Video of “John Carney Comes To WEIC”

Instead of taking copious amounts of notes at the 2 hour Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meeting tonight, I decided to record it for video.  Please keep in mind I am an amateur with this stuff.  My laptop battery was about to run out half way through so I had to move my laptop away from the crowd to keep recording.  All of the Governor Carney visit is visible and most of the Secretary of Education Bunting visit is as well.  Once again, I apologize for the quality!

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Red Clay & Christina Respond To General Assembly With Opposition To New Stall Tactic Legislation

The Red Clay and Christina School Districts responded quickly and definitively to the new legislation kicking the can down the road for the redistricting plan with no guarantees of funding and asking for more planning.

WEIC Dies As Delaware Senators Try To Appease WEIC Advocates With Meaningless Legislation

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan is dead.  Not officially, but close enough.  Two bills introduced by the Delaware Senate basically say “We aren’t going to approve the plan but we are going to kick the can down the road.”

The two new bills, Senate Joint Resolution #17 and Senate Bill #300 hold about as much clout as a snowflake in July.  If I were the advocates for WEIC, I would feel very insulted.  These legislators need to get some gumption and either vote yes or no.  Jea Street is going to sue you.  He has been adamant about that.  Tony Allen is going to be very angry about this.  And Governor Markell?  What’s his stance?  Does it matter at this point?  Not really.  Quack-quack.

SB300

SJR17

And so WEIC ends, not with a bang, but with legislative whimpers.Del

Even If WEIC Passes The General Assembly, It Could Still Fall Apart Over Funding Issues

Remember when the Delaware State Board of Education wanted to change a key word from “shall” to “may”?  That created a resolution unanimously passed by the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission that if the “necessary and sufficient funding” is not available at two milestones of the redistricting plan, it will collapse.  End.  Finish.  Kaput.

Today, the House Education Committee did two things: they lifted House Bill #424 from a tabled status and released it from the education committee with eight votes in the positive.  But the discussion before the vote was somewhat tense.  As the meeting started, no House Republicans were present.  Slowly but surely, two of them came in: State Reps. Joe Miro and Tim Dukes.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan started the questioning about the Red Clay Board of Education’s role if the funding is not there.  After a considerable amount of confusion, WEIC Chair Tony Allen and Dan Rich clarified that the amount for the first two years just for the funding changes is $7.5 million each year for a total of $15 million.  In the Governor’s proposed budget, he allocated $6 million: $4 million for the funding changes and $2 million for WEIC transitional costs.

Based on Tony Allen’s statement about the resolution, the necessary and sufficient funding of $7.5 million for FY2017 will not be available even if the General Assembly passes House Joint Resolution #12.  Yesterday, DEFAC determined Delaware’s revenues are lower than projected a month ago so now there is less money in the state budget for next year.  Will the WEIC redistricting plan get out of the General Assembly alive?  Or will the Joint Finance Committee give the money to the redistricting plan if it passes both the House and the Senate?

State Reps Sean Matthews & Deb Heffernan Will Allow WEIC To Get Full House Vote

Yesterday, the News Journal posted an article about one of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting bill that was tabled in the House Education Committee.  In the original article, it talked about how the House Republicans and two Democrat State Representatives prevented the bill from moving forward.  In the update to the article, it appears State Reps. Sean Matthews and Deb Heffernan are ready to give the bill a full House vote.

“All along, my concerns have been related to funding – and there are still many hurdles to overcome. However, after conversations with my peers and leadership, I am now confident that they are committed to addressing those concerns. For this reason, I will sign the bill out of committee so that it may receive full consideration on the House floor,” Matthews said.

“I agree that this legislation deserves a full hearing in the House,” Heffernan said, while noting she wants more than “structural changes” in the education system.

In the House Education Committee, a majority vote is required for legislation to be released.  The committee has 14 members, so 8 votes are needed.  Only one of the votes from Heffernan or Matthews would allow the bill to move forward.

The committee will be having a special meeting next Tuesday, June 21st, solely designated towards House Bill 424 at 2:30pm in the House Majority Caucus room, located next to the House chamber.  Before the committee can release the bill, a majority vote is required to lift the bill from its tabled status.  My hunch is it will be on the House agenda for a full vote on Thursday, June 23rd.

While this is not the legislation that approves the redistricting, it is meant to assure legislators and Delaware citizens that if House Joint Resolution #12, which would approve the redistricting plan, that school boards across the state will not be able to raise school taxes without a referendum.

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 Redistricting Bill Tabled in House Education Committee To Add Proposed Amendments

At the House Education Committee meeting today in Delaware, House Joint Resolution #12 which would have allowed the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan to move forward, was tabled.  State Rep. Charles Potter, in his introductory statements, recommended the bill be tabled to add amendments which would otherwise have caused the plan to die in the House Education Committee.  While no amendments have been added to the legislation as of yet, it is most likely in regards to the issue of property assessments.  One of the recommendations of the redistricting plan is to allow the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education to incrementally raise property taxes without a referendum.  Many House Republicans oppose this.  Once the amendment is added I will certainly put it up.

Several supporters of the bill gave public comment to urge the General Assembly to move forward.  A few opposed the legislation based on inequality for students throughout the state.  Many members of the House Education Committee were either not present or skipped the meeting entirely.

While some spoke about how this will provide extra funding for students with disabilities, there is no mention of this in Governor Markell’s proposed budget.  I advised I support the bill if that funding is restored AND State Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 30 is approved to provide this essential funding for ALL students with disabilities in basic special education in grades Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

State Rep. Helene Keeley gave a very powerful speech before the committee voted about the situation with students in Wilmington and how the drug epidemic has ravaged the city.  The committee will meet next week to discuss HJR #12 with the soon to be added amendment.

Will The WEIC Redistricting Plan Die In The House Education Committee Next Week?

That was quick!  In the same day the WEIC redistricting plan turns into pending legislation, the bill is also placed on the House Education Committee agenda for next week!  I’m not sure what this fast-track means.  But we are well into May and the General Assembly finishes up on June 30th.  But there are some other potentially controversial bills on the agenda as well!

House Joint Resolution #12, the now famous Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting bill introduced today, turns all the WEAC and WEIC recommendations into a bill.  The WEIC did what they had to do, the State Board of Education finally passed it in March, now it is the General Assembly’s turn.  This is where this bill could either move forward or actually die in committee.  While you can’t go by who the sponsors are on a bill, it is a good sign of who will definitely say yes when it comes up for a vote.  But with this bill being so Wilmington and New Castle County specific, it would stand to assume that those who are legislators up there and support the redistricting would sponsor the bill.  The House Education Committee has 14 members.  The following members are sponsors on the bill: Jaques, Bentz, Bolden, Lynn, Osienski, and Potter.  Red Clay legislators Kim Williams (Democrat), Joseph Miro (Republican) and Michael Ramone (Republican), who also serve on the committee, are not sponsors on the bill.  There are no House Republican sponsors whatsoever on the bill.  Which leads me to believe (and this is only speculation on my part) none of them will support this.  Which also takes Dukes, Hensley, and Kenton off the yes list.  That leaves two other Democrats on the House Education Committee who aren’t sponsors on the bill but also come from the Wilmington area: Sean Matthews and Deb Heffernan.  Both of them did not vote on Senate Bill 122 when it had the full House vote last June, along with Mike Ramone.  So this bill could die in committee with 6 yes and 8 no. Specifically, the bill would be tabled.

Once again, this is merely speculation on my part and I have not heard anything from anyone on this.  I imagine Kim Williams could be swayed if House Bill 30 were also given equal merit and taken out of the appropriations committee.  But it would still face a full House vote.  If it passed then, it would go to the Senate Education Committee, and if released from there it would be up for a full Senate vote.  That is a lot of variables.  If I that were my bargaining chip, I wouldn’t cash it in until House Bill 30 is signed by the Governor!  But it still needs a majority vote.

To get out of the House Education Committee, House rules state:

Bills and resolutions shall be reported out of committee by a majority of the committee or subcommittee by signing the backer. A bill or resolution may be tabled in any committee or subcommittee by a majority vote of the full committee or subcommittee.

This is assuming everyone attends the committee meeting as well.  I could picture some members who don’t want to be put in a position of killing the WEIC bill to just not show up!  It wouldn’t be the first time.  But this is also an election year.  If the majority of the constituents in your district don’t support WEIC and the bill winds up passing, an absent from committee could potentially change an election if it ticks off enough voters.  This chess game could get a checkmate next week!

But there are other bills on the agenda as well:

A somewhat odd school choice bill would give priority to students who have certain medical conditions.  House Bill 229 states “if a parent, relative, guardian or caregiver can demonstrate that they would be able to respond quicker to an emergency at the selected school, the student will receive a priority consideration.”  This one could open a big old can of worms!

The Restorative Justice Senate Bill 207 which seeks to reduce suspensions unless it is for fighting, drug offenses are other such serious infractions has a lot of support.  The bill would also put restorative justice techniques in Delaware schools.  But with the recent Howard High School tragedy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an amendment or two tacked on this one!

House Bill 355, which was just filed on Tuesday, would make computer science a mandatory course in high school and the credit would go towards the math or science graduation requirements.  When I put this up the other day, many folks on Facebook were shocked this wasn’t already a requirement.  I expect this will get a quick release without a lot of discussion.

If I know the WEIC crowd, this will be a packed House (literally) next week.  Especially after this article comes out!  As I said yesterday, get there early!

Breaking News: The Wilmington Redistricting Plan Becomes Legislation!

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan to move the Christina schools in Wilmington over to Red Clay has entered its final leg in the long journey.  House Joint Resolution #12 was filed today with primary Sponsors State Rep. Charles Potter and State Senator Margaret Rose-Henry with the following co-sponsors: State Reps Baumbach, Bentz, Bolden, Brady, Jaques, J. Johnson, Keeley, Lynn, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Osienski, Paradee and Viola; and State Senators Marshall, McDowell, Poore and Townsend.  There are some names I thought might be on here but aren’t.  Including any House Republican.  Kim Williams is also absent, but I suspect that has a lot to do with the fact House Bill 30, which would provide basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade has, for the most part, been ignored by the General Assembly.

HouseJointResolution #12

HJR12

This is where it will get very interesting folks!  Since it is a joint resolution, it must go before the education committees in both Houses of the General Assembly.  Unless they should happen to suspend the rules, but with legislation as controversial as this, I would tend to doubt they would do that.  All of this rides on the final budget numbers.  What do you think?  Will the General Assembly move forward with the WEIC redistricting plan?  Or will Tony Allen’s “once in a generation” moment disappear?

State Board & WEIC Transcription: FOIA Violation, Priority Schools, And Funding

The State Board of Education audio recordings from their very long meeting yesterday are now up on the State Board website.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission portions of the meeting take up a collective two hours and twenty minutes of the meeting.  Not included are the breaks, legal or illegal, during the meeting with respect to the WEIC discussion.

As I insanely do once in a while, during contentious board meetings, I transcribed part of the WEIC conversations.  The three areas I focused on were the FOIA violation I believe the State Board committed by pausing the meeting to convene with legal counsel without calling for an executive session, the Christina priority school plans, and the funding/pause conversation surrounding the words “shall” and “may”.  The key players in most of this are State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray and WEIC Chair Tony Allen.  Others are State Board members Pat Heffernan, Barbara Rutt, and Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson.  While I would have loved to get the whole thing transcribed, there isn’t enough time in the day.  And as I’ve said before, you can only replay some of these voices so many times without wanting to jump off a bridge.  Key parts or words are bolded for emphasis.

 

The FOIA Violation

There has been well over an hour of conversation at this point about the plan and a lot of back and forth between the State Board and Tony Allen.  This occurs at the end of Part 5 in the audio recordings from the meeting yesterday.

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray: So, I just gotta check out the procedural piece of that with the attorney…do you mind? Cause I’m not sure about, uhm, the timing…

Tony Allen: Could I add, offer something, Could you make a motion to approve it with the new caveats, approval contingent upon…

Gray: Yeah, that’s why I need to make sure we get all the right pieces around that. I think I heard a little bit of that. So, let me ask for, uhm, a 15 minute break to consult with counsel and get the options around that.  Do you mind?

Allen: No

Gray: Miss Rutt, can she come with me, with you, the attorney? It’s 3:46.  We’ll be back at 4.

31 minutes later, beginning of Part 6 of the audio recording…

Gray: It’s 4:17 and we’re back in session. So why we left and the whole purpose of stepping away is we had , uhm,  a proposal to table the current motion to approve the plan as presented.  But, ugh, we brought forth an amendment motion that actually puts forth a conditional approval based on the conditions of changing the “shall” to “may” in the proposed resolution.  And also having a wait for the Christina School District to act on the action item on February 23rd which involves submission of grant applications to the Department of Education for priority schools.  And also contingent upon approval of the Department of Education of that plan, of that grant application.  Right, so that’s the discussion that has been happening for the past thirty minutes or so and the expectation around that, uhm, if the board accepts that amended motion and vote accordingly, or affirmative in that, that we would ask that we take those two conditions and act accordingly however we see fit, we would be able to close that item before us.  There is no need to bring this back to the table or as an agenda item for the board.  We would be able to settle that based on those conditions being met.

Pat Heffernan: And if they’re not met?

Gray: And if they’re not met then the approval is, there is no conditional approval and we do not approve it.

Allen: Can I add two things?

Gray: Sure

Allen: I’ve consulted with many of the commissioners here on both the conditions. On condition one, back to Christina and the priority school plans, I think that, I appreciate, making sure that the condition is with respect to the Department of Education approving the plan as opposed to the Christina School Board being made, maybe that’s how I was interpreting it, made to approve their priority schools plan is a better way to get that.  I think the Christina School District has every intention to approve the plan but I don’t think they take kindly to the State Board as making them so that’s…

Barbara Rutt: Sure

Allen: The second issue, with respect to “shall” and “may” is, I just want to reiterate, and you will act I know, I want to reiterate that on the board level, the commission level, the word “shall” was about making sure this wasn’t becoming an unfunded mandate. We talked about that at length during our discussion.  I think that would be a significant hurdle for us.  The district leaders have continued to express that if the resources aren’t provided they could not go forward.  And it’s my suspicion is that they will see that change from “shall” to “may” as a potential for an unfunded mandate with a cause of concern for their districts.  I will take that back to the commission, but I wanted you to know that as you make your decision, that could be a deal-breaker.  While I would not speak for the commission at this moment, I can guarantee you that if it does not happen, you will not see the commission resubmit a plan. 

 

Christina Priority Schools

Heffernan: I just want to add that, you know, the approval of the priority schools plan by Christina is, is it months or years late? So I have very little patience for Christina for semantics on that.  They literally refused to approve plans to help the kids and honestly, I think got us to this table where we are today.

Secretary of Education Dr. Steve Godowsky: I just want to make this clear. On January 22nd of 2016, I sent Christina’s Acting Superintendent a letter indicating that either the board or the Acting Superintendent can submit and activate the, uhm, the original application for the priority, or the MOU that they submitted a year ago.  Uhm, so that is what you are suggesting.  It may not require a vote from the Board but we wanted to make sure which plan they want to move forward and if it was the MOU plan, and I have talked to the Board President.   Then that will be acceptable to us going forward.

Heffernan: One thing that really troubles me about this is if the Christina Board doesn’t fully support these plans then, you know, we’re back to where we always were. And this is, so I, I, we can’t make, we have no authority to make any local boards approve anything, I totally get that, but I’m just very disappointed that this continues to be hard to get them to agree to help the priority schools.  That’s all I’m saying.

Godowsky: And the Christina Board did sign off on their plan about a year ago with one day difference so I think they did support that plan. And now that we know that’s the plan on the table then we can move forward, I believe we can do our due diligence and be in a position to review that plan and make modifications.

Heffernan: So they approved this a year ago?

Godowsky: As part of, uhm, the Memorandum of Understanding, between the district and others that negotiated that alternative to the original plan, as I understand it. I was…

Allen: As I understand that, the impasse was between Christina and their approved plans and the former Secretary (Mark Murphy), not that they didn’t approve the priority school plans. That is my understanding.

Heffernan: But the Department didn’t approve the plans?

Allen: Correct

Heffernan: So we’re going to take the same plans that the Department didn’t approve…

Godowsky: No, no. I don’t know the history of why it wasn’t signed off.  There were a number of contingencies on that which required the principal, replacing the principal, interviewing, or reapplying teachers for their positions, and management company that, ugh, that, those requirements have changed and we’re not in a position to impose those regulations.  So I think that was the stumbling block.  I don’t want to speak for Christina, and I don’t have all the history that they were the stumbling block, but later on there was an MOU submitted that never got signed off on at the Department level.  I don’t know the reasons in detail.  But I just know what I’ve looked at, in terms of the MOU, it’s consistent with much of what we want to do with those three schools, instructionally, which we’ve talked about since October, that I’ve been here.  And, given some modifications, I’m ready to move forward.

Gray reiterates much of the conversation of what just went on…

Godowsky: I’m in receipt of those plans. I just needed, in a sense I have those plans.

 

“Shall” and “May”

Heffernan: I guess I’m trying to understand where the unfunded mandate is coming from. The redistricting portion of the plan is going to be unfunded or…

Allen: Remember, we arranged this for resources for English Language Learners, special education, and high concentrations of poverty. Every outline of current funding, none of that has been allocated yet, say, for the Governor’s commitment for the four to six million, right, so what we’re suggesting is each year, going through these two budget cycles, everything has to show up and if it that money doesn’t show up all the districts have particular issues with having Red Clay taking on these kids, and by the way this is not just a Red Clay issue, all the districts talk about this, taking on these kids with no changes in the funding formula for how they are going to help those kids.

Gray: And we’re committed to that same delivery around, particularly to support low-income and English Language Learners so we are… (note: Gray did not say special education)

Allen: And I agree. The question is about you all interpreting, and again, this might be an (inaudible) on our part, you all interpreting “shall” as required without deliberation.

Gray: That’s right.

Allen: We don’t interpret it that way. It was meant to be deliberation in consultation with the effected districts…

Gray: Right, so let’s just make it the “may”, and if we need to, we’ll do it, right? Because without this level of conversation and intimacy that we have now, whenever this may come forward a few years from now that “shall” is a… (very, very hard to understand what she said here but I did hear the word legal.  Whether that was “legal” or “illegal” I was unable to tell)

Allen: I agree, and I do not give this short shrift, if you in fact approve it this way, it will require, I believe, a full-throated (inaudible) analysis that you will give in writing and in person to the commission, so…

Gray: Absolutely. We’re committed to that.  The Board is committed to that for sure.

At this point, Dan Rich (another WEIC commissioner) says something to Tony Allen. Tony asks for five minutes, and then Kenny Rivera (President of the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education and a commissioner on WEIC) says something.  I think I heard the word “non-negotiable” but it is very hard to hear.  The State Board grants the WEIC folks a five minute break.  This is the end of Part 6 of the audio recordings.

The break ends, and the State Board is back in session in Part 7 of the audio recordings.

Gray: So Dr. Allen, did you want to add something before we go forward?

Allen: I consulted with many of the Commissioners here and I think there is general agreement that we could, and we would like you to consider, taking out all the provisions outlined in the resolution that we take back to the commission so that it does not come back to the State Board. But in general, but moving forward, it will be contingent upon sufficient funding.  Effectively, that takes you out of the process at the final implementation stage.

Gray: So you’re saying?

Allen: What we’re saying disregard all the remaining “shalls”, make it all contingent upon the necessary and sufficient funding and resources and take it off of the State Board with respect to their responsibility for this board and to future State Boards.

Gray: So is that effectively removing the resolution?

Allen: It’s more changing the resolution but excluding State Board having ongoing responsibility for suspension of the timetable.

Gray: Could I ask the process specialist?

Donna Johnson: With process of approval of the redistricting process in and of itself, and there is the caveat there that the plan would become essentially non-void if necessary and sufficient funding were not available, what safeguards would be in place if those necessary sufficient funding and supports were not at each of the milestones? Where would there be a pause that takes place at that point?

Allen: Do you mean who would authorize that pause?

Johnson: Yes.

Allen: The authorization would come from the commission and the effected districts. So we’d take it out of the State Board’s hands.  There is nothing in Senate Bill 122 that prohibits this.

After much back and forth, the State Board voted on the redistricting plan and the addendums as of 2/11/16 with no amendments which failed 3-4.  The State Board then voted on the plan with the amendments about the Christina priority schools plan approval and the changing of “shall” to “may” on page 10 of the official plan.  The motion passed with a 4-3 vote.

 

Emergency WEIC Meeting Details

State Rep. Kim Williams just put this on her Facebook account:

An emergency WEIC Commission meeting for Wednesday, February 24 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the action by the State Board of Education and our response. They believe that the first condition, regarding the Christina Priority Schools plan, soon will be met. The main focus at the Commission meeting will be on the second condition. It is critical that the members of the Commission attend this meeting and participate in our deliberations.

The meeting will be held in Wilmington at Bifferato LLC, located at 800 North King Street, on the Plaza level. The building is on the corner of 8th and King St., directly across the street from the Doubletree Hotel (where everyone should park) and next to the Federal Courthouse.

This promises to be a very heated meeting.  How will WEIC respond to the State Board of Education action taken yesterday?  Between the Christina Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, this meeting on Wednesday, and the Assessment Inventory meeting on Thursday, next week is looking to be very heavy with meetings!

WEIC: What Happens Next & Separating Truth And Rumors

Yesterday, the State Board approved the WEIC plan with certain conditions.  What is real and what isn’t from this whole process?  This article has the answers to questions on the minds of many this morning.  Earlier today, Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Chair Tony Allen sent a message to the members with their next step:

Yesterday, The Delaware State Board of Education voted to approve Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s Redistricting Plan with two conditions, http://delawarepublic.org/…/state-board-ed-narrowly-approve…

• The Christina Priority Schools plan be approved the Delaware Department of Education

• The Commission change the word “shall” to “may” in item #2 of the Redistricting Resolution of our plan; this is the item that outlines a suspension of the timetable if the “necessary and sufficient resources” are not provided to move forward with implementing the plan.

While today’s approval comes with conditions, the Commission remains resolute in our commitment to our objectives and to our plan for meeting those objectives. In that spirit, I will be calling an emergency meeting of the Commission next week to discuss the conditional approval and determine our path forward. As is our normal practice, that meeting will be open to the pubic and include public comment.

On a parallel track, this morning, the University of Delaware announced the UD Partnership for Public Education and the Fund for Urban Education. These are two more examples of the catalytic nature of the Commission’s efforts and a great show of support from Delaware’s flagship institution, http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2016/feb/partnership021816.html

– Tony

This is where things are going to get very tricky.  It is now incumbent on the school districts, mainly Red Clay and Christina, to decide if they even want to move forward without the guaranteed funding.  While the funding could certainly be there if the Delaware General Assembly adds a few tweaks to the Governor’s budget, the simple changing of the word “shall” to “may” changes the whole ballgame.

I am very interested in this new initiative of the University of Delaware.  Tony Allen, along with another alumnus, donated $100,000 to create this entity.

In terms of violations by the State Board of Education yesterday, many are assuming they had to pass the WEIC redistricting plan in its entirety.  This is not true.  The key to this is in the language of Senate Bill 122:

…the State Board of Education may change or alter the boundaries of school districts in New Castle County in a manner consistent with some or all of the redistricting recommendations made by the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee in the report issued March 31, 2015, provided that the General Assembly passes, and the Governor signs, a Joint Resolution supporting the proposed changes.

I can’t remember who first said it had to be approved as a whole, but everyone seems to have run with that ever since.  Based on the legislation, this is not true.  The addendums added by the State Board are completely within their scope to legally do so.  The key words are some or all which I bolded for emphasis.  However, that does not excuse the obvious other FOIA violations that happened yesterday or the intentional conflict the State Board created yesterday.

By going out of public session with their legal counsel without declaring an Executive Session (which they did in their January board meeting as well), the State Board violated FOIA and public meeting law.  Even worse, they may have further violated the law by allowing someone not on the State Board access to this meeting.  To complicate matters more, any citizen could have followed them into that meeting because it was still in public session.  However, the State Board denied a citizen’s right to do this by barring entrance with a locked door into the area they met.  You need a key card to go from the Cabinet room to the State Board offices.  So they intentionally blocked a citizen from being able to do this.  When the State Board came out of this illegal closed-door session, Tony Allen came out with them along with Secretary Godowsky.  I think Tony Allen, at the least, needs to publicly say, to the best of his recollection, exactly what transpired in this meeting.

What does Delaware state code say about this?

(a) Every meeting of all public bodies shall be open to the public except those closed pursuant to subsections (b), (c), (d) and (h) of this section.

(b) A public body may call for an executive session closed to the public pursuant to subsections (c) and (e) of this section, but only for the following purposes:

(1) Discussion of an individual citizen’s qualifications to hold a job or pursue training unless the citizen requests that such a meeting be open. This provision shall not apply to the discussion by a licensing board or commission which is subject to the provisions of § 8735 of this title, of an individual citizen’s qualifications to pursue any profession or occupation for which a license must be issued by the public body in accordance with Delaware law;

(2) Preliminary discussions on site acquisitions for any publicly funded capital improvements, or sales or leases of real property;

(3) Activities of any law-enforcement agency in its efforts to collect information leading to criminal apprehension;

(4) Strategy sessions, including those involving legal advice or opinion from an attorney-at-law, with respect to collective bargaining or pending or potential litigation, but only when an open meeting would have an adverse effect on the bargaining or litigation position of the public body;

(5) Discussions which would disclose the identity of the contributor of a bona fide and lawful charitable contribution to the public body whenever public anonymity has been requested of the public body with respect to said contribution by the contributor;

(6) Discussion of the content of documents, excluded from the definition of “public record” in § 10002 of this title where such discussion may disclose the contents of such documents;

(7) The hearing of student disciplinary cases unless the student requests a public hearing;

(8) The hearing of employee disciplinary or dismissal cases unless the employee requests a public hearing;

(9) Personnel matters in which the names, competency and abilities of individual employees or students are discussed, unless the employee or student requests that such a meeting be open.

(c) A public body may hold an executive session closed to the public upon affirmative vote of a majority of members present at a meeting of the public body. The vote on the question of holding an executive session shall take place at a meeting of the public body which shall be open to the public, and the results of the vote shall be made public and shall be recorded in the minutes. The purpose of such executive sessions shall be set forth in the agenda and shall be limited to the purposes listed in subsection (b) of this section. Executive sessions may be held only for the discussion of public business, and all voting on public business must take place at a public meeting and the results of the vote made public.

(d) This section shall not prohibit the removal of any person from a public meeting who is willfully and seriously disruptive of the conduct of such meeting.

(e)(1) This subsection concerning notice of meetings shall not apply to any emergency meeting which is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, or to the General Assembly.

(2) All public bodies shall give public notice of their regular meetings and of their intent to hold an executive session closed to the public, at least 7 days in advance thereof. The notice shall include the agenda, if such has been determined at the time, and the dates, times and places of such meetings, including whether such meeting will be conducted by video-conferencing; however, the agenda shall be subject to change to include additional items including executive sessions or the deletion of items including executive sessions which arise at the time of the public body’s meeting.

(3) All public bodies shall give public notice of the type set forth in paragraph (e)(2) of this section of any special or rescheduled meeting as soon as reasonably possible, but in any event no later than 24 hours before such meeting. A special or rescheduled meeting shall be defined as one to be held less than 7 days after the scheduling decision is made. The public notice of a special or rescheduled meeting shall include an explanation as to why the notice required by paragraph (e)(2) of this section could not be given.

(4) Public notice required by this subsection shall include, but not be limited to, conspicuous posting of said notice at the principal office of the public body holding the meeting, or if no such office exists at the place where meetings of the public body are regularly held, and making a reasonable number of such notices available. In addition, for all noncounty and nonmunicipal public bodies, public notice required by this subsection shall include, but not be limited to, electronic posting on a designated State of Delaware website, approved by the Registrar of Regulations by May 1, 2013, which shall be accessible to the public. In addition, all public bodies in the executive branch of state government that are subject to the provisions of this chapter shall electronically post said notice to the designated State of Delaware website approved by the Secretary of State.

(5) When the agenda is not available as of the time of the initial posting of the public notice it shall be added to the notice at least 6 hours in advance of said meeting, and the reasons for the delay in posting shall be briefly set forth on the agenda.

(f) Each public body shall maintain minutes of all meetings, including executive sessions, conducted pursuant to this section, and shall make such minutes available for public inspection and copying as a public record. Such minutes shall include a record of those members present and a record, by individual members (except where the public body is a town assembly where all citizens are entitled to vote), of each vote taken and action agreed upon. Such minutes or portions thereof, and any public records pertaining to executive sessions conducted pursuant to this section, may be withheld from public disclosure so long as public disclosure would defeat the lawful purpose for the executive session, but no longer. All public bodies in the executive branch of state government that are subject to the provisions of this chapter and meet 4 or fewer times per year shall electronically post draft minutes of open public meetings, identified as “draft minutes,” to the designated State website approved by the Secretary of State within 20 working days after the conclusion of the meeting. Prior to being posted, draft minutes may be distributed to members of the public body who were present at the open public meeting. Draft minutes may continue to be revised and corrected up until final minutes are approved by the public body at an open meeting. All public bodies in the executive branch of state government that are subject to the provisions of this chapter shall electronically post final approved minutes of open public meetings to the designated State of Delaware website approved by the Secretary of State within 5 working days of final approval of said minutes.

(g) Every regularly scheduled meeting of a public body shall be held within the geographic jurisdiction of that public body. All such other meetings shall be held as follows:

(1) A public body serving any political subdivision of the State, including, but not limited to, any city, town or school district, shall hold all such other meetings within its jurisdiction or the county in which its principal office is located, unless it is school board training that has been approved by the Secretary of Education as beneficial to school board development activities.

(2) For the purposes of this subsection, a “regularly scheduled meeting” shall mean any meeting of a public body held on a periodic basis.

(3) The provisions of this subsection, insofar as they are not practicable, shall not apply to any emergency meeting which is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, or to a meeting held by a public body outside of its jurisdiction which is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public financial welfare.

(h) This section shall not apply to the proceedings of:

(1) Grand juries;

(2) Petit juries;

(3) Special juries;

(4) The deliberations of any court;

(5) The Board of Pardons and Parole;

(6) Public bodies having only 1 member;

(7) Public bodies within the legislative branch of the state government other than the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Joint Finance Committee, the Joint Committee on Capital Improvement, the Joint Sunset Committee, Legislative Council, committees, excluding ethics committees, specifically enumerated and created by Resolution of the House of Representatives and/or Senate or task forces specifically enumerated and created by Resolution of the House of Representatives and/or Senate;

The question here becomes if the State Board of Education is considered part of the legislative branch of the state government.  They do vote on regulations but I do not believe they are considered a legislative body.  The State Board did not call for an executive session yesterday and even if they didn’t, the board did not vote to convene with counsel.  This was not a collective bargaining situation nor was it pending litigation.  I’m sure the State Board will come up with some lame excuse for why they did this but I would strongly urge the Delaware Attorney General’s office to do more than a “don’t do it again” slap on the wrist.  This is two months in a row they have done this.

Many have asked where the “shall” that was changed by the State Board to “may” actually happens.  This can be found in the WEIC Addendum dated 2/11/16.

Shall

Basically, the State Board doesn’t want to stop the whole redistricting process if the funds aren’t available.  They obviously want improved educational outcomes (based on standardized high-stakes testing scores).  In essence, they don’t want to be the bad guy if funding snafus comes up and have the finger pointed at them if it all went down in flames based on funding or lack thereof.  The question now becomes if the State Board actually found a way to dance around the funding issue.  WEIC will assuredly consult with the affected districts and may very well come back and say “It’s over.”  The State Board could say “Well, we changed the word to ‘may’ so we aren’t bound by that so we are going to move forward.”  But now it is an unfunded mandate.  If the plan does pass the General Assembly and is signed by Governor Markell and funding stops from the state budget, the local districts would be on the hook to fund this initiative.  Christina and Red Clay can not afford that.  The State Board found a way to further weaken traditional school districts and further evaporate their finances.  They set themselves up in their own trap.  Granted, they could not do this until June 30th of this year, because that would be the completion of the approval stage and they can’t suspend the timetable until it reaches the conclusion of that stage.  From page 10 of the official redistricting plan.

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As for the Christina priority school plans, their board did submit these to Secretary Godowsky a few months ago.  These are the same plans the district drew up last year as part of the brokered agreement between the Governor’s office and Christina based on the WEAC recommendations.  But in an article with the News Journal, Godowsky did not gave a 100% guarantee these plans would be approved:

The first condition attached is that the Department of Education approve a plan to provide extra resources to Christina School District.  That plan came out of the clash over priority schools in early 2015, and Secretary of Education Stephen Godowsky said he was optimistic it would be approved.

Godowsky was also optimistic the harsh participation rate penalties would not be included in the Delaware School Success Framework and two weeks later they were after he did a complete turnaround on his earlier announcement to the press.  It is my opinion Godowsky likes to soothe the moment and say what he thinks people want to hear but when the directive comes down from his boss, he is forced to change his stance.

While the whole redistricting plan has many moving parts, the State Board complicated matters even more yesterday.  Whether you agree or not with the plan, the onus was on the State Board to do the right thing.  They clearly did not and instead played political games and toyed with wording in a way that gives them a quick exit without looking like the bad guys.  However, there was a lot of media there and they came across looking like complete and utter idiots in my opinion.  With the exception of board members Dr. Terri Whittaker and Jorge Melendez, I have to wonder why we even need this State Board of Education in its current line-up.  They are not publicly elected and they cause more harm than good.

 

 

 

The WEIC Redistricting “Social Experiment”

On Saturday, I put up a post about my thoughts on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan as it stands right now.  I was very strong with my thoughts about the whole thing and I didn’t mince any words.  I received quite a few messages about those thoughts, some positive and some negative.  One of them was very shocking to me and made me wonder what the whole purpose of this whole thing is.  While I won’t reveal who said it, I think it is important to get this out there.  This person IS a member of the actual commission, the member body of over twenty people.

Social Experiment

Like I said, I am not revealing who this person is on the actual commission. I responded to the person that I felt children aren’t an experiment and they have been experimented on enough in the past twenty years, especially in Wilmington. The person responded in kind and was very heartfelt with what they said, but it doesn’t take back the original words. I do not think every member of the commission is the best that could have come up with a plan like what came out. I still don’t believe it is right to give some resources and funding and not all. It puts some at a distinct advantage and leaves others behind. For a group that is about equity, it sure is funny how they are setting Red Clay up to have more advantage than others.  As well, I have serious issues with this being just a New Castle County thing when the whole state will pay for it.  I told WEIC this from the very beginning.

The Big WEIC Redistricting Vote Is This Thursday: Do You Think The State Board of Education Will Pass It?

If you think it won’t pass, please go to the comments to indicate why you think it won’t pass.  If you think they will stall again, do you think that is their game plan or they just don’t know what they are doing?

WEIC Addendum Gives Red Clay Distinct Advantages Over All School Districts In Delaware

KeyserSoze

The State Board of Education will vote on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan on Thursday, February 18th.  What they are voting on will give Red Clay certain advantages over every other school district and charter school in the State of Delaware.  The plan calls for additional funding for Red Clay Consolidated and the Christina schools currently in Wilmington that would become part of Red Clay by Fiscal Year 2019.  This funding be based on a weighted funding formula to be approved by the Delaware General Assembly (of which there is no current legislation addressing this).  The weighted funding would give additional funding for English Language Learners, low-income students, and basic special education for children in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  The money would come in FY2017.  This funding would spread out into FY2018 to the remaining schools in the Christina School District.  By FY2019, all city of Wilmington School districts and charter schools would receive this additional funding.

Hey Tony Allen and the WEIC gang: What about the rest of Delaware?  While I think it’s great you are recommending the entire state gets these funds as soon as possible, there is no crystal clear plan for that happening.  But there is certainly a plan for all of northern New Castle County.  In case you forgot, over half the students in the state exist outside this plan.  So what happens when Wilmington gets all this extra money, support and resources?  What happens to the almighty standardized test scores?  Will there be a curve for the rest of the state when Red Clay does better and then the rest of the Wilmington districts?  It will give those schools a disproportionate advantage over the rest of the state.  More funding means more teaching units in the classroom, whether it is more teachers or more paraprofessionals.  In case you haven’t checked, there are poor kids south of the Canal as well.  Kids with disabilities and many English Language Learners, especially in Sussex County.  I guess it’s okay to make them wait until FY2020 or never based on your plan.

But this goes beyond just funding, because all these organizations like the United Way of Delaware (not Wilmington) and other community service associations will be pouring support into Wilmington schools as well.  I’m not saying Wilmington doesn’t need all of this.  I’m saying ALL of Delaware does.  The problems in Wilmington schools are not necessarily unique to just Wilmington schools.  They are all over the state.  Wilmington doesn’t get to receive $22-26 million in additional funding on top of community organization support AND $3 million going to the University of Delaware over the next few years while the rest of the state watches AND pays for it.  It’s like going to a birthday party and watching someone open up all their presents.  But this birthday party will go on for three years.  And this party isn’t in Wilmington, it’s in the whole state of Delaware and we all have to pay the rent for the party while Wilmington gets all the presents.  Meanwhile, we won’t get any of those cool presents but we will be judged on the same level as if we got those presents.  And the result…

cliff_hanging

 

Tony Allen, I met with you last March.  I told you then about my concerns with Delaware special education.  I told you about the funding issues, the charter issues, and the district issues.  I told you if special education isn’t a major part of this, I can’t support it.  To date, I’m not seeing it.  I don’t see it in the plans for the next few years.  I don’t see a committee that is just about special education and how to improve it.  Even though you told me this would happen.  When Tony?  Next year?  The year after?  Or never?  That really pissed me off Tony.  You gave me your word.  That word doesn’t mean anything now.  Sorry to call you out like this, but I don’t appreciate being told something and then it doesn’t happen.

But I do see WEIC will take all the propaganda and corporate education reform lingo and throw it into their plans to appease the State Board of Education and the Governor.  WEIC swallowed the bait.  All this birth to eight crap, and birth to college.  Who do we think we’re fooling?  Wait until the Social Impact Bonds start coming out.  When students futures are hedged for the investors.  That’s what all this is about: Student Capital.

If the goal of all of this is to turn schools in Wilmington into community centers, I can’t back this.  At all.  That’s where we’re going with all this.  I feel for the kids up there.  I truly do.  My heart bleeds when I read about the murders and violence in Wilmington.  But pouring all this money into education doesn’t even address the problem.  Get the social workers out there, get the police to effectively put an end to the drug and gang problems, and get the Attorney General to clean up Wilmington.  Where are the jobs for the unemployed up there?  Where is the drive to end homelessness?  You are ignoring these crucial issues that impact education.  But what you are really doing is placing the burden on the whole state for Wilmington’s problems!  Who pays for this?  Every single taxpayer in the state.  All of us.  If it comes from the state budget, it comes from every single one of us.  But you want us to pour all this extra money into Wilmington schools while the rest of the state sits stagnant and waits?  So high-stakes testing scores can go up?  Really?  What happens if those test scores remain the same or actually go down?  Do we call all of this a failure?  What happens when the Red Clay schools show the coveted “growth” in test scores because they got more money.  It makes the schools and districts who don’t get this funding look worse.  More labeling.  More shaming.  We will prop Red Clay and the other Wilmington schools up at the expense of the rest of the state.

All of you involved with this who don’t have the guts to address the true issues here need to wake the hell up!  The biggest problem is the illusion of failure!  You are allowing the DOE and Markell to dictate the terms of success for this without realizing those terms consign every student in Delaware to their money-making Ponzi education reform buddies on Wall Street!  And those buddies are going to start betting on the outcomes.  That’s all a Social Impact Bond is: a bet.  Between a governmental unit and a company.  It’s a gamble.  Our children, all the children of Wilmington, all the children of Delaware, are pawns.  WEIC is just making sure it happens sooner than expected.

chess

Last month, WEIC got played by the State Board of Education.  It was out there for everyone to see it, in real-time.  But now WEIC is kissing the State Board’s ass!  Completely ignoring the fact they broke the law is one thing, but now you are going to play kissy-face with them?  It’s disgusting.  It’s appalling.  But I guess that’s the Delaware Way, hard at work again.  This whole thing kicked off because of two things: priority schools and charter schools.  Let’s not forget that.  Based on two things: standardized test scores and discrimination.  We can sit here and pretend it’s all about sixty years of Brown vs. the Board of Education, but the reality is simple.  It’s about the damn scores.  It’s what we measure success and failure by.  What the hell is WEIC doing to address those things?  You recommended a moratorium on new charter schools but many of them are increasing and decreasing their enrollment all over the place up there.  And nobody is saying boo about it.  Those charters are taking full advantage of this cause they know they have the full support of the State Board, DOE, and Governor Markell.  Wasn’t that the biggest thing to come out of WEAC?  And now you’re going to put all these students into a district that can’t even get an inclusion plan right?  While you ignore the cherry-picking and discrimination by two (possibly three) of the biggest offenders in the state, let alone America?  You have now become part of the problem WEIC.  My issue with WEIC isn’t that I underestimate them, it’s that I don’t trust them.  And please, change the name of your website.  These aren’t solutions for Delaware schools, these are solutions for Wilmington schools.  You aren’t fooling anyone.

To read all the latest on the WEIC plans, read below:

 

Why Should Red Clay Get $6 Million In Funding For Things All Delaware Schools Need & Deserve?

StateOfDelaware

It struck me last night that if the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan does pass the State Board of Education, the 148th General Assembly and the Governor that Red Clay will benefit immensely while every other district and charter school in the state will suffer.  The plan calls for Red Clay to get all these perks starting out.  I’ve heard Tony Allen say the redistricting is the “price for admission” to all the great things WEIC will offer.  But why in the world should Delaware taxpayers pay for one district to receive $6 million while the others have to wait?  We hear a lot of talk about how Wilmington needs less governance.  Allen and Dan Rich talk constantly about how there are 17 governing education bodies in Wilmington between the districts and charters.  So going down to 16 is the answer?

I was unable to attend the WEIC meeting last night, but I did communicate with some of the members through Facebook during the meeting.  My whole beef with this initiative is the lack of basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  For these students, this is their foundation, the building blocks of their future education in Delaware.  These students cannot afford to wait through the Response To Intervention process to “determine” if they should get special education services or not.  You can’t fix disabilities.  While Tony Allen did say he is working on getting this implemented into the state budget, I commented on this Facebook post that it should have ALWAYS been there.  The WEIC plan calls for this to start in Red Clay.  Sorry Mr. Allen, but what about all the other students with disabilities in the state?  Why should all those students be slighted so one district can get millions of dollars for taking $2500 more students, on top of the large increase in regular school funding they will get anyways just by having those 2500 students come into their district?

The biggest disappointment in WEIC for me thus far is their complete and utter failure to look at the elephant in the room: standardized testing.  This has done far more damage to Wilmington schools than anything else since The Neighborhood Schools Act.  And as we have advocates like Dr. Michael Lomax from the United Negro College Fund playing the civil rights and race cards to make sure Wilmington citizens continue to believe the lies about education in our state through the News Journal, the rest of the state has to wonder how much we can afford to “fix” the problems in education while ignoring the biggest problem of them all.  We have a gushing wound here folks, bleeding out faster than we can stop it.  Putting a Band-Aid on part of the wound while the rest bleeds out is not going to do anything.  Nobody wants to make the head-on charge against Governor Markell.  They believe he is infallible.  This ignorance is killing us in Delaware.  This blind loyalty to a man who continues to lead our children into menial jobs with their Common Core foundation is a disaster in the making.  There would be no need for opt-out at all if we can make the changes our state needs in education.

The fact WEIC is even considering making changes to their “final” draft based on the State Board’s cowardly no action is an injustice.  The State Board is going way beyond the scope of the legislation surrounding this, and there are a considerable amount of legal questions surrounding their vote of nothingness.  Forgive me for saying this, but Dan Rich’s voice in Delaware education for well over fifteen years is enough.  What has he done to improve education?  Who is he loyal to?  University of Delaware or Rodel or WEIC or Tony Allen or Wilmington or Governor Markell or the DOE?  See what I’m saying here?  So WEIC changes their “final” draft again, do they allow the local school boards a chance to vote on it or do they just say “Here you go State Board, this is what we came up with.”  Having one member of the Wilmington school boards on the commission does not give those people the power to speak on the board’s behalf with constantly changing plans.  Or maybe this has been the plan all along and we will see the true motivation behind WEIC in these new “final” plans.

If we want to fix Wilmington schools, this is how we do it.  About 8% of Delaware’s education funding comes from Federal dollars.   But 100% of the current problems are coming from their mandates.  Let’s dump the federal funding.  Completely.  Say bye-bye to it and all the poison and vitriol that comes with it.  We are talking about $80 million dollars we just don’t give to our schools.  In return, we also say goodbye to state mandated high-stakes assessments.  That will save us well over $20 million a year.  Since the DOE makes everything about the results of this testing, we would also no longer have a need for all these outside companies coming into Delaware to do their expensive research that tells us nothing new or twists data to make it look like our schools are worse than they already are.  This includes many programs through the University of Delaware.  This saves us another $30 million or more.  The DOE needs some massive trimming.  Since there are so many positions there tied to assessments, teacher evaluations, and professional development, we can easily save about $10 million right there alone.  Since we don’t have this fed money anymore, we get rid of the labels: priority, focus, focus plan, reward, recognition, etc.  All the money that the state ends up paying for that: $2.5 million a year.  The next part is a bit trickier and more complicated.  We need to recognize which legislators are riding Markell’s gravy train to destroy public education in Delaware.  We label them and do everything in our power to make sure they are NOT elected again next November.  Many of these legislators allow all the loopholes in the state budget that benefit charter schools and education reform companies.  We don’t need Longhurst’s ridiculous SAIL program for our kids after school.  We don’t need $11 million going to Delaware STARS for the early childhood education scams.  No more charter school transportation slush funds.  No more charter school “performance” awards.  No more minor capital funding for charter schools.  We rewrite the laws and get all this pork out of our state budget.  Now we have a surplus from this loss of federal funds.  We have more money.  This is where we reallocate this money to all our schools.  We write our own state standards, as far away from Common Core as we can get, and have true stakeholder input to determine what our children need to know.  We find ways to strengthen our teachers by giving them the resources they need: smaller classroom sizes, more support for special education students, and less administrative oversight.  We eliminate the biases for charters and get rid of enrollment preferences.  We take a strong look at our district formation in Delaware and consolidate many of them.  We redraw lines all over the state, not just in Wilmington.  We trash the current concept of school choice and disallow students from travelling out of district to go to different schools.  We find the flaws in our special education and we plug those holes.  We get rid of the cash going to all these administrators whose very jobs were created so students in their districts do better on the state test.  Teachers get to actually engage more with their students.  Students will care more about their education when true equity is realized.  Students who care more will know more and will do better.  That is the goal, not forcing them to care.

If companies like Rodel don’t want to play ball with the way things are done, we just don’t listen to them anymore.  We bite the bullet and call their bluff and say no to the privatization of our schools.  Because that is the end result.  All privatization does is give us more charters who perform the same as the deceased traditional school districts, or ones that are essentially free private schools who cherry-pick their way to the top of the school rankings.  Kind of like the class system in our country: the lower class, the middle class, and the wealthy class.  A lot in the bottom, some in the middle, and very few at the top.  This is the end goal with everything going on in education.  And as that middle class of education shrinks away, we are left with many at the bottom and a small percentage at the top.  This is playing out all over our country, in every single state.  The likelihood of your child getting a good education from the way things are now is getting slimmer by the day.  It isn’t just African-Americans.  It is whites, Hispanics, students with disabilities, low-income/poverty students, all of them.

All of this takes ignoring what those in power are telling us.  Those with money and influence.  If we want education to survive in Delaware and make it more of an equitable chance for our children, now is the time to institute radical change.  Not at the November elections.  Not when Jack Markell leaves office in January of 2017.  Now.  Now is the time.  These are my solutions for Delaware schools.  Not solutions for Red Clay schools with an expectation that the rest will get those solutions down the road.  That is cherry-picking, district style.  We are above that as a state.  Our children deserve better than that.  All students deserve the best education, despite what color or disability or economic background they are from.  So let’s stop using the students who are most at risk and start looking at ALL children as unique and finding out what their individual needs are.  We can’t lump children into a group and say this is what they need.  They are not they.  One student.  One set of needs.  One student at a time.

State Board of Education’s Lightning Rod Letter To WEIC Questions Redistricting Plan

WEIC

The Delaware State Board of Education fulfilled their obligation to the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission by providing them a letter regarding their rejection of the final redistricting plan. There are serious questions as to the legality of the State Board’s actions at their meeting on January 21st. But in the meantime, WEIC is meeting tonight to go over the letter and plan their next move. The meeting will begin at 5:30pm at the Red Clay Consolidated School District office on 1502 Spruce Avenue in Wilmington.

Below are the letter the State Board sent to WEIC on 1/31/16 and WEIC’s response letter from the same day.

State Board of Education Grills WEIC At Public Meeting W/Them Present But Doesn’t Engage Them…

Last Monday, the Delaware State Board of Education had a workshop to discuss the Wilmington Education Improvement Plan.  Even though some of the higher-up members of the Commission were actually there, the State Board refused to directly ask any of them questions.  There was no public comment at this public meeting.  Instead they crafted a very long letter to WEIC.  Below are the questions, some of which I view to be valid, but others are clearly written into the plan.  As well, their responses are below.  The State Board of Education will vote on the redistricting plan on Thursday, January 21st.  The meeting starts at 9am, which is earlier than usual due to Governor Markell’s State of the State Address.  No public comment can be given at their meeting due to it being an action item based on their rules.

 

Major Time Change For January State Board of Education Meeting Due To Governor Markell’s State Of The State Address

This should be interesting.  The Delaware State Board of Education will be voting on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan on January 21st at their regular meeting.  Typically, their meetings begin at 1:00pm, but on this date it will begin at 9am.  Governor Markell is giving his State of the State address this day based on the comment made on the State Board of Education schedule.

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Teachers, educators, and parents have commented many times about the inaccessibility of State Board of Education meetings given that they occur in the middle of the day when parents are typically at work and teachers and educators are in schools.  As well, this will be a very big meeting with the WEIC vote.  For anyone from Wilmington to get to Dover, park, and get to the room by 9am, they would have to leave anywhere between 7:30-8:00am depending on traffic.  I have a feeling based on history this is not going to make a lot of people happy.  While the time has not been released for the State of the State Address, it is typically in the afternoon.  State Board meetings typically don’t last longer than four to five hours, but this will not be an ordinary State Board of Education meeting.  The agenda for the entire meeting will most likely go up on 1/14/16 and I will post it here as soon as it is up.  I could picture the State Board shortening the meeting by not having too many other presentations or reports from the DOE.  I won’t even begin to guess what would happen in the event of inclement weather.  But all of this makes the State Board workshop on the WEIC plan on January 11th even more interesting…

Will Governor Markell have to change his State of the State address based on the State Board of Education vote on the WEIC plan?  Unless he plans on showing up for the vote???  Maybe someone should try to convince the State Board of Education to livestream this important meeting…

Public comment, as always with the State Board of Education, is not allowed for any action item on their agenda.  But as well, WEIC has a formal comment period which expires January 14th.

Red Clay Senior Citizens Vehemently Oppose WEIC Plan, Also: What Is The $3.8 Million Dollar Question?

In reading the public comment for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s Interim Redistricting Plan to be voted on by the Delaware State Board of Education on January 21st, I noticed many things.  The first of which is Red Clay’s elderly population does not like this plan at all.

Many of the feelings in the public comments feel they have been taxed enough given that Red Clay just passed a referendum last year. Some even suggested that the full release of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee recommendations taking place after the referendum was done deliberately.  These public comments are through December 14th, 2015.

One of the most interesting public comments comes from State Rep. Charles Potter. In an earlier message, he states he fully supports the plan, but towards the end he backtracks and opposes it.  His reason?  He claims that Colonial School District, whose board voted to back out of sending their Wilmington students to Red Clay in October, has less than 200 students but receives $3.8 million dollars.  He doesn’t specify where those funds come from or the nature of them.  If anyone has any solid information on this, I would love to see it.  I have heard some reference the fact that Colonial owns some of the property on the Port of Wilmington, but this has been a back and forth between both WEIC and Colonial for a few months now and I have yet to see something in writing indicating this one way or another.

Many of the Wilmington resident public comments are in support of the plan, albeit with some reservations. The Wilmington Education Strategy Think Tank even suggests Red Clay and the Brandywine School District merge.

There are numerous public comments in hear that are well worth reading, especially if this plan does get approved.  There are valid points on both sides of the coin.  Public comment will be accepted until January 14th.