Kowalko Openly Challenges Baumbach & Sokola On School Board Member Removal Bill

Delaware State Representative John Kowalko sent a letter to State Rep. Paul Baumbach and State Senator David Sokola about the in-circulation school board member removal bill.  He asked some specific questions regarding the origin of this legislation.  I would love to see a response from both of them on this.  You may have seen part of this in my initial article on this, but Kowalko goes into more detail.  As well, Nancy Willing of The Delaware Way blog pointed out something that didn’t catch my eye until she wrote it:

Note the time Baumbach’s aide floated the bill for co-sponsorship is minutes after reporter Jessica Bies published her story on Christina’s likely rejection this morning of Carney’s most recent MOU draft.

Less than a month until the legislators come back in session…

Dear colleagues,

I sent the following inquiry to Representative Baumbach and Senator Sokola. I received a response from Representative Baumbach that he would not discuss the motives nor intentions of this proposed legislation so I am forwarding the same missive (and attachment) to all members of the Delaware General Assembly. It follows and is attached.

I suspect that this proposed legislation, being circulated for signatures by Representative Baumbach and Senator Sokola, may impose a constitutionally challenged contradiction to decisions made by the voters of Delaware. To suggest that an Executive branch (Governor appointed and unelected) board should have the authority to overturn the decision of the voting public disregards both separation of powers and constitutional rights of those elected. If either of the two sponsors or the promoters of such a piece of legislation have a problem with individual board members (as seems to be the case here) then they should come up with a lawful process attended to by lawful entities. This is the type of overreach that causes the public to doubt the sincerity and legitimacy of the laws we create and pass. I hope the sponsors of this proposed legislation will quickly withdraw this legislation.

I would also ask the sponsors of this legislation to explain to me and my fellow legislators what has provoked them to solicit sponsors to support such draconian action. Perhaps Rep. Baumbach or Senator Sokola can give us examples of purported or actual wrongdoing by former or current board members. I would also suggest that the sponsors divulge who solicited such legislation/authority. That might allay suspicions that this is simply an effort to coerce and silence board members, specifically board members who have criticized some of this Administration’s plans. I respectfully await a reply from the sponsors before I will consider adding my name and suggest that all my colleagues do the same.

Respectfully,

Representative John Kowalko

I guess nobody puts Baumbach in a corner!  Meanwhile it looks like Senator Bryan Townsend is all “I have a six month old baby.  I’m staying out of this one!”

Advertisements

State Rep. Paul Baumbach Asking For Ouster With Pending Legislation Allowing State Board of Education To Remove Local School District Board Members

I’ve seen some insane legislation in my day.  This one takes the cake.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach has put forth legislation which would give the State Board of Education the power to remove a sitting school district board member.  Way to take the local out of local control and hand it over to the state there Paul!  Are you kidding me?  I wish this was some horrible joke, but it isn’t.  How would Baumbach feel if some board could take away HIS power?  This guy is begging to be primaried and removed from office.  You can’t even make this stuff up! Continue reading “State Rep. Paul Baumbach Asking For Ouster With Pending Legislation Allowing State Board of Education To Remove Local School District Board Members”

Kowalko Picks Apart Carney’s Not So Legal Christina-Wilmington Plan

Last night, the Christina Board of Education voted 5-2 to push back Delaware Governor John Carney’s consolidation plan for Christina’s Wilmington students until the 2019-2020 school year. They felt the initiative would need more time. The no votes belonged to board members George Evans and Fred Polaski. State Rep. John Kowalko gave public comment concerning the plan. To say he was not in favor would be an understatement. Kowalko brought up many good points which the Governor and the Delaware DOE ought to consider.

I and 9 other legislators attended a meeting called by Governor Carney less than a week ago purportedly to discuss the proposed Wilmington school reform plan and MOU proposal. Since we weren’t given copies of the MOU and it doesn’t seem to be available any longer at the link the Administration provided I cannot offer or challenge some of the specifics. At this meeting the Governor suggested that the MOU draft submitted by DOE would be changed and this board is not bound by it and should draft its own MOU proposal. The deadlines for Board action that the Governor and DOE appear to be imposing are substantively unrealistic and impractical for such a complex consideration with so many unanswerable questions.

Having examined some of the initial proposal and the details and expectations it held has led me to conclude that this is not a well thought out plan, that raises more questions and challenges then it has answers for.

I distributed some of my points of concern to the Governor and DOE and have copies for you that I will distribute. Due to time constraints I will try to focus on only a few of my concerns that I hope you will consider at this time.

I find it particularly harmful and hurtful to the “Southbridge” community, families and children to propose closing Elbert Palmer, one of the true neighborhood schools in walking distance and accessible to this Wilmington community. I hope that this Board’s counter-proposal would support closing that tired old monolith known as Bancroft and refurbish Palmer, Pulaski and Bayard to use for the suggested K-8 reconfiguration.

I also implore this Board to pay heed to the massive costs (which the Governor personally refused to speculate on) in refurbishing or renovating in order to make these consolidations. You should be acutely aware that any promise of funding cannot be guaranteed. In fact I would urge you to recall this Administration’s recently passed budget with concurrence of this current General Assembly cut traditional public school revenues by more than $36 million. Restoring that $36 million in cuts and adding even a small percentage of the proposed renovation costs would be much more beneficial and effective for Wilmington students if allocated to create smaller classroom ratios and hire reading and math specialists.

As I’ve looked at this reform proposal and its details and drawing upon my 11 years of experience as a legislator I am forced to conclude that this is a no-win situation for Christina, this Board and the children of Wilmington. Its predisposition to fail will be used to scapegoat the district and further stifle opportunities for Wilmington students and their families.

Finally I would suggest that this Board consider that traditional public school funding has received reduced funding since 2009 now totaling over $65 million per year. Ask the DOE and Governor:

Who is going to pay for the renovations?

Who is paying for longer school days and school years?

Who is paying for vacation academies?

Who is paying for after-school programs?

And why aren’t Reading Specialists and funding for them part of this plan?

At this point, Kowalko had several questions for Governor Carney as well:

1) If CSD does not approve MOU, more money will be taken from the District further harming prospects of Wilmington students and families. (“If it rejects the plan and fails to come up with an acceptable alternative, the agreement would be terminated immediately, resulting in the loss of any additional financial support for the district”).
2) Bayard/Bancroft are not appropriate buildings for little children even if renovated. Bancroft too old to make usable with renovations.
3) Trauma Training not necessarily (research?) effective but investing/funding 1 to 15 class size ratios would effectively improve the learning environment and outcomes.
4) Palmer became the first equity lawsuit in Delaware when Christina District (at Lowery’s behest) tried to close it 10 years ago.
5) Leaves no “Neighborhood Schools” for city children and in fact may violate the “Neighborhood Schools Legislation”.
6) Bancroft is far away from Palmer and Southbridge children who now walk would be unable to continue that practice.
7) Distinguish more specifically between renovate, refurbish and reconfiguration.
8) Why don’t we do things like “successful” districts? The most successful programs such as in New York and Massachusetts fund “reading specialists” and lower class ratios.
9) When the plan refers to “potentially” establishing “early childhood education” and “centers for students and families learning English” at a vacated Palmer are the planners aware that there are no ESL students at Palmer?
10) Have you considered neighborhood “gangs” being integrated from across Wilmington into the same building?
11) The suggested “Co-leadership” model re: principals and assistant principals belies the reality that these two jobs have never had the same duties and have always had designated responsibilities and functions.
12) “Loan forgiveness stipend” to young and “inexperienced” teachers does not reflect any benefit to already established teachers who have devoted their careers to inner-city education and “Who” is paying for these loans?
13) “Who” is paying for “longer school days/year”?
14) “Who is paying for “vacation academies”?
15) “Who is paying for “after-school programing”?
16) Why aren’t reading specialists part of this plan and therefore WHO IS PAYING FOR “READING SPECIALISTS” SO THAT CHILDREN ACTUALLY LEARN TO READ?

These are all valid questions that deserve answers. One of my biggest questions is why the Delaware Department of Education did not include this in their presentation to the Office of Management and Budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget a couple of weeks ago. Where is all this money coming from? The Christina Board of Education will vote on the plan again next Tuesday at their monthly board meeting. Revisions will supposedly go back and forth until February of 2018 which is Governor Carney’s deadline for the decision.

Top Ten Reasons Not To Trust Delaware Governor John Carney

Delaware Governor John Carney hasn’t even been in his job a year and already he has managed to irk me more than former Governor Jack Markell.  Why?  Many reasons. Continue reading “Top Ten Reasons Not To Trust Delaware Governor John Carney”

Kowalko Gives Markell The Knockout Punch Over NY Times Op/Ed Piece

Former Delaware Governor Jack Markell wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times this week called “Let’s Stop Government Giveaways To Corporations”.  In it, he urged states not to get sucked into giving away the farm for huge corporations.  Something, even Markell noted, he did himself during his tenure as Delaware Governor from 2009-2017.  I found the irony behind Markell’s piece astounding as I felt he sold Delaware public education students down the river with his insane Race To The Top and Common Core antics.  State Rep. John Kowalko takes it a step further n an open letter to Markell.  Some of Markell’s many corporate giveaways in Delaware still haunt us to this day.

AN OPEN LETTER TO FORMER GOVERNOR MARKELL

Dear Jack,

I’ve just finished reading your N.Y. Times op-ed and I feel it’s my obligation to Delaware’s taxpayers to respond. I’d like to think that your most recent missive has merely added to my disappointment in you but I think I’ve already passed the minimum expectations level in regard to your performance and legacy. I will try to be objective in my analysis and critique.

First, I find it unbecoming for you to use “revisionist history” as a crutch to support your crippling economic decisions. That pejorative explanation has become the trademark of Trumpism and the Republican Conservative ideologues and should be an embarrassing reference for any legitimate public servant who wears a “D” after his title. I’d suggest that you cease evading responsibilities, casting blame and rewriting reality or remove that “D”.

Your statement that “I was as guilty as any elected official at playing this game” fails to adequately express the reality that you were much more “guilty” then other Delaware elected officials. You blithely dismiss the seriousness of this ongoing “economic/corporate welfare” threat by writing “And I don’t blame public officials, either, for their efforts to attract businesses with enticements, since they otherwise would risk losing out on new jobs, the transfer of old ones elsewhere and the bad publicity that could come with abandoning efforts to entice or retain companies”. That attitude and admission would be better relegated to a confessional for your personal “mea culpa” and forgiveness ask.

In your article some of the revisions you make to your economic tenure as Governor are merely omissions, others are misrepresentative of reality and others seem to be deliberate distortions. So I will attempt to briefly summarize what you’ve conveniently forgotten. During your 8 years as Chief Executive your DEDO/Strategic Fund doled out over $250 million (in grants and subsidies) in taxpayer money. Approximately 37% of the recipients were huge fortune 400 companies. This number does not include the more than $80 million in lost corporate revenue from your hastily contrived “Delaware Competes Act” (House Bill 235 quickly ushered through the Delaware General Assembly during the first few weeks of 2016 session) along with the “Commitment to Innovation Act” (SB 200). You mention the failed Fisker debacle but choose to ignore/deny your other expensive yet failed economic enterprise the “Bloom” subsidy. Not only has the cash grant/subsidy failed to produce the promised jobs but you’ve ensured that 300,000 individual and commercial Delmarva ratepayers would be burdened with an additional 20 years of subsidies to a private speculator/entrepreneur at a cost of $12-$15 million per year. Your remarkably optimistic speculation that the two of three Dow/DuPont spinoffs was a victory belies the reality that a preponderance of the research jobs are gone and Delaware is left with a comparative handful of jobs at the two headquarters. This type of Pyrrhic victory should not be heralded as the sign of an economic boon to Delaware. You also failed to mention the layoffs of 1700 (six-figure) DuPont researchers especially in light of your Secretary of Finance Tom Cook’s testimony on the House floor in response to my query that those jobs are gone and not coming back despite the Competes/Innovates corporate tax cuts and the 13 million cash giveaways that Ed Breen publicly said would not affect DuPont’s plans for job cuts. To paraphrase Mr. Breen’s remarks in the News Journal article “that money won’t make a difference in our plans but I’m not going to turn it down”. And lest we forget Jack, $10 million to JP Morgan (declared $24 billion in profit the year before), $2.5 million to Sallie Mae ($71 million profit 2nd qtr. 2017), $70 million infrastructure improvements to the Astra Zeneca campus (dramatically improving the value of their property now being sold) housing an ever dwindling workforce.

I do agree with your sentiments expressed as such but it would be better for taxpayers if these kinds of cash incentives could be invested instead in such things as schools and infrastructure”. Maybe that will happen under your successor’s tutelage via the newly minted taxpayer giveaway mechanism named the “Delaware Prosperity Partnership”. Perhaps that corporate dominated cabal will accept applications for funding to restore the $27 million in cuts to education you made in 2009 that have continued to date (under the guise of flexible spending block grants) or the additional $31 million in cuts to public education in this year’s budget or maybe some of those poor and elderly former pharmaceutical assistance recipients could make their anguished cries heard.

Wow! Kowalko nailed it!  Jack Markell, you had your time as leader of Delaware.  I know you like to pontificate over your imagined “success” as Delaware Governor but far too many of us see past your hypocrisy.  And for the most recent news on the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the following happened this week with that:

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Friday announced that John Riley, a former state Director of Business Development, will serve as interim CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership – the newly-established public-private partnership that will lead the state’s economic development efforts.

In the position, Riley will help launch operations, develop a strategic plan for the new nonprofit, and conduct a search for a permanent chief executive.

“John is well-known and respected across our state, and has significant experience in economic development,” said Governor Carney, who will serve as co-chair of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board. “I’m pleased he has agreed to help us launch the partnership. We are committed to changing the way we do business, fostering innovation, and growing our economy. I’m confident John will help position the partnership to succeed.”

“Establishment of this entity was a critical step to enhance the state’s ability to attract, grow and retain companies; to build a stronger entrepreneurial culture and to support private employers in identifying, recruiting and developing talent,” said Rod Ward, President of CSC and co-chair of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board. “As Interim CEO, John will work with the board on the recruitment of a permanent CEO and development of a strategic plan for Delaware.”

“Thank you to Governor Carney and the entire board of the partnership for this opportunity,” said John Riley. “Delaware has great assets – a talented workforce, a strategic location along I-95, responsive leadership, and great communities up and down our state. I look forward to doing everything I can to attract investment and additional good-paying jobs to our state, and setting up this new partnership to succeed in helping grow our economy.”

Riley served as Director of Business Development under then-Governor Thomas R. Carper. He retired from Ashland where he was Director of Government Relations and previously served as Director of Public Affairs for Hercules Incorporated. Riley has continued to be active in economic development and assisted Governor Jack Markell’s Administration with Delaware’s strategy in responding to the DuPont-Dow merger.

Members of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board approved the hiring of Riley at an organizational meeting this week.

Governor Carney, who took office in January, has made it a top priority to restructure Delaware’s economic development efforts, and strategically partnering with the private sector on economic growth was a key recommendation of the Governor’s Action Plan for Delaware. Last month, Governor Carney signed House Bill 226, creating the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and a new division within the Department of State to support small business growth.

The Delaware Prosperity Partnership will be run day-to-day by the chief executive officer and a full-time staff. The nonprofit will lead business marketing efforts for the state, with a focus on attracting early-stage and technology-focused businesses, recruitment of large employers, and expansion of international business opportunities for Delaware companies. Its leaders also will work with employers and Delaware educators to fill key talent gaps in the state. The state will jointly fund the partnership’s operations with private business.

 

Kowalko Blasts Carney, Bunting, & Several Christina Legislators

Last Thursday, Delaware Governor John Carney held yet another secret meeting.  This one was with Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and several legislators whose districts are a part of the Christina School District.  Those legislators were Senators David Sokola and Bryan Townsend and Reps Earl Jaques, Ed Osienski, Joe Miro, Mike Ramone, Melanie Smith, and John Kowalko.  The subject: those damn test scores for Christina!

Carney was pulling the usual “why are Christina’s reading and math scores so low?”  If I were a déjà vu kind of guy, I would say it is the same record spun by Governor Markell and former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  Sokola talked about capacity and too much of it in Christina.  Ramone talked about how the state has closed failing charter schools and why not public schools.  Jaques talked about how we need to fill schools with psychiatrists and psychologists while not realizing budget cuts have affected the ability to properly staff schools with educators and resources before we even need to get to that point.  Miro talked about… who knows!  But Kowalko talked about the funding cuts that have already happened that is causing the suffering of poverty students in Christina.  He suggested Christina consolidates two of their high schools and actually build a Wilmington high school for Wilmington students so they aren’t bussed all over Christina School District.

Governor Carney is proving to be more of a Jack Markell wannabe than I ever thought he could be.  I agree with Kowalko.  When Markell cut the reading specialists Governor Ruth Ann Minner created years ago, the problems in Christina got bigger.  When Markell began his dance with corporations to “fix” education it got worse.  Now we’ve had three years of Smarter Balanced and, as predicted, the scores suck.  They suck bad.  No one in power ever stops to think the test is the problem.  No, we must get new leaders in our schools.  We have to fix poverty in the schools.  How about creating real jobs, for real people?  Not these new start-up tech companies Carney gets excited about.  Cause they aren’t going to fix poverty.  They are only going to further the divide between the haves and the have nots.

Kowalko told me the only legislator who made any sense was Senator Townsend.  The rest, he felt, were playing the same skipped record on Delaware education particularly in Christina.  And Secretary Bunting… I don’t know where your head is at these days.  You’ve been drinking far too much of the Rodel Kool-Aid lately.  Taking money away from districts (see recent articles about match tax) and just giving it away to the charters is not a solution.  For someone who came from a large district with financial issues, you sure do seem to be forgetting what is truly needed in education.  Who is advising these people?  How many other secret meetings are going on?  Thank God we have legislators like Kowalko who value transparency above all else.

Rep. Melanie Smith is one of the true catalysts, along with other charter-loving legislators, who don’t care about Christina.  They care about the charters they want their kids and grandchildren to go to.  And a few of them who have relatives that teach at charter schools.  The jig is up.  You aren’t fooling any of us with your grand posturing and false bravado.  Smith, Jaques, Sokola, Ramone, Miro… enough already.  The charter lobbyists don’t need to shove anything up your ass.  You do it gladly all on your own.

We have a Secretary and Governor who allow situations like the train wreck that is Providence Creek Academy’s administration and the continuing de facto segregation factory called Newark Charter School.  You want to put your money where your mouths are?  Don’t let the charters bitch for one iota of a second about match tax and all their other funding whining when they get to keep their damn transportation slush fund.  It is a disgrace.  Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter.  Most of you support it as evidenced by your budget vote every single damn year.  The ones that say no to that… those are the ones I respect down at Legislative Hall.  The rest of you are phoneys pretending to be lawmakers.  Allowing charters to suck at the public teat while cutting funds from districts.  And Bunting… perhaps the biggest traitor of them all allowing this to continue.  I thought coming from a district you were going to be the watcher on the wall against this crap.  But you have proven to be just like the other Governor mouthpieces for education.

As JFC Sacrifices The Sick, The Children, and The Poor, General Assembly Leadership Drops The Ball

I am getting very sick of the political games in Dover.  Very sick.  We have the Joint Finance Committee cutting programs left and right, with House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle continuing to bicker over raising taxes or having more cuts.  We elect these people to do what is right for Delaware, not to kick the can until the next election.  They continue to use the most vulnerable citizens of Delaware in their political football games: the students, those who are sick or rely on state assistance, and those who live in poverty.  Enough.

In a Delaware State news article, JFC Co-Chair Melanie Smith brags about needing only $60 million in “soft cuts” while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf says further cuts would be “drastic“.  Do these two even talk to each other?  They are in the same damn party.  Meanwhile, we have Senator Greg Lavelle preaching from his pulpit wanting the state to have even more cuts.  But both sides are not giving serious thought to State Rep. John Kowalko’s bills which would raise taxes on the wealthy of Delaware.  Hell, they spit in our faces in the House by passing the very ridiculous estate tax appeal last month.

Delaware Republicans, let’s get one thing straight: prevailing wage will NEVER happen as long as the Democrats hold power in the House and Senate.  It is a pipe dream.  Delaware Democrats, the Republicans will NEVER allow you to raise taxes on the wealthy.  Delaware citizens, we are screwed.

I believe they are making these “drastic” cuts in the JFC to cut to the heart of Delaware.  By going after the most vulnerable of Delaware citizens, they are hoping the legislators will cave and come up with some sort of short-term compromise to fix the budget.  Governor Markell left the station, but not without spending our way to prosperity.  But guess what, the bill came in for that spending and we have treated the state wallet like an ATM without any limits.

In Delaware, we have this insane tendency to vote the SAME people into office every election.  While there are some very good State Reps and Senators filling the halls in Dover, I fear we have reached a stalemate in Dover.  For far too many of our legislators it is about one thing: holding on to power and the next election.  The Delaware Way has become a steaming pile of horse manure.

Governor Carney and his office have shown no sign of getting rid of this stink in Delaware.  My recent FOIA complaint against Carney’s office over the Family Services Cabinet Council generated a response from his office.  Because the Attorney General’s office is still working on the legal opinion for this, all I can say is the response is one of the most insulting things I’ve read in my entire life.  It reeks of corruption and deals made behind closed doors.  The solution, which is Carney’s way of saying “Don’t mess with me Ohlandt, cause I will do what I want no matter what” screams of the very thing I have grown to expect in Delaware.  It evaporates hope and replaces it with a bad taste that no mouthwash could replace.  I can’t wait until this legal opinion comes out to the public so they can see firsthand what I am talking about.

Our children, poor, and sick should not be held hostage because these lawmakers think they can do what they want.  In the State News article, Matt Bittle discussed the decision by the JFC to hold off on meeting until later in June.  Bittle writes:

The move, an atypical one, minimizes public backlash and concern in response to spending reductions and gives the caucuses more time to come to an agreement on tax increases.

I disagree with this.  The public backlash is just beginning.  I see more discussion about what is going on with the budget this year than I’ve seen in years.  The very ugly move by the JFC yesterday on not allowing the cut sheets from yesterday to be released to the media or the public is the shadiest thing I’ve seen in my entire time blogging.  In response to cuts already made, I’m sure their phones and emails were lighting up like a Christmas tree.  Get over it.  It is your job to listen to your constituents, not to stifle their voices.  When you play games with people, don’t get upset when they voice their concerns over it.  Last I heard, freedom of speech was still a real thing.  Last I heard, we elected you to balance the budget, not to keep it from us.

Because of loop holes in state code, there are no-brainer ways to raise revenue in this state that are impossible because of budget allocations.  We could raise the gas tax but that would only go towards the transportation fund.  How about shifting that in state code so it would go to the general fund?  I would support a ten cent raise in the gas tax if it would dig us out of this mess that the General Assembly created in the first place.  It is things like that which make it impossible for me to give the General Assembly more than a shrug when this time of year comes around.  They need to think outside of their very small boxes and get creative.  Because I am sure they will get the same salary, benefits, and pensions.  Meanwhile, I know I am going to have to pay more for getting less in Delaware as will every single citizen in this state.  Except some of those really rich people who will bully legislators into making sure their shared sacrifice is palatable to their over-stuffed bank accounts.

I believe in Delaware.  I believe in the people of Delaware.  I don’t believe in our very corrupt state government who throws away their conscience in favor of lobbyists and back-door deals.  I don’t care if you are Democrat or Republican.  The very second you replace a moral with some incentive, you have failed in your duty as an elected official.  That isn’t integrity.  It isn’t honesty.  It is the Delaware Way.

 

Exclusive: Pending Legislation Would Give Delaware School Boards MORE Authority To Raise Taxes Without Referendum

A bill is circulating among Delaware legislators that would give school boards more power with raising taxes.  In my view, this is just another way to shift state funding to local school boards.  The bill hasn’t even been given a number yet and it is important to know it is only in circulation, which means State Rep Earl Jaques is looking for sponsors.  I heard, through that infamous Delaware grapevine, that Senator David Sokola is on board.  Funny how Sokola didn’t mention this at all at the Education Forum the other night.  The pending bill is dated 5/11/2017 and given that Sokola is the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, he would definitely know about this.

I said it yesterday, and I’ll say it again: watch out for stealth legislation coming out between now and June 30th that will most likely tick a lot of people off.  The Delaware Education Hunger Games just went up to a new unbelievable level!

Updated, 2:52pm: State Rep. John Kowalko just released the following statement about this bill in circulation:

In one of the most blatant attempts to shift the blame and the costs for the irresponsible and destructive $37 million cuts to public education, Senator Sokola and Representative Jaques, chairs of the Senate and House Education committees, are circulating legislation that purports to enable local school boards to fund rather than cut a number of necessary programs. The elimination of these programs, due to the proposed funding cuts, will spell disaster for the children, educators and public school districts. This bill is a blatant attempt to shirk the Legislature’s responsibility to adequately fund public education and seek the necessary revenue to do so. The taxpayers should not overlook the additional fact that the proposed $37 million in cuts will not include $6 million that is left to the charter schools to fund these same programs. The prime sponsors of this proposed legislation, who have been less than aggressive supporters of equal treatment and funding between charter schools and traditional schools, instead seem to feel that the public will find tax increases imposed by a volunteer (unpaid) board of elected citizens as palatable. I imagine that another benefit will be to disguise and hide the fact that the General Assembly is abdicating its responsibility and authority to raise revenue for public services not to mention that any school board choosing to use such authority would probably doom the chances of success for any future referendums, regardless of their legitimacy. 

Rep. John Kowalko

Matt Denn Letter Rips NCS 5 Mile Radius and HS1 For House Bill 85 But Is Unable To Offer Official Legal Opinion

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn responded yesterday to State Reps. Potter, Bolden and Kowalko’s request for a legal opinion on the constitutionality of HS1 for House Bill 85.  Denn offered valid legal reasons why he was unable to offer a legal opinion, but that he also agrees with the Enrollment Preferences Task Force recommendations for not having the 5 mile radius to begin with and believes all students within a district should be given preference to choicing into a charter school in the same district.

Guest Post: Kim Williams Is The Good Guy Here. The Process…Not So Much.

Christina School District Board of Education member John Young asked if he could submit a guest post regarding the current Newark Charter School/5 Mile Radius/HS1 for House Bill #85 skirmish.  Young is writing this as a citizen and is not speaking for the Christina Board of Education.

There has been a ton of conjecture flying around about multiple legislators and their motives this past week centered around HB85 and its spawn: HS1 for HB85. The original bill sponsored by Reps. Williams, Kowalko, and Sen. Sokola et. al. The substitute only by Rep. Williams and Sen. Sokola, et.al. There has been extreme reaction to this bill here in Delaware with lots of people taking stark, sharp positions. Here’s the reality: 22 years of fighting against the wrongheaded approach with direct assaults has been essentially 100% ineffective.  Rep. Kim Williams has cobbled together a band of legislators willing to make a small inroad against the charter cabal, led by Senator David Sokola and his charter loving elitists. Would I, if asked, want to work with Senator David Sokola on education knowing his penchant for attacking traditional public education with a track record replete with defense of de facto segregation? Nope. I wouldn’t. I’ve heard too may stories of Senator Sokola treating colleagues poorly when his pet programs are threatened.

That said, Rep. Kim Williams is a different breed. Unlike many of her colleagues, she puts students first. Is this bill perfect? Heck no!  Who would be the first person to agree with that statement? Rep. Kim Williams! I suspect Rep. Williams has worked super hard to get multiple legislators to support HS1 for HB85, not based on their understanding of how this bill impacts kids, but based on their trust and respect for her. That’s how it works in Dover. That’s not an endorsement of how it ought to be, just an acknowledgement of how it is.  With that said, I think some of the rhetoric on this bill may jeopardize future successes on other bills if we’re not careful with our over-demonizing. Am I happy that an AG ruling is being sought? Sure.  Other than Rep. John Kowalko on that request, are those seeking the ruling leaders on education like Rep. Williams? Not even close.  We need to remember that.

I do not envy Rep. Williams position, but I admire her willingness to work within her own party to bridge the divides that SHOULD NOT EVEN EXIST, but because they do they must be confronted in a different way than if Mr. Sokola was in the party he acts like he belongs to on education, the GOP.

Rep. Kim Williams is not the problem here folks, she’s the solution. Keep up the good work. To those that joined her on this vote: I understand and I thank you.​
I agree with John and accept that my original post on this painted Kim and other legislators in a certain light based on their vote.  In hindsight, they tried to make the best of the situation.  Senator Sokola IS the problem here folks.  Always has been.  This was one of the main reasons I wanted Meredith Chapman to beat him last year in the election and she came damn close!  This, my friends, is the result.  I’ve talked to Dave Sokola since, and I advised him I would be gentler on him.  But this bill reeks of favoritism with the “Sokola language”.  And the fact he even attempted to hold the bill hostage unless it had his wording as part of it shows the worst of Delaware politics.
Shameless plug: Exceptional Delaware always accepts guest posts as long as they make a modicum of sense!

Potter, Bolden, & Kowalko Seek Legal Opinion From Attorney General Matt Denn For HS1 For House Bill #85

Yesterday, three Delaware State Representatives sent a letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn.  They are asking him for an Attorney General Opinion on HS1 for House Bill 85.  Things just got very real with this legislation.  If Reps. Potter, Bolden, and Kowalko didn’t do it, I would have suggested it.  The five mile radius was bad enough.  But then to purposefully select certain students from not being allowed to apply to a charter school in their own school district, that puts a very clear mark on this.  It isn’t too late though.  Delaware Senator David Sokola can choose to get on the right side of history and change the bill so Newark Charter School does take the Christina Wilmington students.  Because anything else, under his prime directive, is outright discrimination and segregation.  We all know it.

I will not bend to any political request on this legislation.  I will not back away from what I originally published.  To me, I could really care less about the politics.  I don’t care if you are blue or red or purple.  If folks want to put their name on this legislation, go right ahead.  But I will not change my stance on this.  Even if I admire and respect the hell out of some of you for various reasons and would fight like hell for bills that we do agree on, on this bill I will not budge.  It is about doing what is right, for ALL students.  Yes, the bill is progress, but not enough.  We can agree to disagree on that.  But I will not be party to political games and not publishing what I know in my heart to be true. It isn’t personal.  It wouldn’t matter who sponsored this bill, I would feel the same way and I would have published the exact same article.  Yes, I am aware some of the legislators flipped their vote because of how it would make them look.  I am aware there was political fighting going on with this legislation.  I was there for the whole thing.  I opposed the bill when the House Substitute came in, and I made that very clear at the House Education Committee meeting when the bill was released.  It isn’t a Democrat thing and it isn’t a Republican thing.  It is a student thing.  It is an equity thing.  It is the right thing.

Newark Charter School Doesn’t Want Wilmington Black Kids Or Wilmington Special Needs Kids Going To Their Private School

Earlier this afternoon, State Rep. Rich Collins led the Delaware House of Representatives in prayer and asked them, no matter what, to put children first in their mind when they are voting on legislation.  Two and a half hours later, Collins along with 26 other state reps both Republican and Democrat, voted to keep Newark Charter School first.

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 passed the House today with 27 yes, 13 no, and 1 absent.  The bill removes the 5 mile radius enrollment preference for Delaware charter schools with one exception.  Since Christina School District has a portion of their district in Wilmington, that is not landlocked with the rest of the district, those Wilmington children will not be allowed to choice to Newark Charter School.  Even though the Wilmington students from Red Clay and Colonial can choice to other charter schools, those Christina Wilmington students can’t choice to that one school.  They can still choice to other charters within the district or even outside of the district, but not NCS.

The bill still has to go through the Senate.  By primary sponsor State Rep. Kim Williams’ own admission, if the bill did not have that provision it wouldn’t have moved forward in the Senate.  The Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Senator David Sokola, used to be on the board of Newark Charter School.  It isn’t really a state secret that State Rep. Melanie Smith bought a house in that area so her child can go to Newark Charter School.  Why does it always come back to Newark Charter School?

State Rep. John Kowalko put an amendment on the bill that would have removed that provision, but it failed to pass the House.  25 state reps voted no on the amendment.

I know State Rep. Kim Williams very well.  I know her intent with this bill was to get a start on changing this process.  It is better than what we had before.  But it really isn’t.  Yes, there will be a greater number of Christina School District students who will have the option of choicing into Newark Charter School.  That is true, provided the bill passes and gets signed by Governor Carney.  But it also sends a clear statement about Delaware as a state: we will allow de facto segregation.  Any time we are disallowing students from having a free and appropriate public education, we are not moving forward as a state, we are moving horribly backwards.

State Reps Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and J.J. Johnson, all African-American, voiced strong opposition to the bill for the same things I am writing.  Bolden said it best.  What does it say about Delaware as a state when legislation like this comes up?  She couldn’t say this, so I will.  It shows what a discriminatory state we are to the rest of the country.  It says city kids aren’t good enough for a charter in the suburbs.  It says we vote in legislators who would rather keep one charter school from opening up to ALL students than making Delaware, the first state to sign the U.S. Constitution, a fair and equitable state for all children.

Let’s be honest here, the only reason for this legislation in the first place is because of Newark Charter School.  Taking what could be a good portion of their student population out of the picture in the coming years defeats the whole intent of the bill in the first place.

Which State Reps voted to keep de facto segregation going in Delaware today?

Bryon Short (D)

Paul Baumbach (D)

David Bentz (D)

Gerald Brady (D)

William Carson (D)

Rich Collins (R)

Danny Short (R)

Tim Dukes (R)

Ronald Gray (R)

Kevin Hensley (R)

Deb Hudson (R)

Earl Jaques (D)

Quinton Johnson (D)

Harvey Kenton (R)

Ed Osienski (D)

William Outten (R)

Trey Paradee (D)

Charles Postles (R)

Melanie Smith (D)

Joe Miro (R)

Mike Ramone (R)

Steven Smyk (R)

Jeff Spiegelman (R)

John Viola (D)

Kim Williams (D)

David Wilson (R)

Lyndon Yearick (R)

Only one Republican voted no on the bill, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King.  I find it ironic that many of the Dems who have part of their district in the 5 mile radius for Newark Charter School voted yes.  A couple of the no votes surprised me, but I will take it.  For those who aren’t familiar with what our state legislators look like, there are no black Republicans in the Delaware House or Senate.  All of the above legislators are white.

No offense to Kim Williams, and I get her intent behind this bill, but I can’t support this bill.  I vehemently oppose it.  Any legislation that restricts a child from doing anything will never be a bill I can get behind.  Any bill that gives Delaware an ugly stain on our perception is one I can not support.  This is not progress.  This is very sad.

We need elected officials in our state who won’t follow the whims of Newark Charter School.  We need legislators who will look out for ALL students.  We need lawmakers who won’t bow to the Delaware Charter Schools Network and do what is right.  We need legislators who realize collaboration when it comes to education is NOT always a good thing.  Today was no victory by any means.  It was a horrible step backwards in Delaware.  We might as well paint a sign on Newark Charter School that says Wilmington students not allowed.  The original five mile radius for NCS was bad enough, but this… this is blatant discrimination by a public school that gets funding from taxpayers around the state.

Newark Charter School is one of the best schools in Delaware.  It is because of laws like this that have allowed them to cherry-pick their students and take advantage of the law so they give a façade of excellence.  If they truly let in any student, they would be no better or worse than the schools around them.  But they would be equal.  I would never let my child go to a school like that.  What kind of lesson would that teach him?  If he were picked in their lottery, I would tell him he won because so many kids could not.  If I lived in Wilmington, would I really want my child going to a school that practiced discrimination and segregation for over 15 years?

I would tell you to voice your opposition to the Delaware Senate on this bill.  But it really doesn’t matter.  If it passes as is, it is the same story.  If it fails, Newark Charter School still has their 5 mile radius and still keeps kids from the Christina School District out of their prestigious public school.  Any attempt at amending the bill will fail.  But the truest failure is how Delaware looks to the entire country with this one bill.

Updated, 6:52pm: I want to add one thing.  My thoughts on this bill are not a knock on all Delaware charter schools.  There are many charter schools in Wilmington who would be more than happy to take the students Newark Charter School doesn’t want.  And they do.  My main issues with charter schools in Delaware have been the very inequity I am writing about here.

 

 

 

Will The Delaware House Repeal The Estate Tax Today? And Which State Rep Had A “Folder” Incident Yesterday?

House Bill 16 will get a vote today.  This bill would repeal the estate tax in Delaware.  State Rep. John Kowalko issued the following statement last evening concerning this bill:

Today 5/18/17, a bill to repeal the “estate tax”, has been placed on the House Agenda by Speaker Schwartzkopf. It will require a suspension of rules due to notification inadequacies but more importantly it will guarantee less revenue for the state and amounts to a giveaway to the Republicans and the wealthy. This tax garnered $9.3 million in revenue in 2016 and to date there have been no suggestions from leadership of either party or the JFC as to how that revenue loss will be replaced. I have asked this question of all of my Democratic colleagues and have not received one suggestion. This bill should not receive one Democrat vote but it will as deals have been cut to the detriment of Delaware’s taxpayers to ensure passage. This is irresponsible and abhorrent behavior that contradicts true Democratic party principles and ideals and all Democrat legislators should reject this or be held accountable. -Representative John Kowalko
I fully expect Kowalko to make his voice heard when he opposes this bill.  I’m not sure what the notification inadequacies are.  The bill came out of committee on 5/3/17 and is on the ready list.  Perhaps it is the timing of when it was put on the ready list.
Delaware Liberal is reporting the deals are flying left and right down in Dover.  This isn’t a new phenomenon.  It happens ALL the time.  It is how politics works (or doesn’t work in many cases, but I digress).  Del Lib believes Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf is letting this bill up for a vote if the House Republicans will at least do a roll call on House Bill 175, which would raise corporate taxes.  Expect more of this in the next 43 days folks!  And watch for the sneaky-snake charter lobbyists getting their hooks into the Joint Finance Committee and the Bond Committee.
Speaking of Legislative Hall, State Rep. Mike Ramone smacked me in the face with a folder yesterday!  I was at the House Education Committee meeting talking with one of the Superintendents.  Ramone came over and the Super asked him an education question.  Ramone didn’t know the answer so he asked me.  I told him “I’m just a blogger, find out for yourself!”  Ramone took his House Education Committee folder and smacked me in the face with it.  It didn’t hurt.  He laughed.  I told him I was going to blog about it and I am a man of my word!  Just a playful moment down in Dover folks, no scandal here.  He usually gives me a lollipop, not a physical assault!
Full details of House Bill 16 can be found here.

Kowalko Amendment Would Remove Newark Charter School Boon In House Bill 85

The saga of the 5-mile radius legislation beats on in Delaware!  Today, State Rep. John Kowalko introduced an amendment to the bill which would remove the language concerning the Wilmington students in the Christina School District not a part of the enrollment preference for charter schools within the non-Wilmington portion of the district.

Yesterday, at the House Education Committee meeting, legislators and speakers alike shared concerns with that portion of the bill.  House Substitute 1 for House Bill #85 would remove any 5-mile radius enrollment preferences in Delaware charter schools.  At present, only two charters have the 5-mile radius, Newark Charter School and First State Montessori Academy.  But Newark Charter School exists in a district where the Wilmington part of their district is not land-locked and is actually an island in the middle of the city.  One State Representative, Joe Miro, said he will not vote yes for the bill if it has the amendment on it.

Here Comes House Bill 60, Let The Fun Begin Again But Don’t Opt Out Of Opting Out!

optouthb60picture

It is now official!  House Bill 60, filed today, would do what House Bill 50 did in the Delaware 148th General Assembly.  Time to rally the troops again and get the show on the road!  While on its face, folks could expect business as usual, things could change and very fast.  Word on the street is already forming about something happening very soon which could turn this bill into the biggest bill of the legislative season.  I would pay VERY close attention to what happens with this bill.  Sponsored by State Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson.  Additional sponsors include State Reps. Kim Williams, Paul Baumbach, Deb Hudson, Helene Keeley, Sean Lynn, Trey Paradee, Jeff Spiegelman, and David Wilson, and Senators Margaret Rose-Henry and Gerald Hocker.  We have six House Dems, three Republican House reps, one Senate Dem and two Senate Republicans.  Let the fireworks begin (again)!

I am pretty sure it goes without saying, email your State Rep and Senator NOW in support of this bill.  Also give State Rep. Earl Jaques a holler asking him to put this on the agenda for the next House Education Committee meeting when they get back after their JFC hearing break at the end of February.

*Sorry for the technical snafu with Scribd.  Not sure why I didn’t pick up the pdf.  Here is the actual bill:

hb60

hb60pt1

hb60pt2

It’s Baaaaaaack… Opt Out Redux! Kowalko Files New Opt Out Legislation In Delaware

On Thursday, we will see new opt out legislation from State Rep. John Kowalko.  It will be very similar to House Bill 50 but it will have a different number.  I thought they would retire that number after the last go-around with opt out.  Will House Bill #60something have a shot with Markell gone if the General Assembly passes it?  Would Governor Carney sign it?  Are parents still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  It doesn’t begin again until March so if parents are thinking about it, we won’t hear much noise until February.  I still fervently support opt out as a parental choice and feel there should be legislation to codify that right.  I already have a few ideas for a potential amendment but I’m holding that one very close to see how the response to the bill goes.

I will support this bill in its entirety.  I will write about it and campaign for its passage.  I don’t know if I will be as heavily involved in it as I was two years ago.  But most of the legwork has already happened.  House Bill 50 brought opt out into daily language in the First State.  Markell fighting it most likely caused opt out numbers to increase.  Some have (I believe correctly) surmised that ed reformers wanted opt out at some levels.  Plans have been afoot to create stealth tests in a personalized learning environment.  These would most likely be in the form of end-of-unit tests but it would still be the state assessment, just taken throughout the year.  That could be a tough nut to crack.  But all nuts have some crackability.  You just have to find the right tool.

FOIA Complaint From Newark Legislators Puts University Of Delaware In The Hot Seat

Several Newark, Delaware legislators submitted a Freedom of Information Act to the Delaware Attorney General’s office last Spring.  The response to the complaint came out today.

State Representatives Paul Baumbach, John Kowalko, and Ed Osienski, and State Senators Karen Peterson, David Sokola and Bryan Townsend felt the University of Delaware violated FOIA with the posting of an agenda about a change to their bylaws.  The Attorney General’s response opined the Board of Trustees at the University did violate FOIA by not posting a specific resolution they would be voting on in the agenda.  The AG’s office stated even if the public had some knowledge of what could be happening it still falls on a public board to give notice of the proposed action item on an agenda.

As a result of the FOIA complaint, the University Board of Trustees will vote again on the bylaws at their December board meeting.  The AG opinion wants the board to have an open and public discussion surrounding this vote.

I have been hard on Sokola in the past, for what I believe are good reasons.  I wish he would demand the same transparency from charter schools.  Have you ever seen some of their board agendas?  I hardly ever see any action items on them even though they constantly vote on items.

Crazy But Practical Election Day Voter Guide: Goward, Gesty & Gunn

Now that is a 3G network I would like to see tomorrow! Sean Goward for Governor!  Scott Gesty for Congress!  La Mar Gunn for Lieutenant Governor!  I can pretty much guarantee if you pick the droll and predictable John Carney, Lisa Blunt Rochester, and Bethany Hall-Long you will get exactly more of the same.  If Gesty had to lose, I would hope it isn’t with an LBR victory but a Hans Reigle one.  We need change in Delaware, and we need it NOW!  I know, the odds of all this happening are not in my favor, but a guy can dream, right? Yes, two Libertarians for big roles : Delaware Governor and Congress, and a Republican for Lt. Governor!

Watching La Mar Gunn preside over the Delaware Senate would be a lot of fun to watch!  Sometimes watching the Delaware Senate is about as exciting as getting a tooth extracted.  Watching Goward hold everyone accountable would be awesome!  That guy will make Delaware great again!  And watching Gesty in Congress would be incredible!

For the Delaware State Reps and Senators, I believe my dream victories are fairly transparent, but some of these may shock you.  For the House, I want A LOT of new faces but it is important we keep the good ones!  For the Senate, I will be upfront and say I want the Republicans to win the Delaware Senate.  42 years of control on one side is too much.

Kim Williams (19th Rep District) (D)

Sean Matthews (10th Rep District) (D)

John Kowalko (25th Rep District) (D)

Meredith Chapman (8th Senate District) (R)

Sean Lynn (31st Rep District) (D)

Andria Bennett (32nd Rep District) (D)

Jeff Spiegelman (34th Rep District) (R)

James Spadola (1st Senate District) (R)

Denise Bowers (5th Senate District) (D)

Patti Blevins (7th Senate District) (D)

Carl Pace (14th Senate District) (R)

Gerald Hocker (20th Senate District) (R)

Kevin Hensley (9th Rep District) (R)

James DeMartino (14th Rep District) (R)

Barbara Vaughn (20th Rep District) (D)

David McCorquodale (21st Rep District) (Green)

Lanette Edwards (22nd Rep District) (D)

Jimmy Brittingham (39th Rep District) (L)

Edward Osienski (24th Rep District) (D)

Trey Paradee (29th Rep District) (D)

Karen Williams (33rd Rep District) (D)

David Henderson (34th Rep District) (D)

Gary Wolfe (35th Rep District) (D)

Paulette Rappa (37th Rep District) (D)

What is interesting are my picks for the Senate have a lot of Republicans but Democrats in the House.  I’m sure I will be severely disappointed around 10pm tomorrow evening!  But nothing will pale in comparison to the Presidential election.  Cause no matter how you slice it, we are screwed with either one of them.  And remember America: You asked for it!  I don’t think it will be the doom and gloom many are predicting if either of them win, but I have no doubt we can anticipate major issues in America.  And as God is my witness, if Hillary wins and picks a certain Governor for the U.S. Secretary of Education, I will personally make sure every single U.S. Senator hears from me along with legions of witnesses, supporters of a low-jack movement, and anyone I can get to make their voice heard loud and clear.  If you think Arne Duncan or John King suck, you don’t want Jack-Jack as the next Secretary of Education in America.  He smiles when he stabs students and teachers in the back!

Let the countdown begin!

 

Vote For John Kowalko In The 25th Rep District On Election Day!

johnkowalko

No one stood up for parents more than Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko in the 148th General Assembly.  As the prime House sponsor on House Bill 50, the opt out bill, Rep. Kowalko fought for months to ensure that a parent’s fundamental rights to opt their child out of the state assessment was honored.  Furthermore, it would have stopped schools or the state from punishing a child for having a parent opt them out.  Ultimately, the bill overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate but Governor Markell vetoed the bill.  An attempt to override the veto failed when the legislators came back in 2016.

parentrally2

John Kowalko is the rake at the gates of hell when it comes to standing up to Jack Markell on education.  He is not afraid to go against the establishment when he knows in his heart those choices are not good for kids.  He has always been about looking out for the little guy.  He will not vote yes on the state budget if it means those with the highest needs will do without.  I respect that immensely.  Because of his stances and how he makes noise, he runs into opposition constantly in the General Assembly.  We need more legislators who can be vocal and won’t bow down to leadership.

kimkevjohn

Kowalko’s opponent has failed to give me any reason to support him.  If anything, he sounds a lot like John Kowalko but much less experienced.  I have never subscribed to this Delaware Way theory of “getting along to go along.”  I compare it to being a part of the race without realizing you are being dragged by the horse on the way to the finish line.  We don’t need more of that in Dover.  We need more like Kowalko!  Some will call me crazy and believe that John Kowalko is unable to get along with his peers.  I think it is the other way around.  Too many are unwilling to get along with Kowalko because they know he is right and that if they allied themselves with him it wouldn’t be the best for their own personal agendas.  The will of the people in Delaware should be the biggest priority of our General Assembly.  But private interests and political power rule the day.  Until we get more John Kowalkos in the General Assembly, we will continue to play this status quo game.  And that is NOT good for Delaware.

PPC#2

At the end of the day, Kowalko is about doing what is right. Yes, he utilizes the press every chance he can to get his message out to the people. It is not self-serving. It is so enough people can hear what he is saying to help the people. I endorse John Kowalko for the 25th Rep. District in Newark. I urge citizens in this district to re-elect John Kowalko so we have another voice of reason in the Delaware 149th General Assembly.

 

Christina Legislative Briefing Q&A Transcription: Part 1

Yes, there will be two parts to this.  Part 1 represents about 60% of the question and answer session from the Christina School District Legislative Briefing on the charter school funding issue.  If you haven’t read it yet, you may want to read this post first as it has the presentation Christina Chief Financial Officer Bob Silber gave to legislators and members of the public at the meeting this morning.  It could be difficult to understand everything in these questions until you read that first.

Welcome back to those who left.  Without further ado, here it is:

Monica Moriak (member of Christina’s Citizens Budget Oversight Committee): The district did not mean to exclude something specific? They noticed that in 2014 you were not including the 10 cent Referendum in the financial position report because you did not see that as something you could use for anything and that’s when they noticed that and so that’s when they decided, “Ooo, we need a different number” so Dr. Meece walked away from the charter bill?  Is that when that got separated because you used a different number?

Robert Silber (Christina’s Chief Financial Officer): Yes, for those of you who didn’t ask the question, I’ll repeat. In 2014, the Department of Education recognized that there are, at least for the Christina School District, there are three series of numbers that are used or assigned to our district: 9100 series, 9800 series, and 9900 series. The 9100 series and the 9900 series are dollars that are excluded, the 9800 series are dollars that are included. If I take a look at… well, why don’t I do it this way… our Citizen’s Budget Oversight Committee, about a year or two ago, as the district started having its financial challenges, started asking the district to provide information on a monthly basis, focused on what our local unrestricted expenditures are. So every month, we prepare financial statements that are unique within the state, that also include a breakdown of what we know to be excluded, and what we know to be included. It’s a very simple issue- 9800, included, and everything else, excluded. And last year, as an example, when you look at FY2015’s financial results, not (FY)16’s, but 15’s financial report, and we take a look at what was our total spend of what we consider to be unrestricted local dollars, that number matched to the penny to what the Department of Education calculated on their form what the local cost per student should be. So that was validation, if you will, of the process over the years. The components, as to what goes where, again, I can’t answer. But specifically, there was a question raised, I believe, because one of the goals of the Department of Education is to take the process that they use today and automate it. But if you’re gonna automate something to say I want to include certain numbers and exclude certain numbers, you’re going to want to make sure that everything that is in that included bucket all have a common number that you can pull from. So any appropriation beginning with 98, which is included, anything that begins with something other than 98, would be excluded. That’s what their goal is.

State Rep. John Kowalko: Yes, a couple questions. I appreciate the effort you put into this the effort to explain this. My concern is this- as we’re dealing with a very complex issue, which has a parameter of a coding issue put in place. You have to have an understand the finances of a public schools in Delaware, and it’s very complex, very complicated, with coding issues that are not always as capturing of the actual expenditure as we would like to see happen. But with that being said, in 2014 the DOE asked you to, more or less, justify some things and if it wasn’t justified, they were going to ask you to put a separate code for that mechanism in place. Do I have that right?

Silber: I would probably express it another way. In 2014, every district, three times a year, is required to do a financial position report. I don’t know what triggered their follow-up questions. In 2014, when Christina School District submitted theirs, we showed, without any question, that we had sufficient resources to pass the test. So the question the Dept. of Education had on a response may have been directed towards, or may have been triggered, by the district that may not have been able to reflect that they are in good standing, that I don’t know. All I know is that the question was raised. The question was raised by the Department, “Why are you not listing all of these appropriations? You’re giving me a short list.” And the answer came back, for any reason, from different individuals, ours was “We’re restricted on certain funds.”

Kowalko: I’m going to pass forward now to recent events and the new determinations, that apparently a decision was made August 24th, this stands out, the districts were informed of a meeting with select Superintendents, the key word is select Superintendents, and business managers would not be included. It’s mind-boggling to me that your office, Christina and the other districts I’m sure, would be offering a path forward, they would have done it in a collaborative process. But it seems to me that DOE has no intention of collaborating. When they asked you for a report, a spreadsheet of how you do it, then they make a final determination at the end of that tunnel without having said to you, “We question this or we think this or can you justify that”, to me, that’s almost a ruling, a one-sided rule that is not going to benefit the districts and/or public school systems. I know you don’t have the answer to that. I’ve asked Secretary Godowsky for a timeline and dates of who was at these meetings. I will follow-up, because his answer to me yesterday was very, very shallow. It was “I’m going to send out the report to everybody to explain the process.” This doesn’t ask for an explanation of the process. I know the process. I talked to Bob (Silber) for an hour yesterday. This asks for a timeline of who was involved when the decision-making, from May on to this point in time, and why were they excluding people that have knowledge, that actually put their pencils on paper. I find this to be an almost disgraceful performance by the DOE and I’m not here to pontificate, but I am angry that they tarnished the reputation of a district that has more challenges than any district in this state probably, cause of the special needs, the impoverished of the community. But that’s not to give an excuse here, but you have made remarkable strides and I really, really challenge any Department within this state that would unilaterally decide that they’re going to impose or question something without asking you for an answer. This is a ridiculous way for us to operate on behalf of our children. And I’m tired of it and I intend to follow-up with Secretary Godowsky. If I don’t get an answer for this, and his answer isn’t going to be responsive, I do have another letter prepared that I will release to the press and I’m telling you, it does not look good. I would ask the Chair of the Education Committee, and to think over it, the fact that we don’t get an appropriate answer to where we are today and how this embellishment of no facts or answers has caused a situation of turmoil, an anxiety, that has pitted charter schools against traditional schools for dollars. I’ve asked the Chair to consider that if we don’t get a response to hold hearings on this charge. Between now and then there should be a corrective course by DOE. This is not a one-sided issue. This is not something that you’re on the defense about. This is about due process. There has been no due process in the immediate discussion of this from May till now. No due process.

Kevin Ohlandt (“The Blogger” or “Sneaky Snake Blogger” as one person called me last week): I have two questions. Newark Charter School referenced a meeting with Dr. Andrzejewski that would be taking place in regards to this subject, the local cost per pupil. This is more for Dr. Andrzejewski. Were you aware that this would be coming up, I guess, last March or April?

Dr. Robert Andrzejewski (Acting Superintendent of Christina): I never met with the board of Newark Charter. I met with Greg Meece on the referendum. This issue we talked about has an ongoing history. And that was it. At some point, I offered to meet before the Board President to go through a similar thing.

Ohlandt: Senator Sokola had mentioned, in an email, something about funds going from $700,000 in 2011 to $9.2 million last year or the year before. Do you know what that was about and why he would choose that flashpoint in time to use in this issue?

Silber: I’ll go back to a couple of comments. If you take a look at the composition of the students within the Christina School District, and almost any other district in the state and certainly with charter schools, you’ll see that Christina School District has a significant higher population of students with special needs, not just within special programs but within our district. I can take a look at what has transpired over the five to seven years. There has been a very steady increase in our tuition tax rate as a result of needing to generate those dollars. Some of those programs, as I said, are unique to Christina. But where the Dept. of Education chooses to put those dollars… if it were my call, it would in that tuition fund. But if their putting it into the district specific program bucket, you’re going to see those dollars increase dramatically. I have no knowledge as to what causes them (the DOE) to put something in bucket A versus bucket B. All I can do is suggest that during one of those years, as I took a quick look over the past five years, we had a drop in dollars over on the tuition side. I can tell you, or our board can tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever generated a financial statement for the district that has shown our tuition related expenses were for students with special needs has gone down. If anything, it has consistently gone up. That’s a triggering question of… I don’t know who does the reports. I can’t direct you to go see Bob Silber at the Dept. of Education. That is their report. They should be held accountable and transparent for what’s behind those dollars. I would love to be able to see it to argue it, to challenge what should go to any one bucket if you will, but that’s obviously not a part of the process with the Department.

Bill Doolittle (Special Education Advocate): Did the Department ever provide a full list of the accounting codes they intend to move to 9800 or 98 class and the amounts for each district in those classes?

Silber: For this year?

Doolittle: For their initial intent.

Silber: No. The only thing that has transpired was, as I said at the beginning, there was a request from the Department, “Every business manager go through this list.” And they generated, when they sent that list out, probably, if I had to guess, the top 15 rows were items that they specifically said, “Yup, these are items we already know the answers to. So for Christina, the other 254, you have to tell us one way or the other.” I think one of the important things to recognize is that every organization, it doesn’t matter if it’s a charter school, a traditional public school, or a business entity, or any organization. You have to make decisions around budgets and you have to be able to depend upon systems associated with that. So if there are variations, something that’s going to happen that creates a wild swing, you can’t afford those things to occur. In the public education arena, one of the issues that we tried to bring to the Secretary’s attention, it was the longer you delay the communication around this process or the challenges to the charter schools, the less informed they’re going to be. Every charter school should have been told, by the Department of Education, that for FY2017, this current school year, every one should have been informed that expect your local cost per students for the Christina School District to go down this year. Because the Christina School District had reduced our local unrestricted expenditures by about $9 million dollars last year. The department was aware of it. Did the Department inform the charter community, “Brace yourself, this is coming”? At our board meetings, we clearly articulated our charter bills for last year were predicated upon the prior year. They will not feel the pain we are feeling this year until the following year. Just as when we are successful in an operating referendum, the monies don’t hit until the following year and then the following year after that from a sequencing perspective route how the law recognizes what local costs per student are. I don’t know if that answered your question.

Doolittle: I think the answer is DOE still hasn’t told everybody what they’re doing.

Silber: No, no. They’re given a list and some of the response around some of the detail had to be pulled. So, as an example, in this list that they provided to us initially, they said MCI, minor capital improvements, would be included. Well the language associated with match taxes forever has been bundled with MCI. They were called MCI/Match. And our tax warrants, all districts, up and down the state, are predicated on its match dollars. It includes funds that are match for minor capital, and match for these unique legislative driven programs. It wasn’t until we asked a question that they said, “No, all of those programs that legislators approved and have been included for the past 14-17 years, they’re no longer going to excluded, they’re going to be included.”

(Editor’s note: I know for a fact that any charter school that went through a charter renewal or modification process with the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware DOE in FY2016 was told to expect this.)

Kowalko: A follow-up, on that very statement you just made. They said that, without you having any ability to or chance to retort? They assumed that, presumed that, decided that? Did they say why it shouldn’t be done that way?

Silber: Their answer, not to me but to another business manager, was that they believe they are interpreting the code correctly.

Kowalko: I just want to clarify one thing for Mr. Ohlandt. Correct me if I’m right here, or wrong here. There is not a 98110 that had several hundred thousand dollars in it that now has $9 million in it?

Silber: It’s not that simple. No.

Kowalko: Cause that seemed to be the message…

Silber: Yes.

Kowalko: …that was put out there and resonated. I just wanted you to confirm it. Thank you.

State Rep. Michael Ramone: First off, thank you. This is very helpful. It definitely solidifies and clarifies the perception, at least for us, to be able to speak intelligently to people and say what the heck is going on. You just said the interpretation, interpreting the code correctly, and to me, it seems the biggest issue is not only communication, which I agree with Representative Kowalko, this should have been handled differently with different people at the table. Whatever. It is what it is. I think communication could have been better. I think clarity is an issue, and the word that you use- interpretation- it sounds to me that the interpretation that used to be the interpretation is a different interpretation today. I’m not looking for a comment. It’s my perception of what I’m hearing. So, I guess, to me, a big question, and maybe the dialogue should go to the Chair and the Co-Chair of the Education (Committee), do we need to do anything, in your opinion, as the guy doing the work, as the manager’s opinion to clarify the current law so their isn’t, quote, an “interpretation” maybe one year that would be a different interpretation next year. Or even have new laws added. And I’m not asking you to answer that today, I’m saying that’s a discussion we need to have. But a point of clarity I do need to hear, because I don’t know if I’m interpreting what you wrote or what you said here, but right or wrong, is there an issue or was there an issue with the referendums that were passed in the specific designation of how much tax money, or the referendum was going to be added? Are you suggesting that there is a question of how we’re passing or wording the referendums we are passing or not? Because the way I’m reading that it seems like some of the lack of clarity, or quote “interpretation”, that they have seems to stem from the verbiage as its written in the referendum that was passed or am I interpreting that wrong?

Silber: I would argue that, again I would preface that by saying I didn’t author the document, the document that was put before the community was specific. It said “You will use the money for the following programs. Let me give you a shift for a moment. It didn’t come to pass but you can use this to crystalize the thought. This last year, Brandywine School District, as some of you may know, ran a referendum that failed. That referendum had multiple parts to it. One of the parts of that referendum was, “Will you guys give us additional money so that we can build turf fields?” A very specific request. And if the answer to that question had been yes, that money coming into the Brandywine School District, for the years that they were asking those dollars to follow, could not have been used to pay for teacher salaries or higher administrators. It would have been used for the purpose intended by that referendum, similar to the referendum that we had in 2003. The interpretation that I would get from the actions of the Department of Education, as I’m trying to do today, would suggest that once those dollars came in, that were a very specific purpose for Brandywine, to be used to build a turf field, would then the following year have to come out of their discretionary funds to help support their charters.   And I don’t believe the intent, it is very clear, we’re giving you money to build this, or we’re giving Christina School District opportunities for these programs. There are a number of ways, a number of questions, in our perspective that go around the Christina School District and programs that are unique to the Christina School District. A question could be asked when a parent chooses not to go to the Christina School District and chooses to go to the Red Clay School District through the choice process, are they leaving the programs of the Christina School District they took advantage of, if they leave the Christina School District to go to Kuumba Academy, then yes, they are leaving the programs of the Christina School District. So in one respect, to look at those unique programs and say “they’re unique to the Christina School District,” and the taxpayers agree to that. That’s why it’s restricted to you for these particular purposes. What the Secretary and the Dept. of Education are suggesting is that those dollars that are restricted over here move over here as an unrestricted basis. And what I’m suggesting is that in 2014, when the Department said, “No, they’re restricted,” they made a decision that it couldn’t move over here to unrestricted. I’m not necessarily sure that it’s about wording or it’s about interpretation. I think it’s more around intent. Is the intent to find ways to increase the amount of money flowing to a charter school as opposed to what should? That’s an intent question that my personal perception may not necessarily… Everything I’ve tried to share with you today is a statement of fact.

Ramone: Let me just follow-up, because what I think, I understand what you’re saying. My question is, the monies, the referendum…First of all, referendums are, we have to find a different way to… they’re not working. I think everyone in this room agrees on that. But that’s the beast we’re dealing with. In order to make them more plausible, more acceptable, more digestible, for people to have more clarity on the taxes you’re raising that might pass in the referendum, you started become very creative in the referendum requests, which I actually thought was a good thing. All I’m asking, is in that creativity of making very specific… letting people have a better idea of where the money was going and how it was going… was there a lapse in our legislative body in not clarifying the laws or doing something that makes something more specific, and I don’t mean to say it this way, but then yes, it would take discretion away from the Secretary of Education and whether it’s Joe Schmo today or Peter John tomorrow, but they would have less discretion, it’s clear, it’s a law, we should, is there something that we should be considering or would you all review whether there is something we should be considering to give clarity so you don’t have any subjectivity to these decisions that could be a little chaotic when you tell everybody that one year it’s one way, the next month (meant year) it should be…

Silber: The best way that I can answer your question Representative, is to state the following- The Dept. of Education this year has taken actions that are substantially different than the actions that they’ve taken for any number of years. The laws that are on the books for the past 14-17 years didn’t seem to have that same degree of challenge. Something triggered this year that all of a sudden those individuals that are currently at the Dept. of Education are now saying that something’s wrong. So if there is a question associated with that, again, what was the impetus behind making the change? Is there someone saying, “Okay, here’s a flaw, I’m going to take advantage of it?” Again, I come back to the initial statement. The district does not make these decisions. The district does not define, the State has to define process to prevent me from doing just that.

Part 2 will be up later tonight or tomorrow morning!  Stay tuned!