Mark Murphy Appears Before House Education Committee To Answer Race To The Top Funding Questions

Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy

Right now, at Legislative Hall in Dover, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is appearing before the Delaware House Education Committee to answer questions on the Race To The Top funding.  Prior to this, Murphy and the Delaware Department of Education presented the 2015-2016 education budget to the Joint Finance Committee.

Senator David Sokola is commenting to Mark Murphy about the Race To The Top funding and how the past four Governors in Delaware have been very generous to education.

House Representative Charles Potter is talking about Wilmington and feeder patterns, as well as the moratorium on charter schools on the not yet decided upon House Bill 29.

Mike Matthews just reported this on Facebook:

Looks like this education committee meeting, which is supposed to start at 4:30, may be starting late. DoE Sec. Mark Murphy is at present speaking to the Joint Finance Committee and I’m told he’s being GRILLED there. He’s asking to continue funding 10 high-paying DoE positions that were once paid for through RttT funds. Except now he wants them paid for out of the general fund. I’m being told legislators are having NONE OF THAT!

The meeting is finally started.  State Rep. Earl Jacques wants the DOE to come back on 3/11 to give final comments on the ESEA Flex Waivers.  It will be a 12 noon meeting.  David Blowman and Chris Ruszkowski from the DOE asked if they were buying lunch.  Tina Shockley, Karen Field Rogers, and Mary Kate McLoughlin are also in attendance from the DOE.  Murphy is still getting grilled by the JFC downstairs.  David Blowman is leading the presentation until then.

Four areas they want to go over 1) Rigor and curriculum, 2) developing highly qualified educators and supports, 3) Developing highly qualified teachers, 4) provide support for low-performing schools.

He brought up Booker T. and Howard High School as examples of where grant money can be effective.  The DOE values the free lunch program.  He’s talking about getting kids ready for college and all students can perform at the same levels.  They’ve taken the opportunity to listen to parents and community members about matters that concern them.  Even though RTTT funding is done, they’re work is not.

Karen Field-Rogers is explaining how RTTT came about and the focus of their “four pillars” (listed above).  She is explaining why Delaware was awarded RTTT funding first (along with Tennessee).  All the districts signed on to the funding.  The funds were based on the 2009 Title I Local Education Agency populations.  They had to follow the standards and assessment guidelines for the grant.  Early childhood programs, summer enrichment, after-school, data programs, educational support for access to data systems and much more were parts of the grant.  Teacher-leader positions were granted.  LEAs contracted for comprehensive reviews of low-performing schools.  The LEAs have spent $56 million since the start of RTTT.

DOE has spent $59.6 million dollars and most of the money went to support the work of the LEAs.  Sub-grants were granted to the LEAs and some funds went to oversight of the grant.

Data warehousing is updated nightly.  Data coaches provide supports for teachers and leaders.  Development coaches and more gave targeted supports.  Partnership Zone schools were implemented to give extra funding and supports to low-performing schools.  $44.8 million of the state share of RTTT funding has been spent.  $7.9 remains to be spent which has been already budgeted.

DE State Rep. Earl Jacques is asking how successful the partnership schools have been.  He is stating many parents don’t view them as successful.  Ruszkowski said they provided a lot of funding and support and provided data.  He is citing Howard and Positive Outcomes of schools that worked.  He asked about the summer enrichment programs and how they worked.  Field-Rogers stated it varied by district.

DE State Rep. Potter is asking about a correlation between the priority schools and after school programs.  They didn’t have that information.  DE State Rep. Kim Williams is commenting it was like “having a gun to their head” when she was on the Red Clay School Board in signing on to RTTT.  She brought up the comprehensive school review for the Christina priority schools (the DASL report) and how Murphy wouldn’t sign off on it.

She brought up Booker T. and why this school is compared to schools in the city.  She is talking about the demographics of the school.  In 2011 they became a Focus School due to being on an academic watch.  Booker T. got $700,000 to make things happen there.  She asked how 3rd and 4th grade can be cited as examples of success when each student received an extra $10,000 in funding.  Field-Rogers said the School Turnaround Unit will have to get back to her on that.  (Classic DOE response when they are asked tough questions).

Williams asked about the Early Learning Challenge.  Blowman said these are students in 3-5 who are labeled as struggling.  Williams asked why there is $8.5 million in unspecified funding.  McLoughlin said she will have to get back to them on this.  Williams asked how many employees are in the Teacher of the Year department.  Blowman said four.  Williams said the website states 25.  Ruszkowski said many were transferred during former Secretary Lillian Lowery’s term many were transferred to his department, the Teacher-Leader Effectiveness unit.  Williams asked about the Delaware Talent Cooperative and if it was effective.  Ruszkowski went over different funding formulas and where it went.  Williams said this type of money should be used in more meaningful ways.  Ruszkowski said teachers move from high-need schools to less need schools at a rate of 8-9 times higher than vice versa. (Does this include the TFA come and go program?)  Williams said so many teachers leave these schools because they do not receive the supports and resources they need.  They are going back and forth on this.  Williams is explaining how teachers love what they do but they are lacking the resources and no money is going towards poverty.

State Rep. Stephanie Bolden is asking about the resources given to the lowest achieving schools.  She saw a lack of community liasons taking place during RTTT.  She said she agrees with Williams that this isn’t working.  She taught for 35 years because she was able to gain trust from students and community members.  There is no follow-up and oversight and the money was just spent or reallocated with no follow-up.  She can’t understand why more money is being asked for when teachers can’t teach and discipline a class when they can’t stay in a class.  Ruszkowski said they oversaw that the districts and charters spent the money the way they were supposed to.  Ruszkowski said some districts didn’t spend the money the way they were supposed to.  Bolden wants to know about Wilmington schools.  He said Howard High School took full advantage of RTTT and retained the best teachers.  Howard was given more resources, which Bolden said answers her question.

State Rep. Debra Heffernan asked about the sub-grants and the priority schools.  McLoughlin said some of the RTTT funding went to the priority schools.  She said schools should have used the funds for short-term programs.  She asked if all school districts did that and why is DOE continuing with programs from this funding.

State Rep. Dukes said “There is so much money that is being kept by the DOE.”  He is not happy about this.  McLoughlin said this is all to benefit the teachers.  She said teachers did not know how to analyze that data and that was why data coaches were needed.  She said now that they are part of the districts they can utilize that information more effectively.  Ruszkowski said the US DOE asked the states to take on these roles.  He said the DOE is in a position of being able to save money each year because these things are currently in effect.  Dukes is very upset 50% was kept in the DOE Department and never got to the schools.  He said it is very frustrating.  He hopes in the end this is a long-lasting process otherwise we wasted $119 million.

Mark Murphy finally came up.  State Rep. Sean Matthews asked why certain Newcastle County charter schools got funds when the high-needs schoos didn’t with the Delaware Talent Cooperative.  He asked what school based bonuses were.  He said they were academic achievement awards.  He said this could have been transformative for our state but the funds weren’t spent wisely.  In hindsight a data warehouse or pipeline is not going to yield the results the state needs.  No one is talking about the true problems in these schools and maybe Delaware needs Federal oversight since the Delaware DOE is in over their heads.

State Rep. Sean Lynn asked how many teachers were asked to be in the DE Talent Cooperative and how many accepted.  Ruszkowski said there was one teacher who left the co-op program but never answered the direct question.

State Rep. Osienski said there is no shortage of teacher applications out there so why are we using all these programs? Ruszkowski said they went out to each institution like Wilmington University and University of Delaware to attract teachers.  Osienski asked if positions are being eliminated at DOE and why they are asking for ten new positions.  Blowman from the DOE said the Department is not asking for new positions, he said these are existing employees but they are asking for a shift in funding.  Osienski said there were positions being paid for by the Federal grant so he is confused.  Blowman said many of the positions were contracted by vendors.

State Rep. Miro asked if the DOE contracters were citizens of Delaware or did they come out of state?  He is asking if RTTT helped the recession in Delaware or not.  Blowman said he doesn’t want to speculate.  Miro asked the DOE to give this information to the House Education Committee.

Williams asked the DOE how many employees they have before RTTT and how many they have now.  They will have to get back to her.

Potter asked how much money they have left from RTTT.  McLoughlin said about $15 million.

State Rep. Osienski asked Mark Murphy what grade the DOE would give themselves on how they spent RTTT funds.  Murphy gave Delaware a B because the students aren’t where they want them to be with achievement.  This is a solid B because our districts have made very good use of this funding and built capacity.  As a state they have done the same they can maintain at a fraction of that cost.  There have been quality improvements.  Osienski asked if the districts can sustain this effort, and Murphy said the $7.5 million asked for in the State budget this can keep these programs going.  Osienski asked what would happen if the JFC cut this funding.  Murphy said there are technology systems to deal with district supports for Common Core they would not be able to sustain.  This could cause problems with funding for the lowest-performing schools and getting them funding.


Delaware DOE Is Completely Out Of Touch With Reality & Needs To Be Held Accountable

Delaware DOE

Below are the minutes from the January 21st, 2015 Delaware House Education Committee meeting.  The Delaware DOE presented the latest round of Elementary Secondary Education Act flexibility waivers to the House Education Committee.

They were grilled by legislators with very hard questions.  Some of them were either not answered or given superficial answers without much detail.  State Rep. Kim Williams asked the hardest questions:

Vice-Chair Williams commented that the Operating Budget for the previous year was amended (Sec. 154 and 155, c.1) and removed statutory authority from the legislature and allowed DDOE to “override Delaware law” and provide regulation. She questioned as to why legislators were “kept in the dark” regarding the amended Operating Budget and why was it necessary to “have chapter one removed without” the knowledge of the legislature.  DDOE was unable to answer the questions due to a lack of representation from those who made the decision. Chair Jaques asked that the question be taken to Secretary Murphy and an answer will be brought back to the committee. DDOE agreed.

Vice-Chair Williams continued that she was disappointed to know she voted on the Operating Budget which gave away her authority. She asked that, in the future, the agency explain why an addition or deletion is necessary prior to voting.

The full minutes with fascinating material can be read below.

Live From Legislative Hall, the Wilmington Education Committee Presentation to Joint Education Committees

148th General Assembly

Both the House and the Senate are here for a joint committee meeting to hear Dr. Tony Allen present the recommendations of the Wilmington Education Committee.

Dr. Tony Allen is explaining how Wilmington Education Committee came about and recent developments such as Governor Markell issued priority school directives, the ACLU Complaint, and the closure of Reach and Moyer charter schools.

“It is the time to act.  It is time to set Wilmington education on a new and different path…anything less will continue to compromise the lives of our children…we don’t enter this situation lightly.”

Allen explained how a week after the priority schools announcement, Markell reached out to him to begin the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  Educators, parents, community leaders, and members of University of Delaware teams are members of the team.  They reviewed 117 years of Wilmington education.  “It has been fraught with many challenges.”  Brown vs. Board of Education was ruled on in 1954, but Delaware didn’t act on it for many years later.  Talking about the Neighborhood Schools Act, the recommendations from all those committees have not been acted on.  “The confluence of events with education give us this window of opportunity to act.”

Delaware House Education Committee Vice Chair Kim Williams “Appalled” With DOE

Delaware House Education Committee

In the Delaware Department of Education presentation to their state House Education Committee today on the Elementary Secondary Education Act waivers, State Representative Kim Williams advised the DOE she is “appalled” at their vast overreach in terms of state code.

Mike Matthews wrote on Facebook:

Rep. Kim Williams just leveled an amazing charge against the Delaware Department of Education, asking why they requested language to be added to Epilogue Language that allowed for DOE to OVERRIDE state code. Rep. Williams said she was “appalled” that DOE acted in a manner to override her authority as an ELECTED official. Bam!

Her exact words: “The agency should explain why the addition or deletion is necessary and it should not be hidden away like it was. I’m really appalled by this. I’m embarassed to know this…I was elected by the people to create laws and you guys took it away from us and I’m not going to let that happen again.”

Many questions were asked by legislators and the public  why Secretary of Education Mark Murphy would not sign off on the DASL report by the University of Delaware which rated two of the priority schools in the Christina School District as improving.  Rep. Sean Matthews asked why charters were not included in the priority school selection process.  Delaware DOE Chief of Proficiency and Accountability Penny Schwinn said they were not, but schools like Moyer and Reach had been ordered closed due to low academic achievement. State Rep. John Kowalko advised the DOE of his FOIA results and there was specific language in regards to the charters not being part of the decision on the priority schools.

Schwinn did say no more priority schools will be chosen this year, but she did not specify fiscal year or calendar year.

At the end of the meeting it was announced that next week, on January 28th from 11am to 1pm, the Vice-President of Policy of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers will present during an information session sponsored by the Office of the State Board of Education to discuss issues concerning charters in Delaware and how they relate to other states.  As well, on February 18th, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will be asked to rationalize the Race To The Top spending in Delaware.

More information on this meeting will come later tonight, so stay tuned!