Don’t let your special needs child fall victim to “new”​ Federal and State voucher/choice policies

This article originally appeared on long-time Delaware special education advocate Steve Newton’s LinkedIn account yesterday.  I read it today and Steve not only hit a grand-slam with this article, but he hit it out of the park!  This is the must-read of the month and the timeliness of this could not be more important!  Normally, I would italicize this but for reasons which will soon become clear, I did not.  Great job Steve!

The road is about to get a lot rougher for special needs kids in America’s schools

It’s never been easy.

IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act] was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 to stiffen the supports for disability-challenged American students that already existed in Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. IDEA established the rules for determining the need for special services, how supports within the education system would be determined, and provided for their monitoring via IEPs [Individualized Education Plans]. The trifold intent of IDEA was to (a) guarantee parents and students a role, a voice, and an appeals option in the process; (b) fund services that would allow special needs students to receive FAPE [Free Appropriate Public Education]; and create mechanisms for monitoring/enforcing the entire process.

Despite the fact that none of those goals has ever really been attained (Congress has never fully funded IDEA in any budget in the past 27 years), IDEA represented a massive improvement for special needs students across America. Millions of kids with specific Learning Disabilities (as in Math or English), with Emotional Disabilities, with ADHD, with Autism, and with other, lesser-known disabilities managed to finish school and go on to college, or employment, and independent, productive lives. Flawed as it is in the execution, IDEA has been a hugely successful law.

But the last decade has seen major problems setting in Continue reading Don’t let your special needs child fall victim to “new”​ Federal and State voucher/choice policies

Christina School Board Tackles Student Immigrant Status Round Two With Proposed Board Policy

Last month, the Christina School District Board of Education failed to pass a resolution regarding safe harbor for students in the district who could be targeted by ICE officials.  Never one to quit, board member John Young wrote a policy for the board to look at for their next meeting.  I like this policy.  It is very thorough and states explicitly what can and should happen.  I would be shocked if the board didn’t pass this one.  I hope the discussion has the same harmony the above picture of the board has!

Longhurst Letter Questions Where The Hell Existing After-School Money Is Going

Good old Jack Wells.  Strong in the Force is that one!  When State Rep. Val Longhurst released her final report on the SAIL Task Force, which is basically asking for more education funding for after-school programs, the News Journal took the bait.  But so did Jack Wells, Delaware’s financial Yoda (especially with Red Clay funds).  So much so he wrote a very public letter to Rep. Longhurst.

TO:  House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst;

I support your efforts for more affordable after-school programs and bring together a collection of leading after-school care providers, educators and state agencies.  To be honest I believe many expenditures being charged to education revenue should be the responsibility of other state agencies.

In fiscal year 2016, DID our districts and charter schools expend more per student on EPER athletics, EPER extra curricular activities, and EPER miscellaneous, than on providing additional help to our children to improve their achievement in reading, math and other critical subjects.  I have no doubt very little of the $35 million expended for EPER was expended to provide additional assistance to improve the achievement of our children in reading, math, and other critical subjects.

After reading the recommendations regarding the lack of after school programs being provided to our children,  I cannot help but wonder why no comments where made on the after school programs currently being provided to our children by our districts and charter schools, programs that are funded from local school taxes, I would estimate at a cost of $35 million dollars.

Last year our districts and charter schools expended $19,043,456 to cover the salary cost for Extra Pay for Extra Responsibilities, EPER, when you include pension cost, 22.28% and other employment cost, 18.83% the cost for EPER compensation was $26,872,126.

In addition $2,335,617 was expended for Athletic Equipment and Supplies and $2,510,162 for Student Body Activities, added to these cost, must be custodian overtime, transportation, maintaining facilities, game officials, security, energy, association dues, conference fees, uniforms, etc..

The question which must be answered is, How and where was this $35 million dollars used.  What I do know is that EPER has 3 categories, Athletics, Extra Curricular Activities and Miscellaneous, shown below are compensation cost for each category.  I believe it’s reasonable to believe that almost all of the compensation cost for EPER Athletics, $9,559,540 was used in our 9-12 grade schools, as was the cost of game officials, conference fees, supplies and equipment, maintaining facilities, etc.. 

I also know that last year the principals in Red Clay 9-12 grade schools expended $439.53 per student, while the principals in K-5 expended $173.85 and middle school principals $198.97.  Why the difference? Was it EPER?

Shown below are the salary, pension and Other Employment cost for each category of EPER.

     Salary          Pension            OEC              Total

$6,774,596   $1,509,379   $1,275,565   $9,559,540   Athletics

$5,750,613   $1,281,236   $1,082,840   $8,114,689   Extra Curricular Activities

$6,518,247   $1,452,265   $1,227,385   $9,197,897   Miscellaneous.

Finally I would like to point out that the local salary cost for EPER of $19,043,456 is only exceeded by the local salary cost of our teachers, principals, assistant principals, custodians and salaries general, clearly this is a major local expense that only a very few have any idea of how and where it is being used and how it benefits our children.

Are our K-5 and 6-8 grade students being provided the same amount of local revenue for additional programs as our high schools?  Does the funding of athletics have a higher priority than funding additional help to our children who need help in reading, math, etc.?

I ask that you Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Task Force review how and where EPER expenditures are used and report your findings to the residents when requesting additional revenue.

http://delawarestatenews.net/news/task-force-recommends-expanded-school-programs/?utm_source=Delaware&utm_campaign=12397b98e6-Delaware+State+News+Daily+Enewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1e4f95e41f-12397b98e6-35998

Jack Wells