute in Wilmington, it’s not exclusive to Wilmington. In fact, the highest concentrations of childhood poverty in the state is Sussex County. The second highest incident of poverty by city is Dover.”

Allen also identified several resource issues, including an insufficient revenue base at state and local levels, an antiquated allocation system, inadequate resources for English-language learners and students in poverty, and the lack of targeted funding for early childhood education and college readiness. 

Developing a plan and moving it forward

Established in 2014 by Gov. Jack Markell, WEAC includes teachers, parents and educational leaders, as well as Dan Rich, University Professor of Public Policy and a senior public policy fellow at the Institute for Public Administration, and a team of UD analysts. They were charged with developing recommendations for addressing Wilmington’s education challenges.

In April 2015, WEAC released “Strengthening Wilmington Education: An Action Agenda,” which focused on four key action areas: creating responsive school governance, meeting Wilmington student needs, funding student success and implementing change. 

One of the report’s proposals is the re-districting of Wilmington schools, which would result in substantial changes to Christina and Red Clay school districts.

The Delaware General Assembly created WEIC, a 23-member commission of teachers, educational leaders and school board presidents to implement WEAC’s recommendations and strengthen public education throughout the state, especially for low-income minority students. 

WEIC released a draft plan in November on its website. It is open for public comment, and four public hearings are scheduled in early December. The plan will be submitted to the state board of education in mid-December. 

Allen urged the public to take an active role in Wilmington education, noting that “parent and family engagement is critical. Ten emails to the right legislator on the right issue make a difference. Parents are, in fact, the best organizing tool.” 

A proud alumnus, Allen also noted that UD has and will continue to play an important role in this initiative.

About the speaker

Tony Allen received a bachelor’s degree in political science and a doctorate in urban affairs and public policy from UD. He began his career as the co-founder of Public Allies Delaware, a leadership organization for young adults interested in full-time, public service careers. 

As founding president of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, Allen advocated for equity in education, minority business procurement and urban revitalization. He now serves as managing director of the global marketing and corporate affairs corporate reputation group at Bank of America.

Allen has received several honors, including the Delaware State Bar Association's Liberty Bell, the Edelstein Prize for Public Service, Public Allies Lifetime Achievement Award and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award for Advancing Racial Equality, the National Urban League's highest honor. In 2012, he was named Delaware Citizen of the Year. 

Article by Jessica Henderson 

Photos by Elizabeth Adams

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