2017 Stats To Date And What Is Coming

2017 has been an odd year for Exceptional Delaware.  There has been a ton of transition, between a new Governor, a new Delaware Secretary of Education, and very peculiar budget issues plaguing Delaware schools.  But the biggest post by far has been a recent one about a particular charter school in Newark and their 5 mile radius.

Top 17 Posts of 2017 So Far:

  1. Newark Charter School Doesn’t Want Wilmington Black Kids Or Wilmington Special Needs Kids Going To Their Private School
  2. Thom Labarbera, Brandywine Social Studies Teacher, Passes Away
  3. Delaware Racism: It Is Real And It Is Not Going Away
  4. Racial Slurs Appear To Go Unpunished For DE Military Academy While A.I. DuPont Basketball Team Suspended For Rest Of Season
  5. What To Make Of Bad News Betsy’s Letter About ESSA To Chief State School Officers
  6. Silence Is Complicity: Human Sex Trafficking In Delaware and How I-95, Craiglist, Backpage, & Kik Make It Thrive
  7. Delaware Joint Finance Committee Cuts State Board of Education From State Budget, DONE!!!
  8. Wahl v. Brandywine Case Settles! Justice For Joseph & An End To Zero Tolerance In Brandywine!
  9. Jack Markell Under Investigation By Ed Authorities ***DEBUNKED***APRIL FOOL’S DAY***
  10. 77 Teachers On The Chopping Block For Christina School District, Increased Classroom Sizes As Well!
  11. Not A Good Day For Christina
  12. **UPDATED**Christina Public Comment By Board Member Alleges Involvement Of Other Board Members In Hate Emails
  13. Final Delaware 2017 School Board Filings
  14. Exceptional Delaware Endorsements For 2017 School Board Elections
  15. Don’t let your special needs child fall victim to “new” Federal and State voucher/choice policies
  16. Cut The Admins In Districts & Schools? How Many Are There? TONS!
  17. Exceptional Delaware Endorses John Marino For The 10th Senate District

Like I said, this has been an odd year.  Because of so many changes, I’ve found that some folks I allied with on just about everything have shifted somewhat in their line of thinking.  We still agree on a lot of the old stuff (Common Core, Opt Out) but the lines have gotten very blurry in some areas.  I endorsed John Marino in the 10 Senate District Special Election and caught holy hell for it.  Issues involving racism filled up three of the top four articles.  My first foray into Human Sex Trafficking yielded a lot of reads.  The month of May has been the biggest month so far this year.  Between the school board elections, budget cuts, and the infamous HS1 for House Bill 85, over 50,000 people visited the blog this month.  7 out of 17 articles are from May.  An April Fool’s Day joke apparently fooled many people judging by Jack Markell’s place on this list.

Expect the unexpected in the month of June.  I can tell you now a lot of articles will be about the state budget, the effects it will have on Delaware schools, and the shenanigans down at Legislative Hall.  It will culminate on June 30th/July 1st as the legislators try to get it all done so they can have their long 4th of July weekend.

I’ve had more than my usual requests lately for writing about certain things.  I’m actually going to hold off on some of those until July.  The main reason for that is due to the state budget sucking up all the oxygen in the room.  I have a couple articles where people want to talk about new ideas for education but all any school district or charter really cares about now is the budget and what impact it is going to have on them.  If the State Board of Education is truly done, there are going to be a ton of legislation dealing with that.  The most controversial two words between now and the end of June: Epilogue Language.

If you want to help this blog, please go here and if you have the means and are able to help out, I would be forever grateful!  And a huge thank you to those who have chipped in.  I was talking to someone last night about how I am the last of the education bloggers in Delaware (without an agenda).  We were discussing if someone else is going to enter the rat race.  Who will be the next Delaware education blogger that churns stuff out?  Can’t wait to meet you!

 

The Day Transparency Truly Died In Delaware

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee told a packed room they would not be releasing lists of budget cuts to the media or the public today.  This is truly disheartening.  Does this mean we can only rely on what is said verbally at their meetings?  Yes, I published a full list of the cuts up until yesterday.  But I assumed that information is public and never questioned once that it shouldn’t be.  I guess the Delaware Joint Finance Committee doesn’t want the public weighing in on all their cuts.  James Dawson with Delaware Public Media released the following tweet today in response to this:

As well, the JFC decided it won’t meet again this week to give the General Assembly time to come up with some revenue raising legislation.  To date, the JFC has cut $80 million from the budget with about $140 million left to go.  To say the situation is becoming serious would be an understatement.  Once again, Dawson released a tweet about this:

I attended probably the last third of the meeting today.  Since no sheets were released, I have nothing new to report.  I will rely on the mainstream media for that as they were in attendance the whole time.

When Governor Markell was Governor of Delaware, I complained about the lack of transparency constantly.  It doesn’t look like our JFC and Governor Carney’s office learned the lessons from the prior administration.  The people of Delaware deserve better than this.

 

As Deep Budget Cuts Loom, Will New Tax Bills Save The Day In Delaware?

Fiscal Year 2018 will involve a lot of pain if the Joint Finance Committee’s marked-up state budget continues down the same dark path it is on now.  While some cuts seem like a good idea, others will make children go without desperately needed services.  The State Board of Education is kaput if everything stays the same.  But could new tax bills, which would bring in more revenue to the state, cause some of those cuts to disappear?

In Delaware, the General Assembly needs a 3/5 vote to pass any revenue bills.  In the House, that requires 25 yes votes and in the Senate, 13.  This is where it gets very tricky.  The House has 25 Democrats and 16 Republicans.  The Senate has 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans.  The House could conceivably pass the budget just on their Democrat base, but complications could easily arise.  Some Dems in the House will not favor certain perks in the epilogue language, such as the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund.  There is at least one Democrat, State Rep. John Kowalko, who will not say yes to the budget if that is in there.  The Republicans in both houses want something: prevailing wage.  They have wanted this for years, but this could be the year where they get what they want, or at least make some inroads towards it.

The Joint Finance Committee has to make the cuts until they see more revenue.  Are they going after some of the programs that help people the most?  Not yet.  But today is another day and is expected to be uglier than yesterday.  The JFC does not meet again until Tuesday, June 6th.  I expect a whirlwind of activity at Legislative Hall every single day someone is there between now and July 1st.

In Governor Carney’s proposed budget, the local share of student transportation costs went from 10% to 15%.  Yesterday, the Joint Finance Committee raised that to 20% with the expectation the school districts can recoup those costs from this mythological one-time Match Tax.  Carney proposed the district school boards utilize this option without a referendum.  Let’s be very clear on this: if this happens, do not expect taxpayers to pass referenda any time soon.

No matter how this plays out, John Carney’s vision of shared sacrifice will have winners and losers.  If the uber-wealthy get more perks like the estate tax repeal, it will become very obvious who is pulling the strings behind the curtain at Legislative Hall in Dover.

All The JFC Cuts & Reductions To Delaware FY2018 Budget Up To Today

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee had one hell of a mark-up session today with the State Budget for Fiscal Year 2018.  The following are programs that will be eliminated or have their budgets reduced.  I hope they have a lot of pens down there, because this process is not done yet.  Education wasn’t even supposed to happen today except for higher education.  Most of the education power-brokers weren’t even there when this mighty swath of cuts came up!

Delaware Department of Education Eliminations

Infrastructure Capacity

Professional Development for Student Standards & Assessment

Dues for Southern Regional Education Board

State Board of Education

Michael C. Ferguson awards

20% Reduction in Scholarships and Grants

Teacher Leader Pilot program

Summer School: Gifted & Talented funding

Delaware Teacher Center

Career Transition

Delaware Geographic Alliance

Center for Economic Education

Gay Straight Alliance

Teacher stipends for service in high-risk schools through the Delaware Talent Cooperative

Adolescent Day Program

College Access: Dual Enrollment Subgrants, PSAT, Competition subgrants, Delaware College Scholars, College Application Month, Scholarship Compendium, Stand By Me with DHSS,

 

Other Dept. of Education Reductions or Shifts

Professional Accountability and Instructional Advancement fund: eliminates $157 per employee allocation

Driver’s Education: implements fee for non-public school students to pay for program costs

Public School Transportation: Increase local share from 15% to 20%

Reduce $2 million in early childhood incentives

Reduce the following by 5%: Odyssey of the Mind, Teacher of the Year, Educator Certificate & Development, Professional Standards Board, State Testing Comp., Parents as Teachers, Student Organizations, Technology Operations

 

Other big cuts or reductions in the State Budget

Eliminations: FY18 Appropriation for Victim Offender Mediation, FY18 Appropriation for Child Placement Review Board, Civil Indigent Services, Kids Count, International Trade, Italian/American Commission, Delaware Center for Global Trade, Delaware Art, Library DELNET computer system and computer equipment (shifts costs to counties), Medical Marijuana Appropriation, Hispanic Affairs Appropriation, Office of Volunteer Services, FY2018 Appropriations for Dept. of Corrections for Hope Commission, Mentor Programs, Pre-Trial Services provided by Rick Vanstory, Tire Scrap Management Fund, Agriculture Advertising Line, Agriculture Development Program Line, Alternative Agricultural Products Line, Nutrient Management Planning, Poultry Litter State Funding

Reductions: Dept. of Justice Transcription Services, Contractual Services, and Conflict Attorney Rates, Two full-time employee positions and reductes contractual services for Commission for Women, Drug Court Program (Dept. of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families), Child welfare/contractual services for foster care contracts and Ready by 21 program, Vocational Rehabilitation Contractual Services through Dept. of Labor, Reductions for Fire Prevent Commission including ballistic vests and statewide fire safety education

DHSS Reductions of 20%: Health Disparities, Preschool Diagnosis and Treatment, Immunizations, Hepatitis B, Needle Exchange Program, Infant Mortality Task Force, Cancer Council, Gift of Life, Delaware Organ and Tissue Program 2, Developmental Screening, Uninsured Action Plan, DIMES, Sickle Cell, Nurse Family Partnership, Prescription Drug Prevention.

 

For a full list of all the cuts and the amounts, please see the document below:

Delaware Joint Finance Committee Cuts State Board of Education From State Budget, DONE!!!!

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee completely cut the State Board of Education out of the budget for FY2018.  Also gone is the Teacher Resource Center.  To repeat, as of July 1st, the State Board of Education in Delaware will be NO MORE!  Other pass-through programs have been cut as well.  So far, ten million has been cut in pass-through programs.

This will give the Delaware Secretary of Education, currently Dr. Susan Bunting, will have sole authority to approve or deny charter school applications, modifications, renewals, as well as regulations and any district restructuring in Delaware.  This is big folks!

Updated, 7:29pm: From what I’m hearing, all these changes to the State Board of Education will be included in the epilogue language of the FY2018 budget.  It will give Secretary Bunting sole authority over anything the State Board of Education had a vote for.  This also includes appeals, i.e. Patrick Wahl’s fight with Brandywine’s Board of Education went to appeal with the State Board of Ed and he won.  The Secretary would approve or deny any charter applications, revocations, formal review status, and minor AND major modifications.  Regulations brought forth by the Dept. of Education and the Professional Standards Board would be handled by the Secretary as well.

This is a major shift in how Delaware education operates in this state.  I included a list of ALL the cuts and reductions in another post with amounts for each.  Which also included $1.5 million in cuts for the implementation of a Delaware Dept. of Education Employee Reduction Plan.

More information as it becomes available.

Carper & Blunt-Rochester Do Not Like Proposed Federal Education Budget

A couple of weeks ago, I sent emails to the Delaware members of Congress regarding President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposed education cuts.  I received responses from U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt-Rochester and U.S. Senator Tom Carper.  To date, U.S. Senator Chris Coons has been silent.  Betsy DeVos’ education budget promises to give more money to charter schools and plants funds for a nationwide school voucher system.  I am opposed to both.

 

Hard Times & Desperate Measures: Exceptional Delaware Needs Your Help

Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful. -Ric Ocasek

Continue reading Hard Times & Desperate Measures: Exceptional Delaware Needs Your Help

50CAN: Seeking More Local Investment to Advance Its Set Agenda

Hey, doesn’t Delaware have an offshoot of this? Called Delaware CAN?  Yes, they sure do!

deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

50CAN is a corporate reform organization that wants to expand many facets of education reform including increasing the number of charter schools (as well as the money they receive); promote the grading of schools using test scores, and passing state-level legislation for “achievement school districts” (state-run districts).

50CAN has a web site that offers a lot of information on what it believes it has accomplished and what it hopes to accomplish. Of course, one must get past the ed reform fluff, such as that on the opening page:

Hi there! We’re 50CAN!

We’re a nonprofit network of local leaders advocating for a high-quality education for all kids, regardless of their address.

A slight shift from the usual, “regardless of their zip code.”

The mission statement page is also hazy, but it does begin with the “regardless of their address” slogan:

We are guided by four foundational beliefs that make up our…

View original post 958 more words

A Review Of “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”: More Of The Same With No Solutions

A University of Delaware class called Documentary Production produced a video called “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”.  The cinematography of the video was good, but I feel it should have been renamed “Fixing Education In Wilmington” because that was pretty much what the video was about.

It gave a good history of segregation before 1954, but after that it focused solely on Wilmington.  But I found the stereotypes to be a bit too much.  The video primarily focuses on two Caucasian mothers.  One is in what appears to be a classroom, and the other is out in the suburbs in a very nice home.  When they do show African-Americans (aside from  Tony Allen), it is primarily urban Wilmington.  As if there are no African-Americans in the suburbs.

The TedX Wilmington videos shown in this are from Tony Allen, the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, and Dr. Paul Herdman, the CEO of the Rodel Foundation.  Other folks shown in the video are Dan Rich from the University of Delaware and one of the main WEIC players, Atnre Alleyne from DelawareCAN and TeenSHARP, and Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick.   There are cameos from Delaware Teacher of the Year Wendy Turner and the not-even sworn in yet Christina Board Member Meredith Griffin Jr.

Here is a newsflash.  There are 19 school districts in Delaware.  Up and down the state.  I love Wilmington, but if you are going to make a video called Fixing Education In The First State, you have to focus on the whole state.  This was one of the biggest mistakes WEIC made, focusing on Wilmington and expecting the rest of state to pick up the tab to fix Wilmington issues.  Yes, Wilmington is the biggest city, but many issues with poverty and low-income exist all over Delaware.

Like most discussions about “fixing” education in Delaware, we go through the history and the present situation.  Add some current events like the upcoming Colonial Referendum to make it current.  Show some shots from a WEIC meeting a few months ago when Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting attended for some extra oomph and importance.

I recognize segregation in Wilmington schools and what school choice has done to Northern New Castle County as major problems in Delaware.  But there are other equally important issues, only one of which was briefly touched on in the video- education funding.  We also have special education with a rapidly growing population of students with disabilities, standardized testing, a growing population of English Language Learners, a General Assembly that generally makes some very bad choices for our schools, bullying in our schools,the continued fall-out from the Race To The Top accountability era, a State Auditor who doesn’t audit school districts every year even though that office has to by state law, referenda, a new Governor that is putting a ton of cuts towards school districts (but not charters), the Rodel Foundation’s stranglehold on decisions made in education, data mining of personal student information, and the upcoming and very real threats of competency-based education, personalized learning, an eventual replacement of real teachers with glorified moderators instead in a digital technology wonderland, and the upcoming Blockchain technology which will institute a full-blown “digital badge” scenario, tracking children from cradle to grave and predetermined careers and what their societal worth will be.  And yes, even Social-Emotional Learning is in the process of getting hijacked by the corporate education reformers (more on that soon).

Many of these things aren’t on the radar as much as they should be.  We are still bickering over how to “fix” education but we are stumbling with talking about what is right in education.  We are in a constant state of flux, in a state of constant improvement.  This obsessive need for improvement is actually what is fracturing education the most in Delaware.  The problem comes when we try to measure all these changes by one standardized test.

For an eleven minute video, it would be impossible to catch all the issues in Delaware education.  But showing very old videos of Tony Allen and Paul Herdman don’t do much for me.  Most Delawareans really don’t know who the two of them are.  Just because they have a TedX stage doesn’t give them more importance than a teacher giving a lecture to a class or a parent giving public comment at a school board meeting.  Those are actually the voices we need to hear more of in Delaware education, the everyday citizen.  Not a CEO of a “non-profit” making over $344,000 a year or a well-meaning Bank of America executive.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Tony Allen is a great guy, but it has become more than obvious that WEIC isn’t heading towards the destination it dreamed of and it is time to move on.  As for Dr. Paul “Rodel” Herdman, I have never been shy about my dislike of his “visions” for Delaware schools that have its roots in corporate profit.

We need to focus on what is going right in Delaware education and build from that.  It begins at the grass-roots level, in the classroom.  For that, the student and teacher voice are the most important.  And then the parent.  We go from one reform or initiative to the next, and the cycle goes on and on.

Parent Toolkit For Student Privacy Is A MUST READ For Any Parent, Educator, or Legislator!!!!

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the Coalition for a Commercial-Free Childhood released their Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy on May 16th.  Full disclaimer, I actively participate and sometimes contribute to discussion surround student data privacy with the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

As our schools dive into more and more digital technology in classrooms, many parents have seen things that disturb them.  Is our children’s data protected?  Not as much as you think it might be.  The laws surrounding student data privacy are filled with loopholes and confusing wording.  It is more imperative than ever that parents wake up to this new reality facing their children.

To that end, I highly praise this report and believe every single school, state agency involving education, and any organization around education should give this to every single parent.  Opting out is NOT just about standardized tests, it is also about unwelcome intrusions into things about our children that, frankly, are nobody’s business.

Delaware School Success Framework Working Group At It Again

With very little fanfare and public notices on the State of Delaware Public Meeting website, the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) Working Group has met again.  It seems, based on the below presentation and meeting minutes, the purpose of the group is to tweak the school “report card” to align with the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act state plan.  This is a MUST read for teachers and parents.

The last time this group met, one of their biggest recommendations was that the Delaware Dept. of Education should NOT have a penalty on schools for parents their child out of the state standardized test, now the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The Delaware DOE did not honor that recommendation and put a penalty into the framework that would have punished schools over decisions made by parents.  Eventually, when Delaware submitted their ESSA state plan earlier this Spring, they took out the penalty.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, May 30th, from 9:30am to 12noon at the TechRADD Facility (WARR building) in Dover.

My big question is this: Where is the Delaware State Educators Association representative on this?  When this group was the Accountability Framework Working Group (AFWG), the number of members was much larger.  Who are the members?

Darren Guido, Caesar Rodney

Carisa Pepper, Indian River

Joseph Jones, New Castle Co. Vo-Tech

Chris Havrilla, Woodbridge

Lisa Morris, Delmar

Ken Hutchins, Appoquinimink

Keisha Brinkley, Appoquinimink

Ed Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School

From the Delaware DOE, it looks like various folks are coming to the meetings from multiple areas within the state agency: Luke Rhine, Brittany Mauney, Terry Richard, Carolyn Lazar, Jen Koester, Ted Jarrell, Chantel Janiszewski, Elizabeth Jetter, Eric Niebrzydowski, Shana Payne, Denise Stouffer, Gregory Fulkerson, and Lindsay Lewis.  I believe Janiszewski is the facilitator of this new DSSF working group.

 

Federal Education Dollars Going To Private Schools Increase, Delaware DOE Gets Bigger Role In This

Updated, 7:02am, 5/26/17: This is NOT some new school voucher scheme.  This has always existed.  It is actually a federal rule.  If public schools want federal funds, they must ensure private schools within their districts have equitable services.  One of the requirements is the districts MUST reach out to the private schools, compare notes, and offer to share federal funds with them.  The system is changing, thus these new Delaware DOE documents.  The DOE has a larger role in making sure this happens which requires more follow-up with private schools to ensure this is happening.  As well, there is a larger amount of funds required to be shared with private schools.  But, the feds aren’t supplying more federal dollars to districts so that means the districts have to give up more of their share of federal dollars.  Can someone please tell me, with all the headaches and angst we get from federal funds, along with the testing mandates, why we still WANT federal education dollars?

It looks like the Delaware Department of Education is in the planning stages to set up a school voucher system in Delaware based on changes to the Every Student Succeeds Act.  I know some Delaware private schools do get funding from Delaware school districts for certain services.  As an example, a parent could file a due process complaint over special education issues and if they win, the district may have to pay for private school for the special education child.  I know Christina School District pays for transportation costs to some private schools for students with disabilities.  But this?  Can someone please explain this one to me?

The below document was created in PDF format on Monday, May 22nd but the document is dated February 8th, before the United States Department of Education even submitted their FY2018 budget proposal (which is chock full of funding for vouchers and charter schools).  The document below that was created on the same date by the New Castle Title I Consortium and the author of the PDF was Al “Superman” Minuti (I can’t make this stuff up folks).  Sorry, I don’t believe any Federal, State, or Local dollars should be going to a private school unless it is a case of wrongdoing by a school district under the terms of a lawsuit or settlement.  If there is some sane and logical explanation for all this, I will gladly update this article (which I did, see above).

Capital School District Does The Administrator Shuffle

For many students in Capital School District, their building leaders will look different in August.  Capital is moving Principals and Associate Principals around as a part of their Strategic Planning Process.

For Booker T. Washington Elementary School, Dr. Paige Morgan will replace Dale Brown who resigned/retired earlier this year.  William Henry Middle School will look very different.  Charles Sheppard, the current Principal of Towne Point Elementary, will be the new Principal while Linda Daye will take on a role of Associate Principal, coming from Central Middle School.  Current William Henry Middle School Principal Tori Giddens will take Sheppard’s spot at Towne Point.  Current Associate Principal Lurleen Lumpkin will become an Associate Principal at Central Middle School taking Daye’s former spot.

I know a lot of these administrators and they are good people.  I believe this is a positive step for Capital.  Sometimes you need to mix things up a little!

According to a letter sent from Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, these changes are being made to help the district grow.

Capital School District has engaged much of the community in its Strategic Planning Process over the last 2 years.  As part of that process, we are working to ensure we have opportunities for all staff members to learn and grow.  We are also being very reflective on how we can advance the district.

As part of that reflective process, some administrative changes were identified.  We believe that these changes will help everyone as we educate the whole child.

Christina Board Passes MOU With New Castle County School Districts With No Public Input

The Christina School District Board of Education passed a controversial motion to send the same funds going to charter schools (from the infamous settlement) to all traditional New Castle County School Districts (except for NCC Vo-Tech).  The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would bind Christina School District to sending the same funds they agreed upon in the charter school settlement to Red Clay Consolidated, Brandywine, Colonial, Appoquinimink, and Smyrna School Districts.  The price tag for this year will be $350,000 but this is a “forever” contract so those funds will go to those districts for students choicing out of Christina to those districts forever.  But another motion, that would have allowed for public comment on the issue, failed.  Board member John Young summed up the meeting in three paragraphs earlier this morning on Facebook.  Newly sworn-in board member Angela Mitchell abstained from both votes.

Last night, Christina School District BOE motioned to settle with Red Clay, Brandywine, Appoquinimink, Smryna and Colonial for $350K + this year and each year in the future forever pursuant to the charter school settlement. The meeting was at Sarah Pyle Academy at 7PM.

It was moved to approve the settlement MOU. Then it was moved to be voted on at the 6.13.17 meeting so the public could comment more fully. There was debate. Board members indicated that public opinion would have NO SWAY in their vote. The vote to vote on 6.13.17 was defeated 2 YES, 4 NO, 1 Abstention. Then the vote to approve handing over CSD monies without input from the public was approved 5 YES, 1 NO, 1 abstention. Of course all votes were public, but if you want details feel free to PM me. I am reeling from shock that board members and key employee(s) deliberately and intentionally told the taxpayers to go to hell with regards to their input. My disappointment extends beyond the board and includes CSD employees and the Supers of all NCC schools and Smyrna SD. An unreal night, I assure you.

I hope there is VOCIFEROUS public comment on 6.13.17 to protest the way the board operated tonight.

I always hated the settlement with the charters.  But, let us all hope this is the last song on this record…

Exclusive: Pending Legislation Would Give Delaware School Boards MORE Authority To Raise Taxes Without Referendum

A bill is circulating among Delaware legislators that would give school boards more power with raising taxes.  In my view, this is just another way to shift state funding to local school boards.  The bill hasn’t even been given a number yet and it is important to know it is only in circulation, which means State Rep Earl Jaques is looking for sponsors.  I heard, through that infamous Delaware grapevine, that Senator David Sokola is on board.  Funny how Sokola didn’t mention this at all at the Education Forum the other night.  The pending bill is dated 5/11/2017 and given that Sokola is the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, he would definitely know about this.

I said it yesterday, and I’ll say it again: watch out for stealth legislation coming out between now and June 30th that will most likely tick a lot of people off.  The Delaware Education Hunger Games just went up to a new unbelievable level!

Updated, 2:52pm: State Rep. John Kowalko just released the following statement about this bill in circulation:

In one of the most blatant attempts to shift the blame and the costs for the irresponsible and destructive $37 million cuts to public education, Senator Sokola and Representative Jaques, chairs of the Senate and House Education committees, are circulating legislation that purports to enable local school boards to fund rather than cut a number of necessary programs. The elimination of these programs, due to the proposed funding cuts, will spell disaster for the children, educators and public school districts. This bill is a blatant attempt to shirk the Legislature’s responsibility to adequately fund public education and seek the necessary revenue to do so. The taxpayers should not overlook the additional fact that the proposed $37 million in cuts will not include $6 million that is left to the charter schools to fund these same programs. The prime sponsors of this proposed legislation, who have been less than aggressive supporters of equal treatment and funding between charter schools and traditional schools, instead seem to feel that the public will find tax increases imposed by a volunteer (unpaid) board of elected citizens as palatable. I imagine that another benefit will be to disguise and hide the fact that the General Assembly is abdicating its responsibility and authority to raise revenue for public services not to mention that any school board choosing to use such authority would probably doom the chances of success for any future referendums, regardless of their legitimacy. 

Rep. John Kowalko

Delaware Chancery Court Judge Rules Red Clay Violated Election Clause But Will Not Have To Redo 2015 Referendum

Vice-Chancellor Laster, a Chancery Court for the State of Delaware judge, finally ruled on the Red Clay referendum lawsuit.  The very long ruling, clocking in at 186 pages, blasts Delaware’s antiquated method of property tax assessment and delves deep into education funding as a whole for the state of Delaware.

The final ruling, issued today, found fault with Red Clay for going over the line with their Parent Events at 23 Red Clay schools during their February 2015 referendum.  But he also stated that the entire referendum process is one of great pressure for school districts and individuals in those situations can dance around what is wrong or right.  He found they did not act with intended malice but for the public good since referendum results in the positive bring public schools money to fund them.  As a result, he ruled against Red Clay redoing the entire referendum and refunding taxes already paid from it.

The lawsuit was filed by an elderly couple and their daughter through the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union.  The plaintiffs claimed they were not able to vote because of inadequate parking due to the parent events staged to bring in positive votes for the referendum.

The ruling suggests no referenda in Delaware would ever have to take place if properties were assessed based on current home values.

This is an amazing read if you are at all interested in current education funding in Delaware.  With Colonial facing a must-pass referendum or several teachers and educators will be let go, this decision could have a major bearing on any events they might be planning for their 2nd referendum attempt this year in the beginning of June.

This will be a big question for future referenda in Delaware.  Does this ruling set a precedent for all referenda that no events can be held at schools during a referendum?

Big Year For Charter Renewals Coming: Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori, Sussex Academy & Thomas Edison

Five Delaware charter schools will go through their charter renewal process next Fall.  The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Office had what I am sure was a huge task of sending out reports to the schools.  Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori Academy, Sussex Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School are all up for renewal.  With any charter school renewal, the DOE goes through everything: Academics, Financial, and Organizational.  No stone is left unturned.  With five charters and all three Delaware counties represented in these renewals, the public hearings will be everywhere.  But it looks like the Charter School Office has planned ahead and scheduled different public hearings on different days.  Last year, there was only one charter school (Academy of Dover) that went through the renewal process.  There would have been two but Prestige Academy opted to close their doors at the end of this school year.

In reviewing the below renewal reports and the charter schools responses to those reports, I didn’t have any alarm bells going off.  I do have concerns about the demographics of two of these schools, First State Montessori Academy and Sussex Academy.  At least one of these schools has some financial issues that seem to have flown under the radar for a long time now.  Hopefully more will come out during this process.  And one of them, I strongly suspect but can’t prove…yet, has a secret going all the way back to the origin of their school…

Here are all the schools renewal reports from the Charter School Office, their responses, and the timeline issued by the Charter School Office for this mammoth process:

Academia Antonia Alonso:

Early College High School

First State Montessori Academy

Sussex Academy

Thomas Edison Charter School

Charter School Renewal Timeline:

 

Matt Denn Letter Rips NCS 5 Mile Radius and HS1 For House Bill 85 But Is Unable To Offer Official Legal Opinion

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn responded yesterday to State Reps. Potter, Bolden and Kowalko’s request for a legal opinion on the constitutionality of HS1 for House Bill 85.  Denn offered valid legal reasons why he was unable to offer a legal opinion, but that he also agrees with the Enrollment Preferences Task Force recommendations for not having the 5 mile radius to begin with and believes all students within a district should be given preference to choicing into a charter school in the same district.

Guest Post From Eve Buckley On Budget Deficit And Education Cuts In Delaware Schools

Eve Buckley wrote a brilliant post on Facebook today.  With her permission, I wanted to get this out to a wider audience since she hit the nail on the head with what is going on in Delaware public education in the face of disastrous cuts school districts are facing.  Eve, like myself, is a parent in Delaware.  Her children go to Christina schools.  She was also in attendance at Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum at Newark High School last night.

Delaware friends, the take-away from last night’s education forum, for me, was that the state has–as we know–an enormous budgetary crisis and currently no political capacity to raise revenue, since GOP legislators have pledged not to raise taxes. Unless this changes, we will cut everywhere, deeply–and as far as I know, there is no reason to believe this will improve next year. Governor Carney does not have a viable plan to address this huge structural problem. Democratic legislators, many of whom are quite willing to approve property tax reassessment [for the first time in DECADES], need a 3/5 majority vote to pass that and cannot move forward without support from at least two Republican legislators. All of us can write to Gov. Carney about the need to responsibly address the state’s serious budgetary challenges. Everyone should contact their state legislators, but esp. if yours (in House or Senate) is Republican. Tell them how these cuts will impact your children’s educational opportunities; if your child attends Christina district, it is facing a $6 million shortfall for next year due to the reduction in state funds, which translates to a dozen or more staff/teacher cuts at each middle and high school, and presumably some staff cuts from every school. These individuals have already been notified, which is demoralizing for everyone in those communities–as Newark HS students made clear last night.

Note that state-authorized charters (the vast majority of DE’s charters, outside of Red Clay district) are not as severely affected by these cuts, the logic being that Carney proposes giving district boards one-time authorization to make up about two-thirds of his proposed cuts via a “match tax,” which would generate revenue only for district schools. This puts the elected district boards in a quandary: schools need those funds, but by replacing the state shortfall with a board-authorized increase in local taxes, the districts will probably lose any capacity to pass a referendum in the future, as many residents will be infuriated by this extraordinary maneuver. For the moment, this proposed mechanism for recouping district revenue via a one-time match tax (and subjecting ONLY district schools to the corresponding state cuts) means that charter school staff are not being notified of job losses, at least not on the scale that district schools are experiencing. Aside from the seeming unfairness of this, it also means that charter families, generally quite mobilizable to advance their children’s interests, are probably less aware of how severe the state’s education funding crisis is–and only 13 legislative days remain before the state’s budget will be finalized. For me, this is another example of the damage we do to the democratic process by “packaging” public services differently for different members of our communities; we are not all in this together. That is a serious loss, reducing the likelihood that schools and families will get what they need from the state. Democracy is a numbers game, and our numbers are significantly diminished by our fractured public ed. landscape.

As always, Exceptional Delaware wants and solicits for guest posts on education matters.  Thank you!

Who Is My Delaware State Rep & Senator? Which District Do I Live In? A Primer For Delaware Students! #swarmthehall

This article is for ALL Delaware public education students.  This is what you need to do NOW to make a difference for YOUR school.

Last night, I attended an Education Forum at Newark High School.  As members of the audience stated they didn’t know who their legislators even are, State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked me to put up a post on my blog about this in front of the whole audience.  It is my pleasure to do so Paul!

Even though students (unless you are 18 or over) are not registered voters, your voice is important.  I will go so far as to say it is the most important voice in the state.  You can get involved, and I would ask your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, friends, and neighbors to get involved in this year’s budget, especially when it comes to public education.  But first, you have to know who to contact!

The first thing to do is go to the General Assembly website, found here: http://legis.delaware.gov/

The easiest way to find out “Who is My Legislator” is to go that section of their website and put in your address or go on the “Find by Map” option.  I did that using my address, and it came up with this:

Another way to find out what Senator or State Rep covers your district, go to the tabs that say “Senate” or “House”.

I will use the House as an example.  Go to the tab that says “Members & Districts” and click that.  Now I have to sacrifice one of our State Reps as an example, so I chose my own State Rep, Trey Paradee of the 29th Rep. District.

What a big smile for your constituents Trey!  It has other information on the page, but if you want to contact them, it provides their phone number at Legislative Hall or their email address.  You will get a legislative aide or an answering machine when you call them.  An email might shoot you an automatic reply if they aren’t there that day.  Some legislators are brave enough to put their home or cell phone numbers on their contact information.  I would ALWAYS call that phone number first since the likelihood of them getting back to you SHOULD improve.  Another way is to look for them on social media.  Send them a friend request if they offer that option.  I would shoot them a message stating who you are and possibly an issue or topic you would like to discuss with them.

Once you know what they look like, and if you have the time, go down to Legislative Hall and introduce yourself.  Don’t do it while they are in session in their respective chamber though because they can’t really stop that time to talk to you.  Be respectful and courteous.  Ask for THEIR cell number if you don’t have it already.

If you find your legislator isn’t getting back to you, keep at it!  I’m not saying to stalk them, but keep calling, emailing, or texting.  As a professional courtesy, I would give them at least three days to get back to you.

As the General Assembly prepares their version of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, they need to hear from their constituents NOW.  Not later.  Not on June 30th.  NOW!!!!

Here is how it goes for the next five weeks down in Dover.  The General Assembly is on a two-week recess right now and will return on June 6th.  In the meantime, the Joint Finance Committee, which is a group of legislators, are doing what is known as the “budget mark-up”.  They go through Governor Carney’s proposed budget and make changes.  This group needs to hear from you NOW!

I would email ALL of them in one email and tell them what you are looking for.  For those who are against all these cuts in education, some suggested wording could consist of this:

Please remove the cuts to education from the state budget.  It is unfair to balance the state’s budget on the backs of our students.  Schools are already under-resourced and our children need our commitment to their future.  Thank you.

The public can attend the Joint Finance Committee meetings, but seating is limited.  And considering most of you students will be in school, DON’T CUT SCHOOL to come to Dover to go to a JFC meeting.  There will be plenty of time for that when school gets out because the General Assembly continues to meet until June 30th.  If you want to see some real craziness going on, come down (or up) to Dover on June 30th.  The fun usually starts around 6 or 7pm in the evening.  Bills pass on the fly, left and right and they suspend a ton of rules to get bills passed.  You see bodies passing by you like the Flash.  I’ve gone the past two years and didn’t get home until the sun was coming up.  That’s right.  They MUST pass the budget or they don’t get to go home until they do.  They can go home, but their legislative session isn’t over until the State Budget passes.  By State Law, the Governor must either sign or veto (not sign it) the budget once the General Assembly passes it.  If the Governor passes it, the General Assembly has to keep meeting until it passes or they can attempt to override the Governor’s veto.  This year, June 30th falls on a Friday so I have no doubt they will want to get in and get out so they can have their 4th of July weekend last as long as possible.

If students truly want to make a huge difference with this budget, if you don’t want teachers cut and you don’t want your school board to be put in a position where they are forced to raise more taxes without a referendum, your State Rep, Senator and the Joint Finance Committee need to hear from you TODAY!  They may give you a reason why they support this or don’t support that, but make sure YOUR feelings are heard.

If you want to make a HUGE impact, organize a group of your friends and classmates and come down to Legislative Hall in Dover (but don’t cut school to do it).  You are NOT allowed to carry signs into the building, but you can wear t-shirts as long as they don’t have curse words or are inappropriate.  It could say something as simple as “No Education Cuts” or have fun with it and write “Forced Match Tax Without A Referendum Is Horrible” .  I would NOT recommend t-shirts like “John Carney is bad” or “Mike Ramone loves Donald Trump….Eeeew!” (neither of them do, just making a point here).  You can even write legislator letters but make sure you go to their office in Legislative Hall and give it to the receptionist or legislative aide to give to the legislator.  Don’t try to put letters or correspondence on their desk in the House or Senate chamber.  I did that once and it is NOT allowed.  Don’t yell at anyone or interrupt anyone either.  And whatever you do, when the House or Senate is in session, just sit and listen.  You do NOT want that gavel coming down on you by Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long or Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf!

You CAN make a difference this year.  If you want to preserve what you have and not lose out next year, there is nothing wrong with a peaceful protest.  Make sure you get Mom, Dad, or your Guardian’s permission first, but make it something you can tell your grandchildren about one day.  How you told our legislators what your schools need and you helped to make a difference.  Let’s call it “Swarm The Hall”.  Share hashtag #swarmthehall on Twitter and Facebook and let’s make it a thing Delaware students!

As an education blogger, I’ve met most of our State Reps and State Senators.  I want to believe they want to do the right thing for everyone in the state, but sometimes political issues happen.  If you are a dye-in-the-wool Democrat and your State Rep or Senator is a Republican, or vice-versa, don’t get into the whole “us vs. them” mentality.  They will listen to you, but it could cause them to tune out whatever you are saying.  Make it about the issues, not about the politics.  No one wants to hear about the whole Trump/Hillary thing or “Dems Stink” or “Republicans Lie” kind of stuff.  This is about YOU, and YOUR education.  And this isn’t just about school districts, it’s also about charters.  Because if districts have to make cuts and force a match tax on their residents, they will have a hard time getting referenda passed in the future.  Which means less money for charter schools as well.

Below is a list of ALL the Delaware State Reps and Senators.  The Senate has 21 members and the House has 41 members.  Don’t get confused by the district numbers.  I live in State Rep District 29 but State Senate District 15.

If you are a Delaware public school teacher, please share this article with your students and their parents.  It can also be a valuable lesson for current events or helping children become more aware of how the political process in Delaware works.

Updated: Some libraries are holding events called “Postcard Party for Education Funding”.  Details can be found here.  This is a brilliant idea!  Reach out to the sponsors and see if you can get these events in your local libraries if they aren’t in your area!