Delaware FY2017 Budget As Of 6/23/16, WEIC Redistricting Funds Are NOT In The Budget!!!!

Updated, 6:31pm: I’ve just been told the $6 million allocated to WEIC will be in a separate budget bill pending the results of the Senate vote next week.  Not sure how all that works, but okay…

Senate Bill 285 was introduced yesterday on the Senate floor in Delaware.  This is the Delaware State Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 as of 6/23/16 after the Joint Finance Committee made cuts a couple weeks ago.  Let me stress this, and I looked everywhere.  The budgeted $6 million for WEIC is not in Senate Bill 285.  The bill was left on the table.  Which means they will pick it up again next week and make many changes I’m sure.  The epilogue language has been written into the bill.  Anything underlined is new epilogue language.  That is where a lot of changes take place, and for education that is where we see things like the charter school transportation “slush” fund.  I am also including the Governor’s proposed budget, Senate Bill 175, to compare what Governor Markell put in there and what has changed since.

I went through the entire thing with a fine-tooth comb.  I wrote about the changes between the proposed budget and the current one below.  This is strictly for education.  But if you want to look in all departments the documents will have those.  Of note is the fact DEFAC found another $7.5 million earlier this week.  The state refinanced some bonds at lower costs based on interest rates.  But it was announced on Wednesday at the Joint Finance Committee those funds would not be going toward WEIC.  So where did the $6,000,000 allocated for WEIC in the Governor’s budget disappear to?  I just read the entire budget bill, word by word over the past two hours.  There is nothing with WEIC in there at all.

I did see that instead of being a line item, the $500,000 allocated to Autism legislation will come from the Tobacco Fund.  The charter school transportation “slush” fund is still in Section 342 (paging John Kowalko).

SEED Scholarship went down from $6,156,600 to $5,656,600 –$500,000

Student Assessment system went down from $6,051,100 to $5,916,500 –$134,600

Energy Costs for the DOE went down from $75,000 to $72,100 –$2,900

Charter School Performance fund taken out for $500,000

Technology Block grant went down from $3,500,000 to $2,500,000 -$1,000,000

Educational Sustainment Fund went down from $4,000,000 to $1,000,000 -$3,000,000

Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Program taken out for $1,000,000

Career Pathways taken out for $250,ooo

**Wilmington Education Improvement Commission taken out for $6,000,000**

Teacher Compensation Reform taken out for $1,000,000

Academic Excellence Block grant went down from $39,560,700 to $38,753,800 -806,900

Early Childhood Initiatives went down from $18,255,900 to $16,255,900 -$2,000,000

Education Block grants went down from $55,156,300 to $54,394,400 –$761,900

Special Needs Programs went down from $47,006,300 to $45,006,300, -$2,000,000

Total decrease for Department of Education from Governor’s proposed budget to current budget: -$16,956,300

 

DELAWARE SENATE BILL 285: THE BUDGET BILL

GOVERNOR MARKELL’S PROPOSED BUDGET FOR FY 2017

 

 

 

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.

 

Charters Making Out Like Bandits With Minor Capital Improvements Loophole!

Delaware State Representative John Kowalko requested information on how much Delaware charters are getting in minor capital improvement funding through Governor Markell’s proposed budget.  In the past three fiscal years, Delaware charters were allowed to receive $351,857 total from the state budget.  This year, Markell has an astonishing $1,587,310 allocated for charter school minor capital funding.  This is approximately four and a half times the average yearly amount.  Kowalko is not happy about this and asked to share this letter he wrote his colleagues in the 148th General Assembly.

Dear Colleagues,

Here is the amount of minor cap improvement money spent on Charter School facilities. This is out of a proposed $11 million in the Governor’s budget for MCI allotted for all public schools in Delaware including the many crumbling and outdated buildings in Wilmington and elsewhere.  It should not be necessary to point out to all of you that none of these charter school facilities are owned in whole or part by Delaware taxpayers and every dollar spent goes to enhancing the value of privately owned facilities. Not one penny will come back to the taxpayer if these buildings are sold or abandoned. This is an abuse of taxpayer monies and an abdication of our responsibilities to those taxpayers.

Representative John Kowalko
A voice of reason in an out of control charter friendly General Assembly!
And here are the amount each charter will get.  Of course, this is subject to the approval of the General Assembly when they pass the budget.

CharterMinorCapFundingPt1

CharterMinorCapFundingPt2

Yeah, I wasn’t too happy when I saw this either.  So aside from this surplus funding which was not part of the original charter school law but got added in to House Bill 165 in 2013, charters also get funds from the charter school performance fund, the charter school transportation slush fund, and many donations from places like the Longwood Foundation, Rodel, and The Welfare Foundation along with others.  When will the madness stop?  Kendall Massett spoke at the House Education Committee meeting last week to speak against House Bill 231, sponsored by State Rep. Sean Matthews.  His bill would require charters to have all teachers as part of the state retirement fund.  Massett spoke against it stating that the original charter school bill allowed charters to have extra flexibility from state bureaucracy.  But apparently when it benefits the charters, they don’t speak out against that…

Delaware MET Needs To Return Their $175,000 Charter School Performance Fund

First off, I don’t think any charter school that has not even opened should be getting a “performance award”.  They haven’t done anything yet.  Second of all, it is obvious their “long-term” strategy for this school didn’t work as they are closing a little over a month after they opened.  Third, if they don’t, I know at least two legislators who will be screaming foul on this.  And rightly so.  Finally, they should openly, honestly, and with great transparency return ALL unused funds immediately.

The Delaware
Met
$250,000 $175,000 High-quality plans for start-up or expansion; AND Serve high-need students Start-Up Costs Funds may not be used for marketing materials or mentor appreciation/exhibition events No

In the above chart, it was taken straight from the 2015-2016 list of Charter School Performance Award winners.  They requested $250,000 for “start-up” costs, even though they already received $250,000 from the Longwood Foundation in 2014.  They won the $175,000 out of the $250k requested.  In their application for the performance fund the school stated they needed a special education coordinator in the amount of $46,000.00 to “ensure we can meet the needs of our high IEP student population“.  Don’t federal funds coming under the IDEA-B allocation already cover that need based on how many special education students they already have?  This means the school already knew they would be having a lot of students with disabilities and they had not even hired a coordinator as of July 7th of this year, a month and a half before they opened.

The big question is where these funds even come from.  Do they come from the DOE, or somewhere else in the Delaware Government?  If you look at Delaware Online Checkbook, it shows them receiving $39.83 in revenue this year. These are funds that have already been sent to these schools. So where is the money and where did it go to? Why isn’t it being reported by the state?

To be on the safe side, I checked Kuumba Academy who received $425,000 last year as their charter school performance fund. This was announced after Fiscal Year 2015 started.  Even though the budget states the charter school performance fund comes from the General Fund, since the funds are allocated to a specific purpose (i.e. a special education coordinator), it would then go the Special Fund once the General Fund sends funds to that allocation. In the bill for Fiscal Year 2015, on page 59 of this pdf: Senate Bill 225 Final FY2015 Budget it shows $1.5 million allocated to the charter school performance fund, coming out of the General Fund.  But Kuumba shows no revenue in their General Fund for FY2015 on Delaware Online Checkbook.  So it had to come out of what is called the special fund. But the only special fund items listed with an amount higher than $425,000 are “Donation Contributions” of which Kuumba received $1,671,735.39. $500,000 of that was a donation from the Longwood Foundation at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2015. And in their May 2015 board meeting minutes, Kuumba’s board announced they were getting another $1 Million from them as well. So that is $1.5 million alone in their “Donation Contributions” section which is the only place $425,000 could have possibly gone. But it doesn’t fit with $1.5 million being donated by Longwood, so where is it?

Even though the Delaware MET is showing less than $40.00 in revenue, that doesn’t mean the $175,000 wasn’t sent to them. It’s just a question of where, in the maze that is Delaware funding, the hell it is.  This charter school performance fund is one of the abominations that sprang out of House Bill 165 during the first half of the 147th General Assembly back in 2013.  Maybe the 2nd half of the 148th General Assembly can get rid of this monstrous waste in taxpayer funds by next June, and save the state some semblance of money.

State Rep. Earl Jaques Slams Teacher Pay While Justifying Cuts To The Poor

Yesterday, Red Clay Education Association President Mike Matthews posted on Facebook regarding a News Journal article about cuts to the homeless in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.  Matthews wrote:

“Shameful. Poor folks get $15 less per month but we found $1,000,000 to go to a few charter schools.”

The ensuing conversation was very much in agreement with Matthews original comment, until Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques joined the fray…

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Obviously, this brought teaching into this conversation in a huge way.  The comments started flying:

Is Earl suggesting that underpaid teachers should make up the difference of cuts to the poor? Since Earl is part of the General Assembly, what is he recommending be cut to get that money back to the poor and when is he going to formally propose those cuts? Does he have any idea of what Mike already does for the poor? Real classy.

Earl — I don’t want to hear that argument so don’t sell it here. The argument is (expletive deleted) and you know it. Cutting general assistance to the poor so Newark Charter can build a new lab is disgusting and you know it.

But I agree with the bottom part of your comment. I just wish we had more legislators willing to be brave and do the right thing.

 Earl Jaques has reliably demonstrated, with both his words and actions, that he is both incapable and unconcerned with helping public schools best serve students and parents.

The step increases will perhaps cover the additional healthcare costs borne by the educators. I wouldn’t know, I’m at the top of the scale and don’t get steps anymore. But I still advocated for them for my fellow employees.

How about he cut HIS pay and give to the poor?

Most teachers I know give to the poor in real, tangible ways. Has EJ ever, with his own income ever purchased a coat, a pair of shoes, a backpack for a poor child? How about pay a family’s electric bill? Find an air conditioner for an asthmatic child, provided a graphing calculator for a motivated high school student who could afford her own? Figure out how to get eyeglasses for a struggling student, paid for a field trip, or year book for a child NOT related to him? Purchased a novel on CD that an English language learner could not read?
These are things that teachers do. No one forces them. It is not required of them. But many will ho-hum this litany of giving.
They expect teachers to give as they expect missionaries to lay down their lives for the faith.
And they want no reminders of the needs they choose to ignore.
I mean, who lobbies for the poor, anyway?
Allow teachers to give willingly and then try to shame them for not giving more.

Now if I were Earl Jaques, I would have probably walked away from this.  Trying to compare cuts to the poor to expensive labs in charter schools is not a wise idea in the current fiscal environment in Delaware.  Especially since this charter already got grants from other sources for this lab, including the Longwood Foundation.  But this morning he came back with the following which drew a brilliant response from Matthews:

  • Earl Jaques What you miss was that the budget is a balancing act. Everyone had needs and we try to fill as many needs as possible, but unfortunately we can’t fill every need to the level we would like. Also teachers aren’t the only state employees.
  • Mike Matthews $250,000 for a Newark Charter School expansion, Earl. This school serves a limited low-income population and they’re already at huge levels of proficiency on the state test. So why do they “need” that money? You can say all you want about everyone having to sacrifice a little, but it’s disingenuous to not qualify the level of “need” for NCS vs. the level of need of those on General Assistance.
     

Yes folks, this is the Chairman of the House Education Committee in Delaware!

Odyssey Charter School Applies For Performance Fund $$$ They Don’t Even Qualify For!!!!

Last, but not least (well, it is in terms of the odds of them getting a penny from the Charter School Performance Fund), is Odyssey Charter School.  They don’t qualify for this because they were on probation during this fiscal year.  But that doesn’t stop them from applying anyway!  So let’s see what they wanted to get with this phantom money:

And we can’t forget the phantom budget!

So let me get this straight, they have a $500,000 shortfall in their capital budget for this building, they are already overbudget by $700,000 in their regular expenses (see last week’s Odyssey article), and whoever wrote this application doesn’t seem to be aware DCAS is no longer the state standardized assessment.  One word: INTERVENTION!

Newark Charter School Performance Fund Application

This one is VERY interesting!  The top prize allocated to any recipient of this performance award is $250,000, but Newark Charter School is asking for $400,000 to support the construction of their STEM labs and Fine Performing Arts Center.  Which is good, you can use this fund for capital costs.  And they are already getting funds from The Longwood Foundation for this:

The Longwood Foundation has agreed to assist the school in the renovations to the JR/SR High School for STEM and Fine & Performing Arts.

It’s not every school that gets Theire DuPont to come check you out!

Source: http://ncs.charter.k12.de.us/files/_FRAup_/2a0a2af04ad981653745a49013852ec4/Board_Minutes_May_19_2015.pdf

But let’s see what their application says:

And did they already get those funds?  What are “expense recoveries”?  It’s hard to say cause this doesn’t say where the funds are coming from….

NEWARK CHARTER SCHOOL – NEWARK CHARTER SCHOOL for FY 2015 Period 1 thru 11

Amount:
$1,711,393.56
Back to Search
Category General Fund Federal Fund Capital Fund Special Fund
FEDERAL REIMBURSEMENT $0.00 $436,118.73 $0.00 $0.00
INTEREST ON DEPOSITS $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $51,445.35
USDA DOE MEAL REIMBURSEMENT $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $107,661.92
EXPENSE RECOVERIES $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $1,116,167.56

And like their brethren school located in the Christina School District, Newark Charter School got to keep over $400,000 from the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund from the past two fiscal years…

Mapleton Charter School At Whitehall Performance Award Application

Have I ever written about this school?  I don’t think so.  It sounds like a private school for really rich kids with that name! Another charter scheduled to open up in 2016, looking to fund their head of school positions through a performance fund, but only for one year!  I really need to open up a charter school.  I’ll call it the Exceptional Delaware Institute for Easy Money!

I get the whole concept of start-up costs, but to rely on those funds coming out of a free program from the state is not wise for any business, much less a school.  With ten applicants, nine of which have a shot (more on that later), those aren’t the greatest odds to pay for salaries.  But what do I know?  I’m just a blogger…

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy Charter School Performance Award Application

The LAAA school as they are commonly known (okay, I’m just too lazy to type it again) wants $250,000 to hire special education teachers for a “co-teaching” environment.  While I love any school beefing up their special education department, I have to ask why they haven’t had them for six years, and how will they budget this in other years?  And don’t schools get IDEA-B funding for this very purpose?  If they have 100 students on IEPs, where is the portion of that allocated to those teachers going?  Hmm…paging the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE….

So they want $235,795 for four special education teachers which amounts to an average salary of $58,948.75.  And what is the going rate for special education teachers in Delaware?  The median range is $55k, so they are close to the target, but I would have to think the funds for that would come from other funds already allocated to the school when it comes to special education.

And here we have another charter school that made $283,000 from the charter school transportation slush fund over a two year period!

First State Military Academy Charter School Performance Award Application

Another school that hasn’t even opened yet applying for more money! Based on performance! Yay!  Another school promoting this New Tech Network system.  The other one was Delaware STEM Academy.  Okay, they are on my radar now..  And we have more salaries as part of this application…

So if they want to enroll in this network their curriculum is essentially based on, but this would only cover the first year,  what happens next year?  Cause you can’t get this award two years in a row…

I would think a military-based school would have already bought a $2000 sound system to bark orders at kids, but no, that’s included in here as well…

UPDATED, 7/1/15, 1:19pm: I took out the part in my write-up concerning the change in location of this school to Camden, Delaware.  This was a technical error on the applicant’s part, and the school is in Clayton, at the same location it has always been.  My apologies for any concerns about this!

Early College High School Charter School Performance Award Application

Another performance award application.  This school has been open for one year and they are applying for a performance award with no data on academic performance…  As well I have grave concerns with forcing 9th and 10th graders to take summer classes the school should be providing as part of their regular academic year curriculum…

In my eyes, this school is still very much an experiment in Delaware.  They have already gone through one principal and significant board member changes.  The jury is still out on this application.  What do you think DOE?  I’m sure you’ll love it with the whole college and career ready lingo and the Smarter Balanced goals of 60% will close the gaps.

Delaware STEM Academy Charter School Performance Fund Application

I’m just going to say this right off the bat.  I take great issue with this school being eligible for the Charter School Performance Fund when they aren’t even scheduled to open until August 2016!  The best part: they want this award so they can pay their Chief Academic Officer and Executive Director their first year!  Doesn’t that already come out of state-allocated funds?  As well, how can they select all staff by May 2016 if they don’t hit their enrollment figures by June 2016?  And don’t they have to be at their enrollment figures by April 1st, 2016?

This one just has a big huge question mark all over it.  I would deny this one DOE…

Delaware MET Charter School Performance Fund Application

I love when schools that aren’t even open yet apply for a performance fund!  Because they have so much data to show they can even perform…

The Delaware MET is scheduled to open August 2015.  So I’m guessing they need more money…

While I don’t really have a problem with what Delaware MET is asking for, why would they wait until a few months before they open to institute such a high-caliber part of their curriculum as part of a performance fund they may or may not receive?  If they don’t get this funding, what happens to this program? No internships for these kids?

Campus Community School Charter School Performance Fund Application

The Delaware DOE, in conjunction with the Charter School Office, offers eligible charter schools in the state to apply for the Charter School Performance Fund.  The DOE is stating this is allocated at $1.5 million to divvy up between the charters, but state lawmakers put $1 million in the budget for it.  We will find out tomorrow or Wednesday what the true amount is.  With that being said, ten charter schools have applied.

What they are applying for will be covered.  We are starting with Campus Community School in Dover, DE, and this will include their written narrative as well as their budget:

Campus Community School has some good ideas.  They want to launch “Project Inspire” to help at-risk kids.  They want to make their library more digital, and hire someone to staff that.  A Saturday initiative sounds promising.  They want to add Communities In Schools full-time for a mentoring program at $43,000.  Wait a minute…

If Communities In Schools was part-time this year, and they want this for full-time, why have they paid them $61,000 for the first eleven months of this fiscal year?  I’m a little bit confused here…

COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS

CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 11/25/2014 $13,750.00 0000890314
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 10/28/2014 $13,750.00 0000873161
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 1/13/2015 $3,000.00 0000911629
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 1/13/2015 $13,750.00 0000911629
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 9/26/2014 $3,000.00 0000856654
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 3/13/2015 $13,750.00 0000940811

There is some very fuzzy math going on there. Unless Communities In Schools is providing some other type of program for the school that we aren’t aware of here…

If I were the Charter School Office, I would want this very important question answered before I approve this application.

While traditional public school districts are being forced to cut library specialists, charters can just apply for one through this performance fund.  No bias there!  As well, let it be known Campus Community School received over $300,000 the past two fiscal years in what I call the “Charter School Transportation Slush Fund” where Delaware charters get to keep the extra money from their transportation budget if their bus bids are below budget…

Kuumba Academy Manipulating Low Income Data in Application For Charter School Performance Fund Award @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat @delawareonline @TNJ

In their application for their request for $469,000 from the charter school performance fund, Kuumba Academy states their low-income population at Kuumba is 84%.  But the Delaware Department of Education school profiles page shows Kuumba at 63.1% low income.  When you go to the details page it shows the same amount.  Even more interesting, when you convert the document to PDF format, which you are able to do on the website, the Low Income section is completely taken out.

From their application for the charter school performance award, taken from this DOE website: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/senate148/files/dcspfg/KuumbaAcadmyPerfFund.pdf

As a recipient of Title I funding, 84% of the student body at Kuumba qualifies for federally free and reduced meals based on their family income. Additionally, approximately 10% of Kuumba students are classified as special needs and have an Individualized Educational Program. The expansion plan outlined in Section A will benefit all students in grades K7. For the 20142015 school year, this is estimated to be 467 students. These initiatives would benefit approximately 392 lowincome students in grades K7, or 84% of the student body in these grades.

This is the second area of completely different data being skewed on their application as opposed to what appears on the DOE website.  Yesterday I noticed a large change in their special education numbers between the application and the DOE School Profiles page.

The DOE has indicated on a Twitter conversation that the low-income numbers were formulated differently and Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal has already reported this.  I did a search for this article, but if they are talking about this link: http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20130919/NEWS03/309190036/Too-many-kids-capable-college-never-even-apply-?gcheck=1 nothing comes up for it.  To be on the safe side I’ve made a request with Matthew Albright to provide a link to this story.

But this doesn’t change the fact that the Delaware DOE was caught red-handed yesterday by MULTIPLE witnesses changing low-income numbers on their system in real-time.  The truth will come out when the 2014-2015 September 30th numbers are reported by the Delaware DOE in November.  All eyes will be on those reports!