The Angeline Rivello Email About The Teacher Leader Pilot That Really Ticked People Off

A couple of days ago, I posted an article about major controversy with the Delaware Teacher Leader Pilot program.  It was a long article and if there was one thing I’ve been told since the beginning of this blog, some of articles are just too damn long.  I know, I know.  My own wife tells me I babble on and on at times.  So here is the short and sweet:

Angeline Rivello sent out applications for the Teacher Leader Pilot before the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation & Careers even came out with their final recommendations.  The selection committee for this pilot included a member that was also picked for the program.  The DOE didn’t seem to give a crap if the Joint Finance Committee was going to approve this in the final budget for FY2017 either.  I alleged that Rodel was behind the whole thing.  I do this a lot, and I have yet to be proven wrong on a lot of this stuff.  Donna Johnson was included in the email and she damn well knew the committee had not approved it yet which shows collusion with the State Board of Education office.

So you can consider this the radio version of this song, or you can read the extended dance mix linked above.

Updated: Red Clay’s Tax Rate Jumps Up 2 Cents Without A Referendum!

Man, taxpayers are getting it this year.  Like Appoquinimink, Red Clay citizens are going to get another hit this year as their tax rate leaps up 2 cents to $2.174 per $100 of assessed value.  But if you look at the below pictures, it shows a bigger increase.  That is because their last referendum had different amounts that would change in the tax rate for the next couple years.  But unlike Appo, there tuition tax leapt up .02 cents as opposed to .06 cents.  Red Clay has a ton more students with disabilities, and yet their needs-based special education funding only went up $250,000 as opposed to Appo’s needed $815,000 for “increased special education cost”.  So Appo still  has some explaining to do (I am working on a follow-up article to explain this anomaly).

RCTuition

rc5yrtaxratehistory

Click on the blue to see Red Clay’s current tax rate presentation and FY2017 Preliminary Budget.

Delaware Senate Violates Constitution By Passing Budget Without Required Majority 3/4 Vote

On Tuesday, the Delaware Senate passed Senate Bill 285, the FY2017 budget bill, with a vote of 15 yes and 6 no.  The Delaware Constitution requires 3/4 of both the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate to vote yes in order for the budget to pass.  The Delaware Senate did not get the necessary 3/4 vote.  It was a little bit over 71%, not 75%.  But they passed it anyways and sent it to the House who did pass it with the required 3/4 vote.  Now it heads to Governor Markell’s desk.  As El Somnambulo pointed out on Delaware Liberal this morning, only the General Assembly can declare this unconstitutional and could send it to the Delaware Supreme Court.  This is the dark side of shady Delaware Politics as El Som pointed out:

The question, of course, was moot when the budgets passed almost unanimously. But that’s not the case this year. I don’t care whether the R’s are doing this just to be pains in the ass. The idea that the General Assembly would willfully pass, and the Governor would sign, a budget that might not meet constitutional standards is, well when you think of it, not surprising. Just depressing and sorta outrageous. And business as usual.

The absolute corruption and fraud in Dover continues.  It isn’t just education folks, it is everything.  This General Assembly has no respect for the Delaware Constitution or those who came before them.  They set up laws to allow illegal activity in our state. Yes, that is an oxymoron, but it is what they do.  And we still keep voting the same people in, year after year.  At least Senator Karen Peterson has the good sense to get the hell out of there before they do something even more stupid.  The same day the Senate illegally passed the budget, WBOC reported a federal judge ruled Delaware’s abandoned property collecting practices violate due process law.  Amounting to revenue for the state to the tune of almost $500 million dollars on an annual basis.  That is about 1/8th of the state budget folks.  How can we, as the citizens of Delaware, allow this to continue?  When will the people rise up and take control?  Are we just as guilty as the politicians that look the other way on illegal activities by electing the lawmakers who violate our Constitution?

Demand Funding For Delaware K-3 Basic Special Education Students

The Delaware Special Education nightmare has gone on long enough.  Years ago, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed a bill to give extra funding for special education students.  With categories such as basic, complex and intensive, this unit-based funding model allots funds based on the number of special education categories there are in each grade at each school.  For basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade there is no difference in the funding than their peers in regular education in those grades.  Last year, State Rep. Kim Williams introduced House Bill 30 which would give this funding to students in those grades.  It was released from the House Education Committee soon after but it has sat in the House Appropriations Committee ever since.  Meanwhile, our Governor, in his latest proposed budget for FY2017 has failed once again to give that funding.

The result of this is hundreds of Delaware students not getting proper special education services, required by Federal law.  This is what happens: a parent requests an IEP.  Many schools in Delaware deny the IEP in those grades since they know they won’t get the funding for it unless it is a higher category.  If they do approve it, they have to use the miniscule federal IDEA-B funding they get and the rest comes from their local funding.  In many cases, services written into the IEP such as occupational therapy or counseling are not given to students because of this obscene lack of funding.

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is misguided if they truly believe any funding for their redistricting plan will give funding for students in K-3 who are considered basic special education.  The Governor did not put it in the budget.  But they still present to public bodies that these students will get these funds.  And every time I call them out on it, someone tells me “we’re working on it”.  If it was truly a priority, it would be there.  No questions asked.  I’ve been telling them this since day one.  The Wilmington advocates can talk about how many generations of students have lost because of no services.  How about the millennia of people with disabilities who have always been cast aside with education funding as if they aren’t even worth it.  Federal law requires the funding to be available to be provided for students with disabilities.  If you want to talk about discrimination and mistreatment, please remember that.  And also remember many African-American students also have disabilities, statewide.

Our Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell want to provide $18 million in funding to early education for the next fiscal year.  One of the goals of this, according to them, is to reduce the amount of students needing special education services in their first few years of school.  On the surface, this looks honorable, but be assured that it is not.  What Markell and the DOE have failed to recognize (or know completely) is the fact that disabilities are neurologically based.  By giving them the extra support in those early years and then putting them into Kindergarten without the funding to sustain those services, these children will suffer.  It is not right to put the bulk of this funding on the local education agencies.  By not giving this funding, these children have suffered.  No amount of Response to Intervention is going to cure a disability.  I firmly believe it is a tactic by which these special needs children are purposely denied this funding.

These students don’t do well on state assessments.  Markell and the DOE have always known this.  State assessments are not designed to make students proficient.  They lose their meaning if everyone does well.  So the powers that be want these students to do bad on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I have heard horror stories this year from teachers who say it takes students with disabilities five times longer to do sections of the test than their regular peers.  And they still won’t reach this mythological proficiency.  This was something that could only be carefully planned.  It is why the Governor gave NO allocations for it in any budget since he signed the needs-based funding bill.  It would interfere with his Education Inc. testing buddies and their huge hedge fund returns.  It is also far easier to give these students a career path towards menial jobs than to give them the funding they deserve so they could perhaps have a shot at success.  You may fool people all the time, but you have NEVER fooled me.  One only needs to look at Delaware Online Checkbook to see this strategy of yours has hurt many students and families over the past four years.

So please sign the change.org petition: https://www.change.org/p/peter-schwartzkopf-pass-house-bill-30-in-delaware-giving-basic-special-education-funding-to-students-in-k-3 and demand our General Assembly pass House Bill 30.   The time is NOW for this bill to move forward.  We can no longer sit by and watch while the most vulnerable to students suffer needlessly.  Tonight at the Red Clay board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty told the board and the audience to support HB30.  Their board passed a resolution supporting it.  All Delaware school boards need to do the same.  I asked the Capital Board of Education months ago to do the same thing but they have not addressed this at all.

redclayhb30resolution

 

Charters Making Out Like Bandits With Minor Capital Improvements Loophole!

Delaware State Representative John Kowalko requested information on how much Delaware charters are getting in minor capital improvement funding through Governor Markell’s proposed budget.  In the past three fiscal years, Delaware charters were allowed to receive $351,857 total from the state budget.  This year, Markell has an astonishing $1,587,310 allocated for charter school minor capital funding.  This is approximately four and a half times the average yearly amount.  Kowalko is not happy about this and asked to share this letter he wrote his colleagues in the 148th General Assembly.

Dear Colleagues,

Here is the amount of minor cap improvement money spent on Charter School facilities. This is out of a proposed $11 million in the Governor’s budget for MCI allotted for all public schools in Delaware including the many crumbling and outdated buildings in Wilmington and elsewhere.  It should not be necessary to point out to all of you that none of these charter school facilities are owned in whole or part by Delaware taxpayers and every dollar spent goes to enhancing the value of privately owned facilities. Not one penny will come back to the taxpayer if these buildings are sold or abandoned. This is an abuse of taxpayer monies and an abdication of our responsibilities to those taxpayers.

Representative John Kowalko
A voice of reason in an out of control charter friendly General Assembly!
And here are the amount each charter will get.  Of course, this is subject to the approval of the General Assembly when they pass the budget.

CharterMinorCapFundingPt1

CharterMinorCapFundingPt2

Yeah, I wasn’t too happy when I saw this either.  So aside from this surplus funding which was not part of the original charter school law but got added in to House Bill 165 in 2013, charters also get funds from the charter school performance fund, the charter school transportation slush fund, and many donations from places like the Longwood Foundation, Rodel, and The Welfare Foundation along with others.  When will the madness stop?  Kendall Massett spoke at the House Education Committee meeting last week to speak against House Bill 231, sponsored by State Rep. Sean Matthews.  His bill would require charters to have all teachers as part of the state retirement fund.  Massett spoke against it stating that the original charter school bill allowed charters to have extra flexibility from state bureaucracy.  But apparently when it benefits the charters, they don’t speak out against that…

Governor Markell’s FY2017 Education Budget Gives Funds For WEIC, SAIL, Autism, & Early Childhood Education But Stiffs Basic Spec. Education For K-3 Students

Provide greater support and accountability to Priority Schools and ensure the State and districts collaboratively intervene in failing schools.

 

Once again we have the Delaware Governor and his Department of Education labeling schools as “failing”.  This is based on standardized test scores.  It doesn’t take into account the high number of low-income/poverty students, students with disabilities, and the students who bear witness to horrible violence which has a severe impact on their ability to learn.

Governor Markell put in $6 million for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan and $1 million for the SAIL (afterschool) program.  Charters have the recommended $500,000 for their “performance” fund which is the same as last year.  $2.5 million would go towards “school improvement” funds (priority schools, focus schools).  The Governor is recommending $4 million for “teacher compensation reform”.  He nixed nearly $10.7 million in base teacher increase pays, but allowed for $5.3 million to cover inflationary costs.  This is a $57 million dollar increase from the FY2016 budget for personnel costs so I am a bit confused on that one.

From what I can see, it looks like the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit at the DOE is losing some funds.  Secretary of Education Godowsky requested an increase from $1.8 million to $2.4 million, but Markell is recommending $1.75 million.  Godowsky also wanted to double the state funding for technology operations from $2.8 million to $5.7 million, but Markell is looking at $3.6 million in his budget.  SEED scholarships, which increase scholarships for Delaware students going to Community College, has a proposed $1.6 million increase.

What I do see is a $10 million increase in special needs programs.  Although it doesn’t explain the increase, I am assuming this is to cover the funding for Basic Special Education for Kindergarten to 3rd Grade students in Delaware.  Currently, there is no state funding for these students with disabilities.  This was one of the main recommendations from WEIC and is also pending legislation from State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 30.  It looks like, upon inspection of Senate Bill 175, which breaks down everything in the budget, these funds are going towards early education.  Since the Race To The Top for Early Childhood Education ended, Markell is putting $11.35 million towards this.  So Basic Special Education funding doesn’t get funding, but we are going to pay for early childhood “intervention”.  I will have MUCH more to say about this one later.  Many other special education programs remain the same, including alternative settings.  Allocations for out-of-school placement, like Day Schools and Residential Treatment Centers looks the same as last year, even though costs for these programs have skyrocketed over the years.

On the Dept. of Health and Human Services budget, Markell is looking to increase funding for Autism by only $500,000.00, which is much less than the funds requested through Senate Bills 92 and 93.  Altogether, the fiscal notes for those two bills totaled $1.3 million.

Many of the increases from the previous year are based on inflationary measures.  In the below document, I’m not sure why the first page has all the black on it, but I will attempt to fix it later. Updated 4:58pm: I’m just going to put a picture of it in here…

DOEProposedBudget1stPage

And the detailed version, giving a full breakdown of where the money would go…

Joint Finance Committee To Do A Top-Down Look At DOE Organization & Salaries This Morning

The Joint Finance Committee of the Delaware 148th General Assembly is meeting today for their Winter Meeting.

Orientation on the Department of Education Compensation System and Organizational Structure • Programmatic review of the Department of Education’s operating budget • Presentation by Secretary Godowsky on DOE employees/titles/salaries/duties and measures of employee effectiveness. The Joint Finance Committee may hold an executive session closed to the public for the purpose of discussing personnel matters in which the names, competency, and abilities of individual employees are discussed under 29 Del. C. § 10004(b)(9).

While meetings like this are not unusual each year, this one will have added weight to it this year due to events that have occurred in the past few months.

The Race To The Top employee positions that were supposed to be eliminated when the program expired remain at the DOE.  Another section of the state budget for the DOE was carved out for these eight positions.  When State Rep. John Kowalko found out about this he was furious, as were many other state legislators.

This is Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky’s first presentation of this sort to the Joint Finance Committee.  Last week he presented the DOE’s proposed budget where he asked for an increase of $87 million dollars.  The Joint Finance Committee will assuredly have many probing questions about the DOE’s intent and purpose for those funds.

Secretary Godowsky was confirmed by the Delaware Senate in October.  The week before he assured Delawareans that “harsh opt-out penalties” wouldn’t rule the day on the state’s new school accountability system.  He reversed that decision in record time ticking off many legislators, parents, teachers, administrators, and citizens in the process.

Following in Mark Murphy’s footsteps has to be a daunting task, but Godowsky’s continued proclamations of communicating better and improving the perception of the DOE has been built on empty promises thus far.  In a recent poll conducted by this blog, almost 35% viewed Godowsky’s first 60 days as okay.  Over 53% did not approve of his actions in his first 60 days.  Only 11% saw him doing a great job. While this is not an accurate assessment of Godowsky due to the nature of the readers on this blog, it does give an indication of overall dissatisfaction in his abilities as Secretary of Education.

Delaware Education Legislation That Should Have Passed In The 148th General Assembly

I wrote earlier today about education legislation that passed the other day and went to Governor Markell for signature, veto, or no action.  To date, Governor Markell has never vetoed any education bill that has come before him.  But some legislation never gets there.  The following are bills that had tremendous merit, but for various reasons either never got heard in committee, were never voted on, never went to the other side (House or Senate), or were stricken.  Others are bills I’m going to label as very controversial and have danger flags all over them.  I’m not going to list them all, but the most important ones.

House Bill #28 Status: House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: Absent an agreement with the school district, charter schools are currently able to retain any funding received for the fiscal year for a student who transfers mid-year from the charter school to a school district. This bill mandates that, if a student transfers from a charter school to a school district after September 30th, such funds will be prorated between the charter school and the school district where the student is then enrolled.  

What Happened: This is the first of the many Kim Williams education bills she introduced this year.  While she has quite a few on this list, a lot of her bills passed.  She really took off, right from the very beginning of this year’s session, to get education bills out there to correct a lot of the injustices set up in the budget and with the way the DOE runs things.  Unfortunately, with the heavy-handed pro-education reform Governor Markell and his minions at the DOE, along with Rep. Earl Jaques as head of the education committee, bills like this are hard to be heard along with the stiff lobbying from the Delaware Charter Schools Network.

Prediction: State Auditor reports come out showing more charter financial mismanagement, the state desperately looking for any available funds for the budget, and Jaques either stripped of chairmanship power on the education committee or knocked down a peg or two from Schwartzkopf in the coming days of elections, and this one will pass.  The charter party in Delaware is going to get crashed, and it will change the entire landscape they are used to living in.  It wouldn’t shock me if amendment were added stripping charters from their transportation slush fund where they get to keep their excess funds from their transportation budget.  It will get strong opposition from the Republicans, but even some of them will realize the public will remember that come vote time!

House Bill #30 Status: sent to Appropriations Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.

What Happened: The budget.  This bill has a $7.5 million fiscal note.  The sad part is these students should have always been provided this funding from the get-go.  Unfortunately, this bill will be one of those that will rise or fall based on the budget next year.

Prediction: The IEP Task Force will reconvene, and in conjunction with House Bill 117, the Wilmington redistricting push, and the Senate Resolution group looking at funding, as well as IMMENSE pressure from this blog, it could pass.  Special education is about to become a huge topic in Delaware, bigger than at any time before.  Trust me on this!

House Bill #34 Status: sent to Senate Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, synopsis: This bill will allow a local school district board to delay new or changed rules, regulations, or administrative procedures from becoming effective during a school year once the school year has started. This will allow the rules, regulations, and procedures to be consistent for the whole school year.

What Happened: this bill, which I loved when it was introduced back in January, just passed the House on the last day of session.  It is a good solid bill which will prevent the DOE from sneaking in regulations during the summer forcing schools to submit to them without any guidance or support once they come back in August.

Prediction: It will pass the Senate, but not right away.  Spiegelman, as a young Republican in the House, wants to show some muscle.  In the Democrat controlled House and Senate, this can be dangerous.  They will not give him what he wants all the time, but they will give him lots of carrots.

House Bill #52 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: Under current educational standards, cursive writing is no longer required to be taught to our students, and many schools have abandoned teaching it to their students. As cursive writing is still an imperative skill in many professions, this bill will make the teaching of cursive writing a requirement for all public schools in Delaware.

What happened: not a lot.  It was released from the education committee.  It had so-so public support, but not a lot.  Both sides had pros and cons on the issue.

Prediction: If the House has a really slow day and Schwartzkopf is in a good mood, it might get to a vote.  I wouldn’t bet on it though.

House Bill #61 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes.
Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites.
The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.

What Happened: Pete Schwartzkopf.  I’m guessing the Speaker of the House really hate this bill, cause this is the third year in a row it came out of committee and sat on the ready list.  Also known as the Kilroy’s bill, the charters have fought against it by crying over the “expenses”, but it really isn’t an expensive venture.

Prediction: This will depend on charter school behavior between now and next year.  If the State Auditor finds more bad financial behavior, this could cause Schwartzokpf to finally put it to a vote.  I think it will pass with strong Democrat support, but like House Bill 186, the Republicans will shoot it down because of their strange obsession with charters.  It will pass under this circumstance.  And we can’t forget the Kilroy effect on this bill.  He is very pissed about the treatment of this bill.  He could drum up a lot of public support for this bill, and I will be happy to help him.

House Bill #107 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill articulates the principle that local school districts and school boards should have the authority to select their own leaders and staff from a pool of qualified applicants. These are decisions best left at the local level rather than imposed by a central authority.

What happened: This bill was a reaction to the DOE and Markell’s priority schools initiative, where six schools were told by the DOE they will get new leaders because of their bad standardized test scores.  The whole priority school controversy died down quick after the WEAC recommendations, but they are still out there.  Red Clay negotiated against the new leaders and won.  Christina is up in the air due to the whole redistricting legislation, Senate Bill #122.

Prediction: This won’t go anywhere, unless the DOE pulls a priority schools sneak attack in the fall causing the dormant issue to rise again.  Then this bill has a fighting change.

House Bill #108 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill requires that the General Assembly approve any ESEA Flexibility waiver prior to its submission to the U.S. Department of Education.

What happened: Too many bills like this, designed to give the General Assembly more control over the out of control DOE.  With the House Education Committee led by the very-friendly-with-DOE-and-probably-too-much Rep. Earl Jaques, it was never put on the agenda.

Prediction: It will depend on Jaques retaining his chair on the committee.  With numerous issues over House Bill 50 and House Bill 186, it would not shock me if Jaques had a conversation with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf.  This will also depend on DOE behavior regarding their current ESEA waiver application and next year’s as well.  Another curve ball could come in the form of ESEA reauthorization at a Federal level which would render this bill meaningless if waivers are done away with.

House Bill #117 Status: assigned to House Appropriations committee,  Sponsor: Rep. Deb Heffernan, synopsis: This Act will create a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income according to the Department of Education. This funding source will be in addition to the normal enrollment based funding provided to school districts and charter schools. The low-income unit will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12 where the funding can be used for such purposes as providing additional teachers and paraprofessionals for classroom instruction; additional counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and intervention specialists; Response to Intervention Services; and before and after school programs providing homework assistance, and for support for English language learners. To ensure the low-income resources reach the schools where they are most needed, this Act requires that at least 98% of the units be directed towards the schools that generate the funding unless otherwise waived by a local board of education during a public meeting. 

What Happened: The budget.  Another bill with a fiscal note during very tight budget negotiations.  With the already passed Senate Resolution to look at funding in schools, and the strong push from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, this bill will be on a fast track in 2016.

Prediction: How much money will we have?  They are already projecting a $160 million deficit in Delaware next year.  Unless revenue starts pouring in, this bill could die on the fiscal vine.

House Bill #161 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE ESTABLISHING THE PARENT EMPOWERMENT EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT ACT.

What happened: This one was dead on arrival.  The whole idea of vouchers, which is exactly what these are, is a Republican idea.  In Dover, the Democrats rule and have for many years.  Democrats, the DSEA, and even Governor Markell are dead set against any type of voucher plan.

Prediction: if this even makes it to the House Education Committee, it will be shot down very fast.  And with states like Nevada ruling voucher programs unconstitutional, and Colorado giving a state ruling against them, any potential support for vouchers will quickly fade.  With the upcoming election year, the very thought of vouchers will be brought up by many Republicans, but it is a toxic subject opposed by many.  If you want to see how a voucher system can bring an entire country’s education system to it’s knees, just look at Sweden.

House Bill 173 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsors: Rep. Richard Collins and Senator Greg Lavelle, synopsis: The Department of Education often implements policies and educational requirements based upon directives issued by the United States Department of Education. This Bill will require that any directive received by the Department of Education from the Federal Government be automatically disclosed on the Department of Education website without the necessity for making a Freedom of Information Request. 

What Happened: Nothing.  It was introduced on 6/10/15, late in the session, by two Republicans.  However, given the shenanigans with the DOE and the many issues legislators conveyed with the DOE this year, this should have been a no-brainer.

Prediction: Up in the air.  There are other bills like this, demanding more transparency and stringent rules for the DOE and State Board.  Can all of them get passed?  It will really depend on how the DOE, Secretary Murphy, and the State Board “play” in the next year.  But this would lend transparency to the DOE, and I can see them wanting this to give the illusion…

House Bill 186 Status: Passed by House of Representatives, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis of bill: Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.

What happened: In four words, Delaware Charter Schools Network.  They openly lobbied against the bill, even setting up an email your legislator campaign on their website which several charter schools reached out to parents about.  Meanwhile, charter schools from Dover to Wilmington had allegations and reports coming out regarding financial abuse by school leaders.  This bill rolled the previous Williams sponsored House Bills #53 and 154 into one.

Prediction: more reports will come out from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office regarding other charter schools under investigation.  DCSN will lobby even harder, but transparency and financial controls will rule the day. Once again, the charter party is coming to an end in 2016. Remember this.  I’m not saying they will disappear, far from it.  But they will be held to higher financial and organizational standards.

Senate Bill #72 Status: on ready list for Senate, Sponsor: Senator Bryan Townsend, synopsis: This bill increases the teaching and administrative experience qualifications for the Secretary of Education from 5 years to 10 years. The Bill also clarifies that at least 6 years must be of teaching experience and at least 2 years must be of administrative experience. 

What Happened: This bill came out around the same time the Delaware State Educators Association and their local organizations in Christina and Red Clay publicly denounced Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with their vote of no confidence.  It immediately became a must-read article for newspapers and bloggers.  Shortly thereafter, the Delaware Association of School Administrators issued the same decree.

Prediction: This one is tough.  While there is certainly not a lot of love for Murphy in Legislative Hall (and in much of Delaware), he does have some things going for him.  This past Monday it was announced he was joining the board of the Council for Chief State School Officers.  This give him even more federal protection under US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s gaze.  Rep. Earl Jaques is the DOE’s House boy, so he may not put it on the agenda for the education committee.  As well, he is the perfect patsy for Governor Markell who runs the show.  Murphy does not bend for anyone if it contradicts one of Markell’s education policies.  While I think this is the funniest bill out there, it could set up an even worse situation if it passes.  Imagine a Secretary with the same  mindset as Murphy but more qualified.  Someone with charisma and public appeal.  That could be more dangerous than Murphy could ever be.  Unless Murphy does something colossally stupid over the next year, he isn’t going anywhere.  No matter what passes, Markell will never sign this bill.

Senate Bills #92 & 93 Status: on ready list for Senate vote, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose-Henry, synopsis for SB92: Delaware Code Title 14§1332 addresses the Program for Children with Autism and its “Special Staff.” Enacted nearly three decades ago, these regulations established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. In addition, the code designates a Statewide Director who primarily has provided direction, training, and technical assistance within the DAP. However, current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education and parents’ desire to have their children educated within their local communities, seem to be incongruent with this older model of service delivery. In addition, the magnitude of the increase in students identified with ASD has clearly created difficulty for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services/support that once was offered.
Therefore, the recommended code changes also revise the concept of DAP toward a system in which the Statewide Director would work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. This recommendation reconstitutes the regulations to neutralize the distinction between DAP approved programs and other in-district options, thereby, allowing and providing adequate resources to serve on behalf of all student with ASD in Delaware. The number of technical/ training experts has been identified as one expert per 100 students statewide. It is suggested that the fiscal mechanism to support these changes should be through mandated district participation that is congruent with the current needs based funding system in Delaware. Lastly, the current mandatory committee structure is enhanced to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review board.
These changes include articulation of the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director for Students with ASD; the addition of a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions); and the further clarification / additions to the committee structure for family input, monitoring, and protections under human rights. This recommendation recognizes and supports the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes essentially expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students within them.
, synopsis for SB93: This bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism.  Among other things, the Interagency Committee on Autism is charged with a) utilizing evidence-based practices and programs to improve outcomes for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in Delaware by sharing information, initiatives, data and communications among both public and private agencies providing services and supports for individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in the State of Delaware; and b) implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2013 Delaware Strategic Plan entitled “Blueprint for Collective Action: Final Report of the Delaware Strategic Plan to Improve Services and Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism is to provide a resource for training and technical assistance for Delaware state agencies, organizations and other private entities operating in the State of Delaware that provide services and support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The Network is to support the operations of the Interagency Committee on Autism through the maintenance of the website, maintenance of reports created by the Interagency Committee on Autism and maintenance of meeting minutes, as well as other support as needed by the Interagency Committee on Autism.

What Happened: The budget.  This is one of those crucial bills dealing with a fast-rising population of children and adults with Autism.  This bill will cost a lot of money.   With the budget issues at the end of the session, there was no way this was going to get to a vote.

Prediction: If you thought the opt-out parents were vocal, the General Assembly may want to prepare for these parents.  The Delaware Autism Program is running out of money.  States are obligated under Federal law to provide services.  Cuts will have to be made in the budget to make room for this.  Taxes will increase after the 148th General Assembly closes shop, this is a given.  These bills have to pass.  This is one of the biggest health issues of the future, and if we don’t get control over it now, it will jeopardize thousands and thousands of children and adults with Autism.  If you think we spend a lot of money on residential treatment centers now, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the future. Anyone who votes no on this bill will instantly be seen as the state pariah and will be voted out of office. This bill will pass, but the cost will be enormous, and sacrifices will need to be made.

Senate Bill #137 Status: on Senate ready list, Sponsore: Senator Harris McDowell, synopsis: Delaware’s Community College System plays a critical role in the State’s economy by providing workforce development and transfer education that connects Delawareans with good paying jobs within the State and region. This Act gives the College’s Board of Trustees the authority to issue bonds to finance the cost of major and minor capital improvements, deferred maintenance, and the acquisition of related equipment and educational technology associated therewith and establishes the Community College Infrastructure Fund to pay the principal and interest on such bonds. This Act adopts the county vo-tech structure to finance the Fund by authorizing the College’s Board of Trustees to collect a local property tax subject to a cap.

What Happened: it didn’t get heard by the Senate Education Committee until the last week of committee meetings.  Too many other bills demanding to get a vote, got lost in the shuffle.

Prediction: this is one of those what I like to call “sneaky bills” where it gets passed, and all of a sudden citizens start wondering “Why did my taxes go up and I’m paying for community colleges?”  If this passed by June 30th, it wouldn’t have survived the House.  But in 2016, anything can happen with the budget.  This could either get a lot of support or it will die quickly.

Senate Bill #161 Status: Senate Education Committee, sponsor: Senator Gerald Hocker, synopsis: This Act requires public schools to begin their school year after Labor Day. There have been many economic impact reports done that show a positive impact from starting public schools after Labor Day. A report by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association estimates that $369 million would be lost if schools were not required to start after Labor Day. This includes $104 million in wages and $21 million in state and local taxes. Maryland is considering similar legislation. A study of Maryland found that pushing the start of school back would generate $74.3 million in economic activity and $7.7 million in new state and local tax revenue.

What Happened: Introduced on the second to last day of the session, this bill was destined to go nowhere by June 30th.

Prediction: This is another one of those downstate bills that aren’t popular in Newcastle and Kent.  This one goes nowhere.  Even if it saved the state money, the effect wouldn’t be seen to balance the budget by 6/30/16.

A lot of these bills will depend on the budget.  This is the reality.