Education Funding Mismanagement In Delaware

The below picture portrays exactly what is wrong with education funding in Delaware.  There is no consistency or oversight with where existing funds are going.  As a result, we have a boiling cauldron of fraud, waste, and abuse.  It seems like anyone can get paid in education and it can be catalogued however a school wants.

In this picture, we see the former Head of School from Family Foundations Academy and East Side Academy doing what appears to be consulting work for three Delaware charter schools.  Given that the amounts are very similar, I can assume it was the same type of work.  All three schools put the payments under different categories: Educational Benefits-Chld, Consultants, and Other Professional Service.  All three schools used different funds for what I assume to be similar work: Special, General, and Federal.  All three schools belong to the same Wilmington Charter School Collaborative, which is an alternate teacher evaluation system.  This initiative came about through Lamont Browne.

Lamont Browne left Delaware last summer and moved to Colorado to work his “magic” in another corporate education reform state.  So how is it he is able to do all this work in Colorado and still get paid by the State of Delaware through various charter schools?  Does he have a finders fee for this teacher evaluation system?

Governor Carney wants to talk about all these education funding decisions but has completely ignored the elephant in the room: we don’t know where existing funding is going to, especially in our charter schools.  School districts pull the same kind of shenanigans (wait until you see the next major audit investigation report coming out of Tom Wagner’s office!) but they can be harder to find.

I did go ahead and submit this as a tip to Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office as I wrote this article.  In the vein of full transparency, I am including screen shots of my tip:

When I write about this kind of stuff, all too often charter school supporters start defending the schools and say I am picking on charter schools.  While this most likely isn’t a Sean Moore kind of deal, it is symptomatic of what is wrong with our education funding oversight in Delaware.  I’m not looking for the causes as much as I truly want a solution to these kind of problems.  I would love to stop writing about these matters.  So Governor Carney, I am throwing you the gauntlet one more time: are you ready to talk about this or do I need to keep writing?

Delaware School Boards Association Run Amok! Gives Indian River Free Membership! Doesn’t File Tax Returns! Division Of Corporations Okay With That!

Awesome.  Simply awesome.  A non-profit company incorporated in Delaware can get all their funding from tax-payer local school districts, have their 501c3 status as a non-profit revoked, not file tax returns, and the State of Delaware doesn’t care.  Earlier this afternoon, I wrote about how this exact scenario happened with the Delaware School Boards Association (DSBA).  Two hours later, I contacted the Delaware Division of Corporations.  Delaware doesn’t seem to care if a corporation files tax returns or not.  There is no oversight mechanism in the State of Delaware to enforce anything related to federal tax filings.  The Division of Corporations advised me that someone would have to get an attorney and go through the courts.  Excuse me?

So DSBA can gouge school districts out of tons of money, but they will go to bat for them on legislation and counsel school boards on how to make sure board members have the most up-to-date board training.  But they fail to show any transparency for how much money they receive, how they spend it, and what their losses are.  That is just wonderful.  What exactly does this organization do for school districts?  They are glorified lobbyists taking funds out of schools.

I attended my local school board meeting a couple of months ago.  One of the items on their agenda was “legislative priorities”.  One of those priorities concerned special education and due process hearings.  DSBA wanted my district to advocate for something that had never applied to their district.  Why does everything in Delaware have to have some type of “association” attached to it?  Once we centralize every group in the state, who watches that centralizing group?  I’m sure for the members of DSBA, and those who sit on DSBA’s board, it looks great on the resume.  “Look at me, I’m not only on a school board but also on the board of DSBA.”

Please… spare me the righteous indignation.  How ironic that in this National School Boards Association guidance to state associations they offer the following advice:

State school boards associations have been established to provide a state-level network for members of local school boards to achieve common goals, support shared improvement efforts, and explore such widespread issues as board member training, policies, statewide needs, state and federal initiatives, and state and federal funding. Improving student achievement also must be a goal since it is the top priority of the state association’s members.

I am pretty ticked off about this as you can tell.  Is it any wonder our state is corrupt as hell?  What does our state offer oversight on when it comes to financial matters and transparency?  It’s not like DSBA’s Facebook page tells us a lot.

dsbacorporatestatusindelaware

Apparently, it is a-ok for DSBA to instill certain codes of ethics on local school boards, but when it comes to that ethical thing like FILING TAX RETURNS FOR YOUR NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION WITH THE IRS, those ethics aren’t important.

…the Code of Ethics is recommended by the Delaware School Boards Association as a guide to its members as they strive to render effective and efficient service to their respective communities.

But according to DSBA’s website, this is their role in Delaware:

DSBA offers their members:

  • Developing statewide legislative and funding priorities for public education in conjunction with the Legislative Committee and member boards;
  • Monitoring the impact and progress of legislation introduced in the General Assembly which may affect the programs, operation, funding or administration of school districts;
  • Planning and presenting orientation and training programs designed to enhance the effectiveness of school board members;
  • Providing local school boards with information concerning those issues and activities which affect school districts;
  • Coordinating legal services or local board efforts in those instances where boards share common concerns and goals; and
  • Serving as liaison between school boards and other educational organizations or State agencies.

Can I add one?

  • Show no transparency for how we spend taxpayer funneled money but thanks for your contributions chumps!

From their “membership” list of Delaware school boards, not every district board is a member of DSBA.  Only 13 out of 19 are currently members: Brandywine, Cape Henlopen, Capital, Colonial, Lake Forest, Laurel, New Castle Co. Vo-Tech, Poly-tech, Red Clay, Seaford, Smyrna, Sussex Tech and Woodbridge.  As well, the Delaware State Board of Education is also a member.  So it looks like Appoquinimink, Caesar Rodney, Christina, Delmar, Indian River, and Milford have very wise boards who decided not to join this non-transparent organization.

DSBA is led by Executive Director John Marinucci and an Administrative Assistant named Linda Murphy.  That’s it.  That is their entire staff.  They have an office in Dover.  But of course many Delaware school board members govern the whole thing and decide what legislative priorities are best for school boards, even if those legislative priorities don’t even affect a member school district.  So who are these elected officials and Governor-appointed Delaware board members, running 13 out of 19 Delaware school districts, who serve in another capacity for an organization that doesn’t file IRS 990 Non-Profit tax returns?  Thanks for asking!

Officers- President: Joseph Brumskill (Brandywine), 1st Vice-President: Jennifer Burton (Cape Henlopen), 2nd Vice-President: Matthew Lindell (Capital), Treasurer: Cynthia Brown (Poly-tech), Director of Special Affairs: John Skrobot (Brandywine)

Other members of the Board of Directors: Ralph Ackerman (Brandywine), Bobby Benjamin (Colonial), Nina Lou Bunting (Delaware State Board of Education), John Schulties (Lake Forest), Brent Nichols (Laurel), John Lynch (New Castle Co. Vo-Tech), Martin Wilson (Red Clay), David Tull (Seaford), Chris Malec (Smyrna), George Torbert (Sussex Tech), and Walter Gilefski (Woodbridge)

Legislative Committee: Ralph Ackerman (Brandywine), Dr. Roni Posner (Cape Henlopen), John Martin, Jr. (Capital), Leo Magee (Colonial), Barbara Rutt (Delaware State Board of Education), Ronda Swenson (Lake Forest), Brent Nichols (Laurel), Mark Stellini (New Castle Co. Vo-Tech), Nancy Cook (Poly-tech), Kenneth Woods (Red Clay), Jeffrey Benson, Jr. (Seaford), Ron Eby (Smyrna), John Oliver (Sussex Tech), and Walter Rudy (Woodbridge)

They also have corporate members!  Those are Stecher Financial Group, Johnson Controls, and Adelphia Furniture Inc.  Two of those companies aren’t even out of Delaware!

On their calendar they have ZERO events on it, so we don’t even know when this organization and their various officers and legislative committees even meet.  This is like the evil twin of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  For all the bitching I do about them, at least DCSN files their IRS 990 501c3 tax returns.  Oh yeah, that’s because they didn’t get their status revoked for failing to file NINE YEARS.  28 school board members throughout the state.  Do they get paid for their service to DSBA?  We don’t know cause the non-profit doesn’t file a tax return!

My bad, the Delaware Online Checkbook changed over to the new Delaware Open Data Portal thing Governor Markell officially launched yesterday.  So I can see that Delaware School Boards Association received $210,177 in FY2016.  Here is the breakdown by district:

Brandywine: $13,907.50

Cape Henlopen: $32,600.00

Capital: $18,938.00

Colonial: $21,488.66

Delaware Department of Education: $13,930.50

Lake Forest: $10,300.00

Laurel: $6,244.00

New Castle Co. Vo-Tech: $8,784.50

Poly-Tech: $8.676.00

Red Clay: $26,322.00

Seaford: $16,021.50

Smyrna: $8,676.00

Sussex Tech: $4,862.00

Woodbridge: $15,275.50

And the following two school districts, who aren’t even members, didn’t seem to mind paying DSBA in FY2016:

Appoquinimink: $5,400 (cost per student: $1.92)

Indian River (dropped DSBA in fall of 2016): $3,000.00

But the fun doesn’t stop there.  Because not only does DSBA bill school boards for dues, but also food, instructional supplies, and computer supplies.  And it doesn’t matter if it is paid out of the Delaware Special Fund or the Delaware General Fund.  Keep in mind all the below amounts are out of the overall totals listed above, but some of these categories are outlandish given the scope of what DSBA does.  Ones I colored in red are potential audit red flags (I know, stop laughing)!

Appoquinimink: Computer Supplies– $2,700.00

Cape Henlopen: Computer Supplies– $9,100.00

Colonial: Instructional Supplies– $8,100.00

Colonial: Meals w/in State (Breakfast/Dinner)- $349.66

Lake Forest: Computer Supplies– $34.00

Lake Forest: Equipment Rental-$2,700.00

Lake Forest: Food- $173.00

Red Clay: Other Professional Service- $8,100.00

Seaford: Instructional Supplies– $8,100.00

Woodbridge: Other Professional Service- $421.50

Delaware Department of Education: Training- $208.50

I’m sorry, but in what kind of world does DSBA, which amounts to a lobbyist organization, provide computer and instructional supplies?  Did Lake Forest rent a crane or something from DSBA?  I didn’t see a school supply or rental tab on their website.  And why do districts code these expenses all over the map?  The food amounts would have been higher if other districts didn’t code it as association dues.  So we elect school board members who go to meetings at DSBA, which gets over $200,000 of taxpayer money with a staff of two, and those school board members charge their districts for food?  Are you frigging kidding me?  And why is Cape Henlopen, who has half the amount of students in their district as Appoquinimink or Cape Henlopen, paying DSBA the most out of all the districts?  And Woodbridge only has 2,466 students but DSBA gets over $18,000 from them?  There is something seriously funky going on with this.  Some of these districts are paying obscene amounts to this non-profit (who doesn’t file tax returns as a non-profit).

And don’t think for one minute it didn’t dawn on me that the Delaware Dept. of Education, who pretty much decides who sits on task forces and committees, and always seems to find room for someone from DSBA on them, pays a lobbyist organization who helps LOCAL SCHOOL BOARDS over $13,000.00.  I see Mr. Marinucci at most of the meetings I attend these days when the DOE is involved, especially ones around the Every Student Succeeds Act.  I know, that is what lobbyists do!  But when I see school boards wasting time with legislative priorities that don’t even concern their school district, an obscene amount of taxpayer money going to a non-profit that doesn’t bother to file tax returns, school districts coding expenses for this non-profit under whatever category they want (probably to get funds from the state and not out of their local funds), and the same organization not filing tax returns as a non-profit for almost a decade, I have some pretty major beefs with this organization.

The Cape Gazette did an article on DSBA on July 31st, 2015, a month after Indian River voted not to rejoin.  They spoke with the First Vice-President, Jennifer Burton:

Cape Henlopen school board member Jen Burton serves as first vice chairman for the DSBA. She said membership is worth the $9,000 a year Cape pays, even though the association is going through some changes.

But when that membership becomes 3 1/2 times more than that $9,000 a year, what is the worth then Ms. Burton?  Apparently Indian River didn’t feel the same way:

Indian River School District Board of Education withdrew July 13 from the Delaware School Board Association, saying $13,000 the district would have paid in dues could be better spent elsewhere.

“The Board came to the conclusion that its DSBA membership was no longer productive and that continuing to pay thousands of dollars in dues to the organization was not a responsible use of taxpayers’ money,” Hudson said.

But I guess it is okay for Indian River to use this organization for FREE at the expense of other district’s taxpayer money, right?  Which means part of my school taxes, along with every other Capital School District resident, are going to pay for Indian River to rejoin something they felt wasn’t a responsible use of money?  I guess when it is free, that’s okay.  I don’t think so!  I don’t pay local school taxes for Indian River.  I pay them for Capital.  And if I were citizens in the other DSBA districts, I would be upset too.  I don’t elect school board members so they can help bail out other districts who don’t know how to spend their own money.  If they want a bail-out on their DSBA dues, go to the state.  That’s why I pay state taxes, not local taxes.  DSBA has a lot of nerve asking other districts to do this.  And yes, if you are not an employee of DSBA but serve as an elected official for your school district but serve on one of their boards or committees, you are acting as DSBA.  Don’t believe me?  Listen to Colonial’s Board of Education discuss this during their October 11th board meeting.  Go towards the bottom of the page on this link to hear it.

In a presentation on DSBA, it was announced that the board of DSBA voted to allow Indian River to rejoin DSBA with full voting rights for free because of their “financial distress”.  Yeah, distress caused by themselves.  Just wait until that audit comes out!  But let’s give them DSBA services for free!  Colonial board member Melodie Spotts, upon hearing that DSBA hasn’t filed their tax return for nine years, put forth a motion to remove their membership in DSBA.  The motion was defeated 4-3.  Spotts was concerned how it would look after their board just voted to go out for a referendum.  There was a lot of talk about promoting transparency around their refernedum and the appearance of paying membership fees to an organization that doesn’t appear to have financial transparency.

So DSBA, care to cough up nine years worth of tax returns and show the citizens of the state who elect school board members if they truly are getting their money’s worth?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Is The State Of Delaware Not Posting FY2017 State Employee Credit Card Transactions?

So much for transparency in the First State.  Delaware Online Checkbook has been updated faithfully with July FY2017 transactions.  But for the State of Delaware Online Credit Card transactions, nothing.  It is now September 13th.  What is the holdup?  Are the citizens of Delaware not entitled, by law, to know what employees of the state are spending on procurement cards?  Is there something they don’t want us, the taxpaying citizens of Delaware, to know?  This should have been up on this website by August 15th.

When we have an Auditor of Accounts office not showing transparency behind an employee put on a very bogus leave of absence and certain inspections are either revised or canceled it makes me very concerned about how our state pretends to be transparent.  Actions speak louder than words, and this is just another countless example of Delaware being non-transparent to its citizens.  Once again I have to ask: Who watches the Watchmen?

decredcardtransactions

Reality Hits Delaware Teachers That SBAC Counts In Their Evaluations Now But Bigger Dangers Are On The Horizon…

Yesterday, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky sent a memo to all Delaware public school teachers.  This message reiterates existing Delaware law about Component V of the DPAS-II teacher evaluation system.  In other words, Smarter Balanced counts in teacher evaluations this year.

godowskymessage

It was supposed to “count” last year, but legislators from the 148th General Assembly persuaded the Delaware Department of Education to submit an ESEA flexibility waiver in 2015 to extend the exemption period another year.  The US Dept. of Education approved that request.  Beginning this year, for almost every single public school in the state, the highly controversial high-stakes test will be a major part of Component V.

House Bill 399 will start a pilot program in select Delaware schools where the teacher and the administrator can choose another type of assessment for Measure A of Component V, but the administrator has final say in the event of a deadlock.  Governor Markell is expected to sign the legislation in the coming weeks.

Back in the spring of 2015, at a Common Core for Common Ground event, Governor Markell unwisely told a room full of educators to be prepared because he was:

Giving you another year before consequences kick in.

That was before the US DOE approved the flex waiver.  In 2015, the Governor very condescendingly told WHYY/Newsworks:

We know that some people don’t agree with higher standards and accountability.

When those “higher standards” and “accountability” are rigged from the get-go, it is hard to take the Common Core loving Jack Markell seriously.  It is very convenient for Markell to be okay with Component V hitting teachers after he leaves office.  Just yet another example of our “education” Governor creating destruction and leaving it for others to clean up the mess.

In the meantime, the dynamic due of Senator Sokola and Atnre Alleyne all but assured House Bill 399 was morphed into something from the corporate education reform playbook when it passed the Delaware General Assembly on July 1st.  Sokola’s amendments added a student and parent survey to the pilot program which enraged teachers across the state.  Newark Charter School has these types of surveys and it is something the DOE has been planning for a lot longer than we think…

In June of 2014, Atnre Alleyne worked at the Delaware DOE in the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit under Chief Christopher Ruszkowski.  He contacted a company called Panorama Education Inc. since they administered surveys to schools in New Haven, Connecticut public schools.  They provided information to Alleyne showing what these parent and student surveys could look like in Delaware:

And here are examples of the surveys this company wrote:

Student Perception Surveys for 3rd-5th Grade Students:

Student Perception Surveys for 6th-12th Grade Students:

For those who may be wondering how I was able to uncover these documents, they came from a FOIA request a Delaware teacher received from the Delaware DOE over a year and a half ago.  While looking back at the emails in this FOIA a few weeks ago, I found this.  It didn’t mean a lot at the time I initially reviewed the FOIA material, but in context of the Sokola amendment added onto House Bill 399, it is huge.  As an exclusive bonus, here are the emails that allowed Ruszkowski, Alleyne, and Laura Schneider (still with the TLEU at the Delaware DOE) to begin looking at student surveys over two years ago:

panoramaemail1

panoramaemail2

panoramaemail3

panoramaemail4

panoramaemail5

The problem with any survey is how it is worded.  Surveys can very easily slant towards a very specific purpose.  There are a multitude of factors that can cause surveys to be tainted.  For students, there are many reasons why they could bash a teacher in a survey.  But Sokola and the DOE seem to want these surveys, along with parent surveys.  For what purpose?  I think we can all figure that one out: to label more teachers as ineffective in their path to destroy teacher unions.

For the Delaware DOE, they have already paid a very large chunk of money to Panorama this year.  What were the services Panorama provided for the DOE?  I can only imagine it was for the implementation of surveys into DPAS-II.  Note the date on the below picture.  This was before House Bill 399 had the Sokola amendment added to it.  Almost two months before…

panormadeonlinechkbook

I firmly believe the original intention of House Bill 399 was hijacked from the Delaware DOE and Senator Sokola even before it was introduced.  They knew exactly what the outcome of this bill would be.  I would almost prefer Governor Markell does not sign it because of the Sokola amendment and the potential damage this could do to the teaching profession in Delaware.

In terms of Atnre Alleye, he is a nice guy.  But I have serious “heartburn” as Senator Sokola frequently says, about his role as a founder of TeenSHARP and the work they do while he was an employee of the Delaware Department of Education.  I believe there was a clear conflict of interest.  While he did leave the DOE in February of this year, he was very involved with House Bill 399 and what became of it.

Going back as far as 2010, Alleyne’s motivations were very clear for what he wanted in education:

I don’t believe a company he co-founded should in any way benefit from policies he helped contribute to as an employee of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  There is a blurring of the lines so to speak.  In fact, when you look at Alleyne’s Twitter account, it is filled with love for corporate education reform companies.

For Delaware teachers, this year will be the true test for them on the absolute damage one high-stakes test will do to their careers.  But is this a smokescreen for something even worse coming to all of education in America?  I believe it is.  I think the very loud protest coming from teachers in this state will lead to an elimination of the Smarter Balanced Assessment as we know it.  The test will evolve into weekly or bi-weekly tests in a personalized learning/competency-based education environment where the role of the teacher will be reduced to that of a glorified moderator.  Now, more than ever, teachers in Delaware need to not only fight what is here but what is coming.  And prepare now!

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:

 

Family Foundation’s Board Pays An Invoice With A HUGE Conflict Of Interest

In the January minutes for the Family Foundations Academy Board of Directors, a notation was made about Chairman Charles McDowell having the board approve an invoice by for a report that was done.  The invoice was provided by the Executive Director for both Family Foundations Academy and EastSide Charter School.  The invoice, for $10,500.00, was for a report on an Early Learning Academy study.  The board approved the payment.  The minutes went on to talk about the feasibility of having an Early Learning Academy in New Castle, DE.  Continue reading “Family Foundation’s Board Pays An Invoice With A HUGE Conflict Of Interest”

Delaware Quarterly District, Charter & DOE Expense & P-Card Spending

We are already a quarter of the way into Fiscal Year 2016.  I went through Delaware Online Checkbook and the Delaware Online Credit Card Transactions and made lists of which districts and charters spend the most.  Since the procurement card (also known as P-Card) is also a part of the total spending, I made two different lists.  As well, I put in all the major education reform companies the DOE shells funds out to, along with our state universities and colleges.  One thing to keep in mind is that P-Card spending is not an admission of guilt to financial abuse.  Many districts and charters use them for easier use of spending.  While some charters have been under the gun in the past couple years over this kind of abuse, it is not a general practice.

Total 1st Quarter Spending for FY2016
School Districts:
Christina $65,949,468
Red Clay $64,359,994
Brandywine $38,941,201
Indian River $34,451,340
Colonial $33,581,753
Appoquinimink $27,235,242
Capital $26,920,056
Caesar Rodney $25,365,753
Cape Henlopen $24,462,771
New Castle Co. Vo-Tech $20,459,061
Smyrna $18,781,120
Lake Forest $13,360,017
Seaford $12,380,371
Milford $11,056,539
Woodbridge $7,931,473
Laurel $7,513,240
Sussex Technical $7,401,832
Poly-tech $6,775,292
Delmar $3,303,696
Charters:
Newark Charter $7,513,240
Odyssey $3,820,528
MOT $2,714,233
Charter School of Wilmington $2,157,353
Thomas Edison $1,987,107
Providence Creek $1,890,432
Kuumba $1,769,796
Del. Military Academy $1,641,501
East Side $1,619,359
Family Foundations $1,615,134
Las Americas Aspiras $1,611,533
Sussex Academy $1,566,229
Del. Acad. Public Safety $1,065,013
Gateway Lab School $991,959
Campus Community $966,644
Prestige Academy $938,260
Academy of Dover $937,442
Positive Outcomes $741,137
First State Montessori $718,311
Early College High School $651,222
Academia Antonio Alonso $645,448
Delaware Met $518,340
Freire $492,507
Delaware College Prep $478,976
Great Oaks $430,763
First State Military $293,564
Delaware Design Lab $236,174
Delaware STEM Academy $829.15
Department of Education and sub-groups within DOE:
Department of Education $28,311,420
Special Needs Programs $7,414,664
Driver Training $303,940
Education Block Grants $239,953
Transportation $970,166
Advisory Council $70,974
DOE Education Expenses unless noted:
Achievement Network $69,000
Advanced Educaction Products $13,181
American Institutes For Research $2,048,269
Applied Technologies $107,480
Bloomboard $48,000
Delaware Community Foundation $93,381
Delaware Technical College (entire state spending) $11,363
Delaware State Educators Association $937,417
Delaware State University (entire state spending) $795,514
Derek J. Nino (Relay) $13,240
Double Line $95,515
Education Analytics $125,700
Education First Consulting $21,868
Education Pioneers $40,000
Empower Education Consulting $10,900
ESP Solutions Group $20,560
Essential Teaching & Learning $18,722
Evergreen Evaluation $11,700
Federal Education Group $87,725
Greatschools $15,000
Harris Mackessy Brennan $165,000
Hendy Avenue Consulting $43,900
iAssessment $49,999
Innovative Schools $618,441
Insight Public Sector $620,566
Jobs For Delaware Graduates $921,255
KSA Plus Communications $39,105
Marshall Consulting $15,500
Mass Insight $360,000
MH Miles Company CPA $66,800
Middlebury Interactive Language $26,146
Myriam Met $14,000
National Louis University $23,313
NCS Pearson $83,600
NCS Pearson (Districts and Charters) $465,428
New Teacher Center $29,962
Partnership to Advance Learning $26,000
Rand Corporation $156,136
Research For Action $100,000
Richard Colvin $18,200
Rodel Foundation $175,000
Ronald Berry $14,000
Schoology $264,588
Sungard Public Sector $948,245
Teach For America $35,143
Teaching Strategies $114,228
Tembo Inc. $85,000
The Center For Better Schools $28,000
The Hanover Research Council $33,000
The New Teacher Project $20,000
Transact Communications $14,750
University of Delaware (entire state spending) $41,111,614
University of Wisconsin-Madison $110,492
US Education Delivery Institute $20,793
Wesley College (entire state spending) $242,452

Total Procurement Card Spending 1st Quarter FY2016

School Districts:
Cape Henlopen $219,585
Appoquinimink $180,107
Red Clay $147,338
Sussex Technical $140,334
Poly-tech $81,610
Seaford $71,230
Colonial $63,021
Lake Forest $62,102
Delmar $58,599
Capital $45,762
Milford $28,486
Brandywine $25,431
Caesar Rodney $22,563
Smyrna $22,487
Woodbridge $20,612
Indian River $17,890
New Castle Co. Vo-Tech $17,427
Christina $16,715
Laurel $0.00
Charters:
MOT $88,221
Kuumba $48,971
East Side $48,349
Thomas Edison $37,808
Sussex Academy $30,137
Positive Outcomes $24,653
Odyssey $24,632
Las Americas Aspiras $20,924
Charter School of Wilmington $19,077
Delaware College Prep $12,972
Family Foundations $12,597
Del. Military Academy $12,428
Campus Community $9,942
*Academia Antonio Alonso $0.00
*Academy of Dover $0.00
*Del. Acad. Public Safety $0.00
Delaware Design Lab $0.00
*Delaware Met $0.00
*Delaware STEM Academy $0.00
*Early College High School $0.00
*First State Military $0.00
*First State Montessori $0.00
Freire $0.00
Gateway Lab School $0.00
*Great Oaks $0.00
Newark Charter $0.00
Prestige Academy $0.00
*Providence Creek $0.00
*indicates Innovative Schools handles bookkeeping for those schools
Department of Education and related organizations:
Department of Education $113,915
Education Block Grants $28,504
Special Needs Programs $24,449
Gov. Adv. Council $1,078
Advisory Council $879
Transportation $434

Delaware MET Needs To Return Their $175,000 Charter School Performance Fund

First off, I don’t think any charter school that has not even opened should be getting a “performance award”.  They haven’t done anything yet.  Second of all, it is obvious their “long-term” strategy for this school didn’t work as they are closing a little over a month after they opened.  Third, if they don’t, I know at least two legislators who will be screaming foul on this.  And rightly so.  Finally, they should openly, honestly, and with great transparency return ALL unused funds immediately.

The Delaware
Met
$250,000 $175,000 High-quality plans for start-up or expansion; AND Serve high-need students Start-Up Costs Funds may not be used for marketing materials or mentor appreciation/exhibition events No

In the above chart, it was taken straight from the 2015-2016 list of Charter School Performance Award winners.  They requested $250,000 for “start-up” costs, even though they already received $250,000 from the Longwood Foundation in 2014.  They won the $175,000 out of the $250k requested.  In their application for the performance fund the school stated they needed a special education coordinator in the amount of $46,000.00 to “ensure we can meet the needs of our high IEP student population“.  Don’t federal funds coming under the IDEA-B allocation already cover that need based on how many special education students they already have?  This means the school already knew they would be having a lot of students with disabilities and they had not even hired a coordinator as of July 7th of this year, a month and a half before they opened.

The big question is where these funds even come from.  Do they come from the DOE, or somewhere else in the Delaware Government?  If you look at Delaware Online Checkbook, it shows them receiving $39.83 in revenue this year. These are funds that have already been sent to these schools. So where is the money and where did it go to? Why isn’t it being reported by the state?

To be on the safe side, I checked Kuumba Academy who received $425,000 last year as their charter school performance fund. This was announced after Fiscal Year 2015 started.  Even though the budget states the charter school performance fund comes from the General Fund, since the funds are allocated to a specific purpose (i.e. a special education coordinator), it would then go the Special Fund once the General Fund sends funds to that allocation. In the bill for Fiscal Year 2015, on page 59 of this pdf: Senate Bill 225 Final FY2015 Budget it shows $1.5 million allocated to the charter school performance fund, coming out of the General Fund.  But Kuumba shows no revenue in their General Fund for FY2015 on Delaware Online Checkbook.  So it had to come out of what is called the special fund. But the only special fund items listed with an amount higher than $425,000 are “Donation Contributions” of which Kuumba received $1,671,735.39. $500,000 of that was a donation from the Longwood Foundation at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2015. And in their May 2015 board meeting minutes, Kuumba’s board announced they were getting another $1 Million from them as well. So that is $1.5 million alone in their “Donation Contributions” section which is the only place $425,000 could have possibly gone. But it doesn’t fit with $1.5 million being donated by Longwood, so where is it?

Even though the Delaware MET is showing less than $40.00 in revenue, that doesn’t mean the $175,000 wasn’t sent to them. It’s just a question of where, in the maze that is Delaware funding, the hell it is.  This charter school performance fund is one of the abominations that sprang out of House Bill 165 during the first half of the 147th General Assembly back in 2013.  Maybe the 2nd half of the 148th General Assembly can get rid of this monstrous waste in taxpayer funds by next June, and save the state some semblance of money.

Great Oaks Charter Charging $100 A Seat To Hear Joel Klein Talk About Education

I really had to crack up when I saw this.  For those of you who have never heard of Joel Klein, he is the former New York City Chancellor of Schools and currently sits as the Chief Executive Officer for Amplify.  Amplify has been in the news quite a bit lately as the company tanked in spectacular fashion and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch dropped Amplify like a bad habit.  Klein likes to claim credit for reforming NYC schools, but he was appointed as Chancellor without the credentials necessary for that role and no classroom experience.  His huge offering from Amplify?  A tablet that caught fire and only one state bought it in mass quantities.

This isn’t his first rodeo in Delaware.  He spoke at a Vision 2015 gig back in 2010, also a gotta pay to get in event.  Weeks prior to that, the New York Times reported Klein chickened out from speaking during a protest by parents.  Why were the parents upset?  New York Times wrote:

The upheaval began after Mr. Klein, among others on the stage, said that despite the drop in this year’s scores after the state recalibrated its standardized exams, students citywide were still making substantial progress, based on graduation rates and other data.

Say, didn’t we hear something very similar this month in Delaware when the Smarter Balanced Assessment results were released?  But I digress…

What is Klein’s connections with Greak Oaks?  Because we know there is always a connection in the corporate education reform game.  He knows the Great Oaks founder, Michael Duffy, very well.  Duffy ran the NYC Charter School Office from 2007-2010 when Klein was Chancellor.  And Duffy probably knows Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman pretty well, because they both worked under former Massachusetts Governor William Weld back in the 1990s.  I bring up Herdman because Rodel is really promoting this gig.

Great Oaks is a charter chain with schools in NYC and Newark, NJ.  They opened a charter in Wilmington last month.  What is Great Oaks all about?  Technology in the classroom, personalized learning, and modeling themselves after a failed chain of schools from Sweden.  In an article for The Spectator, Duffy wrote:

On my most recent visit to the UK, I visited a school in Twickenham run by the innovative Swedish network of schools known as Kunskapsskolan (‘knowledge school’). Their approach is to tailor education to each child, with goals set between the student, a tutor and the child’s parents.

I wrote about this huge school voucher privatization failure in Sweden last year.  And take a wild guess which school chain was at the top of the list of these failed schools?  Kunskapsskolan!

Klein is coming to town to promote his book, Lessons of Hope.  It is all about his time as NYC Chancellor.  I wonder who wrote this description of the book on Amazon?

Lessons of Hope is Klein’s inside account of his eight-year mission of improvement: demanding accountability, eliminating political favoritism, and battling a powerful teachers union that seemed determined to protect a status quo that didn’t work for kids. Klein’s initiatives resulted in more school choice, higher graduation rates, and improved test scores. The New York City model is now seen as a national standard for meaningful school reform. But the journey was not easy. Klein faced resistance and conflict at every turn.

And what of Klein’s connections with our very own Delaware Governor Jack Markell?  We know they have met before and even though Klein and Markell never email each other, at least through official state channels, it’s obvious they have the same ideals.  As Markell publicly stated during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, “I have no problem with business executives running for office, after all, I am one.”  And apparently running the schools for one of the largest cities in the country thrives on that same business executive mentality.  But Klein left his role (it was rumored then Mayor Bloomberg was about to boot him out), and went to start up Amplify.  And even though Amplify is in the midst of financial controversy, the Delaware Department of Education seems to have no problem handing them money.  Between Amplify and their former name of Wireless Generation, Delaware taxpayers through the DOE have given this company $11,530,850.00 since Fiscal Year 2011 and it doesn’t look like that is going to stop anytime soon since many schools are currently using Amplify’s latest testing products.

Back to Great Oaks, this new charter school in the Community Education Building in Wilmington, is run by Kia Childs who was a leader at Mastery Charter Schools and Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School.  Touting the school as bringing kids to success by using tutors, Duffy talks about the school here:

In a very odd coincidence, both Great Oaks and Freire opened up shop in Wilmington this year.  They are both charter chains.  They are both backed by some serious cash.  And neither of them show up as schools on Delaware Online Checkbook.  Is it because they are new schools?  Nope.  Delaware Design Lab High School is listed.  So how can you find out how much money these schools are paying out?  To do that, you have to actually go to “Dept of Education continued” to find Great Oaks Charter School and Freire.  I guess that answer’s this question concerning Delaware Online Checkbook, DOE, and Great Oaks.  How convenient…

But in the case of Klein’s not-so-cheap visit to Great Oaks, interested attendees have to pay the piper to hear him talk about a book about himself.  But don’t worry educators, it’s only $25 for you!  Should a public school be able to charge outrageous prices to hear a guy stroke his ego?  And where are the proceeds going? In Klein’s pocket or into the classroom to help the children of the school?  This event is to “celebrate the launch of our school”, but it sounds like what should be a free and public event is for the Richy Rich crowd.

Fellow blogger Kilroy was not happy about Klein’s first visit to Delaware back in 2010 during another Rodel sponsored event when the tickets were only $50.00.  How will he react now that the price has doubled in five years?  You don’t have to pay $100 to hear Klein pimp his book though.  You can watch it here, if you have the stomach for it:

Hey, did you see that sign behind him?  Is that the Aspen Institute?  The same corporate education reform “fellowship” “think-tank” Markell, Herdman and soon to be former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy all belong to?  Yes, they all pal around together, our little destroyers of public education!

Delaware DOE’s Out Of Control Spending Spree In July

The Delaware Department of Education is a cash-cow bonanza for education reform companies! Delaware Online Checkbook came out with the July 2015 numbers on the 15th, and the Delaware Department of Education looks like they don’t have any controls on their spending.  All told, they spent $13,103,296.36 for the month of July.  This is not unusual, but it’s WHAT they are spending the money on.  A lot of these are standard services, food for schools, salaries, operational costs and so on.  But the amounts they are spending on outside consultants and vendors is very high.  I went through, one by one, and looked into each company.  Some of them I was unable to figure out what kind of service they could be providing for the DOE.  The first figure is the amount DOE sent payment to in July 2015.  Then I went through and figured out how much the DOE spent with these companies and consultants over the past five fiscal years, from 2011-2015.  Delaware Online Checkbook only goes back to 2011, so the amounts could be higher in some cases…

Achievement Network Ltd. (helps schools “boost” student learning): $17,500, previous five fiscal years (hard to tell, many companies with words “achieve” in them, mostly providing “material” to school districts): $0.00

American Institutes for Research  (assessment vendor for Smarter Balanced Assessment, was also vendor for DCAS):  $1,933,989, previous five years: $36,652,681.87, it is hard to say what the budgeted amount is for the contracts with this “non-profit” because the DOE doesn’t list the awarded contracts anywhere!

Amplify Education Inc.  (previously Wireless Generation Inc., built data longitudinal system for DOE, provides “education material” aka Common Core for DE schools): $60,115.00, previous five fiscal years (including Wireless Generation): $10,461,101.00, as contracted vendor w/DOE under Amplify from 9/25/14-6/30/15: $725,980.00, actual money spent: $1,947,733.00, money spent over agreed-upon contract amount: $1,221,753.00

Department of Education (Indirect Cost, DOE claimed to the Joint Finance Committee and the General Assembly these are salary costs stemming from Race To The Top): $55,322.41, previous five fiscal years: $1,069,287.66

Derek J. Nino (Consultant w/Relay Graduate School): $9,940.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

Double Line Inc. (education data management): $30,126.75, previous five fiscal years: $88.042.25

Education First Consulting (just another corporate education reform company to help “fix” education): $12,000, previous five fiscal years: $349,423.45

ESP Solutions Group (another education data company): $15,830, previous five fiscal years: $2,395,932.50

Evergreen Evaluation & Consulting (evaluation education data): $3,900.00, previous five fiscal years: $192,200.00

Federal Education Group PLLC (help clients understand Federal education rules) $14,975.00, previous five fiscal years: $136,775.00

Greatschools (online school search website): $15,000, previous five fiscal years: $1,090,749.50

Hendy Avenue Consulting LLC (teacher evaluation company): $21,950.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

iAssessment (help clients develop iPad programs for students): $49,999.00, previous five fiscal years: $229,771.30

KSA Plus Communications Inc. (an “improving schools” communication company): $16,105.00, previous five fiscal years: $52,261.00

Marshall Consulting Company (not sure, many companies w/same name): $8,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

MBO Partners (a consultant “head-hunter” company):  $7,500.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

MH Miles Company CPA PC (do accounting and consulting services): $16,700.00, previous five fiscal years: $229,150.00

Middlebury Interactive Languages (digital language learning company): $26,146.00, previous five fiscal years: $646,406.50

Myriam Met (consultant for foreign languages): $14,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $51,900.00

National Louis University (offers services for “reaching students” and “strengthening teachers”, contract w/DOE for “early learning” online professional development for educators): $7,700.08, previous five fiscal years: $656,630.59, contracted amount through 12/15: $714,978.10

NCS Pearson Inc. (yes, it is THAT Pearson): $19,000.00, previous five fiscal years for DOE: $3,648,335.65, for all of Delaware: $8,057,105.63

New Teacher Center (another making great students by “accelerating the effectiveness of new teachers and leaders” company): $29,962.00, previous five fiscal years: $158,425.00

Nicole Klues (a “blended learning” or “personalized learning” consultant): $9,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $34,500.00

Partnership To Advance Learning (a Microsoft “partnership” w/Lamar University, more digital language stuff): $26,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $48,000.00

Piper Riddle (independent consultant to help teachers with Common Core):  $4,080.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

Rand Corporation (contractor for Delaware STARS program): $52,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $1,535,681.58, contracted amount until 12/15: $1,900,000.00

Research In Action Inc. (contractor for DPAS-II evaluation): $6,402.45, previous five fiscal years: $1,712,902.44

Richard Colvin (contractor for Delaware DOE communications strategies): $18,240.00, previous five fiscal years (2015 only): $136,880.00

Rodel Charitable Foundation-DE (no contract w/them right now):  $133,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $387,454.60

Ronald Berry (recruitment manager for DE Talent Cooperative): $14,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $57,540.00

Schoology Inc. (“learning management” system, currently in many DE schools): $264,588.48, previous five fiscal years: $0.00 (many school districts use them)

Teach For America (fast-track teacher prep program): $3,634.92, previous five fiscal years: $799,389.85

Teaching Strategies LLC (early childhood “support for active learning”): $112,508.00, previous five fiscal years: $677,662.29

The Hanover Research Council LLC (does consultancy work regarding grants): $33,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $30,000.00

The New Teacher Project Inc. (another “great” teacher training company):  $20,000.00, past five fiscal years: $465,646.65

Thomas Sauer (consultant on World Language Immersion for DOE):  $6,000.00, past five fiscal years: $16,000.00

U.S. Education Delivery Institute (Dr. Gray on DE State Board of Education sits on the board of this company that helps education leaders work “smarter”): $30,293.25, past five fiscal years: $290,342.00

University of Delaware (not sure what the exact nature of work is, DOE has numerous projects going on with them): $545,081.01, not doing previous years because it is next to impossible to get this one right.

University of Wisconsin-Madison (this one was a bit tricky, but the consultant is actually a company called Education Analytics, usual education reform company who will “help”): $110,492.00, past five fiscal years including Education Analytics: $1,004,462.00

If you add up all the funds spent for these companies, consultants, and “non-profits”, the grand total just for July 2015 is $3,195,999.34.  What I find very interesting is the amounts going to iAssessment.  The DOE has no contract with this company, but the threshold for contract requirements is $50,000 in a fiscal year.  For the past two years, the DOE has spent exactly $49,999.00 in each year to avoid having to sign a contract.  And what has Rodel been doing for the DOE that would warrant a $133,000.00 check going out to them?  I haven’t seen ANY contract with them.  As money pours out of the DOE like a leaking pipe, with NO accountability or controls in place, how can the DOE judge school districts and charters on their own spending when they can’t even control themselves?

One thing is for sure, the DOE will certainly be focusing on the “World Immersion” program and personalized learning in the future.  They are spending a large portion of funds on consultants to get more information on this.  Why don’t they just use Google like I do to get information?  It’s free and it’s probably more reliable!

Even more curious is the fact that NO funds have gone out to Data Recognition Corporation, ever!  This is the scoring vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  At the Delaware PTA Kent County Parent Town Hall on opt-out, a representative from the Delaware State Board of Education specifically said this was the vendor for scoring the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  We know the DOE has the results, and testing ended for some schools in March/early April, so why aren’t we paying this company?  Or is it rolled into the contract with American Institutes for Research? The DOE actually confirmed this company is the hand scorer in this link: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/domain/111/assessment/Mar%202015%20Newsletter.pdf

There are many other companies and consultants the DOE works with.  This is just a snapshot of one month’s spending by the runaway train called DOE money.  Will the legislators start to reign them in?  They need to because when school districts such as Christina are literally starving for funds and the DOE drops $3 million in one month for a lot of unnecessary spending, we have to wonder what this is all for.

Family Foundations Academy Still Has Some Big Unanswered Questions

Yay! The school has been saved by the graciousness of the Delaware Charter Schools Network!  We can all go back to our regular business.  Except for this one little item:

ONLINE CHECKBOOK DETAIL TRANSACTIONS

Department: FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY – Vendor: FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP
for
Period: FY 2015 Period 1 thru 6

No. of Payments: Amount:
5 $214,730.93
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 11/5/2014 $8,367.50 374930
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 9/24/2014 $155,000.00 362670
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 12/8/2014 $18,107.93 385007
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 11/5/2014 $13,255.50 374930
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 8/28/2014 $20,000.00 354800

Department: FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY – Vendor: FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP
for
Period: FY 2014

No. of Payments: Amount:
12 $140,000.00
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 5/2/2014 $10,000.00 321286
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 9/9/2013 $10,000.00 255886
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 4/8/2014 $20,000.00 313887
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 2/11/2014 $20,000.00 297503
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 1/9/2014 $10,000.00 288236
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 8/8/2013 $10,000.00 248818
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 6/19/2014 $10,000.00 337991
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 12/5/2013 $10,000.00 280331
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 10/15/2013 $10,000.00 265941
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 4/11/2014 $10,000.00 315273
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 11/14/2013 $10,000.00 274705
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 6/13/2014 $10,000.00 335458

We know this isn’t for Auphsite.  They already got paid:

Department: FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY – Vendor: AUPHSITE HOLDING COMPANY
for
Period: FY 2015 Period 1 thru 6

No. of Payments: Amount:
22 $85,081.96

So how does a charter school of 800 students manage to accumulate $354,000 in attorney fees?  With one check alone being $155,000, this had to be something big.  Does this have anything to do with it?  From Avi Wolfman Arant’s Newsworks article last week:

The school’s lawyers recommended Family Foundations conceal that audit from the state, which did not become aware of the document until December.

Sorry, this school can pin everything on Moore and Brewington all they want, but there is something deeper at play here….

 

 

Exceptional Children Group at Delaware DOE: What Do They Spend Money On? And What Company May Be Using Special Education Data?

Important disclaimer to this artice, I changed the title for it on August 21st, 2014. CPG is not buying special education data, so I changed that aspect of the title. The rest of the article is speculative, but led me to the even more atrocious findings I had in my article from today, August 21st.

Being a blogger geek that checks finances for everything, I always get excited when Delaware Online Checkbook updates their website.  It used to be quarterly, but now they do it monthly.  Around the 15th of the month, I get to see where the money is going at the DOE and what the schools are spending money on.  I can usually find some interesting items, as well as some ones that raise my eyebrows.  The amounts below are just for the month of July, the first of the new fiscal year.

The first thing I look for is the residential treatment centers.  Especially the out of state ones the ICT group sends severely complex special needs kids to, because our state doesn’t have the resources (see Delaware DOE: Eye of the Hurricane Part 2).

Advoserv (in Delaware): $407,198.34

Benedictine (in Maryland): $79,200.56

Devereux (in Pennsylvania): $463,743.12

High Road School: $329,669.00

Woods Services (Pennsylvania): $116,938.00

Grand Total for July 2014: $1,396,749.02

Now keep in mind, the Delaware DOE pays only 70% of these costs, while the public school districts pay 30%, so it is actually a much higher amount that taxpayers doll out for these out of state services for Delaware’s youth.

The rest of the Exceptional Children Group payments were typical.  Except for this one: Public Consulting Group Inc.  Who are they?  As per their website:

“PCG Education consulting solutions help schools, school districts, and state departments of education to promote student success, improve programs and processes, and optimize financial resources. Our technology solutions are used by educators to analyze and manage state and district data and student performance information. PCG Education solutions are supported by 25 years of management consulting experience and significant K-12 educational domain expertise. We provide educators with the tools and skills to use data to make effective instructional decisions.”

So what in the world does that have to do with the Exceptional Children Group?  They deal with special education.  But wait, PCG does have an area that deals with special education!  More information from their website:

“PCG Education is a leading provider of comprehensive, Web-based student case management solutions for special education. When combined with the expertise of PCG Education professionals who understand education, educational organizations, and how to effectively guide a school district through a comprehensive implementation process, our systems can help districts successfully plan, implement, and manage students’ individualized education plans (IEPs) in a manner that increases teachers’ time with students and helps districts to achieve federal and state compliance.

 PCG Education is a leading national provider of data solutions that promote student success. We combine 25 years of K – 12 consulting expertise with innovative technology and research-based methodology to help educators
make informed decisions that lead to improved student outcomes. Our innovative special education management tools and services help districts plan, implement, and manage students’ individualized education plans (IEP) and meet state/federal reporting requirements. PCG Education applications are used in more U.S. schools than any other online special education case management tools.”

It gets more interesting under system features:

System Features

  • Compliance and event alerts with flexible parameters.
  • ‘Virtual’ file cabinet to store each student’s special education-related documents.
  • Teacher credential tracking.
  • Intuitive, built-in compliance measures.
  • EasyFax™, an option that gives districts the ability to easily capture and convert paper documents to paperless format.
  • PCG Notifier, a Web-based communication tool that schedules automated or text or voicemail alerts through EasyIEP™ and other EdPlan™ modules.
  • State-of-the-art advanced reporting and data analysis capabilities.
  • Recording, tracking, and management tools to readily produce IEP Summary of Performance documents.
  • Workflow support and centralized documentation for Child Find activities.
  • Transfer of records between districts
  • Integration of student data with district and state SIS.
  • Comprehensive training and support services.

I have taken the liberty of putting the parts I find unbelievable in bold.

A “virtual” file cabinet:  That means special education files are being put in another company’s files.  I don’t recall ever signing off on my son’s special education records being put in a company setting.  I don’t recall ever being notified on that.

“Teacher Credential Tracking”: Don’t we already have that with DEEDs on the Delaware DOE website?

“Intuitive, built-in compliance measures”: Compliance for what?  An intuitive computer system based on an Individualized Education Plan?  Does that computer system know my son?  I don’t recall him ever mentioning his intuitive friend.

“State-of-the-art advanced reporting and data analysis capabilities”: We know the Delaware DOE loves doing their “data dives”.  Is this how they do it?  I love that my son is being data analyzed!  Makes me so happy….not!

“Recording, tracking and management tools to readily produce IEP Summary of Performance documents”: Is this the new system they were talking about at my son’s IEP meetings last Spring?

“Transfer of records between districts”: So not only can they see my son’s records currently, they can see ALL his records!

“Integration of student data with district and state SIS”: SIS stands for School Information System.  I guess someone has to coordinate all that data between the districts and the state!

“Comprehensive training and support services”: Training for who?  The DOE Exceptional Children Group?  I hope it’s just on computer systems.  I would hate to think a company is training our state specialists on special education.

Special needs parents: Were you aware your special needs children’s information has been sold to an outside company?  I didn’t, until now.  I think Mary Ann Mieczkowski and the Delaware DOE have some explaining to do….

If you can’t wait for Mary Ann (she is really nice by the way), you can read all about PCG here: http://www.publicconsultinggroup.com/index.html

In the meantime, since Mary Ann told me she doesn’t read blogs (you really should, you get much more information here than in other state media), I’m going to email her this and ask what services PCG provides for the Exceptional Children Group and why I wasn’t notified my son’s personal information is being stored with another company!

To be continued I’m sure!

Quick Update: I just checked PCG as a vendor for the whole state, and guess who else uses them: Department of Health And Social Services!  And the areas of that department that utilize PCG are Visually Impaired Services, State Service Centers, Long-Term Care Residents Protection, Management Services, Services of Aging and Adult Physical Disabilities, Social Services, Medicaid and Medical Assistance, and Community Health.  Update on the update: Also Services for Children, Youth & Families: Fiscal Services division. They must have a lot of medical and educational data on a lot of Delaware citizens!

Delaware DOE: The Eye of the Hurricane in Special Education Part 2 #netde #eduDE @usedgov @delaware_gov

I’ve done some more research on the treatment centers lately, but it’s hard to find concrete information on them. By all appearances, it looks like they are there to help these children. The key word there is appearance. More to come on this…

Exceptional Delaware 2017

In any hurricane, the outer bands which are furthest from the eye, can cause the most damage. If the DOE is the eye, resting comfortably in Dover, then what lies to the west and north, causing irreversible damage? That would be the children placed in out-of-state private placements because Delaware does not have the capacity.

The Interagency Collaboration Team. What is it, and what do they do? It is a group of nine individuals, from various child services in Delaware. The members are a representative from the following groups: Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services, Division of Family Services, Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Office of Management and Budget, Controller General, Exceptional Children Resources Group (DOE), and the Teaching and Learning Branch (DOE). The coordinator is Linda Smith. Care to hazard a guess which of the above…

View original post 2,298 more words

Delaware DOE: The Eye of the Hurricane in Special Education Part 2 #netde #eduDE @usedgov @delaware_gov

In any hurricane, the outer bands which are furthest from the eye, can cause the most damage. If the DOE is the eye, resting comfortably in Dover, then what lies to the west and north, causing irreversible damage? That would be the children placed in out-of-state private placements because Delaware does not have the capacity.

The Interagency Collaboration Team. What is it, and what do they do? It is a group of nine individuals, from various child services in Delaware. The members are a representative from the following groups: Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services, Division of Family Services, Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Office of Management and Budget, Controller General, Exceptional Children Resources Group (DOE), and the Teaching and Learning Branch (DOE). The coordinator is Linda Smith. Care to hazard a guess which of the above groups she belongs to? The DOE of course.

The ICT’s main purpose is to hear cases about a very unique, rare group of students where all resources of the schools and the state can no longer help a student with special needs.  Typically, it is due to behavior issues.  On Children & Educators First, Elizabeth Scheinberg wrote about the DOE’s response, how the student could be educated at school but problems in the home prevent that from happening.  My contention is most of these students were not accommodated extensively the way they should have been.  Most of these students are in their teenage years, but the special education process has to begin earlier for it to have the desired effect.  You can give a 13 year old an IEP, but if he should have had one for the past 4-5 years, it will be much harder for the student to adapt.  This is the world we live in.

Why is the ICT so damaging to families?  When a child is put into a placement at a residential facility out of state, the funding for it is paid by Delaware.  The parents are allowed to visit the child, but they cannot move to the state.  If they do, the funding would no longer be covered by Delaware since the parents are not citizens of Delaware any longer.  The assumption is a student would not be out of state permanently, but sadly, this has not always been the case.  This can results in a  student going years without being an active member of a family unit.  They say the hardest thing a parent will ever go through is the death of a child.  This would have to be the second hardest thing.  For a parent to even be put into a position of making a choice like this would have to be something agonizing.  If there are siblings, it would have to be what is best for the majority.  I have such compassion and respect for any parent having to make these hard choices, and my heart cries out to them.

So who writes the annual reports for ICT? That would be the director of the Exceptional Children Group, Mary Ann Mieczowski. It seems like she is a part of every single major decision that happens with special education in our state. I see her name on everything. Should one person have that much power? And where is Secretary of Education Mark Murphy during all these decisions ICT are making?  He does read the report when it is released in February the next year.  At least his name is on the distribution list.

Between 2012 and 2013, the number of cases reviewed went from 105 to 120. Out of those 120, 104 were male, and 16 were female. Out of the 120 total, 18 were between the ages of 5-12, 64 were between 13-17, and 38 were 18-21. Of the cases heard, 97.5% were placed in private placements, be it day services or residential services. The other 2.5% (3 cases), received 1:1 care from a paraprofessional in a public school setting.

What is startling about this is the 2004 numbers, where 101 out of the 217 received 1:1 instruction. That reached a high of 137 in 2006, and went up and down the next few years. And then the numbers plunged down to 22 in 2010, 6 in 2011 and 2012 each, and then 3 in 2013. What changed? Needs based funding. Before needs-based funding was signed off by Governor Markell in February 2011, the ICT team determined 1:1 instruction. Needs-based funding eliminated those seven other voices to determine those types of services. To get those types of services, the IEP team has to agree. What this means, is a child has to pass a checklist to qualify, the district would then have to approve it, and then the DOE. The ICT would only see it if no other available resources were left. So what happened between 2009 and 2010, when the 1:1 instruction dropped from 86 to 22? Needs based funding wasn’t around then. At least it wasn’t the law. Governor Markell didn’t sign it until a year and a half later. It appears the DOE started needs based funding before the bill was even signed by the Governor.

In the 2013-2014 school year, the number of Complex Special Education needs based funding was a total of exactly 2400 students. 59 of those went to charter schools. Out of those 59, 22 went to the two charter schools that deal with IEPs for a huge percentage of their student population. The rest of the highly esteemed charters, that use school enrollment preference as on ongoing process, well they served a whopping 1.5% of the complex special education students. And out of those 19 remaining charter schools, 9 of them had NO complex special education students. The charter schools with no complex special education students are the following: Campus Community School, Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware College Prep, Delaware Military Academy, Kuumba Academy, Providence Creek Academy, Reach Academy, and Thomas Edison. I know there are other schools in their areas that provide services for students meeting some of those complex needs, but really? Not one student?

What the ICT report does not have demographics for speaks more than for what it does. No race is selected for any of these children. There is no county, school district or type of school listed. We don’t know if they are coming from public schools, charter schools, or vocational schools. We don’t know what type of incidents lead to a student coming to this ICT group. The report has more holes in it than a box of cheerios. It gives the most basic and superficial information it can. It doesn’t give a list of the different placement centers for these children, just some vague information about averages. But thank the Lord for Delaware Online Checkbook, cause we can figure this out real fast.  At least where the money is going.

The below information has been taken out of the Delaware Online Checkbook, for the four main residential placements these students have been taken to as a result of ICT placements. Also included is High Road, owned by a company called Specialized Education Inc., which is a day school. All of the numbers were found under the Department of Education, Special Needs category:

Advoserv (in Delaware):
2014: $4,622,298.43
2013: $4,238,629.34
2012: $4,140,372.66
2011: $2,937,639.80
Total: $15,938,940.23

Benedictine School For Exceptional Children (Maryland):
2014: $1,451,168.29
2013: $1,131,947.86
2012: $1,007,155.31
2011: $461,846.27
Total: $4,052,117.73

Devereux Foundation (Pennsylvania):
2014: $1,731,214.40
2013: $644,637.00
2012: $381,239.00
2011: $221,556.00
Total: $2,978,646.40

Specialized Education of Delaware (High Road) (Wilmington):
2014: $2,063,768.00
2013: $1,458,419.00
2012: $1,468,338.00
2011: $1,387,107.00
Total: $6,377,632.00

Woods (Pennsylvania):
2014: $878,796.00
2013: $417,320.00
2012: $489,725.00
2011: $761,412.00
Total 4 years: $2,547,253.00

Yearly Totals of all the above schools:

2014 Total: $10,747,245.12
2013 Total: $7,890,953.20
2012 Total: $7,486,829.97
2011 Total: $5,769,561.07

In a three year period, the costs for these facilities nearly doubled.  Is Delaware being swindled?  The report for the 2014 fiscal year hasn’t even come out yet, and won’t be seen by the governor until February 2015, and the price tag for just these facilities went up nearly $2.85 million dollars.  In one year.  There were 9 more students being sent out of state this year.  What is even more interesting is the costs of some of the out-of-state placements. The Benedictine School went from $51,952 in 2010 for an average year’s tuition, to $99,697 in 2013. That is a huge increase! Pennsylvania’s costs for these schools has increased dramatically. My guess, based on the data, is Devereux has become the “go-to” place for many of these students. Additionally, these facilities receives millions of dollars from the school districts in the state.  The DOE pays 70% of the bill, and the school districts pay the remaining 30% according to Alison May with the DOE.  Shorehaven in Maryland was used years ago, but for some reason it is not anymore. School districts like Christina and Red Clay Consolidated still use them.

If you calculate the yearly costs with the school districts paying 30% of the bill, the numbers increase even more, and also include a per student average on any private placement based on the number of students from the last 3 years of annual reports:

2014: $15,353,207.31   Average Cost per Student: Unknown until Annual Report comes out with # of students

2013: $11,272,790.28   Average Cost per Student: $96,348.63 (based on 117 placements)

2012: $10,695,471.38   Average Cost per Student: $108,035.06 (based on 99 placements)

2011: $8,242,230.10     Average Cost per Student: $98,121,79 (based on 84 placements)

The above costs don’t include what other agencies in Delaware pay as part of the total bill. It is nowhere near what the DOE  and the school districts are paying, but the high amount of money going to these facilities as a collective whole in Delaware is astonishing.  Other costs, which the parents get reimbursed for is mileage when they are visiting their children.

Last year, Melissa Steele with the Cape Gazette, wrote an article detailing the rising costs of these facilities. Many attempts to find out more information were thwarted not only by the facilities, but also the Delaware DOE. Confusion over needs based funding and ICT placements received contradictory statements by people at the DOE.  It was an excellent piece of journalistic work, and it won awards for investigative journalism.   It should be read by legislators, parents, teachers, administrators and journalists.  http://discoveramericasstory.com/view_article.html?articleId=CPG0816201301801

In going through all the reports for the ICT going back 5 years, I noticed a very odd trend.  Included below is the ratio of in-state placements versus out of state placements.  The out of states are always higher.

2013 51 students: Ratio of in-state/out-of-state: 37.2% (19)/62.8% (32)
2012 42 Students: Ratio: 45.2% (19)/54.8% (23)
2011 36 Students: Ratio: 38.9% (14)/61.1% (22)
2010 35 Students: Ratio: 45.7% (16)/54.3% (19)
2009 31 Students: Ratio: 45.2% (14)/54.8% (17)

In every single year, the number of in-state is less than 50%, no matter what the number is. It would almost seem like, and I really hate to even think this, there are contracts with some of these out-of-state facilities based on the number of residential placements the ICT grants. If this is true, then ICT is playing a numbers game. I would hope it’s because Advoserv doesn’t have the capacity.

The rise of autism may have played a huge role in ICT getting rid of 1:1 instruction. Rates for autism have skyrocketed in the first 15 years of this century. By providing needs based funding, the DOE has essentially removed one of the key components of the original ICT process. They have brought the 1:1 instruction under their own roof with no one else to challenge it. I don’t think it is a coincidence that outside lawsuits have magnified greatly since needs based funding began. As well, zero tolerance towards bad behaviors at school has significantly increased. The results are not surprising once you see a clear picture.

Needs Based Funding comes around, gives schools a SET amount for the whole school year, zero tolerance policies result in increased behavior issues, special education departments and school psychologists deny A LOT of IEP requests, lawsuits rise, common core is introduced, standardized testing becomes the barometer for school, teacher and student success, and Delaware gets bad grades for special education 3 out of the past 4 years. There’s more. The US DOE’s special education unit, OSEP, decides to stop a crucial part of compliance monitoring. They decide to stop doing in-school visits. The Delaware DOE decides to audit schools on a 3 year cycle, but change that to 5 years without any notification on their website whatsoever. This is all in a four year period.

Who watches the watchmen? Certainly not the feds. They just seem to care about overall results with special needs kids. The legislature? Maybe not in the past, but that could change depending on the elections in November. It remains to be seen what the IEP task force will do. Nothing has been heard about it since the House of Representatives passed it on July 1st. Parents? Probably the ones keeping a tab on them the most. Attorneys are certainly watching every move the schools and the DOE make. Advocates are great, but do they have the ability to change something on a state level? Sometimes, but not the big picture. The media may do stories here and there, but nothing that impacts dramatic change. So it seems to be left to us bloggers and reporters like Melissa Steele, plugging away and doing the research. What we need though is eyewitness testimony to what other parents have seen. The DOE is getting away with a lot, and people need to know about it.  The problem then becomes, what do you do about it?  A state can’t just shut down a DOE.  How are they held accountable when issues like this arise?  It’s complicated, it’s messy, and it’s just beginning.

Things are only going to get worse. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is going to be a disaster. Common Core is going to die a slow death in Delaware, but it’s time is coming. It’s already begun in many other states. What comes out of this will determine education in Delaware. We can stop the corporate takeover of education in our state, and try to come up with something meaningful, something good for our state. Or we can continue the way we have been. With the best and brightest finishing at the top, and the unwanted, unprivileged, poor, and disabled students getting scraped off the bottom with a spatula and thrown into a world where nothing makes sense.

Delaware DOE: The Eye of the Hurricane in Special Education

In a hurricane, everything is wild and chaotic.  Winds are fierce, rain is massive, and destruction looms.  Many people flee, but some stay hoping for the best.  Homes are destroyed, roads are flooded, and lives are frequently lost.  In the middle of a hurricane, everything is calm.  It can sometimes be sunny, and rain may not be present and it can be viewed as a moment of peace.  The eye is the center of the hurricane, and everything that happens is a result of the eye.  This is the Delaware Department of Education in regards to special education. Continue reading “Delaware DOE: The Eye of the Hurricane in Special Education”