Social Impact Bonds: Will They Happen In Delaware Or Are They Already Here?

social-impact-bonds

Social Impact Bonds, or “Pay For Success” programs, exist in many states around the country.  To date, Delaware has only participated in a handful of these kinds of programs and none in the education arena.  Social Impact Bonds began in the United Kingdom and since 2011, companies have slowly started bringing them to different states.  Basically, these are programs where an investor (like Goldman Sachs) decides they can change some type of society issue (like getting pre-Kindergartners the resources they need so they don’t have to go into special education programs when they enter elementary school).  They go to the state, sign a very lengthy contract, and based on the goal (like 99% of over 200 students in Pre-K programs won’t get IEPs after their investment) and they get the money back.  If they exceed the goal, they may get more (like $277,000 for Goldman Sachs in the Utah Pre-K special education prevention program).

This issue has come up a bit in the past couple months because of a few entries in the Every Student Succeeds Act mentioning Pay For Success.  Today, Diane Ravitch wrote about it again based on a recent editorial in The Salt Lake Tribune by two federal US government employees.  One of them is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy and Early Learning at the US Department of Education, Libby Doggett, and the other is the Director of The White House Office of Social Innovation, David Wilkinson.

Instead of tearing down new ideas and innovative approaches before they have even had the chance to be fully implemented, let’s applaud those who recognize the urgency of educating children differently and better. Let’s roll up our sleeves. Let’s celebrate what’s working and improve where we are learning lessons.

The validity of the Utah Pay For Success program came under immediate scrutiny because of the 99% victory Goldman Sachs claimed.  Issues immediately surfaced around the reliability of the district’s data when it came to being able to identify these students for special education services.  This could never happen in Delaware though, right?  I wouldn’t be too sure about that.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell is all too aware of what Goldman Sachs was doing in Utah.  In fact, he praised them for it in a joint editorial in the online magazine called Roll Call in December, 2014.  In the opinion piece, Markell and his co-contributor stated:

In Salt Lake County, Mayor Ben McAdams is pioneering a new way for government to focus on what works best. Knowing the impact that quality pre-kindergarten programs have, particularly in lower-income communities, McAdams is using Pay for Success Bonds, where private investors pay for the up-front costs of pre-school and get paid back if the programs succeed in saving taxpayers money from fewer at-risk kids using more expensive programs such as special ed. This pay-for-success model gives government the tools to fund an ounce of evidence-based prevention on the front end out of cost savings on the back end—and can be applied to a variety of social services.

The same year, a company called Start It Up Delaware formed.  Using Social Impact Bonds as their source of funding to new companies, the company was formed based on capital provided by Discover Bank.  The funding for the Social Impact Bonds came from the Delaware Community Foundation, also the chief source of funding for the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  While this particular company did not begin any education related projects, the link back to the Delaware Community Foundation and in turn, Rodel, could open this possibility in Delaware.  Markell was also well aware of this venture because he gave the opening remarks at their launch reception in June of 2014.

In 2013, Newsworks wrote about a program Delaware participated in along with the Corporation for National and Community Service.  This initiative placed AmeriCorps members in Delaware to give relief to the National Guard.  The program used part of its funding from Social Innovation Funds.  Markell, along with US Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper, was on hand for the big announcement.

Last summer, the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services met to plan a potential new program called “Healthy Neighborhoods”.  One of the potential long-term funding machines for this initiative is social impact bonds.  In fact, the Chair of the Delaware Center for Health Innovation is also the Executive Chairman of Innovative School Development Corporation, Matt Swanson.  It was his idea for social impact bonds as part of the funding for the Healthy Neighborhoods project.  In the meeting minutes for the Delaware Health Care Commission, from July 2nd, 2015, Swanson explained the concept of social impact bonds:

Dennis Rochford asked how social impact bonds work in terms of the long term sustainable funding. Mr. Swanson stated that a social impact bond is a funding mechanism that allows philanthropy. Instead of making one time grants that have an end date it is more of a renewable approach where philanthropy can come in through bond funding that will eventually be repaid through marketable innovations that have a future cash flow. Sometimes that offset of dollars is measured against social impact. Instead of repaying actual dollars on the bond there is a measurable impact that offsets the dollar repayment.

And where would these funds come from?

Mr. Swanson stated that they have state resources available and have had multiple meetings with the Delaware Community Foundation.

Not to get off point, but to read the minutes for this Healthy Neighborhoods initiative as well as the presentation on it, go here and here.

So we have the Delaware Community Foundation/Rodel connection, and now an Innovative Schools connection.  Anyone else?

There could be a very large part of the Delaware Department of Education looking to use social impact bonds in their initiatives, especially since their funding from Race To The Top expired on June 30th, 2015.  The Office of Early Learning, which oversees pre-Kindergarten in Delaware, is getting $11 million in Governor Markell’s proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget, if approved by the General Assembly.  But I could easily see this area of the DOE utilizing the part of Every Student Succeeds Act to bring in investors to “Pay For Success” in Delaware nursery schools.  I recently attended a presentation by the Director of the Office of Early Learning, Susan Perry-Manning, at the Senate Education Committee a couple of weeks ago.  She talked about the funding this program needs now that the feds money has dried up.  Throughout the presentation I heard the words “corporation” and “business” several times.  It wasn’t just myself that took notice of that either.

In terms of legislation which would allow this in Delaware, it already happened when nobody was even thinking about it.  Last year, Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend sponsored Senate Bill 75 which allows more advantages to “social enterprising” companies incorporated in Delaware.  According to The National Law Review, this bill was huge:

Although not an early adopter of social enterprise legislation, Delaware has become one of the fastest growing jurisdictions in which social enterprises are incorporated, and is now home to some of the largest and best known benefit corporations, including newcomers Laureate Education, Inc. and Kickstarter, PBC.  Along with other amendments to the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL), Senate Bill 75, which was signed by Governor Jack Markell on June 24, 2015, amended Delaware’s public benefit corporation law (Sections 361-368 of the DGCL), effective August 1, 2015.

While I am certainly delving into areas outside of my comfort zone when it comes to corporations, I’m seeing this as a backdoor entrance for “benefit for profit” corporations to operate easier.  Was this done in anticipation of the Every Student Succeeds Act?  It wouldn’t surprise me.  I doubt Senator Townsend was aware of this unintended consequence, but Markell signed it and it is now a part of Delaware State Code.  House Bill 235, which was recently passed in the Delaware House of Representatives, could definitely be seen as a boon to companies looking to start-up in Delaware.  This bill, introduced on January 8th of this year and shot through the General Assembly at lightning speed and signed by Governor Markell on January 27th, “reforms Delaware’s business tax code to incentivize job creation and investment in Delaware, to make Delaware’s tax structure more competitive with other states, and to support small business by making tax compliance less burdensome.”  As well as potentially being a pawn in the opt-out House Bill 50 veto override scheme, House Bill 235 would certainly benefit Markell’s education buddies in the corporate world if they planted their company flag in Delaware.

As I told folks on a Facebook thread about social impact bonds earlier today, if Delaware ever tried something like what Utah did with Goldman Sachs, I would not rest until social impact bonds were gone from Delaware.  But since many of these type of companies tend to incorporate in Delaware, we have opened up the gates for the rest of the country and the Social Impact Bond invasion.  This is just yet another example of the raiding of public education dollars in another Ponzi corporate education reform scheme.

 

 

Academia Antonia Alonso Submits Modification To Change Location Out Of Community Education Building

Syringe

One of the three Delaware charter schools currently residing in the Community Education Building in Wilmington now wants out.  Academia Antonia Alonso Academy, as of January 29th, submitted a major modification to change their school location from the CEB to the Barley Mill Plaza location currently owned by Odyssey Charter School.  Should their modification gain approval, the plan is to lease one of the buildings from Odyssey.  So why would they want to move from the lauded CEB?

After reviewing options of other potential locations, it was determined that a location that can be conveniently accessed by families, can be managed directly by the school, and also provides green space and playground facilities would be preferable to the current location in enabling the school to deliver the educational outcomes that it is striving to achieve.

Now this is some logic I can get behind!  Looking out for students, recess, and families is crucial to school success nowadays.  It is underestimated by our Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell.

Given that 61% of La Academia’s students live in the City of Wilmington zip codes of 19801, 19802 and 19805, the majority of the school’s students live in neighborhoods where they may be regularly exposed to violence and crime, and where their families do not feel safe having their children play outside. This makes it even more important that the school be able to offer the opportunity for these children to be able to have safe play spaces.  Non-structured play time has a positive impact on social development and general well-being and allows children the opportunity to practice essential social skills, which in turn improves learning and school climate.

Thank you!  While some schools have reduced or gotten rid of recess, this school is actually celebrating it!

Our school has students in grades K-2 who are young and small, and during transitions they have to either navigate 2 to 6 flights of stairs or wait on elevators that require the school to make multiple trips to transport everyone, depending on the location of their next activity. We have had one incident of an elevator full of students getting stuck for over 20 minutes. A second incident occurred with Kuumba Academy students and staff. This has caused some of our students to be afraid of the elevators. Some of our younger students have tripped on the stairs, and now are afraid of using them.

Sounds like a health inspector needs to get in there as soon as possible!

In order to get our students to the outdoor fenced parking lot that is their recess area, our teachers go down the elevators (or six flights of steps), walk down a full city block, cross a dangerous intersection where accidents have happened right in front of our students, down another half of a city block and into the Wilson Street lot. This typically takes 15 minutes. Adding another 15 minutes for the return trip the students lose precious recess time.  Developmentally, it is critical that 5, 6, & 7 year olds are able to have time for recess and play.

Wow!  How much thought went into student safety for this building?

The Wilson Street Parking Lot, our recess area, has a number of issues relating to safety and supervision.  Several areas in the fence are a concern to the school, as well as there being no barrier (mesh fence or other) to prevent students from going behind the storage unit where teachers have no line of sight. This recess area is not fully secure from the public after hours and dangerous items such as broken glass, syringes and other items are routinely found by both teachers and students. There is no typical playground equipment for the students to use such as swings, slides etc.

So what happens if a student accidentally pokes another student or themselves with a syringe?  Who is responsible for the potential of a student getting HIV or some other disease from a dirty needle?  I would get the hell out of this location too!  I’m guessing Governor Markell and Acting US Secretary of Education John King didn’t go out with the kids to recess during King’s visit last month to the Community Education Building…

To see the full major modification request, please see below.  For the next few months, the school will go through the charter school accountability committee and public hearings.  A final decision will be made by the Delaware Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education at their April 21st meeting.

Now the big question becomes which charter school will now submit a major modification request to get into the Community Education Building?  I hope no elementary schools based on what I’m hearing!

 

 

 

The “Intelligently Differentiated” Untermenschen Schools Of Delaware

HolocaustPicture

Publius, a frequent commenter on Kilroy’s Delaware, commented about advocacy for the students of Delaware.  In an attempt to demean those who promote equity in our schools, Publius broke down advocates into the following categories: special needs, low-income, English Language learners, orderly school environments, super-rigorous school environments, intelligently differentiated schools, and intelligently intra-school differentiated programs.  While he was mainly talking about the difference between choice schools and traditional schools, this isn’t the first time Publius has used such phrases.  While many know who Publius is, including myself, most of us can only laugh at his terminology.

But this comment was a bit different and shows the true thinking of someone who truly believes that students who are “smarter” should be separated from those who are not.  Such thought created the Charter School of Wilmington.  While some truly believe a school like this is justified in their enrollment preferences, public thought has shifted away from this narrow early 20th Century viewpoint to something more akin to the more modern and rational thoughts around equity and equality.

In the 1930s, Adolph Hitler rose to power because he responded to the fears of the Germans.  By promoting the “Aryan” ideal, Hitler was able to amass an incredible amount of power that allowed him to essentially take over  mainland Europe.  As a result of Hitler’s obsession with this master race, tens of millions of people died in a war that changed the face of the world.  In Nazi Germany’s Civil Service Law, citizens of Germany had to be able to provide documentation that they belonged to the “true” Aryan race, which was mainly Nordic in design.  Those who were not part of this very select “race” were considered subhuman, or untermenschen.

Publius, through his words, truly believes the “strong” should be separated from the “weak”.  He doesn’t use those words, but instead crafts them into such words as “intelligently differentiated”, “talented and gifted”, “orderly”, and “imperatives”.  But at the same time, he wants to be included in all the conversations concerning the problems with Delaware schools:

 Assume that everyone in the dialogue is in good faith and has an honest reason for their views.  If the current environment of attack-vilification persists, then we will get nowhere.

What Publius doesn’t understand is why so many people can’t wrap their head around his century old untermenschen ideals.  He has his defenders over on Kilroy’s, but none go to the lengths he does to justify his comments.  It is extremely hard to have a “conversation” with someone who is so clearly elitist and discriminatory.  I don’t believe Publius even sees this.  He doesn’t realize how his words actually harm charter schools in Delaware.  As the Delaware blogosphere’s largest proponent of school choice and charter schools, he does far more harm than good.  But because he is “that voice”, that advocate, we have to wonder if the stereotype of charter schools is actually based on what he says.  Such views led to the slaughter of over six million Jews in World War II.  While I certainly don’t believe Publius would even remotely come close to advocating such options for those who are different, his words could affect those who do.  There are people in the world today, even in Delaware, who believe in the righteousness of such atrocities.  Situations like this plant the seeds in others to do vile and abhorrent deeds.

Untermensch Effects

But Publius also takes pride in describing others on Kilroy’s Delaware, including myself!

Little Kevin: Despite your striving, you are not “why we fight”

“The People” choose the public will. Not what The Governor tells them to think. Not what a blogger tells them what to think. Especially not a blogger from Dover with no cattle but with a shopworn ballcap.

Notice how he refers to me as “little”.  As well he specifically refers to me as being “from Dover” as if Dover is subpar to where he comes from.  He also seems to think those who live in Dover must be agrarian in nature but I have “no cattle”.  As well, for someone who has never seen me with a “shopworn ballcap”, I also have to wonder how he feels about people who wear baseball hats.  Even more frightening, in looking at my Facebook pictures and other pictures that appear of myself on social media and search engines, the only pictures out there of me with a baseball hat on are from twenty years ago.  That was during my senior year Spring Break when myself and several others spent a week in West Virginia helping out the poor and unfortunate.  Is Publius actually stalking me?  I do wear a “shopworn ballcap” when I mow my lawn or do other outside work.  But Publius would only know that if he happened to be in my neighborhood which I don’t even remotely see as a possibility knowing his identity.  Disturbing or a stereotype?  You be the judge!

To be completely fair, I have gone after Publius many times in reaction to things he has said.  I have called him a “little man” and racist on more than one occasion.  I’m sure those who know Publius and ask him about these things would get a jovial laugh from him and would come back and tell me not to take him seriously.  But words like “intelligently differentiated” disturb me on many levels.  It is very demeaning to a lot of people, but most of all parents of children with special needs.  Parents of children with Down’s Syndrome or other cognitive disorders should be offended by these discriminatory comments.

There are a plethora of other issues with charter schools, but nothing gets the conversation going more than talk about enrollment preferences and counseling out of “troubled” students.  Even Charter School of Wilmington is slowly coming around to this based on their recent board agenda.  There was a discussion topic listed as “increasing low income and special ed applications”.  Earlier this week, I helped a six year old girl with disabilities get into Newark Charter School’s Kindergarten lottery despite a ridiculous application policy the school’s board made last September.

As more and more Delaware citizens come around more and more to a greater weight for civil rights over enrollment preferences, we see those like Publius fighting even harder for their warped ideals and ideologies.  Despite all of this, I hope the day comes when Publius can see the error of his ways and embrace equality and equity.