Save The Date: June 20th, Rally For Education- No Cuts To Education Funding

When legislators and Delaware Governor Carney proposed massive cuts to public education, the people responded with a loud voice.  As a result, there will be a rally at Legislative Hall on June 20th from 1pm to 3pm, rain or shine.  This event, hosted by Network Delaware, is going to draw a huge crowd.  I know several educators will taking a bus (or two) from New Castle County.  This is YOUR chance to make sure your voice is heard.  If you are tired of bloated classrooms and teacher cuts, I would make sure you are there.  From the press release on the rally:

We need to stand up and show support for Delaware legislators who are resisting cuts to education. We need to unite and show them we’ll have their backs in their fight for educators, students, and school staff as they oppose proposed budget cuts to education funding for FY18.

All are welcome. Come with creative posters! Speakers to be announced. The rally will take place on the East Side Steps of Legislative Hall. Parking is available in the Delaware Public Archives parking lot.

This event is co-sponsored by PACE Network, Delaware PTA and Network Delaware.

If you haven’t filled out our form to have postcards and letters sent to your legislators opposing the budget cuts to education, please do so now! https://goo.gl/UM6cis

I will be there, front and center.  The legislators work for us, we the people, not the other way around.  Bring your kids!  Most educators should be done with school so there are no excuses!  The Delaware 149th General Assembly ends the first half of their legislative session on June 30th/July 1st.  Time IS running out.  It is now or never!

Carney & Bunting Tackle Education Funding But The Red Herring Fooling Everyone Lurks Around The Corner

Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will talk to educators, parents, and citizens tonight about education funding and the state budget tonight at 7:45pm.  To be included on the call, you had to sign up yesterday by 2pm.  I signed up on Tuesday.  I will be reporting live from the Town Hall.  What concerns me the most is not what Carney is saying.  It is what he isn’t talking about… Continue reading “Carney & Bunting Tackle Education Funding But The Red Herring Fooling Everyone Lurks Around The Corner”

Education Funding Mismanagement In Delaware

The below picture portrays exactly what is wrong with education funding in Delaware.  There is no consistency or oversight with where existing funds are going.  As a result, we have a boiling cauldron of fraud, waste, and abuse.  It seems like anyone can get paid in education and it can be catalogued however a school wants.

In this picture, we see the former Head of School from Family Foundations Academy and East Side Academy doing what appears to be consulting work for three Delaware charter schools.  Given that the amounts are very similar, I can assume it was the same type of work.  All three schools put the payments under different categories: Educational Benefits-Chld, Consultants, and Other Professional Service.  All three schools used different funds for what I assume to be similar work: Special, General, and Federal.  All three schools belong to the same Wilmington Charter School Collaborative, which is an alternate teacher evaluation system.  This initiative came about through Lamont Browne.

Lamont Browne left Delaware last summer and moved to Colorado to work his “magic” in another corporate education reform state.  So how is it he is able to do all this work in Colorado and still get paid by the State of Delaware through various charter schools?  Does he have a finders fee for this teacher evaluation system?

Governor Carney wants to talk about all these education funding decisions but has completely ignored the elephant in the room: we don’t know where existing funding is going to, especially in our charter schools.  School districts pull the same kind of shenanigans (wait until you see the next major audit investigation report coming out of Tom Wagner’s office!) but they can be harder to find.

I did go ahead and submit this as a tip to Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office as I wrote this article.  In the vein of full transparency, I am including screen shots of my tip:

When I write about this kind of stuff, all too often charter school supporters start defending the schools and say I am picking on charter schools.  While this most likely isn’t a Sean Moore kind of deal, it is symptomatic of what is wrong with our education funding oversight in Delaware.  I’m not looking for the causes as much as I truly want a solution to these kind of problems.  I would love to stop writing about these matters.  So Governor Carney, I am throwing you the gauntlet one more time: are you ready to talk about this or do I need to keep writing?

Education Funding A Hot Topic At The PDD Monthly Meeting Tonight

The Progressive Democrats of Delaware will have a panel tonight on the subject of education funding.  I was asked to be one of the panelists for this to which I happily accepted.  But I’m up against some heavy hitters!  One of the most knowledgeable experts on school district funding, Brian Stephan, will join myself, Tony Allen, and State Rep. Paul Baumbach on this important discussion.  As well, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission will receive the 2016 Bob Stachnik Progressive Courage Award for their advocacy efforts on improving education in Wilmington.  Tony Allen is the Chair of WEIC.  Brian Stephan serves on the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee and is a contributor for Delaware Liberal.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach is running unopposed for the 23rd State Rep. Seat which will give him his third consecutive term for the district.

I highly recommend coming out for this.  The event begins at 7pm and runs until 8:30am.  This will take place at the New Castle Democrat HQ at 19 East Commons Blvd., 2nd floor, in New Castle.  I will gladly answer any question presented to the best of my ability but I do not consider myself an expert on this stuff.  I know many facets but it is a very broad topic with many moving parts.  But I do plan on talking about a few things I’m pretty sure none of the other panelists would mention as I have just discovered them myself.  I have to imagine the very controversial charter school lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware Dept. of Education will come up.  As well, funding for WEIC will surely be a topic as well.  Many of the panelists want to revamp funding to include a weighted funding formula so children with higher needs are given a greater weight of money.

Don’t Believe Any Recommendations Coming Out Of The Education Funding Committee Report

I touched on this last week, but it is essential that the citizens of Delaware not believe the final recommendations of the Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Committee.  Their report is due to the General Assembly by Thursday, June 30th.  In a public meeting, one of the members of EFIC (as it is commonly known as in the halls of power in Delaware) stated the committee could not agree on any of the recommendations brought forth at their final committee.  No formal vote was taken on any specific actions.

I learned this by attending the meeting of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) last week.  GACEC Chair Robert Overmiller was a member of EFIC.  Along with all the other DOE special education shenanigans at that meeting, there was also this tidbit culled from my recording of the meeting:

The Senate Joint Resolution 4.  We had our meeting yesterday and the reality is they have approved zero motions and zero recommendations for the unit count.  Because they spent the whole year trying to convince the committee to throw out unit counts and put in what the DOE and Governor Markell want.  And they were totally unsuccessful in convincing the committee to do so.  So I don’t know what the report is going to look like when it comes out.  At the end of the month it will be turned in to the legislators but they definitely approved zero recommendations and zero anything.  Nothing was ever voted on for approval or exception.  So that committee produced nothing this year.

That sounds like a very clear statement to me!  I expect the Delaware DOE to post the final report any day now.  Like the Assessment Inventory Committee final report issued yesterday, I do not expect this report to be a complete record of what really went down at these meetings.  I still don’t understand why former State Rep. Darryl Scott is allowed to run committees like this and have a seat on the Southern Regional Education Board when he is not now an elected official, but this is Delaware.  If we see a weighted funding formula recommendation for education coming out of this report, it is a lie.  This is what happens when a committee is stacked with Markell sympathizers coming out of Rodel and the charter sector.

 

 

Another WEIC Bill Filed Today, “Encouraged, But Not Required” Clause Is Hysterical!

We haven’t seen a new Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting bill in a few weeks.  This one actually made me laugh.  Not only does it re-summarize the last bill but it also guarantees funding (for future General Assemblies to make sure the funding is there) for what WEIC will give Red Clay if the House Joint Resolution passes.  How much more legislation does this thing need?  And people said opt out took up a lot of time last year!  But the key part of this is the clause at the end which talks about “encouraged, but not required”.

HB425

Don’t get me wrong.  I love that this would eventually give basic special education funding throughout the state to all kids in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  But here is the big question: will the rest of the districts and charters get a curve on the 3rd grade Smarter Balanced Assessment because they don’t have this funding yet?  This whole WEIC thing is supposed to about righting wrongs and equity, right?  So here we go, once more, setting up inequity to address equity.

What is this whole part about “school districts are encouraged, but not required, to match up to 30 percent of said funding.”  Right there you are saying the state will only give about 77% of the funding for these high-needs kids.  What if the districts don’t feel so encouraged to provide that funding?  Will the state pony up the rest or is it just a “too bad, so sad” kind of situation?  And that is in the synopsis.  In the actual House Bill 425 legalese part all it says is “recommendations on resources”.  There is nothing in the actual law that states this 30% language.  And doesn’t this bill ignore the part in the WEIC redistricting plan that states all New Castle County schools would have all this funding in the next few years?  That doesn’t sound like one a year.  And how do charter schools fit into this funding mechanism?  When do they get these extra funds?  I like State Rep. Stephanie Bolden, and I think she has a very big heart.  But everyone is bending over backwards to get the redistricting plan passed, we now have three pending bills our General Assembly will have to pass in their next six legislative sessions in order for this thing to move forward.  This monster keeps growing more limbs!  This “once in a lifetime chance” has more stakes in it than a beer tent at Firefly…

At least now we know what this three county thing is that Larry Nagengast mentioned a few weeks ago.  But what the hell?  You can’t write laws with words like “encouraged but not required”.  It gives all of them an in or an out.  How can we talk about equity when there is a choice for some to take part and some not to?  They are either ALL IN or ALL OUT, no squeezing through the cracks here.  And, oh yeah, where is this NEW money coming from?  You know, the funding that would go to Indian River and Capital.  I didn’t see that in the budget.  We have 21 days left until June 30th.  Expect fireworks!

In the meantime, I want to put up “encouraged, but not required” in the 2016 Hall of Fame along with “shall vs. may”…

WEIC Meeting Tonight, The DOE’s Divide And Conquer Strategy Next Monday, & The Capital Debate

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is having a full commission meeting tonight at the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The meeting on the 2nd floor in the teacher’s lounge begins at 5:30pm.  Many big education meetings are going down Monday afternoon with overlapping times, thereby ensuring no one can possibly make all three meetings.  As well, the very odd-sounding EFIC group has another meeting and the candidates for the Capital School Board are having a question and answer night!  But first, the WEIC agenda:

WEICAgenda42616I would imagine the group is a bit nervous since no legislation has been introduced to move forward on their redistricting plan.  If I were a betting man, it is coming but not until late June.  Tomorrow, one of the WEIC sub-committees is having a meeting: The Charter & District mud fight Collaboration Committee.

WEICCharterDistrictAgenda

But next Monday is where a lot of the action is as groups meet about the assessment inventory, student data privacy and the Every Student Succeeds Act.  It is possible to make all three if you drive REALLY fast and miss portions of two of the meetings.  But if you want free soda and pizza on the taxpayer’s dime, go to the last meeting!

The first one, which I’m most interested in given that I write a lot about student data privacy all the time these days, is the Data-Mining Club Student Data Privacy Protection Task Force.  They canceled the last meeting because they knew they wouldn’t have a quorum.  I would have put the agenda in, but of course the link doesn’t work.  I guess they want to make it private! 😉

StudDataPrivTF5216

In the next episode of “We Hate Parents so we are going to trick them out of opting out by making it look like we are getting rid of the bad tests”, the committee meets to discuss testing in Delaware.  Someone on the DOE side will talk about how essential the Smarter Balanced Assessment is and someone from the “good guys” side of the table will question what the hell we are even doing.  Audience members will give public comment overwhelmingly on the side of “Smarter Balanced sucks”.

SJR25216

To see the wonderful world of the Every Student Succeeds Act through the eyes of Corporate Education Reform Cheerleader State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson, come to Grotto’s Pizza at 5:30pm.  Keep in mind, everyone is still trying to figure out what the hell this mammoth law even means so anything Donna talks about will be subject to change.  Expect many “I don’t know”s and “We don’t know yet”s coming from the microphone for this one.  We can expect a lot of the same people to show up to this one.  Last time I went to one of these I got to take part in a table discussion with Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Melissa Hopkins from the Rodel Foundation.  Talk about awkward!  But it was all good…

StateBoardWorkshopESSA

And then on Tuesday, the Education Funding Task Force is meeting again to finalize their pre-determined potential education funding plan for the General Assembly to squeeze in during the last days of their legislative session.

SJR4Mtg5316

But THE most exciting education event next week will actually take place at Central Middle School on Wednesday May 4th at 7pm.  Candidates running for the Capital School Board are having a debate!!!  Shameless plug: I am one of the candidates.  Come and find out what our priorities, ideas, and concerns are and what our plans are to improve the district.  And don’t forget, no matter what district you live in, the school board elections are only two weeks away, on May 10th.

Capital Candidate Night

My Observations From The Education Funding Task Force Meeting Tonight

I attended the first half of the Delaware Education Funding Task Force meeting tonight.  After Delaware Governor Jack Markell gave some brief opening comments thanking the members of the committee for their hard work, he advised them this isn’t an easy task force.  As he was leaving, he made a point to greet and shake hands with everyone in the room.  And I mean everyone!

Members trickled in so the meeting didn’t start until about 5:20.  There are some very vocal members on this committee with very strong ideologies.  The bad part is when many of them are different.  I have no clue how this group is going to come to a consensus in the next couple months.  I saw members on this task force who belong to the General Assembly (who listened for the most part), DOE, State Board, the traditional districts, the charter crowd, Rodel, school boards, the business community, Delaware PTA, GACEC, and advocates for ELL students.

Donna Johnson from the State Board of Education did make it a point to talk about the group’s discussions about basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  I do recall seeing a potential funding model where funds were reallocated in the needs-based funding formula for the state.  But this shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation for an education funding task force.  Put House Bill 30 up for a full vote and get it done.  It’s what, $11.5 million to fund that bill?  Make it happen.  Maybe the DOE can get rid of a ton of their vendor contracts and their non-vendor paychecks for all these people who show up on Delaware Online Checkbook with no transparency surrounding these payments whatsoever.  After all, the DOE were the ones that torpedoed this funding when the topic first came up six years ago.

It was interesting hearing some members talk about the lack of authority for a school principal to make funding decisions.  This was more from the charter side of the equation.  But members on the other side disagreed, saying they have the authority based on the pool of money they get from the district.  One member said even if they do find the right number or formula for funding, how do you audit that?  Does that money allocated as extra support for low-income and ELL students mean reduced classroom sizes or more teachers?  Some members felt that because 41 states have successful funding formulas that will translate as success for Delaware.  But how is that success measured?  By standardized tests?  Graduation rates?  Will they have pilot schools or districts to try it out?  What does low-income and poverty mean in terms of percentage of students?  Since the state changed how they measure poverty, but the DOE goes by one thing and DHHS goes by another, which is right?  If the group doesn’t necessarily agree with the WEIC funding formulas, what does that mean for the General Assembly when they vote on the redistricting in Wilmington?  If the majority of the group believes changing property assessments is the way to go what does that mean for the property owners who have no voice on this committee?  We should do what California does and vote on propositions like this.  Then we will see where the real voting power exists!

There were people at this meeting who I have never seen face to face but I have written about them a bit.  One as recently as last Thursday.  I had to pick up some groceries and my son REALLY wanted Dairy Queen so I snuck out while the group was on their pizza break.  I wished I could have stayed, but family first!  I am very curious what comes out of the final report.

Education Funding Improvement Commission Meeting On Tuesday

The Education Funding Improvement Commission, which came out of Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #4, will have their next meeting on Tuesday, April 19th at 5pm in the Tatnall Building in Dover.  Originally, the report for this was due to the General Assembly on March 31st, but Senator David Sokola had it extended until June 30th with Senate Concurrent Resolution #56.

I would still like to know why there is NO mention of basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Are they purposely ignoring this?  Governor Markell didn’t put it in the state budget proposal back in January either.  I’m sorry, I can’t buy any kind of new funding for schools when this glaring omission exists.  And people wonder why I feel insulted by the General Assembly at times…  We have a perfectly good bill with House Bill 30 and its ignored for well over a year now.  What is the disconnect here?  Why is no one aside from State Rep. Kim Williams and a few others pushing for this?  This is Governor Markell’s number one failure with education.  But sadder is the hundreds of children who suffered because of it.  No apology, nothing.  I will never believe it is all about the students as long as this gaping hole in school funding exists.  All the supports in the world don’t matter at all if children suffer.  They can pull out all these models and put on a big show, but show those models to the students with disabilities in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade who just aren’t good enough for all these great education initiatives.

I can’t change what happened to my son.  But I can try for the hundreds of others who are out there.  The ones with the denied IEPs.  The ones who aren’t given accommodations on their existing IEPs.  I’m mad.  I’m raw.  I’m tired of fighting.  I can show the entire state what is going on, but it isn’t enough to make a difference to those in power.  We can talk about pre-school being the next big thing until the cows come home, but if we are missing the boat on the true foundation for learning right when it starts, in Kindergarten going to 3rd grade, then we are failing all those children with disabilities.  All of us.  Most experts agree that if these kids don’t get this foundation then, it becomes very difficult for them to acclimate in later years.  So yeah, if I get angry and lash out, imagine how those kids feel.

SJR4EdFundTaskForceAgenda41916

While Vision Coalition & WEIC Plan Funding, EFIC Meets Today To Discuss Funding As Well

SJR4EFIC

Delaware, the home of multiple groups working on the same issues at the same time.  Today, the Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission is meeting for the third time at the Bear Library.  There are a lot of interesting names in this room.  Former State Rep. Darryl Scott, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Lindsay O’Mara (who is probably having one hell of a morning), Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson, State Board of Education member Barbara Rutt and more.  I see Senator Sokola’s aide, Tanner Polce.  I don’t see State Rep. Earl Jaques either, I suppose his aide is there as well.

It will be interesting to see what this group comes up with, along with Rodel The Vision Coalition.  WEIC’s funding will be subject to the Governor’s submitted budget at the end of January.  The one that will be submitted AFTER the State Board of Education votes on the plan.  To read more about the SJR #4 group, please read this.

SJR4

 

Senate Joint Resolution #4 Passes, Creates Education Funding Improvement Commission

Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola introduced Senate Joint Resolution #4 which creates the education improvement commission.  I am always suspicious of the two education committee heads down at Legislative Hall, but we definitely need to take a very hard look at education funding in Delaware.  There are just too many problems.

This resolution passed the House unanimously.