The Heart of the District/Charter Funding War

History will teach us nothing.  Or that’s what they say.  In this case, history is teaching us everything.  Almost three and a half years ago, Newark Charter School had a major modification approved that allowed them to open a high school.  One of the biggest concerns was the financial impact it would have on Christina School District.

During the Public Hearing for their modification request, NCS Board President Steve Dressel said the financial impact of $2.4 million wouldn’t hit Christina until year five of their expansion.

While CSD will make the claim that an NCS expansion will be “devastating”, the reality is the financial impact on CSD is quite small.  CSD estimated it to be $2.4 million…

Dressel was correct in one aspect.  That estimation was “quite small” because when you flash forward three years later, that number jumped three times the original estimate.  In their final budget for FY2016, Christina had a picture in the presentation which showed how much Newark Charter School and other charters receive from them.

CSDFY2016FinalBudgetCharterPmts

Christina had 2,008 students choice out of the district to Newark Charter School.  On the Delaware DOE website, it shows NCS had 2,140 students enrolled.  That means nearly 94% of their students come from Christina.  And that number will go up for both this year as NCS reaches a 12th grade.  How do charter payments, which were estimated at $2.4 million three years ago, jump up to $7.3 million?  And counting?  Did the formula go up that much in just three years?  Are we sure this formula hasn’t changed already without anyone knowing?  This is a huge financial impact for a school district.  This illustrates that NCS knows exactly what kind of impact this has when they get their checks from Christina.  And still, they want more.

While some called my article the other day a call for a “holy war” against charters, it was Greg Meece who once said “this is jihad against charter schools,” when the Delaware State Education Association commissioned a report on the impact charter schools have on school districts.  This came from a 2008 article in the News Journal.  Ironically enough, David Blowman talked about the impact this had on the Brandywine School District to the tune of $2.3 million going to charter schools.  Blowman was the key figure in the now-failed attempt at changing the local cost per pupil formula which would give charter schools more money.

At the time of this article, legislation was brought forth to have the State Board of Education limit the number of new charter school applications if it would have a large financial impact on the districts the charters drew their students from.  The bill did not move forward in that session, but Meece’s claims of destruction to Delaware charter schools hardly came to pass.  The report DSEA bought was released to the press by former State Senator Charlie Copeland.  Copeland later opened up a charter school called Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.

I believe history will repeat itself if this new charter funding formula goes ahead at some point.  This scenario has been proven time and time again throughout America over the years.  The price tag keeps getting higher and higher every year.  Even though there was a moratorium on new charters in New Castle County last year, that didn’t stop the State Board of Education from approving many modifications for increased enrollment at some charters.  With all the increases, that might as well have been a new charter school.  But our State Board of Education, led by an Executive Director who is definitely in bed with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, keeps remaining oblivious to the reality before them.

But Meece, drawing from his infamous “crab bucket” analogy from 2012, still seems to think everyone is out to destroy his “successful” school.  Christina is not paying them what they deserve and they want more!  Regardless of the consequences.  The original opinion piece by Meece is no longer available from the News Journal, but luckily Delaware Liberal saved it for all to see:

Years ago, someone explained to me a phenomenon called the “crab bucket syndrome.” As crabs are caught and tossed into a bucket, the first crab tries to climb out to save its life. Other crabs, seeing his escape plan, grab hold of the first crab’s legs, which pulls him back into the bucket. Eventually, all the crabs perish. In schools, this is a metaphor for, “If I can’t have it, neither can you.” This is what happens when a group tries to “pull down” any other school that shows success can be achieved.  This is happening in Newark, where a group is trying to stop one of our most successful public schools, Newark Charter School, from expanding.

As Pandora brilliantly pointed out in her article on this, Meece forgets about all the crabs that are killed so the few can get out as well as the fact that Meece’s actions are what happened to Christina not Newark Charter School.  For Christina, the tipping point with Newark Charter School happened three years ago.  Now it is just the spear point jabbing at an already bleeding wound.

 

Epic Fail of the Week: Afterschool Task Force Holds First Meeting In The Morning

For a task force created to discuss issues surrounding the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning, it would stand to reason that many students would participate in an afterschool program because their parents are working.  Logic would dictate that if you were going to have public meetings about such an initiative, they would be held in the evening when working parents could attend.  But not with this task force!  They had their first meeting this morning at 9am.  Today was also the second day of school for most Delaware students.

And who is on this task force?  Obviously not too many working parents who should be the primary stakeholders on a group like this.  Or was that intentional?

SAILTaskForceMembership

Jack Polidori is with the National Education Association, Jim Kelly is with YMCA, Michelle Taylor is with United Way, Richard Heffron is with the Delaware Chamber of Commerce, John Fisher-Klein is from the Newark Day Nursery & Children’s Center, Sheila Bravo is from the Delaware Alliance for Non-Profit Advancement, and Carol Scott is with the University of Delaware.  And we have Rep. Valerie Longhurst and Senator Nicole Poore.  And regular parents?  Nope, not on this task force.  Shut out again!

This was their agenda:

SAILTaskForce

 

Gateway Lab School Website Disappears

Many charter schools in Delaware changed their websites over the summer.  But Gateway Lab School’s website is gone.  A message pops up indicating this domain name expired on 8/24/16 and is pending renewal or deletion.  That can’t be good.  I hope they get something up and running soon.  By Delaware law, they must have a website.

Last Friday, I did an inspection of all the Delaware charter schools to see if they were in compliance with transparency on their website.  Gateway had some issues dealing with posting minutes from their board meetings and financial oversight committees.  Now it looks like there are bigger issues!

Updated about ten minutes later…

On Gateway’s Facebook page, the following announcement was made yesterday:

GatewayFBAnnouncement

Governor Markell’s Executive Order #62 Creates ESSA Advisory Committee

Today, Delaware Governor Markell signed an Executive Order which creates an Advisory  n Committee for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  As required by federal law, this group will convene to provide input (not make final decisions) on ESSA which was signed by President Obama last December.  I am assuming this group will replace the DESS Advisory Committee which was required under the former federal education law, ESEA.

This group will have the usual slots: President of the State Board of Education, President of the Delaware State Education Association, and other education, business, and state associations.  There are only two legislator slots, one from the Senate and one from the House.  Usually, these kind of groups have representation of both parties in the House and the Senate.  Only three teachers will be picked, and only four parents.  On something this important, bigger is better.  But lest we forget, these members will be picked by the Governor, so expect some controversy over those picks!

As well, there will be a series of “Community Conversations” coming up at the end of September.  I pray this isn’t a one-sided show where select people are telling the audience what has to happen.  It needs to be a true back and forth exchange to be a true conversation.

Below is Executive Order #62 and the press release from the Delaware DOE.

 

Markell Creates Group to Support Implementation of New Federal Education Law

 

Calling a new federal education law an opportunity for teachers, school leaders, parents, and others to build on record graduation rates and other progress happening in Delaware schools, Governor Jack Markell today signed Executive Order 62, which brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to provide input for the state plan required by the federal Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA). The plan, which the U.S. Department of Education is expected to require by sometime next year, will detail efforts to:

·         Implement academic standards aligned with what students need to know stay on track for success in college and the workplace;

·         Ensure students from all backgrounds have access to high-quality educational opportunities from pre-school through high school;

·         Support training, retention, and professional advancement of great educators; and

·         Track progress of schools across a variety of measures, not limited to test scores, and identify ways to offer additional support where students are struggling.

 

The Governor, who signed E.O. 62 at Lewis Elementary School, noted that improvements from the last major federal education law, No Child Left Behind, mean that states have more flexibility in ways to support students, including how to measure schools’ progress and new opportunities to focus on early childhood education, which has been a top priority of the Markell Administration.

 

“We should all be proud of the progress we have made over the last few years, when we have seen thousands more low-income families enroll children in high-quality early childhood programs, recorded the fastest-growing graduation rate in the country, offered thousands more students the chance to earn workplace experience and college credit while in high school, and given more students access to college,” said Markell.

 

“ESSA provides an exciting chance for us to build on that momentum – to better support and attract great teachers and ensure all of our students have access to the education they deserve, no matter their backgrounds. More flexibility in how states approach these issues means more responsibility for us to make sound decisions and as we develop our state’s plan under ESSA. The executive order I sign today will help engage our teachers, school leaders, parents, and other advocates to ensure a successful process.”

 

The Executive Order outlines the variety of education leaders and advocates who must be represented on the committee and provides the group with the opportunity to review drafts of the state plan and submit recommendations to the Secretary of Education. A chair will be announced in advance of the first meeting and the group will include representatives of:

 

·         Parents in every county

·         Educators from urban and rural communities

·         The State Board of Education

·         The Delaware State Education Association

·         The Delaware Association of School Administrators

·         The Delaware School Board’s Association

·         The Delaware Charter School Network

·         The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission

·         The Early Childhood Council

·         Delaware English Language Teachers and Advocates

·         An organization advocating for students with disabilities

·         Delaware’s business community

·         Workforce development programs

·         The General Assembly

 

“After engaging in initial discussions with a wide variety of education stakeholders on development of our ESSA plan, this advisory committee represents an important next step in supporting our communication with teachers, administrators, and parents who are working hard to support our students,” said Delaware Education Secretary Steve Godowsky. “This group will help ensure we fully consider a wide range of perspectives and set our state on a path of continued improvement.”

 

The department also will engage representatives of stakeholder groups in two discussion groups. The first group will focus discussions on technical topics related to Measures of School Success and Reporting.  The second group will focus discussions on provisions for Student and School Supports. Participants for these topical discussion groups can be nominated on the department’s ESSA web site through September 9, 2016.  The discussion groups will provide information to the Advisory group created by this Executive Order.

 

To further support engagement of the broader education community, the Department of Education has announced a series of Community Conversations later this month during which teachers, administrators, and others will offer input on specific questions that the state must address in its plan. These discussions will take place at the following times and locations:

 

Tuesday September 20 at 6:00 p.m. – Cheer Center, Georgetown

Saturday September 24 at 10:00 a.m. – Christina Cultural Arts Center, Wilmington

Tuesday September 27 at 6:00 p.m. – Bunker Hill Elementary School, Middletown

Thursday September 29 at 5:30 p.m. – Collette Education Center, Dover

 

The public also is invited to provide input through online surveys found on the Department’s ESSA web site and by submitting feedback to ESSAStatePlan@doe.k12.de.us

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

Governor Markell Is Honored As Policy Maker Of The Year For Education While Delaware Collectively Heaves

The National Association of State Boards of Education just named Delaware Governor Jack Markell as their 2016 Policy Leader of the Year.  Meanwhile, Delawareans across the state are facing an air quality alert because of the stench coming from the collective vomiting of educators and parents across the state.  Is this just another sign Jack is heading to the U.S. Department of Education under a potential President Hillary Clinton?  Butter up the masses for the eventual announcement?  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jack Markell cares more about corporations than education.  He is Captain Corporation in my book.  This is just wrong…

For Immediate Release: August 30, 2016
Contact:
Renée Rybak Lang (NASBE)
reneerl@nasbe.org
703-740-4841
Jonathon Dworkin (Gov. Markell)
Jonathon.Dworkin@state.de.us
302-577-5260
 
NASBE Names Delaware Governor Jack Markell Policy Leader of the Year
Alexandria, Va. – The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) is pleased to honor Delaware Governor Jack Markell as its 2016 Policy Leader of Year. The award is given annually to a national or state policymaker in recognition of his or her contributions to education. 
Elected in 2008, Governor Jack Markell has dramatically improved educational opportunities for Delaware students. Under his guidance, Delaware placed first in the federal Race to the Top grant competition in 2010 and has made significant progress across the education system, from access to high-quality early childhood programs to college and career readiness. In 2014, the state was recognized for the best graduation rate increase in the country and the lowest dropout rate in its history, 2.4 percent. In addition to ushering in higher learning standards across the board for Delaware students, Governor Markell has strengthened authorizing standards and oversight for charter schools, supported improvements to the state’s school choice programs, invested in early learning and teacher development, and expanded access to higher education. 
“Governor Markell has had a tremendous impact on education not just in our state, but he has impacted and improved education throughout our country during his time as governor,” says Teri Quinn Gray, president of the Delaware State Board of Education. “He is very humble about Delaware’s accomplishments, quickly deferring the spotlight and redirecting it toward those he believes deserve the highest recognition for all of their hard work: Delaware’s educators. They are the ones working closest to our children and making these policy changes a real success, he always says.” 
Governor Markell’s policies have led to greater supports for struggling schools and greater recognition for high-achieving schools, including those that are closing the learning gap. His investments in early learning resulted in greater access to five-star programs for more Delaware students and helped the state earn an Early Learning Challenge Grant. Since 2011, the number of low-income students attending quality programs has jumped from 5 percent to 70 percent. 
He has partnered with the business community to improve career technical education programs through the nationally recognized Pathways to Prosperity initiative, which has expanded to reach 6,000 high school students across 10 programs tied to high-demand fields, up from just a few dozen students in one program two years ago. He elevated the conversation on educator quality, supported efforts to reform the career pathway and compensation for aspiring school leaders, supported improvements to the state’s educator evaluation system, and provided incentives for highly effective teachers to join or remain at high-needs schools. The state has been recognized as the best in the nation at helping low-income college-ready students reach their potential. 
Learn more about Delaware’s progress in early childhood and K-12 education under Governor Markell’s leadership. 
“I am honored to receive this award from such a well-respected organization, and I will accept it on behalf of the many educators, school administrators, and other education leaders in our state who have worked so hard to support every student at each step—from birth to high school graduation and beyond,” said Markell. “In today’s skill-driven economy, the quality of one’s education is more important than ever, and the progress we are seeing in our classrooms will mean better opportunities for present and future students in the workforce, as well as a stronger economy that benefits everyone in our state.” 
Prior to his election as governor, Markell was the state treasurer of Delaware. As the state’s chief executive, he has also served as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and the National Governor’s Association. 
“The Policy Leader of the Year award is the highest honor that state board of education members can bestow,” says NASBE Executive Director Kristen Amundson. “Governor Markell’s efforts to advance education in Delaware earn him the title so many have bestowed—he is truly an ‘Education Governor.’ His leadership serves as an example for all of us who are working to ensure that all students receive an excellent education.” 
The 2016 Policy Leader of the Year Award will be presented to Governor Markell on Thursday, October 20, 2016, at NASBE’s annual conference in Kansas City, MO. Learn more about the conference. 
The National Association of State Boards of Education represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. Our principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, promote excellence in the education of all students, and ensure responsible lay governance of education. Learn more at www.nasbe.org
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Delaware DOE Ignored Allegations Of SAT Fraud & Deception

Manuel Alfaro, the former College Board employee, contacted several state departments of education to inform them of potential fraud coming from the College Board with the restructured SAT.  Yesterday, Alfaro’s home was raided by the FBI due to the College Board claiming Alfaro published confidential information according to an article from Breitbart.

In May, Alfaro wrote to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, along with six other state Secretaries.  When he didn’t hear back from any of them, he posted an open letter on his LinkedIn account on Sunday.  He wrote:

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

But it gets worse…

On May 7, 2016, I wrote a letter to the heads of the Department of Education in CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH to let them know that the College Board has committed global fraud against their states and the federal government. In that letter, I offered to meet with their legal teams to expose the fraud. Instead of meeting with me (or asking me for additional information), they approached the College Board about my statements and allegations.

The Delaware Department of Education announced in May 2015 that the SAT was going to become realigned for the Common Core.  As juniors in the state opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that Spring, Secretary Godowsky and Governor Markell replaced the Smarter Balanced Assessment with the new SAT for the 2015-2016 school year.  Students in Delaware already had the test paid for them by the state, but this made the SAT the official state assessment for high school juniors.  Markell and Godowsky acted unilaterally on this with no legislation or executive order backing this up.  Many legislators changed their mind on the veto override because of this announcement on 12/31/15.

Alfaro appears to be under a lot of pressure from his former employer.  It remains to be seen if he will be granted whistle-blower protection or if the College Board will prosecute him in this matter.  In the same article linked above, it mentions a Reuters article from Friday which talks about the different states response to Alfaro’s allegations.  Delaware was not one of them.

A New Hampshire official said the state had no immediate comment. Officials in Delaware, Illinois and Maine didn’t respond to requests for comment.

But the matter has caught the attention of one member of Congress according to the Reuters article.

A member of Congress, meanwhile, has asked federal regulators to look into Alfaro’s allegations. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, has “been in touch with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” according to a July 28 letter she wrote to Alfaro.

I alleged back in January this was done to prevent high school juniors from opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  At one school in the Red Clay Consolidated school district, 60% of students were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment by their parents.  Including Delaware State Representative Kim Williams’ son which she announced on social media.  It appeared to be a very rushed decision by Godowsky and Markell.  In early November last year, the U.S. Department of Education issued warning letters to states with high opt out numbers.  In January, the Delaware House of Representatives failed to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, an opt out law that passed the House and Senate with a massive majority earlier in 2015.

I find it interesting this matter was not brought up by Secretary Godowsky or the State Board of Education last month when they discussed the SAT results and the scoring method for the test.  In my opinion, the College Board is trying to protect themselves in a massive cover-up and will prosecute Alfaro to prevent this matter from moving forward.  I believe Alfaro should be granted whistle-blower protection and an investigation needs to take place immediately.  As well, all the states involved with their SAT decisions need to come clean if they knew anything about this potential fraud.

Why does Delaware always come up in these kind of matters?  As I wrote last week, Delaware is the capital of corporate education reform.  Governor Markell has been the biggest proponent of every single bad education idea that has come out since he took office in January, 2009.  This decision with the SAT saved many “high-performing” high schools in Delaware from devastating participation rate numbers, including Newark Charter School, Charter School of Wilmington, Conrad, and Cab Calloway, and the vocational school districts in Delaware which only have high schools.  Markell has been pumping them up with his incessant Pathways To Prosperity declarations for all high schools.  With the highly controversial charter school payments story still unfolding, it is more than obvious there are levels of corruption and deceit at extremely high levels at the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Governor Markell’s office.

 

 

Jack Markell To Issue Executive Order On Stakeholder Engagement For ESSA

At 9am this morning, Delaware Governor Jack Markell will sign an Executive Order to promote stakeholder engagement for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The event, taking place at Lewis Elementary School in Wilmington, will deal with the state plan for ESSA.  Each state in the country must submit a plan for how they will carry out ESSA.

ESSAExecutiveOrder

I have to admit I’m very curious to see what this Executive Order will be.  I find it ironic Markell would sign something mandatory like this.  Markell got a ton of stakeholder engagement during the House Bill 50/Opt Out saga.  He didn’t listen then, and I see no sign of him listening to anyone now.  He still hasn’t signed House Bill 399, dealing with teacher evaluations.  This would have been the perfect place for him to do it.  I have to doubt this will either be something very benign and won’t mean anything or he is up to something.

The State Board of Education in Arkansas issued a press release last week calling for more participation in planning around their state accountability system.  The last time Delaware tried something similar it met with a great deal of controversy because of a lack of stakeholders.  Come back later today for a recap of what Markell is planning.