Longhurst Letter Questions Where The Hell Existing After-School Money Is Going

Good old Jack Wells.  Strong in the Force is that one!  When State Rep. Val Longhurst released her final report on the SAIL Task Force, which is basically asking for more education funding for after-school programs, the News Journal took the bait.  But so did Jack Wells, Delaware’s financial Yoda (especially with Red Clay funds).  So much so he wrote a very public letter to Rep. Longhurst.

TO:  House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst;

I support your efforts for more affordable after-school programs and bring together a collection of leading after-school care providers, educators and state agencies.  To be honest I believe many expenditures being charged to education revenue should be the responsibility of other state agencies.

In fiscal year 2016, DID our districts and charter schools expend more per student on EPER athletics, EPER extra curricular activities, and EPER miscellaneous, than on providing additional help to our children to improve their achievement in reading, math and other critical subjects.  I have no doubt very little of the $35 million expended for EPER was expended to provide additional assistance to improve the achievement of our children in reading, math, and other critical subjects.

After reading the recommendations regarding the lack of after school programs being provided to our children,  I cannot help but wonder why no comments where made on the after school programs currently being provided to our children by our districts and charter schools, programs that are funded from local school taxes, I would estimate at a cost of $35 million dollars.

Last year our districts and charter schools expended $19,043,456 to cover the salary cost for Extra Pay for Extra Responsibilities, EPER, when you include pension cost, 22.28% and other employment cost, 18.83% the cost for EPER compensation was $26,872,126.

In addition $2,335,617 was expended for Athletic Equipment and Supplies and $2,510,162 for Student Body Activities, added to these cost, must be custodian overtime, transportation, maintaining facilities, game officials, security, energy, association dues, conference fees, uniforms, etc..

The question which must be answered is, How and where was this $35 million dollars used.  What I do know is that EPER has 3 categories, Athletics, Extra Curricular Activities and Miscellaneous, shown below are compensation cost for each category.  I believe it’s reasonable to believe that almost all of the compensation cost for EPER Athletics, $9,559,540 was used in our 9-12 grade schools, as was the cost of game officials, conference fees, supplies and equipment, maintaining facilities, etc.. 

I also know that last year the principals in Red Clay 9-12 grade schools expended $439.53 per student, while the principals in K-5 expended $173.85 and middle school principals $198.97.  Why the difference? Was it EPER?

Shown below are the salary, pension and Other Employment cost for each category of EPER.

     Salary          Pension            OEC              Total

$6,774,596   $1,509,379   $1,275,565   $9,559,540   Athletics

$5,750,613   $1,281,236   $1,082,840   $8,114,689   Extra Curricular Activities

$6,518,247   $1,452,265   $1,227,385   $9,197,897   Miscellaneous.

Finally I would like to point out that the local salary cost for EPER of $19,043,456 is only exceeded by the local salary cost of our teachers, principals, assistant principals, custodians and salaries general, clearly this is a major local expense that only a very few have any idea of how and where it is being used and how it benefits our children.

Are our K-5 and 6-8 grade students being provided the same amount of local revenue for additional programs as our high schools?  Does the funding of athletics have a higher priority than funding additional help to our children who need help in reading, math, etc.?

I ask that you Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Task Force review how and where EPER expenditures are used and report your findings to the residents when requesting additional revenue.

http://delawarestatenews.net/news/task-force-recommends-expanded-school-programs/?utm_source=Delaware&utm_campaign=12397b98e6-Delaware+State+News+Daily+Enewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1e4f95e41f-12397b98e6-35998

Jack Wells

John Carney Q&A Reveals Thoughts On Education In Delaware: Susan Bunting, Labor Day, and Test Scores

carneyshuckers

Delaware Governor-Elect John Carney and State Senator Brian Pettyjohn held a question and answer session at J.D. Shuckers in Georgetown this morning.  The packed restaurant submitted many questions.  A few of them dealt with Delaware education.  Carney’s answers provided some insight to one of his recent decisions. Continue reading

Delaware School Safety Report Shows Severe Limitations In Our Schools For Controlling Violence

If we are to have a chance to reduce and reverse this type of behavior, it is necessary to begin early and to start in the home. Efforts must be made to reach out students and to provide them with positive new directions in elementary school. Several committee members pointed out that “middle school is too late.”

“If joining a gang is the only way to survive, the kids will join gangs,” one committee member said, adding, “A lot of teachers don’t know who gang members are. You, as a teacher, should know how to interact with kids and parents because kids and parents may not have the ability to interact with us.”

The committee discussed the possibility of cell phone bans in schools, but public schools in Delaware have not done so because parents want to be able to reach their children by phone.

These were just a few of the topics discussed in the Special Committee on Public Safety.

School safety.  Two words that mean so many things to so many people.  To some, it means making sure every single student and staff member is protected from violence.  To some it means reporting requirements.  Many think of Sandy Hook or Columbine.  Others think of a mounting problem that can never be corrected.

Earlier this year, in the wake of two very violent deaths in Wilmington, a group was formed by Senator Robert Marshall.  Marshall is the Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee.  He formed a group that met twice to discuss school safety issues with various topics introduced.  Out of these meetings, Senate Concurrent Resolution #83 formed a Special Committee on School Safety.  The final report was given to the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate and Governor Markell yesterday.

The below report has a great deal of information.  It is very long but it is worth the read.  Take the time to read it.  Every single word.  Whether you are for or against School Resource Officers or Constables in Delaware schools, it is important to know what is happening out there.  It affects every single citizen of this state.  Issues in schools can explode outside of schools often, but issues outside of schools are brought into schools all the time.

The one thing I took out of this report is there are no easy answers.  Issues around funding and legality are some of the biggest obstacles to making schools safer.  Trauma plays a huge role in our high-needs schools.  Family issues outside of school are one of the biggest obstacles to safe schools.

There was one recommendation coming out of the final report that I didn’t see discussed anywhere in the meeting minutes.

Provide funding for the Delaware Department of Education to conduct a voluntary, statewide survey among students, parents, and teachers to get their thoughts on improving the learning environment and ways to make our schools safer.

It can’t be a report on education in Delaware without the Delaware Dept. of Education inserting something they want, which usually involves them getting more money.  One important thing to take note of in this report is that Delaware Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques were both listed as members of this committee but neither went to any of the meetings on it or bothered to assign a designee to attend in their absence.

The parts about Senate Bill 207, which I also issued severe problems with, were echoed by many in regards to future under-reporting of incidents in schools.  I thank God the House added an amendment to the bill that still requires mandatory reporting to the Delaware DOE.  But there is one line about Senate Bill 207 in the final report which will give any Delaware citizen severe anxiety.

After-School SAIL Program Stuck In Harbor

The Delaware SAIL program, the legislation created by Valerie Longhurst is dead in the water, at least for this General Assembly.  As per the latest email from the Delaware House Democrats…

SAIL Program Put on Hold

With the state facing a multi-million-dollar budget shortfall requiring many difficult cuts, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst on Thursday announced she would put on hold her bill to create a new afterschool program providing homework help, enrichment activities and an extended school meal plan.

The program, dubbed the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning (SAIL) Program, was designed to help students become more effective learners and achieve better outcomes both in and outside their classrooms. However, House Bill 240 carried a $7 million price tag. Even with a drafted amendment to make it a pilot program and decrease the cost, Rep. Longhurst said Delaware’s budget crunch necessitated hard decisions.

“I am committed to creating a quality afterschool program that will keep kids engaged, boost attendance and enhance literacy, improving the likelihood that our students will stay in school and earn their diplomas,” said Rep. Longhurst, who sits on the board of directors for the Bear-Glasgow YMCA and Police Athletic League of Delaware.

“However, when I look at the full picture of our budget, I know we cannot afford it this year. It’s hard to ask for money for this program when we simply don’t have the funds for many basic state functions and have to make tough cuts across state government. This was a really difficult decision because I have seen firsthand the need to increase children’s access to quality afterschool programs.”

As part of the move to put a hold on HB 240, Rep. Longhurst also announced her intention to create a task force including afterschool stakeholders that would review afterschool programs in Delaware; how funds are spent; how to target children not currently being served; and how to best close those gaps.

Delaware JFC Approves Use Of Bank Settlement Funds For After-School SAIL Program, The Family Breakdown Begins…

With a 5-4 vote, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee came to an agreement on how to use the $28 million remaining from the mortgage settlement funds. According to Matthew Albright with the News Journal, $8.1 million of the funds will be used towards educational programs including the following:

$4 million for after-school homework help in high-poverty schools

$4 million for funding to provide remediation for students who get behind in the early grades

$100,000 to Junior Achievement for school programming for at-risk youth

I have to give credit to State Rep. Joe Miro for being the voice of common sense.

If anyone really thinks the SAIL program is going to be temporary, think again.  This is part of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  And it all fits in with the dark future of education.  More government control of children is taking place before our very eyes.  I agree some kids need direction because the quality of their home life is not good.  However, this plan has the capability of morphing into something permanent.  Kids are in school long enough during the regular day.  And we want to extend that?

 

 

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

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

Lawmakers Plan New Statewide Afterschool Initiative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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