Happy 4th Of July, Especially To The Superior Six Of Delaware!

Independence Day.  Celebrated for the day our forefathers said “Enough is enough!  We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.”  When it gets right down to it, it was all about money.  They were taxed like crazy, over the stupidest stuff.  So they wrote a 1776 version of a blog and they all signed it.  It didn’t end the war.  That dragged on for another five years.  But they made their point, and that’s what we celebrate today for.

Last week, six of our leaders said “Enough is enough!” and they went against the tide and made their stand.  Ironically, it wasn’t because they were being taxed too much.  It’s because we weren’t being taxed enough.  Well, not all of us, but those whose wealth keeps increasing while the little guy gets the shaft in numerous other ways.  Today I salute our state representatives who risked all to say no to a budget that was egregious in countless ways.  Paul Baumbach, Andria Viola Bennett, John Kowalko, Sean Lynn, Sean Matthews, and Kim Williams.  Thank you!

Our forefathers built the house that is America, but it needs constant maintenance and upgrades.  That doesn’t come free.  It has always been paid off the backs of our citizens.  Nobody loves it.  I’ve never heard anyone say “I love paying taxes”.  But it is our duty as Americans.  When there is no revenue coming in for one of the rooms in America, we need to take a look at it.  The paint is starting to chip, a screen needs replaced in a window, the floor is stained…but we want to keep the room like that.  The worst part: we know what’s coming next year.  The ceiling has a hole in it, the window is cracking, and the bed is falling apart.  Instead of fixing the smaller problems now, we are adding to them.  We could fix the things that are broken now, and do smaller maintenance to fix the things that will be broken.  Instead we not only move the room around and throw out some old paperwork, we pay for it with funds that were meant for the bathroom!  The bathroom had a leaky pipe years ago, and it was a big mess.  But it was decided to get the funds to fix it and allocate that money for the pipes.  We used some of that money for our room.  Not cool at all.

The pipes wound up being okay, but some of the rooms in the house were under attack from termites, so it was decided funds would go to that.  We knew this had to be done, after all, we were on the cover of a magazine with the title “Termitetown, America”.  We took the steps to help prevent further termite damage with some of the pipe funds, but at the last minute, the big dogs in our room made the moneygrab from the pipe funds, not to pay for the termite invasion, but to pay for posters on the wall in the room.

To add insult to injury, they kept buying nice things for the room, like letting some of the people that live there keep money even after they spent less.  One would think this is okay, they used the funds wisely, why shouldn’t they keep it?  It’s written in the rules of the house, and all of the other rooms have to abide by that rule.  And they got to spend it on whatever they wanted, as long as it was for “house expenses”, which really, can mean anything.  Instead of doing something meaningful with those funds, many of them paid for the problems they created with some neighbors when they wouldn’t treat them nice.

Out of the 41 people who help keep the room in order, nine of them voted no for the way they wanted to pay for it because they knew it was just making a bad situation exponentially worse.  All of them could have made new house rules to make sure the room was not only looking good now, but in the future as well.  But instead they put a little bit of spackle up and left a lot of holes.  The Superior Six represented the part of the left side of the room owners who have a majority over the right.  For them to go against their own side was considered a taboo thing.  But next year, a vote is made to decide who keeps making the rules on both sides, and as the room falls apart, a lot of the voters are going to say “How did this happen?”  And they will be reminded who made it so.

Independence made America what it is.  It made us our own country.  But it takes work, and money.  There shouldn’t be such a wide gap between the haves and have nots, but there is.  The problem in Delaware is we have a Governor who is more concerned with proficiency gaps than budget gaps.  But the steps he’s taken to close those proficiency gaps cost a lot of money, and it is feared those gaps will widen further instead of closing.  And I think that was intentional.  We have a Department of Education built up, with great amounts of money, to create that illusion and continue it.  All for the purpose of giving more funds to keep the charter schools going and create new ones.

As you celebrate your freedom today, and in the next year, remember the price for that.  Know that your security is in jeopardy because the bulk of our legislators didn’t want to act.  And when the wound gets infected, remember that on Election Day 2016 and fix it!

The Delaware Charter School Tranportation Slush Fund Fully Revealed In State Code & Epilogue Language

Delaware State Code allows for charter schools in the state to keep any excess transportation costs for “educational purposes”.  No clarification is given for what those educational purposes are or what sections of the school budget they need to be allocated to.  As a result, Delaware charters have “kept” an estimated $1.35 million dollars, a luxury traditional public school districts do not have.  Certain commenters over on Kilroy’s Delaware claim this isn’t true, and even went so far as to post the full Title 14 Delaware code § 508 of the state code, which doesn’t indicate the slush fund.

“ § 508 Responsibility for student transportation.

The charter school may request to have the school district where the charter school is located transport students residing in that district to and from the charter school on the same basis offered to other students attending schools operated by the district, or to receive from the State a payment equal to 70% of the average cost per student of transportation within the vocational district in which the charter school is located and become responsible for the transportation of those students to and from the charter school. In the case of students not residing in the district where the charter school is located, the parents of such students shall be responsible for transporting the child without reimbursement to and from a point on a regular bus route of the charter school. In lieu of the payment from the State specified above, if a charter school utilizes a contractor for student transportation the charter school shall publicly bid the routes, and the State shall reimburse the charter school for the actual bid costs only if lower than the payment specified above. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a student at a charter school shall receive such transportation assistance as is made available to students pursuant to a public school choice program established by this Code provided that such student otherwise meets the eligibility requirements for such assistance. In the event a charter school chooses to transport students itself, it shall do so in accordance with all public school transportation safety regulations. Local school districts and charter schools shall cooperate to ensure that the implementation of this chapter does not result in inefficient use of state appropriations for public school transportation and the State Board shall exercise its authority to approve bus routes so as to avoid such waste.”

However, what the rocket scientist over on Kilroy’s Delaware failed to do, most likely deliberately as to show people he is right and everyone else arguing against him is wrong, is put in the part from the Fiscal budget which clearly indicates, in Section 347 of House Bill 225.  Even more hysterical, this commenter damn well knows about this, but blogger honor demands I not out the clown.

Section 347. (a) Notwithstanding 14 Del. C. § 508 or any regulation to the contrary, a charter school may negotiate a contract (multi-year, if desired) for contractor payment for school transportation up to the maximum rate specified which is currently 70 percent of the average cost per student of transportation within the vocational district in which the charter school is located or the charter school may publicly bid the transportation routes.  If the actual negotiated or bid costs are lower then the maximum rate specified above, the charter school may keep the difference for educational purposes.  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.

I wrote an article on this back in January, which clearly showed exactly how much each of the following charter schools were able to keep in FY14 based on this transportation slush fund buried at the near end of the state budget:

Academy of Dover: $56,788

Campus Community: $148,578

Charter School of Wilmington: $63,755

DE Academy of Public Safety & Security: $13,894

DE College Prep Academy: $17,750

DE Military Academy: $21,877

East Side Charter: $31,451

Family Foundations: $384,769

Kuumba Academy: $64,352

Las Americas Aspiras: $103,958

MOT Charter School: $23,126

Moyer Academy: $22,596

Newark Charter: $227,827

Odyssey: $150,607

Reach Academy: $25,647

Providence Creek Academy and Sussex Academy use their own buses, Thomas Edison broke even, Positive Outcomes uses Caesar Rodney School District buses, and Gateway and Prestige Academy each lost over $20,000 on this deal.

So collectively these 15 charters made $1,357,002.00, for average of $90,466.80 a school.  The amounts for Odyssey, Newark Charter School, Family Foundations, Campus Community and Las Americas Aspiras are all well over $100,000.  With no mandated allocation of funds except for the very vague “educational purposes” and no oversight of how they use these funds, who knows where they are going.  In the case of Family Foundations Academy, where the two school leaders embezzled over $90,000 in personal spending, and Academy of Dover where one principal spent over $127,000 in personal purchases, how is it even possible to trust how the schools are spending these funds.  Where is the accountability for these funds?

One Delaware legislator has said enough is enough, and he is requesting lawmakers to make an amendment to get rid of this:

Dear all,

Note HB225—- page 231, Section 347 lines 25-26. This is the language that is consistently inserted over the last 6-7 budgets that conflicts with the Title 14 section 508 mandate to return unused (for transportation) taxpayer money by Charter Schools. The amendment I am filing removes this onerous disregard for taxpayer money from the budget and I hope each and every one of you will support it to restore accountability and specificity of allocation to our spending of those taxpayer dollars. It is our responsibility to ensure that this practice ceases.

Respectfully

John Kowalko

I’m sure the rowdy bunch over at Kilroy’s will say I am doing my master’s bidding since they seem to think Kowalko owns me, which is so far removed from the truth it’s not even funny.  There are numerous issues I disagree with Kowalko on, but when it comes to education we align.

As Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 (charter school post-audit with the State Auditor) is supposed to get a vote on Tuesday  June 30th, and hopefully Rep. Debbie Hudson’s House Bill 61 (mandatory school board recordings) is put to a vote, and rules are suspended for each, along with Kowalko’s proposed amendment to the budget, we can start to see some legislative oversight and transparency over Delaware charter schools.  It all depends on how quick the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Kendall Massett can get their people down to Legislative Hall on Tuesday…