Special Report: Red Flags In Delaware Student Enrollment Trends & The Increase In Special Education

The Delaware Department of Education released the September 30th counts report for the 2018-2019 school year.  Enrollment in Delaware is up by 775 students.  Special education is on the rise, jumping to over 16%. There are some very odd trends going on with different sub-groups in Delaware.  Ones that are making me VERY suspicious. Continue reading

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Kim Williams Reports Delaware JFC Put Funding For K-3 Basic Special Education In The Budget!!!!

Finally!  One of the first things I pushed for on this blog almost four years ago was the funding for students designated as basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams just put the following on her Facebook page:

I am so thankful that the Joint Finance Committee voted to include funding for K-3 basic special education services in the budget. This funding will support necessary services that will help students close learning gaps and move forward to have bright futures.

This has been a true collaborative effort with my colleagues, especially Rep. Smith and Sen. Nicole Poore, my prime Senate sponsor, and I truly appreciate their leadership. These services will become a reality thanks to the advocacy of Delaware State Education Association, parents throughout the state and the many advocates coming together to support our youngest learners. Our children deserve our best efforts to help them learn and succeed through life.

Amen Kim!  As I’ve always said, many kids develop their disabilities in these grades.  Even though schools are obligated by Federal law to provide special education no matter what grade they are in, this obstacle to the funding schools would get sometimes led to students not getting the services they deserve.  In some cases, schools would deny an IEP creating a toxic relationship with parents.  Kim has worked hard for this ever since I met her all those years ago.  She is the best education legislator in the state and she will ALWAYS have my support.

We don’t agree 100% of the time, but I will take those rare times any day because what she has done for Delaware education is nothing short of astounding!  A big thank you to DSEA, Senator Nicole Poore, Rep. Melanie Smith, Delaware PTA, and all the parents who pushed for this as well!

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee put the funding in the budget today.  Of course, the Delaware General Assembly has to approve the budget as a whole by June 30th, but I am confident they will do the right thing with this.  Delaware’s projected surplus for FY2019 went up yesterday as the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee added $80 million to the surplus.

Updated, 5:32pm: The amount budgeted for the Basic Special Education for students in K-3 is $2.9 million. As well, $3.6 million went in for Reading Specialists for students in Kindergarten to 4th grade. It also looks like $2 million that was cut in last year’s FY2018 budget will be restored for school transportation.

Red Clay Letter To Parents Has Many Gasping About Education Cuts

Yesterday, Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty sent a letter to parents advising them of all the education cuts since 2008.  He also urged them to attend the Delaware PTA rally outside Legislative Hall next week to support basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

I agree with a lot of what Merv said but then again I have to wonder about some of his logic.  After all, Red Clay did purchase one-to-one devices for all their students which costs a pretty penny.  As well, they are one of the few districts that still has Race To The Top administrators even though the funding for that horrible federal initiative ended years ago.

His language in the letter confused me a bit though because he asks parents to vote with public education funding in mind.  Yes, the General Assembly decides the budget.  But who is Merv asking these parents to vote for?  State legislators?  School board candidates?  Should a school Superintendent be pushing parents toward certain votes? And that’s what happens when I don’t have my morning coffee before I write!

In terms of special education, I have supported any bill that gives that funding.  This is the foundation of special education for these kids.  It baffles me that our legislators will fund pre-school as much as they do but not provide this necessary and vital funding.  They really don’t have any more excuses to justify their cowardice with special education funding.  I highly salute the legislators who consistently support State Rep. Kim William’s bills to get this going.  If you have the means, come down to Legislative Hall next Wednesday, May 9th, at 1:30pm, on the East steps.

I fully support public education funding but I also support the ability to properly audit those funds if need be.  Last year, the State Auditor’s office released a report on education funds but since so many school districts code expenditures different the auditor couldn’t make heads or tails of the funding.  So perhaps we should be making sure our vote for State Auditor is a sound one and not based on a popularity contest among certain legislators.  If you are going to vote for a Kathy in September, make sure it is for Davies!

Things I like that are going on?  Senator Dave Sokola’s bill for education funding transparency which could go a bit further than what it has in it now.  I love the fact that people are waking up to education issues and speaking out.  We may not always agree, but the discussion is healthy.

To read Merv’s letter to parents, please see below:

Pat Heffernan Is The Biggest Jerk In Delaware!

I’ve seen a lot in Delaware education over the past four years.  I’ve seen people say some very brilliant things and I’ve heard very stupid things.  I’ve seen the full range of human emotion, from happy to sad, from angry to depressed.  But what I heard today made me feel many negative things like never before.  How someone could be so blind to reality yet be in such a position of power is beyond my comprehension.  Who is this person? Continue reading

18 Who Will Make An Impact In 2018: Kim Williams & Her Awesome Bill In Circulation

I am predicting now Kim Williams will have a HUGE year in 2018.  Judging by a draft bill she sent into circulation for sponsors yesterday, she is already starting off 2018 on a high note for me! Continue reading

Enrollment Count Report for 2017-2018 & Demographic Information For Districts & Charters: The Rise, The Surge, & The Cherry-Picking!

Which districts and charters saw big jumps with student enrollment? Which went down?  What is the state of special education in Delaware?  What key demographic is rising at a fast rate which contributes significantly to the budget woes in our state?  Which charter school, based on their current enrollment, should no longer be considered financially viable and should be shut down?  What is the fastest-growing sub-groups in Delaware?  And which cherry-picking charters continue to not serve certain populations? Continue reading

Action Alert! Support Special Education Services In Delaware! JFC Needs To Hear From YOU!

For decades, special education has been the law of the land in Delaware and the United States.  In Delaware, our state funds special education services for all students except basic services for those in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  This is when children developing disabilities need those services the most.  Our state relies on a program called Response to Intervention which can not cure a disability.  Special education can’t either, but it give those children the individual resources and goals to help them succeed in education.  It is an absolute travesty that our state does not fund these students.

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee submits the final budget to the House and Senate for a vote in the final days of June.  This funding MUST be included in that final budget.  For far too long, students have either been denied special education services or local school districts have to make up the difference with what the state won’t provide.  We have a state that talks the talk about equity but when it is time to walk the walk, we still have this.

Please join the letter-writing campaign to our JFC to ensure students with disabilities get their fair shake.  Please follow the link below and make this happen!  This is not the same campaign from March where letters were sent to Governor Carney.  This is for the Joint Finance Committee!  A big huge thank you to Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams for her fierce advocacy on this issue!  If you are a parent, student, teacher, educator, administrator, state employee, or citizen of this state, we all recognize this is a tight budget this year.  But we must make this happen to make sure the students with the most needs are given a fair shot!

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/support-special-education-services-in-delaware?clear_id=true

Governor Carney’s Letter About Basic Special Education Funding For K-3 Is Wishy Washy At Best

I received a letter from Governor Carney in my email today.  So did over 900 other Delaware citizens.  Two months ago, a push was made to send letters to Governor Carney concerning House Substitute 1 for House Bill 12.  This is the pending legislation which would provide Basic Special Education Funding for students with disabilities in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  The state provides extra special education funding for all other students with disabilities who have an IEP, so why not these students who are just getting their start in elementary education?

For years, I have been advocating for this funding.  So has Rep. Kim Williams.  This is the second go-around with this legislation.  House Bill 30, from the 148th General Assembly, sat around in the Appropriations Committee from early 2015 until June 30th, 2016 and died.  I have yet to meet anyone who thinks this bill is a bad idea.  I understand we have a deficit Governor Carney, but the purpose of state funding should have a top priority of those who need it the most.  These students fit that criteria.  Response to Intervention does not take care of these students’ needs, nor as it designed to.  Please don’t perpetuate this myth.  You did not include it in your proposed budget and I am calling foul on that oversight.  I pray our elected officials in the General Assembly have the common sense to put children first when they approve the budget for Fiscal Year 2018.  They are the future of Delaware.

The letter was dated March 7th, 2017, but I just received it today.  I won’t bicker about that, but it is noteworthy.  What I will mention is Governor Carney’s refusal to commit to this funding.  I just don’t get it.  It is a no-brainer and everyone knows it.  Who is lobbying against this bill behind the scenes?

Homeowners Set To Get Screwed With Governor Carney’s “Shared Sacrifice”

Yesterday, the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee (DEFAC) projected Delaware’s budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2018 to be $395 million dollars.  This is up ten million from the last time the committee met.  Tonight, the Christina Board of Education will discuss the impact on taxpayers.  Governor Carney is suggesting school boards raise what is known as the match tax (the portion the state matches certain funding) by having the district school boards levy the tax without a referendum.

Christina’s Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, created an impact budget for how this increase would hit taxpayers.  In the below example, a home that just sold for $224,000 would see their property taxes raised $46.50 with the match tax scenario.  Keep in mind, this is based on the property assessment value of $63,700, which is almost a quarter of the home’s actual value based on the sale price.

This is not the only sting homeowners, as well as all Delaware citizens, will feel starting July 1st.  State taxes, collected from paychecks, will go up for most.  State employees will see higher insurance rates.  Salary raises for state employees will most likely disappear.  Services will be cut.  It is all rather bleak.  Our General Assembly has utilized every single benefit to state funding, such as the proceeds from the tobacco lawsuit, without realizing those perks were eventually going to disappear.  State revenue does not match state expenses.  Companies, such as DuPont and soon Barclays, left Delaware for the most part, causing a severe lack of revenue and jobs.  Delaware has, and will continue to, spend more than it makes.

With the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, there was a request to raise property assessment values.  While Delaware’s assessment values are still far lower than most states, it also created an influx of senior citizens moving to The First State because of that.  But the ability of school boards to raise property taxes, already through the special education tuition tax and soon the match tax, could have a negative impact on the desire of the elderly to move to Delaware or even stay here.

Meanwhile, there has been no action on the Governor’s part to institute the basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  State Rep. Kim Williams introduced two bills in the last two General Assemblies to take care of this but neither bill has moved forward due to the state funding issues.  Oblivious to all the future costs by not having this essential funding in place, our state continues to bumble through special education with this very real omission to the foundation of special education students who are just beginning to manifest their disabilities.  The projected amount to fund what should have always been there is a little bit less than $13 million a year.  By not providing that funding, the state relies on the school districts or charter schools to pay for these services.  Either way, it has a negative effect.  If the school does provide those services, it results in more of a drain on local funding.  If the school doesn’t, they are not only breaking special education law if the child qualifies for an Individualized Education Program, but they are also looking at higher costs for that student in the future by not providing that foundation.  So that $13 million a year mushrooms to much higher costs for these students down the road.

Just this morning, State Rep. Earl Jaques announced a new bill on Facebook creating a fund in the Delaware Dept. of Education budget for an Educational Support Professional of the Year award.  Delaware has 16 school districts, 3 vocational districts, and over 20 charter schools.  This bill would allow each district (20, which includes one award for all the charters) to give their winner an extra $1000.00.  The overall winner would get $1,500.00.  While $21,500 in the DOE budget doesn’t amount to much, it is symptomatic of the mindset of far too many of our legislators.  Instead of finding solutions, too many of them find ways to spend even more money.  If our state was swimming in money, I would be okay with this bill.  But not now.

Delaware’s legislature is going to have their hands full when they return from Spring Break next Tuesday.  This budget deficit is not the result of a national recession like what we faced in 2009.  This is Delaware created.  We spent our way out of the recession and now we are paying the piper.  Governor Carney looks like a deer running towards headlights with his reactions to this ever-increasing budget deficit.  I predict he will have a very tough time getting re-elected in 2020 if this trend continues.

Please Send The Letter To Governor Carney To Give Basic Special Education Funding To Students In Kindergarten to 3rd Grade

I can’t believe we have to beg for this.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams organized a letter-writing campaign for House Bill 12 which would provide basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  So far, 729 letters have been sent to Delaware Governor John Carney.  Williams’ goal is 1,000.  My goal?  10,000.

It is utterly ridiculous that these students do not get special education funding at the onset of their educational foundation.  All this obscene lack of funding does is set up failure.  This is the cardinal sin in education: failure equals more money for corporations to come in and “fix” education.  It also helps with future lawsuits and students getting behind the 8-ball from the very beginning.  It is stupid and immoral.  Yes, Delaware has a $385 million dollar deficit.  We get it Governor Carney.  But you need to make this happen.  We hear the talk about students becoming college and career ready.  How about making these students with disabilities elementary school ready?  I see all this money getting dumped into early childhood education, which I am sure is needed.  But you can’t pump them up and pull the football away when they get into elementary school.  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose for nearly 20% of Delaware students?

Thank you to all who have signed this letter which can be found here.  If you haven’t signed it yet, let’s make Governor Carney’s office very busy today!

Carney’s Budget Reset Will Put The Hurt On School Districts, Charters And Citizens Of Delaware

Delaware Governor John Carney released his FY2018 Budget “Reset”.  He is calling for a ton of cuts across Delaware programs as well as increase revenue by increasing taxes.  The extremely wealthy won’t get the tax increases many have been calling for in this proposed budget.  But property owners will feel it.  Here comes the Delaware sink hole!

In education, the match tax will switch over to the local side, to be raised by school boards without a referendum.  Which is all well and good if you don’t own property.  But if you do, expect to pay more in school taxes.  As well, $15 million will be cut from district and charter operation budgets doled out by the state.  I don’t see the funding for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade but I see $4.7 million more for early childhood education.  We poured $18 million into that last year.  I don’t see any proposed cuts to the Department of Education even though Carney ran around during his campaign saying he was going to streamline the Department.  Carney is allowing for $25.1 million for new teachers and $1 million for his “opportunity grants”.  $22 million would be cut from the education sustainment fund (thus the district boards getting to get more school taxes without a referendum like they do with the tuition tax).

In the below document, we see absolutely nothing about marijuana revenue or an increase to the gax tax.  But smokers will be gouged another buck a pack.  The retirement age for additional personal credit will rise from 60 to 65 while all senior citizens will see their Senior Citizen Property Credit reduced by a hundred dollars.

I get that you have to make up for a $385 million dollar deficit by making cuts but it is important to know how we got there.  Former Governor Jack Markell came on board as the Great Recession of 2008 spread its wings.  After that, Markell just spent and spent and spent without really getting enough revenue to stick around in the state.  Our population grew as special education services grew at a much higher rate.  Something disability communities have been saying will happen for years.   I am not a big fan of this budget proposal.  Carney, like his predecessor, refuses to make the rich pay more.  I don’t see a lot of “shared sacrifice” going on here.  If it was truly shared, it would hurt everyone.  To someone making a million bucks a year, a nominal increase in taxes isn’t going to hurt them as much as it will to a family living off $30,000 a year.  Granted, this is assuming the General Assembly approves this and the budget deficit stays the same.  It could (and I predict it will) increase between now and June 30th.

I don’t envy Carney.  He inherited most of this from Markell.  But with all his “coffee klatches” as the folks over at Delaware Liberal call them, I would have expected something a lot more different than what Markell gave us back in January.  I’ve told Carney’s people exactly what he needs to do in terms of education funding.  The response from them?  Crickets.  They hear me out and then nothing.  Just because I haven’t written as much about district and charter funding shenanigans doesn’t mean it hasn’t been foremost in my mind.  I was counting on the new administration to do the right thing here.  Looks like I’m going to have to do this the hard way and start REALLY ticking people off.

New 149th General Assembly Education Legislation Deals With Special Education, ESSA & Attendance

The 149th General Assembly officially began on January 10th, this past Tuesday.  But the first few weeks tend to be slow.  Especially when it comes to education.  But we already have seven education bills submitted by the Delaware House of Representatives.  No Senate education bills have come forth at this point.

The biggest of these is a carryover from the 148th General Assembly, that of funding for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  State Rep. Kim Williams made a ton of noise about the need for this funding during the last go-around, and she needs to keep making more noise!  There should be NO question whatsoever about the need for this bill.  NONE!  It should not come down to fiscal concerns either.  It needs to happen even if they have to cut some slush fund somewhere.  House Substitute 1 for House Bill 12 will be a bill I advocate for this year, no doubt about it!  I have to say I am disappointed there are NO Delaware Republicans that signed on to the substitute for this bill although Reps. Spiegelman and Briggs-King did sign on for the original House Bill #12.  This is on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 18th at 2:30pm.

hs1hb12

State Rep. Earl Jaques’ House Joint Resolution #3 would ensure both the House and Senate Education Committees see the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act state plan before it is completed and sent to the United States Dept. of Education.  That is a step, but I would prefer the General Assembly has authority to accept or reject the plan before it goes to the US DOE!  This is also on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 18th at 2:30pm.

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The drop-out age and school attendance came out roaring through the legislative gate!  State Rep. Sean Matthews submitted two bills while State Rep. Tim Dukes submitted one.  Dukes’ House Bill #17 would increase the drop-out age from 16 to 17.  It would also include truancy.  Matthews’ House Bill #23 takes it a step further and would require a parent or guardian to agree to a student dropping out if they are over the age of 16.  Where this could get a bit sticky is what happens if a student is 18?  They are of legal age at that point.  Some students with disabilities attend school until the age of 21.  Matthews’ House Bill #24 would require a parent conference if a student misses five consecutive days without an excuse.  My take on this is if parents don’t know their kids are missing five days of school and just wandering around somewhere, it will be tough to get that parent to come to a conference if they are already so disengaged they don’t know what their kid is doing.  All of these bills are meant to discourage dropping out and keeping students in school.  I wholeheartedly agree with that.  The trick is in the details.

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hb23

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This is another carryover from the 148th.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan had this one ready to go on June 30th but I have to believe there simply wasn’t enough time to get to every bill that night/morning.  But it is back with House Bill #15 which would make computer science a graduation requirement for high school students.  This is also on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 18th at 2:30pm.

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It wouldn’t be a General Assembly in the 2010s without some type of librarian legislation from State Rep. Paul Baumbach!  House Bill #34 would increase the participants in a very long-sounding scholarship name.

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2016 September 30th Report Shows 4% Increase In Special Education, 7.8% Increase For Charter Enrollment

The Delaware Department of Education came out with the 2016 September 30th Enrollment Report.  This document shows the head count for each school district and charter school in Delaware public schools.  As I predicted, special education students rose again this year.  To qualify for special education, a student must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  With the exception of vocational schools, both the traditional school districts and charter schools went up in enrollment statewide.  The growth for traditional school districts was anemic at best, with only a .32% increase from last year.  Overall state enrollment went up by .9%.  Once again, charter schools saw the greatest growth with a rise of 7.8% over last year.  No new charter schools opened this year, however many submitted modifications last year to increase enrollments and grades in one case.  Other charter schools began new grades this year based on their approved charters.  Some districts saw very steady growth but others saw continuing drops. Continue reading

***UPDATED***Delaware Approves $20.7 Million So Markell & Sokola Can Have Safe Bike Rides But Ignore Special Education Funding Bill?

markellcyclingThis is the heart of what is wrong with Delaware.  In an article by Bike Delaware, the group brags about how the General Assembly approved $20.7 million for bike trail improvements in Delaware.  Meanwhile, students considered to be basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, go for a sixth year without special education funding from the state.  Pork indeed!  Now before bicycling enthusiasts come at me, I fully support bicycle safety and awareness.  While I don’t ride a bicycle these days, I think it is important for further safety for the sport.  But not at the expense of children in public schools!  And we can say this is part of the capital budget, not the operating budget.  But money shifts around ALL the time at Legislative Hall.

We are especially grateful for the leadership of State Senator Dave Sokola, the co-chair of the committee that wrote the capital budget, and Governor Jack Markell. It’s not a coincidence that Senator Sokola biked to work yesterday (about 60 miles) and Governor Markell biked to work today (also about 60 miles).

I have no doubt it isn’t a coincidence!  And by mentioning how Sokola is the co-chair of the committee that writes the capital budget, you might as well throw out the words “conflict of interest”.  Are we really saying, as a state, that despite all the arguments about education funding and how we will “commit to doing better next year” that our General Assembly approved $20.7 million in taxpayer funds for what amounts to a select special interest for a hobby?  But the legislators who question this kind of nonsense are considered “unpatriotic” by people like State Rep. Melanie Smith…

This is a disgrace.  How much longer will high-needs students continue to go without while fat-cats like Senator David Sokola and Governor Jack Markell can bike to Legislative Hall?  While I was not always supportive of the WEIC plan, I think that was much more worthy than bike trails.  We have schools that desperately need restoration and improvements, but paths for cyclists are more important?  What the hell is wrong with this state and when will our legislators finally step up and say no as a collective body to this insanity?  We have homeless people, increasing violence in our cities, and jobs that don’t pay as much as they used to.  We have police that aren’t getting the funds they need to effectively do their jobs.  But this is okay?

House Bill 30 would have guaranteed funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade with the designation of basic special education.  Based on a unit-count system, these children get no state funding in these grades.  It is one of the most transparent and visible flaws in Delaware education funding.  But I suppose it is okay to ignore the needs of the most vulnerable of children so people like Jack Markell and David Sokola, whose very agendas and laws have further demeaned these children multiple times, can get more out of their bicycle hobby.  What a joke!

What kind of Governor bikes sixty miles to work?  What if something happens to him?  Is that in the best interest of the state to have your Governor biking to work on a hot day?  Do his bodyguards have to bike with him?  Do they get extra duty hazard pay for that?  Since we don’t have a Lieutenant Governor and something happened to Jack while bike-riding, who steps up then? Schwartzkopf?  Good lord!

I can think of many different ways we could have allocated these funds in a “tough budget year”.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee and the folks on the Bond Committee need to open their eyes and see what they are doing to this state.  Meanwhile, cyclists across the state rejoice!  While students suffer…

Updated, 7/5/16, 2:35pm: On Bike Delaware’s Facebook page, the group responded to comments made on there about this article with the following:

80% of this money comes from the federal government for transportation system (capital) investments. The federal government does not permit this money to be spent on schools (or anything not related to transportation). It’s deeply unfair to criticize Governor Markell and Senator Sokola for failing to spend these federal transportation dollars on schools. Neither Governor Markell or Senator Sokola have any authority to re-program this money this way. (They can spend it on walking and cycling projects rather than new roads but they can’t spend it on schools or libraries or hospitals or anything not related to transportation.)

To which I responded:

Be that as it may, it is just more pork. Even more distressing this comes at a federal level when IDEA Special Education funding at a federal level is at 37.5% of what it should be when the law was reauthorized in 2004. While that has absolutely nothing to do with Bike Delaware, it is symptomatic of a disease in our country where those who already have so much more than others get more while those who don’t have those luxuries lose out. I’m pretty sure an argument could be made somewhere that Delaware’s transportation grants from the Feds could be used to get rid of the Neighborhood Schools Act which has further segregated our schools, especially in Wilmington. Funding is twisted all the time in our state, this should not be an exception. Once again, though, I do want to reiterate this is not a slam against those who enjoy biking, but rather what I consider to be a misuse of funds during a time when others desperately need funding for more apparent reasons.  With your permission, may I update my article with your comment?

And their response:

Please do. To repeat, it’s not within either Governor Markell’s or Senator Sokola’s discretion to spend these federal transportation dollars on anything other than transportation projects. All they have done is take about ~5% of those FY17 dollars and dedicated them for improving the state for people walking and cycling. And, given that Delaware is the deadliest state in America for pedestrians, it’s not out-of-line for the state to be making improvements that make it safer for people to walk and bicycle. Not to mention, that 2/3rds of Delawareans are overweight or obese and making it safe for people to be more physically active is a critical public health priority. And, if you are an environmentalist, every bike trip that replaces a car trip means less air pollution….These are urgent public policy priorities that have absolutely nothing to do with anybody’s “hobby.”

I appreciate Bike Delaware’s response, but like I said, this is a matter of what side you agree on.  Regardless of where the funds generate from, we live in a country where those who have the luxury and time to bike over bridges along the C&D Canal in Delaware have that ability.  But I fail to see how these bike trails, while I’m sure are utilized by some who are less fortunate, will solve obesity problems and pedestrian deaths.  In my opinion, I think pet projects like this are pushed by people like Markell and Sokola so they can enjoy them, not the people who probably aren’t even aware things like this exist because they are too busy looking for work, or already work several jobs, just to put food on the table.  And it goes all the way up to a federal level and funds are locked in for specific purposes like this so they can only be used for pet projects by legislators and Governors.

*the above picture is from DelDOT

Delaware To Get Federal “Needs Intervention” In Special Education Again As Incompetent DOE Lies At Public Meeting

Delaware WILL get a “Needs Intervention” label for their Annual IDEA Determination from the Office of Special Educations Programs at the United States Department of Education.  The Delaware DOE knows this, but they aren’t announcing it.  My guess is they are waiting for the “formal” letter to come from the feds before they publicly release this information to the public.  Even though they were told this information at least four weeks ago.  If I were a betting man, we won’t find this out until after June 30th.  I predicted this three weeks ago when I found the letters that went out to the districts and charters.

At the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens meeting on Tuesday night, the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE gave a presentation to the council on the Local Education Authority (LEA) portion of the annual determination.  The presentation was given by Barbara Mazza and Maria Locuniak from the DOE.  In this presentation, there were several absolute lies that are in this article, for which I caught them red-handed.  It is very alarming they would try to dupe a state council devoted to the improvement of outcomes for persons with disabilities. Continue reading

Delaware Basic Special Education Funding For Kindergarten To 3rd Grade Students Bill Released From Appropriations Committee!!!!

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams just announced on Facebook that House Bill 30 was released from the House Appropriations Committee.  This is excellent news, and I pray this leads to positive action on the legislation by the Delaware House and Senate.  House Bill 30 would give what is considered Basic Special Education funding for Delaware students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  Currently, this funding is not given to students in this category, but it is for students considered “intense” or “complex”.  Students currently under the basic designation in 4th to 12th grade do receive this funding.  It has been like this since 2011.

Introduced about a year and a half ago, the bill sailed through the House Education Committee but was sitting in a “sent to appropriations” status for well over 15 months.  Advocates for special education, including myself, have pointed out this extreme inequity in education funding for years.  This is a very positive step forward in correcting this inequity.

I will certainly let readers know the second the next action occurs with this legislation.

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”…

Delaware JFC Cuts Charter School Performance Fund, SAIL, Career Pathways, Teacher Pay Raises, & More From Budget

BudgetCutsRodel

While this isn’t my dream list of cuts, and some things are still in there, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee sure did swing the axe on tons of programs from Governor Markell’s budget!  Gone is the after-school SAIL funding ($1 million), the always controversial charter school performance fund ($500,000), career pathways programs ($250,000), more internet bandwidth for schools ($3 million), a technology block grant ($1 million), and SEED scholarship expansion ($500,000).

The VERY controversial early learning budget of $11 million got cut to $9 million.  Teachers will not be happy about this: they lost their raises which had $3 million allocated.  Even the big three: University of Delaware, Delaware State University and Delaware Technical Community College got a 1% slash in their operating budgets.

Governor Markell is on the way out and the Joint Finance Committee sent a strong message to Delawareans today: we are not going to allow all this rampant spending in education to continue for programs that have no intrinsic value to the true success of students.  It’s almost like they read all the crap in the Every Student Succeeds Act and said “Not for Delaware”!   I’m sure Rodel is pissed about a lot of these cuts, but it’s about time we got their stink out of Legislative Hall.  Eight years is enough!

They can cut some more stuff: the charter school transportation slush fund (which can add up to about $2 million a year), all these insane contracts the DOE has with the take the money and run education companies (they could probably save the deficit by taking an axe to that stuff), and perhaps some more to the early learning program (or hell, give it all to the basic special education funding for Kindergarten to 3rd grade students with disabilities).  Not mentioned in today’s round of budget cuts are any funds associated with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan.  But the General Assembly has to pass the legislation first!

The JFC meets tomorrow, so there could be more.  I’m sure the lobbyists are chomping at the bit to meet with every single legislator they can between now and June 30th, the last day of the 148th General Assembly.

 

US DOE Guidance Letter About Response To Intervention & Child Find Shows Disturbing Trend

The United States Department of Education sent a “guidance letter” to state local education agencies (school districts) regarding Response to Intervention (RTI) and Child Find.  The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) sent the letter on April 29th.  It reminds pre-schools that they are responsible for child find.  This means the local school district is responsible for paying for a special education evaluation.  A pre-school can’t use RTI if a special education evaluation is needed prior to the RTI process.  This is all great except for that one tiny, itty-bitty, little thing: Who pays for it?

The US DOE had their toddler Race to the Top come out a year after the regular one and it gave states tons of money to make great pre-schools.  The funding for this runs out on June 30th of this year.  Which is why Delaware, Governor Jack Markell requested over 11 million bucks to keep these programs going.  But the big problem with this is school districts aren’t allocated more money to pay for all these special education evaluations.  So guess where that money comes from?  The local funds a school district gets from school taxes.  From YOUR property taxes.  Guess how much the charters pay for those pre-school evaluations?  Not one cent.  In fact, Delaware is a state where there is no basic special education funding from the state share of funds for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade at any public school.  But that’s okay, they can afford it?  Right?  Yeah, let’s not go down that road.

If so many Delaware schools lack the ability to give special education services to kids in Kindergarten to 3rd grade because they just so happen to not get any extra funds for that, how is that going to work with pre-schools?  This letter, on the surface, looks great.  Big government is looking out for the kids with disabilities.  But who holds them accountable when they have NEVER given the full amount of funding to states under IDEA?  They give what, 10-13%, and they want to be the enforcer of all things special education?  What a crock!

Response to Intervention is the biggest joke of them all.  It is a crutch for Delaware schools to NOT give special education in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  What they are doing is messing up kids big time.  Whether it is a school district or a charter, and unless they are listed in the “intensive” or “complex” category, you are better off letting your basic special education child sit in a pile of needles cause that’s what it’s like for them.  Imagine having a bad infection and someone says “let’s try this technique that will take a while to fight it”.  Will the infection get better?  Nope.  It’s going to rot and fester.  That’s what happens to the minds of children with neurological disabilities who don’t get the right special education.  But it’s alright, because Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the Delaware DOE says Delaware’s due process system is more than fair.  Yeah, I can see how that scares the hell out of Delaware schools into doing the right thing…

The US DOE are a bunch of hypocrites.  They endorse things like social impact bonds which is when a company “invests” in an education setting (like a pre-school) for a certain goal.  In Utah, that went swimmingly when Goldman Sachs had a long-running program they “invested” in.  The goal: only 1% of 200 kids would need long-term special education services in regular school after they put in the “necessary” programs at the pre-school to “help” these kids.  I guess they didn’t get the memo that disabilities are NEUROLOGICAL which is why programs like this are complete and utter crap.  In Delaware, the average for students with disabilities in public schools hovers around 13.5 to 15%.  But with genius banks getting their hooks in, only 1% would!  Goldman Sachs got a return on their “investment” because of the “success” to the tune of $277,000.  I don’t see OSEP sending financial institutions these letters…

To read the latest “guidance” (which essentially means do as we say or we are going to make you sorry) letter from US DOE/OSEP, read below.

Demand Funding For Delaware K-3 Basic Special Education Students

The Delaware Special Education nightmare has gone on long enough.  Years ago, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed a bill to give extra funding for special education students.  With categories such as basic, complex and intensive, this unit-based funding model allots funds based on the number of special education categories there are in each grade at each school.  For basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade there is no difference in the funding than their peers in regular education in those grades.  Last year, State Rep. Kim Williams introduced House Bill 30 which would give this funding to students in those grades.  It was released from the House Education Committee soon after but it has sat in the House Appropriations Committee ever since.  Meanwhile, our Governor, in his latest proposed budget for FY2017 has failed once again to give that funding.

The result of this is hundreds of Delaware students not getting proper special education services, required by Federal law.  This is what happens: a parent requests an IEP.  Many schools in Delaware deny the IEP in those grades since they know they won’t get the funding for it unless it is a higher category.  If they do approve it, they have to use the miniscule federal IDEA-B funding they get and the rest comes from their local funding.  In many cases, services written into the IEP such as occupational therapy or counseling are not given to students because of this obscene lack of funding.

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is misguided if they truly believe any funding for their redistricting plan will give funding for students in K-3 who are considered basic special education.  The Governor did not put it in the budget.  But they still present to public bodies that these students will get these funds.  And every time I call them out on it, someone tells me “we’re working on it”.  If it was truly a priority, it would be there.  No questions asked.  I’ve been telling them this since day one.  The Wilmington advocates can talk about how many generations of students have lost because of no services.  How about the millennia of people with disabilities who have always been cast aside with education funding as if they aren’t even worth it.  Federal law requires the funding to be available to be provided for students with disabilities.  If you want to talk about discrimination and mistreatment, please remember that.  And also remember many African-American students also have disabilities, statewide.

Our Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell want to provide $18 million in funding to early education for the next fiscal year.  One of the goals of this, according to them, is to reduce the amount of students needing special education services in their first few years of school.  On the surface, this looks honorable, but be assured that it is not.  What Markell and the DOE have failed to recognize (or know completely) is the fact that disabilities are neurologically based.  By giving them the extra support in those early years and then putting them into Kindergarten without the funding to sustain those services, these children will suffer.  It is not right to put the bulk of this funding on the local education agencies.  By not giving this funding, these children have suffered.  No amount of Response to Intervention is going to cure a disability.  I firmly believe it is a tactic by which these special needs children are purposely denied this funding.

These students don’t do well on state assessments.  Markell and the DOE have always known this.  State assessments are not designed to make students proficient.  They lose their meaning if everyone does well.  So the powers that be want these students to do bad on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I have heard horror stories this year from teachers who say it takes students with disabilities five times longer to do sections of the test than their regular peers.  And they still won’t reach this mythological proficiency.  This was something that could only be carefully planned.  It is why the Governor gave NO allocations for it in any budget since he signed the needs-based funding bill.  It would interfere with his Education Inc. testing buddies and their huge hedge fund returns.  It is also far easier to give these students a career path towards menial jobs than to give them the funding they deserve so they could perhaps have a shot at success.  You may fool people all the time, but you have NEVER fooled me.  One only needs to look at Delaware Online Checkbook to see this strategy of yours has hurt many students and families over the past four years.

So please sign the change.org petition: https://www.change.org/p/peter-schwartzkopf-pass-house-bill-30-in-delaware-giving-basic-special-education-funding-to-students-in-k-3 and demand our General Assembly pass House Bill 30.   The time is NOW for this bill to move forward.  We can no longer sit by and watch while the most vulnerable to students suffer needlessly.  Tonight at the Red Clay board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty told the board and the audience to support HB30.  Their board passed a resolution supporting it.  All Delaware school boards need to do the same.  I asked the Capital Board of Education months ago to do the same thing but they have not addressed this at all.

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