It Is Time For DSEA To Regurgitate Themselves From The Bowels Of Rodel

I warned them.  Many times.  Sit at the table and you will be on the table.  The Delaware State Education Association was swallowed whole.  By who? Continue reading

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Rodel’s Paul Herdman Has To Love His Insane $398,000 (And Counting) Salary! Plus: Rodel’s Friends Make Big Bucks Too!

Based on their 2015 tax filing, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Paul Herdman, makes an astonishing $398,000.  Keep in mind this was in 2015 so he is most likely well over that pesky $400,000 barrier.  Good lord!  I found lots of interesting stuff in this tax filing, signed off by Dr. Paul Herdman on May 12th, 2017.  As well, I looked up some of Rodel’s best friends and found TONS of information on them as well! Continue reading

Social Impact Bonds: Will They Happen In Delaware Or Are They Already Here?

social-impact-bonds

Social Impact Bonds, or “Pay For Success” programs, exist in many states around the country.  To date, Delaware has only participated in a handful of these kinds of programs and none in the education arena.  Social Impact Bonds began in the United Kingdom and since 2011, companies have slowly started bringing them to different states.  Basically, these are programs where an investor (like Goldman Sachs) decides they can change some type of society issue (like getting pre-Kindergartners the resources they need so they don’t have to go into special education programs when they enter elementary school).  They go to the state, sign a very lengthy contract, and based on the goal (like 99% of over 200 students in Pre-K programs won’t get IEPs after their investment) and they get the money back.  If they exceed the goal, they may get more (like $277,000 for Goldman Sachs in the Utah Pre-K special education prevention program).

This issue has come up a bit in the past couple months because of a few entries in the Every Student Succeeds Act mentioning Pay For Success.  Today, Diane Ravitch wrote about it again based on a recent editorial in The Salt Lake Tribune by two federal US government employees.  One of them is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy and Early Learning at the US Department of Education, Libby Doggett, and the other is the Director of The White House Office of Social Innovation, David Wilkinson.

Instead of tearing down new ideas and innovative approaches before they have even had the chance to be fully implemented, let’s applaud those who recognize the urgency of educating children differently and better. Let’s roll up our sleeves. Let’s celebrate what’s working and improve where we are learning lessons.

The validity of the Utah Pay For Success program came under immediate scrutiny because of the 99% victory Goldman Sachs claimed.  Issues immediately surfaced around the reliability of the district’s data when it came to being able to identify these students for special education services.  This could never happen in Delaware though, right?  I wouldn’t be too sure about that.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell is all too aware of what Goldman Sachs was doing in Utah.  In fact, he praised them for it in a joint editorial in the online magazine called Roll Call in December, 2014.  In the opinion piece, Markell and his co-contributor stated:

In Salt Lake County, Mayor Ben McAdams is pioneering a new way for government to focus on what works best. Knowing the impact that quality pre-kindergarten programs have, particularly in lower-income communities, McAdams is using Pay for Success Bonds, where private investors pay for the up-front costs of pre-school and get paid back if the programs succeed in saving taxpayers money from fewer at-risk kids using more expensive programs such as special ed. This pay-for-success model gives government the tools to fund an ounce of evidence-based prevention on the front end out of cost savings on the back end—and can be applied to a variety of social services.

The same year, a company called Start It Up Delaware formed.  Using Social Impact Bonds as their source of funding to new companies, the company was formed based on capital provided by Discover Bank.  The funding for the Social Impact Bonds came from the Delaware Community Foundation, also the chief source of funding for the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  While this particular company did not begin any education related projects, the link back to the Delaware Community Foundation and in turn, Rodel, could open this possibility in Delaware.  Markell was also well aware of this venture because he gave the opening remarks at their launch reception in June of 2014.

In 2013, Newsworks wrote about a program Delaware participated in along with the Corporation for National and Community Service.  This initiative placed AmeriCorps members in Delaware to give relief to the National Guard.  The program used part of its funding from Social Innovation Funds.  Markell, along with US Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper, was on hand for the big announcement.

Last summer, the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services met to plan a potential new program called “Healthy Neighborhoods”.  One of the potential long-term funding machines for this initiative is social impact bonds.  In fact, the Chair of the Delaware Center for Health Innovation is also the Executive Chairman of Innovative School Development Corporation, Matt Swanson.  It was his idea for social impact bonds as part of the funding for the Healthy Neighborhoods project.  In the meeting minutes for the Delaware Health Care Commission, from July 2nd, 2015, Swanson explained the concept of social impact bonds:

Dennis Rochford asked how social impact bonds work in terms of the long term sustainable funding. Mr. Swanson stated that a social impact bond is a funding mechanism that allows philanthropy. Instead of making one time grants that have an end date it is more of a renewable approach where philanthropy can come in through bond funding that will eventually be repaid through marketable innovations that have a future cash flow. Sometimes that offset of dollars is measured against social impact. Instead of repaying actual dollars on the bond there is a measurable impact that offsets the dollar repayment.

And where would these funds come from?

Mr. Swanson stated that they have state resources available and have had multiple meetings with the Delaware Community Foundation.

Not to get off point, but to read the minutes for this Healthy Neighborhoods initiative as well as the presentation on it, go here and here.

So we have the Delaware Community Foundation/Rodel connection, and now an Innovative Schools connection.  Anyone else?

There could be a very large part of the Delaware Department of Education looking to use social impact bonds in their initiatives, especially since their funding from Race To The Top expired on June 30th, 2015.  The Office of Early Learning, which oversees pre-Kindergarten in Delaware, is getting $11 million in Governor Markell’s proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget, if approved by the General Assembly.  But I could easily see this area of the DOE utilizing the part of Every Student Succeeds Act to bring in investors to “Pay For Success” in Delaware nursery schools.  I recently attended a presentation by the Director of the Office of Early Learning, Susan Perry-Manning, at the Senate Education Committee a couple of weeks ago.  She talked about the funding this program needs now that the feds money has dried up.  Throughout the presentation I heard the words “corporation” and “business” several times.  It wasn’t just myself that took notice of that either.

In terms of legislation which would allow this in Delaware, it already happened when nobody was even thinking about it.  Last year, Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend sponsored Senate Bill 75 which allows more advantages to “social enterprising” companies incorporated in Delaware.  According to The National Law Review, this bill was huge:

Although not an early adopter of social enterprise legislation, Delaware has become one of the fastest growing jurisdictions in which social enterprises are incorporated, and is now home to some of the largest and best known benefit corporations, including newcomers Laureate Education, Inc. and Kickstarter, PBC.  Along with other amendments to the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL), Senate Bill 75, which was signed by Governor Jack Markell on June 24, 2015, amended Delaware’s public benefit corporation law (Sections 361-368 of the DGCL), effective August 1, 2015.

While I am certainly delving into areas outside of my comfort zone when it comes to corporations, I’m seeing this as a backdoor entrance for “benefit for profit” corporations to operate easier.  Was this done in anticipation of the Every Student Succeeds Act?  It wouldn’t surprise me.  I doubt Senator Townsend was aware of this unintended consequence, but Markell signed it and it is now a part of Delaware State Code.  House Bill 235, which was recently passed in the Delaware House of Representatives, could definitely be seen as a boon to companies looking to start-up in Delaware.  This bill, introduced on January 8th of this year and shot through the General Assembly at lightning speed and signed by Governor Markell on January 27th, “reforms Delaware’s business tax code to incentivize job creation and investment in Delaware, to make Delaware’s tax structure more competitive with other states, and to support small business by making tax compliance less burdensome.”  As well as potentially being a pawn in the opt-out House Bill 50 veto override scheme, House Bill 235 would certainly benefit Markell’s education buddies in the corporate world if they planted their company flag in Delaware.

As I told folks on a Facebook thread about social impact bonds earlier today, if Delaware ever tried something like what Utah did with Goldman Sachs, I would not rest until social impact bonds were gone from Delaware.  But since many of these type of companies tend to incorporate in Delaware, we have opened up the gates for the rest of the country and the Social Impact Bond invasion.  This is just yet another example of the raiding of public education dollars in another Ponzi corporate education reform scheme.

 

 

Mark Murphy & Governor Markell Targeting Gateway & Reach! Making Room For Priority Charters?

In a shocking article yesterday, Kilroy’s Delaware announced the Delaware Department of Education and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy were targeting Gateway Lab School and Reach Academy For Girls.  Both these schools have struggled for many years with reaching the proficiency ratings from standardized testing.  My thoughts and predictions on this are below the DOE announcement from yesterday:

CHARTER SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY COMMITTEE ISSUES RECOMMENDATIONS ON REACH ACADEMY, GATEWAY LAB’S FUTURES

Secretary Murphy to make decision at December 18 State Board of Education meeting following public comment period

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended not to renew Reach Academy and Gateway Lab School’s charters at the end of this academic year because of poor academic performance at both schools.

A public hearing is scheduled for December 10 in Wilmington with public comment accepted through that date as well. After reviewing the record, including public hearing transcripts, public comment and the CSAC recommendations, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will make his decision regarding the schools’ futures at the December 18 State Board of Education meeting.

Should the Secretary and the State Board accept the committee’s recommendations and decide not to renew the charters, the state will assist families in finding other schools for the next academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school. The application deadline is January 14, 2015.

Reach Renewal Information/Timeline
· Renewal report (April 2014)
· Academic Performance Review (September 9, 2014)
· Organizational Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Financial Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Renewal application (September 30, 2014)
· Public hearing transcript (October 8, 2014)
· Initial CSAC meeting (October 15, 2014)
· CSAC initial report issued (October 22, 2014)
· School response (November 7, 2014)
· Final CSAC meeting (November 17, 2014)
· Final CSAC report issued (November 24, 2014)

· Public hearing and close of public comment period (6 p.m., December 10, 2014, 2nd floor auditorium, Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French St., Wilmington)

· Decision by Secretary Murphy at State Board of Education meeting (1 p.m., December 18, 2014, Cabinet Room, Townsend Building, 401 Federal St., Dover)

Gateway Renewal Information/Timeline
· Renewal report (April 2014)
· Academic Performance Review (September 9, 2014)
· Organizational Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Financial Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Renewal application (September 30, 2014)
· Public hearing transcript (October 8, 2014)
· Initial CSAC meeting (October 14, 2014)
· CSAC initial report issued (October 22, 2014)
· School response (November 7, 2014)
· Final CSAC meeting (November 17, 2014)
· Final CSAC report issued (November 24, 2014)

· Public hearing and close of public comment period (6 p.m., December 10, 2014, 2nd floor auditorium, Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French St., Wilmington)

· Decision by Secretary Murphy at State Board of Education meeting (1 p.m., December 18, 2014, Cabinet Room, Townsend Building, 401 Federal St., Dover)

In other recommendations, the committee supported renewal of the following charter schools: Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, EastSide Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, Las Américas ASPIRA Academy and Odyssey Charter School.

According to last year’s September 30th Unit Count report, Gateway Lab School is home to almost 60% special education students.  Out of that population of 122 students, nearly 28% were listed as in intensive or complex categories.  It is very easy to see why this many students with disabilities would struggle with standardized testing, something the DOE, Murphy and Markell seem to ignore.  Rigor and special needs don’t mix well, never have, never will.  But the DOE, in its continued arrogance, seems to think these students will just magically rise to the occasion.

The timing is also very suspicious for this announcement.  A month and a half before the Christina and Red Clay Districts have to announce their intentions with the priority schools and the already soon-to-be-closed Moyer charter school was given the hangman’s noose, two other charters seem to be given a death sentence as well.  This is a lot of realignment in one county.  Reach has been a thorn in the DOE’s side for years, but Gateway is different.  Closing Gateway would send a crystal clear message to the special needs community that no one is safe from scrutiny in Delaware.  I’ve commented before about the very high population of special needs children in the priority schools, and now this.  It would not be surprising if a very huge charter school housing special needs children in Newcastle County became a reality.  There has already been a Facebook announcement of a planned charter school of this type for Kent County, in addition to Positive Outcomes.

The DOE is shifting the landscape to further their own agenda.  So far, nothing has been able to stop them in their endless quest to harm public education in Delaware.  No task force, union, PTA, or other groups have stopped them in anything since Governor Markell began his authoritarian reign.  They are making all their decisions based on DCAS scores which no longer mean anything since that is not the state assessment anymore.  Furthermore, many students at Gateway would most likely qualify for the DCAS-Alt assessment.  The DOE could care less because to think otherwise would show a level playing field.  If Rodel and Markell say to do it, they jump.  And yet, Delaware College Prep gets a pass even though they have not met proficiency in four years.  Yes, their charter is not up for renewal, but they must please someone in the DOE and the Governor’s office.  This just proves the DOE will use data and manipulate it when it suits their needs.

I anticipate the parents at Gateway will cause a huge ruckus over this announcement.  This needs to be a warning sign to EVERY special needs parent in Delaware that has children in our public schools.  The DOE does not care about disabilities.  They do not care about anything that could affect your child.  It’s all about serving their masters and corporate profit at student’s expense.  They are moving so fast with decisions, the public can’t digest yesterday’s announcement when another one comes.  This throws everyone off track and stops the negative chatter because nobody can keep up with it all.

I will say this once more: We need to make a stand against Governor Markell and the DOE.  We need to do this now.  If you are in agreement, let’s start planning now.  We will only get one chance before things change so much we will be helpless to stop it.  Yes, I can be very argumentative about these things, but how often have I been wrong since I started this blog?  Come January 1st, I predict Markell will announce the priority schools will become charter schools, effective August 2015.  The student populations that don’t go to the feeder schools of the six priority schools, Gateway, Moyer and Reach will all transfer to the new charter school chain in the CEB Tower in downtown Wilmington.  If they do not make a new special needs charter school in this building, these students will go to their feeder schools where the DOE will use the data from Smarter Balanced to judge those schools as failures.  Eventually, they will replace every single school with charter schools while Rodel, the Vision Network, the DuPonts, Delaware Community Foundation, Governor Markell, select members of the DOE, many legislators, and the millionaires of Delaware become VERY rich, more than they already might be.