In an article on Delaware Public Media concerning the status of the charter school audit bills, State Rep. Earl Jaques spun a web of lies about State Rep. Kim Williams, the sponsor of the bill. He gave a quote to reporter Sarah Mueller stating Rep. Williams never approached him about the bill. But Williams didn’t take it lying down. Nor should she. Continue reading
Earl Jaques is abusing his position as Chair of the House Education Committee while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf sits back and lets it all go down. But Schwartzkopf will protect his buddy Kathy McGuiness at any cost. Continue reading
When the Odyssey Charter School debacle that made Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness look like she was in cahoots with her Greek friends on the Odyssey board became public, it was obvious a change needed to happen. State Reps. Kim Williams and John Kowalko introduced a new bill today that would give the General Assembly, the Governor, the state Attorney General, or the Secretary of Education more power to force the Auditor of Accounts Office to do audits for charter schools:
(4)a. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly, may request the Auditor of Accounts conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if 1 of the following applies:
1. The Public Integrity Commission makes an advisory finding under § 5807(c) of Title 29 or final finding under § 5810 of Title 29 that a violation of § 5805 or § 5806 of Title 29 has occurred.
2. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly has evidence of a violation of State law or regulation or the misuse of State money.
b. The Auditor of Accounts shall conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if requested under paragraph (d)(4)a. of this section.
c. The audit the Auditor of Accounts conducts or contracts for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section must comply with generally accepted accounting principles.
d. When an audit is conducted or contracted for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section, the Auditor of Accounts shall file a written report containing the information under § 2909(b) of Title 29 with the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives who shall distribute the report to the members of the General Assembly and the Controller General and Director of the Division of Research.
The bill’s Senate Prime is Jack Walsh, along with co-sponsors including Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Brady, Longhurst, Matthews, Mitchell, Osienski, Smith, and Viola along with Senators Delcollo, Pettyjohn, Poore, Sokola and Wilson. Some of these names are very interesting, including Smith and Sokola who have long been champions for charter schools. But perhaps they are realizing that Delaware can no longer tolerate the financial malfeasance going on at Delaware’s charters.
The next step for this bill will be the House Education Committee. It remains to be seen if Chair of the committee, Rep. Earl Jaques, will let it be heard before June 30th. If not, it would carry over into the second leg of the 150th General Assembly which begins in January, 2020.
On June 5th, McGuiness wrote a long letter to members of the General Assembly about why she is choosing not to have her office begin an investigative audit into Odyssey Charter School. I don’t agree with her reasoning whatsoever and no one has ever done this before in the Auditor’s office when it comes to a charter school audit.
On Thursday, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed House Bill 435, the charter school audit bill. After 15 months of back and forth between the forces of right and the shadows of wrong, we finally have something that is better than what existed before. It could have been better, but Kendall Massett (runs the Delaware Charter Schools Network) had to stick her nose in it and get Senator David Sokola (the only guy who isn’t looking in the camera) to mess around with it.
I’ve seen Kendall several times. We are polar opposites on education policy. We always say hi to each other. She has never written anything bad about me. I can’t say the same. We don’t see a lot of the corporate education reformers attacking people. They have the power (or the illusion of it) so they don’t have to. They are the ones who have a massive amount of lobbyists and political influence to get what they want. Using Star Wars as an analogy, they are the Evil Empire, and folks like me are the Rebels, fighting the stuff they do with every fiber of our being.
House Bill 435 was a compromise bill. Had Kendall not interfered with it, there would be a lot more transparency coming out with future audits of charter schools. They are required to have annual audits. But those audits miss a hell of a lot of information, as was the case with Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy. We have something less than what it was meant to be because one woman couldn’t have her charter schools look bad. If she is in the picture, charter schools will benefit while traditional public schools will suffer more in some way. It’s a sure thing.
In this picture, we have Governor Markell’s right-hand man (literally, to Markell’s real right, and for the love of God Dave, look into the camera, you have an election coming up. You aren’t going to get any door-knockers that way!) Senator David Sokola, standing on Jack’s shoulders is Kendall Massett, and to Jack’s far left (literally) is State Rep. Kim Williams. Of course Jack Markell is the guy in the middle. I have no clue who the guy next to Kendall is. My apologies Mr. Unknown!
If Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams is in the picture, we know someone is fighting the good fight, sometimes with insurmountable odds. We are lucky to have Kim Williams in our corner. I fully endorse Kim Williams for her upcoming State Rep. election!
It was a wild and crazy night-morning at Legislative Hall in Dover. I can honestly say I have never bounced back between the Senate and the House as much as I did in the past six hours. But some of my “must list” legislation passed. Some with changes and some intact.
House Bill 399 passed but not without some amendments and an odd conversation about teachers and a comment Jack Markell made years ago in the Senate. Senator Colin Bonini talked about how Governor Markell gave a speech on the Senate floor many years ago and told everyone only 19% of students in Delaware were college and career ready. But yet our teachers were rated 99% effective. He couldn’t grasp these facts. He said he would support the bill. But then Senator Dave Lawson spoke against the bill and said the system isn’t working. The bill passed with 19 yes and 2 no votes. The no votes were from Senators Lawson and Henry. The amendments added on can be seen here and here. Apparently, this was the only way it was going to pass. In looking at the first amendment, they changed a lot and many teachers won’t be happy about those changes. But this was the compromise reached. Will Governor Markell sign the bill? We shall see. I did speak briefly with Secretary of Education Godowsky and asked him if he thought they were good amendments and he said yes.
After four previous bills, the Kumbaya compromise charter school audit bill, House Bill 435, passed the Senate in the wee hours of the morning. It hadn’t been on the agenda for the Senate. I emailed Senator Sokola, and it appeared on there a few minutes later. It passed soon after.
And the WEIC redistricting plan. I thought rigor mortis was setting in on this plan, but it rose from the ashes. A crucial amendment by State Rep. Kim Williams which deleted some of the unnecessary language in Senate Bill #300 seemed to be what is going to keep that train chugging. This is what happened: WEIC is still alive, and they will plan for another year. The $7.5 million initially requested in the final recommendations has been appropriated for FY2018. But I will get to more of that after a message from Tony Allen, the Chair of WEIC:
Delaware General Assembly Affirms the Commission’s Plan
Governor commits the “necessary and sufficient funds” for next year
Commission suspends timeline
Tonight, an older African American woman stopped me on the Senate Floor and said “if you believe in this, you keep fighting on.” We did!
As the 148th Delaware General Assembly legislative session ended, the House and Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 17, an interim affirmation of the Delaware State Board of Education’s approval of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan and Senate Bill 300, which clarifies the funding implications and supports further analysis by the Commission.
In a related action, Governor Markell committed to put no less than $7.5 million in his FY 2018 plan to support the Commission’s plan, specifically to begin to change the 70-year old student funding formula. In a letter to the Wilmington delegation, Markell said, “I am proud to have worked alongside you in these efforts and pleased to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of the funds necessary and sufficient to fund the first year of implementation of the proposals of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, specifically an amendment to the unit count that would carry additional support for low-income students, English Language Learners and students with special needs statewide.”
Earlier this morning, I noted that because the “necessary and sufficient” funding has not yet been provided that we will immediately call on the Commission to suspend the timetable for implementing its plan.
While I am disappointed with several aspects of this legislative season, SJR17 allows the Commission to fight another day. After 62 years of waiting, fight on we will. The Commission is wholly committed to reducing the fragmentation and dysfunction caused by 23 different school systems currently serving Wilmington children, less than 10% of Delaware’s student population. In addition, the Commission will continue to focus attention on the needs of low-income students, English language learners, and other students with special needs in Wilmington and throughout Delaware. That includes meeting the non-instructional needs of these students, engaging empowered parents in school reform, and changing the antiquated funding system for students and schools that has for many years created sustained inequities dating back to well before Brown v Board of Education (1954). I am grateful to the 22 other commissioners, the previous members of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, and the more than 10,000 community members who have been participating in this process.
I urge your continued resolve.
There are some key words in this, especially Markell saying “to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of funds…“ That isn’t a guarantee that the next Governor will do the same or that the 149th General Assembly will either. We don’t know what the state’s financial picture will be a year from now. But for now, WEIC lives after most thought it was dead and buried. I find it odd that Allen talks about how 23 different school systems serve Wilmington students but the WEIC plan would only reduce that to 22. Granted, Christina has a lot of Wilmington students, but that is still a lot students going to other districts or charters. I will see what this additional year of planning will produce. But it looks like I am not done writing about WEIC despite what I wrote earlier today. I talked to Rep. Charles Potter after the vote and he said this isn’t what he wanted, but it keeps WEIC alive and it is about the students.
Senate Bill 93 passed, one of two Autism bills introduced last year. Senate Bill 92, however, was another victim of funding issues in the state. An amendment was added to Senate Bill 93 in the House which got rid of the Senate Amendment that had the DOE getting involved. The Autism community in Delaware felt that was an unwelcome presence. Good for them!
It was a long second half of the 148th General Assembly. House Bill 50 had two shots to override the Governor’s veto in the House of Representatives and it failed both times. But I want to thank Rep. John Kowalko for trying and standing up for parents. I respect and admire him for doing that. Had the House ever been able to actually vote on the override, I believe it would have passed. The fact that they were never able to get to that point shows the will of the Governor influencing certain members of the House in very inappropriate ways. My other “dream legislation”, House Bill 30, which would have finally given students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade considered to be “basic special education” students, never received a full House vote despite coming out of the House Appropriations Committee weeks ago. I know Rep. Kim Williams fought hard for that bill. I still remember when she first told me about it a year and a half ago and I truly felt it was a no-brainer. For both of those bills, the 149th General Assembly will tell the tale on opt out and special education funding.
I will write more over the next few days about all the bills that passed and those that are now dead. In the meantime, Happy Fiscal New Year 2017!
I was told by many people there would be no Senate Education Committee meeting next week. That appears to have changed since an agenda is up, and House Bill 399 is on it! The meeting will be on Wednesday at 2:3opm in the Senate Majority Caucus Room (first floor, behind the Senate Chamber). If you are an educator in Delaware who has some free time, I would strongly suggest attending and lending your support. The bell will start ringing at 3:00pm for the full Senate to convene in session. So if you want to give public comment, I would suggest using your time wisely but also giving full support of the teacher evaluation bill.
Thank you Senator Sokola for making this happen. Sokola tends to add legislation at the last minute. It is my sincere hope that his and Kim William’s charter audit bill (House Bill 435) appears on the Senate Education Committee agenda. Both bills got unanimous votes in the House last week.
House Bill 435 passed the Delaware House of Representatives today with not a single no vote. This is in sharp contrast to last year when the majority of the House Republicans voted no on the former charter audit bill, House Bill 186. With 39 yes votes and two absent, HB 435 will now head to the Senate. Whether it is placed in the Senate Education Committee or the Senate Executive Committee remains to be seen. Since the Senate Education Committee won’t be meeting again between now and the end of the 148th General Assembly on June 30th, a suspension of rules would have to be used for a full Senate vote if it is placed in that committee. I reported earlier today the WEIC bills passed by the House were sent to the Senate Executive Committee instead of the Senate Education Committee for this very reason.
Congrats to State Rep Kim Williams and State Senator David Sokola for coming together and working on this new bill!
Wow! I wouldn’t have seen this happening five months ago, but new legislation introduced today by co-sponsors Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator David Sokola focuses on the fifth attempt at a charter school audit bill in over a year. Williams’ House Bill 186 passed the Delaware House almost a year ago, but when it arrived at the Senate Education Committee, Chair of the Committee Senator Sokola introduced his own charter audit legislation, Senate Bill 171. This led to a lot of back and forth on social media between Sokola and Williams and other sides of each bill.
In the spirit of compromise, it appears the two have come together in the form of House Bill 435, seen below. Will this sail through the House and Senate in the final weeks of the 148th General Assembly and settle the matter once and for all? Time will tell!
One of the things I admire about State Rep. Kim Williams in the General Assembly is her strength amidst fellow legislators. I believe Kim puts forth legislation that will help the students of Delaware. While some may see her as one who opposes charters, that is not the case at all. She just wants equity. It is why she put forth the Enrollment Preference Task Force from House Bill 90 in the 147th General Assembly. It’s why she has legislation pending to finally fund basic special education students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade. It’s why she also put for House Bill 186, the charter school audit bill.
As I wrote in the following article yesterday, https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/dave-sokola-kicks-kim-williams-in-the-back-and-then-thrusts-the-knife-into-it/, it is obvious there are agendas afoot to stop Kim’s bill. The Delaware Charter Schools Network hates this bill. The cost isn’t anything that would force a charter school into bankruptcy. Maybe they won’t be able to buy a slide for a pool, or send their whole staff to dinner at a country club, but they can afford it. Don’t let the DCSN fool you! They are paid by the charters to protect them and to advocate for them, just as DSEA does for teachers. They have a lot of influence among the DOE, the State Board, and Rodel. In essence, they are lobbyists. Last year they started a massive letter writing campaign which I talked about in the above Sokola article. Turnaround is fair play, so another letter writing campaign in support of House Bill 186 started earlier today.
This bill actually does protect charter schools by helping to make sure the outright theft of school funds doesn’t go for personal use by corrupt employees, and those funds go to the classroom where they are needed most. I can’t for the life of me understand why Sokola and Jaques wouldn’t want that either. They will argue technicalities, but let’s be honest, they are protecting this bizarre charter school mentality where they don’t want to have the transparency they actually need to survive on a long-term basis. During discussion last spring for HB186, the State Auditor’s office told the House Education Committee the nature of the charter’s required yearly audits would not catch a lot of the financial malfeasance that went on at charters like Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover.
Please go to the letter writing campaign here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/support-hb-186?source=direct_link&referrer=hb-186
As of this writing, it states 162 letters have been sent. To clarify, that is 162 sets. Each Delaware Senator is receiving this letters and there are 21 Senators. That is 3, 402 letters that have gone out today! That is amazing!
Senator Dave Sokola pulled a fast one on State Rep. Kim Williams in his latest political trickery because of his uncontrolled bias for Delaware charter schools.
Last year, State Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 186 was approved by the Delaware House of Representatives on June 30th, the last day of legislative session. Senator David Sokola refused to suspend the rules and said this bill needed to be heard in the Senate Education Committee. Fair enough. It was heard in committee this week, and it was released yesterday. Fair enough. What he did behind the scenes is what defines him.
House Bill 186 deals with charter school audits. Rep. Williams felt the charter school fraud and embezzlement was a bit too much for Delaware taxpayers and she brought the bill forward to allow the State Auditor’s office to monitor charters more closely. This is something Kathleen Davies from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office was in full support of. The main party who was not in support of the bill was the Delaware Charter Schools Network. They vehemently opposed the bill stating it would cost charter schools extra money. On their website, they set up a “letter to the legislators” system where parents just add their information and a letter is automatically sent to the legislators.
At present, all traditional school districts audits go through the State Auditor’s office. Charters use their own hand-picked auditors. This bill would add an extra layer of protection. As well, ever since the very first charter school closed in Delaware, funds seem to disappear resulting in millions of dollars vanishing. Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 186 would put charters on the same equal playing field as traditional school districts and is not an attempt to treat charters any different. Why would we not want to ensure our taxpaying funds are being used with fidelity and honesty?
Having sent my son to a charter school back in the day, I know how this works when legislation comes up that may affect a charter school. Parents get emails from the school leader basically saying “Our poor charter school is under attack, we need your support.” It usually ties to funding and money.
On June 30th, the bill passed the House with all Democrats except State Reps. Pete Schwartzkopf and Earl Jaques and all the Republicans voted no.
This week, Sokola, along with co-sponsor Jaques and several Senate Republicans filed Senate Bill 171.
Are charters required to have their audits done the same way as Sokola’s Senate Bill 171 states? Not at all. Title 29 of the Delaware State Code, dealing with the Auditor of Accounts, specifically states:
(f) The Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits of local school district tax funds budget and expenditures annually. The results of the audit shall be submitted to the local board, the State Board of Education, the office of Controller General and the local libraries within said school district. Expenses incurred for such postaudits herein authorized shall be borne by the local school districts.
This says absolutely nothing about charter schools whatsoever. With respect to charter schools, Title 14 does touch on this, but the wording is very vague:
The charter school shall contract to have an audit of the business and financial transactions, records, and accounts after July 1 for the prior fiscal year. The results of the audit shall be shared with the Department of Education by October 1.
What Sokola’s bill does completely ignores the authority given to the State Auditor of Accounts in Title 29. And the charter audit part is not even included in chapter 29 whatsoever. Title 14 doesn’t even define what the scope of the charter school’s audit should look like, and even with Sokola’s bill this is not defined either. But Title 29, the section that once again authorizes the Auditor of Accounts of their duties and responsibilities, bolded for emphasis, states:
(a) The audits shall be sufficiently comprehensive to provide, but not limited to, assurance that reasonable efforts have been made to collect all moneys due the State, that all moneys collected or received by any employee or official have been deposited to the credit of the State and that all expenditures have been legal and proper and made only for the purposes contemplated in the funding acts or other pertinent regulations.
This is a direct attempt to sabotage Rep. Williams’ bill in my opinion. Sokola’s bill does absolutely nothing. It is a piece of paper designed to actually protect charter schools from the financial destruction some of them have inflicted on Delaware. After the State Auditor’s office released reports last year on Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover showing well over $300,000 of taxpayer money being absconded by school leaders, along with other reports showing a couple of charters doing very suspect things with school funds, one would think our elected officials would want to make sure charters are held under a bigger microscope. In the case of Family Foundations Academy, telling the public they aren’t sure what may have happened to $2.5 million dollars along with another $141,000 in funds that may or may not have been personal purchases shows a clear need for more oversight into charter finances. But apparently not with the Chairs of our Education Committees, Sokola and Jaques.
How does something like this happen when charter schools are supposed to have greater accountability because of their unique structure with the public school environment? It is political maneuvering. Senator Sokola is in the 8th District, in Newark. Since 1990, Sokola has been a State Senator. I wrote in great detail about Sokola’s history of education destruction last year. The 8th District is a very unique district. In this district is Newark Charter School. Senator Sokola was one of the founding board members of the school. Newark Charter School has a 5 mile radius for its applicants, which actually extends past the Maryland line. So it is not a true 5 mile radius, but ensures all its students come from a very specific geographic area. The 8th district. This school is considered to be one of the best schools in the state based on standardized test scores, academics, and school climate. There is usually an extensive waiting list. Because of this, Sokola is able to hold onto his Senate seat because of his steadfast loyalty to charter schools. He is also the chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Interestingly enough, State Rep. Kim Williams gave insight into this in a comment on Delaware Liberal last night:
House Bill 186 will require charter schools to have their audits done through the Auditor of Accounts like all other public school districts in the state. Currently, only public school districts are audited through the Auditor of Accounts. Sen. Sokola explained to us during the debate of House Bill 186 that his bill, Senate Bill 171, was drafted with the help of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, who represent charter schools and the leaders who have been stealing from Delaware taxpayers. Senate Bill 171 does not require the charter schools to have their audits done through the Auditor of Accounts office. The charter schools will be able to select who they want once again. Senate Bill 171 does nothing except protect the charter schools and not the taxpayers. I for the life of me cannot understand why these people do not care about protecting the taxpayers’ money; they are more interested in protecting the charter schools.
This is Delaware. Those in power position themselves in the key positions so they can be re-elected over and over and over again. Sokola is also the chair of the Senate Bond Committee so he can curry favor with the organizations that receive state funding through bonds and grants. Sokola has not filed for the 2016 election, but his seat is up for grabs. No opposing candidate has filed either, so there is still time.
I urge every single Delaware citizen to contact every member of the Delaware Senate to vote yes for House Bill 186. Sokola’s anti-Williams bill will most likely be on the Senate Education Committee agenda for next week. His bill will be fast-tracked for passage while Williams bill will either be voted down or sit in limbo.
I just wrote the Delaware Senators an email for my full support for House Bill 186, and I would ask anyone reading this to do the same:
Good morning Delaware Senators!
I wanted to ask for you support in voting yes for House Bill 186, State Rep. Kim Williams charter school audit bill which passed with overwhelming support in the Delaware House on June 30th, and was released from the Senate Education Committee yesterday. As a Delaware taxpaying citizen, I firmly believe our Delaware charter schools need rigorous examination with their finances. We have seen far too many charters abscond with public funds for personal use in the past few years for their own personal use.
I firmly believe, after carefully reviewing House Bill 186, that this bill would give the extra protections Delaware taxpayers need to make sure our dollars are being protected from those who would steal money from us. If we are going to demand accountability in our schools, that needs to start at the top in each and every building. Every single traditional school district is held to this same process, so why wouldn’t we include charters in this process?
I would urge all of you to read this article by Business Insider which was written on January 6th, 2016: http://www.businessinsider.com/are-charter-schools-the-new-mortgage-crisis-2016-1 This article clearly shows the environment charter schools exist in and there are red flags all over the place. Charter school accountability and transparency was also addressed in the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Obama last month. The ESSA demands more state responsibility in monitoring charter schools.
Here is a list of the emails for our Delaware Senators, just copy and paste!
firstname.lastname@example.org MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Nicole.Poore@state.de.us firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Dave.Lawson@state.de.us firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com David.Sokola@state.de.us Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us firstname.lastname@example.org