Tony Allen: Lawsuit Coming If We Don’t Fix Wilmington Schools

Tony Allen issued a stern warning about Wilmington schools.  He said a lawsuit is coming soon if we don’t fix it.

Last Wednesday evening, the Progressive Democrats of Delaware held a panel on Delaware education funding.  The panelists were myself, Tony Allen (the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission), Brian Stephan (on the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee), and State Rep. Paul Baumbach.

The main emphasis of the panel was to discuss the pros and cons of implementing a weighted funding system for Delaware schools.  In this type of system, students with higher needs would have more money allocated to them.  These would include low-income students, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.  For the last, this already takes place with the exception of basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

All the panelists were in agreement that the system we have is not working at all.  While I don’t necessarily have an issue with a weighted funding system, the devil is in the details.  But beneath the surface, as I stated towards the end of the panel, is the huge elephant in the room concerning accountability.  Not for standardized tests but where money is currently going.  There is no viable mechanism in Delaware to ensure the funds we are using in public education are truly going to the needs of students.  Our state auditor is supposed to audit every single traditional school district for all expenses, but when was the last time we saw one of those reports unless it was part of an official audit inspection?  There is no consistency with where funds are going.  There are so many sub-groups of payment allocations with many overlapping each other.  It is a beast to understand.  Coding expenses in definitive places is a must, but no one seems to want to address that at a state level.  It is my contention that throwing more money into the system is a recipe for disaster.

Say the advocates for better education in Wilmington schools do file a lawsuit.  What would the result be?  The feds have made important decisions in the past that put temporary band-aids on the issues but eventually the situation with “failing schools” comes up again and again.  The definition of a “failing school” is now tied to standardized tests.  It is the heart of all accountability in public education.  But it fails to address the issues facing students of poverty, spoken languages that are not English, and disabilities that are neurologically based.  The “one size fits all” mentality, which the Delaware Dept. of Education is still pushing in their first draft of the Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, doesn’t work.

Tony Allen told the group he was disappointed the WEIC Redistricting Plan didn’t pass in the General Assembly.  He said, without hesitation, that he fears a lawsuit will have to happen to truly address the issues facing Wilmington students.  He did concede that one of the biggest issues facing WEIC was not having representation from Kent and Sussex counties in the group.  This was something I advised WEIC about in public comment at their very first meeting in August of 2015.  It was also why I didn’t go to as many meetings as I could have.  But will a federal lawsuit fix Wilmington schools?

In my opinion, the biggest problem in Delaware education among high-needs students is a problem no judge, accountability system, General Assembly, or any advocate can fix: hopelessness.  In our biggest cities in the state, and reaching out into the suburbs and rural areas, is a drug problem of epic proportions.  And with African-American youth, that comes with a potential of joining a gang.  Until that problem is fixed, we will continue to spin our wheels trying to fix education.  We can have after-school programs and more guidance counselors in our schools.  That will help, but it will NOT solve the problem.  I don’t have the answer to that.  I don’t know who does.  But until we can fix that problem, making our schools the penicillin for the disease facing our state will not get to the heart of the issue.  With the drugs and gangs come extreme violence and people getting shot in the streets.  This “be tough or die” mentality is the deadliest issue facing Delaware.  And when those issues come into our schools, that is when education gets put in the bulls-eye of blame.

I have no doubt, at some point, Tony Allen, Jea Street and others will file some huge lawsuit against the State of Delaware.  And many will look towards a judge to solve all our problems.  It won’t.  Until we get really tough on hopelessness, we will fail.

Now Governor Markell Wants All State Employees To Make Better Choices With Healthcare

All Delaware state employees, including public school ones, are “strongly encouraged” to take an online class on “Being A Wise Health Care Consumer”.  I have to wonder how the data on this is being tracked!  But seriously, health care costs are completely out of control.  For my own job, a good chunk of my paycheck goes toward medical, dental, and vision insurance.  It has risen dramatically in the over five years I have been at this job.  I don’t see this trend ending anytime soon.

Dear Fellow Employees,

 

Recently, Governor Markell sent an email strongly encouraging all benefit-eligible state, school district and charter school employees to complete the “Being a Wise Health Care Consumer” online course by December 26, 2016.  A special thanks to the more than 5,500 employees who have completed the course so far!  We are asking those of you who have not completed the consumerism course to take the time to learn how you can be part of the team to help control the rising costs of health care!  Learn more and access the course at de.gov/healthconsumer.

 
de.gov
State of Delaware – Office of Management and Budget – Statewide Benefits Office – Health Care Consumerism

 

What are employees saying about the course?

 

I will make better use of all of the information available to my family using the tools offered through our health plan.  The information presented about Emergency Room verses Urgent Care cost was eye-opening.  Any information about prevention is especially important to me and my family.  I am excited to look into having a health coach.  This was all very helpful and interesting and I am glad I took the time to take this training course.

 

“Thanks for providing this course.  Not only will it save the State of Delaware money, it will also save me some money and I learned about ways to get medical needs addressed in a much easier and cost effective manner.  Very good information…”

 

“I actually enjoyed this training.  Reduces some of the mystique re: health care benefits.  Also, it reminded me to call my PCP & schedule my yearly physical…”

 

“All of the information was useful, and it allowed me to see why the cost of our insurance increase.  I didn’t know why it was growing so much until I learned about the facts…”

 

“I found the information very useful about the Telemedicine resource that is available to me.  I found all of the information about prevention very interesting and I plan to use the resources available to me regarding Managing Stress and information on Cholesterol levels.”

 

All of it is useful… I’ve lived in six states and DE is the only one that provides this information, so I’m grateful for the educational experience.”

 

Overall results from the survey of employees completing the course indicate that 93% of participants agree that they learned ways to save money and improve/maintain the health and well-being of themselves and their family! A similar percentage felt that the course helped them understand how to be an overall better health care consumer.

 

Why is completing the online course so important?

 

In addition to helping you and your family save money and be healthy, we are focused on controlling health care costs for our State.  One of the biggest challenges the State of Delaware faces as an employer is the increasing cost of health care for employees.

 

Expenditures in the State Group Health Insurance Program (GHIP) have risen almost 50 percent since the start of the decade.  This trend is not sustainable.  Skyrocketing costs of employee health care mean potentially millions of dollars that the State would be unable to invest in areas important to all Delawareans such as improving our schools, protecting our environment, making our neighborhoods safer and maintaining our quality of life across our State.

 

The “Being a Wise Health Care Consumer” online course is one important step to help our members understand the costs of health care for themselves as well as to the GHIP.  The course is designed to promote smart consumerism and increase employee’s understanding and use of wellness, disease management and preventive services and tools.

It will take a team approach with all of us doing our part as educated health care consumers to control health care costs and ensure great care is available and affordable for present and future employees.  Putting our health and wellness first also means greater happiness, longevity, family time, feeling better, having more energy and maintaining independence as we get older.  These are benefits to all of us, both at home and at work.

Thank you,

The State Employee Benefits Committee (SEBC)

Members:

Brian Maxwell, SEBC Chair, Director-Office of Management and Budget

Tom Cook, Secretary-Department of Finance

Geoff Klopp, President of Correctional Officers Association of Delaware

Rita Landgraf, Secretary-Department of Health and Social Services

Michael Morton, Controller General

Ken Simpler, State Treasurer

Karen Weldin Stewart, Insurance Commissioner

Leo E. Strine, Chief Justice-Supreme Court

For information about the SEBC, visit www.ben.omb.delaware.gov/sebc.