Charter School Salaries Over $100,000: MOT, Newark Charter, Odyssey, Providence Creek, & Sussex Academy

These five charter schools are very distinctive in one area: they all have low populations of special education students compared to their surrounding districts.  But those aren’t the only comparisons among them.  Two of them have school leaders that received salary bumps over $50,000 and then resigned or are set to retire.  Pension law in Delaware sets your pension based on your three highest years of salary.  Intentional?  You be the judge.

These five charters range from near the top of Delaware in New Castle County all the way to the heart of Sussex County with one right near the middle in Kent.  All of these charters have significant student enrollment and have taken many students from their surrounding school districts.  They are also in very populous, and in some cases, fast growing areas of the state.

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Education Funding Lawsuit Filed By Delaware ACLU, What Happened To That Other Complaint?

I heard about this one last week.  Tony Allen, the Chair of the Wilmington Education Committee, warned about this a year ago.  Now the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the Delaware NAACP and Delawareans For Educational Opportunity, filed a lawsuit against the State of Delaware over education funding.  Unbeknownst to most Delawareans, however, another Delaware ACLU complaint disappeared.

According to The News Journal, the Delaware Dept. of Education released the following statement about the suit:

The Delaware Department of Education has not seen any complaint from these groups and will respond to any litigation against it in court. It is the goal of the Department to assist Delaware’s schools in preparing every student to succeed in college or career and life.

Yeah, pretty much the same thing the DOE said back in 2014 when a complaint against them and Red Clay was filed with the Office of Civil Rights over discrimination in Delaware charter schools.

Who is named in the lawsuit? Governor Carney, Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, State Treasurer Ken Simpler, and the heads of each county finance office.

To read the complaint, please see below with some exclusive news appearing shortly after.

Jessica Bies at the News Journal wrote in the above article:

According to the lawsuit, the state is failing students from low-income families, students with disabilities and students who are learning English. Test scores for these disadvantaged students are far below state standards set by the Delaware Department of Education in its new plan, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

What the lawsuit wants seems to contradict with what Delaware Governor John Carney wants:

But Gov. John Carney, listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, has said he is not in favor of needs-based funding, in part because it gives extra money to school districts serving at-risk kids without holding them accountable for how they use it. He has also said there is neither the financial nor political support for such a measure.

Yeah, okay Carney.  Whatever.  We both know how you exert pressure on the General Assembly to do YOUR bidding.

But whatever happened to that old complaint filed in December, 2014?  The one the Delaware ACLU filed with the Office of Civil Rights alleging discrimination in certain Delaware charter schools?  The Office of Civil Rights rejected that complaint.  This never made the press and the Delaware ACLU never released anything on it.  Nothing can be found on the Delaware ACLU or OCR websites.  But it happened.  I reached out to the Delaware ACLU early last week to get information on this.  They directed me to Richard Morse, who is now with Delaware Community Legal Aid.  Mr. Morse did not return my call.  I guess someone wanted that complaint to die a quick and painful death.

This lawsuit cannot be ignored though.  It was filed with the Delaware Chancery Court today.  This could be a game-changer folks!

On Facebook last week, I wrote about knowing some things coming up but I couldn’t write about them yet.  This was two of them.

 

Does The New Charter School Moratorium In Wilmington Still Exist?

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Last year, the Delaware General Assembly passed House Bill 56 which created a moratorium on new charter school applications in the City of Wilmington until June 30th, 2018 or until the State Board of Education came up with a strategic plan to deal with charter schools in the city.  This was signed by Governor Markell on May 5th, 2015.  As of today, no strategic plan has come forth.

This bill provides a moratorium on all new charter schools in Delaware until June 30, 2018 or until the State Board of Education develops a strategic plan for the number of charter, district, and vocational-technical schools in the State. Also, the bill requires review and comment from Wilmington’s Mayor and City Council before either a local school district or the Department of Education approves a charter in the City of Wilmington. Lastly, the bill requires the local school board’s approval for a charter school in the City of Wilmington before the Department of Education can approve the charter school.

An amendment was placed on the bill:

The amendment clarifies that the Mayor and the City Council of Wilmington may review and provide comment on applications by charter schools seeking to locate in the City of Wilmington before the school is authorized by the relevant approving authority. It also clarifies that no new charter schools will be authorized to open in the City of Wilmington prior to June 30, 2018 or the development of a statewide strategic plan for specialized public educational opportunities; those charter schools already authorized will be able to open as planned.

While this bill was desperately needed at the time, one of the major failings of the bill was not addressing enrollment issues at already existing Wilmington charter schools.  Several new charter schools opened in Wilmington over a two year time span in years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.  Other charters closed down.  Meanwhile, other charters submitted modifications to increase or decrease their enrollment.  This causes havoc with education funding which is already a beast.

Yesterday, I broke the news that Prestige Academy is slated to become a part of the EastSide empire.  But given that the board of Prestige already wrote a letter indicating they would not seek charter renewal for next year and no part of the renewal process has gone forth since that letter, wouldn’t the school becoming a part of EastSide technically be a new charter school?  Whatever the intention with Prestige Academy might be, it needs to be publicly addressed now.  When Family Foundations Academy became a part of EastSide, it was done with no public ability to comment on the move and was announced at a State Board of Education meeting.  Negotiations took place behind the scenes with no transparency whatsoever.  By adding a sole-standing charter school into a conglomerate of other charter schools, it essentially changes the entire corporate make-up of a charter school.  And for those who aren’t aware, charter schools are considered to be corporations in Delaware.

Charter school modifications have a ripple effect not only on traditional school districts in the area, but also other charter schools.  We saw this play into the fates of the Delaware Met, Delaware STEM Academy, Prestige Academy, Delaware Design-Lab High School, and Freire Charter School of Wilmington.  All faced enrollment issues which resulted in either closure or a formal review for those enrollment issues with the exception of Delaware Met.  For Delaware Met, they were woefully unprepared to open the school and students suffered as a result.  There is certainly a correlation between the charters that received approval for larger enrollments and other charters who had less students this year.

I would like to see our 149th General Assembly continue this moratorium on new charter schools in Wilmington but add a few more items to it.  Any charter school modification needs to be given the same weight in terms of approval by Wilmington City Council and the local school district.  On November 1st, the Delaware Department of Education will begin accepting applications for new charter schools to open in the 2018-2019 school year.  These issues need to be addressed by our legislators before the State Board of Education may begin approving more charter schools next April, not only in Wilmington, but the entire state.

I also urge the 149th General Assembly to firmly address the issues of inequity at Newark Charter School, Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy.  As well as some of the magnet schools and vo-tech schools in the state.  We can no longer move forward in the 21st Century with the severe inequities across our schools that represent a face of discrimination and de-facto segregation.  Delaware needs to be better than that.  We are still waiting on the Office of Civil Rights to address these issues based on the complaint from the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union and Delaware Community Legal Aid.  The OCR has been sitting on this since it went to them in December of 2014, almost two years ago.  The reliance of standardized test scores on all Delaware schools has been extremely punitive to schools that have much larger populations of high-needs students, especially in the City of Wilmington and the greater Newark area.

The Sad Legacy Of Delaware Senator David Sokola

It’s hard to believe it has been almost 22 months since the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union and Delaware Community Legal Aid announced their complaint against the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  That complaint is sitting in the Philadelphia Office of Civil Rights collecting dust.  I read the complaint again this morning.  There is a legislator whose name is mentioned a few times in this complaint as the author of legislation that contributed to segregation in Delaware… Senator David Sokola.

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I’ve noticed in the past week that the upcoming General Election in Delaware has many wondering if Sokola’s accomplishments outside of education should give him a second chance.  I’ve argued that no matter what Meredith Chapman’s stances on education are, they pale in comparison to what Sokola has wrought.  To be honest, aside from a video interview with Delaware United and a citizen commenting on a Facebook thread that Chapman supports a parent’s right to opt out of the state assessment, I have not heard enough from her to get a good picture of her views on education.

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Knowing what occurred in Delaware because of certain charter schools and their enrollment practices, I thought this would be a slam-dunk in the Office of Civil Rights.  But that office, an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Education, has been strangely silent.  I am aware these complaints take years to reach a ruling.  But the complaint itself says enough about Senator Sokola that any citizen reading it should be able to have a clear picture in their mind.  The complaint also talks about the ignored warnings and omens from many that came with Sokola’s legislation which led to de facto segregation in parts of Delaware.  I have never heard Sokola apologize for this.  I’ve never seen any indication that he understands any of this.

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David Sokola is a very intelligent man.  He is someone who sees data and facts.   His favorite word is “heartburn” when talking about legislation he doesn’t like.  I’ve heard from many about his support for non-education bills that were very progressive in nature.  But as I’ve always said, if you support legislation that will ultimately harm children, that is not very progressive.  Like the citizens of Delaware who offered warnings before harmful Sokola legislation passed in the Delaware General Assembly, I offer a warning to Delaware.  If the citizens of the 8th Senate District vote Sokola back into another term, Delaware children will suffer.  Numbers don’t lie, and even if those charter schools changed their enrollment preferences to get rid of pre-enrollment assessments, 5 mile radius, sibling preferences, employee preferences, or the many other little things that contributed to the eventual outcomes we now see, it will be years before the situation balances between those three charter schools and the districts around them.

The complaint against the Delaware DOE and Red Clay is below.