Ron Russo’s BOLD Plan Regurgitates Old Plans And The Worst Ideas Ever In Delaware Education

Ron Russo, the former Head of School at the Charter School of Wilmington, launched The BOLD Plan today on Facebook.  Using the tag “Education is a business”, Russo managed to take the most horrible ideas ever from the past three decades and put them into a single pile of absolute garbage.  While I don’t think this plan will go anywhere, it is symptomatic of the very same corporate education reform think tank crap that has proliferated American public education and turned Delaware’s school system into a very bad joke. The whole plan can be read below. Continue reading

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Breaking News: Carney & Bunting To Announce Weighted Funding “Phase One”. Let The Education Hunger Games Begin Again.

Next Tuesday, January 15th, Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will hold a press conference at Legislative Hall to announce a weighted funding system for Delaware students.  Luckily, this blogger got the details of it this evening.  The devil, as they say, is in the details. Continue reading

Special Report: Red Flags In Delaware Student Enrollment Trends & The Increase In Special Education

The Delaware Department of Education released the September 30th counts report for the 2018-2019 school year.  Enrollment in Delaware is up by 775 students.  Special education is on the rise, jumping to over 16%. There are some very odd trends going on with different sub-groups in Delaware.  Ones that are making me VERY suspicious. Continue reading

The DOE Financial Transparency Gambit Brings Out Tons Of Public Comment

Last month, the Delaware Department of Education held a series of Community Conversations surrounding the mandates of Senate Bill #172.  The legislation requires the DOE to come up with a uniform method of allowing the public to compare finances between schools.  It is a cumbersome and large task.  It is also required by the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The DOE solicited public comment and boy did they get it!

I still go with the “every penny” scenario.  As in, I won’t be satisfied until we can see how every penny in public education is spent.  I’m pretty sure the folks at Rodel and DelawareCAN already have their claws into this and will make sure whatever comes out fits their own agendas.

John Kowalko Doesn’t Hate Charter Schools But…

When you think of those who don’t support charter schools in Delaware, one of the first names that pops up is State Representative John Kowalko, from the 25th Rep. District.  Known for his arguments against charter schools, specifically Delaware’s biggest- Newark Charter School, it can be easy to make the assumption Kowalko hates charter schools.  However, that is not the case.

Earlier this weekend, Kowalko sent out an email to his constituents with his thoughts and beefs on Delaware charter schools. Continue reading

The Heat Is On At The Delaware DOE Building Tomorrow! Time To Fix Their Mess And Make Some Noise!

Tomorrow night, the Delaware Department of Education will hold the first meeting on education funding.  More specifically, cleaning up the hot mess where you can’t really tell how over a billion dollars in taxpayer dollars is spent.  The meeting is tomorrow (Monday) from 5-7pm at the Townsend Building in the 2nd Floor Cabinet Room.

I’ve been pushing for more transparency with this for years.  I love how the DOE ignores a federal mandate that passed in 2015 and waits three years to do something about it.  Here is the problem- none of our districts and charters code things the same way.  It makes it impossible to accurately compare.  One district may put something as “maintenance” while a charter school puts it as “operational costs”.

Nothing will satisfy me until there is a uniform coding structure for EVERYTHING.  That is the only way we can unravel what appears to be a Gordian knot.  And EVERYTHING has to be published in a clear and concise manner so people can understand it.  The current Delaware Online Checkbook is useless.  By the time you can figure the damn thing out it either freezes on you or you give up.

Senate Bill #172 is the state version of what the Every Student Succeeds Act already requires.  But it isn’t what is needed.  It would help a little bit but not the massive change that is needed.  My sense is the DOE already knows what they want and they are just putting on their dog and pony show to say the people wanted what they already want.  Seen it many times folks!  Don’t be fooled.  To read the final version of SB #172 with amendments, read here.  There should be NO exclusions when it comes to transparency of taxpayer dollars.  It is past time The First State became #1 with transparency.

If you have the means and the time, I would get there.  Sign up for public comment and just go for the throat.  Tell them you want to see every penny accounted for, by school and NO EXCEPTIONS!  You get five minutes for public comment so make it count!  This is what the DOE is looking for from the public according to their post on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar:

The Department of Education will develop a standardized approach with input from district/charter leaders and other community members. To that end, three public meetings are scheduled for this fall so DOE can share its vision and hear from members of the public. Public comment will be limited to five minutes per person; DOE will accept written comments at any of the meetings or via email by Friday, October 12th to jennifer.roussell@doe.k12.de.us.
Both the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Senate Bill 172, passed by the 149th General Assembly this spring, require the development of a statewide approach to define and report school-level expenditures so school leaders and the public can better compare per-pupil spending across Delaware. The Department of Education (DOE) will begin reporting school-level per-pupil expenditures in Dec. 2019.

Attorney General Opinion Highlights Need For More Accurate Accounting For Education Funding

Allison Reardon, the State Solicitor for the Delaware Department of Justice, wrote a legal opinion on a Freedom of Information Act complaint last week.  Even though DOJ ruled the complaint was not a FOIA violation, the answer from Christina School District shows Delaware seems woefully lost in terms of being able to decipher education funding. Continue reading

Governor Carney’s Communications Director Jonathan Starkey On Susan Bunting: “No Comment”

I just called Jonathan Starkey, Governor Carney’s Communications Director.  I asked him flat-out what Governor Carney is doing about the Susan Bunting situation.  I received silence.  I then advised Starkey we are now seeing 105.9 articles being removed from Google searches and my Facebook post being reported as spam last week.  His official response: “No comment.”

I let Starkey know there would be more coming out and this is just making the Governor look worse.  He thanked me for my call.

Seriously?  Carney better get his head out of the sand and act on this.  We have a sitting Secretary of Education, at a Cabinet level position, with allegations of knowing about widespread financial theft and parent complaints about extremely egregious behavior from Patrick Miller, and Starkey gives me a “no comment”?

I thought about the Facebook spamming and the 105.9 article disappearing from Google.  The fact that it is disappearing shows they do not want it out there.  It isn’t a case of it being untrue and they know it.  They are actively trying to suppress the information and preventing people from seeing it.  In the grand scheme of things, a Delaware Secretary of Education knowing about this stuff isn’t earth-shattering news for America.

This is my hunch: Bunting is just the tip of the iceberg.  It was just last Friday the Delaware Dept. of Justice sentenced a former DOE employee to probation for stealing grant money.  Patrick Miller was doing the same thing.  How rampant is this?  How many education dollars have been stolen over the years?  I believe this is what they don’t want us doing.  They don’t want us knowing they have been powerless to stop it so they ignore it and pray it goes away.  The people of Delaware aren’t idiots.  As I told Starkey, I’m not giving up on this.

If you have ANY information about foul play with Delaware education funds, anywhere, be it a district, charter school, or the DOE, anything, let me know.  I promise confidentiality.  But it is time for the shattered puzzle pieces to come together so we have a clear picture.  As taxpaying citizens, we need to know what is going on.  Enough is enough.  No more.  If they want a war, they just got one.

Auditor Forum: Davies Shines, McGuiness Blunders, & Williams Rants

Last night, the Kent County Democratic Committee hosted a forum for the Democrat candidates for State Auditor at the Kent County Levy Court in Dover.  The well-attended debate was clearly won by candidate Kathleen Davies. Continue reading

Teacher License Suspension and Pay For Success Bills Pass General Assembly

Two bills closely tied with public education passed in the Delaware House of Representatives today which clears them through the General Assembly and await Governor Carney’s signature.  Another bill passed but goes back to the Senate due to an amendment.

Senate Bill #234, which gives the Delaware Secretary of Education the ability to suspend a teacher’s credentials due to an arrest from abuse or other egregious crimes, passed the House with a 41-0 vote.  As written in the synopsis of the bill, this will… “include situations involving felony crimes against children or where there is a clear and immediate danger to student safety or welfare“.

Senate Bill #242, which will establish Pay for Success programs in Delaware passed with 39 yes, 1 no, and 1 absent.  The sole no vote belonged to State Rep. Rich Collins.  An amendment placed on the bill in the Delaware Senate would create a working group to explore how Pay For Success would be implemented in public education, both early childhood education and K-12 education.  I am still torn on Pay For Success but this would allow some time for the Working Group to really take a look at how this would work to make sure it didn’t conflict with existing federal laws (such as IDEA) and to set up parameters.  Pay For Success is where an outside investor would come in, pitch a program with measurable outcomes, and if approved, would set out on this program.  If the program works with those outcomes, the State would pay the company back.  If it doesn’t, they wouldn’t.  The bill sets up Pay For Success for all state agencies.

Senate Bill #172, which is meant to increase the transparency of education funds, passed the House but an amendment clarifying some language on the bill which causes it to go back to the Senate for a final vote (provided they don’t put any amendments on it).  That bill passed in the House with 41 yes votes.

On the Senate side, they passed House Bill #268 which deals with Senior property tax credits, but due to an amendment placed on the bill in the Senate, it will go back to the House.

Finally, Delaware Governor John Carney signed both the budget bill and a bill giving one-time bonuses to state employees and retirees.  Both the Bond bill and the Grant-In-Aid bill will come up for a vote on the last day of the Delaware General Assembly, Saturday June 30th.

Capital School District WILL Have An Operating Referendum In 2019

Capital School District managed to hold off a referendum for the past eight years but that will change in 2019 as they will be going out for an operating referendum.

According to their Chief Financial Officer, Adewunmi Kuforiji, at their March board meeting, the district will hold this referendum next year.  The Capital Board of Education discussed placing school safety monitors (constables) in all of their elementary schools, their 5-6 middle school and hiring a Supervisor to oversee the 19 constables that will be in all their schools.  The price tag for adding these constables? Over $400,000.  Some of the funds would come from federal cafeteria funds.  Since the state does not give that specific funding, the rest would come out of the district’s local funds.  This would be in addition to the five constables in place now, three at Dover High School and two at Central Middle School which serves students in grades 7-8.  The board passed the resolution with three yes votes (two board members were absent).

Board President Sean Christensen asked Kuforiji several times if this action would push the district closer to an operating referendum.  Kuforiji responded it would not as they have room in their FY2018 budget for this along with their reserves.  But he did say, in no uncertain terms, more than once, the district would have an operating referendum in 2019.  He did not say when in 2019.

Nine years is a long time to go without a referendum.  Their last referendum helped to build the new Dover High School and the new district office.

Many in Delaware feel school referenda are outdated and refuse to support them.  Others feel they are a necessary beast in education funding.  Education funding has been a huge topic this year.  Property assessments in Delaware are severely outdated and based on formulas from the 1970s and 1980s.  The state’s education budget has grown over the years but it bounces from education cuts to new initiatives.  In my opinion, it is a very disproportionate system that does not focus on the students but rather the school staff and administrators.  With the exception of special education (and even that is messed up for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade), no extra funding is given based on student needs (poverty, English language learners).  Some support a weighted funding formula while others support adding to the current unit-based system.  Some feel no extra money should go towards public education and actually support school vouchers where the money follows the student, even if it goes to a private school.  How will Dover residents vote next year when their district makes the ask for more taxpayer money?

 

Red Clay Letter To Parents Has Many Gasping About Education Cuts

Yesterday, Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty sent a letter to parents advising them of all the education cuts since 2008.  He also urged them to attend the Delaware PTA rally outside Legislative Hall next week to support basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

I agree with a lot of what Merv said but then again I have to wonder about some of his logic.  After all, Red Clay did purchase one-to-one devices for all their students which costs a pretty penny.  As well, they are one of the few districts that still has Race To The Top administrators even though the funding for that horrible federal initiative ended years ago.

His language in the letter confused me a bit though because he asks parents to vote with public education funding in mind.  Yes, the General Assembly decides the budget.  But who is Merv asking these parents to vote for?  State legislators?  School board candidates?  Should a school Superintendent be pushing parents toward certain votes? And that’s what happens when I don’t have my morning coffee before I write!

In terms of special education, I have supported any bill that gives that funding.  This is the foundation of special education for these kids.  It baffles me that our legislators will fund pre-school as much as they do but not provide this necessary and vital funding.  They really don’t have any more excuses to justify their cowardice with special education funding.  I highly salute the legislators who consistently support State Rep. Kim William’s bills to get this going.  If you have the means, come down to Legislative Hall next Wednesday, May 9th, at 1:30pm, on the East steps.

I fully support public education funding but I also support the ability to properly audit those funds if need be.  Last year, the State Auditor’s office released a report on education funds but since so many school districts code expenditures different the auditor couldn’t make heads or tails of the funding.  So perhaps we should be making sure our vote for State Auditor is a sound one and not based on a popularity contest among certain legislators.  If you are going to vote for a Kathy in September, make sure it is for Davies!

Things I like that are going on?  Senator Dave Sokola’s bill for education funding transparency which could go a bit further than what it has in it now.  I love the fact that people are waking up to education issues and speaking out.  We may not always agree, but the discussion is healthy.

To read Merv’s letter to parents, please see below:

Senator Sokola Makes My Day With Proposed Education Funding Transparency Bill

As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, all schools are required to provide more transparency with how they spend money.  Delaware Senator Sokola seeks to codify this with legislation currently in circulation for sponsorship.

I like this bill.  I believe an amendment should make sure every expense down to the school level is given a specific category.  Trying to read Delaware’s online checkbook is a lesson in futility at times and does not give an accurate picture to make sure funds are spent the way they are supposed to.  Excluding certain items, like under (2) (b) of the proposed legislation should not happen.  Yes, these funds can be tracked in a confusing way through state reporting procedures but putting the whole puzzle together can be very difficult.

What do you think?  Will this bill provide the information we need?

Education Funding Lawsuit Filed By Delaware ACLU, What Happened To That Other Complaint?

I heard about this one last week.  Tony Allen, the Chair of the Wilmington Education Committee, warned about this a year ago.  Now the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the Delaware NAACP and Delawareans For Educational Opportunity, filed a lawsuit against the State of Delaware over education funding.  Unbeknownst to most Delawareans, however, another Delaware ACLU complaint disappeared.

According to The News Journal, the Delaware Dept. of Education released the following statement about the suit:

The Delaware Department of Education has not seen any complaint from these groups and will respond to any litigation against it in court. It is the goal of the Department to assist Delaware’s schools in preparing every student to succeed in college or career and life.

Yeah, pretty much the same thing the DOE said back in 2014 when a complaint against them and Red Clay was filed with the Office of Civil Rights over discrimination in Delaware charter schools.

Who is named in the lawsuit? Governor Carney, Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, State Treasurer Ken Simpler, and the heads of each county finance office.

To read the complaint, please see below with some exclusive news appearing shortly after.

Jessica Bies at the News Journal wrote in the above article:

According to the lawsuit, the state is failing students from low-income families, students with disabilities and students who are learning English. Test scores for these disadvantaged students are far below state standards set by the Delaware Department of Education in its new plan, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

What the lawsuit wants seems to contradict with what Delaware Governor John Carney wants:

But Gov. John Carney, listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, has said he is not in favor of needs-based funding, in part because it gives extra money to school districts serving at-risk kids without holding them accountable for how they use it. He has also said there is neither the financial nor political support for such a measure.

Yeah, okay Carney.  Whatever.  We both know how you exert pressure on the General Assembly to do YOUR bidding.

But whatever happened to that old complaint filed in December, 2014?  The one the Delaware ACLU filed with the Office of Civil Rights alleging discrimination in certain Delaware charter schools?  The Office of Civil Rights rejected that complaint.  This never made the press and the Delaware ACLU never released anything on it.  Nothing can be found on the Delaware ACLU or OCR websites.  But it happened.  I reached out to the Delaware ACLU early last week to get information on this.  They directed me to Richard Morse, who is now with Delaware Community Legal Aid.  Mr. Morse did not return my call.  I guess someone wanted that complaint to die a quick and painful death.

This lawsuit cannot be ignored though.  It was filed with the Delaware Chancery Court today.  This could be a game-changer folks!

On Facebook last week, I wrote about knowing some things coming up but I couldn’t write about them yet.  This was two of them.

 

2018 Preview

Happy New Year!  2018 began with freezing temperatures.  Anyone who ventured up to NYC to watch the ball drop is crazy in my book!  But you only live once.  This is going to be a big year.  So what’s coming? A LOT! Continue reading

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

Save The Date: June 20th, Rally For Education- No Cuts To Education Funding

When legislators and Delaware Governor Carney proposed massive cuts to public education, the people responded with a loud voice.  As a result, there will be a rally at Legislative Hall on June 20th from 1pm to 3pm, rain or shine.  This event, hosted by Network Delaware, is going to draw a huge crowd.  I know several educators will taking a bus (or two) from New Castle County.  This is YOUR chance to make sure your voice is heard.  If you are tired of bloated classrooms and teacher cuts, I would make sure you are there.  From the press release on the rally:

We need to stand up and show support for Delaware legislators who are resisting cuts to education. We need to unite and show them we’ll have their backs in their fight for educators, students, and school staff as they oppose proposed budget cuts to education funding for FY18.

All are welcome. Come with creative posters! Speakers to be announced. The rally will take place on the East Side Steps of Legislative Hall. Parking is available in the Delaware Public Archives parking lot.

This event is co-sponsored by PACE Network, Delaware PTA and Network Delaware.

If you haven’t filled out our form to have postcards and letters sent to your legislators opposing the budget cuts to education, please do so now! https://goo.gl/UM6cis

I will be there, front and center.  The legislators work for us, we the people, not the other way around.  Bring your kids!  Most educators should be done with school so there are no excuses!  The Delaware 149th General Assembly ends the first half of their legislative session on June 30th/July 1st.  Time IS running out.  It is now or never!

Why Does Our State Auditor Only Find Things Like The Sussex Tech Fraud From Tips? Are There More Sussex Tech Situations We Don’t Know About?

Boom! Jack Wells sent one hell of an email to Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner today.  This is one for the record books and opens up a whole new ballpark on the question of financial oversight of our school districts and charter schools!

TO: Mr. Thomas Wagner, Auditor of Accounts

This report reveals numerous problems that were “only” revealed because the Office of Auditor of Accounts {AOA} received an anonymous complaint on 1 July 2014. 

While I am concerned about the findings, I am even more troubled why these findings were not identified in the State of Delaware Statewide School Districts’ Construction Projects Attestation Engagements conducted in fiscal years 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.  

Question: Since these reports did not reveal the problems identified in the report conducted by your auditors as a result of an anonymous complaint, can you inform me the purpose of these engagements/examinations?

Comment: Some findings were revealed, however the report ending June 30,2015 states: “Our examination disclosed no instances of noncompliance or other matters that are required to be reported under Government Auditing Standards. Hopefully your answer to my question will disclose what must be reported under Government Auditing Standards.

While I am troubled by these findings, I have to wonder if these findings and others problems are not being revealed by the engagements/examinations that are being conducted each year. Provided below are the number of districts that are audited each fiscal year.

Fiscal Year     # of  School Districts  Audited

2012                   18

2013                   17

2014                   18

2015                   18

2016                   16

I have to wonder if the findings on Sussex Technical are only the tip of an iceberg.

Finally and even more troubling is the fact that audits required by law to verify expenditures of $2.3 billion annually for the education of our children were legal and used for the purpose provided are not conducted.

Amen Jack!  I am dying for these questions to be heard.  But I fear we will only hear the empty vacuum of space on this.

Colonial Under The Gun With 2nd Referendum Up For A Vote Today, Vote YES!!!!

The Colonial School District is in dire straits.  They MUST pass their referendum attempt today.  If not, expect a huge amount of cuts and layoffs.  Unfortunately for Colonial, this comes at a time when all eyes are on the state budget deficit.

I’ve learned there are three camps when it comes to referenda.

There are those who promote referenda because it is an essential must in Delaware for a school district to be fully funded.  I tend to live in this camp most of the time with very few exceptions.

There are those who believe a referendum exists to pillage taxes out of the wallets of citizens within the district.  They fight referenda tooth and nail and sometimes post “fake news” to make sure a referendum does not pass.

There are those who don’t even know what a referendum is.  They get their property tax bill and pay it, no questions asked.  These campers are by far the biggest of the three.  They don’t vote in referenda and have no knowledge whatsoever of what it even means.

Colonial’s referendum today is do or die for them.  Yes, I often state we need to see more transparency when it comes to education funding.  Our State Auditor does not conduct yearly audits of school districts even though it is required by state law.  But that doesn’t mean I oppose referenda in Delaware.  Until a new mechanism is created which changes this warped way Delaware has with funding schools, the referendum is the only way for school districts to survive.  There is a very good chance our legislators will approve Carney’s idiot idea of school boards being able to pass a one-time match tax without a referendum.  I oppose this for more reasons than I can count.  But Colonial had this referendum planned way before Carney even introduced this idiot idea.

To vote no is to vote no for students in many ways.  If you enjoy bloated classrooms with over 30 kids in the class, then you will vote no.  If you feel all administrators are an evil monopoly choking instruction in the classroom, you will vote no.  If you feel no taxpayer dollars have ever funded a school, you will vote no.  All three of the above are what the referenda naysayers like to promote.  There is a difference between wanting transparency (folks like me) and those who don’t want education funding at all (the referenda naysayers).

Many of the folks who oppose referenda don’t even have kids in the school district.  They have kids in private schools or they are elderly citizens who feel they have been taxed too much.  The private school parents actually want a school voucher system to take place so their taxpayer dollars go towards me and not the community.

I support the Colonial referendum today and if I lived there, I would vote a resounding YES!