Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council’s Shameful Special Investigation Audit Is Shining Example Of Why More Oversight Is Needed In Delaware

How can three fiscal years go by where a State Agency is doing whatever the heck they want and no one is the wiser?  Why does it take a whistleblower for the State to get a clue?  Who watches the Watchmen?  This council is supposed to help folks with disabilities.  This is beyond disgusting.  I’ve met Pat Maichle and I would have never guessed she would stoop to these levels.  Issuing contracts without going out for the request for proposal if it goes over $50,000?  Letting contracts continue when the work wasn’t completed?  Travel reimbursement issues?  Yeah, this report has them all.  This report shines a negative light on a council that does do good.  But one bad apple…

The worst part?  The Director was put on Administrative Leave last October and was reinstated in January of this year.  Before the audit was even completed!  While I am happy the Auditor’s office uncovered these shenanigans, it is not up to the Auditor of Accounts to watch this stuff.  We have a procurement office in Delaware.  It seems like nobody is watching what is going on with different state agencies and they are allowed to operate with no oversight.  Delaware state agencies are going rogue.  What will it take?

Delaware Teachers Will Have To Work Extra Hours To Make Up For Snow Days This Year

Last night, the Delaware State Board of Education voted to forgive one snow day this year.  For Delaware public school teachers, they are required to work 188 days a year.  With the forgiveness of one day, that number comes down to 187.  But many schools had at least five snow days or more this year due to the winter storms.  Even though two of those snow days were State of Emergency issued by Governor John Carney, Secretary Bunting only put forth one forgiveness day to the State Board.

As a result, teachers could have extra days after the school year.  There are other ways teachers could make up that time according to DSEA President Mike Matthews:

How snow buyback works is if a district needs to make up 21 hours (or three days) then the District can choose how that’s done (usually in consult with their local union and School board). Maybe they will add one day to the teacher year and have the staff make up 14 hours of APPROVED outside-the-regular-school day activities like staying after to volunteer at a family literacy night or maybe they will count that IEP meeting that happened before or after school as make up time. The state requires that every employee keep a log of their time to show they worked to make up those days lost.

Depending on contracts, some teachers could use personal hours to make up for that lost time according to Matthews.

For Delaware public school students, most districts and charters exceed the 1,060 hours students must attend school for each year.  Some have already canceled a day off meant for professional development for teachers to make up for that lost time.  So it is not anticipated that students will have their school year extended.

Christina Board of Education Will Review Superintendent Spending Tonight

The Christina School District Board of Education will review the amount of spending their Superintendent can spend before they have to get board approval at their monthly meeting tonight.  The current limit is $20,000.  Previously, it had been $50,000 but after their second failed referendum attempt in 2015, the board lowered the amount.

$50,000 is a key figure with Delaware Superintendents.  In Delaware code, any contract of $50,000 or more has to go through the request for proposal process in the state.  Many school districts circumvent this by having contracts for $49,000-$49,999.  These kind of budgets can be controversial.  School boards lose some power when the districts write those kind of vendor contracts.

As well, the board is reviewing this type of spending for school principals with another proposal to raise that amount without a signature from $10,000 to $25,000.

With many citizens in Delaware demanding greater transparency of school district funding, this could be seen by those advocates as more continuous evaporation of schools and districts not giving crucial financial information to the public.

The board also has an item on their agenda, if approved, would give the board more ability to participate in legislation and regulations that could affect the school district.  If implemented, this would give a board member the ability to go to Senate and House Education Committee meetings as well as State Board of Education meetings and give public comment on behalf of the board.  The policy would also mandate that any board member speaking about education policy would have to state in public these are individual thoughts and not reflective of the Christina School District of Board of Education.  For the past two years, the board has declined to join the Delaware School Boards Association which usually has their own representative at these types of meetings.

The board will also discuss the upcoming implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act and what that could mean for the district.  I highly recommend board members participate and comment on this confusing legislation and make sure their voice is heard.

The board meeting will be at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School beginning at 7pm this evening.

FISCAL MANAGEMENT POLICY

CONTRACTS & REAL ESTATE POLICY

LEGISLATIVE PARTICIPATION

 

Is The Delaware DOE Being Taken Over By Corporations? A Multi-Vendor Contract Bid For 9 Different Categories?

I have seen some really crazy requests for proposals coming out of the Delaware Department of Education, but this one takes the cake!  This latest RFP is a multi-vendor solicitation for nine different areas of education.  I would almost say it looks like vendors will completely take over the Department of Education looking at this!  While that probably isn’t the case, I have often wondered why I can’t find contracts for certain vendors at the Delaware DOE.  My guess is these kinds of multi-purpose vendor bids have gone out before.  Which is why I have never seen a DOE contract with the Rodel Foundation or the Vision Network.

But this is huge.  Are they preparing for the Every Student Succeeds Act?  While the law is meant to limit federal interference in how states carry out the law, it certainly looks like it is a cash cow for corporations to come in at lightning speed before the ink is dry on the regulations.  Maybe if the Delaware DOE hired more educators, they wouldn’t need all these so-called “experts” in education.  Delaware education has not gotten any better with all these cash in the trash consultants and vendors.

Our General Assembly needs to get control of the DOE.  They are destroying what is good about education for our children, one day at a time.  Piece by piece, bit by bit.  And the transparency around their actions seems to be getting murkier by the week.  But make no mistake, the entire DOE is led by one man: Jack Markell.  He is behind every single decision that goes on there.  He is so invested, politically and personally, in corporate education reform that he is unable to tell the difference between reality and wishful thinking.  He is beyond being able to reason with.  He lives and breathes education, but from a corporate perspective, not an educator one.

There is far too much going on at the Delaware DOE these days.  Between ESSA meetings that I have no doubt have predetermined outcomes already in the works, their Special Education Strategic Plan (which I will have more to say about soon with the Paul Herdman selected guy running this), the charter-district funding fight, the charter school performance frameworks, Teacher-Leader pilots with very questionable transparency, getting ESEA flex waivers without clearly stating what they were applying for and not having the advisory committee required by law to go along with that, ongoing concerns about the upcoming Social Studies and Science state assessments, their complete and total pimping of the Pathways to Prosperity program, their inability to understand and listen to true stakeholder input, allowing Rodel to influence their every move, and willful defiance of the will and intent of the Delaware General Assembly.

This contract confirms my worst fears about this Department.  They spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year in contracts to vendors.  Money that should go into classrooms.  Money that should keep classroom sizes down.  Money that  give basic special education to students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Money that should give more resources to low-income and poverty-stricken children.  Money that should go to school improvements and Capital funding.  Instead they are giving it away to companies.

Christina Board Member Rallies For Elizabeth Paige While Discussing Some Pretty Massive Problems With The District & Board

Christina School District Board of Education member John Young posted this tonight on his Facebook account.  I agree with a lot of what he said.  I haven’t written a lot about the divisiveness I believe is going on up there.  In my opinion, it is corruption at its finest.  Yes, I have my own election to worry about tomorrow.  But I’m glad John put into words what he has been feeling, as have many others.  It concerns me because I can see some parallels in Capital School District.  While the board doesn’t seem to have these kind of issues and the level of manipulation isn’t as high, it is, to some degree, present.  This is a long post from John Young, but it is well worth the read.  If you live up in Christina, please vote for Elizabeth Paige.  She earned her stripes a long time ago and Christina would not be the same without her.  It would be much worse…

Well, here we are: tomorrow is the day. Christina faces an election for one seat as we already prepare to welcome Meg Mason in July to replace the outgoing Dave Resler. CSD voters have a pretty stark choice in my opinion. Unbeknownst to many voters, there is a distinctly unique tone to this year’s school board race between Desiree Brady and Elizabeth Paige and for the most part it’s not being created by the candidates themselves. There is a disturbing set of forces in play, in my opinion. I am well aware that what I type next will have people confirming either their love for my willingness to speak the truth of the situation or their hatred of the same thing. I can live with both.

Our district has been in crisis for quite some time now and the processes that have yielded several key results have caused irreparable harm to the ability of our board and district to function well. Please note my very specific use of the word “processes”. Some of the processes that have created deep concern include: the hiring of the acting Superintendent, the referendum campaign, the hiring of a parent engagement coordinator, the hiring of a consultant on climate and discipline issues and most recently the unfinished process of selecting HOW to select the new permanent superintendent. This list is not inclusive of all concerns.

The yield of these processes are not as universally concerning as the actual processes themselves. During each of these processes, the board was controlled by one person and the information shared to the board from both her and the administration has been extremely restrictive and in my opinion damaging to the rights of our taxpayers to have board members make informed decisions. During this period, a minority of board members have asked for more information and sought to push through these political barriers. At almost every turn, these behaviors have been supported by key stakeholders, while in the minority, have chosen to ignore the greater good often to continue parochial support of programs and people they like, need, and desire to see remain in power. Meanwhile, real questions about real issues are not only being ignored, they are being hidden and in some cases the public is being lied to about how the district works. A perfect example is my recent questioning of the contract for school climate and discipline. No one I know in CSD feels we don’t have major opportunity for improvement here; however, I also don’t know anyone that feels the district should just hand over a $49,250 no-bid contract with no public notice or input. Except for the 4 board members that did just that in support of the acting superintendent and the extremely public acknowledgement of previous employment and friendship with the vendor. TO be clear, this is not an indictment of the vendor whatsoever, only the broken process that yielded the result.

The same forces that seek to keep CSD board members in the dark on issues and prevent board members from making informed votes are now seeking to remove one of the three members willing to stand up and actually ask questions in support of CSD not their own agendas. They are aligned to drive out Elizabeth Paige. The planted questions, the stolen signs, the opponent’s campaign, up to and including the obvious employment at the workplace of one of the referendum’s biggest supporters who is close friends with the acting superintendent is simply too much to ignore.

One of this groups most concerning tactics is the one where they distract people by making allegations of failing to collaborate or not being civil. The truth is, to them collaboration is only labeled as such if you agree with them, and their role as civility police is undermined by their own off stage hypocrisy on the same subject. Both are morally bankrupt offerings in the face of board members just trying to actually be stewards of our students, parents, and taxes. It is repulsive to me to watch our district fall prey to these petty and unbecoming tactics. I am well aware that some feel I am a divisive force on the board. I can totally see why. When I ask questions and I don’t get answers, I get mad. Guilty as charged. I would ask those that feel I am the problem to try, if only for a moment, to ask yourself how you would react if you were elected by the public to do a job and other public officials got in your way, on purpose. I can accept criticism on my tactics and can fully admit that my seemingly righteous anger, on stage at times, can be both interpreted and misinterpreted as counterproductive. However, what you get from me is the same, all the time. I am not a chameleon. I was elected to do right by our students and until I am voted off I will not shrink from that responsibility. Not. One. Inch. I only speak of myself in this endorsement letter to paint the picture that a vote for Elizabeth is not a vote for me. She does not act or react the way I do even if she sometimes is just as mad or concerned about Christina processes. A vote for Elizabeth is a vote for the same passion, brought in a different and perhaps much better way. Don’t be fooled by some of the terrible tactics being used to convince you that any sympathy to a cause that happens to be supported by anyone not seeking to remove her means she is in some sort of policy silo.

Elizabeth Paige and I do not agree on everything, but we do agree on this: our students and our taxpayers deserve a responsive school district befitting the trust and respect owed to its students, parents, educators, administrators and taxpayers alike. She also is an elected official who does not stop in the quest to bring those basic yet quintessential aspects to Christina.

If you value transparency, intellectual curiosity, courage, independent thinking and a reasoned, systemic, analytical approach to policy then please vote tomorrow for Elizabeth Paige. If you don’t value those qualities, please Vote May 11th.

Delaware DOE Goes On A Contract Spree For Priority Schools, Teachers, & Prep Programs

You wouldn’t know the Delaware Department of Education is tightening spending after their budget increase was slashed in half last week by the Joint Finance Committee.  Just this month alone, they put out seven bid proposals.  These proposals are for priority school programs, teacher quality, the proposed school report card, and more.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence the 148th General Assembly will not be in session when all of these contracts are finalized?

I suppose the DOE would have to put a contract out for individual priority school leaders because it would not be an ongoing position.  All of these positions report to Chief Accountability Office Penny Schwinn, not the districts involved- Christina and Red Clay.

And we can’t forget the school report card program, otherwise known as the grade your local school accountability game.  Did anyone else know this will go live on August 24th, 2015?

But lest we forget, the DOE has four bid proposals in regards to teachers.  Because we can never have enough taxpayer money going out to improve teachers, right DOE?  I’m sure most of these are the brainchild of the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit, under the very watchful eye of Chris Ruszkowski…

That’s a whole lot of professional services the DOE is requesting.  Is this the sole purpose of the DOE’s Accountability and Assessment Office and the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit,  to serve as the middle men between our schools and these education reform companies?  It sure seems like that.  It’s very rare where you see any of them doing the actual work themselves, aside from taking other companies words, mixing them up, and presenting them to the State Board of Education at their monthly meetings.  Meanwhile, over 130,000 students in the state are suffering from a severe lack of resources in their classrooms…

An Inside Look At AIR: The Most Terrifying Company In Education Reform

The scariest company making millions of dollars from the Delaware Department of Education is not who you would think.  It’s not Pearson, or Amplify, or even the Rodel Foundation.  It is a company which has been a part of education policy longer than Common Core was even an idea.  This company sowed the seeds for No Child Left Behind and they even helped to tear down one of Bill Gates original education reform agendas.  This company is American Institutes for Research, otherwise known as AIR.

AIR is the contracted vendor to create and distribute the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the state standardized assessment in Delaware.  But they have been around in Delaware since long before this.  They were also the testing vendor for the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) in Delaware.  To date AIR received over $35 million dollars from the Delaware DOE as per Delaware Online Checkbook.  How did Delaware bargain students to such a company? Continue reading

Delaware DOE & Their Current Contract Vendors, More Money Being Sucked Out Of Our Schools….

The following is a list of ALL the current Delaware Department of Education contracts, when they began and when the contract ends.  I have also included if it is a Delaware company, if the contract can be extended, and anything odd about it.  A few of these are just random contracts, but some contain some very interesting information.  Our state DOE is paying tons of money to outside vendors that are simply data coaches.  With Race to the Top kaput, how much money can the state keep handing out to these organizations?  Some of these companies are very new, as in created in the last five years.

DOE1312-STARS EVAL Delaware Stars for Early Success Evaluation 8010 DOE 6/15/2013 12/31/2015, Awarded Vendor: The Rand Corporation, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1312-StarsEval_AN.pdf

DOE1309-INFRASTRUC Infrastructure Fund for Early Learning Programs 8010 DOE 4/1/2013 12/31/2015, Awarded Vendor: Children and Families First, Inc., Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1309-INFRAS_AN.pdf  Delaware Company

DOE 14017-CG 2.0 Common Ground 2.0 8613 DOE 7/8/2014 6/30/2015, Awarded Vendor: Solution Tree, Inc., Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_14017-CG_AN.pdf Extension Available, Delaware Company (website shows as based in Indiana)

DOE1311-ELLI Early Learning Leadership Initiative (ELLI) 8010 DOE 6/15/2013 12/31/2015, Awarded Vendor: National-Louis University, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1311-ELLI_AN.pdf

DOE12013-RecruitWeb  Statewide Recruitment Website Talent Management Portal 8312 DOE 4/26/2013 10/21/2017, Awarded Vendor: SearchSoft Solutions, Inc. Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_12013-Recruit_AN.pdf ***updated: IS on DE Online Checkbook, must have been a quirk, nothing showing for FY 2015 as of yet***

DOE13001-DPAS-II Technology-based Educator Evaluation Management System (DPAS-II) 8111 DOE 5/6/2013 7/15/2015, Awarded Vendor: BloomBoard, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_13001-DPAS_AN.pdf  ***one of the owners, Jason Lange, worked for New Schools Venture Fund, an education focused non-profit venture philanthropy firm***

DOE1310-COMPENSATI Compensation, Retention and Education Awards (CORE) 8010 DOE 5/1/2013 12/31/2015, Awarded Vendor: Delaware Association For The Education Of Young Children, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1310-COMPENSATI_AN.pdf  Delaware Company ***on website for DAEYC when you go to Board of Directors it is password protected but other online sources do show who they are***

DOE1414-FLOORPLAN  School Floor Plans 8110 DOE 7/1/2014 6/30/2015, Awarded Vendor: ABHA Architects, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1414-FLOORPLAN_AN.pdf Delaware Company, Extension Available

DOE1313-SAHE Teacher Preparation Improvement 8613 DOE 12/20/2013 6/15/2015, Awarded Vendors: University of Delaware AND Wilmington University, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1313-TeacherPrep_AN.pdf Both Delaware Companies

DOE2014-07 Delaware Commission on Early Education and the Economy 8010 DOE 1/1/2014 12/31/2015, Awarded Vendor: Ranie Good (Strategic Goods), Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_201407-EarlyEd_AN.pdf Delaware Company, Extension Available

DOE2013-04PRVDRENGMT Early Learner Provider Engagement 8010 DOE 1/1/2014 12/31/2015, Awarded Vendor: Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_201304-EarLearnerPro_AN.pdf Extension Available, Delaware company

DOE1403SupptAdvmt Services To Support Advancement of Select Initiative/Early Learning Challenge 8010 DOE 10/1/2013 12/31/2015, Awarded Vendor: Susan Mitchell, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1403-SupptAdvmt_AN.pdf Extension Available

DOE1416-PAT RFP  Parents As Teachers 8613 DOE 7/1/2014 6/30/2017, Awarded Vendors: Christina School District- Parent Early Education Center AND Lake Forest School- Delaware Early Childhood Center, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1416-PAT_AN.pdf Both Delaware Companies, Extension Available

DOE1317-DelSchool Communications Campaign For Delaware Public Schools  8210 DOE 5/6/2014 4/15/2016, Awarded Vendor: GMMB Inc. Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1317-DelSchool_AN.pdf

DOE 1412-DECommEnga Community Engagement and Marketing for the Early Learning Challenge 8210 DOE 2/1/2014 12/31/2015, Awarded Vendor: Donna Marie King, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1412-DECommEnga_AN.pdf Delaware Company, Extension Available

DOE1415-ALT ROUTE Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification Evaluation 8613 DOE 7/15/2014 2/28/2015, Awarded Vendor: Tembo, Inc. Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1415-ALT_ROUTE_AN.pdf

DOE-12001MIDDLESCHOOL  Middle School College Preparedness Curriculum 8613 DOE 6/15/2012 1/31/2015, Awarded Vendors: Achieve 3000 Inc. AND Carnegie Learning, Inc. AND Compass Learning, Inc. Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_GSS12001_AN4rev.pdf, Previous Awarded Vendor but Removed: College Board, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_GSS12001_AN1.pdf, Adds Compass Learning, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_GSS12001_AN2.pdf, Removes College Board: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_GSS12001_AN3.pdf Achieve 3000 Inc. is a Delaware Company, Extension Available

DOE1207-DandA test Drug and Alcohol Testing – School Transportation 8512 DOE 1/1/2012 12/31/2016, Awarded Vendor: i3Screen, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1207DAtest_AN.pdf

DOE1409 ARTC Prep Alternative Route To Teacher Certification Coursework/Clinical Prep. Program 8610 DOE 9/19/2014 8/1/2017, Awarded Vendor: Relay Graduate School of Education, Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1409-ARTCPrep_AN.pdf ***wrote about this fast-track teacher program in Race To The Top/Rodel/Markell article***

DOE 1418-PLCs Job-Embedded Educator Supports to the State’s Profl Learning Communities (PLC) 8613 DOE 9/15/2014 6/30/2015, Awarded Vendor: Amplify Education, Inc., Contract: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_1418-PLCs_AN.pdf

The Relationship Between The Delaware DOE and Public Consulting Group Revealed, It’s Worse Than Before!

The Delaware Department of Education and the Public Consulting Group have a relationship based on a contract, but the circumstance regarding the implementation of this contract are very alarming. This contract is to help support the Children Services Cost Recovery project, which provides federal Medicaid reimbursement to Delaware. PCG has had a vendor contract with the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) for many years, but it wasn’t until the end of 2011 that the DOE gained a contract with PCG.

When a student with disabilities receives Medicaid and also receives special education services through an IEP, the state can actually get part of the costs for the special education reimbursed to them. Special needs parents of a child with an IEP should receive a letter asking for authorization from the state to recover such costs. This could include occupational therapy, speech and language, or even a school nurse. This would be classified as School Based Health Providers. As per the DOE website, the letter should indicate something to this effect:

Written Notification to Parents/Guardians/Custodians

Regarding Use of Public Benefits or Insurance (MEDICAID)

You are receiving this written notification in order to provide you with information about your and your child’s rights and protections under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). This information is to assist you in making an informed decision about whether you should give your written consent to allow your school district or charter school to use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for special education and related services that your school district or charter school is required to provide at no cost to you under IDEA. This written notification must be provided to you before the school district obtains your consent for the first time and annually thereafter. Your rights include the following: 

Before your school district or charter school can use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) for the first time to pay for special education and related services under IDEA, the school district or charter school must obtain your signed and dated written consent. 

Under Federal law—the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) and the confidentiality of information provisions in IDEA—your school district or charter school is required to obtain your written consent before disclosing personally identifiable information (such as your child’s name, address, social security number, student number, student number, IEP, or evaluation results) from your child’s education records to a party other than your school district or charter school, with some exceptions. In this situation, your school district or charter school is required to obtain your consent before disclosing personally identifiable information for billing purposes to the agency in your State that administers the public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program. Your consent must include a statement specifying that you understand and agree that your school district or charter school may use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for services under 34 CFR part 300, which are special education and related services under IDEA.

Your school district or charter school if the school district or charter school seeks to use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid).

Your school district or charter school may not require you to sign up for, or enroll in, a public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program in order for your child to receive a free, appropriate public education (“FAPE”) under IDEA. Additionally, your school district or charter school may not require you to pay an out-of-pocket expense, such as the payment of a deductible or a co-pay amount for filing a claim for services that your school district or charter school is otherwise required to provide to your child free of charge. Finally, your school district or charter school may not use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) if using those benefits or insurance (Medicaid) would: (a) decrease your available lifetime coverage or any other insured benefit, (b) cause you to pay for services that would otherwise be covered by your public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program because your child also requires those services outside of the time that your child is in school; (c) increase your premium or lead to the cancellation of your public benefits or insurance (Medicaid); or (d) cause you to risk the loss of your or your child’s eligibility for home and community-based waivers that are based on your total health-related expenditures.

You may withdraw your consent to the disclosure of your child’s personally identifiable information to your State’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program agency at any time.

If you provided your consent for your school district or charter school to disclose your child’s personally identifiable information to the State agency that is responsible for administering your public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program, you have the right under 34 CFR part 99 (FERPA regulations) and 34 CFR part 300 (IDEA regulations) to withdraw that consent at any time. If you wish to withdraw your consent, you should ask your school district or charter school what procedures you would need to follow.

If you refuse to provide your consent, or subsequently withdraw your consent, your school district or charter school must ensure that your child is provided all required special education and related services at no charge to you or your child.

If you withdraw your consent or refuse to provide consent under the FERPA and IDEA regulations, your school district or charter school may not use your withdrawal of consent or refusal to provide consent to disclose personally identifiable information to a public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program to deny your child the special education and related services he or she is otherwise entitled to receive under IDEA. Therefore, if you refuse to provide consent or withdraw consent, your school district or charter school has a continuing responsibility to ensure that your child is provided all required services necessary to receive an appropriate education at no charge to you or your child.

We hope that this information is helpful to you in making an informed decision regarding whether to allow your school district or charter school to use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for special education and related services under IDEA.

What this notice does not mention is the specific corporation that is receiving a lot of private information based on this program, which is PCG.

Another result of this contract is what is called “A Random Moment In Time”, which is a computer system that contacts random Direct Service Providers in Delaware to log into the system and record what they were doing for one minute. The methodology behind this system is to provide accurate data to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) for billing purposes for Medicaid reimbursement. Since DHSS is the provider for Medicaid, CMS required the DOE to be included in this project due to special education and School Based Health Providers. The DOE had to utilize PCG as what is called a sole source provider due to a tight timeframe in which the state risked losing this source of revenue. Since PCG had an existing vendor status with DHSS, this gave the impetus for the DOE using PCG as a sole source vendor, which was approved by then Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery. As part of Delaware Medicaid, DHSS contracts with the Direct Service Providers for what is known as Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Services given to those who receive Medicaid benefits under the age of 21. The criteria for this is set forth by the Delaware Medicaid Assistance Program (DMAP).

DMAP has a website which indicates what records are to be provided to DHSS or their contracted agents (PCG) by the School Based Health Providers. The website states the following:

All providers participating in the DMAP are required to maintain records that will disclose services rendered and billed under the program, and upon request, to make such records available to DHSS or its representatives in substantiation of any or all claims. These records should be retained a minimum of five (5) years in order to comply with all State and Federal regulations and laws.

In order for DHSS to fulfill its obligation to verify services provided to Medicaid eligible clients and that are paid for by Medicaid, providers must maintain auditable records that will substantiate the claim submitted to Medicaid.

At a minimum, the records must contain the following on each client:

• Notice of referral for physical therapy services by a licensed physician, updated annually

• Referral/authorization for services by an appropriately credentialed service provider

• Full assessment(s) in the appropriate discipline area(s) with pertinent documentation such as tests, evaluations, and diagnosis (updated at least every 3 years), and an annual reassessment documented in written format including narrative information summarizing the child’s status and the continuing need for treatment

• A treatment plan prepared by the respective therapist(s) that describes the goals/objectives and level of service(s) (i.e. type and frequency of service) needed. The treatment plan is required annually. A progress note is required approximately every six months or at a reasonable interval to document the student’s progress and the continuing need for service. An I.E.P. must be developed within 30 calendar days following the determination that a student is eligible for special education and related services.

• The name and title of the professional providing services and/or supervision

• Each occurrence of the student’s service, including the date, type, length, and scope of professional services provided

• Any significant contacts made in relation to the student

DHSS has also delegated authority to Children’s Services Cost Recovery Project (CSCRP) personnel to periodically review the ongoing operations of a school based health services provider with respect to:

• Certification requirements

• Service documentation, including need for services, treatment plans and case/progress notes

• Service practitioner’s qualifications

• Billing records

Where this gets real interesting is in the area of mental health school based health providers:

Mental Health Treatment Assessment

Assessment refers to the process of determining the need, nature, frequency and duration of treatment; deciding the needed coordination with others; and documenting these activities.

Screening

Mental Health screen has four primary components:

• Child study team meetings – a meeting of staff who have knowledge of a referred student to discuss the referral problem for the purpose of determining the next step in the screening process.

• Observations – a period of time spent observing a referred student in a natural setting for the purpose of determining student’s academic and/or interpersonal behaviors.

• Group testing – Psychologist’s or psychiatrist’s participation in administration of tests for the purpose of obtaining specific information about a student or group of students.

• Records review – Information gathering on a designated student by way of examining academic, health, behavioral and any other related records for the purpose of providing data relevant to concerns.

Evaluation

Evaluation includes a “Psycho-educational Assessment”. This assessment includes psychological and/or educational testing, typically for intellectual, personality, and/or educational evaluation of referred student, for diagnostic purposes resulting in the generation of a report. The psychological component of the assessment evaluates the intellectual, academic, perceptual motor skills, social and emotional adjustment, and readiness for learning.

Mental Health Treatment Services

Mental health treatment services includes the following therapeutic and related services:

• Individual Therapy – This service consists of supportive, interpretive, insight oriented and occasionally directive interventions.

• Group therapy – This service is designed to enhance socialization skills, peer interaction, consensual validation, expression of feelings, etc.

• Family Therapy – This service consists of sessions with one or more family members, for purposes of effecting changes within the family structure, communication, clarification of roles, etc.

• Case Consultation (Reimbursable for the time of the mental health professional only and must pertain specifically and completely to an individual student.) The role of consultation is monitoring, supervision, teaching and training of professionals, paraprofessionals, parents and student in the educational environment, home and/or community environment. Case consultation includes:

o Providing general information about a specific student’s handicapping condition

o Teaching special coping and intervention techniques necessary for the specific student’s interpersonal skills

o Recommendations for enhancing a specific student’s performance in educational environments

4.2.5.3 Mental Health Treatment Services: Service Procedures

The following services are included in the mental health treatment services category and should be used to document service provision for the purpose of reimbursement:

• Mental health treatment assessment

• Individual therapy – one therapist to one student

• Group therapy – one therapist to six or less students.

• Family therapy – one therapist to one or more family members of the student’s family

• Individual co-treatment therapy – two therapists to one student

• Group co-treatment therapy – two therapists to six or less students

• Family co-treatment therapy – two therapists to one or more family members of the student’s family

• Case consultation

Mental Health Treatment Services: Treatment Plan Requirements

An assessment and treatment plan are required annually. This treatment plan must be based on an evaluation by a qualified mental health treatment provider. Further, the treatment plan must indicate goals/objectives and level of service (type and frequency of service). A progress note is required approximately every six months or at a reasonable interval to document the student’s progress and the continuing need for service. The progress note must:

• Indicate where the student is in relation to the treatment plan goals

• Indicate if the treatment plan requires changes in the goals and/or objectives and

• Indicate if the type or frequency of the treatment requires modification.

So what records do the School Based Providers need to submit to DHSS and by default, PCG?

Service Documentation

School based health services providers must make all records of services provided to students with special health needs available to Medicaid program personnel or its representatives for monitoring and auditing purposes. These providers must maintain the following information for at least five years on all individuals for whom claims have been submitted:

• Dates and results of all evaluations/assessments provided in the interest of establishing or modifying an IEP, including specific tests performed and copies of evaluation and diagnostic assessment reports

• Copies of the IEP/treatment plan documenting the need for the specific therapy, treatment or transportation service (updated annually)

• Documentation of the provision of service in the student’s record by individual therapists and individuals providing service, including:

o The date of service

o Signature of the therapist rendering the service

o Duration of the service

• Documentation of case notes, at a minimum of once a month, by the individual therapist or the individual providing the service. The definition of case note is a descriptive summary of service provided with identification of any isolated or recurring problems. If a practitioner chooses to document session notes, there is no need to document monthly case notes. Session notes must contain some written narrative.

• The provision of special transportation services will be documented by the responsible schools in a client specific, date specific format.

• Progress notes delineating the continuing need for service are required approximately every 6 months or at a reasonable interval to document the student’s progress.

This then helps to determine medical necessity:

Medical necessity will be determined by judging what is reasonable and necessary with reference to accepted standards of medical practice and treatment of the individual’s illness.

School based health services shall be determined medically necessary based upon the assessments and evaluations conducted and the prescribed care as found in the student’s treatment plan. The treatment plan shall be developed by a multi-disciplinary team, or by an authorized therapist or other authorized medical professional and signed by treatment team members. The treatment plan should address the medical necessity for the identified service(s).

Although a physician signature is not required on the treatment plan, evidence of annual physician referral is required for physical therapy services.

What other information needs to be provided to DHSS, and by default, PCG?

The student’s service record shall contain, but is not limited to, the following:

• Identifying data including name, address and phone number, sex, date of birth, next of kin, date of initial referral or assessment/evaluation, date of service initiation, and source of referral

• Date of most recent EPSDT screen

• Referral documentation by a physician or other health care professional

• Assessment, evaluation and testing reports

• Handicapping condition of the student and/or a diagnosis which has been determined using a recognized diagnostic system (e.g., ICD-9)

• An Individual Education Program, if the student is determined to need special education and related services

• A current treatment plan which sets forth the type, level and frequency of services provided to the student

• Progress notes and other relevant service documentation which denotes status of services and progress to identified service goals

• Documentation of each service rendered which describes the type of service(s) provided and the date the service(s) were provided

• Documentation supporting the discontinuation of services including treatment outcome(s) or referral for continued/enhanced services outside of the school based health services provider

RECORD MAINTENANCE A. Nursing Services B. Psychological and Counseling Services C. Speech, Language and Hearing Services D. Occupational Therapy E. Physical Therapy F. Transportation A through F should include student specific identifying information, amount of service, date of service and signature of provider. All records must be maintained for a period of at least five (5) years.

All of the above in regards to DMAP guidelines can be found here: https://www.dmap.state.de.us/downloads/manuals/School-Based.Services.Provider.Specific.pdf along with other more detailed information.

DMAP clearly states that student identifiable records must be provided to DHSS and by default, PCG, as their contracted 3rd party vendor. But does the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) recognize a contracted vendor, such as PCG, to be a party that is allowed to see all of the above types of records? A study done in 2008 through the Fordham Law School’s Center on Law and Information Policy, indicated this was a clear violation of FERPA in a similar situation in New Jersey. The Department of Treasure Purchase and Property Division had a contract with Public Consulting Group, but the contract called for personal identifying information regarding students with the New Jersey DOE. Because the contract was with a separate department, and not the DOE, the authors of the report stated the New Jersey DOE was out of compliance with FERPA based on this. They also found the following:

If the information we collected mentioned that the state used a third party vendor for the development of the system or for the storage of the data, we also made a request for a copy of the agreement with such third party vendor. Most states responded promptly; however, as of the date of this report, we have not received requested contracts from a few of the states. Also, some states may use third party vendors without disclosing those relationships publicly on their websites.

FERPA generally covers a local school district, or LEA, that receives funding from the Federal Government due to the LEA being part of a public school district. State Educational Agencies (SEA) typically aren’t covered under FERPA unless it has to do with records delivered from the LEA to the SEA. In the above, the Delaware DOE definitely receives a great deal of information from local school districts in regards to special education student identifiable data. The Fordham report goes on to state the following in regards to 3rd party vendor reception of student records and parental consent:

Another exception to the written consent requirement arises for educational agencies or institutions that disclose personally identifiable, non-directory information to organizations conducting studies on behalf of the educational agency or institution. To be in compliance, these studies must be conducted in order to develop, validate, or administer predictive tests, administer student aid programs, or improve instruction. The agency or institution may release information without prior written consent only if the study is conducted in a manner that does not permit personal identification of parents and students by anyone outside of the research organization and as long as the information is destroyed when no longer needed for the purposes for which the study was conducted. Recipients of information under this exception may not redisclose personally identifiable information outside of the research organization. Under this exception a school or school district may disclose educational records to a third party vendor that such school or district has contracted with for research purposes provided that the information disclosed to such vendors remains confidential and there is a schedule for deletion of such records following the completion of the stated purpose. This exception does not permit SEAs to disclose educational records to third parties for research purposes. Research contracts must be directly tied to the school or local education institution.

So how exactly does this related to PCG and their vendor contract with Delaware?

“…further disclosure by the state to any third party vendor is only permitted in narrow circumstances. The vendor must enter into an agreement with the state department of education, which provides that such vendor is a contractor and is under the direct control of the department. Any disclosures that do not meet this criterion, or that are done simply for research purposes, are not permitted. At least one state, New Jersey, does not appear to comply with this restriction. The New Jersey contract with Public Consulting Group is between the Public Consulting Group and The NJ State Department of Treasury Purchase and Property Division rather than the Department of Education and does not indicate that the Department of Education has direct control over the vendor.”

Does current FERPA law still agree with this?

99.31 Under what conditions is prior consent not required to disclose information?

(a) An educational agency or institution may disclose personally identifiable information from an education record of a student without the consent required by 99.30 if the disclosure meets one or more of the following conditions: (1)(i)(A) The disclosure is to other school officials, including teachers, within the agency or institution whom the agency or institution has determined to have legitimate educational interests. (B) A contractor, consultant, volunteer, or other party to whom an agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions may be considered a school official under this paragraph provided that the outside party– (1) Performs an institutional service or function for which the agency or institution would otherwise use employees; (2) Is under the direct control of the agency or institution with respect to the use and maintenance of education records; and (3) Is subject to the requirements of 99.33(a) governing the use and redisclosure of personally identifiable information from education records.

Based on those regulations, the answer would be yes. This means the Delaware DOE was out of compliance with FERPA regulations from the moment they began working with DHSS on the Children’s Services Cost Recovery Project until the time they signed a sole source vendor contract with PCG on 12/1/2011. This may be why Lowery had to act fast in obtaining PCG as a sole source vendor contractor in late 2011. From the time they were first notified in 2008, it took three years for the Delaware DOE to become compliant with the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services regulations. When it became a matter of the revenue being suspended due to this non-compliance issue, the DOE signed a very quick contract with PCG.

In terms of the ability for PCG to accurately protect data, I have not heard of any breach. But parents need to understand they do have access to a great deal of special needs student information, including personal identifiable information as well as psychological or psychiatric evaluations that could contain deeply private information. Parents need to know what they are signing when they sign the Medicaid reimbursement form when they obtain an IEP for their child. This would be a personal decision, but as a parent, I certainly won’t do it.

My investigation into PCG and the Delaware DOE wouldn’t have lasted as long if the DOE was more transparent on their website with vendor contracts. PCG is mentioned in one place on the DOE website, and that is on the Random Moment In Time training manual. Are they obligated to release this information? Probably not. But if they are having parents sign a form indicating information will be released for Medicaid reimbursement purposes, they should also include every single Delaware agency as well as 3rd party vendors that may be able to see this information. This isn’t a legal matter, but one of transparency and common sense. Parents need to know when they are signing a document of this sort what the full implication of that signature actually means. As well, with school based health providers, if they are required to keep their records for five years if they are involved with this program, where is that data stored? Is it protected?

Nowhere on the Delaware Awarded Contracts website does it show the contract between the Delaware DOE and Public Consulting Group or PCG. It does show two contracts through DHSS. I have seen the contract though, as a result of an FOIA request I submitted last weekend. This contract states PCG will work with the Delaware DOE on implementation of the Random Moment In Time study and the DOE’s share of the annual cost reporting and cost reconciliation for fiscal years 2009-2012. The contract has been extended each year since it ended on June 30, 2012, and the current extension will expire on June 30, 2015.

Is the timing coincidental for when the Fordham study was released, clearly showing non-compliance on the part of the New Jersey DOE with FERPA regulations, and when Delaware was notified of non-compliance with this very similar reimbursement program and the same vendor? That is not for me to judge. Just to report the facts as best I can with the information provided to me.

The Delaware DOE is not selling IEP information to anyone. But pertinent and private information is being released to third party vendors all over the country, and transparency laws need to be much stronger in the USA so all parents know exactly who is seeing this type of personal information.

I am personally disgusted that anyone would need to see case notes from what I would otherwise assume to be a private and confidential session between a student and a psychologist or psychiatrist. It sounds like HIPAA and FERPA need to get together and come to terms with some discrepancies. I understand the need for a reimbursement program, and the fact that Delaware has recovered $8 million dollars in revenue from the Children’s Services Cost Recovery program is probably a good thing for the state coffers. But the price, as usual, is students and their personal information. Is $8 million worth the time, money and resources spent dealing with PCG on this project? I am sure PCG provides other types of services with DHSS, but the tally on their bill for the last four years alone, as per Delaware Online Checkbook, is over $12 million dollars, so what is Delaware truly getting out of this? I am quite sure the Random Moment In Time system is an annoyance and burdensome to the school based health providers. Some are never picked at all for this study, while others are picked multiple times. Most teachers have never heard of it.

Based on my findings on PCG, they are aligned with some of the most loathed and despised entities promoting Common Core State Standards and high-stakes testing. In a survey released by Gallup yesterday, it showed the country is very divided among those who support Common Core and those who oppose it. Many states are struggling with very pissed off teachers who are justified in their opposition to this federal intrusion into public schools. The US DOE has come under fire in the past couple months from the GOP Senate due to how Arne Duncan and his cohorts are conducting business. Even President Obama may have a lawsuit against him based in part on how his administration has handled education reform in America. But here is Delaware, with our Governor Markell, Secretary of Education Murphy, the DOE and the State Board of Education, proudly cheerleading what a growing number of parents in this state are beginning to hate. The government in Delaware has aligned itself with many of these entities that promote this faulty education agenda. Does the state have a back-up plan if something happens that outlaws Common Core and the tests that go along with it? They may want to start thinking about this if the current trends stay on the same track. Meanwhile, companies like PCG will continue to reap the benefits of the system that allowed them to become richer and richer.

UPDATED at 3:20pm: http://www.hockessincommunitynews.com/article/20140818/NEWS/140819818 Apparently someone hacked into the Delaware State Treasury website this morning. Although not on a state server, I ask once again, how secure is our children’s private information?

Helpful links to get more out of this article:

Delaware Online Checkbook

Random Moment In Time Training Manual

2008 Fordham Report

DOE 2013 Data Acquisition List

Delaware Awarded Contracts Website