Will New Education Legislation Adding $11 Million More To Delaware’s Shrinking Budget “SAIL” Through The General Assembly?

Amidst all the craziness surrounding the SAT/Smarter Balanced Announcement yesterday, this one flew under the radar.  Delaware State Rep. Valerie Longhurst is introducing legislation next week to add $11 million dollar to the Delaware State Budget to fund afterschool programs in Title I schools across Delaware.  Whether this is part of the WEIC funding, Matt Denn’s plans for the foreclosure settlement funds, or new allocations of state funds is not certain.  But with Delaware facing a deficit of unknown amounts for FY2017, we sure are spending a lot of money fast!  From the Delaware House Democrats website:

Lawmakers Plan New Statewide Afterschool Initiative

DELAWARE CITY – Thousands of Delaware students across the state would gain access to new, high-quality afterschool programs providing homework help, enrichment activities and an extended school meal plan under a bill unveiled today at Gunning Bedford Middle School.

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, lead sponsor of the legislation, said the measure is designed to help students become more effective learners and achieve better outcomes both in and outside their classrooms.

“We know that quality afterschool programs keep kids engaged, boost attendance and enhance literacy, improving the likelihood that our students will stay in school and earn their diplomas,” said Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear. “We have a great core of organizations in our communities that have spent years showing us these outcomes, and it’s time for the state and our school districts to step up and bring these proven practices to even more kids throughout Delaware.”

The bill announced today would establish the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Program, dubbed the SAIL Program, to provide grants to high-need schools as identified under federal Title I regulations. To qualify for SAIL grants, schools must offer at least three hours of afterschool programming four to five days each week during the school year for students in kindergarten through 10th grade. With a ratio of one teacher to 10 students, qualifying programs would consist of at least one hour of homework help and one hour of enrichment activities each day, as well as a healthy meal.

The legislation also provides for a direct link between the SAIL Program and school-day learning activities by requiring communication among SAIL staff and teachers via existing computer-based student information systems.

Working partnerships with longstanding afterschool program providers would be encouraged under the legislation, allowing them to expand the reach of their services.

“After school programs have proven to strengthen student performance, particularly their ability to complete daily assignments in a way that truly helps them grasp the subject matter,” said Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle. “Not only do after school programs offer an environment conducive to learning, but they offer a support structure of educators and peers that together can build confidence and self-belief in our students.”

According to a 2014 parent survey conducted by the Afterschool Alliance, more than 26,000 Delaware students participate in afterschool programs. But, the survey also found that a total of 48,000 students would be likely to participate in an afterschool program if one was available.

“Quality after school programs are important for helping kids learn and grow, and for keeping kids away from people and places that might lead them down a bad path,” said Attorney General Matt Denn. “They show kids that people care about them and they help make neighborhoods and communities safer.”

Criminal justice research also supports bolstering afterschool programs. The hours from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. are routinely cited as the most dangerous time of day for youth and crime, representing the peak time when young people are likely to commit crimes or become victims of crime. An estimated 11 million youths in the United States are unsupervised afterschool each day.

“This legislation will provide much needed help to our schools for extra time assistance,” said Colonial School District Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey. “It will allow more students to receive afterschool help or provide time and resources for other activities that support student growth and students success.”

Initial funding for the SAIL Program grant fund is slated to be $10 million, subject to the appropriations process in the House and Senate. The legislation will be filed next week and will be assigned to the House Education Committee.

Two Delaware Newspapers Show The Rift In Education And In The House Democrat Caucus

Holy smokes!  Not sure which one I was more surprised to see, the one about Valerie Longhurst or the one about the General Fund Race To The Top 8!

Starting with Longhurst, The News Journal covered a “scathing email” situation Longhurst sent out to a University of Delaware Professor when the U of D employee questioned the General Assembly about raises given to certain employees at Legislative Hall.  The employee, Ms. Fran Fletcher, is well-known in Delaware as a mediator.  I have seen her at the HB90 Enrollment Preference Task Force and found her to be a very reasonable woman.  She is frequently called on by the Delaware Department of Education to mediate IEP meetings when parents and schools cannot agree on IEP issues.  If the allegations surrounding Longhurst’s response to Ms. Fletcher are true, that goes way beyond a constructive response to a constituent.  I would say it was filled with veiled threats to someone who dared question a legislator over a controversial issue.

Meanwhile, The Delaware State News jumped on the eight Race To The Top positions that I wrote about on Monday but they even had a quote from one of the employees who should have been cut but now seems to be working in the Executive Branch.  Shana Young said:

“While it does not have the authority to create new positions, the Department of Education, like all state agencies, has the authority to reclassify vacant positions,” Ms. Young said. “So, in the case of these eight positions, they were reclassified into existing vacancies in the department.”

It seems members of the Delaware Joint Finance Committee were not too happy about this news either based on the article.  I really thought the DOE would be raked over the coals by the General Assembly during their last legislative session.  Perhaps we should gear up for an even bigger fight this year!  But the bigger fight may go down with the House Dems!