As Christina Lies About Referendum Promises, Board Approves Contract For Assessment Package At Price Tag Of $200,000

I just wrote about how the Christina School District is not backing up their promise to restore librarians cut last year.  But the district seems to have $200,000 to spare for a new assessment suite.  Last night, the Christina Board of Education approved a contract with Curriculum Associates for new district assessments to replace two other district assessments.  The contract would give the vendor $200,000, of which $181,200 would come out of local funds.  Local funds are what the district gets from the taxpayers.  Call me crazy, but I don’t remember seeing a new assessment package as part of the referendum promises.  In fact, the state has been actively pursuing an agenda where districts have less assessments (although the one assessment that needs to go, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, wasn’t even considered by the Delaware assessment inventory committee).  My question would be how valid are these new assessments compared to the two ones they are replacing, DIBELS and Amplify.  While I am certainly not a fan of either DIBELS or Amplify, I don’t see too many other districts using this I-Ready made by Curriculum Associates, designed to make kids better at Common Core.

I have to say shame on you Robert Andrzejewski twice in one day.  What is this guy thinking?  He needs to go!  Paving the Way to a New Christina?  Hardly.  Paving the Way to a revolt by taxpayers is more like it.  So let me get this straight.  They lie about rehiring librarians but they bring in new, untried testing?  And the board approved this crap?

See the board action item in all its glory:

Robo-Call This First State Liberty: Christina School District Wins Referendum!

As I watched the vote tallies coming in for the past hour, it looked like the “against” side was going to win the day. But as more schools reported numbers, the gap narrowed until the “for” side jumped ahead. And it kept staying that way. With over 13,000 voters, this referendum certainly came down to the finish line. It would be very hard to say what factored into the votes. Governor Markell’s video support or First State Liberty’s shady antics most likely swayed some voters either way. But at the end of the day, I would like to think it was concerned citizens voting for students that caused the victory. With an unofficial 6,770 for and 6,625 against, it came down to about 150 votes.

I would like to thank all those who voted yes. For those who voted no… I understand some of your motivations. But others, I will never be able to fathom. I’m talking to you FIRST STATE LIBERTY. Yeah, we know, you guys were just the front people for someone, but some of your tactics were a bit underhanded and we both know it. Don’t try denying it.

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Delaware Senator David Sokola Supports The Christina Referendum

I was just asking someone minutes before I saw this, “Where is the legislator support for the referendum?”  And then, by the whims of fate, this appeared in my Facebook newsfeed.  Thank you Senator Sokola, for supporting our students in Delaware.  I always took you for a charter guy, but I’m happy to see you publicly support ALL Delaware students…

SokolaReferendumLetter

First Governor Markell, and now Senator Sokola. I have to ask: what’s next? Markell reversing his veto on House Bill 50? The Delaware Charter School Network’s Kendall Massett releasing a video supporting the referendum? State Rep. Earl Jaques having a picnic for parents? Is it a full moon? But seriously Senator Sokola, thank you for your letter. I know I give you a hard time a lot, but it is all for transparency!

John Young: 500 Words To Support The Christina Referendum

CSDPavingTheWay

Former Delaware blogger and long-time Christina School District Board of Education member John Young asked me to share his thoughts on the Christina referendum taking place tomorrow.  I’ve written a bit about the fallacies of the opposing side of the referendum, but it is equally important to share why voters should say yes tomorrow:

Christina Referendum: This tax is an investment, not an expense.

500 words. Seems like a short way to communicate such a long story. Wednesday, our district will be seeking an operating tax referendum. I cannot overstate the importance of winning this tax increase. Our students, who come from all over New Castle County, like all students, deserve the very best. Of that, I am sure I would find very little resistance. Our district last passed a referendum in 2010 and in the 6 years since, many of our operational costs have risen: supplies, energy, and transportation: all outside of our classrooms. Our teachers have maintained their amazing professionalism despite no meaningful increases whatsoever. Our principals? The same. Our district administration: far fewer than in 2010. Supplies: a daily fight it seems. We have leaned out as the purchasing power of the monies from the 2010 referendum have diminished.

It has been a meaningful 6 years. Christina has been involved in a few scrapes with the state and has recently established a board policy supporting our parents in the arena of having control of statewide testing for their students while protecting our students from school closures and Education Management Organizations that the Delaware Department of Education was openly advocating for in 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2015.

On the other side of all the adult battles and state based concerns is the one constant that never changes: our students. They are the ones we seek to serve. We have plans to improve their experience with a successful referendum: school climate, academic programs, and innovative school choices will all receive an introduction of intellectual energy that will be married to what the community seeks in its schools. I am committed to ensure that all the promises of this successful referendum are faithfully executed. As an elected board member, I will hold the district publicly accountable in public settings for honoring the directions proposed in this referendum. Our students must not suffer another round of devastating cuts that we were forced to impose after losing our referendum attempts last year.

On that score: Christina owes you more: more choice, more achievement, more opportunities, more community, more value, more diversity, and most of all: more transparency across all of those domains. Christina students are amazing. Let’s show them how much we value them and their one shot at an education. Let’s demonstrate that we, as a community, understand that public education is a sacrosanct American institution, controlled locally by virtue of our Constitution’s fierce 10th Amendment. Let’s support that local responsibility with a local investment.

I promise to continue to deploy all available and necessary energy to protecting the institution of our local public schools, and with your help, improve them. This is not a plea to remind you of the possible ramifications of a Christina loss, this is a call to encourage you to do what those before you did FOR you: support our students.

Whew! Four hundred and eighty-seven words.

Here’s ten more: Please vote Yes on the Christina Referendum on March 23rd.

John M. Young
Christina School Board

Christina Referendum Haters Using Donald Trump’s Playbook & Christina Releases Markell Support Video

EricBoye

Donald Trump’s unfathomable success has been due to playing on the fears and worries of disenfranchised voters.  I see the same thing with First State Liberty’s overzealous attacks on the Christina School District referendum taking place on March 23rd.  It is becoming more than obvious there is more than meets the eye with First State Liberty.  Meanwhile, none other than Governor Jack Alan Markell did a video for the district which supports the referendum and urges voters to say yes on Wednesday.

There are a multitude of things I don’t agree with Governor Markell about on education.  But there are two things I think we can draw agreement on: support for the Christina referendum and we both oppose school vouchers.  I think most can agree the whole referendum process stinks.  But until there is another method or funding mechanism for our schools in Delaware, voting no on a referendum hurts children most of all.   As I just said to someone on Facebook in regards to the mindset of First State Liberty: “We know the ship is going to sink.  Instead of plugging the hole, we’re going to shoot a cannonball into it so it sinks faster.”  If a district doesn’t pass a referendum when they really need the funds, it will have a downward spiral that comes down to each and every student in the district.

The referendum opposers are getting robo-calls and emails from a right-wing group called First State Liberty.  I wrote an article about them the other day.  Who is supporting them?  The Delaware blogger Kavips did some digging last week and found out who was backing the robo-calls.  Many of the leaders of these organizations put their children in private schools.  They resent the fact they pay tuition for their children and pay school taxes.  They seem to forget that all citizens pay this.  They want voucher programs which have failed miserably in many states.  In Delaware, State Rep. Deb Hudson has tried to get voucher legislation through, but it doesn’t get past the bill filing.

When pushed to respond to requests to come to Citizens Budget Oversight Committee meetings in Christina, the front people behind First State Liberty don’t even respond to the invitation.  They come out once a year before these referendums and act like it is The Day After Tomorrow if a referendum passes.  They forget children are involved in their schemes and agendas and don’t care if students are affected the most by the damage they do.  They like to tout the Revolutionary War as their greatest inspiration.  They don’t realize the differences between the people from 240 years ago and what is going on in the present.  They will say and do anything to advance their agenda.  They lure people into their fold and they spout lies and untruths.  Then they get their followers to do the same.  It is a sad and pathetic situation.

Do I think our school districts could do a better job?  Absolutely.  They all play the absurd “Delaware Way” game where parties must compromise.  They just want a seat at the table without realizing they are on the table.  The compromises result in districts being forced to shell out more money for services to properly educate children based on state mandates.  What First State Liberty should take a more active role in is this conundrum.  Instead, they want to target children and their classrooms.  Forget everything they say about “administrative costs” and “spending per pupil”.  Their theories are debunked on a daily basis anymore.

I’ve said it before, when children lose, we all lose.  Even Governor Markell understands this simple fact.  Why can’t First State Liberty, who could be doing so much more in Delaware, get this concept?  Why do they target school districts but do absolutely nothing about the even bigger problem?  Do they have the political muscle to do more than bully referendum voters?  Of course, no one from their outfit will respond with intelligent answers on these issues.  When challenged, they delete information from supporters or just ignore it.  Why are they so hell-bent on destroying school districts?  Is it because their kids aren’t in public education and they don’t care what happens to other families kids?  I will fully admit, my son is in private school but I would still vote yes for this referendum if I lived in the Christina School District.  It’s about the kids, not your wallets.  Playing on the fears of unsuspecting citizens and giving false information while doing so is not only disingenuous, but bad form.

Lest we forget, this is the same outfit that thought it was okay to bring guns to Newark City Council meetings.  This is the same outfit that some right-wing groups really don’t want to be associated with.  But when it comes to referendums, it is okay for their hate and fear mongering?  Wake up Delaware citizens.  Don’t buy their hate-filled propaganda and smear campaigns.  They aren’t in it for you, they are in it for themselves.  I have some conservative ideals myself, but there is an ocean of difference between conservative ideals and this.  Shame on you First State Liberty…

 

A Message For First State Liberty re: Christina Referendum

My number one question for the folks at First State Liberty: Do you pay the same amount for guns that you did twenty years ago?  I’m not asking this to be smart.  My reasoning is very simple: you pay for things every single day that cost more than it did five years ago, ten years ago, and twenty years ago.  Education is no different.  Perhaps you don’t have children in the Christina School District.  Perhaps you don’t want to pay taxes for schools your children don’t go to.  I can see your point with that.  But here’s the thing.  You pay taxes every single time you work.  You pay for programs that don’t affect anyone in your household.  Your state and federal taxes, which go up and down, go towards things I’m sure you don’t agree with.  But yet, you still pay them.  If not, you would go to jail.

You have a choice with a referendum.  You can say no.  That is certainly your right.  But I also have to believe that you care about children.  All children.  I’ve been to your website and how you completely blast the district as if it is your moral obligation to deny children the services they need.  I do take offense to that.  But you would also be surprised at something we agree on.  I know First State Liberty is against Common Core.  I know you didn’t support the opt out bill, House Bill 50, because parents already own that right.  What parents don’t own the right to, no matter how we may wish otherwise, is how to run a school district.  We can get involved, and do our best.  We can go to meetings (not just one or two before a referendum) and make our voices heard.  We can run for the district school board.  There are many ways to get involved.  I encourage all citizens to do that.

With Common Core and Race To The Top forced on every single Delaware school district and all charter schools, things changed in education.  Basically, Delaware took a $119 million dollar bribe from the US Government.  In exchange for a financial gift equal to approximately 3% of our education budget spread out over three years, offered to us during a recession, our Governor sold out Delaware education.  But the true crime didn’t stop there, because he allowed the Department of Education to keep half of it.  Meanwhile, he cut out reading programs that were actually working for our kids.  The results were disastrous.  Especially for a district like Christina.  When Christina did the same thing First State Liberty is doing now, speaking up about what has come to be seen as a failed program called the Delaware Talent Cooperative, the Delaware Department of Education took Christina’s Race To The Top money away.  For the sole reason that they dared to challenge big government.  Something your group has as their central theme.

As I’m sure you know, urban districts like Christina don’t tend to fare well overall on standardized tests.  These are not truly tests of a student’s achievement.  They are set up for children to do poorly on them.  They set the achievement levels at a point where it would be impossible for all students to score proficient.  As a result, Christina and Red Clay got the test, label and shame status thrown on them in the guise of “priority schools”.  Here is a newsflash for you: all school districts have high administrative costs.  Because of Race To The Top, districts had to hire people to oversee all of these programs that were forced on them.  As a result of Common Core implementation and changes to teacher evaluations, the pressure put on districts was greater than ever.  This happened with charter schools as well.  Some schools overcame these challenges.  They also tended to be schools that didn’t have as many low-income students, minority students, or students with disabilities.  These schools were given the spotlight while whole districts like Christina and Red Clay were given the “we are going to fix your horrible schools even if we have to take them over” treatment.  And all of this was based on the standardized test scores.  The ones that are now fully aligned with the same Common Core your group loathes.

But are you aware, or willing to share with your entire membership and on your robo-calls about the referendum, that the ratio of administrators to students results in Christina administrators overseeing more students than any other district in New Castle County?  These jobs you so desperately want to be gone or have their salaries shrunk, that are necessary based on the very mandates forced on them by the Delaware Department of Education…

From the CSD Paving The Way website:

Sometimes pictures say it better than words. For those who are concerned there are too many administrators in the Christina School District we decided to research the numbers and find out the ratio.
 
This is the student/ administrative staff ratio in a graphic format. In short, this shows that each administrator in the Christina School District is responsible for more students than any other district in the county.
 
Therefore, the misconception that there are too many administrators in this district is not true. Our number crunching based on DOE data shows that the Christina School District has the lowest number of administrators in New Castle County when compared with the number of students in the district.
 
students-administrators

 

Please note (as stated in the fine print on this image) this graph does NOT include student enrollment and administrator totals for the Delaware Autism Program or the Delaware School for the Deaf which would elevate those numbers.

Christina has cut admins and several teachers.  They are on bare bones.  If this referendum doesn’t pass, it has the potential of getting very ugly, very fast.  More cuts, more jobs gone.  And next year, you will be looking at the same thing only they will have to ask for MORE money in their referendum to make up for what they didn’t get from this one.  Guess what happens to all of you who live in the Christina School District?  Higher unemployment, your neighbor’s children not getting what they need to survive (yes, survive) in public education.  People won’t want to move to the Christina School District.  They will look on the Delaware DOE’s really horrible school report card and say “we shouldn’t move there”.  Without new people moving into the district, your property values will go down.  The equity you have built up over the years will slowly vanish.  Perhaps one of you will come to a new opportunity or crisis point in your life.  You may want to sell that home with the reduced equity.  How did that work out for you?

If you think Delaware school taxes are high, have you talked to anyone in Pennsylvania?  I’m pretty sure anyone in Chester, Montgomery, or Delaware County in Pennsylvania would laugh when you told them how much your school taxes are going up by.  Many folks in Maryland might say the same.  And both of those states have sales tax, something you have never paid in Delaware.

If we are going to go by figures from 2014, let’s take a look at these, from the Zero Hedge website:

DELAWARE

  

 

MARYLAND

  

 

PENNSYLVANIA

  

 

NEW JERSEY

 

 

What these figures don’t include are the portion of property tax that goes towards school taxes.  All are much higher in those states.  With this information clearly visible, I really have a hard time with your group’s efforts to squash referendums in our state.  But yet I don’t hear boo from First State Liberty about Markell giving more tax breaks to corporations while every single citizen in the state pays for it.  I didn’t hear anything from any of you when it was announced yesterday that Title I funding, which is supposed to help districts with low-income students, is going to wind up giving more for the state (aka, the DOE) to keep than the school districts will receive.

I think you have the right idea, wanting to curb expenses for citizens.  I have no problem with that.  But you have the wrong target.  Why isn’t the State of Delaware in your crosshairs?  Why aren’t you sending robo-calls to every Delawarean about the absolute corruption and fraud going on before our very eyes?  Is Christina just an easy target?  Step up your game.  Come to Legislative Hall when they are doing these corporate gift bills (and I’m sure there will be more by the time June 30th rolls around) and protest that.  But all you are doing now is hurting students.  Your numbers don’t add up and all the information is available to you if you really look for it.  But telling your followers that Christina is non-transparent is completely false.  The referendum has been talked about on the radio, in the News Journal, and in the local newspaper for well over a month.

I would seriously question where you are getting your information from and what the true motivations are here.  It’s very easy to rile up a crowd.  What isn’t easy is admitting you were wrong.  I saw the kind-of sort-of owning up to that on your website, but it was followed by “give us information now”.  My advice to you: if you really want to know what is happening with district funds, go to all their Citizen Budget Oversight Committee meetings.  Not just the one a week before a referendum.  Going to one meeting a year and complaining about transparency isn’t exactly what I would call a marketing strategy for your cause.  It’s like arriving late at a dinner party and getting upset all the food is gone.  But then you tell everyone there was no food!  Go to all their board meetings.  Find out what is going on.  Look at all their monthly financial reports.  If you are relying on Delaware DOE data, don’t be shocked if it isn’t exactly accurate.

In terms of the comparison between Christina to Smyrna School District letter, Christina gets more federal funds because there are more at-risk students.  Whoever read that financial document admits they don’t know the difference between local, state, and federal funds.  If a district has more at-risk students, they get more federal money.  The bigger a district is, the more admins you have.  As well, their properties are assessed at a higher rate in Smyrna than in Christina.  So that 2/3rds number?  It doesn’t exactly mesh with reality and solid math.  This isn’t rocket science.

You want to blame a district for what is clearly the state’s fault.  But in the end, all you are really doing is making it worse for the kids.  The future of Delaware.  The future of America.  Your kids.  Your grandkids.  If Christina loses with the referendum, the charters in the district lose as well.  They get their proportion of the local tax based on students in the district that go to their schools.  All you are doing is hurting the whole education system.  Who wins when we all lose?

I encourage all of you to look into your hearts and ask yourselves “What exactly are we fighting here?  Why are we going after David when Goliath is the one doing all this?”  These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.  First State Liberty and recipients of your robo-calls: Vote YES for the Christina referendum!