Letter From Newark Charter School Board Chairman May Turn District/Charter/Delaware DOE Funding War On Its Ear

No sooner do I receive the official word that no changes to the local cost per pupil formula will be changed than I get multiple emails with a letter from Newark Charter School Board Chairman Stephen Dressel sent to Newark Charter School parents.  This letter shows a very different take on the whole issue and alleges that Christina has been hiding funds in a certain bucket in their local funding.  The letter further states that the Delaware Department of Education approved this every single year.  That it wasn’t until this year that this funding bucket was found and corrected.  At this point in time, I truly don’t know what to believe.  While I have serious concerns with Newark Charter School’s enrollment practices and other financial issues at the school, if (and this is a very large if) what they are saying is true, I have serious questions about that as well.

I will be very clear with a few things before you read this letter.  The information presented to me from sources last week was a change in this formula, not a correction.  At no point in time until now did anyone from Newark Charter School or anyone from the charter school community present this information to me.  This is crispy fresh information that I just received.

So if there is no change, as the letter alleges, does that mean Christina will still have to pay these funds?  And who are the other districts alluded to in the letter?  Who was responsible for signing off on this at the Delaware DOE?  How does the Office of Management and Budget fit in with this?  Why did the local cost per pupil go up three times the original amount from 2013-2016 when the amount of students Christina sent to Newark Charter School only went from 1,200 to 2,000?  Those are still big mysteries in my book.  So while NCS may claim they are owed these funds, the fact remains the DOE put their stamp on it every year.  Were there earlier funding inequities going on with this formula which accounts for the huge change in funding between 2013-2016?  If this “hidden” budget was so hidden, how did Newark Charter School come to find out about this if the DOE was oblivious to what was going on as the letter alleges?  How much did Governor Markell or Ann Visalli, the former chief of the Office of Management and Budget know about what was going on with this if OMB were the ones determining the actual formula?  And is there any connection whatsoever to Kathleen Davies at the State Auditor’s Office being put on leave in May?  I do not have these answers, but my door is open for anyone to contact me on these questions.

In terms of this letter, it is written by a sole member of the Board of Directors of Newark Charter School and signed by one individual.  This letter is not from the entire board, or even on behalf of the board.

I have no doubt the NCS supporters will see this as justification for the actions Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, and Dressel took last Spring.  The Deputy Secretary of Education, who the Associate Deputy Secretary of Education answers to, would be responsible for financial oversight of the Delaware DOE.  They did not meet with the Deputy Secretary of Education in the Spring.  They met with the former Deputy Secretary of Education, David Blowman, who now serves as the Associate Secretary of Education.  Blowman would have been the head finance guy at the Delaware DOE for the past few years when anyone would have signed off on what Dressel alleges to in this letter.  This is going to blow up this entire conversation all over again.  If what NCS is saying is true, then I would owe them an apology for allegations surrounding this particular issue.  I went based on information presented to me and I publicly wrote about this.  NCS or the charter school supporters could have responded in an official capacity at any time but chose not to.  But this is one letter written from one board member of the NCS board without full board approval. This letter was sent to the parents of a local education agency as defined by federal law so this document is in the public domain.

Oh, and just one more little itty bitty thing.  The creator of the PDF file was not Stephen Dressel.

GregMeeceSignature

 

 

 

Official: No Change In District/Charter Funding This Year In Delaware

After six days of will they or won’t they, the Delaware Department of Education is not moving forward on any changes in the school district per pupil cost sent to charter schools out of their local unrestricted funding allocations.  Perhaps now we can all take a deep breath and spend the next year changing the date on this so schools aren’t stressing out over budgets the first week of school.

Christina School District Board of Education President Elizabeth Paige informed me the district Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, was officially notified of this decision by the Delaware DOE earlier this afternoon.

Paige said:

I am pleased that the charter funding allocation will not change for this year; however, I know that we can’t expect this not to come up again and come up often. We must continue to fight for equity and not equality when it comes to funding public education in the state.
Well said President Paige!  Even though there is a calm in the storm for now, this is definitely an issue I plan on doing extensive research on so when it does come up again it won’t be a shock to everyone, including myself.  I still have many unanswered questions surrounding the transparency on the charter schools and the Delaware DOE with this issue.  I will get those answers.

Schools In Delaware Get Ugly By Using SBAC Scores Or Opt Out To Deny Student Access To AP Classes

In the past week, I have heard from several parents in our state that their children are not getting into AP or advanced classes based on either their Smarter Balanced scores or the fact that their parents opted them out of the test.  This is a horrible idea.  Some of these students are straight A students.  What the hell is wrong with these Principals and Superintendents who are making these foolish decisions?  While I won’t name schools or districts due to the privacy of these families, I think these actions are abusive on unheard of levels.

Depression

When did Smarter Balanced become the barometer of student success in Delaware?   The sole purpose of this test is to understand where our children compare to each other, so we can reduce the so-called achievement gaps.  Now it is turning into a punitive measurement tool and it is affecting many lives.  What kind of sick and twisted crap is this?  Who is mandating this?  Is it the Delaware DOE or the districts themselves?  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a fraudulent test.  It is horrible and how anyone can think this test in any way should decide what classes a student takes needs to take a look at what true education is all about.

Thecryingboy

We are gearing our kids toward this ridiculous notion of “rigor” at a very early age in Delaware.  I get that children need to read at earlier ages.  But the way we are going about it, by taking away play time and stripping these innocent children from the very creativity which allows them to grow as a human being is truly sad.

UpsetTeenager

Every single parent of a Delaware student this is happening to needs to be very loud and vocal.  They need to tell the school Principal this is unacceptable.  If the Principal doesn’t bend, go to the Superintendent.  If the Superintendent doesn’t bend, go to the School Board.  Go to the State Board of Education.  Go to the media.  Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, Delaware State News, and the News Journal.  Spread this to everyone you know on Facebook and other social media.  Email your friends and family about this.  Nothing in Delaware ever changes unless the people speak.  And on this issue, parents MUST speak.  And for those parents who don’t have kids in AP classes, if they are doing this to those students, just imagine how they are classifying other kids.  The best thing you can all do is opt out in mass numbers to make this waste of a test invalid.  That is the greatest option to end the destruction of public education.  You need to advocate for your child.  You are their parent.  If they are a victim of this insane testing abuse, you have to speak up for them.  Do not believe the lies far too many schools, districts, education non-profits like Rodel, and certain legislators are telling you.

It’s bad enough the Delaware DOE endorses ethical trickery with parents who try to opt their kids out.  It’s bad enough the Smarter Balanced Assessment students take isn’t the same test for every student (which in my mind makes this test worth less than fools gold).  But now we have this.  This is a state assessment.  Not a district mandated, or even school related assessment.  It was created by the state for state usage.  It should have absolutely no bearing on a student’s classroom progress.  Using Smarter Balanced as a competency-based model of student achievement is not a good idea at all.

crying-girl1

Can you imagine how students feel, who try their best in school, only to be victimized because of a once a year test?  The heartbreak they feel, like they just aren’t good enough.  This is what Delaware education has become, a travesty of epic proportions.  We have turned the Smarter Balanced Assessment into the center of education.  If it isn’t data walls, it’s accountability.  If it isn’t libraries closing for weeks at a time, it is teacher evaluations based on this wretched test.  If it isn’t state special education ratings from the feds, it’s standards-based IEPs designed to “help” kids do better on this test.  If it isn’t reshuffling of classrooms to have high-performing SBAC students help low-performing SBAC students, it’s fighting parents when they don’t want their kids taking the test.  If it isn’t students with disabilities being forced to take this test for 2-3 times longer than their peers, it’s the State Board of Education passing opt-out penalties in their school report card accountability joke.  This is NOT the best test Delaware ever made, despite Governor Markell’s comments to the contrary.

ChildCrying

When the 149th General Assembly reconvenes in January, their top priority needs to be setting firm laws dictating what this test can and can’t be used for.  They also need to finish the job with opt out and codify a parent’s right to opt their child out of these punitive tests without penalty to the student in any way, whether it is AP classes, graduation, summer school, standards-based IEPs, abuse by administration, or denying a student the ability to choice to another school.  This could have been written into law last January.  I warned them then this issue was only going to get worse.  My advice was unheeded by the majority of them.  Those that supported the override attempt know the real deal.  Those who didn’t need to seriously rethink their position on this.

And for any school in this state that has any type of data wall up in classrooms or anywhere in your schools with student names on them, take them down now.  The days of shaming students for a state assessment are done.  If any parent sees these data walls in any school, please take a picture of them and send them to me at kevino3670@yahoo.com and I will file a Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) complaint the very same day.  I will need to know the name of the school and the district.  I am in the process of filing a few of these today.

The abuse of students in this state needs to stop.  These are children, not testing guinea pigs for the data freaks.  Is this really what education is about?  Mental torture of children?  All in the name of progress and accountability.  I don’t think so.  People wonder why I am so passionate about education.  This is the main reason.  What we are doing to kids.  We are destroying the future.

NotGoodEnough

 

Charter Bias, Bad Math & Lack Of Integrity Shine In News Journal Article About District-Charter Funding War

The News Journal just put up an article on the charter school funding scam and their bias towards charters is painfully clear.

Saranac Spencer has just proven herself as one of the worst education reporters in the history of Delaware.  First off, I know you reached out to more people than Alison May, Bob Silber, Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and two legislators for this article.  Second of all, you didn’t research the facts behind this story at all.  If the charter supporters were so shocked by the reversal of the Delaware DOE’s decision because they planned for it in their budgets, didn’t that throw up a major red flag for you?  The districts didn’t know about this at all until last week.  Charters planned their budgets months ago.  Doesn’t that point you in a direction of collusion Ms. Spencer?  Do you even know how to investigate an issue?  I know you read my blog post.  You completely ignored the fact this was done in closed-door meetings at the DOE by a rogue Associate Secretary of Education and Secretary Godowsky didn’t even know about this until last week.  That was the true story here.  But you used the word transparency once in the article.

Furthermore, the DOE didn’t “begin looking into this in April”.  It was brought to them by Greg Meece and his merry band of firestarters over at Newark Charter School.  Or, as you put it, the beneficiary of $1 million dollars in this debacle.  The fact that the DOE is in negotiations on this matter after Secretary Godowsky told legislators this would NOT happen this year shows them to be proven liars, yet again.

May said Wednesday night that the department was in discussions with district and charter leaders that would determine which formula would ultimately be used this year.

And what you didn’t even touch on is the fact that the DOE (or is it?) is eliminating the match tax allocations from a restricted status.  Yeah, you forgot that VERY big part.

For the 2016 fiscal year, the district had excluded $9.3 million. Under the adjusted formula for the 2017 fiscal year, it would only be able to exclude about $650,000.

Actually publishing this elusive formula would help.  Did you even bother to look at Christina’s budget to see what that means?  What programs and district services would have to be cut for Christina students?  Take away from poor students so the more affluent students at Newark Charter can get more “cafetoriums” and Title I awards when they aren’t even a Title I school?  And before some NCS parent or teacher says “that is federal money”, you’re missing my point.  No.  Not one mention of that.  It’s all about what the poor charters aren’t getting.  Poor Greg Meece.  Boo-Hoo.  Poor Kendall Massett.  Boo-friggin-Hoo.  Ms. Spencer didn’t even bother to see what those cuts are and what they will mean.  She took the side of the charter advocates and didn’t even ask the districts what their opinion was.  That is bad journalism and in very poor taste on a controversial issue.  I  got lambasted by those “charter school supporters” because my article wasn’t “true journalism”.  Guess what, your article was not true journalism.  Not even close.  I have a good excuse.  This is a blog.  But you, you represent the largest newspaper in the state.  And your taking sides is not a good work ethic or even close to journalistic integrity.  How about the News Journal starts to really investigate what goes on in this state instead of being a public relations vessel for the DOE and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  It is getting really old.

But the worst bit of sloppiness in the article is the fact that THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP!  If you look at Christina’s preliminary FY2017 budget, there is something very wrong with her figures.  To anyone who decides to look up their budget, it shows over $49 million in Christina’s local restricted budget.  Now I can figure out where she got her $9.3 million figure from very clearly.  But to the readers of the News Journal who don’t happen to venture over here or bother to look up their budget, it paints a picture that Christina is skewing their numbers by 94%.  That is just bad journalism.  When the true story, based on what the charters are claiming to be true, is a very different percentage.  That comes out to 17.8% if  you take the TOTAL restricted funds they have of $48,389,296 by the very disputable $8.6 million the charters are claiming to be shortchanged from.  See what they did there?  Painting a picture like that on an already controversial issue is very deceptive.  It makes me wonder who in editorial is doing the fact-checking and let’s this hack work through to the printing press.

FY2016&2017CSD

If you subtract $650,000 from $9.3 million, you get $8,650,000.  Which number in this scenario shows $9,306,899?  That would be salary and wages.  But what the News Journal seems to forget is the fact that this district had a referendum last year.  And certain funds were earmarked out of the referendum revenue they will get to support the promises from that referendum.  Like restoring positions they cut when they lost their referendum attempts last year.  Which they have to do.  But the News Journal Lois Lane wannabe doesn’t bother to look into that important detail.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach plays the wishy-washy side here.

“The main concern is not that we are looking at the formula,” said state Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark. “The main concern is that too few eyes were looking at the formula.”

So whose responsibility is that?  What Rep. Baumbach fails to mention here is who has determined the formula for many years.  It is not the Delaware Department of Education.  It is the Office of Management and Budget, which comes out of the Governor’s office.  I pointed out in an article last night there was something very wrong with Christina jumping from $2.4 million to $7.3 million in payments to Newark Charter School over a three-year time span.  Especially when Newark Charter’s students that choiced from Christina only went from 1200 to 2000 in the same timeframe.  For a formula that hasn’t changed in well over a decade, except for minor inflation costs, that sure is one hell of a leap.  What has the Office of Management and Budget been doing with this formula?  Was this the same Office of Management and Budget that forced the Delaware Auditor of Accounts Office that forced Kathleen Davies to be put on leave?  The Auditor of Accounts for Delaware who was investigating charter schools in various inspections at the time?  One of which just so happened to be Newark Charter School?  I know that is a fact because I gave them the tip!  It looks to me like Newark Charter School has benefitted from this elusive formula for years!  Betcha didn’t know that very important fact Ms. Spencer!

The News Journal only mentions Baumbach and State Rep. Kim Williams as the legislators who reached out to Godowsky last Sunday.  There were many more.

But the topping on this farce of an article was the quote from Kendall Massett, of the lobbyist Delaware Charter Schools Network.

“This should not be a district-charter fight,” Massett said. “It’s about equity.”

Equity?  Coming from a paid lobbyist?  This woman has the unmitigated gall to bring up equity?  When she knows exactly what Newark Charter School does?  My God Kendall, please, just stop.  Equity and equality are too very different things.  Equity in this conversation would be closing down Newark Charter School based on their 21st Century racism, discrimination, and social engineering.  It is RACISM folks.  They can say they are coming around to it now, but the way their school is structured now with their demographics, it would take years for them to turn this discrimination factory around.  It is the affluent keeping out the unwanted.  It is segregation.  The very same school that will get more money and wants to cry poor?  When they just spent over $1.4 million dollars on a STEM lab and a performing arts center (or cafetorium as some may want to call it), when they refused to let a disabled six year old girl apply for their precious lottery until we beat them up over that?  Or when they get Federal money designed for Title I schools and they aren’t EVEN A TITLE I SCHOOL?  And our Delaware DOE was the one that submitted them for the award?  And they only qualified because the surrounding district was Title I?  The fact that this school applied for grant money, DOE performance funds, and a minor modification for a “performing arts center” that is actually a cafeteria and an auditorium already shows their inability to tell the truth.  And people just keep handing them dollar after dollar, and they want more.  Wake up!  Don’t you see what is going on here?

If this goes through tomorrow, Secretary Godowsky will have gone back on his word to the General Assembly legislators.  When he knew about this is immaterial at this point.  He knows about it now.  And if he does go through with it, we all know it isn’t even him making this decision.  It is Governor Jack Markell.  If this doesn’t go through, and things stay on course with our largest media outlet in the state heavily slanted on the charter side of the equation, it will happen eventually.  For a state that wants to do soooo much to help our kids in poverty and who are considered at-risk, we sure have a funny way of showing it.