My Observations From The Education Funding Task Force Meeting Tonight

I attended the first half of the Delaware Education Funding Task Force meeting tonight.  After Delaware Governor Jack Markell gave some brief opening comments thanking the members of the committee for their hard work, he advised them this isn’t an easy task force.  As he was leaving, he made a point to greet and shake hands with everyone in the room.  And I mean everyone!

Members trickled in so the meeting didn’t start until about 5:20.  There are some very vocal members on this committee with very strong ideologies.  The bad part is when many of them are different.  I have no clue how this group is going to come to a consensus in the next couple months.  I saw members on this task force who belong to the General Assembly (who listened for the most part), DOE, State Board, the traditional districts, the charter crowd, Rodel, school boards, the business community, Delaware PTA, GACEC, and advocates for ELL students.

Donna Johnson from the State Board of Education did make it a point to talk about the group’s discussions about basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  I do recall seeing a potential funding model where funds were reallocated in the needs-based funding formula for the state.  But this shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation for an education funding task force.  Put House Bill 30 up for a full vote and get it done.  It’s what, $11.5 million to fund that bill?  Make it happen.  Maybe the DOE can get rid of a ton of their vendor contracts and their non-vendor paychecks for all these people who show up on Delaware Online Checkbook with no transparency surrounding these payments whatsoever.  After all, the DOE were the ones that torpedoed this funding when the topic first came up six years ago.

It was interesting hearing some members talk about the lack of authority for a school principal to make funding decisions.  This was more from the charter side of the equation.  But members on the other side disagreed, saying they have the authority based on the pool of money they get from the district.  One member said even if they do find the right number or formula for funding, how do you audit that?  Does that money allocated as extra support for low-income and ELL students mean reduced classroom sizes or more teachers?  Some members felt that because 41 states have successful funding formulas that will translate as success for Delaware.  But how is that success measured?  By standardized tests?  Graduation rates?  Will they have pilot schools or districts to try it out?  What does low-income and poverty mean in terms of percentage of students?  Since the state changed how they measure poverty, but the DOE goes by one thing and DHHS goes by another, which is right?  If the group doesn’t necessarily agree with the WEIC funding formulas, what does that mean for the General Assembly when they vote on the redistricting in Wilmington?  If the majority of the group believes changing property assessments is the way to go what does that mean for the property owners who have no voice on this committee?  We should do what California does and vote on propositions like this.  Then we will see where the real voting power exists!

There were people at this meeting who I have never seen face to face but I have written about them a bit.  One as recently as last Thursday.  I had to pick up some groceries and my son REALLY wanted Dairy Queen so I snuck out while the group was on their pizza break.  I wished I could have stayed, but family first!  I am very curious what comes out of the final report.

As Legislation For Autism Pass In Delaware Senate, Very Strange Rodel Connections Sneak Into Special Education

Last week, the Delaware Senate passed both Senate Bill 92 and 93.  The legislation, dealing with Autism, passed unanimously in the Delaware Senate.  I wholeheartedly support this legislation as originally written, and I hope the House of Representatives passes it very soon.  The children and adults with Autism of Delaware have waited long enough for more support.  But what concerns me are the amendments added to both bills during the Senate vote last week.  Below are the original bills and the amendments.

With the amendment on Senate Bill 92, this takes away the authority of the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education to provide training and technical assistance for students with autism.  This will shift to the University of Delaware’s Center for Disability Studies.  The funding for the training specialists comes from the appropriations act AND possible tuition fees from the local school district.

The amendment for Senate Bill 93 references things that aren’t even in existence at present.  Upon doing a Google search, there is no established entity called “Delaware Collaborative for Educational Services”.  I did find reference to similar groups in New Hampshire and Massachusetts but none for Delaware.  How can legislation provide for an organization that doesn’t exist anywhere in the public domain?  But while we are waiting for the creation of this mythical initiative, the representative on the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism will be the Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation at the Delaware DOE.  Who is this person?  That would be Matthew Korobkin.

Korobkin came to the Secretary of Education’s office in March of 2015.  I first found out about him last summer when I was discussing special education with Melissa Hopkins from the Rodel Foundation.  She mentioned Korobkin and how he was going all over Delaware to find out best practices with Delaware special education.  She suggested I reach out to him to discuss my concerns with special education.  I emailed him but never received a response.  I found out soon after where Korobkin came from: the Rodel Foundation.

This is where things get very strange with this bill.  Korobkin’s history shows more of a slant towards special education technology.  How does someone who has a very brief tenure as a special education data teachers and an administrator position that is more a Technology Curriculum role than a true administrator become the key person in Delaware’s special education strategic plan?  Simple: he came from Rodel.  If you do a Google search on Korobkin in Delaware, you see many links to his functions at Rodel.  But for the DOE, you see his role as a member of the Statewide Educational Data Task Force come up the most.  He appears somewhere in the below picture.

EducDataTaskForce

I find it somewhat frightening that a data person would be put in charge of a statewide special education plan, much less someone who came from Rodel.  During his time at Rodel, he ran the Rodel Teacher Council.  He even gave his own biography in 2012 after he joined Rodel.  I can think of hundreds of other people in Delaware who are immensely more qualified than Korobkin for this key role that was snuck into the Fiscal Year 2015 budget epilogue:

SB255Sec.307

 

I did find a link to the minutes of the February 2016 meeting of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens.  Korobkin gave a presentation on the progress of this special education strategic plan.  Even more interesting was the attendees part of the minutes.  Both Hopkins and CEO Dr. Paul Herdman with Rodel attended this meeting.  I would imagine it was to see their former employee/current DOE plant give his big presentation.

I also linked to this Korobkin’s proposed Strategic Plan when he gave a presentation to the State Board of Education at their Spring Retreat last Friday.

Like I said in the first paragraph of this article, this legislation is a must.  But why do we have Rodel poking around in special education?  This non-profit organization doesn’t support a parent’s right to opt their child out of high-stakes testing, helped Governor Markell and the DOE win our first-round win in the Race To The Top competition, supports Common Core and personalized learning, and heavily supports charter schools at the expense of traditional school districts.  And now they want to get involved in special education?  Sorry, I’m not buying it.  Their activity in Delaware education is not good for any student, much less students with disabilities.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of the House Education Committee meeting on these bills.  And I plan on viewing this Strategic Plan due in May of 2016 the second it comes out!  Parents of children with Autism should have concern about some of the language in these amendments, specifically Senate Bill 93.

 

 

The Tentacles Of Corporate Education Reform And How They Pull Parents Down The Rabbit Hole

Even though I wrote this in November, before the Every Student Succeeds Act passed and President Obama signed it, everything still applied. The Educational Data Task Force in Delaware had the same recommendations as I predicted. The time to lift the veil and debunk the theories of the digital corporate education reforms has never been more crucial. Please read and share!

The Exceptional Infinite

Embedded in the latest Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization are initiatives and agendas that will transform education as we know it. This is not a good thing. Nothing in Delaware currently going on (WEIC, Student Success 2025, Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities) is original. This is happening across the country. The result: students plugged in to computers all the time who will only advance once they have gained proficiency in the Common Core-infused personalized learning technology. The benefits will not be for the students.  They come in the form of financial benefits which will belong to the corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, and investors. Tech-stock will go through the roof if the current ESEA reauthorization passes, and companies like Schoology, Great Schools and 2Revolutions Inc. will become billionaires over-night. Meanwhile, our children will indeed become slaves to the system. The future is here!

The ESEA reauthorization has morphed into the classic quote from Obi-Wan…

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Los Angeles: Charter Operator Fined $16,000 for Conflicts of Interests That Netted Her $19,000 a Month and Possibly Millions

Cause we all know this could NEVER happen in Delaware, right?

Diane Ravitch's blog

Another amazing but true story from Los Angeles about the loose rules under which charters operate.

This charter operator opened a charter school in 2006 called the Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists. She bought a building and leased it to the charter for $19,000 a month. She paid herself a salary of $223,615. She renovated the building and charged it to the state. Auditors think the charter operator may have funneled millions of dollars to her own accounts from public funds. The violations were too egregious to overlook.

Some of the allegations bordered on the bizarre.

Auditors questioned, for example, the use of school funds to pay a $566,803 settlement to a former teacher who sued the organization for wrongful termination after she was directed by Okonkwo to travel with her to Nigeria to marry Okonkwo’s brother-in-law for the purpose of making him a United States citizen.

The school…

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