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

Delaware Medicaid Cuts For Day Treatment Centers Will Make Schools A “One Size Fits All” Band-Aid

The root of the State of Delaware cutting day treatment centers that have state contracts lies with Medicaid.  The federal government issued guidance in 2011 urging states to look at their state Medicaid plans.  As a result of Delaware’s plan, it has been determined that day treatment centers can no longer be reimbursed for education through Medicaid as of June 30th, 2016.  The news coming out about the state closing these centers has not been officially released yet but something is supposed to come out from the Division of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families this evening.

What this means is day centers can no longer provide any education services for children under the age of 21.  They can only provide direct treatment or counseling.  Many students that currently attend these centers receive both.  It will force these centers to essentially shut down.  So far, it has been confirmed that the two most impacted day centers will be the Terry Center in New Castle and Seaford House in Sussex County.  But there are others, and this will impact a lot of children.

So where will these children go?  Many parents of these students fear they will be placed in their district Intensive Learning Centers (ILC).  I have found these ILCs to be more like a boot camp than a place where students with disabilities or troubled youth can get the true help they need.  The ILCs tend to treat all problems as behavior, but most severe disabilities are neurologically based.

All of this was reported by the State of Delaware through the regulatory process, but the language used in the writing is somewhat vague and never once mentions the words “day treatment center” which is the commonly used terminology for these places.  This is from Regulation 763 which was finalized on February 1st, 2016:

5. Other EPSDT Services
Reimbursement for services not otherwise covered under the State Plan is determined by the Medicaid agency through review of a rate setting committee. Non-institutional services are paid on a fee-for-service basis. Institutional services are per diem rates based on reasonable costs. These services include:
(a) Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care – see ATT. 4.19-B, Page 7
(b) Inpatient and Partial Hospital Psychiatric Services – reimbursed on a per diem basis
(c) Outpatient Psychiatric Facility Services – fee-for-service
(d) (b) School-Based Health Service (SBHS) Providers:
School based health service providers include Delaware school districts and charter schools and may provide the following Medicaid services per Attachment 3.1-A, Page 2 Addendum:
EPSDT Screens
Nursing Services
Physical Therapy
Occupational Therapy
Speech Therapy, Language and Hearing Services
Psychological and Developmental Treatment Assessment
Counseling and Therapy
Residential Mental Health or Developmental Disability Treatment
Specialized Transportation Services
19 DE Reg. 763 (02/01/16) (Final)

 

As I feared, they are taking out services that are necessary for students with disabilities and attempting to replace those with either in-home services or school-based services.  I’m sorry, but even with the strides some schools have made with special education, these students are not meant to be in an inclusive setting at times based on their disabilities.  And ILCs are a prison for these kids.  They are psychological torture.  This is very bad.  Delaware will say they went through all the proper channels, but if the Regulation was finalized in February, why are parents just finding out about this now? Why didn’t they send something to parents that have their child in the state Medicaid program to let them know of these HUGE changes?  Writing about regulations with all their confusing jargon and legalese is not the same thing as making sure that information gets disseminated to citizens in a clear and coherent way.  This is how both state and federal government get away with things.

But who is going to pay for these increased services in our schools?  We don’t have enough money now to properly service public education.  Will this mean more federal grants tied to the Every Student Succeeds Act?  Or will we start to see the slow invasion of non-education entities coming into our schools?  Is this just Delaware or will other states go through this process?  These are burning questions I mean to find the answers to.

Unless the legislators don’t check their state email, they should all know about this by now.  I emailed every one of them, along with Governor Markell, Attorney General Matt Denn, DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and several others about this today.  But this information regarding the regulation and the Medicaid situation I just found out about in the past few hours.  In reviewing the FY2017 Budget Proposal by the DSCYF to the Joint Finance Committee this year, this plan wasn’t clearly laid out to the General Assembly.  But the timing on this, when these day treatment centers would close, would be after the General Election even though Medicaid stopped reimbursing for these services as of 6/30/16.  How many people knew about this?  Did John Carney?

I have wondered over the past two years, as I fell deeper into the corporate education reform rabbit hole, how students with disabilities, especially those with the most severe, could ever survive in the upcoming personalized learning/competency-based education world.  The answer is becoming very clear: they can’t.  I believe the intent is to push them out of public education.  To force parents into homeschooling their children with moderate to severe disabilities.  The problem becomes the affordability of this.  That would mean one parent can’t work a normal 9-5 job.  It means less revenue for the state.  But these families will still be expected to pay property taxes to pay for our schools.  How is that just in any way?  I have always spoken out against voucher programs.  But if our state wants to force the hand of families of disabled children, perhaps it is time a new conversation started.

 

Delaware Principals & Assistant Principals: Which Districts Pay The Big Bucks?

In Delaware, most schools in our districts have a Principal and an Assistant Principal.  Some schools have two Assistant Principals.  For those schools, you can be looking at over $300,000 in annual salaries between the three positions in some situations.  As the Delaware Department of Education guides teachers into accepting “Teacher-Leader” roles, I have to wonder what the end goal is.  Eventually, the role of the classic teacher will be greatly diminished if the current trends in personalized learning continue.  I predict more seasoned teachers will leave the profession because of this.  Is this why we are seeing this big push for more leaders?  Will we see more teachers with a background of Teach For America and Relay Graduate School of Education infiltrate school leadership roles?

In this round of “Delaware Education Funding”, I just looked at traditional school district Principals and Assistant Principals, not the charter schools.  For the very simple reason that only about a 1/3rd of the charters put this role in that category on Delaware Online Checkbook.  The other charter leaders are spread out over many coded categories and it is very hard to know what is what.  But I will get to them, I promise!  These are by district only, not by school.  Exact Principal and Assistant Principals are not readily available unless a newspaper does a story about state employee salaries over $100,0oo.00.

FY2016PrincipalSalariesTotal

This chart shows the total Principal salaries for each school district in FY2016.  For the most part, it follows the total student population of each district with a few exceptions.  What surprised me the most was Capital’s slot on the chart which will become clear in the below picture.  In Delaware, Principal units are also based on the student count as of September 30th of each year, just like teachers.  This provides the state share of principal salaries, so anything left comes from local funds collected through property taxes of the citizens in that district.

FY2016DistrictPerStudentCosts Principals

Seaford is way up on this chart when the total principal salaries are divided by the number of students in the district.  And as predicted, Capital seems to pay their Principals a lot more than other districts based on this chart.  Red Clay, like the previous picture, takes the top spot.  This does not include the principal salaries from the charters within their district that they are the authorizers of.  This chart does not follow student population at all.

FY2016AssistantPrincipalSalariesDistricts

Assistant Principals in Delaware can be just as important as Principals.  In many schools, they handle more of the discipline issues and frequently serve as the school administrator for IEP meetings.  We see, mostly, the same pattern as Principals with overall salaries following the student populations.  Notable exceptions are Cape Henlopen, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Polytech.  Once again, Seaford is a bit ahead based on their student population compared to the districts two slots below them.

FY2016AssistPrinSalariesPerStudentDistrict

When it comes to per student cost for Assistant Principals, two of the vocational districts leap to the top.  Christina falls to the middle.  We see, on this chart, more of an indication of the economic levels of the citizens within these districts.  Aside from Seaford and Woodbridge, most of the districts near the bottom are in Sussex County.

FY2016CombinedPrin&AssistDistrictSalaries

I wanted to see what happened with these numbers when I combined both the Principal and Assistant Principal salaries. It is almost exactly in line with the first graph for the Principal salaries.

FY2016CombinedPerStudCostPrin&AssistPrin

For the money, it appears New Castle County Vo-Tech is the go-to district if you want to be an administrator at a school, followed closely by Red Clay and Brandywine.  With NCC Vo-Tech at $461 a student for combined Principal and Assistant Principal salaries and Sussex Tech at $224 per student, there sis a world of difference between the two vo-techs in our state.  But once again, money does not always equal quality and performance.  But higher needs can.  Keep in mind, the vo-techs are given a by-line item in the state budget as their funding source.  Are the vo-techs getting favorable treatment with this budget method?  It depends on which county!

As with many situations with school districts, the more buildings you have, the higher the costs to run them.  I see definite trends with these towards socio-economic levels for the three counties in Delaware when you take the vo-techs out of the picture.  This makes sense because a referendum can decide what type of funds school boards can spend on administrators in schools.  This is very different from district administrators, which will be coming soon.  That one will be more complex and may need some outside help on my part.

Outside Vendor’s Report On “Student Growth” Portion Of Teacher Evaluations In Delaware Sends Mixed Signals

The Delaware Department of Education sent out a bid solicitation on the DPAS-II teacher evaluation system in Delaware.  They wanted to know how teachers and administrators are doing with the student growth portion of the system, part of Component V.  To say the report gives more sides from the pro-testing crowd would be an understatement.  It is very hard for me to take these reports at face value when they ask a limited amount of questions.

What I find even more interesting is the fact that Research For Action, the vendor who created this report, is not listed as a current Delaware vendor, and there is no current contract or one that recently ended calling for such a report.  But the Delaware DOE paid this company $140,000 on 6/17/16, which is well over the threshold that would trigger a mandatory bid solicitation as required by Delaware state law.  In fact, a contract was signed a few months ago with American Institutes for Research (the current Smarter Balanced Assessment vendor in Delaware) to do a review of the DPAS-II system.  Research For Action is also not listed as a Cooperative contract vendor or a set-aside contractor in Delaware.

 

DOERFA

DOERIA

DOERFAFY2015

Now I did find a contract with Research In Action that ended on 6/30/16 which did require an evaluation of DPAS-II.  Are these the same companies?  Since the report below shows them as Research For Action, I would assume they are.  The Delaware DOE did award a contract to Research For Action Inc. that went from 3/19/15 to 8/31/15 for the amount of $225,000.00.  Since the second awarded contract gave a fixed amount of $181,117.62, can someone at the Delaware DOE please tell me why we have already paid this company $450,742.04 for work that is $44,624.42 over the two contractual amounts?  Or is there, once again, some other contract hidden away on the state procurement website under yet another different name for this company?

I wish I could get paid over $450,000 to come out with a seven page “briefing” once every couple of years, interview a few teachers and administrators, and call it a day.  More DOE magic at work!  Or, as some call it, cash in the trash.  And we once again wonder why Delaware schools are underfunded (much more for this topic coming up on this blog).

The “briefing” is below:

 

Librarian-Gate In Christina Heats Up: Sophie’s Choice or Misinformation? You Decide!

I wrote a post yesterday about the Christina School District choosing not to rehire librarians that were cut as a result of their 2nd failed referendum last year.  Many have gone on the attack against the district and many have jumped to their defense.  One clear and obvious thing is Delaware needs to change their antiquated unit-based funding system to some extent.  I don’t think anyone is arguing that point.  But a lot of accusations were thrown out as a result of my article and I wanted to point out some of them.

During Christina’s 3rd referendum attempt, the situation was dire.  As a result of the last two failed referenda, they had to make some major cuts.  Teachers, para-professionals, specialists, and yes, including librarians.  In several places, whether in writing or spoken word, the district mentioned they wanted to hire back the positions they cut and reduce classroom sizes.  This year, there were anywhere between 35-45 kids in some classrooms.  That isn’t good for any student, much less some of the high-need populations in the district.  One of the members of Christina’s Citizen Budget Oversight Committee, Brian Stephan, also writes for Delaware Liberal.

Let me point out this simple fact: I like Brian.  I think he is a good guy and a very involved parent.  I wish more parents were as involved as Brian and his wife in public education (and on a volunteer basis at that).  I have no doubt in the world he is very well-versed in school financing.  But just as I get my readers stuck in the weeds on issues such as special education or regulations for example, I think that may happen to Brian when he is explaining district financing.  Like any television show, there is frequently a “previously on…” before the show starts.  The brains of everyday citizens don’t remember everything, so they need a constant refresh.  I have to reiterate things on this blog constantly, not only to refresh existing readers, but also for my new readers.  I don’t always succeed with this.  But I would never complain to my readers that I have to explain it again.  That would be an insult to my readers.  I believe this happens in education a lot.  I see it all the time in parent complaints about educators and administrators.  They perceive them as being arrogant, but the reality is they may know more about situations and assume you do to.  When they realize you aren’t aware, the communication style is perceived as condescending or arrogant.  It may be, or it may not be.  There isn’t always an easy answer.  But when both parties are equally aware of a situation, and they dance around it with bad communication, that can be very dangerous.  But I digress…

I like to refer to education funding as a Rubik’s Cube with 64 sides.  It is a beast!  God bless any average parent who has a firm grasp on it, because I know I don’t.  Charters I’m pretty good at breaking down, but that is not the case with school districts.  But I do look at what people write and things they say.  That is the anecdotal evidence I look for in most situations.

Back in March, a week before the referendum, Brian wrote:

What’s the District asking for? An additional $0.30 per $100 of assessed property value that would generate an additional $16.2 million per year. What would that do? $4 million would go toward bringing back the teachers and staff we had to cut (yes, including librarians), and reduce our class sizes. $4 million would go toward the operating fund to keep the district functioning at pre-budget cut staffing levels for the next 2 years.

Note the word “and” when talking about restoring the positions cut AND reducing the classroom size in the above statement.  On Facebook yesterday, Brian was telling folks the current situation with librarians was spelled out succinctly and clearly, but I could not find anything in writing stating that it was an “or” situation.  Currently, defenders of the district are stating it is a building leader’s (principal) choice to either fund a librarian with an earned teaching unit or hire a regular classroom teacher.  In the event that a board doesn’t like that decision, they could force a principal to hire the librarian.  In effect, this comes down to a gut-wrenching choice of either keeping classroom sizes bigger or having a librarian.  Brian alleges this situation plays out in many of our school districts.  I have no doubt he is correct about this, but does the average taxpayer know this?  I doubt it.  This situation wouldn’t have become as intense as it has had this been spelled out during the weeks before the referendum.  Had something been put in writing to the effect of “It is our desire to hire back what we lost but we may not be able to get back every single position”, I would have no issue with any of this.

In response to the firestorm that went down on social media yesterday, Brian wrote a response on Delaware Liberal last night.  In the comments for this, he writes:

I can say that we described the referendum as restoring what was lost. And there’s a reason I didn’t say “Restoring ALL that was lost” because if I could have said *that*, I would have without a doubt.

This is the heart of the matter, in my opinion.  As I wrote in my response to his comment, there isn’t any transparent difference between “restoring what was lost” and “restoring ALL that was lost”.  I completely believe that Brian understands the current situation, but it was not clearly pointed out to taxpayers that their vote would mean one or the other.  That is why I was upset about what is happening with the district not restoring the librarians.  I backed this referendum 100% and fought for the district.  Now I feel like I’m eating crow.  It’s very easy to come back afterwards and explain this in writing.  I called that Monday morning quarterbacking yesterday.  I became very confused when things were written on social media and Delaware Liberal yesterday where defenders of the district wrote the funding is there to restore librarians.  Many commenters were.  But to write things to the effect of “let me explain this again” is not in the best interest of trying to win a point.  Most people feel like they are being talked down to.  But if that is the flavor of Brian’s writing style, that is his choice.

But here is the million dollar question.  If the assumption is that building principals in schools that had librarians cut are not restoring those positions in favor of keeping classroom sizes smaller, will the district take the classroom size waivers next fiscal year?  These are waivers the districts request that actually keep classrooms bigger.  They are usually granted.  Most districts do this, including Christina.  But in doing so, should Christina choose to go that route in December, they are actually breaking another referendum campaign promise, that of reducing classroom size.  Technically, one could say all districts do it and if they are out of compliance in one school they have to do it based on the populations in the school.  But it has also kept classroom sizes at increased levels in many districts and has not made the problem any better.  I could not tell you, based on my limited knowledge of this aspect, how to fix that or who exactly controls that aspect.

But back to Christina.  To make matters even worse, several sources have informed me that Acting Superintendent Robert Andrzejewski told many students the librarian positions would be restored.  These were children who were upset their librarians were no longer there.  Perhaps he spoke out of turn in saying this, but the students are probably the most important stakeholders in any education decision.  Imagine if a librarian was a student’s favorite teacher.  That librarian got cut.  The student was very upset.  They go home after the Acting Superintendent says the librarians will be back.  The student is happy, the parents are hopeful, and the district can count on a yes vote from those parents.  Those kind of events can seriously impact referendum results.  That is a huge issue and could easily be seen, and justifiably so, as a broken promise.

To truly understand what happened here, we do have to look at Delaware’s unit-based funding system.  This is based on the September 30th count for each school in a district or a charter school.  The number of students in the school determines how much state funding the district or charter school gets from the state.  Schools also get funds from federal dollars and local dollars.  What a school can’t pay for from state or federal money, comes out of local dollars which is where taxpayers come in.  A district receives x amount of units based on the population of the district.  With this, there are all sorts of conditions, especially with special education.  Based on a student’s disabilities, the formula changes.

Looking at Christina’s 2015-2016 unit allotment based on their September 30th count, they received the following: based on 15,553 students, they received 1,236.40 units.  This does not mean every unit goes towards one teaching position.  For example, a CTE teacher counts as half a unit, or .5.  Based on the amount of units a district receives, the district determines how many units each building gets based on their student count.  Certain units, such as special education, have to go towards those services (or they are supposed to).  But a building leader, or principal, does have some discretion for how the funds generated from that unit-count are allocated.  They can’t make wild decisions.  If a school’s Smarter Balanced scores are low, they can’t hire 50 math teachers and only 3 English/Language Arts teachers.  But out of that pool of funds is how decisions are made.  The district’s Chief Financial Officer guides the schools with those decisions.  If enrollment is down, based on school choice or students moving from the district, a principal may face some difficult decisions.  I don’t envy a principal making decisions like this, but I also believe they should look at things like what was told to taxpayers in the latest referendum campaign.  Such as the case with Christina now.  Unfortunately, Christina loses a lot of students to charters and this has been going on for the past ten plus years.

So then a district is faced with difficult decisions.  They could either stay on the road they are on, or make changes.  In Christina’s case, they are wisely looking at school climate and discipline as one of the key issues which results in students leaving the district.  I have no issue with this as it is the number one complaint I see for Christina.  Part of their referendum promises was to take a “deep dive” at the situation, come up with a plan, and make changes.  That is completely acceptable in my opinion.  But what Christina also didn’t point out was the fact they would hire an outside vendor to help form this “strategic plan” who also happened to also work for the district in the past.  To the tune of almost $50,000 without a formal bid process.  These are the types of things that need to be spelled out to taxpayers during a referendum attempt.

One of the questions posed on the CSD Paving the Way referendum website concerned school resource officers and if the $1 million the district would use out of the funds generated out of the referendum would go towards bringing those positions back which were cut.  It was clearly spelled out that this decision was not going to be immediately made and that an action committee would form to determine how to handle this issue.  While it doesn’t look like anyone directly asked if all cut positions, such as librarians, would be restored, that would have been the place it would have most likely appeared.  In the absence of that question, many assumed all cut positions would come back.  Not to put the entire blame for this on a referendum website or a well-read blog in Delaware, but it is part of the issues.  As well, Andrzejewski’s comments to students played a factor.  As well, I had grave issues with the district spending $181,200 on what I initially viewed as more assessments for students when a state focus has been to reduce the amount of assessments.  I have since been informed this contract would replace two assessments at less of the cost of the other two assessments, which seems to be a prudent move on the district’s part.  Furthermore, you can’t just rob Peter to pay Paul.  Just because that $181,200 was available for assessments does not necessarily mean you can pay $181,200 in librarians in lieu of those funds.  There are different buckets for different aspects of education, as Brian has explained many times to people.

I received this information from an anonymous commenter named “John Doe”, seen below, but I felt the need to put it in the heart of the article:

Sir, I would please ask that you correct some misinformation included in this blog. It was made clear at the Christina SD Board of Ed. meeting that the district was consolidating, not simply adding, assessments. Yes, a new assessment will be purchased, but it is replacing two existing assessments which together cost the district more money than will be spent on the new assessment next school year. The district is indeed cutting assessments back in a number of sensible ways, and the district will benefit from cost savings as well as savings in instructional time because of these decisions. Teachers and administrators, like carpenters, need good tools to help them do high quality work. For a district the size of Christina SD, the assessment costs the author quoted are very reasonable.

In the past, districts and charters lave gotten themselves in trouble with misappropriated funds in the wrong bucket.  For example, last year Capital School District was warned by the State Auditor’s office they can’t use a Superintendent’s discretionary fund to help pay for band field trips.  That is just one of countless examples where districts did the wrong thing.  Intent plays a big part in that.  Was it an honest mistake or done on purpose?  In the case of some charter schools in Delaware in the past few years, taking school funds and using them for personal use is a big no-no.  But this hasn’t just happened in charters, but also public school districts as well.  But charters are held under more scrutiny than traditional school districts so it could be easier to find.  But by the same token, some of the charter employees who did abuse these funds had not been involved in public education to the extent others in traditional school districts have and were not as well-versed with the law.  This does not excuse their actions.  In fact, it makes the problem more acute and laws should reflect this troubling aspect.

As I learn more about district and charter funding, I am also looking towards the future in regards to corporate interference in education.  Out of the funds schools do receive, what funds are being wasted on assessment and useless programs?  How much is going towards outside vendors who have limited experience in an actual classroom but come out with reports that are utilized by those who support these agendas?  Are districts and charters riding the latest wave that has no factual research to back up the effectiveness of these programs, such as personalized learning in a digital environment?  Are funds being allocated based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and how to increase scores while keeping bloated classroom sizes and not addressing the true needs of students?  These are the things that matter to me.  So when I see librarian positions not being restored (as of now), I have a major beef with that.  That is happening right now, in Christina.  If I am made aware of similar situations playing out in other districts, I will call them out on it.  Which is something, based on this current situation, I am going to be looking for.

Christina has a pocket of folks who do not enjoy any controversy based on decisions made coming out of that pocket, in my opinion.  And when they are called out on it, the fingers point to those casting the blame and not addressing the real issue.  This has landed me in a tough spot with the district in the past and in the present.  If information is not readily transparent, I go by what I do know.  And yes, I am opinionated and I am quick to reach judgment based on what I know, or believe I know.  I’m not denying this.  There are also other factors that play into how I write articles, such as sidebar conversations or issues I am unable to write about to protect others.  But those aspects definitely influence my opinion.  Do I get everything right?  Nope.  I’ll be the first to admit that, and when I don’t, I’ll fix it or write a follow-article.  But if you come on here and comment that I am wrong without explaining how I’m wrong, that I can’t do anything about.  I was accused of starting fires and then saying “I didn’t know” and trying to back out of my original post under that excuse.  Sure, that happens.  I write based on what information I do know and go from there.  Do I always seek clarification from other parties?  I don’t.  Here’s why: I am not a mainstream journalist.  I am a blogger.  The journalistic etiquette for mainstream journalism does not apply to bloggers.  Do I go for the “shock and awe” at times?  Absolutely.  And sometimes I just don’t feel like reaching out will serve a purpose.  All too often, I get no response, I’m attacked, or I get bad information.  That happens more often than not.  As well, the person who accused me of this, I have reached out to in the past over certain things but lately I had not been getting much response.  Until I posted about this latest librarian thing.

This is one of the reasons I admire and respect Christina board member John Young so much.  He is constantly attacked for attacking, or the perception of attacking.  John and I are very much alike in that aspect.  But it gets people talking and I would say it brings more transparency to issues facing public education.  The more people talk about education, the better.  We live in a state where a certain group of people tend to make ALL the decisions and that isn’t good for kids.  Period.  End of story.  If I can shock people out of an education awareness slumber, I certainly will.  This is how John operates, it is how Kilroy operates, and it is how Kavips operates.  It is the heart of Delaware education bloggers mindset, especially those who fight against the insane practices of the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell.  Most of the information we post (or used to in John’s case) is not information that is picked up on by the News Journal or other media outlets.  I don’t believe John’s goal, or my goal, is to intentionally divide, but to bring light to situations people may not be aware of.  But we are attacked for attacking.  If we don’t do these things, how the hell are people going to know these things?  Could we be more temperate in how we do this?  Sure, but would folks listen?  I can say I have defended Christina much more than I have “attacked” them, as some have said.

My intention is not to make things up in order to start a fire.  Unless it is one of my “fan fiction” posts, which are easily recognizable (such as Markell, Herdman, Godowsky, Jaques and Sokola going on a midnight horse ride in Dover), I am basing my information on something real.  If there is more information along the way, it’s going to come out.  If not from me, than in the comments or somewhere else.  Without going into a lot of details, there are some VERY strange things that go on behind the scenes with blogging.  Eventually, all truths are known or they are buried forever.

Updated, 9:32pm: This article has been updated to reflect the discussion about the assessments the district purchased.  I previously wrote these were more assessments, when the reality is they were to replace two other assessments to save instructional time and the district money.  While this is certainly a good thing, it does not change my issues with the librarian issue.

 

Why Christina Is Very Different Than The Other Wilmington School Districts: Special Education

I heard a lot of comments in the past 24 hours about Christina School District’s bloated administrative costs and their higher cost per pupil.  While that may be true, did anyone bother to check why that is true?  I did, and it took five minutes to figure out what all the naysayers were unable to do.  I actually posted this in a comment on another blog earlier: https://criblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/whats-next-for-christina-school-district/#comment-3511

As for the difference in funding between Red Clay and Christina, there is a HUGE difference between one portion of their populations: special education. Based on national estimates of extra costs per special education student in America, it works out to be about $9,369 extra per student. Red Clay has 11.9% special education whereas Christina has 17.9%. If you multiply the number of students by those percentages, and then multiply that number by that average special education cost, it works out like this:

Red Clay: $22,635,504 in special education funding
Christina: $33,237,473 in special education funding

Now these are based on national averages. We all know Delaware has some of the highest per-pupil funding in the country. So that nearly 11 million dollar difference is probably about 18-25% higher. As well, Christina has the Delaware School for the Deaf, as well as many of Delaware’s DAP programs. These are not inexpensive programs, and that constitutes a lot of the differences between the two districts. This is something that would also cause additional administrative costs as there would have to be a lot of coordination with other state agencies.

So what these voters who said “No more” essentially did was cut services for many special education kids. That’s why I take such offense at the attitudes of some of these folks who voted no. While I’m sure they believed in what they were saying, I don’t think they realized this essential fact.

I’ve said this time and time again but far too many don’t want to get it.  The key to so many of the problems in Delaware stem around special education.  I wrote the other day how there are probably 20% of Delaware’s students that should be on an IEP, but only 13% actually are.  I also said this is about 50% of the problems with education in the state.  You can read about a classic example along with the comments about how special education doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room it has become in so many of our schools.  Maybe now eyes will start to open.  As for Christina, they have to figure out where to take funds away from and which jobs to cut.  And who suffers the most, the students.  And in Christina’s case, a whole lot of special education students…