The Delaware Joint Finance Committee did the unthinkable. Every year since 2010, the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund has been a part of the epilogue language in the budget bill. This is where Delaware charter schools get to keep whatever they don’t spend in their budgeted transportation amount. As an example, if M. Smith Charter School budgets $200,000 for transportation and they only spend $150,000, they get to keep the rest of that money the state gave them. School districts aren’t allowed to do this.
But now the JFC actually wrote a bill into the Epilogue Language of the FY2019 budget bill, Senate Bill 235. In past years, it was just part of the budget bill but now they are inserting what should be a separate bill into the budget bill. In other words, if you don’t vote yes for the budget bill, you are a traitor to all Delawareans. So pass our charter school boon or risk being lambasted by the Democrat leadership. This is what they are actually seeking to amend in the budget bill:
- b) Notwithstanding subsection a), a charter school may negotiate a contract (multi-year, if desired) for contractor payment for school transportation up to the maximum rate of 70% or the charter school may publicly bid the transportation routes. If the actual negotiated or bid costs are lower than the maximum rate, the charter school may keep the difference to provide services to low-income and/or English-Language Learners. If the charter school includes a fuel adjustment contract provision, the charter school shall be responsible for increased payments to the contractor or it may keep funds taken back from the contractor.
Anyone who follows end of June politics in Delaware knows that State Rep. John Kowalko fights this every single year. This year is no exception but he is even more offended about them actually putting a bill in a bill. He has his amendment ready to go:
AMEND Senate Bill No. 235 on page 233 by deleting “If the actual negotiated or bid costs are lower than the maximum rate, the charter school may keep the difference to provide services to low-income and/or English-Language Learners.”
This amendment to the budget bill removes a proposed addition to the Delaware Code contained in the epilogue language that would permanently allow charter schools to “keep the difference” for transportation funding that is not used to fund transportation costs.
The proposed addition to the Delaware Code would contradict the requirement in 14 Del. C. § 508(a) that the State reimburse charter schools only for actual transportation costs, which is also required for all other public schools pursuant to the Delaware Administrative Code.
Will the Delaware General Assembly finally stop this nonsense? Who is pushing this besides the Delaware Charter Schools Network? Could it be a departing co-chair of the Delaware JFC who pretty much had to resign so she could get her kid into Newark Charter School despite the improbability of getting in through their lottery and the HUGE waiting list?