The Delaware Senate Education Committee tackled the 5 mile radius bill today with some explosive comments from Senator David Sokola, mostly in response to a public comment. Warning: some of the comments conveyed today will get people very angry. Continue reading
I’ve seen a lot of political ads in the past few months, but this is by far my favorite. I will fully own that I am very biased against Delaware Senator David Sokola. Just search “Sokola” in the search section on this blog and you will easily find out why. The quarter-century Senator just needs to go. Wrap it up. Cross the finish line. Say Bon Voyage to Delaware politics. He had his day and we need fresh blood before more Delaware students, teachers, and schools hemorrhage out. They say a picture paints a thousand words, but this one does the job with much less.
I love a good Sokola dig! I am praying the citizens in the 8th Delaware Senate district make the right decision tomorrow and vote Sokola out and Meredith Chapman in! Enough is enough. And don’t buy all the “if the Senate flips Delaware will become a Right To Work state” paranoia I’ve heard from some people. One, that is NOT going to happen even if the Republicans take over the Senate. Two, Sokola has done more damage to Delaware education than Governor Jack Markell. Jack’s only been at this for eight years (twelve if you count his early Rodel-Paul Herdman-Bosom Buddies days). Dave has been at this for 25 years. And three, your children and grandchildren will be better for it.
This ad was paid for by the First State First PAC.
Sunday evening I put up a post about a political ad for Delaware Senator David Sokola. You would have thought I sent a cannonball into a church picnic with the reaction this post got. In a nutshell, the Delaware State Education Association did not endorse the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, David Sokola. He has been the chair of this committee for decades. This was a very clear statement that DSEA no longer has faith in Senator David Sokola when it comes to education. But unbeknownst to many, DSEA is also part of a PAC with various other Delaware unions that paid for an advertisement for Sokola’s 8th District Senate campaign. I wasn’t happy to see this and many others weren’t as well. I linked Frederika Jenner, the President of DSEA, to this PAC because her name appears on their website.
Before I knew it, teachers who are very supportive of DSEA jumped to their defense. One of them, Mike Matthews, who used to be President of the Red Clay Educations Association and is currently campaigning for Jenner’s spot next January, wrote a very long comment about why Right To Work is dangerous in the current Delaware political landscape.
Before I get to Matthews’ comment, I want to briefly explain what Right To Work is. Basically, it would prevent a worker from paying union dues but they would get the union benefits. This has been implemented in some states but the Delaware General Assembly has thwarted this from happening here. Delaware Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle has been very supportive of Right To Work in Delaware. Not every Delaware Republican is 100% behind a complete Right To Work state, much less with DSEA. Matthews’ comment suggests that Right To Work is a bigger danger than very bad Dave Sokola education policy.
Here’s where I stand on this and, as always, I thank Kevin for providing the forum to discuss!
DSEA did not vote to endorse Sen. Sokola for his re-election campaign. As someone who has consistently received DSEA’s endorsement in years’ past, this is obviously big news. I have had many concerns — and shared them publicly — with Sen. Sokola’s positions on education. I think many others have, as well. And that’s why DSEA chose the route it did during the election season this year.
But — and this really is a big BUT — folks need to realize that we are a union whose main goal is to activate and organize its membership. We have seen union membership in many states decrease dramatically because of nasty Right to Work laws. These laws severely weaken the ability of local unions to do the work they need to do — advocate for members and students.
The threat of Right to Work is very much real here in Delaware. If the Democrats lose just two seats in the Senate, then it’s very likely that Republicans will demand legislation that could repress labor rights in exchange for getting YES votes on the budget. If the Republican Senate REFUSES to pass a budget because they are demanding more restrictions on organized labor, then my guess is the Democrats in the House will cave so they can get a budget passed. That’s the reality of the situation that we’re dealing with.
DSEA’s membership in the Delawareans First PAC is borne out of the need to fight back any effort for Right to Work to land in Delaware. DSEA’s participation in this PAC is very much about ensuring our own survival SO WE CAN continue to advocate for our members, students, and schools.
And there are some very clear differences between the two major-party candidates in the 8th Senate District when it comes to labor rights. Sen. Sokola is vehemently anti-Right to Work. Meredith Chapman has stated her support of the collective bargaining process, but can’t say unequivocally that she would be anti-Right to Work. And, as I’ve said to her, should she get elected and the GOP take the Senate, her ability to negotiate with a newly-emboldened GOP leadership will be severely diminished and she will have to walk lock-step with the caucus on these issues.
So, while many of our members — and myself included — have serious issues with Sen. Sokola’s education positions, we have to realize that we are still a union. And it’s our business to maintain our membership and attempt to stave off any threats to that membership. I am completely able to see both sides here and while Sen. Sokola hasn’t been the best friend on education issues, he’s unwaveringly a friend on the topic of Right to Work. To condemn him from all angles because of his education positions (no matter how large those issues are) would be unfair.
DSEA’s membership in this PAC is voluntary, of course, but in the interest of solidarity, it’s imperative that we union brothers and sisters come together and support candidates who will repel Right to Work — even if it means supporting a candidate we oppose on other issues. Because if Right to Work comes to Delaware — which could happen if the Senate swings GOP — then our ability to be an effective agent for change will be severely dampened. And that could have consequences that hasten all the negative things we know have been coming down the education pike for years that you have thankfully been reporting on with such fervor.
I just think it’s important to realize that I think it’s completely within bounds to have severe disagreements with candidates on certain issues, but to find common ground on others, especially issues that relate to the survival of organizations that I would hope are seen as positive players in the education arena like DSEA.
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.
So suppose the Republicans gain control of the Delaware Senate and there is a budget impasse next year (as there seems to be almost every year). Does that automatically make Delaware a Right To Work state? We just don’t know. I can picture a scenario where, if it were that bad, certain concessions could take place. Last week at the Carney-Bonini debate, the subject of Right To Work zones was brought up. That would not make the whole state a Right To Work place, but for certain companies. Auto manufacturing was brought up as an example. But I personally don’t believe the General Assembly would make DSEA a Right To Work organization. If they did gain control of the Senate, that would last as long as one General Assembly if they did that. The General Assembly is always on a cycle of campaigning every two years. Any legislator who voted for Right To Work would automatically lose any future endorsement from DSEA. Many do not want to face that prospect in the coming years. Delaware is a small state and its citizens have more access to their Senators and State Representatives than they do in other states. A Republican controlled Senate would also have to contend with a Democrat controlled House and, by all indications, Democrat Governor John Carney. Would the Republicans wait around all summer in an attempt to get Right To Work passed if a budget was held up? I highly doubt it. Most legislators are at the point of collapse after an all-night session bridging June 30th to July 1st.
While I will certainly say I do not know how many teacher jobs DSEA has actively protected over the years, I imagine it is quite a bit. Charter school teachers, which are supported heavily by Delaware Republicans, do not presently have teacher unions. But I firmly believe Senator Sokola is, at a much greater degree, a bigger threat to Delaware teachers than a potential Right To Work law in Delaware. He has 25 years of experience showing exactly what he has done to Delaware education and the teaching profession. And judging by the first draft of Delaware’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t see that situation changing any time soon.
I firmly believe Sokola serves interests much bigger than any Democrat platform. He serves those who profit immensely off students and teachers. He represents the corporations who want to reform education so they can make more money. But more dangerous, is the very real threat of how these changes in education will eventually transform society as a whole. It is my contention that whether Right To Work happened or not, the teaching profession union members across the country fight for every day will be gone one day. At the rate where are going, everything will be online instruction and teachers will just be glorified moderators if those classrooms are even in brick and mortar schools. The more we let outside organizations into our schools, the ability for decisions to be decided at a local level diminishes greatly. That is what Sokola represents. He takes the side of a particular charter school in his district and he will do whatever is necessary to make sure they look good at the expense of the district around him. If he didn’t have the power he currently has as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, that would be one thing. But that taint in his decision-making policy affects every single public school in the state.
In my eyes, as a parent and a Delaware citizen, David Sokola needs to go. By any means necessary. I fully endorse Meredith Chapman for the 8th Senate District. Even if I was a die-hard Democrat and never voted out of party lines, I would make this one exception. He is that bad. Do I trust David Sokola to be anti-Right To Work because he truly believes it would be bad for unions or because he knows if he isn’t he would have a hard time getting re-elected in his district with various unions supporting him? I would go with the latter. But there comes a time when you have to weed out the rot. That time is now. We have had enough Sokola Ebola in Delaware education. This is a guy who lied in a debate last week. How can anyone trust him to do the right thing when he lies when the truth would be far better for him? That is how desperate he has become. For the first time in 25 years, he knows he may not enter Legislative Hall as a FOIA-protected legislator. He is scared. In a microscopic way, down to the molecular level, I feel bad for him in that respect. But it stops there. In politics, you reap what you sow. And what David Sokola has sown over a quarter of a century is dangerous for every single citizen of Delaware.
As I am writing this, the AFLCIO President, James Maravelias just wrote a comment supporting Matthews’ stance on this issue. To this I can only reply with the following: by allowing Right To Work in Delaware, the unions believe they will lose all their collective bargaining rights. As a parent, we didn’t seem to have a choice when Senator Sokola, the corporate education reformer led Delaware DOE, and Governor Markell brought Common Core to Delaware. When a once a year test became the measurement for all Delaware schools. When our General Assembly passed laws allowing for more charter schools in the state which drained resources out of many school districts. When special education took a back-seat to standards. When teachers spent an exorbitant amount of time on professional development during school days. When our collective voice said “We don’t want our children to take this test”, the DSEA supported an assessment inventory that ultimately led to no real change. Even when I begged them not to and that it would weaken the parent voice for opt out legislation. And it worked. DSEA sheepishly and almost after the fact supported an override of the Governor’s veto but not without my having a tirade of epic proportions that actually caused me to burn some bridges. I didn’t see DSEA’s collective bargaining power at play when disaster happened at the hands of David Sokola with their own teacher evaluation bill. One man was able to turn the wishes of the entire DSEA into his playground and he got what he wanted.
Parents are consistently left out of the equation when it comes to education. Sure, we get our placards on this committee or that task force, but we don’t have the ability to collectively bargain our way out of things we know are bad for our kids. The majority of the decisions are made those who represent some type of profession in education or a company that will somehow profit off it. I’m not saying this to bash unions, but to illustrate a point. Any union is, on its face, going to have a priority of protecting their membership. I get that. Just as a baked bean company would be all about making great baked beans. But when one guy wants to branch off and make different kind of baked bean products that diminish the entire line, that is a big problem. Even when the research comes back that fully states: this new product isn’t worth a hill of beans, the one guy makes it happen. That is Senator Sokola in Delaware.
As a final thought, in June of 2015, a Delaware parent openly questioned and challenged Sokola during a Senate Education Committee meeting on opt out. When Sokola lost his cool and showed the true David Sokola, he told the parent that if she thought she could do a better job herself to run for office. While this citizen was not able to run for Sokola’s seat, another citizen rose up to the challenge. Would she have run if Sokola didn’t make a mockery out of parents over opt out? We will never know. But perhaps it planted a seed that could begin to bloom next week. We may not know what kind of plant will grow next year, but it has to be better than the out of control and choking poison ivy that tarnishes every facet of education Sokola touches. This is why I can’t personally stomach the thought of Sokola sitting in Legislative Hall in 2017. And nothing, not even a potential threat of Right To Work, could get me to change my mind on that. Perhaps Frederika Jenner wasn’t fully supportive of paying for a Sokola political ad as a member of the board of Delawarean’s First PAC. But attaching her name to it sent ripple effects throughout the state in the past 44 hours. Delaware education won’t change for the better until David Sokola is gone.
As a parent, my top priority is to make sure my child gets the best education possible. As a parent, I can clearly see how Sokola policy has affected my child and 133,000 other children in Delaware. I don’t see how a threat of Right To Work has affected these kids. Perhaps it could become a future danger, but the Defcon-4 danger to education that is happening right now, in real-time, is David Sokola. He must go. I understand Mike Matthews and his perception of a Republican Senate as a danger. But it is not something that would automatically come to pass. We have years and years of watching Sokola operate. I’m not running out telling every Delaware citizen to vote Republican in the Senate. Nor am I doing that for any election this year. But I would be remiss as a parent, a father, a husband, a supporter of public education, a supporter of teachers, a supporter of transparency, and a supporter of hope by thinking it is okay to give Sokola any possible edge in this election. I can’t support the triumvirate of Democrat control in Delaware if it means keeping a guy like David Sokola in power. I will support DSEA and other unions in a lot of areas, but not on David Sokola. There is no balance in education as long as he retains his Senate seat.
The Delaware State Education Association did not endorse Delaware Senator David Sokola this year. They always have in the past. But that didn’t stop their President, Frederika Jenner, from helping to pay for his online ads…
So who is Delawareans First PAC?
Yup, this is the same Frederika Jenner. The President of DSEA. The same organization Sokola took an axe to with House Bill 399, the teacher evaluation bill. The same Frederika Jenner that sits on the Rodel-inspired (and funded) Vision Coalition. I’m sure she will be ticked at me over this but I truly don’t care. She will be out in January. Hopefully we will have new and better leadership that won’t surrender Delaware educators to the Rodel time-bomb that is just ticking away until it fully blows up Delaware public education in favor of Charterville. But that’s right, she just wants to sit at the table with them. But that’s okay. Let’s help fund the campaign of the one Delaware legislator who should NOT be re-elected under any circumstances…
Delaware Senator David Sokola openly lied in a debate with his opponent for the 8th Senate District, Republican Meredith Chapman. WDEL covered the event which included a lot of talk about opt out and districts vs. charters. When confronted with the question of opt out, WDEL reported the following:
Longtime incumbent state Senator David Sokola does not fully support an opt-out provision.
“If it said opt-out of Smarter Balanced, I’d probably support it,” said Sokola. “But if just said opt-out of the state tests–then I’d have a problem because I think we will be moving to a different assessment within a couple of years anyway.”
As Senator Sokola knows, House Bill 50 in its original incarnation was for all state assessments. However, prior to the House voting on the bill, State Rep. Sean Matthews added an amendment limiting the legislation to just the Smarter Balanced Assessment. It overwhelmingly passed the House and went to the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Sokola. When it was released from that committee, it went to the floor for a full Senate vote. Sokola added an amendment to the bill to include all district assessments. The amendment passed but Sokola voted no on House Bill 50. After another Senator put on an amendment which was taken off by the House, it went back to the Senate for a second vote and Sokola voted no a second time.
David Sokola is a flat-out liar. Some have attempted to sway me into supporting Sokola because of his track record on other issues, but I see him for what he is. He is no longer fit to represent the people of his district, much less any child in the State of Delaware. He can’t even own up to his own decisions and be honest about it. Vote for Meredith Chapman in the 8th Senate District. A quarter of a century of this liar is far too long…
Senator Sokola. You need to get a Governor to try to win an election. The Negan and Lucille of public education. I would quote their silly little letter to the News Journal, but it is all rubbish. Nothing you haven’t heard before. It appears desperation breeds laziness in these two. When they can’t come up with anything new, they resort to the same old every single time. It is a broken record trying to be heard when the record player stopped working years ago. Yawn…
God help us if David Sokola is re-elected. Which means Meredith Chapman has to win! We don’t need Governor Markell’s right-hand man destroying public education for another term. Markell wouldn’t have been able to get 3/4 of his initiatives through without his Lucille.
This is the second time in the past two months we have been subjected to Sokolaness in the opinion section of the News Journal. The last time was Sokola taking credit for the Council of State Legislatures big report on public education. As if education would just stop working unless David Sokola wasn’t involved. You have seen the videos. DSEA did not endorse him. But he is fine with endorsing a bogus lawsuit against Christina School District. John Carney has the Sokola blinders on. He screws over teachers every chance he gets. He helped Newark Charter School get away with financial invisibility. He serves on the Joint Finance Committee with this fellow Newark Charter School cheerleader. He keeps his knife sharp so when he betrays his peers in the General Assembly it has the sharpest cut. He brought the DSTP and Smarter Balanced Assessment into our schools. He does not support parental rights. He has a very bizarre partnership with the 2016 Genghis Khan of teacher evaluations. When he lost his political prowess last Spring, the Governor had to issue an Executive Order to do the job Sokola couldn’t do. He rips on blogs while providing the ammunition they hurl at him. He chickened out on a vote to put the State Board of Education under Sunset Review.
Sadly, Delaware being what it is, his fellow Democrats are forced to support him. As the Lucille to Jack Markell’s Negan, Sokola smashes Delaware public education constantly. And then Jack takes all the credit.
The Delaware State Education Association came out with their 2016 Endorsed Candidate list for the upcoming election in November. There is a rather large glaring omission: the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, none other than 8th District Senator David Sokola. I can’t say I’m surprised. He was not a friend to teachers in the 148th General Assembly. Or parents. Or students. Between House Bill 50 and House Bill 399, opt out to teacher evaluations, Sokola did not make a lot of new friends the past two years. He was widely seen as the legislative water carrier for Governor Jack Markell. While he is now trying to distance himself from the Delaware Dept. of Education, his actions the past two years speak otherwise. This is very big folks! To be the Chair of an education committee at Legislative Hall and NOT get endorsed by the teachers union speaks volumes.
DSEA’s 2016 Endorsed Candidates for State and Federal Elections
DSEA’s 2016 Endorsed Candidates
- Governor: John Carney
- Lt. Governor: Bethany Hall-Long
- U.S. Congress: Lisa Blunt Rochester
- Insurance Commissioner: Trinidad Navarro
- State Senate District 1: Harris McDowell, III
- State Senate District 5: Cathy Cloutier
- State Senate District 7: President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins
- State Senate District 9: Jack Walsh
- State Senate District 12: Nicole Poore
- State Senate District 14: Bruce Ennis
- State Senate District 19: Brian Pettyjohn
- State House District 6: Debra Heffernan
- State House District 7: Bryon Short
- State House District 9: Kevin Hensley
- State House District 10: Sean Matthews
- State House District 11: Jeff Spiegelman
- State House District 14: Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf
- State House District 15: Majority Leader Val Longhurst
- State House District 18: David Bentz
- State House District 19: Kim Williams
- State House District 20: Stephen Smyk
- State House District 21: Mike Ramone
- State House District 22: Joe Miro
- State House District 23: Paul Baumbach
- State House District 24: Ed Osienski
- State House District 25: John Kowalko
- State House District 27: Earl Jaques
- State House District 28: Bill Carson
- State House District 29: Trey Pardee
- State House District 31: Sean Lynn
- State House District 32: Andria Bennett
- State House District 33: Karen Williams
- State House District 34: Dave Henderson
Delaware Senator David Sokola is up for re-election. But this isn’t just any normal re-election. He is up for the fight of his life! After a very contentious 148th General Assembly and education issues coming up left and right, Sokola is faced with a very determined opponent. Meredith Chapman is running on the GOP side of the 8th Senate District ticket. Delaware United interviewed Sokola in a three-part interview. One of the interviewees is Elizabeth Paige. While she is not interviewing Sokola in her role as the President of the Christina Board of Education, there is definitely some tension there! These videos, especially the first one, are a must-watch! Thanks to Delaware United for interviewing Sokola!
It’s hard to believe it has been almost 22 months since the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union and Delaware Community Legal Aid announced their complaint against the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District. That complaint is sitting in the Philadelphia Office of Civil Rights collecting dust. I read the complaint again this morning. There is a legislator whose name is mentioned a few times in this complaint as the author of legislation that contributed to segregation in Delaware… Senator David Sokola.
I’ve noticed in the past week that the upcoming General Election in Delaware has many wondering if Sokola’s accomplishments outside of education should give him a second chance. I’ve argued that no matter what Meredith Chapman’s stances on education are, they pale in comparison to what Sokola has wrought. To be honest, aside from a video interview with Delaware United and a citizen commenting on a Facebook thread that Chapman supports a parent’s right to opt out of the state assessment, I have not heard enough from her to get a good picture of her views on education.
Knowing what occurred in Delaware because of certain charter schools and their enrollment practices, I thought this would be a slam-dunk in the Office of Civil Rights. But that office, an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Education, has been strangely silent. I am aware these complaints take years to reach a ruling. But the complaint itself says enough about Senator Sokola that any citizen reading it should be able to have a clear picture in their mind. The complaint also talks about the ignored warnings and omens from many that came with Sokola’s legislation which led to de facto segregation in parts of Delaware. I have never heard Sokola apologize for this. I’ve never seen any indication that he understands any of this.
David Sokola is a very intelligent man. He is someone who sees data and facts. His favorite word is “heartburn” when talking about legislation he doesn’t like. I’ve heard from many about his support for non-education bills that were very progressive in nature. But as I’ve always said, if you support legislation that will ultimately harm children, that is not very progressive. Like the citizens of Delaware who offered warnings before harmful Sokola legislation passed in the Delaware General Assembly, I offer a warning to Delaware. If the citizens of the 8th Senate District vote Sokola back into another term, Delaware children will suffer. Numbers don’t lie, and even if those charter schools changed their enrollment preferences to get rid of pre-enrollment assessments, 5 mile radius, sibling preferences, employee preferences, or the many other little things that contributed to the eventual outcomes we now see, it will be years before the situation balances between those three charter schools and the districts around them.
The complaint against the Delaware DOE and Red Clay is below.
An email from Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques and State Senator David Sokola sheds new light on the district-charter funding debacle that has taken over Delaware education talk in the past week. Meanwhile, the News Journal came out with another article on the issue that is sure to confuse everyone.
In the below email sent from Jaques to the House Education Committee, he gives a timeline of the events from the point in time he got involved in the issue and clarifies when Secretary of Education Dr. Stephen Godowsky found out about this. He also put in a reply Sokola sent to a constituent regarding the issue which has some very accusatory statements toward Christina School District.
From: Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall) Sent: Thursday, September 1, 2016 2:41 PM To: Bentz, David (LegHall); Bolden, StephanieT (LegHall); Dukes, Timothy (LegHall); Heffernan, Debra (LegHall); Hensley, Kevin S (LegHall); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Kenton, Harvey (LegHall); Lynn, Sean M (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); Miro, Joseph (LegHall); Osienski, Edward (LegHall); Potter, Jr, Charles (LegHall); Ramone, Michael (LegHall) Cc: Schwartzkopf, Peter (LegHall); Sokola, David (LegHall)
Subject: School Funding Formula
House Education Committee Members, Late last week I received notice about a formula change between Charter Schools and our traditional Public Schools. I immediately called and talked with Secretary Godowsky to see if what I heard was correct and if so why was this change being made. I was told by him that yes a change was proposed and he wasn’t aware of this change until just the day before. On a side note, I wasn’t very happy to hear about this – since I and Dr. Godowsky just had breakfast only a couple of days before this news broke and no mention of this was discussed by him to me! I was told by Dr. Godowsky that he has put a hold on any possible changes to the funding formula until there are complete discussionswith all stakeholders. I then called Governor Markell to voice both my concern and outrage at how this proposed change was brought forward with no regards to public input, transparency or discussion with either myself or Senator Sokola. I then called Superintendent Burrows, this year’s head of the chiefs, and was assured by him that no discussions between the “chiefs” and DOE regarding this change had occurred. Their only acknowledgement came when they starting receiving bills from the charter schools and subsequently called DOE to find out what was going on. On the very next day I was at a public event with Governor Markell. He reinstated to me that no actions regarding the funding formula will occur this year and any discussions on this subject will be transparent and inclusive. Again, I followed up with Secretary Godowsky, requesting that any changes to the formula would require an open, transparent and inclusive process involving all stakeholders and plenty of public input. Today, there was a story in the News Journal that you might want to read to gain more insight.
In addition, I have attached below part of an email that Senator Sokola sent to one of his constituents which gives very good details and background on the formula mechanism. Although, his email talks about the Christina School District, I want to remind you that this formula applies to all public schools across our state.
“It turns out that the funding formula has not changed, and the Secretary does not have the authority to change the formula that is in the code. There have been times over the years when there have been disputes about how the formula works, and apparently we have one now. The dispute relates to the part of the code that allows for certain exemptions from the money that “follows the child” to a Choice or Charter alternative. The code allows for 4 specific areas and then has some general language that allows a district to petition the Secretary of Education to allow for additional exemptions of local operating funds, and to sign off on those itemized expenses. The Christina District increased that line from under $700 thousand to about $9.2 million since 2011, and has not asked the Secretary for approval of the increased exemptions. No other district in NCC has had anything but nominal changes in that time frame. The money in question also has nothing to do with the Autism Program or the Program for the Hearing Impaired that are managed by Christina. It is my understanding that any action from the Secretary at this time is on hold, however Christina still has a legal obligation to specify those expenses beyond the 4 that are in the code that should be exempt, and to have a formal sign off by the Secretary. I have supported for quite some time a weighted student funding policy, and would hope that we could make more progress on such a funding system. The money needs to specifically follow a student to a school, which is not done well in Delaware including in Christina. Dispute resolution should be done by some mutually agreed upon mechanism, or one established in the code. If there still is not agreement, we have constitutionally protected separation of powers, and the legal system would be the mechanism of last resort. That is generally not a win-win result for the parties who are in disagreement.
The specific funding issues you mentioned can certainly be submitted to the Secretary and the district needs to be open, transparent and detailed with the financial records to make their case. The Secretary will be willing to consider the specific lines of exemption that CSD has the legal obligation to propose. He would be negligent if he did not follow his statutory authority to review any specific exemptions proposed by CSD, and CSD would be negligent by not specifically submitting line items of proposed exemptions to the formula that is in the code. If CSD does not make specific proposals, the district is at risk of legal action that the legislature and the Secretary are constitutionally barred from intervening in. My hope and advice to the Secretary has been to give broad discretion to the specifics identified by Christina, and that we could have that open, transparent and inclusive process involving all stakeholders to clarify the financial obligations of a sending district to the various choice options made by students and families.”
As I receive additional information regarding this subject I will keep you informed…
Chair, House Education Committee
So how is that Sokola tells a constituent that Christina performed this horrible deed but the News Journal doesn’t mention it once? Sokola is saying Christina purposely withheld submitting their exclusions from the Delaware DOE. Jaques states Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows didn’t know about this situation unfolding since last April until recently. So how is it that the DOE asked the districts for this information in April as suggested by Saranac Spencer, the author of the News Journal article? Actually, it was in May based on the below timeline.
In order to try to unify the system, the department began considering adjustments to the formula in April, when it asked districts across the state for an inventory of the exclusions they claim.
The actual timeline of events is as follows:
March 11th: Newark Charter School Head of School Greg Meece meets with Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzjewski to discuss the upcoming Christina referendum and payments from Christina to NCS. (source: Newark Charter School March 2016 Board Minutes)
Early April 2016: NCS representatives Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, and Stephen Dressel meet with Associate Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman to discuss exclusions in the funds Christina sends to NCS. The DOE indicates all exclusions will require approval from the Secretary of Education. (Source NCS April and May Board minutes)
April 8th: DOE holds District Business Manager’s meeting where the subject of district exclusions is brought up with District Chief Financial Officers.
May 2016: DOE sends out notices to District CFOs to send lists of their exclusion items in their local school budgets.
Mid-May: Kathleen Davies put on leave as Auditor of Accounts at Delaware State Auditor’s office.
August 8th: DOE sends out letters to District CFOs stating what exclusions are allowable and which aren’t.
Week of August 16th: Districts start receiving bills from charter schools for projected students choicing to charters from their districts.
August 19th: Secretary Godowsky finds out about situation going on with charter school payments from districts.
Week of Augusts 23rd: Word on situation slowly trickles out to school administration and some boards.
August 27th: Exceptional Delaware breaks news of a coming change in the way districts pay charters based on an approval from Secretary Godowsky, blogger was given information from various sources about changes regarding restricted funds being moved to non-restricted funds, no information given to blogger about specific exclusions.
August 28th: Legislators pound Godowsky who informs them there will be no change in the funding structure this year.
August 31st: News Journal covers story and states districts may have to adhere to the exemption list from the August 8th letter.
September 1st: NCS Board President Stephen Dressel writes letter to NCS parents alleging wrongdoing from Christina and a “few other districts”, states this isn’t a change in the formula for local cost per student but a correction, commenter on Facebook alleges parents from Las Americas ASPIRA also received a similar letter.
September 1st: Another News Journal article quotes DOE Spokeswoman Alison May as stating they may not be able to change this because bills already went out from charters to districts.
September 1st: Email from Earl Jaques to House Education Committee references a change in the formula, not a correction, email also has Sokola accusing Christina of not sending approval for exclusions to Secretary since 2011 for what was a $700,000 amount then which is now $9.2 million.
Here is the question no one seems to be addressing though. What is the amount in that discretionary budget was approved once and didn’t have to be again? When a district goes out for a referendum, it asks taxpayers to help the district pay for certain things. What if Christina had a referendum at one point in time, designated a specific amount for what would become an exclusion in their local budget, and the DOE approved it. Say that was 10 cents for every $100 of assessed property value. As Sokola alleges, Christina kept shoving money into this fund causing it to rise over $8 million dollars. But that 10 cents from a referendum, which becomes a part of the district’s local funds would certainly grow over time. In 2010, Christina narrowly won a referendum. But it stands to reason some of those designated funds could go into this “discretionary” bucket in their budget. Which would certainly build up over time. If the DOE approved this in July 2010, which would have been Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery, then that exclusion would not have to be approved every year. That portion of the tax payments sent in from residents would just keep building in that bucket. So Sokola’s allegation that Christina was willfully withholding payments from the charters by shoving money in this hidden bucket is blatantly false.
Now the big question is what started this runaway train. Yes, charters have lobbied for more money from districts for years. No one is arguing that. But they were not going after these discretionary amounts approved by the Secretary of Education. They wanted a share of the food services revenue the districts received, which is explicitly exempt from being a part of the payments made to charter schools since they have their own food programs which they get funds from at a federal, state, and local level. So how would Greg Meece know to look for this one specific thing and start a chain of events that led up to now? I’m working on that answer as we speak and I expect I will know the answer to that one in the next couple of weeks.
What leads me to believe Christina wasn’t “stuffing” money away into this secret account is also the reaction of one man to all of this. If the DOE sent out these notices about the exclusion items last May, Christina CFO Bob Silber would have been freaking out back then about it. If he knew the direction this was heading, he would have planned for it in their FY2017 budget, which he clearly did not. From many people I’ve talked to in the district, Silber didn’t start freaking out until the district received the DOE letter stating what the new exclusions were and when the charter bills started rolling in. Which leads me to think he wouldn’t have had to keep getting approval for the exclusions he put in this bucket based on a referendum allocation, approved by then Secretary Lowery, which would, over the years, increase this bucket.
In the meantime, I have to wonder why Sokola would specifically mention the year 2011 to this constituent he replied to. That is crucial to all of this under my theory. It makes Christina look really guilty. Why would Sokola make Christina appear to be guilty? I think we all know the answer to that one. Which confirms my suspicion about his involvement in all of this. His incessant talk in this email about legal action if Christina doesn’t comply and who can do what and when and where shows he is been looking into this for much longer than anyone else has. Sokola is not an attorney. He worked at DuPont for many years. Is he smart though? Yes. Devious? Hell yes. Would he be able to paint a picture showing Christina as a district that was denying money to charter schools, especially Newark Charter School, who was “denied” one million dollars this year if this “finding” doesn’t work out in their favor? He did in his email to the constituent.
I would go so far as to say there is an integrity issue with Sokola at this point. The ethics involved with this whole mess certainly lend a certain weight to Sokola and Meece being the brains behind all of this. Jaques wasn’t involved in this based on what he wrote in his email. But he made it a point to include what Sokola wrote as part of his email which lended considerable weight to perception of this issue. For that, I have to wonder what Jaques knew and when he knew it.
Is this the end of this? Probably not. Someone will come on here and say I have it backwards and I’m theorizing all of this. That’s certainly an option. But at the very least, this opens the door to careful inspection about what the Secretary of Education approves and if it is for exclusions in the local restricted budgets for districts based on referendum amounts, does that item need continuous approval from the Secretary. I don’t believe it does.
Delaware Senator David Sokola is frantic over his upcoming election. Meredith Chapman, a Republican in his district, filed earlier this year to run against the long-time Senator. So how does Sokola respond to the many allegations that his actions have thwarted Delaware education for 25 years? He writes a letter to the News Journal pimping the very same bad policies he helped create. He does this by praising a report on how America has No Time To Lose, brought to us by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oh, and Dave helped write the report…
I felt the need to point out some of Dave’s fallacies in this letter.
We’re lucky in Delaware to have collaboration among our public and charter schools, businesses, unions, and higher ed institutions, plus community, foundation, and state leaders. If we are going to succeed, and sustain that success, we need to be open, transparent and inclusive.
In Delaware, we call this the Rodel Foundation and their ten-year roadmap Vision programs and coalitions. They send out surveys that lean heavily towards what they want and call that stakeholder input. And since so many Delawareans believe in “The Delaware Way”, these education leaders and members of the business community feed the fire by sitting at the table. Meanwhile, Dr. Paul Herdman pushes this because, well, that $344,000 salary sure is groovy. Sokola’s firm belief in successful schools led to the creation of one of the most discriminatory schools in America, Newark Charter School. Everything he does props up this school which he relies on for votes every time the election cycle spins around again. And we saw this district and charter collaboration really working this past weekend in one of the shadiest back-room deals Delaware education has ever seen. And I have no doubt in my mind that Sokola was somehow involved in that charter school scam. Which charter school in Delaware would have received the most benefit from this change in funding? Newark Charter School. And it was their idea! Thank God enough legislators acted fast enough to put this very bad idea on pause. He is a bill destroyer when legislation comes around that would actually prevent his own ideas from coming to fruition. His sole pupose in the General Assembly is to pervert the masses with Governor Markell’s very bad education beliefs. In terms of “transparency”, this is a guy who doesn’t feel posting minutes for the Senate Education Committee is important. The same guy who changes agendas for these meetings at the last-minute and yells at parents during meetings when they disagree with him. Yeah, that guy…
We’re piloting innovative clinical residency programs and lab schools, on top of new models for peer observation, feedback, and reflection.
In corporate education reform lingo, we call this Teach For America, Relay Graduate Schools, and other bad teacher practices that put college graduates in low-income schools with six weeks of training. Many of these “teachers” don’t end up staying in the profession and end up working for state Departments of Education or the thousands of education poverty pimp companies out there that take money from the classroom. Sokola gutted a bill that would remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment as a sole factor in one of the components of our teacher evaluation system in Delaware. He also thought having parent and student surveys would be a good idea in determining a teacher’s evaluation score. The bill passed, but our Governor Markell hasn’t signed it yet.
The fact is that most American state education systems are falling dangerously behind the world in a number of international comparisons and on our own National Assessment of Educational Progress, leaving the United States overwhelmingly underprepared to success in the 21st century economy.
Yeah, we were fooled on this when Common Core and Race To The Top came into our lives. Race To The Top ended, and many states are attempting to remove Common Core from their state standards. The experiment failed. What Sokola can’t get through his thick head is that Americans aren’t believing the lies anymore. We don’t care what these reports say because we know they are built on statistics that are created to benefit these reports. Many of the same people involved in this latest report created the very same tests that show we are failing. And now they are telling us to trust them and find a new path for our country at risk (again)? Sorry Dave, you can only tell the same story so many times until it starts sounding like crap. This is a commercial. Paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
And which countries did Sokola visit to make these grand-standing statements?
We visited high-performing systems here in the United States, as well as Beijing and Shanghai, China, to learn more about their success.
Okay, let’s go back to the old chestnut in comparing the U.S. to China. This has been debunked more times than I can count. China uses only the most successful students to take their standardized tests. So of course their results will skew higher. Enough Dave. That is so 2012.
What kills me though is reading some of the names involved in this report. But one stands out above the rest: Marc Tucker. He is listed as the CEO and President of the National Center on Education and the Economy, who wrote their own “Tough Choices, Tough Times” report ten years ago which served as an impetus for Common Core. Yes, that Marc Tucker. The one who wrote Hillary Clinton a letter in 1992 which set the blueprint for all that went down in public education since. The one who believed every single word of the 1983 horror show called “A Nation At Risk”. But now we need to heed these prophetic whispers of doom in this new report, according to Tucker:
This hard-hitting, refreshingly honest report is a bipartisan clarion call for a very different definition of ‘education reform’ than the one that has dominated the American political landscape for years. The country will ignore it at its peril.
Okay Dr. Doom. Thanks for your words of wisdom. I think America is pretty much done with you. How much money have you made on the “fix American education” racket you’ve been involved in for 25 years? Which is about as long as Dave Sokola has been pimping this same bad education policy in Delaware.
Sokola is trying to give himself some credibility where he has none. The barometer of everything that comes out of this washed-up Senator is the standardized test. He lives and breathes on these tests. He ignores the realities behind them and how they aren’t a true measurement of student success. He is a broken record, stuck in the same groove since 1990. He knows he is in extreme danger of losing his Senate seat. But he isn’t listening to anything the majority of Delawareans are telling him: “Shut up Dave!” Instead we get these cash in the trash reports designed solely to make corporations richer that take desperately needed funds out of our schools.
On Election Day this year, do the best thing in the world for the children in the 8th Senate District. Vote for Meredith Chapman and help our children in the 21st Century to be one notch away from bad education policy in Delaware. Look beyond party politics. People like Sokola, who pretend to be Progressives, ride that train so they can get in the system for their own twisted agendas. Dump Dave!
Tonight, Delaware Governor hopeful and Congressman John Carney opened his Newark campaign office. He introduced Senator David Sokola as someone who “is at the forefront of public education.” He praised Sokola for his many years as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee. Carney went on to cite Sokola as an “expert”, and that education is the most important part of Delaware’s future.
John Carney, we need to have a very long and serious talk. I have a few thousand people I might bring with me. They are called Delaware teachers. Can I bring the parents who he disrespected during the opt out movement last year? I’ll bring them too. They number in the hundreds. I really hope you are listening to more than Governor Markell, the Dept. of Education, the State Board of Education, the Rodel Foundation, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network. This is a big-time serious snafu on your end. I know, you have to make nicey-nice on the campaign trail at these events. But I guarantee you if certain people were there tonight they would have turned around and walked right back out.
Let me educate you on Senator David Sokola. He is at the forefront of Newark Charter School and every single bad education legislation he has oozed out in the past 25 years. Go to the search bar on this blog, to the right, and put in “Sokola”. Start reading. It would take me all night to give you a full education. Many people have been telling me to give you the benefit of the doubt. And I’m trying. I really am. But when you come out with public statements like this, I worry. A lot. It signals to me that you have been in D.C. and have a serious disconnect with what is really happening on the ground in Delaware. Or, you are very much aware of what is going on with Delaware education and you don’t have much intention of changing it. This, on top of the very troubling rumor I heard last week, horrifies me. And many others as well. A lot of voters. Hint, hint…
Sokola is worried about his election. Very worried. But the vast majority of the people in this state feel that 25 years of David Sokola is enough. Many are stating they will vote Republican for the first time if it means getting rid of very bad education legislation with his name behind it. Backing David Sokola is political dynamite in this state. This is a guy who blasted the Senate on June 30th for not backing his University of Delaware FOIA bill (how ironic that is where his opponent works), but fails to provide minutes of his own education committee meetings. This is the same guy who is put on every education task force and committee under the sun and fails to show up to 3/4 of the meetings. But he shows up to all of the backdoor meetings. That I can promise you.
Seriously John, and I’m being very real here. I talked to Cerron, your campaign manager, last week. Please fill out the survey I gave you. All the other candidates are doing it. Cerron has my phone number. You need to hear the truth.
The first thing I’m wondering is how many people will go past the read more part of this article if they are just going to my homepage to see what I wrote beneath that. But seriously, the main thing I’ve been thinking about (in regards to education) is a state legislator and a charter school. And how, when everything comes up, somehow, some way, it always circles back to the two. Continue reading
Senator David Sokola did not present the entire truth to the Delaware Senate last night when he gave his introductory remarks to House Bill 399 and introduced an amendment to the bill. I immediately saw what he was doing and it worked because the amendment which completely changed the original bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate. I find this legislative process, with no one able to rebut or correct Sokola’s statements a serious flaw in our law-making process.
His remarks concerned the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee, forged out of legislation last year. The group met last fall and this winter to come up with new recommendations in the DPAS-II evaluation system for Delaware teachers. The group had many recommendations, but the sticking point with the Delaware Department of Education was an administrator not having the final say for which assessment to use in the Component V of DPAS-II. They didn’t feel as though teachers and an administrator should have an adult conversation and be able to mutually agree on this. I wrote extensively about what happened during the last few sub-committee meetings and it completely contradicts the version Sokola gave his peers in the Delaware Senate. As well, in reaction to comments given by ex-Delaware DOE employee Atnre Alleyne at the Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, one of the chairs of the sub-committee gave her version of other events transpiring out of those meetings. In return, Atnre had many things to say about House Bill 399 in the past week. He was absolutely right on one point:
But if anyone is paying attention, this is the week when powerful interest groups take the unsuspecting masses to school. It is the last week of Delaware’s legislative session and while most are ruminating on 4th of July plans, pressure groups are seeing their bills breeze by on their way to becoming law.
What he fails to distinguish is how he himself represents several public interest groups which I have referred to numerous times as corporate education reform. Stacked to the brim with flawed research and reports, they manipulate the masses into thinking teachers are bad and the unions will make sure they stay in schools no matter how bad they are. I may have had issues with the Delaware State Education Association over opt out last winter (to which I admittedly overreacted), but I think most can agree that if a teacher is really bad, they most likely aren’t going to be around for too long. Is there such a thing as a perfect teacher? Probably not. We are, after all, only human. No one is perfect. But I will stress, once again, that anything using a monstrosity like the Smarter Balanced Assessment as an indicator of a student or a teacher’s performance is the high point of insanity. But Senator David Sokola doesn’t seem to care about that aspect, as indicated by the below remarks he gave the Delaware Senate last night:
Sokola: Thank you Madam President. I’m going to talk very briefly about House Bill 399 before going to the amendment. It was, the process of the DPAS II Advisory Committee was to, uhm, set up, uh, in the past from House Joint Resolution #6. And we had various stakeholders who, uhm, met quite a few times, as well as a sub-committee, uh, to this group to look at the evaluation of, uhm, teachers. Uhm, that, uhm, process got a little discombobulated towards the end of the process, and uhm, there were a number of versions of a bill drafter over a period of a few weeks. And I was not satisfied at, at that. Various groups were continuing to meet, and discuss, to try to come to a consensus on the issues. So, uh, with that in mind I would like to ask that Senate Amendment #1 to House Bill #399 be read and brought to the Senate.
Senator Patti Blevins: Senate Amendment #1 is before the Senate. Senator Sokola…
Sokola: Thank you Madam President. This amendment actually does a few things. The one that it does is it does give the administrator final say on components, the components of the teacher evaluation process. Dr. Susan Bunting (Superintendent of Indian River School District and Chair of the DPAS-II Advisory Committee) had, uh, sent a letter to the education committee for the last meeting. That was very important. It turned out a number of the proponents in the bill as it was indicated that they thought, uhm, uh, that was the intent of the bill anyhow. I made a suggestion that we make that very clear in the amendment. This amendment does clarify that the administrator does maintain the final say or discretion to determine whether the state standardized assessment should be used as part of the educator’s evaluation. It also clarifies proposed changes to DPAS-II evaluation system as recommended, uhm, intended to be piloted in three education institutions over a work period of two years. It has an input, information and deletes section 7 of the bill in its entirety. Are there, uhm, any questions? I’ll attempt to answer them. Otherwise I’d like to ask for a roll call on Senate Amendment 1.
Roll call on Senate Amendment #1: 18 yes, 2 no, 1 absent
Sokola makes it sound like the consensus issues were within the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee. They were not. It was between the group’s recommendation and outside groups, like PACE, which was meeting with Alleyne and former Teacher Leader and Effectiveness Unit Chief Chris Ruszkowski in the weeks prior to their engagement with the committee. To say Alleyne had a bias would be an understatement. He and Ruszkowski were the two main guys at the DOE for the DPAS-II having Component V in it to begin with.
What Sokola never mentioned in his remarks and with little time for every Senator on the floor to read the full and lengthy amendment while discussion was also going on about the amendment, was a brand-new insertion into the legislation. This insertion was to include student and parent surveys in the pilot program. This drew the ire of teachers all across the state today if social media is any indication. This idea came from Atnre Alleyne in his many comments and blog posts about this bill. But Sokola took all the credit for it on Mike Matthews Facebook page today:
To be continued in Part 2 dealing with a 2nd amendment, heartburn, and more!
So much for sticking up for your own party Jack Markell! Delaware Governor Jack Markell not only found a way to kiss the rings of his Ponzi education reformer buddies, but also caused a rift between State Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques, made sure Meredith Chapman will become the next Senator of the 8th District, continued his favorite hobby of screwing over Delaware teachers, and proved he is the worst education Governor in Delaware history. Congrats Jack! You have cemented your legacy with this bonehead move!
So what did Jack do now? Continue reading
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…
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!
All charter schools in Delaware except Newark Charter School file 990 tax forms to the Internal Revenue Service. Charters are considered 501c3 corporations. 501c3 corporations are tax-exempt companies. Most non-profits, like Rodel, fall under this category. Unless they meet very certain criteria, they are required to file Form 990 with the IRS. Could this be why Delaware Senator David Sokola, who lives in a district which also contains much of Newark Charter School’s five mile radius, is so opposed to House Bill 186? It wouldn’t be the first time Senator Sokola has gone to bat for NCS.
In 1995, before any charter schools even opened in Delaware, the IRS issued new regulations concerning 501c3 corporations. It allowed very specific exemptions from 501c3 organizations from filing their 990 form. The IRS ruling was straight forward: if you were a governmental unit and a 501 company, you didn’t have to file. There were very strict guidelines for what constitutes a “governmental unit”: Continue reading
The two maps shown below both have much of the same area in them. The area around Newark Charter School. More specifically, their five-mile radius. They use that map as a base for their student enrollment. As you can see, Delaware’s 8th Senate District uses much of this same area.
Delaware Senator David Sokola is the current Senator from the 8th District. Since 1990. 26 years. Too long. We need a change.
Newark Charter School was very careful in selecting their five-mile radius. It touches upon some of the more affluent areas of New Castle County. Notice how more than a third of that radius doesn’t even exist since it is in other states? So their circle of love is more a circle of influence. Senator Sokola, who helped develop Newark Charter School and served on their board, has certainly benefited from this map. Once again, we need a change. If you live in the 8th Senate District, please consider running and making a much-needed change. 26 years is far too much.
Sometimes the best conversations happen when there is a freedom to it with no strings attached, just honest questions and answers. Yesterday, Senator David Sokola responded to a post of Mike Matthews on Facebook about House Bill 186 and Senate Bill 171. The two competing bills both deal with charter audits. What happened next on the “debate” was pleasantly surprising. I actually admire Sokola for entering into what I’m sure he knew could be “hostile territory” so to speak. What ensued was very interesting.
Here is the bottom line, as I wrote in one of the final replies on this: something needs to be done to make sure the charter school fraud just stops. We can’t have school leaders going rogue and raiding the public coffers. It’s just wrong. I think House Bill 186 would prevent that quite a bit. Will it prevent any school employee from ever absconding money for personal use? No, I don’t think anyone could ever 100% stop that. But it is one hell of a deterrent. There are more than enough issues with school funding in Delaware, the last thing we need is for one cent to be wasted like this. It is criminal, it is illegal, and it needs to end.
Given all that has occurred since Senate Bill 171 was introduced last week, I would actually love to hear Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network response to this thread. So I invite Kendall to comment on here. This is not a free-for-all to jump on her should she take up the invite. It is just a debate about the issues at hand. If Kendall does take me up on this, I believe it could shed light on what the charters may be looking at for this.
In my opinion, the way charters were set up in Delaware is miles away from the present reality. It is much more visible in New Castle County, but the whole traditional school district/charter school debate has morphed into something with both sides pitted against each other. I will fully admit it’s something I’ve been guilty of. But is it good for the education landscape of Delaware? Should charters be funded separately from regular school districts? But even bigger than that is the competition. This need to be the best school in the state and all that comes with that. Since the catalyst for that is standardized test scores, what would happen if those scores all of a sudden didn’t hold the weight they currently have? What if schools were judged on their own merits, good or bad, based on something not so exact?
Our Department of Education, in line with the US DOE, certainly set up this kind of environment. But let’s get real for a moment. The traditional districts and the charters aren’t going anywhere. I know I’ll probably get shot for even bringing this up, but a lot of us look at education in Delaware under the lens of how the charters affect the schools around them. But I’m going to attempt to look at this from the charter perspective. They view themselves as not getting as much money as districts, thus their assumption they do “more with less”. In defense of that, they don’t have the sheer size and multiple capital costs the way districts do, so there is that. Most of their teachers are not unionized, so turnover is most likely greater. So they need to retain their good teachers and find ways to keep them and attract them to their schools. They also need to make sure their enrollment stays at certain levels or the DOE will come after them. To do that, they need to make their schools look as attractive as possible, so they need to sell it as such. While some schools do indeed have enrollment preferences that are very questionable, a lot of them do not. But still, the lure of charters for many parents is the escape from the local school districts who do “less with more”. Most parents who are engaged at that level, and have made a choice to keep their kids out of a district, will certainly be more active in their child’s education, which results in more of a collaborative relationship between charter parents and their schools. But the flip side to all of this, as those students who most likely have more parental engagement with their child’s education (not all) and pull their kids out of districts, it has a rebound effect on the traditionals. It can draw out the “better” students resulting in more issues at the local level for the remaining students. This is certainly not the case in every school in every district, but we have seen this happen in Wilmington most of all.
So how do we get around all of this and work to make both co-exist? The conversation gets very heated very quick with parties pointing fingers and making declaratory statements that don’t serve to solve the issues but actually polarize both sides into their position of defense. As a result, we see legislators with differing opinions proposing laws that the other side opposes. In the case of the charter audit bills, Kim Williams wins that one, hands down. Will it cost charters more money? Like I’ve said before, probably. But we should have never reached this point. It should have always been equitable for both when it comes to audits. It isn’t now, and it wouldn’t be with Senator Sokola’s bill. I’m not saying this cause I like Kim better than Dave, I’m saying it cause it makes sense. There are some Republican bills I think make a lot of sense, and vice versa. But let’s face it, the Democrats have controlled Delaware for a long time now, so their bills tend to get more press and traction because of that control.
This is what I would like to eventually see in the charter/traditional debate. All schools, be it charters, magnets, or vo-techs, have no enrollment preferences whatsoever. This would put everyone on the same level playing field. As well, charter schools should be funded the same way vo-techs are. But there could still be a problem of a district shedding students as we see in Christina. How do we solve that issue? Not an easy answer. When districts do lose a lot of students, it is bound to cause financial concerns. But obviously we can’t just close districts. But we can’t let them go to the poorhouse either. And when a referendum goes south, it doesn’t just affect the traditional school districts, it flows into charters that receive the funding for those students.
Finally, our legislators need to find a way to minimize the importance of standardized testing. At a state level, not a district level where those assessments do actually help students. I posted an article on American Institutes for Research last September where their CEO admits standardized testing is actually accountability tests against teachers and schools. Because our states and federal government have allowed this to happen. They set up this crazy chess match but is very bad for schools, students, teachers, administrators, and even communities. Whenever there are high-stakes, there are also consequences. While some are intended, others are not. Setting our schools up to compete against each other can bring innovation, but then it becomes a matter of “who has the better test scores?” It’s not good, it’s not healthy, and this is leading all our students into the assumption that if they do well on a once-a -year test they are actually a success and “college and career ready”. But even more dangerous, the schools actually think this and instruction is aimed around the test as opposed to the individual student and their own individual success. The question that always comes up after this argument from the proponents of standardized testing is “How do we measure our student’s progress?” There are measurements that don’t have to be the focal point of everything. But yet our DOE has the Smarter Balanced Assessment with most of the weight on the Delaware School Success Framework.
Until we can get out of this testing obsession, nothing will ever change. If charters and traditional school districts want to survive, they should join together to eliminate this abusive practice, not to perpetuate it. There is no stability in it, and it is very destructive. To those who do profit off this, they truly don’t care. As long as they are making money. This should be something parents of students should want as well. They may not see it now, but they certainly will after their child graduates and they find they are really struggling in college. This is why we are seeing more students taking college-level courses in our high schools because even the corporate education reformers know this. But what we should really be doing is focusing less on test scores and letting children progress naturally in schools without the test stress. So by the time they go to college, they are ready for what comes next. College is supposed to be hard. It shouldn’t be easy. If we are seeing so many kids taking remedial classes, maybe this isn’t a reflection on our schools but on the emphasis society places on test scores.
For me personally, I care deeply about these issues. Because I believe the students that pay the price the most are those who need the most. By leading all students toward these very specific goals of “proficiency” and “growth”, we are allowing students with disabilities and those who come from poverty to start at the gate with a disadvantage. And wanting to “close the gaps” without changing their inherent disadvantages results in an explosion just waiting to happen. I’m not saying these kids can’t learn, or that they don’t want to learn. But the instruction they need may not be the same for their regular peers. If the end goal of accommodations is to make a student do better on a test, then we are losing sight of the true picture. We can’t erase a disability or poverty in schools. There are far too many outside factors to make that ever happen.
The charter/district debate is a systemic issue, but it is symptomatic of the far greater disease: standardized testing. We have many excellent teachers who can become even better by allowing them to flourish in an environment that isn’t poisoned and set up as a competition. Education isn’t a race. It isn’t a contest. It is education. No child learns the same, and no child tests the same. It needs to stop. Until our leaders learn this, parents will continue to opt out. At greater numbers than each year before. Because we see it and we have the power to act on it. Sooner or later they will get the message. But in the meantime, the reformers and leaders continue to spin their wheels looking for the next big thing in order for them to survive. They do not care if a school is doing bad. They love it and they will pounce on it. They use our schools and students so they can get rich. And their method of measurement: the standardized test. And far too many lap it up and believe it.
Senator Dave Sokola pulled a fast one on State Rep. Kim Williams in his latest political trickery because of his uncontrolled bias for Delaware charter schools.
Last year, State Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 186 was approved by the Delaware House of Representatives on June 30th, the last day of legislative session. Senator David Sokola refused to suspend the rules and said this bill needed to be heard in the Senate Education Committee. Fair enough. It was heard in committee this week, and it was released yesterday. Fair enough. What he did behind the scenes is what defines him.
House Bill 186 deals with charter school audits. Rep. Williams felt the charter school fraud and embezzlement was a bit too much for Delaware taxpayers and she brought the bill forward to allow the State Auditor’s office to monitor charters more closely. This is something Kathleen Davies from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office was in full support of. The main party who was not in support of the bill was the Delaware Charter Schools Network. They vehemently opposed the bill stating it would cost charter schools extra money. On their website, they set up a “letter to the legislators” system where parents just add their information and a letter is automatically sent to the legislators.
At present, all traditional school districts audits go through the State Auditor’s office. Charters use their own hand-picked auditors. This bill would add an extra layer of protection. As well, ever since the very first charter school closed in Delaware, funds seem to disappear resulting in millions of dollars vanishing. Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 186 would put charters on the same equal playing field as traditional school districts and is not an attempt to treat charters any different. Why would we not want to ensure our taxpaying funds are being used with fidelity and honesty?
Having sent my son to a charter school back in the day, I know how this works when legislation comes up that may affect a charter school. Parents get emails from the school leader basically saying “Our poor charter school is under attack, we need your support.” It usually ties to funding and money.
On June 30th, the bill passed the House with all Democrats except State Reps. Pete Schwartzkopf and Earl Jaques and all the Republicans voted no.
This week, Sokola, along with co-sponsor Jaques and several Senate Republicans filed Senate Bill 171.
Are charters required to have their audits done the same way as Sokola’s Senate Bill 171 states? Not at all. Title 29 of the Delaware State Code, dealing with the Auditor of Accounts, specifically states:
(f) The Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits of local school district tax funds budget and expenditures annually. The results of the audit shall be submitted to the local board, the State Board of Education, the office of Controller General and the local libraries within said school district. Expenses incurred for such postaudits herein authorized shall be borne by the local school districts.
This says absolutely nothing about charter schools whatsoever. With respect to charter schools, Title 14 does touch on this, but the wording is very vague:
The charter school shall contract to have an audit of the business and financial transactions, records, and accounts after July 1 for the prior fiscal year. The results of the audit shall be shared with the Department of Education by October 1.
What Sokola’s bill does completely ignores the authority given to the State Auditor of Accounts in Title 29. And the charter audit part is not even included in chapter 29 whatsoever. Title 14 doesn’t even define what the scope of the charter school’s audit should look like, and even with Sokola’s bill this is not defined either. But Title 29, the section that once again authorizes the Auditor of Accounts of their duties and responsibilities, bolded for emphasis, states:
(a) The audits shall be sufficiently comprehensive to provide, but not limited to, assurance that reasonable efforts have been made to collect all moneys due the State, that all moneys collected or received by any employee or official have been deposited to the credit of the State and that all expenditures have been legal and proper and made only for the purposes contemplated in the funding acts or other pertinent regulations.
This is a direct attempt to sabotage Rep. Williams’ bill in my opinion. Sokola’s bill does absolutely nothing. It is a piece of paper designed to actually protect charter schools from the financial destruction some of them have inflicted on Delaware. After the State Auditor’s office released reports last year on Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover showing well over $300,000 of taxpayer money being absconded by school leaders, along with other reports showing a couple of charters doing very suspect things with school funds, one would think our elected officials would want to make sure charters are held under a bigger microscope. In the case of Family Foundations Academy, telling the public they aren’t sure what may have happened to $2.5 million dollars along with another $141,000 in funds that may or may not have been personal purchases shows a clear need for more oversight into charter finances. But apparently not with the Chairs of our Education Committees, Sokola and Jaques.
How does something like this happen when charter schools are supposed to have greater accountability because of their unique structure with the public school environment? It is political maneuvering. Senator Sokola is in the 8th District, in Newark. Since 1990, Sokola has been a State Senator. I wrote in great detail about Sokola’s history of education destruction last year. The 8th District is a very unique district. In this district is Newark Charter School. Senator Sokola was one of the founding board members of the school. Newark Charter School has a 5 mile radius for its applicants, which actually extends past the Maryland line. So it is not a true 5 mile radius, but ensures all its students come from a very specific geographic area. The 8th district. This school is considered to be one of the best schools in the state based on standardized test scores, academics, and school climate. There is usually an extensive waiting list. Because of this, Sokola is able to hold onto his Senate seat because of his steadfast loyalty to charter schools. He is also the chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Interestingly enough, State Rep. Kim Williams gave insight into this in a comment on Delaware Liberal last night:
House Bill 186 will require charter schools to have their audits done through the Auditor of Accounts like all other public school districts in the state. Currently, only public school districts are audited through the Auditor of Accounts. Sen. Sokola explained to us during the debate of House Bill 186 that his bill, Senate Bill 171, was drafted with the help of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, who represent charter schools and the leaders who have been stealing from Delaware taxpayers. Senate Bill 171 does not require the charter schools to have their audits done through the Auditor of Accounts office. The charter schools will be able to select who they want once again. Senate Bill 171 does nothing except protect the charter schools and not the taxpayers. I for the life of me cannot understand why these people do not care about protecting the taxpayers’ money; they are more interested in protecting the charter schools.
This is Delaware. Those in power position themselves in the key positions so they can be re-elected over and over and over again. Sokola is also the chair of the Senate Bond Committee so he can curry favor with the organizations that receive state funding through bonds and grants. Sokola has not filed for the 2016 election, but his seat is up for grabs. No opposing candidate has filed either, so there is still time.
I urge every single Delaware citizen to contact every member of the Delaware Senate to vote yes for House Bill 186. Sokola’s anti-Williams bill will most likely be on the Senate Education Committee agenda for next week. His bill will be fast-tracked for passage while Williams bill will either be voted down or sit in limbo.
I just wrote the Delaware Senators an email for my full support for House Bill 186, and I would ask anyone reading this to do the same:
Good morning Delaware Senators!
I wanted to ask for you support in voting yes for House Bill 186, State Rep. Kim Williams charter school audit bill which passed with overwhelming support in the Delaware House on June 30th, and was released from the Senate Education Committee yesterday. As a Delaware taxpaying citizen, I firmly believe our Delaware charter schools need rigorous examination with their finances. We have seen far too many charters abscond with public funds for personal use in the past few years for their own personal use.
I firmly believe, after carefully reviewing House Bill 186, that this bill would give the extra protections Delaware taxpayers need to make sure our dollars are being protected from those who would steal money from us. If we are going to demand accountability in our schools, that needs to start at the top in each and every building. Every single traditional school district is held to this same process, so why wouldn’t we include charters in this process?
I would urge all of you to read this article by Business Insider which was written on January 6th, 2016: http://www.businessinsider.com/are-charter-schools-the-new-mortgage-crisis-2016-1 This article clearly shows the environment charter schools exist in and there are red flags all over the place. Charter school accountability and transparency was also addressed in the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Obama last month. The ESSA demands more state responsibility in monitoring charter schools.
Here is a list of the emails for our Delaware Senators, just copy and paste!
email@example.com MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Nicole.Poore@state.de.us email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Dave.Lawson@state.de.us email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org David.Sokola@state.de.us Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us email@example.com