I’ve been pretty hard on Delaware Governors in the past four plus years. But sometimes they do things that make me think about things they do that are not directly related to bad education policy. Things that will make Delaware a better place in the long run. Two weeks ago, Delaware Governor John Carney signed Executive Order #24 which makes Delaware a trauma-informed state. This is something we need in Delaware. Delaware is not the best state for mental health services. Families are crying out for help. Sometimes they get it but a lack of training or proper services can turn that help into an issue. Continue reading
The Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families sent two emails to Delaware Superintendents regarding the discontinuation of day treatment centers in Delaware. I submitted a FOIA request to five Delaware Superintendents last evening to obtain these emails. One of them got to me first so I canceled the other requests. Both these emails give very definitive timeframes for when this was going to happen. The State of Delaware reversed course on this issue, but make no mistake, this was going to happen prior to that decision. One important thing from the second email is the glaring fact that TODAY is the last day for any district or charter school to make a referral for a day treatment center in Delaware. So my question would be that if this change is on hold, is today still the last day for any referrals? The second email had a lot of attachments included in the FOIA request. Apparently there will be public meetings where they will present this. One of them already happened in New Castle County on September 8th, but I would highly recommend they have another one since this story just broke in mainstream media two days ago.
Email sent to Delaware Superintendents 8/26/16
Follow-Up Email sent to Delaware Superintendents 9/9/16 and Key Information
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:
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 State Rep. Kim Williams let me know she was informed the closure of out-patient intensive servicees, otherwise known as day treatment centers, will occur in the next sixty days. This decision was made through the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health which is part of the Department of Services for Youth, Children and Their Families (DSCYF). One parent found out that local school districts or charter schools will be expected to pick up the tab for these types of services in private settings. Which is in sharp contrast to existing Delaware state code which indicates the state picks up 70% of these bills and the local districts pay 30%. These placements are deciding by a group called the Interagency-Collaborative Team.
The ICT and what they do is this, from Title 14 of Delaware code:
(b) Before the Department of Education can authorize expenditures for new placements according to this section, the case must be reviewed by the Interagency Collaborative Team (ICT).
(1) The ICT shall consist of:
a. Division Director, Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF);
b. Division Director, Family Services of DSCYF;
c. Division Director, Division of Youth Rehabilitation Services of DSCYF;
d. Division Director, Division of Developmental Disabilities Services of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS);
e. Division Director, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health of DHSS;
f. Director of the Office of Management and Budget or designee;
g. The Controller General or designee;
h. Director, Exceptional Children’s Group, Department of Education (DOE), who will serve as Chair; and
i. Associate Secretary, Curriculum and Instructional Improvement, DOE.
(2) A director assigned to the ICT may designate staff to represent the director on the ICT only if these designated representatives are empowered to act on behalf of the division director, including commitment of division resources for a full fiscal year.
The Delaware Department of Education needs to share the blame for this. They have set up a pressure cooker for students with disabilities. While Autism rates have soared in the past decade, so has the test, label, shame, and punish atmosphere set up by the DOE. While much of this was set up through federal mandate, Delaware has consistently failed in being able to “get” special education. Inclusion does not work in the modern era of Common Core standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment. When the DOE started setting up “standards-based IEPs” they missed the whole point of special education. Is it any wonder students can’t function in these types of environments? It is toxic to them. It is toxic to all students, but more for the most challenged.
Special education in Delaware is horrible. I am not disparaging the teachers in the classroom who attempt to deal with these issues, but the psychological toll on these students is more clear than ever. What we are doing now isn’t working. What they are planning won’t work. It is past time for parents to begin rising in protest like they never have before and demand change.
Last night, a friend of mine asked me if Delaware was closing all their day treatment centers. I had not heard of this before. But apparently there is confirmation from a few organizations in the state that this will happen in two months. This would not include the day treatment centers run by hospitals, like Dover Behavioral Health.
Many parents of children with disabilities, specifically autism, rely on these services for their children when the public school system is unable to give the services these children need. In social media postings, several parents are desperately trying to get confirmation of this. I reached out to a couple of legislators and one confirmed it is happening while the other had not even heard of this.
On Monday, the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Council (DEFAC) announced the state was looking at a $167 million deficit in their latest projection. Last night at a “Meet and Chew”, Delaware Governor candidate John Carney said he fears this will rise to $300 million in the coming months. While I don’t know if this is related to the possible shutting down of state-run day treatment centers, it would certainly save the state a considerable amount of money. But what happens to these children who depend on these services? Our schools can’t service them. The private day centers lack the space to accommodate all these kids. As one parent said on Facebook, “this is a disaster waiting to happen.”
If I were a parent of a child who uses these services, I would be freaking out! I highly recommend all of these parents contact the Department of Service for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF) as well as the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS). They should also contact their state representatives and senators. If you don’t know who your state rep or senator is, you can look here for your Senator and here for your State Rep.
One Delaware Senator told a parent they want written confirmation from DSCYF on this matter and expects to receive that today. Why is it always the children who need the most help that get crucial services cut first? If this happens, I fully expect parents to rise up and fight the state on this.
One parent was told this would not affect the residential treatment centers, where students actually live there to get help.
The approach the Department is taking shortchanges our most vulnerable children and puts Delaware’s future at risk.
At the end of last year, the Delaware Department of Education proposed amendments to Regulation 616 concerning due process procedures for alternative placement meetings and expulsion hearings. In a nutshell, this regulation would make it easier to strip away the rights of students and parents in regards to school discipline. This prompted a wave of negative comments from many concerned organizations and citizens in Delaware. It started with the Smyrna School District Assistant Superintendent and went from there. The State Board of Education tabled the changes at their December, 2016 board meeting. Now Reg. 616 is back. It was published in the June Registrar of Regulations.
As I wrote last year when this god awful and horrible regulation was introduced, this bill appears to be tailor made for charter schools. To kick out the unwanted. Why does the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education even consider this kind of nonsense? Especially since there were laws passed dealing with this exact sort of thing. Furthermore, Senate Bill 239, if passed, would have been the opposite of this bill. I’m hearing this bill will come back roaring in the 149th General Assembly. It was a question of timing for why it didn’t pass this spring.
Disproportionality is a big word these days and it needs to be. We are seeing the results of what can happen when the pendulum swings too far in one direction. The Delaware DOE and the State Board are taking a huge step backwards in a time when they should be getting out of this mindset. If our charter schools want to completely change the direction of Delaware schools while everyone else is saying no, perhaps the time has come for them to change. This isn’t Little House on the Prairie anymore. They need to stop relying on funding from the state and the citizens who actually produce the funding for them to run as quasi-corporations and become what they should have been in the first place: private schools charging tuition. Let’s see how successful they are then when they aren’t using their “autonomy” when it suits them best and then ditching that concept when things aren’t equal.
ACLU COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616
ATTORNEY GENERAL’S COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616
DSCYF COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616
GACEC COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616
SCPD COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616