Delaware ACLU Planning To Sue State Over Education Funding

In a shocking announcement, the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union wants to sue the State of Delaware over education funding.  But the announcement was not made by the ACLU but rather a Capital School District Board of Education member at their meeting last evening. Continue reading “Delaware ACLU Planning To Sue State Over Education Funding”

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Don’t Believe Any Recommendations Coming Out Of The Education Funding Committee Report

I touched on this last week, but it is essential that the citizens of Delaware not believe the final recommendations of the Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Committee.  Their report is due to the General Assembly by Thursday, June 30th.  In a public meeting, one of the members of EFIC (as it is commonly known as in the halls of power in Delaware) stated the committee could not agree on any of the recommendations brought forth at their final committee.  No formal vote was taken on any specific actions.

I learned this by attending the meeting of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) last week.  GACEC Chair Robert Overmiller was a member of EFIC.  Along with all the other DOE special education shenanigans at that meeting, there was also this tidbit culled from my recording of the meeting:

The Senate Joint Resolution 4.  We had our meeting yesterday and the reality is they have approved zero motions and zero recommendations for the unit count.  Because they spent the whole year trying to convince the committee to throw out unit counts and put in what the DOE and Governor Markell want.  And they were totally unsuccessful in convincing the committee to do so.  So I don’t know what the report is going to look like when it comes out.  At the end of the month it will be turned in to the legislators but they definitely approved zero recommendations and zero anything.  Nothing was ever voted on for approval or exception.  So that committee produced nothing this year.

That sounds like a very clear statement to me!  I expect the Delaware DOE to post the final report any day now.  Like the Assessment Inventory Committee final report issued yesterday, I do not expect this report to be a complete record of what really went down at these meetings.  I still don’t understand why former State Rep. Darryl Scott is allowed to run committees like this and have a seat on the Southern Regional Education Board when he is not now an elected official, but this is Delaware.  If we see a weighted funding formula recommendation for education coming out of this report, it is a lie.  This is what happens when a committee is stacked with Markell sympathizers coming out of Rodel and the charter sector.

 

 

WEIC Meeting Tonight, The DOE’s Divide And Conquer Strategy Next Monday, & The Capital Debate

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is having a full commission meeting tonight at the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The meeting on the 2nd floor in the teacher’s lounge begins at 5:30pm.  Many big education meetings are going down Monday afternoon with overlapping times, thereby ensuring no one can possibly make all three meetings.  As well, the very odd-sounding EFIC group has another meeting and the candidates for the Capital School Board are having a question and answer night!  But first, the WEIC agenda:

WEICAgenda42616I would imagine the group is a bit nervous since no legislation has been introduced to move forward on their redistricting plan.  If I were a betting man, it is coming but not until late June.  Tomorrow, one of the WEIC sub-committees is having a meeting: The Charter & District mud fight Collaboration Committee.

WEICCharterDistrictAgenda

But next Monday is where a lot of the action is as groups meet about the assessment inventory, student data privacy and the Every Student Succeeds Act.  It is possible to make all three if you drive REALLY fast and miss portions of two of the meetings.  But if you want free soda and pizza on the taxpayer’s dime, go to the last meeting!

The first one, which I’m most interested in given that I write a lot about student data privacy all the time these days, is the Data-Mining Club Student Data Privacy Protection Task Force.  They canceled the last meeting because they knew they wouldn’t have a quorum.  I would have put the agenda in, but of course the link doesn’t work.  I guess they want to make it private! 😉

StudDataPrivTF5216

In the next episode of “We Hate Parents so we are going to trick them out of opting out by making it look like we are getting rid of the bad tests”, the committee meets to discuss testing in Delaware.  Someone on the DOE side will talk about how essential the Smarter Balanced Assessment is and someone from the “good guys” side of the table will question what the hell we are even doing.  Audience members will give public comment overwhelmingly on the side of “Smarter Balanced sucks”.

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To see the wonderful world of the Every Student Succeeds Act through the eyes of Corporate Education Reform Cheerleader State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson, come to Grotto’s Pizza at 5:30pm.  Keep in mind, everyone is still trying to figure out what the hell this mammoth law even means so anything Donna talks about will be subject to change.  Expect many “I don’t know”s and “We don’t know yet”s coming from the microphone for this one.  We can expect a lot of the same people to show up to this one.  Last time I went to one of these I got to take part in a table discussion with Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Melissa Hopkins from the Rodel Foundation.  Talk about awkward!  But it was all good…

StateBoardWorkshopESSA

And then on Tuesday, the Education Funding Task Force is meeting again to finalize their pre-determined potential education funding plan for the General Assembly to squeeze in during the last days of their legislative session.

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But THE most exciting education event next week will actually take place at Central Middle School on Wednesday May 4th at 7pm.  Candidates running for the Capital School Board are having a debate!!!  Shameless plug: I am one of the candidates.  Come and find out what our priorities, ideas, and concerns are and what our plans are to improve the district.  And don’t forget, no matter what district you live in, the school board elections are only two weeks away, on May 10th.

Capital Candidate Night

Education Funding Improvement Commission Meeting On Tuesday

The Education Funding Improvement Commission, which came out of Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #4, will have their next meeting on Tuesday, April 19th at 5pm in the Tatnall Building in Dover.  Originally, the report for this was due to the General Assembly on March 31st, but Senator David Sokola had it extended until June 30th with Senate Concurrent Resolution #56.

I would still like to know why there is NO mention of basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Are they purposely ignoring this?  Governor Markell didn’t put it in the state budget proposal back in January either.  I’m sorry, I can’t buy any kind of new funding for schools when this glaring omission exists.  And people wonder why I feel insulted by the General Assembly at times…  We have a perfectly good bill with House Bill 30 and its ignored for well over a year now.  What is the disconnect here?  Why is no one aside from State Rep. Kim Williams and a few others pushing for this?  This is Governor Markell’s number one failure with education.  But sadder is the hundreds of children who suffered because of it.  No apology, nothing.  I will never believe it is all about the students as long as this gaping hole in school funding exists.  All the supports in the world don’t matter at all if children suffer.  They can pull out all these models and put on a big show, but show those models to the students with disabilities in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade who just aren’t good enough for all these great education initiatives.

I can’t change what happened to my son.  But I can try for the hundreds of others who are out there.  The ones with the denied IEPs.  The ones who aren’t given accommodations on their existing IEPs.  I’m mad.  I’m raw.  I’m tired of fighting.  I can show the entire state what is going on, but it isn’t enough to make a difference to those in power.  We can talk about pre-school being the next big thing until the cows come home, but if we are missing the boat on the true foundation for learning right when it starts, in Kindergarten going to 3rd grade, then we are failing all those children with disabilities.  All of us.  Most experts agree that if these kids don’t get this foundation then, it becomes very difficult for them to acclimate in later years.  So yeah, if I get angry and lash out, imagine how those kids feel.

SJR4EdFundTaskForceAgenda41916

Education Funding Improvement Commission Meeting #4 At 9:30am This Morning At DOE In Dover

The Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission is having their fourth meeting this morning at the Delaware Department of Education building in Dover.  The meeting will be held in the Cabinet room, where the State Board of Education holds their meetings.  There is one item on the agenda that looks very interesting.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach and the DOE’s David Blowman will be giving a presentation on weighted funding.  I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I was engaged in a Facebook conversation about this last night where others were comparing it to salary caps on baseball or football teams.

EFICMeeting#4Agenda

What is very curious though is the fact that Lindsay O’Mara, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor created the pdf of the agenda that shows up on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.  Who is running this show?  With this timeline with the committee ending in May, that gives a legislator enough time to draft up a quick bill to implement the findings and get it through the General Assembly by the end of June.  Can you say “pre-determined”?

It’s funny how the State Board is giving the Wilmington Education Funding Improvement Commission a hard time.  They claimed WEIC’s proposals could clash with this task force.  I asked about this sort of thing happening at the very first WEIC meeting in September.  Dan Rich said all of this, including the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025 and the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities were all sort of planned to work in conjunction with each other.  Meanwhile, WEIC is having their second “post State Board of Education vote of no action” meeting tomorrow night at 5:30pm at the Community Education Building in Wilmington at 5:30pm.  Is this when the the transparency promised by WEIC takes a back seat while the commission makes severe changes to the plan to satisfy the State Board of Education?  Or was this also pre-determined?  Or am I a conspiracy theorist like a certain Charter School Board President/Head of the Delaware GOP recently told me?

While Vision Coalition & WEIC Plan Funding, EFIC Meets Today To Discuss Funding As Well

SJR4EFIC

Delaware, the home of multiple groups working on the same issues at the same time.  Today, the Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission is meeting for the third time at the Bear Library.  There are a lot of interesting names in this room.  Former State Rep. Darryl Scott, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Lindsay O’Mara (who is probably having one hell of a morning), Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson, State Board of Education member Barbara Rutt and more.  I see Senator Sokola’s aide, Tanner Polce.  I don’t see State Rep. Earl Jaques either, I suppose his aide is there as well.

It will be interesting to see what this group comes up with, along with Rodel The Vision Coalition.  WEIC’s funding will be subject to the Governor’s submitted budget at the end of January.  The one that will be submitted AFTER the State Board of Education votes on the plan.  To read more about the SJR #4 group, please read this.

SJR4

 

Delaware Education Funding: Can The Mess Created By Governor Markell Even Be Fixed?

Someone asked if public comment (can) be received by the committee?  We will need to look at how we collect public/stakeholder input.

The above quote will be explained later, but it is very indicative of what happens in Delaware.

DarrylScott

One of the biggest topics in Delaware these days is funding for education.  It is everywhere.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wants to completely revamp how we fund our schools and included this in their redistricting plan which will be presented to the Delaware State Board of Education later today.  The Vision Coalition has this as one of their six areas to get to the “North Star” of educational excellence in Delaware.  But there is an even bigger group meeting these days to tackle this elephant in the room.

The Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission has been meeting since early November.  I was able to obtain the minutes from their first meeting and I had some very deep concerns about some of the things I saw in there.  But before I get to that, there are a lot of interesting names on this committee.  The legislation called for 19 members but there are 24 on this committee.  How does that even happen?

Chair: Former State Representative Darryl Scott

State Rep. Earl Jaques

State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King

State Senator David Sokola

State Senator Gary Simpson

Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov

*Delaware Association of School Administrators Kevin Carson

Delaware PTA Vice-President Ashley Dalzell-Gray

Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing Kristin Dwyer

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Vicki Gehrt

Woodbridge Board Member Walter Gilefski

State of Delaware Deputy Controller General Mike Jackson

State of Delaware Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Brian Maxwell

Office of the Governor Education Policy Adviser Lindsay O’Mara

Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens Chairperson Robert Overmiller

*University of Delaware Center for Applied Demography & Survey Research Director Ed Ratledge

*Delaware Technical & Community College Chairman of the Board Mark Stellini

Delaware State Board of Education Member Barbara Rutt

Christina Cultural Arts Center Executive Director Raye Jones Avery

Kuumba Academy Head of School Sally Maldonado

Corporation Service Company President Rodman Ward III

Latin American Community Center Vice President of Development Claudia Pena Porretti

*Rodel Foundation of Delaware Vice President for Policy & Practice Madeleine Bayard

Support Staff for the Committee: Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson and Secretary of Education Office Policy Advisor Tina Shockley

I have seen many of these names on various DOE working groups, legislative task forces and committees, and so forth.  Some are new to me.  Some of these are very affiliated with Rodel and the Delaware Business Roundtable.  Some are very charter affiliated.  But as usual, aside from one representative from the Delaware PTA, parents get the shaft.  We are always shut out of groups like this.  To answer my earlier question about how this group has more members than what the legislation called for, the answer was found here:

Three community members with special knowledge of education finance or special ability to contribute to discussion, appointed by Governor: Ed Ratledge, Madeleine Bayard, Mark Stellini, Kevin Carson

Whoever put this up on the DOE website must be using some odd form of Common Core math because I see four names there, not three…

Darryl Scott was the former Chair of the House Education Committee.  He served three terms as State Representative from 2009-2015.  I am very curious how a retired State Rep becomes not only the Chair of an education funding task force but also serves on the Southern Regional Education Board.

Why is the information for these meetings buried on the DOE website and not put on the General Assembly page for SJR #4?  This is a legislative task force.

What concerns me the most about the below minutes is the quote at the top of this article.  This is a public committee which is allowed to have public comment, no questions asked.  The fact that a group like this isn’t sure how that will work stinks of non-transparency.  These minutes were not found on the Delaware General Assembly Website.  But when you look at the minutes, we see who decides how public comment can be given and viewed:

Donna Johnson advised that we will set up a website where all materials will be posted.  An email address will be set up to receive public comment.

I’m sorry, but Donna Johnson is support staff, not a voting member of this committee.  Why is she calling the shots on transparency?  She is not a member of the General Assembly who enacted this legislation.  As for the topics for upcoming meetings, who sets that up?

Chairman Scott noted that the next meeting will be held the week after Thanksgiving and that Tina Shockley will initiate a Doodle poll for the next meeting.

Who decides what is put on this Doodle poll?  Another Department of Education employee.  Who is running the show here?  Of course we know anything education related that happens in Delaware is run by Governor Markell.  And once again he is using the DOE to call the shots.  So much for transparency and an open and democratic commission…

At their December 9th meeting, a presentation was given by Mike Griffiths, the School Finance Strategist with a company called Education Commission of the States.  This is yet another think tank type of company in America dealing with how to “fix” education.  Each state has a group of Commissioners.  For Delaware, the Commissioners are Governor Jack Markell, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Lindsay O’ Mara (Markell’s Education Policy Advisor), Senator David Sokola, and… Madeleine Bayard, Vice-President of Policy and Practice for the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  Senator Sokola is on the Steering Committee for this organization.  Griffith’s presentation is here:

As well, Michael Morton from the Office of the Comptroller General’s office gave a very good presentation on Delaware School Finances.  These are always tricky waters to navigate through for the average citizen, but I found this guide helped me to understand it better:

This is going to be a very interesting commission to keep track of.  And once again, we have three different “coalitions” tackling school funding: WEIC, Vision Coalition, and this group…

We are seeing education funding play out in every single public school in the state.  Schools are lacking resources and staff while the bloated Department of Education continues to shell out millions upon millions of dollars to corporate education reform companies.  If Delaware wants to truly get more funding into our schools, this is the first place where funds can be reallocated.  There should be no discussions about property tax re-assessments or weighted funding until the excess fat is trimmed out of the DOE.  But look who is controlling this behind the scenes…  This is Jack Markell’s mess.  He will slide out of the Governor’s seat and leave the wreckage for Delaware to clean up.  Thanks for that Governor…