The Delaware Charter School Tranportation Slush Fund Fully Revealed In State Code & Epilogue Language

Delaware State Code allows for charter schools in the state to keep any excess transportation costs for “educational purposes”.  No clarification is given for what those educational purposes are or what sections of the school budget they need to be allocated to.  As a result, Delaware charters have “kept” an estimated $1.35 million dollars, a luxury traditional public school districts do not have.  Certain commenters over on Kilroy’s Delaware claim this isn’t true, and even went so far as to post the full Title 14 Delaware code § 508 of the state code, which doesn’t indicate the slush fund.

“ § 508 Responsibility for student transportation.

The charter school may request to have the school district where the charter school is located transport students residing in that district to and from the charter school on the same basis offered to other students attending schools operated by the district, or to receive from the State a payment equal to 70% of the average cost per student of transportation within the vocational district in which the charter school is located and become responsible for the transportation of those students to and from the charter school. In the case of students not residing in the district where the charter school is located, the parents of such students shall be responsible for transporting the child without reimbursement to and from a point on a regular bus route of the charter school. In lieu of the payment from the State specified above, if a charter school utilizes a contractor for student transportation the charter school shall publicly bid the routes, and the State shall reimburse the charter school for the actual bid costs only if lower than the payment specified above. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a student at a charter school shall receive such transportation assistance as is made available to students pursuant to a public school choice program established by this Code provided that such student otherwise meets the eligibility requirements for such assistance. In the event a charter school chooses to transport students itself, it shall do so in accordance with all public school transportation safety regulations. Local school districts and charter schools shall cooperate to ensure that the implementation of this chapter does not result in inefficient use of state appropriations for public school transportation and the State Board shall exercise its authority to approve bus routes so as to avoid such waste.”

However, what the rocket scientist over on Kilroy’s Delaware failed to do, most likely deliberately as to show people he is right and everyone else arguing against him is wrong, is put in the part from the Fiscal budget which clearly indicates, in Section 347 of House Bill 225.  Even more hysterical, this commenter damn well knows about this, but blogger honor demands I not out the clown.

Section 347. (a) Notwithstanding 14 Del. C. § 508 or any regulation to the contrary, a charter school may negotiate a contract (multi-year, if desired) for contractor payment for school transportation up to the maximum rate specified which is currently 70 percent of the average cost per student of transportation within the vocational district in which the charter school is located or the charter school may publicly bid the transportation routes.  If the actual negotiated or bid costs are lower then the maximum rate specified above, the charter school may keep the difference for educational purposes.  If the charter school includes a fuel adjustment contract provision, the charter school shall be responsible for increased payments to the contractor or it may keep funds taken back from the contractor.

I wrote an article on this back in January, which clearly showed exactly how much each of the following charter schools were able to keep in FY14 based on this transportation slush fund buried at the near end of the state budget:

Academy of Dover: $56,788

Campus Community: $148,578

Charter School of Wilmington: $63,755

DE Academy of Public Safety & Security: $13,894

DE College Prep Academy: $17,750

DE Military Academy: $21,877

East Side Charter: $31,451

Family Foundations: $384,769

Kuumba Academy: $64,352

Las Americas Aspiras: $103,958

MOT Charter School: $23,126

Moyer Academy: $22,596

Newark Charter: $227,827

Odyssey: $150,607

Reach Academy: $25,647

Providence Creek Academy and Sussex Academy use their own buses, Thomas Edison broke even, Positive Outcomes uses Caesar Rodney School District buses, and Gateway and Prestige Academy each lost over $20,000 on this deal.

So collectively these 15 charters made $1,357,002.00, for average of $90,466.80 a school.  The amounts for Odyssey, Newark Charter School, Family Foundations, Campus Community and Las Americas Aspiras are all well over $100,000.  With no mandated allocation of funds except for the very vague “educational purposes” and no oversight of how they use these funds, who knows where they are going.  In the case of Family Foundations Academy, where the two school leaders embezzled over $90,000 in personal spending, and Academy of Dover where one principal spent over $127,000 in personal purchases, how is it even possible to trust how the schools are spending these funds.  Where is the accountability for these funds?

One Delaware legislator has said enough is enough, and he is requesting lawmakers to make an amendment to get rid of this:

Dear all,

Note HB225—- page 231, Section 347 lines 25-26. This is the language that is consistently inserted over the last 6-7 budgets that conflicts with the Title 14 section 508 mandate to return unused (for transportation) taxpayer money by Charter Schools. The amendment I am filing removes this onerous disregard for taxpayer money from the budget and I hope each and every one of you will support it to restore accountability and specificity of allocation to our spending of those taxpayer dollars. It is our responsibility to ensure that this practice ceases.

Respectfully

John Kowalko

I’m sure the rowdy bunch over at Kilroy’s will say I am doing my master’s bidding since they seem to think Kowalko owns me, which is so far removed from the truth it’s not even funny.  There are numerous issues I disagree with Kowalko on, but when it comes to education we align.

As Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 (charter school post-audit with the State Auditor) is supposed to get a vote on Tuesday  June 30th, and hopefully Rep. Debbie Hudson’s House Bill 61 (mandatory school board recordings) is put to a vote, and rules are suspended for each, along with Kowalko’s proposed amendment to the budget, we can start to see some legislative oversight and transparency over Delaware charter schools.  It all depends on how quick the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Kendall Massett can get their people down to Legislative Hall on Tuesday…

 

Governor Markell Bashes On Vouchers While Also Slamming Public Schools And Opt-Out But Fails To Realize His Policies Are Promoting The Idea

Delaware Governor Jack Markell has painted himself into a corner, and his escape latch is disappearing by the day.  In an article in EdWeek and also the Governor’s blog on his own website, Markell went to town on school vouchers while opposing opt-out, cherry-picking what schools kids should go to, and glorifying standardized testing.  I am against whole-sale school voucher programs, but sometimes there is NO choice.

With the next presidential campaign getting under way, pundits have quickly focused more on the horse race than on where the candidates stand on important issues like improving public education.

Are you promoting anyone in particular here Jack?  Someone who is very outspoken on education reform matters that you happen to agree with?

One area that deserves far more attention is the array of proposals to divert public spending on education into private school vouchers or “education savings accounts” that can be used for private and parochial schools, home schooling, and other programs that aren’t part of the public education system.

These other parts of the public education system, would they happen to include charters, magnets and vo-cational schools?

These policies, already enacted in several states and proposed in several more, are a reminder that privatization is not a ready-made solution for every government problem.

Because it would counteract the policies you have set in place in Delaware…

Here’s why these programs don’t produce results for our students.

Neither do yours…

Everyone agrees that solid academics are the foundation for career and college readiness. Yet, according to a review by the Center on Education Policy, numerous studies have concluded that vouchers, the prime example of privatization, “don’t have a strong effect on students’ academic achievement.” If voucher programs are motivated by a desire to improve educational outcomes for our young people, and not simply to divert public spending to private education, then their unsettled and uneven history does not support continuing them.

Is Markell actually backing away from calling this Common Core, or state standards?  Wow.  Now he’s calling it “solid academics”.  Let’s pull out a report from the Center on Education Policy, a very ed reformy group.  Say, isn’t Senator Sokola on their steering committee?  If vouchers steer public funding to private education, what do you call your seven year policies which have steered public school funding to private companies?  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Compounding this problem is that the private and parochial schools that receive tax dollars are, in many cases, not accountable for providing a quality education to young people, particularly those most at risk of falling behind.

They also aren’t required to provide YOUR education to students, which is why parents are desiring them more and more.  And let’s bring out the “those most at risk” card again… you will play this for anything, any topic you don’t agree with.

In the public school system, states are required to establish baseline expectations of accountability through standards and testing. Although hardly beloved, standardized-test scores are the most effective method we have to identify which students need our help, which is why civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the United Negro College Fund have been among the most vocal advocates for statewide assessments. They know it is most often poor, minority students—those who most need our help—who most often don’t receive the education they need. When we don’t provide a valid way to measure students’ achievement and hold educators and schools accountable for their academic growth, those students are too easily forgotten.

We are still waiting on the valid way for Delaware to measure students’ true achievement Governor.  But you use your corporate funded measures to label and punish schools that house those students so you can move them over to charters.  Let’s see, I’m thinking of a pot and a kettle…

Children in home, parochial, and private schools aren’t required to take state assessments. State officials can’t track these students’ growth to make sure they don’t fall behind. Private school teachers and home-schooling parents aren’t required to teach to the state’s educational standards; and they don’t have to be rigorously licensed or certified like public school educators.

Which is exactly why private schools are appealing to so many parents these days.  The fact is, many parents can’t afford them, so the very idea of a voucher system is very appealing.  You stepped into your own bear trap here Markell…

Voucher systems also divert millions of taxpayer dollars out of our public schools. While we should respect and encourage parental engagement and choice of schools—including private, parochial, and home schools—for their children, it is not acceptable to divert limited public education funding at the cost of the public schools that serve our communities.

At the risk of repeating myself, but it’s okay to divert limited public education funding to companies, non-profits and state vendors and fatten up our own Department of Education?  You reap what you sow Jack…

Public funding for these voucher programs also presents significant policy issues because so many schools affected include a religious component in their curriculum. In general, the government should not be in the business of funding programs or institutions that promote one religion over all others.

They also shouldn’t be in the business of promoting one type of public school over another, or just one curriculum, but we know that’s happening all over the country.  Education has become big business for the government.  This is pure hypocrisy.  You’re just bitching cause the money isn’t flowing to the “right” places…

But being against vouchers for these reasons isn’t enough. Political leaders have a responsibility to articulate a clear vision for what an improved public school system looks like.

Delaware parents are about to keel over and die cause they have been holding their breath for seven years waiting to see a “clear vision” of an improved public school system.

That means using parent choice among traditional, charter, and magnet schools to foster innovative instruction, and hold public schools accountable for giving students the best opportunities possible.

And here we have it, the Governor Markell legacy: Get kids out of traditional public schools by punishing those schools and send the students to “specialty” schools for free.  But doesn’t that go against the whole “common standards” ruse?  The standards must be the same, but the way they teach them  can be different?

It means demanding more rigorous college and career standards like the common core.

The mantra of the corporate education reform movement.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this the past year, I could afford to send every kid in the state to a private school to get away from this ideology.

It means providing better support for our teachers, including training them to use data about student achievement effectively, and evaluating them appropriately.

Which they won’t get until the kids go on to the next grade and they will use data from a previous teacher’s teaching style to mold their own.  But we can evaluate teachers based on another teacher.  This is a program with the sole design of pushing union teachers out of education, lowering the pension funds, and getting teachers cheaper.  Call it what it is Jack..

It means more dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement courses to challenge students and reduce the cost of college.

And more high school classes exclusively set up to teach to the SAT which will become aligned to the “solid foundation” you spoke of earlier, which will then determine which colleges and courses students choose.  Big brother isn’t just watching us, he’s controlling students every move…

It means investing in high-quality early-childhood programs so all kids enter kindergarten ready to learn.

More taxpayer money flowing into the hands of all-too-eager companies to get kids college and career ready while also learning to tie their own shoes….

And it means recognizing that too many of our students arrive at school hungry and from traumatic family situations. Serving these children effectively requires different types of training and community resources.

But you fail to recognize that children from these environments do NOT perform the same as their peers, but you expect them to so you can (rinse, wash, repeat): standardize these students through God-awful tests, punish teachers, convert to charter, pay companies…

I agree with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that policymakers should be “more daring” when it comes to education policy. But that must mean pushing the public school system to improve, not following the suggestions of a number of candidates for president and state lawmakers who would use taxpayer money on unaccountable programs that ultimately cut funding from public schools.

So is the Democrat Governor Jack Markell endorsing a Republican Presidential candidate?  Why oh why would he do that?  What could he ever hope to gain? (See Arne Duncan).  But if Hilary wins, could he gain from that? (See Arne Duncan).

Governor Markell must feel the walls closing in around him.  While doing the same to the public school system, he has put himself into such a small box that he is growing desperate.  He will attack anything that goes against his beliefs and agendas that make a ton of money for his corporate buddies.  But what he doesn’t realize is a very special kind of voucher system he has actually created.

By pushing the Common Core state standards down students throats and forcing teachers to teach to an invalid test, special education students are suffering immensely.  To the point where schools and teachers are so afraid of being punished they don’t even know how to implement IEPs for those standards.  Behavior issues are rising, and schools don’t have the time to filter through tem to see if they are a manifestation of the disability or true behavior issues.  As a result, schools are getting sued left and right by special education attorneys.  Those funds go into an educational trust for the students.  Which often go into, you guessed it, private schools or homeschooling.  Governor Markell created his own monster here by allowing the special education compensatory damage voucher program to thrive and flourish.  This is a program no parent wants but so many are forced into it.  Chew on that revelation for a little while Jack…