The Latest Basic Special Education Funding Bill Really Ticks Me Off!!!

Okay, that wasn’t the headline you ever expected to come out of me on here!  There is a distinct reason why this bill bothers me so much.  House Bill #48 came out on Thursday and like all the other bills from past legislative sessions, it asks for the full allotment of state funding for students labeled as Basic Special Education in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade in Delaware’s public schools.  So what is it about this bill that gives me pause?

It is the fact this is the third time State Rep. Kim Williams has brought this bill forward.  It came out four years ago for the first time in the 148th General Assembly.  It should have been a no-brainer.  It got out of committee but it was never heard on the floor of the House.  In the last session, the 149th, it came out but it morphed into a part of the state budget which offered part of the funding for it.

When Governor Carney announced his weighted funding plan a week and a half ago he did not include this in his proposal.  While I am all for equitable funding, the basic special education funding should have been utilized years ago when the unit-based funding formula changed during Governor Markell’s first term.  The fact we have the same bill in a third legislative session really ticks me off.  While I greatly appreciate the partial funding that was granted last year it is appalling to me that the state will not grant the full funding in this area.

If the Delaware DOE can demand students with disabilities reach certain proficiency levels on horrible and flawed state assessments than they damn well better give the full funding these students deserve.  These are kids.  Kids with issues and disabilities forming that they aren’t ready for.  Not that anyone with disabilities is ever ready, but these kids need that rock solid education foundation.  And when they aren’t getting the support and services they need they are losing out.  With that being said, I know their teachers (most of them) will do whatever they can to reach that child to the best of their ability.  They will use what they can when they can.  It is not their intention to see any student fail.  But they can’t do it alone.  They need help.

Delaware is great at talking the talk but there is resistance to walking the walk when it comes to education.  Even Carney’s weighted funding attempt is not a permanent thing.  It is more of a trial than a commitment.  We demand so much out of our students and teachers but consistently fail in giving the funding to achieve this.  And then we put it on the districts to come up with those funds.  But then our state will pour millions of dollars each year into the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It makes zero sense.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for Kim Williams.  The fact she has to continually put this bill out, year after year, is a true picture of what an awesome human being she is.  But we need ALL 62 of our legislators not only approving this, but shouting it from the rooftops, up and down the state.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, I get that.  But to ignore the needs of children who need help the most is an insult that shouldn’t continue.  Because all they are doing is creating more problems for these students down the road that wind up costing more money than if they just funded it to begin with.

The 150th Delaware General Assembly MUST approve this bill and lock it permanently into the state budget.  It is a moral imperative and the question of if they can afford it shouldn’t even be a part of the conversation.  And Governor Carney, for all my critiques and rants against him, needs to reach into his soul and not even question it.  And when I say Governor Carney, this includes his most trusted advisors who seem to want to dictate the money flow in Delaware.

Kim Williams Reports Delaware JFC Put Funding For K-3 Basic Special Education In The Budget!!!!

Finally!  One of the first things I pushed for on this blog almost four years ago was the funding for students designated as basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams just put the following on her Facebook page:

I am so thankful that the Joint Finance Committee voted to include funding for K-3 basic special education services in the budget. This funding will support necessary services that will help students close learning gaps and move forward to have bright futures.

This has been a true collaborative effort with my colleagues, especially Rep. Smith and Sen. Nicole Poore, my prime Senate sponsor, and I truly appreciate their leadership. These services will become a reality thanks to the advocacy of Delaware State Education Association, parents throughout the state and the many advocates coming together to support our youngest learners. Our children deserve our best efforts to help them learn and succeed through life.

Amen Kim!  As I’ve always said, many kids develop their disabilities in these grades.  Even though schools are obligated by Federal law to provide special education no matter what grade they are in, this obstacle to the funding schools would get sometimes led to students not getting the services they deserve.  In some cases, schools would deny an IEP creating a toxic relationship with parents.  Kim has worked hard for this ever since I met her all those years ago.  She is the best education legislator in the state and she will ALWAYS have my support.

We don’t agree 100% of the time, but I will take those rare times any day because what she has done for Delaware education is nothing short of astounding!  A big thank you to DSEA, Senator Nicole Poore, Rep. Melanie Smith, Delaware PTA, and all the parents who pushed for this as well!

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee put the funding in the budget today.  Of course, the Delaware General Assembly has to approve the budget as a whole by June 30th, but I am confident they will do the right thing with this.  Delaware’s projected surplus for FY2019 went up yesterday as the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee added $80 million to the surplus.

Updated, 5:32pm: The amount budgeted for the Basic Special Education for students in K-3 is $2.9 million. As well, $3.6 million went in for Reading Specialists for students in Kindergarten to 4th grade. It also looks like $2 million that was cut in last year’s FY2018 budget will be restored for school transportation.

Action Alert! Support Special Education Services In Delaware! JFC Needs To Hear From YOU!

For decades, special education has been the law of the land in Delaware and the United States.  In Delaware, our state funds special education services for all students except basic services for those in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  This is when children developing disabilities need those services the most.  Our state relies on a program called Response to Intervention which can not cure a disability.  Special education can’t either, but it give those children the individual resources and goals to help them succeed in education.  It is an absolute travesty that our state does not fund these students.

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee submits the final budget to the House and Senate for a vote in the final days of June.  This funding MUST be included in that final budget.  For far too long, students have either been denied special education services or local school districts have to make up the difference with what the state won’t provide.  We have a state that talks the talk about equity but when it is time to walk the walk, we still have this.

Please join the letter-writing campaign to our JFC to ensure students with disabilities get their fair shake.  Please follow the link below and make this happen!  This is not the same campaign from March where letters were sent to Governor Carney.  This is for the Joint Finance Committee!  A big huge thank you to Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams for her fierce advocacy on this issue!  If you are a parent, student, teacher, educator, administrator, state employee, or citizen of this state, we all recognize this is a tight budget this year.  But we must make this happen to make sure the students with the most needs are given a fair shot!

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/support-special-education-services-in-delaware?clear_id=true

Governor Carney’s Letter About Basic Special Education Funding For K-3 Is Wishy Washy At Best

I received a letter from Governor Carney in my email today.  So did over 900 other Delaware citizens.  Two months ago, a push was made to send letters to Governor Carney concerning House Substitute 1 for House Bill 12.  This is the pending legislation which would provide Basic Special Education Funding for students with disabilities in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  The state provides extra special education funding for all other students with disabilities who have an IEP, so why not these students who are just getting their start in elementary education?

For years, I have been advocating for this funding.  So has Rep. Kim Williams.  This is the second go-around with this legislation.  House Bill 30, from the 148th General Assembly, sat around in the Appropriations Committee from early 2015 until June 30th, 2016 and died.  I have yet to meet anyone who thinks this bill is a bad idea.  I understand we have a deficit Governor Carney, but the purpose of state funding should have a top priority of those who need it the most.  These students fit that criteria.  Response to Intervention does not take care of these students’ needs, nor as it designed to.  Please don’t perpetuate this myth.  You did not include it in your proposed budget and I am calling foul on that oversight.  I pray our elected officials in the General Assembly have the common sense to put children first when they approve the budget for Fiscal Year 2018.  They are the future of Delaware.

The letter was dated March 7th, 2017, but I just received it today.  I won’t bicker about that, but it is noteworthy.  What I will mention is Governor Carney’s refusal to commit to this funding.  I just don’t get it.  It is a no-brainer and everyone knows it.  Who is lobbying against this bill behind the scenes?

Please Send The Letter To Governor Carney To Give Basic Special Education Funding To Students In Kindergarten to 3rd Grade

I can’t believe we have to beg for this.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams organized a letter-writing campaign for House Bill 12 which would provide basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  So far, 729 letters have been sent to Delaware Governor John Carney.  Williams’ goal is 1,000.  My goal?  10,000.

It is utterly ridiculous that these students do not get special education funding at the onset of their educational foundation.  All this obscene lack of funding does is set up failure.  This is the cardinal sin in education: failure equals more money for corporations to come in and “fix” education.  It also helps with future lawsuits and students getting behind the 8-ball from the very beginning.  It is stupid and immoral.  Yes, Delaware has a $385 million dollar deficit.  We get it Governor Carney.  But you need to make this happen.  We hear the talk about students becoming college and career ready.  How about making these students with disabilities elementary school ready?  I see all this money getting dumped into early childhood education, which I am sure is needed.  But you can’t pump them up and pull the football away when they get into elementary school.  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose for nearly 20% of Delaware students?

Thank you to all who have signed this letter which can be found here.  If you haven’t signed it yet, let’s make Governor Carney’s office very busy today!

Delaware Basic Special Education Funding For Kindergarten To 3rd Grade Students Bill Released From Appropriations Committee!!!!

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams just announced on Facebook that House Bill 30 was released from the House Appropriations Committee.  This is excellent news, and I pray this leads to positive action on the legislation by the Delaware House and Senate.  House Bill 30 would give what is considered Basic Special Education funding for Delaware students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  Currently, this funding is not given to students in this category, but it is for students considered “intense” or “complex”.  Students currently under the basic designation in 4th to 12th grade do receive this funding.  It has been like this since 2011.

Introduced about a year and a half ago, the bill sailed through the House Education Committee but was sitting in a “sent to appropriations” status for well over 15 months.  Advocates for special education, including myself, have pointed out this extreme inequity in education funding for years.  This is a very positive step forward in correcting this inequity.

I will certainly let readers know the second the next action occurs with this legislation.