We Are So Bad At Predicting The Future!

I was looking at various polls I’ve put on here over the past couple of years and I was astonished at some of the results of them!  In some cases we were completely wrong!  These were basically straw polls I conducted over the past year or two.  Continue reading

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Charter School Transportation Slush Fund Still In Budget For Next Year

Unbelievable.  So much for “shared sacrifice”.  Why are Delaware charter schools keeping their Transportation Slush Fund?  Are you kidding me with this?  According to commenter Connie over at Delaware Liberal, it is still in there.

Also- epilogue language- the transportation fund for Charters– STILL THERE!  Also- $7 million for Charters. All this while forcing districts to use the match tax.

And El Som over there said:

Meaning, while JFC gouges public education and flatlines grants-in-aid, charters are held harmless.

I really shouldn’t be surprised.  In these days of financial doom and gloom should I even be shocked that charter schools are not asked to sacrifice their golden goose?  They are essentially allowed to do whatever they want with that money as long as it fits in the box of educational purposes.  Which means they can’t go out and get a foot massage with the money.  One of Senator David Sokola’s biggest arguments about the five mile radius bill being removed but not giving a preference for Christina’s Wilmington students was the cost of transportation to his beloved Newark Charter School.

I am NOT against charter schools.  I am against bullshit like this.  And as long as we have sycophants like Rep. Melanie Smith who wants HER daughter to go to Newark Charter School, she will do the charter school’s bidding.  If that isn’t a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is.  But Governor Carney DOES NOT CARE.  The majority of our legislators DO NOT CARE.  They don’t care if the elderly have less than they have now as long as charters get what they want.  I don’t blame the charter schools themselves.  I blame the policy-makers who do this.  If someone gave me what is essentially free money and I were in the charters’ position, I doubt I would object.

I expect one hell of a battle tomorrow night at Legislative Hall.  Meanwhile, in response to the Republicans resolution to continue funding the state if the budget doesn’t pass, State Rep. Sean Lynn introduced House Bill 290 today with sponsors including Pete Schwartzkopf, Valerie Longhurst, and John Viola.  Kicking the can down the road, Delaware style.

Delaware citizens deserve better than this.  We have known about this huge budget deficit for months.  Why are they waiting until the last minute to get it done?  I am losing faith in the left and the right.  And the budget hasn’t even been released because they are STILL writing it.  If only Sean Goward had been elected Governor…

 

Delaware’s Moral Imperative: My Email To The JFC, DOE, State Board, WEIC, & Governor Markell

SpecialEducation

Today, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee is meeting with the Delaware Department of Education to discuss proposed changes in the DOE’s budget for Fiscal Year 2017.  This hearing will allow the DOE to answer questions about the funding increases they are requesting.  One of the hot issues is the $6 million allocated in Governor Markell’s budget for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan for the students of Wilmington.  I had very strong thoughts about this last weekend and a response from a member of WEIC prompted another article on the matter.

At the heart of this is the basic special education funding for Delaware students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Currently, students in Delaware do not receive any additional funding if they qualify as basic special education in K-3.  Within a month of starting this blog, I wrote about this eye of the hurricane in Delaware special education and broke down the categories for the funding for these services:

Basic Special Education units are determined by eligibility of special education for students in grades 4-12 and they must not be considered intensive or complex. Students in this group receive one unit for every 8.4 students.

Intensive units are based on a need of a moderate level of instruction. This can be for any student with an IEP from Pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade. As well, there must be supports for health, behavior or personal issues. The student must have an adult facilitating these supports with a ratio of 1:3 to 1:8 for most of their education. The student must be in the mid-range for use of assistive technology and also need support in the areas of a school nurse, an interpreter, an occupational therapist, or other health services. These students would also qualify for extended year services (ESY), and may have to utilize services outside of the school such as homebound instruction or hospital services. On their IEP, these students may have accommodations outside the norm, which should include adaptations to curriculum to best support their needs. Schools here get one unit for every 6 students.

Complex Special Education units are determined by severe situations that require a student to adult ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. Most autistic children should fall into this category. They must receive a high level of instructional, behavioral, personal and health supports. Assistive technology needs to be utilized at an increased level for these students. ESY is a must, as well as a high level of homebound instruction or hospital services, interpreters, occupational therapists, or services from the school nurse. Unit funding is provided as one unit for every 2.6 students.

Today, I emailed all the members of the Delaware Joint Finance Committee, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Maryann Mieczkowski (the director of the Exceptional Children’s Resources Group at the DOE), Delaware Controller General Michael Morton, Elizabeth Lewis (oversees education funding with the Delaware Office of Management and Budget), State Rep. Kim Williams (the sponsor of House Bill 30 which would give this funding), State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Executive Director of the State Board Donna Johnson, and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s core leadership team: Dr. Tony Allen, Dr. Dan Rich, Kenny Rivera, and Elizabeth Lockman. I addressed the need for basic special education funding for ALL Delaware students in K-3:

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Smith Melanie G (LegHall) <melanie.g.smith@state.de.us>; McDowell Harris (LegHall) <harris.mcdowell@state.de.us>; Bushweller Brian <brian.bushweller@state.de.us>; Ennis Bruce <bruce.ennis@state.de.us>; Peterson Karen (LegHall) <karen.peterson@state.de.us>; Cloutier Catherine <catherine.cloutier@state.de.us>; Lawson Dave (LegHall) <dave.lawson@state.de.us>; Carson William (LegHall) <william.carson@state.de.us>; Heffernan Debra (LegHall) <debra.heffernan@state.de.us>; Johnson JJ <jj.johnson@state.de.us>; Miro Joseph <joseph.miro@state.de.us>; Kenton Harvey (LegHall) <harvey.kenton@state.de.us>; “jack.markell@state.de.us” <jack.markell@state.de.us>; “michael.morton@state.de.us” <michael.morton@state.de.us>; “elizabeth.lewis@state.de.us” <elizabeth.lewis@state.de.us>; Williams Kimberly (LegHall) <kimberly.williams@state.de.us>; Tony Allen <tony.allen@bankofamerica.com>; Daniel Rich <drich@udel.edu>; Kenny Rivera <kenneth.rivera@redclay.k12.de.us>; Elizabeth Lockman <tizlock@gmail.com>; Godowsky Steven (K12) <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Mieczkowski MaryAnn <maryann.mieczkowski@doe.k12.de.us>; Johnson Donna R. <donna.johnson@doe.k12.de.us>; Gray Teri <teri.gray@sbe.k12.de.us>
Sent:
Wednesday, February 17, 2016 11:20 AM
Subject:
Basic Special Education Funding for Kindergarten to 3rd Grade students in Delaware

Good morning all,

Some of you may know me, but for those who don’t, I am a concerned parent of a special needs child in Delaware.  He was denied an Individualized Education Program in 3rd grade at a Delaware charter school even though he fully qualified for it. 

As a result of this event, I set out to look into Delaware education and all facets surrounding it, which led to the creation of my blog, Exceptional Delaware.  One of the first things I discovered was that students who qualify for basic special education do not receive funding for this in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Students in 4th to 12th grade do.  As a result of this, many students in these grades are denied IEPs all over our state.  Many times this results in special education lawsuits filed against school districts and charter schools.  I firmly believe this also sets up these children with disabilities for failure.  By not getting the funding they are entitled to at a state level, this results in the local education agency bearing the brunt of these costs.  The federal IDEA funding has never been at the level that it was originally intended for. 

There are current plans in the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan for Wilmington students to grant Red Clay Consolidated School District the basic special education funds for students in K-3 in FY 2017.  This would also include the current Christina students enrolled in Wilmington schools should the redistricting plan pass the State Board of Education and the 148th General Assembly.  In FY2018, this funding would be provided to the entire Christina School District, and in FY2019 to Colonial, Brandywine, and the Wilmington charter schools.  While the plan doesn’t specifically give a timeframe for the rest of the state, the commission does urge our state to provide these funds as soon as possible for all of Delaware.

I have grave issues with this as all students in this category should be entitled to these funds.  While I am vehemently against the use of standardized test scores to determine school accountability levels, by the very nature of these plans it would set up some schools to do better than others in Delaware.  In the Delaware Department of Education’s goals submitted to the US Department of Education for their ESEA Flexibility waiver, the DOE had growth goals for Delaware.  For students with disabilities, they want them to go from 19% proficiency from FY 2015 to 59% proficiency in FY 2021.  By giving certain schools and districts this funding, it sets up a disproportionate funding mechanism that benefits some over others.

There are other concerns with this as well.  If a 1st grade student should happen to transfer from Red Clay to Indian River, would that basic special education funding follow them? 

As a parent of a special needs child, I find this lack of funding for students who are at the foundation of their education experience to be highly disturbing.  The current budget plans call for a huge influx of funding for early education, in the hopes of preventing rising costs for special education.  What I find to be not included in this conversation is the fact that disabilities in children are neurological.  I’m not saying they can’t be accommodated for a better educational outcome, but why would we give all this money to early education centers and then leave these students out to dry when they are brought into elementary school?  It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.  While I certainly appreciate the needs of Wilmington students, I feel it is funding that should be available for all students in Delaware.  Special education is a federal mandate if a student qualifies.  By not providing the necessary state funding, we are failing these children.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of districts not providing services, even with an approved IEP.  While no school or district will ever come out and say it, it is because of a lack of funding in most cases. 

For any student who has gone through special education in Delaware at this age, the results are very cumbersome and painful for the student and their parents or guardians.  Parents are forced to fight a system where, in many cases, they are branded as a difficulty.  Students are disciplined based on behaviors that are neurologically based, and because they don’t have an IEP, it results in severe problems for the student as they grow.  Many students who are denied IEPs and don’t receive these services can and do fall into the complex and intensive special education categories later on because these services were not provided at an earlier age.  This happened with my own child.

I urge the Joint Finance Committee to provide the basic special education funding for ALL K-3 students in Delaware.  This isn’t really an option, but a basic civil rights issue that separates Delaware from many other states.  It is their federal right to receive a “Free Appropriate Public Education”.  By forcing districts and charters to sign an IEP indicating they will make sure the district has adequate funding to provide special education services is not proportionate to the state funding provided for students in all grades.  As well, by providing this funding for some but not all, it could certainly put the state into a precarious legal position should parents collectively band together to address this issue.

Currently, House Bill 30, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams is in the Appropriations Committee of the General Assembly where it has been since March 26th of last year.  I would urge the JFC to allow the funding for this legislation to be provided in the Delaware FY 2017 budget so these children can get the services Delaware has a moral imperative to provide.

If anyone has any questions or concerns surround this issue, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

I sent this out a couple of hours ago and have not received a response from anyone.  Which is fine, but I sincerely hope it will be brought up in their discussions today with the Department of Education.  If it is, I am fairly certain the DOE will bring up what is known as Response to Intervention (RTI) and how this is a very useful tool for schools to identify students who may qualify for special education services.  This is one of the biggest fallacies in American education and does not cover many areas that could qualify a child for special education.  It is a failed experiment that, at best, causes delays of several years before a child can get an IEP and the full special education services they need.  Special education calls for the least restrictive environment.  Why would the State of Delaware restrict the funding these children need to receive FAPE and the least restrictive environment?  This is our moral imperative in Delaware.

 
 

16 To Watch In 2016: The Seans

seanmatthewslynn

Both of the Seans in the Delaware House of Representatives have a lot in common.  They are both Democrat, they are both named Sean, they both voted against the budget last June, and they both began their first terms as State Representatives this year.  They both supported House Bill 50 in a big way.  They brought in a much-needed amount of fresh young blood to the General Assembly.  They are both up for re-election this year.  Both of them dealt with some controversial issues in 2015.

Sean Lynn’s biggest moment came during the debate of Senate Bill 40, the legislation designed to repeal the death penalty in Delaware.  According to Delaware Liberal, Lynn plans to attempt a suspension of House rules to bring the bill back from its own form of death: not coming out of the Judiciary Committee.  This could happen as early as January according to the article.  The death penalty is one of those issues in Delaware that keeps coming back, draws the ire of both sides, and doesn’t move forward.  Will Lynn’s attempt to reanimate the bill be the difference?  Time will tell.

Sean Matthews sponsored or co-sponsored many education bills in the General Assembly.  He enjoyed moderate success with these bills, which helped to land him a slot on the assessment inventory task force stemming from Senate Joint Resolution #2.  As one of the key players in this group, Matthews will be the voice of reason in a group filled with many who lean toward Governor Markell’s way of thinking with state assessments.  Time will tell if this group can get rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, but I doubt it.

Both of the Seans will have their hands full with the rest of their own party.  As part of the “Six” who voted against the budget last year, along with State Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Kowalko and Williams, many in their party felt it was a mighty bold move for two legislative rookies.  It was.  I would rather see legislators vote with conviction and belief than going along to get along.  I fear there could be retribution of a political sort this year by the House leadership.  The easiest targets are the new guys.  But both Seans are a mighty stock and I have faith they will deal with any fallout from their decision last year with grace.

With an election year looming, many are assuming no matter what the Democrats will keep their power in Legislative Hall.  But there is a growing feeling of discontent in Delaware.  After years of questioned policies and agendas coming from Governor Markell and the leadership in Legislative Hall, many Delawareans are willing to vote out of party this year.  I predict both of the Seans will be safe because they are among those questioning what is really going on in Delaware.  The key to all of this will come in January when Governor Markell releases his budget proposal for Delaware.  We will get a very firm idea on where Delaware stands in terms of a budget deficit.

 

Happy 4th Of July, Especially To The Superior Six Of Delaware!

Independence Day.  Celebrated for the day our forefathers said “Enough is enough!  We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.”  When it gets right down to it, it was all about money.  They were taxed like crazy, over the stupidest stuff.  So they wrote a 1776 version of a blog and they all signed it.  It didn’t end the war.  That dragged on for another five years.  But they made their point, and that’s what we celebrate today for.

Last week, six of our leaders said “Enough is enough!” and they went against the tide and made their stand.  Ironically, it wasn’t because they were being taxed too much.  It’s because we weren’t being taxed enough.  Well, not all of us, but those whose wealth keeps increasing while the little guy gets the shaft in numerous other ways.  Today I salute our state representatives who risked all to say no to a budget that was egregious in countless ways.  Paul Baumbach, Andria Viola Bennett, John Kowalko, Sean Lynn, Sean Matthews, and Kim Williams.  Thank you!

Our forefathers built the house that is America, but it needs constant maintenance and upgrades.  That doesn’t come free.  It has always been paid off the backs of our citizens.  Nobody loves it.  I’ve never heard anyone say “I love paying taxes”.  But it is our duty as Americans.  When there is no revenue coming in for one of the rooms in America, we need to take a look at it.  The paint is starting to chip, a screen needs replaced in a window, the floor is stained…but we want to keep the room like that.  The worst part: we know what’s coming next year.  The ceiling has a hole in it, the window is cracking, and the bed is falling apart.  Instead of fixing the smaller problems now, we are adding to them.  We could fix the things that are broken now, and do smaller maintenance to fix the things that will be broken.  Instead we not only move the room around and throw out some old paperwork, we pay for it with funds that were meant for the bathroom!  The bathroom had a leaky pipe years ago, and it was a big mess.  But it was decided to get the funds to fix it and allocate that money for the pipes.  We used some of that money for our room.  Not cool at all.

The pipes wound up being okay, but some of the rooms in the house were under attack from termites, so it was decided funds would go to that.  We knew this had to be done, after all, we were on the cover of a magazine with the title “Termitetown, America”.  We took the steps to help prevent further termite damage with some of the pipe funds, but at the last minute, the big dogs in our room made the moneygrab from the pipe funds, not to pay for the termite invasion, but to pay for posters on the wall in the room.

To add insult to injury, they kept buying nice things for the room, like letting some of the people that live there keep money even after they spent less.  One would think this is okay, they used the funds wisely, why shouldn’t they keep it?  It’s written in the rules of the house, and all of the other rooms have to abide by that rule.  And they got to spend it on whatever they wanted, as long as it was for “house expenses”, which really, can mean anything.  Instead of doing something meaningful with those funds, many of them paid for the problems they created with some neighbors when they wouldn’t treat them nice.

Out of the 41 people who help keep the room in order, nine of them voted no for the way they wanted to pay for it because they knew it was just making a bad situation exponentially worse.  All of them could have made new house rules to make sure the room was not only looking good now, but in the future as well.  But instead they put a little bit of spackle up and left a lot of holes.  The Superior Six represented the part of the left side of the room owners who have a majority over the right.  For them to go against their own side was considered a taboo thing.  But next year, a vote is made to decide who keeps making the rules on both sides, and as the room falls apart, a lot of the voters are going to say “How did this happen?”  And they will be reminded who made it so.

Independence made America what it is.  It made us our own country.  But it takes work, and money.  There shouldn’t be such a wide gap between the haves and have nots, but there is.  The problem in Delaware is we have a Governor who is more concerned with proficiency gaps than budget gaps.  But the steps he’s taken to close those proficiency gaps cost a lot of money, and it is feared those gaps will widen further instead of closing.  And I think that was intentional.  We have a Department of Education built up, with great amounts of money, to create that illusion and continue it.  All for the purpose of giving more funds to keep the charter schools going and create new ones.

As you celebrate your freedom today, and in the next year, remember the price for that.  Know that your security is in jeopardy because the bulk of our legislators didn’t want to act.  And when the wound gets infected, remember that on Election Day 2016 and fix it!

State Rep. Sean Lynn’s Heartfelt Message To The Citizens of Delaware Over The FY2016 Budget

The Delaware House of Representatives passed the budget bill, but nine state reps voted no.  This budget will cut funding for some of the most vulnerable in our society while also continuing funding from Race To The Top which is no longer around.  I take issue with anyone getting a cut in funding while the DOE is living high off the hog.  I salute the nine who voted no.  Whether the bill passes or not in the Senate, I wanted to share what Rep. Sean Lynn publicly wrote on his legislator Facebook page.  I have to admit, I had my doubts about Rep. Lynn when he was running, but he, as well as Rep. Sean Matthews, have proven to be the brightest stars in this year’s Freshman class of House Representatives.  Without further ado, here is Rep. Lynn’s message to Delaware:

Early this morning, I, together with several other Delaware Legislators, voted “No” on the State Budget. I write this in a moment of solitude, rare in Legislative Hall for the early morning hours of July 1st.

It is 2 a.m., and I am tired. More than anything I want to go home and kiss my sleeping children on the forehead. What should be the highlight of my day will be tinged with disappointment given that, in some ways, their future and that of your children and families here in Delaware has never been more precarious.

Together, we face an estimated $170M (yes MILLION) dollar deficit in FY2017. There is no hope on the horizon for a responsible approach to address this deficit. Tonight our Legislature voted to ignore this crisis, and pass a budget that addresses only the most short sighted of goals.

Our district charged me with the immense responsibility of preserving and ensuring the middle class economy upon which the City of Dover and the State so desperately depend.

I could not, in good conscience, vote for a state budget that so intrinsically failed the middle class constituency that I swore to protect.

The budget that was passed failed to promote a strong economy built from the “middle out”. It failed the most vulnerable Delawareans, and further cemented the income inequality that, historically, has been the bedrock of economic catastrophe. It will invariably lead to the sacrifice of our most precious goals: maintaining the social safety net upon which so many depend, encouraging strong labor unions, maintaining services for our seniors, the expenditure of one time settlement funds hard won on the backs of those who lost their homes as a result of the sale of mortgage backed securities, and other, no less palatable, inequities that your family and mine will suffer in the coming years.

I remain resolute in my dedication to the people of my District and my State, and I remain hopeful that sufficient time exists to repair this failed economic policy.

– Sean

And here was the vote on House Substitute #1 for House Bill #225, which did pass the Senate already.

HS 1 for HB 225 M. Smith Passed

AN ACT MAKING APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE EXPENSE OF THE STATE GOVERNMENT FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 2016; SPECIFYING CERTAIN PROCEDURES, CONDITIONS AND LIMITATIONS FOR THE EXPENDITURE OF SUCH FUNDS; AND AMENDING CERTAIN PERTINENT STATUTORY PROVISIONS.

Date: 07/01/2015 01:18 AM Passed

Vote Type:SM Yes: 30 No: 9 Not Voting: 0 Absent: 2

Barbieri Y J. Johnson Y Peterman A
Baumbach N Q. Johnson Y Potter Y
Bennett N Keeley Y Ramone Y
Bolden A Kenton Y B. Short Y
Brady Y Kowalko N D. Short Y
Briggs King N Longhurst Y M. Smith Y
Carson Y Lynn N Smyk Y
Collins N Matthews N Spiegelman Y
Dukes Y Miro Y Viola Y
Gray Y Mitchell Y K. Williams N
Heffernan Y Mulrooney Y Wilson Y
Hensley Y Osienski Y Yearick N
Hudson Y Outten Y Schwartzkopf Y
Jaques Y Paradee Y

And here is the Senate vote on the budget bill:

Vote Type:SM Yes: 18 No: 3 Not Voting: 0 Absent: 0

Blevins Y Hocker N Peterson Y
Bonini N Lavelle Y Pettyjohn N
Bushweller Y Lawson Y Poore Y
Cloutier Y Lopez Y Richardson Y
Ennis Y Marshall Y Simpson Y
Hall-Long Y McBride Y Sokola Y
Henry Y McDowell Y Townsend Y

Delaware Joint Finance Committee Approves Step Increases For Teachers

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee approved a motion to approve step increases for Delaware teachers.  This item in the Delaware budget was on the chopping block, but luckily the JFC voted wisely on this motion.  While the increases vary based on years of  experience and levels of education (i.e. bachelors, masters, etc.), it averages around $500 a year for the average teachers.

Congratulations Delaware Teachers!