Senator Sokola Makes My Day With Proposed Education Funding Transparency Bill

Delaware Education Funding

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?

Delaware Education Funding: Which Schools Get The Most Per Student?

Delaware Education Funding

Are students in Delaware getting the most bang for their buck?  How much do districts and charters spend each year?  Per student?  In Delaware, education funding is one of the most complex things to understand when it comes to who gets what and what for.  Divvied up between three main sources: federal, state, and local funding, school districts spend a lot of money to educate students.  But is everything on the up and up?  For charter schools, who don’t have the added number of buildings and staff to contend with, do they really do “more with less“?  The answers may surprise you!

Now that Fiscal Year 2016 is in the history books, I was able to find what the average cost per student is for each Delaware traditional school district and charter school.  There are a few caveats to these pictures though.  The below figures are based on what each district and charter spent as expenditures in  FY2016,  based off information provided by the State of Delaware, regardless of the revenue source.  The number of students enrolled is based on figures as of September 30th, 2015.  While that may not seem important, it plays a huge role in Delaware education funding.  When Delaware Met closed last January, all those students went to surrounding districts or charters, adding to those district and charter expenditures.  A lot of the money Del Met received was already spent so the districts didn’t necessarily receive the full “cost” for each student.  While that is an extreme situation, things like students who receive an IEP after September 30th will always add to an increase in local funding while the state does not give any more funding for those types of things.  This is just the first part of a series of articles I am working on concerning what districts and charters pay for.  This introductory article is, however, the baseline of all that comes out after.


Christina is tops and Delmar is on the bottom.  Note that this does not include the special programs under Christina.  This graph tends to run parallel with the number of students in a district with a few exceptions.  For the purposes of Red Clay, I took out the number of students that attend the charter schools they are an authorizer of.  The reason for this is because each of those three charters pay their expenditures separately through the Delaware accounting system.  As well, costs associated with the New Castle County Data Center, run by Red Clay and Colonial, are not factored in here because that entity is separate in Delaware accounting.


Like the traditional school districts, this tends to fall in line with the number of students.  Two very big exceptions are Gateway Lab School and Positive Outcomes.  Both of these charters predominantly serve special education students.  Newark Charter School is the biggest charter school in the state, thus they spend the most.


Once again, as noted above, Christina technically has more students when you don’t account for  the three charters in Red Clay.  Note the number of students in Cape Henlopen and the vo-tech schools.  This plays a big role in understanding the below pictures.


Many of these charters tend to be the older charters in the state with a few exceptions.  Note the very last charter school on this list: Positive Outcomes.


This is where things change rapidly.  Just being the biggest district does not mean you spend the most per student.  That designation goes to Cape Henlopen School District.  A lot of that comes from their local funding.  Citizens in Cape Henlopen rarely say no to a referendum.  The citizens of this area don’t seem to mind paying more for the education of students.  I was actually surprised in the Appoquinimink numbers.  The fourth largest district seems to pay second to the least amount per student.  Note how most of the vo-techs spend per student.  Taking the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th place out of the 19 school districts, they are the only ones that are not funded in the same way.  For vo-techs, there no referenda.  All of their funding, aside from federal funding, comes from line items in the budget.  There appears to be a greater benefit for this funding method for the students at these schools.  For districts like Red Clay, Christina, and Capital, they have some of the highest number of low-income students in the state.  Capital’s low-income population is at 51%.  That aspect alone gives these districts additional federal Title I funding.


Positive Outcomes spends the most per student even though they have the least amount of students.  Like Gateway, the bulk of their population is students with IEPs, so this drives up the costs associated with that population way up!  Charter School of Wilmington comes in last, but they also get a few perks the other charters don’t.  They share their school with Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Red Clay.  They have a very sweet rent payment to Red Clay.  As well, a lot of the services they share with Cab students don’t cost extra for CSW as they would in other charters.  CSW has the lowest amount of low-income students and students with disabilities in their student population by a very big margin compared to the rest of the state.  So in some respects, they should have the lowest per-student funding.  Great Oaks, which just opened this year, has a very high cost per student compared to their peers.  I have to wonder how much unused space they are renting out in the Community Education Building in downtown Wilmington.  Delaware College Prep, which closed their doors on June 30th, won’t be on this list next year.  Many charters received modifications this year for an increase or decrease in their enrollments, so expect a lot of these numbers to change in a year.


To answer the boast of Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network of “charters do more with less” is not an easy thing to do.  Judging by the above graph, we can’t say that for every charter school.  As well, we don’t even know how much goes towards each of the many coded allocations of expenditures for Delaware schools.  It can be done, but the average citizen is not going to do that.  We can say with certainty there is absolutely no consistent way schools pay their expenses.  Yes, there is a guide all districts and charters are expected to follow, but very few, if any, do it by the book.  To try to fix this and properly code each transaction into it’s correct coding group can be done.  It would take years to do for each fiscal year.  Furthermore, there are a plethora of different factors that affects the funding a district or charter gets: how much experience teachers have, the populations of high-needs students (students with disabilities, low-income status, English Language learners, etc.), even down to their transportation funding.  The bigger the district, the more administration they have.  This plays a big factor into expenditures.  But there is also, what I view, as wasteful spending.  Things that don’t really make sense given the context of what education should be about compared to what far too many power-hungry adults think it should be.

What these graphs do not tell us is how much money is being spent per student in different categories.  That is what happens next with this series.  For example, even a category like Student Body Activities can vary widely by charter or district.

I would like to thank a gentleman named Jack Wells for the inspiration behind this article as well as the rest of this series.  This would have never come about, under any circumstances, had it not been for the work he has conducted for years.  Jack is a Red Clay citizen with no children in the district.  But he is very concerned about making sure Red Clay and all Delaware students are getting what our citizens pay for: a good education.  For those who know Jack, he is like a dog without a bone.  He will keep digging and digging until he finds out what is really going on.  No FOIA is immune to Jack, and he will find that last unturned stone.  I am honored to be a part of Jack’s email group where he digs into a lot of this stuff.  Jack Wells and I talk a lot on the side.  Transparency and accountability in our schools are very important to Jack and I.  Not the accountability that comes from high-stakes tests, but financial accountability.  We may not agree on every facet of education funding, but I do know we both believe our state needs to do a hell of a lot more about holding districts and charters under the microscope for how they spend money.

Our State Auditor, Thomas Wagner, seems to have vanished and doesn’t want to answer the questions coming from Jack and I over the past month.  Many are wondering why this is for an elected official who still has more than two years in his term.  What will it take for him to adequately oversee education spending in our state?  There is far too much silence coming from that State Department, and it has me worried about what is going on behind the scenes.  Some people might be panicking.  That’s okay.  Panic away!  If you are doing something wrong, you have cause to be concerned.

Eventually, if I’m still alive, I would like to do the same thing for each school in each district.  But that involves a lot more research than I now have time for!

Kuumba Academy & Delaware College Prep Leaders Busted In State Auditor’s Report, Thomas Edison & MOT Pass

Delaware College Prep, Financial Audit, Kuumba Academy

Delaware State Auditor Thomas Wagner released a report today and Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy showed significant discrepancies regarding reimbursement of funds to school leaders.  Thomas Edison Charter School and MOT Charter School, also included in the inspection, came through with flying colors.  For Delaware College Prep, there was a “party loan” over $11,000.00 involving the Board President.  For Kuumba, the Head of School, Assistant Head of School and a custodian were overpaid and the report alleges violations of state code in procuring contracts without any bidding process.

This tells us the seven charters that were under investigation by Wagner’s office.  Family Foundations Academy, Academy of Dover, Providence Creek Academy, Thomas Edison Charter School, MOT Charter School, Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy.  I have a sneaky feeling Delaware Met could fit into this category in the future based on events currently happening there.

More to come on this unexpected development.  Congrats to Thomas Edison and MOT for doing the right thing.  Kuumba and Delaware College Prep… there are no words!  To the members of the General Assembly: House Bill 186 needs to pass first thing in January 2016.  The charter financial fraud in our state must pass.  All Delaware Republicans need to open their eyes to this mismanagement and outright theft of state funds and do the right thing.

Delaware DOE, How They Spent Race To The Top Money, Rodel & Vision Network, and the Priority Zone Charters (cha-ching)

Delaware Race To The Top Funding

Delaware has spent over $100,000,000 of their Race To The Top funding.  Below is a list of how much each school district, vocational, and charter school received.  As well, amounts are listed for the Delaware Department of Education expenditures, subgrants, community involvement, school bonuses and more.  More information needs to be provided by the DOE for how much money went to who for their expenditures, as well as justification for certain expenditures like $3.7 million dollars to The Vision Network.  That’s a lot of money going to a non-profit organization!

I did not include funds received from partnership zone specific schools, but I will have another article based on that shortly.  What is very interesting is the charter schools in Delaware that received some of the highest amounts of funding.  Three charters in Wilmington received three of the five largest amounts.  Those three charters, Kuumba, Eastside and Thomas Edison are all within the priority school zone.  Markell mentioned a couple of them during his priority schools announcement as “schools that work”, as compared to the “failing” six elementary schools.  Were those schools beefed up for the past few years at the expense of the priority schools?

What did Thomas Edison Charter do to receive more than double the amount of funding than the next charter, Eastside Charter?  Also, many of the charters that received high amounts of funding have been known to have either low special education numbers or problems with special education.  If Moyer was does not meet or worse for three years in a row, what qualifies them for receiving more money than many other charters?  What qualified Campus Community and Providence Creek in Kent Country for getting such large amounts?  Why did the Charter School of Wilmington not receive any of the main funds?  You can’t say school size has much to do with it, because Newark Charter School has more than double the amount of students than Thomas Edison.

I’m going to go ahead and apologize in advance to the Delaware DOE. They may be getting a lot of calls tomorrow. I really hope this matches up with their budgets and Delaware Online Checkbook! Here are the numbers.

Delaware Race To The Top Funds

Public School Districts:

Caesar Rodney: $3,232,368
Laurel: $1,247,391
Lake Forest: $1,362,532
Capital: $5,290,106
Cape Henlopen: $2,118,985
Milford: $1,739,619
Seaford: $3,374,483
Smyrna: $1,586,135
Appoquinimonk: $215,946
Brandywine: $4,619,528
Red Clay: $7,473,377
Christina: $6,310,030
Colonial: $4,564,151
Woodbridge: $1,690,299
Indian River: $2,948,387
Delmar: $341,604

Vocational Schools:

New Castle Vocational Tech: $1,244,357
PolyTech: $265,875
Sussex Tech: $339,063

Charter Schools:

Odyssey: $23,872
Delaware College Prep: $17,896
Prestige Academy: $48,588
Positive Outcomes: $46,233
Eastside: $366,302
Campus Community: $183,225
Moyer: $285,329
Edison: $857,377.02
Sussex Academy: $25,528
Delaware Military Academy: $17,108
Family Foundations: $103,282
Kuumba: $166,965
Pencader: $38,827
Academy Of Dover: $191,519
Providence Creek: $220,721
MOT: $17,395
Newark Charter School: $57,523

Department of Education Spending from RTTT:

Delivery Unit Office Funds: $1,942,106
LDS (Longitudinal Data System): $5,863,495
Turnaround Unit Office Funds: $1,634,311
TLEU (Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Unit) $2,285,404
Indirect Costs $290,229
Data Coaches: $8,549,347
Development Coaches: $3,290,551
STEM Residency: $664,875
Leadership/Principal Training $2,376,416
SAMS $673,610
Vision Network/Comp Prof Dev $3,723,119
Teacher Prep Improvement Grants $170,000
Alternate Routes to Certification $2,614,778
Marketing/Community Engagement $304,970
Recruitment Website Portal $244,990
DE Talent Cooperative $1,557,263
Student Growth Measures $541,702
Academic Achievement Awards (School Based Bonuses): $113,594
Supplemental PZ School funds $-
Training and support for DCAS $1,014,754
STEM Coordinating Council $32,200
AP Summer Institutes $345,750
College Readiness (SAT and middle school college readiness): $1,492,943

Partnership Zone Specific School Funding:

Christina PZ funds Stubbs $543,916.53
Christina PZ funds Glasgow $458,637.54
NCCVT PZ funds for Howard $586,991.72
Positive Outcomes PZ funds $599,997.15
Indian River Community engagement subgrant $37,705.00
Seaford community engagement subgrant $47,476.00
Indian River SAMs subgrant $50,000.00
Lake Forest SAMs subgrant $50,000.00
Red Clay SAMs subgrant $50,000.00
Christina SAMs subgrant $49,997.35
Woodbridge SAMs subgrant $50,000.00
New Castle County VoTech SAMs $25,000.00
Red Clay PZ funds for Stanton Middle School $464,471.00
Red Clay PZ funds for Marbrook Elementary $325,035.78
Red Clay PZ funds for Lewis Elementary $417,172.23
Capital PZ funds for Dover H.S. $812,498.00
Laural PZ funds for Laurel Middle School $454,798.92
Christina PZ funds for Bancroft Elementary $291,163.91
CR Middle School Prep $71,201.00
Cape Henlopen Middle School Prep $42,293.00
Laurel Middle School Prep $17,696.80
Delmar Middle School Prep $18,438.00
Christina Middle School Prep $126,155.00
Smyrna Middle School Prep $50,688.78
Seaford Middle School Prep $25,870.00
Brandywine Middle School Prep $60,113.87
Capital Middle School Prep $54,570.00
Colonial Middle School Prep $50,171.08
Woodbridge Middle School Prep $20,056.00
Milford Middle School Prep $34,091.70
Delmar Family & Community Engagement $49,001.78
Lake Forest Family & Community Engagement $2,919.36
Kuumba Academy Family & Community Engagement $28,809.81
Capital Family & Community Engagement Dover H.S. $49,889.00
Red Clay Family & Community Engagement $27,970.81
Christina Family & Community Engagement $47,088.65
Indian River Middle School Prep $78,610.00
Appoquinimink Middle School Prep $29,023.21
Lake Forest Middle School Prep $34,606.00
Red Clay Middle School Prep $145,794.00
Christina William B. Keene Elementary School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Newark Charter School – School Based Bonuses $41,250.00
Indian River John M. Clayton Elementary School Based Bonuses $41,250.00
CR DAFB Middle School -School Based Bonuses $49,979.90
Cape Henlopen-Shields Elementary -School Based Bonuses $49,999.00
Kuumba Academy-School Based Bonuses $17,663.67
CR-Stokes Elementary-School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Milford-Morris Elementary-School Based Bonuses $41,009.68
Indian River-Showell Elementary-School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Appoquinimink High School-School Based Bonuses $17,500.00
Capital-South Dover Elementary-School Based Bonuses $41,250.00
Indian River-Lord Baltimore Elementary-School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Laurel School District -School Based Bonuses $48,928.59
Brandywine-Mount Pleasant Elementary School Based Bonuses $49,710.00
Cape Henlopen-Beacon Middle School -School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Smyrna-School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Cape Henlopen-Rehoboth Elementary School Based Bonuses $49,993.07
Brandywine-Hanby Elementary School Based Bonuses $49,901.00
Wilmington Charter – School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Indian River – Georgetown Elementary School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Indian River – Georgetown Middle School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Indian River – Long Neck Elementary School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Lake Forest -East Elementary School Based Bonuses $48,898.78
Lake Forest – South Elementary School Based Bonuses $49,958.00
NCCVT-St. George’s Technical High School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Capital – North Dover Elementary School Based Bonuses $17,500.00
Sussex Academy School Based Bonuses $41,250.00
Christina-Elbert-Palmer Elementary School Based Bonuses $40,639.34
Christina – R. Elisabeth Maclary Elementary School Based Bonuses $41,245.11
Appo-Middletown High School Based Bonuses $17,435.00
Colonial – Carrie Downie Elementary School Based Bonuses $47,830.65
Lake Forest- Lake Forest North Elementary School Based Bonuses $41,177.36
Caesar Rodney-W.B. Simpson Elementary School Based Bonuses $50,000.00
Indian River-East Millsboro Elementary School Based Bonuses $49,708.00

Other Items Not Specifically Categorized:

Next Generation Science Standards $41,430.50
Common Ground for Common Core $57,777.20
DE-TELL Survey $- ?
Strategic Data Proj SOW $- ?
Unallocated LEA funds (will be disbursed in years 3 and 4)

Grand Total: $100,331,556.52