The Peculiarities Of The Charter School Lawsuit

wheelsonthebus

It struck me, as I awoke today at 5:30am, that some things involved with the charter school lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE, that the charters were well aware of a simple fact.

Christina did not pass two referenda in 2015.  As a result, their funding from Christina was going to be less per student than what it had been last year.  With referendum, it doesn’t really kick in until the next school year.  You still have to get the taxes from the people.  So they were all warned.  They knew their payments would be less.  This is why Greg Meece became desperate, searching for needles in a haystack.  Anything to get mo money.  It’s kind of like a scientific experiment.  You want to turn air into gold.  You know it won’t work, but you keep trying.  So Meece began his journey last winter, looking for anything to justify his school getting more money.

He had help.  Of that I am nearly certain.  Someone had to give him something to look for.  Whether he searched out that person or they came to him is a matter of debate.  Meece also knew he had big financial issues coming up if he didn’t get that money.  This school year was the year his long-held dream came to fruition: a K-12 school.  His students would finally become seniors.  But if he was getting less per student, who would pay for these rising costs to run NCS?

Out of all the 15 charter schools who filed suit, NCS has the most to gain.  But do you want to know who will most likely get the most money, if they should prevail?  Saul Ewing LLP.  The attorneys always make out like bandits!

Another thing struck me.  I’ve been very hard on David Blowman through all this.  But if the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education is the one that sends the charter bills to the districts, and Blowman was attempting to make some type of course correction from previous years, then who was the one sending the prior charter bills?  Last winter, David Blowman and Karen Field-Rogers switched places at the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Blowman used to be the Deputy Secretary of Education.  Field-Rogers was the Assistant Deputy.  Which means she was the one sending the charter bills to the districts all those years.  Or at the very least, signing off on them.  I’m sure I could go back years and years on this, all the way back to 2008 which seems to be this critical flashpoint for the charters.  I’m sure there were others.  Under that theory, if Christina submitted exclusions to the DOE and the DOE signed off on them, the case against Christina is gone.  This is all on the DOE, not Christina.  Legally, it doesn’t matter if the DOE should or shouldn’t have approved those exclusions, the simple fact remains that they did.

Here is another one.  Godowsky didn’t know about this until after the charter bills went out.  So why is Godowsky named in the lawsuit?  He inherited another DOE employee’s mess.  But Godowsky’s job, as per Delaware law, is to either change the formula or have it remain the same, by September 1st of each year.  The local funding formula did not change.  Because e=mc² no matter what the variables are in each part.  So Godowsky didn’t change the formula after September 1st, he changed the amount based on the already existing formula which he didn’t even know about until after it was done to begin with.  There is a huge difference.  I know, I’m defending the Delaware Secretary of Education here, but I do believe in fairness.

But here is the kicker.  If the charters win, they stand to get a bucketload of money, right?  Which would cause Christina to most likely seek another referendum.  Which would give the charters even more money based on the court-approved decision with the exclusions.  But if Christina lost that referendum, the charters would get less money the next year (like what happened to them this year based on the 2015 failed referenda).  Or, if they put Christina into such a financial pickle the State of Delaware had to bail them out, they would then be relying on getting funding from the same entity they sued.  But if the Christina School District went bankrupt, and the state took them over or converted the whole district to charter schools, and the state only gives so much to each district or charter, what would happen to the 15 charters share of local funding if the local district isn’t there anymore?  They would wind up with less money.  Or even better yet, if WEIC goes through and the Christina Wilmington schools convert over to Red Clay before this goes to court, would they then have to include Red Clay in the suit even though Red Clay’s local funding to charters is different?  I don’t think they thought this through long-term.  I can’t believe the “charter school Don” as Kilroy puts it even took this case.

If their “smoking gun” is what I think it is…good luck with that one 15 charters!  Meanwhile, the wheels on the bus go round and round…

Big Issues In Indian River: Upcoming Referendum, Pending Audit Inspection, Federal Discrimination Lawsuit, and A Shrinking Budget

indian-river

The Indian River School District has seen better times.  While the embattled district faces an upcoming referendum in November, they must also contend with a huge influx of new students, a discrimination lawsuit, a budget that cannot handle itself, and an audit coming out this month from the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office.  Hopefully the last will answer the question of what their former Chief Financial Officer Patrick Miller was up to.  As I reported last month, sources contacted me under anonymity that Miller somehow absconded with millions of dollars in his time as CFO of the district.

Coastal Point reported on September 23rd that Indian River is not the only school district under review by the state Auditor’s office.  But, as usual, they are not ponying up any details.  I get that, but at the same time it gives them the capability of making things disappear when things get too hot in the kitchen, like the charter school petty cash audit.

“We like doing these things quietly (and make the announcement) when we’re done and we have a report for the public, so there’s not speculation out there,” Wagner said. “People get into wild speculations, and we try to avoid all that.”

On November 22nd, the district will attempt an operating expense referendum, as detailed on their website:

The district is proposing a tax increase of 49 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The measure will raise $7,350,000 in additional local revenue. The average district taxpayer will see an increase of $95.41 in his or her annual property tax bill.

But Coastal Point indicates this may not be the only referendum the school will ask for this school year:

More students means less space for each, so IRSD is working with the Department of Education to potentially build new schools and classrooms. That could possibly mean another referendum in the spring of 2017, for major capital improvement (to build new schools) and current expenses (if more money is needed for continuing costs).

Taxpayers in the district, especially elderly ones, are not going to like the proposition of two tax increases in less than a year.  In the Coastal Point article, Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner indicated the investigative audit against Indian River School District will most likely be released to the district first for them to review.  After that it will be released to the public.  Will it come out before the November 22nd referendum?  That could be important for many reasons.  If the audit comes back finding something bad, and it comes out before the referendum, that could cause voters to vote no.  If it comes out after, taxpayers will say they felt cheated.  As well, a post-referendum release could assure a failure of the potential 2nd referendum vote next spring.

The district was very clear about the ramifications of a failed referendum on November 22nd:

If the referendum is not approved by voters, the district could face cuts to school safety, a significant reduction in staff due to an inability to meet payroll, larger class sizes, further discretionary budget cuts, the loss of staff to other school districts and inadequate instructional supplies and materials.

But financial issues are not the only crisis in the district.  There is also the matter of what happened earlier this week.  On Tuesday, October 4th, it was publicly announced the Coalition for Education Reform filed a federal lawsuit against Indian River.  Their allegations claim the district sent a disproportionate number of African-American students to an alternative special education school called the George Washington Carver Academy.  According to Randall Chase with WDEL 101.7FM:

The Coalition for Education Reform claimed that the district is using the George Washington Carver Academy, a special education school, as a “punitive dumping ground” for black students branded as “troublemakers.”  The group says black students are being removed from mainstream schools and sent to Carver in disproportionate numbers on flimsy pretexts and for arbitrary periods of time, while their educational needs are neglected.

As a parent of a special needs child, I can’t even begin to express how much this concerns me.  Shuffling off any students to different schools over discipline issues has become the quick Band-Aid for many Delaware school districts.  And some charter schools either expel the student or counsel them out.  While a federal lawsuit may not play out for a long time, I have to wonder if the district knew this was coming and is beginning to look at this in future budgets should they lose.

It looks like the Christina School District is not the only district in the state facing an avalanche of issues all at once.