My Observations From The Education Funding Task Force Meeting Tonight

I attended the first half of the Delaware Education Funding Task Force meeting tonight.  After Delaware Governor Jack Markell gave some brief opening comments thanking the members of the committee for their hard work, he advised them this isn’t an easy task force.  As he was leaving, he made a point to greet and shake hands with everyone in the room.  And I mean everyone!

Members trickled in so the meeting didn’t start until about 5:20.  There are some very vocal members on this committee with very strong ideologies.  The bad part is when many of them are different.  I have no clue how this group is going to come to a consensus in the next couple months.  I saw members on this task force who belong to the General Assembly (who listened for the most part), DOE, State Board, the traditional districts, the charter crowd, Rodel, school boards, the business community, Delaware PTA, GACEC, and advocates for ELL students.

Donna Johnson from the State Board of Education did make it a point to talk about the group’s discussions about basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  I do recall seeing a potential funding model where funds were reallocated in the needs-based funding formula for the state.  But this shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation for an education funding task force.  Put House Bill 30 up for a full vote and get it done.  It’s what, $11.5 million to fund that bill?  Make it happen.  Maybe the DOE can get rid of a ton of their vendor contracts and their non-vendor paychecks for all these people who show up on Delaware Online Checkbook with no transparency surrounding these payments whatsoever.  After all, the DOE were the ones that torpedoed this funding when the topic first came up six years ago.

It was interesting hearing some members talk about the lack of authority for a school principal to make funding decisions.  This was more from the charter side of the equation.  But members on the other side disagreed, saying they have the authority based on the pool of money they get from the district.  One member said even if they do find the right number or formula for funding, how do you audit that?  Does that money allocated as extra support for low-income and ELL students mean reduced classroom sizes or more teachers?  Some members felt that because 41 states have successful funding formulas that will translate as success for Delaware.  But how is that success measured?  By standardized tests?  Graduation rates?  Will they have pilot schools or districts to try it out?  What does low-income and poverty mean in terms of percentage of students?  Since the state changed how they measure poverty, but the DOE goes by one thing and DHHS goes by another, which is right?  If the group doesn’t necessarily agree with the WEIC funding formulas, what does that mean for the General Assembly when they vote on the redistricting in Wilmington?  If the majority of the group believes changing property assessments is the way to go what does that mean for the property owners who have no voice on this committee?  We should do what California does and vote on propositions like this.  Then we will see where the real voting power exists!

There were people at this meeting who I have never seen face to face but I have written about them a bit.  One as recently as last Thursday.  I had to pick up some groceries and my son REALLY wanted Dairy Queen so I snuck out while the group was on their pizza break.  I wished I could have stayed, but family first!  I am very curious what comes out of the final report.

While Vision Coalition & WEIC Plan Funding, EFIC Meets Today To Discuss Funding As Well

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Delaware, the home of multiple groups working on the same issues at the same time.  Today, the Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission is meeting for the third time at the Bear Library.  There are a lot of interesting names in this room.  Former State Rep. Darryl Scott, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Lindsay O’Mara (who is probably having one hell of a morning), Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson, State Board of Education member Barbara Rutt and more.  I see Senator Sokola’s aide, Tanner Polce.  I don’t see State Rep. Earl Jaques either, I suppose his aide is there as well.

It will be interesting to see what this group comes up with, along with Rodel The Vision Coalition.  WEIC’s funding will be subject to the Governor’s submitted budget at the end of January.  The one that will be submitted AFTER the State Board of Education votes on the plan.  To read more about the SJR #4 group, please read this.

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Delaware Education Funding: Can The Mess Created By Governor Markell Even Be Fixed?

Someone asked if public comment (can) be received by the committee?  We will need to look at how we collect public/stakeholder input.

The above quote will be explained later, but it is very indicative of what happens in Delaware.

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One of the biggest topics in Delaware these days is funding for education.  It is everywhere.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wants to completely revamp how we fund our schools and included this in their redistricting plan which will be presented to the Delaware State Board of Education later today.  The Vision Coalition has this as one of their six areas to get to the “North Star” of educational excellence in Delaware.  But there is an even bigger group meeting these days to tackle this elephant in the room.

The Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission has been meeting since early November.  I was able to obtain the minutes from their first meeting and I had some very deep concerns about some of the things I saw in there.  But before I get to that, there are a lot of interesting names on this committee.  The legislation called for 19 members but there are 24 on this committee.  How does that even happen?

Chair: Former State Representative Darryl Scott

State Rep. Earl Jaques

State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King

State Senator David Sokola

State Senator Gary Simpson

Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov

*Delaware Association of School Administrators Kevin Carson

Delaware PTA Vice-President Ashley Dalzell-Gray

Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing Kristin Dwyer

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Vicki Gehrt

Woodbridge Board Member Walter Gilefski

State of Delaware Deputy Controller General Mike Jackson

State of Delaware Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Brian Maxwell

Office of the Governor Education Policy Adviser Lindsay O’Mara

Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens Chairperson Robert Overmiller

*University of Delaware Center for Applied Demography & Survey Research Director Ed Ratledge

*Delaware Technical & Community College Chairman of the Board Mark Stellini

Delaware State Board of Education Member Barbara Rutt

Christina Cultural Arts Center Executive Director Raye Jones Avery

Kuumba Academy Head of School Sally Maldonado

Corporation Service Company President Rodman Ward III

Latin American Community Center Vice President of Development Claudia Pena Porretti

*Rodel Foundation of Delaware Vice President for Policy & Practice Madeleine Bayard

Support Staff for the Committee: Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson and Secretary of Education Office Policy Advisor Tina Shockley

I have seen many of these names on various DOE working groups, legislative task forces and committees, and so forth.  Some are new to me.  Some of these are very affiliated with Rodel and the Delaware Business Roundtable.  Some are very charter affiliated.  But as usual, aside from one representative from the Delaware PTA, parents get the shaft.  We are always shut out of groups like this.  To answer my earlier question about how this group has more members than what the legislation called for, the answer was found here:

Three community members with special knowledge of education finance or special ability to contribute to discussion, appointed by Governor: Ed Ratledge, Madeleine Bayard, Mark Stellini, Kevin Carson

Whoever put this up on the DOE website must be using some odd form of Common Core math because I see four names there, not three…

Darryl Scott was the former Chair of the House Education Committee.  He served three terms as State Representative from 2009-2015.  I am very curious how a retired State Rep becomes not only the Chair of an education funding task force but also serves on the Southern Regional Education Board.

Why is the information for these meetings buried on the DOE website and not put on the General Assembly page for SJR #4?  This is a legislative task force.

What concerns me the most about the below minutes is the quote at the top of this article.  This is a public committee which is allowed to have public comment, no questions asked.  The fact that a group like this isn’t sure how that will work stinks of non-transparency.  These minutes were not found on the Delaware General Assembly Website.  But when you look at the minutes, we see who decides how public comment can be given and viewed:

Donna Johnson advised that we will set up a website where all materials will be posted.  An email address will be set up to receive public comment.

I’m sorry, but Donna Johnson is support staff, not a voting member of this committee.  Why is she calling the shots on transparency?  She is not a member of the General Assembly who enacted this legislation.  As for the topics for upcoming meetings, who sets that up?

Chairman Scott noted that the next meeting will be held the week after Thanksgiving and that Tina Shockley will initiate a Doodle poll for the next meeting.

Who decides what is put on this Doodle poll?  Another Department of Education employee.  Who is running the show here?  Of course we know anything education related that happens in Delaware is run by Governor Markell.  And once again he is using the DOE to call the shots.  So much for transparency and an open and democratic commission…

At their December 9th meeting, a presentation was given by Mike Griffiths, the School Finance Strategist with a company called Education Commission of the States.  This is yet another think tank type of company in America dealing with how to “fix” education.  Each state has a group of Commissioners.  For Delaware, the Commissioners are Governor Jack Markell, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Lindsay O’ Mara (Markell’s Education Policy Advisor), Senator David Sokola, and… Madeleine Bayard, Vice-President of Policy and Practice for the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  Senator Sokola is on the Steering Committee for this organization.  Griffith’s presentation is here:

As well, Michael Morton from the Office of the Comptroller General’s office gave a very good presentation on Delaware School Finances.  These are always tricky waters to navigate through for the average citizen, but I found this guide helped me to understand it better:

This is going to be a very interesting commission to keep track of.  And once again, we have three different “coalitions” tackling school funding: WEIC, Vision Coalition, and this group…

We are seeing education funding play out in every single public school in the state.  Schools are lacking resources and staff while the bloated Department of Education continues to shell out millions upon millions of dollars to corporate education reform companies.  If Delaware wants to truly get more funding into our schools, this is the first place where funds can be reallocated.  There should be no discussions about property tax re-assessments or weighted funding until the excess fat is trimmed out of the DOE.  But look who is controlling this behind the scenes…  This is Jack Markell’s mess.  He will slide out of the Governor’s seat and leave the wreckage for Delaware to clean up.  Thanks for that Governor…

 

 

 

 

 

What Is The Southern Regional Education Board & What Does Delaware Do On This Group?

I read about this group before, but I didn’t pay it much mind.  For some reason though, it stayed with me and gnawed at the back of my mind.  Yesterday, I decided to look into them, and found out more about them.  The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is a group of southern states, stretching from Delaware to Texas.  Each state has a board and an advisory council.  Here is Delaware’s group:

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A lot of these names make sense, and some make no sense at all!  I’m not sure why a former state representative would serve on a council like this.  Darryl Scott has been somewhat quiet since he decided not to run again for State Rep but I am hearing his name spoken more than usual these days.  With all due respect to Robert Rescigno, I have never heard his name before.  Markell, Sokola and Jaques are the peanut butter & jelly (including the bread) of all things education in Delaware, so that fits.  Senator Brian Pettyjohn serves on the Senate Education Committee so I get that.  But Senator F. Gary Simpson?  I found that to be an odd choice.  So what does this group do?  And who funds it?  Some of the names of the “non-profits” and “foundations” below are the usual suspects when it comes to this kind of thing.  Which tells me this group is not an official political group but rather another corporate education reform group…

SREBFunding

From what I could from this document on the SREB website, this is all just more of the same.  More groups, more connections, and more taxpayer money that produces the same results…not a whole heck of a lot!  But what is interesting is some of the names that don’t serve on the Delaware SREB Board or the SREB Legislative Advisory Council and some of the other activities that go on with this group…

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By what benchmarks is Delaware stating they are a leading state for standards and assessments?

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I would love to see one of these newsletters! Can anyone send them to me?

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State Rep. Joe Miro is involved! He is also on the House Education Committee.

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Senator Sokola hanging out with Dr. Gray!  When it comes to the tech side of things in education, you can always count on Senator David Sokola to be in the thick of it!

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More Sokola!

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Can someone tell me what an “Academic Common Market” is?  Never mind, I looked it up.  It allows Delaware students to pay the same as in-state tuition rates at other colleges and universities if they are in the SREB.  Only 88 college students in Delaware are participating.

This all sounds like some regional thing, and I’m sure there are other boards like this in other sections of the country.  This is just more corporate education reform, but on the legislative side of things.  I always wonder where some of our legislators get all their nifty ideas for the destruction of public education…

 

It Needs To Be Taylor Time In Dover! Vote for Ralph Taylor in the 31st District for House Rep! #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @delawareonline

Ralph Taylor needs your vote tomorrow citizens of the 31st District in Dover!  He’s up against city councilman Sean Lynn.  I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Taylor at the 4th of July Parade & Fireworks.  He had his own booth set up, and he was busy the whole night meeting and talking with the citizens of Dover.  When I got a chance to talk to him, I asked him what his views were on Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He opposes both, which always makes someone a fan in my book.  But I asked him why, and he informed me it doesn’t make sense, the test makes no sense, it’s not good for students, and it’s not good for teachers and their evaluations.

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Sean Lynn, his opponent for the Democrat nomination, is a strong supporter of Common Core and standardized testing.  He was endorsed by Darryl Scott, the departing House Rep.  Scott can be blamed for much of the current situations with education in Delaware, including Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He allowed legislation to go through that allows charter schools to get “performance” funds while our public schools have to wait five years for capital improvements.  And now he is endorsing Councilman Lynn, to be his little clone.  We don’t need another Darryl Scott, we need something new in Dover!

In a debate with Lynn last month at Wesley College, Taylor said “Education is the new currency, and students shouldn’t be held back from their potential because their teachers have to adhere to the Common Core.”  His opponent Lynn, stated he is all for it, so kids “don’t have to take remedial course in college”, and had some shocking new information with his statement that “We owe it to our children to make sure they have what they need to be successful, 84 percent of teachers support it and so do I.”  I haven’t seen that poll Mr. Lynn.  Care to share where you received those facts?

If you look at Taylor and Lynn’s Facebook pages, you will see Taylor showing many endorsements from citizens.  On Lynn’s page, you see Scott’s endorsement, and Lynn bashing Taylor.  I know elections can be cutthroat, but I tend to prefer the person who talks about what he wants to do and has great conversations with people.  Taylor is a retired policeman, so I could care less what his stance on gun control is.  He’s earned the right, through years of service to the people, to have his opinions on the issue.  Nor do I care that he is conflicted on the death penalty.  This is a man who has seen horrific crimes in his 20 years as a Dover policeman.

So tomorrow, if you are on the fence, vote for someone who can and will make change happen.  Vote for someone who actually cares about what our children are and will go through.  Vote for someone who knows the high stakes this puts on teachers who deserve better.  Vote for Ralph Taylor!