What Is The Purpose Of A Delaware Secretary Of Education?

In one of the most interesting pictures I’ve ever received, it made me question why we even have a Delaware Secretary of Education.  On Tuesday, Atnre Alleyne (the former Delaware Department of Education employee, the co-founder of TeenSharp, and the Director of DelawareCAN) posted a Facebook memory from a year ago.  The interesting part is the picture he put with it because that was NOT in the original post at all. Continue reading

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Markell’s Race To The Top Architect Dan Cruce Announces Bid For Lavelle’s Senate Seat In Delusionary Statement

Dan Cruce (D), long rumored to be in the running for the 4th Senate District seat currently held by Greg Lavelle (R), announced his candidacy this week with some rather surprising comments regarding the much-maligned Race to the Top program.

As the Deputy Secretary of Education under then Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery, Cruce was former Governor Jack Markell’s leading man for the Race to the Top application.  The federal program, which cemented Common Core and stringent standardized assessments in most states, was met with controversy in Delaware.  But Cruce praises his involvement with the program on his website:

Similarly, at the Department of Education, he collapsed the government bureaucracy while helping to bring in over $100M of new funding that created new jobs and supports for teachers and schools.

First of all, he did NOT collapse the government bureaucracy at the Delaware DOE.  He ensured it with Delaware’s Race to the Top application.  Race to the Top brought in names such as Penny Schwinn, Christopher Ruszkowski, Michael Watson and Atnre Alleyne into the DOE.  All of those have since left with the exception of Watson.  The Delaware DOE received $59 million of the $119 million Delaware received and used it to create longitudinal data systems and teacher evaluation programs that have been deemed by many educators in the First State to be burdensome and overly punitive.  In essence, Race to the Top brought an inordinately large amount of bureaucracy to Delaware.  Districts and charters had no choice but to follow the new guidelines under RTTT.  Companies such as the Vision Coalition, Achieve, American Institutes of Research and others made whirlwind profits from the program.  Very little went to the classroom where resources are needed the most in education.

There is no way in hell I could support Cruce for the Delaware Senate.  I fear what kind of mischief he could get into, especially paired with Senator David Sokola.  I would rather chew glass than see the architect for Delaware’s RTTT in the General Assembly (which I won’t actually do should he win).  He might be an okay candidate in some areas, but based on his education background he will NEVER get support from me.  NEVER.

Another Dem in the 4th District, Laura Sturgeon, will be running for the seat as well.

 

Red Clay, Brandywine, & Appoquinimink Go After Christina For The Same Bling The Charters Got In Settlement

Christina School District is about to get screwed again!  But not by the charters this time.  This time it is districts who should be their allies!

Okay, time to let the cat out of the bag.  A month ago, and if you blinked you missed it, the Christina Board of Education discussed and voted no on the Chief Financial Officer of their district negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding between Christina, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Brandywine.  The MOU would have given authority to the CFO of Christina to send those local funds to the three other districts for students that choice to those districts out of Christina.  The board said no.  Look for a special board meeting sometime next week.  From what I’m hearing, now the Superintendents of the districts (all four) want to have the MOU between them.  Welcome to Christina Richard Gregg!

That’s what happens when you open Pandora’s Box like that with that stupid settlement between Christina and the charters.  I’m talking to you four Christina board members who voted FOR the settlement and then voted against rescinding the settlement a week later.  Did I not distinctly hear that it would set a precedent?  That it would come back to bite them in the ass?  I know I said it.  I believe a few others did as well.  Karma truly is a vengeful and mean bitch.

Do I have anything against Brandywine, Appo, or Red Clay for going after these funds?  I don’t know.  The timing sucks.  And how soon until Colonial jumps on the train?  All this happened because, supposedly, according to some commenter named Elizabeth, Jack Markell had some secret deal with Lillian Lowery and Christina when she became Secretary of Education.  The way I’ve heard it, Lowery was involved in a lawsuit when she became Secretary and Captain Jack wanted it all hush-hush so all sorts of crazy crap happened.  I heard that from someone who used to be on the board who hasn’t been too quiet about it over the past year or so.  Funny how stuff gets out in The First State.

So what happens if Christina’s board says no again?  Will the big three (and possibly Colonial) get their feathers in a twist and file a lawsuit against Christina as well?  My gut tells me Christina’s board will be forced to vote yes because of the precedent set in the charter settlement.  So last week, the board announced they will be laying off 44 or so teachers.  Will this cause that number to rise?  And how the hell does their CFO Robert Silber still have a job there?

How much money are we talking?  I don’t think it would be as much as the cha-ching the charters got, but it will leave a mark on their budget.  At this point, anything more is suck city.  Here’s a novel idea… how about going after Jack Markell and Lillian Lowery for their side deals that went on.  Better catch Jack quick before he goes on his Forrest Gump tour of America!  Yeah, like that will ever happen.  Captain Jack seems to have some special immunity shield around him.  It’s a special kind, where you screw things up for eight years and you get to go biking into the Pacific sunset.

Education never gets boring in this state.  But this will not be a joking matter for the teachers and staff in Christina School District.  These are good people who have been the victim of these education funding games for many years now.  Throw in priority schools and the constant labeling and shaming of the district.  I feel bad for all the districts right now.  Students and teachers should not be the sacrificial targets because the adults in charge can’t get their shit together.  Sorry to be so blunt, but I’m really getting sick of it.

Here’s the kicker!  I submitted a FOIA to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office a couple of weeks ago.  This is what I asked for:

Please provide, in PDF format, all reports, letters, guidance, or inspections for any Delaware school district, vocational school district, or charter school generated by the Office of the Auditor of Accounts that is not listed on the Auditor of Accounts website for fiscal years 2014, 2015, and 2016. This would include any of the above listed documents sent to members of the General Assembly, the Delaware Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Controller General, or the Office of Management and Budget that would be considered a public document 29 Del. C. Paragraph 10002(1).

Wanna know what I got?  Bupkis, that’s what!  I got the petty cash letters sent to a handful of charters last year along with the letters about that specific situation sent to various state agencies.  For three fiscal years!

Wanna know what that means?  The Auditor of Accounts office is NOT auditing ANY school district unless it is an investigation based on something submitted on their tip line.  Which means that office is breaking the law.  But the General Assembly won’t give them the funds to do their job as required by Delaware State Law (which the General Assembly does: create laws).  So who do we take to court?  The Auditor of Accounts office or the General Assembly?  Who is tracking where the hell education funds actually go?  NO ONE!  Except myself and Jack Wells it looks like.  But yeah, let’s layoff teachers and make classrooms into sardine cans while people in district offices are making over $100,000 in salary.  Cause that makes a lot of fucking sense!  Let’s keep paying for state testing and all these one-to-on devices so we can just weed out teachers and turn education into a reformer wonderland!  as I said, I’m getting tired of all this nonsense.  And if I were a teacher, I would be too!  If I were a parent (which I am) I would be shouting this from the rooftops: Stop screwing over our schools!  And when I say schools, that primarily means the students and teachers.  That is the heart of it all.

Newark Charter School: Where Is Your Outreach Plan? We Have Been Waiting Four Years…

When Newark Charter School had its major modification for their high school approved in 2012, then Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery gave very specific conditions for the approval.  One of them was to offer free and reduced lunch for the students of NCS.  Another was to develop an outreach plan so their demographics were more consistent with that of the 5 mile radius they draw students from.  The below letter from Lillian Lowery was written about a month before she resigned as the Secretary.  But this was their approval.  Some have referred to this as “The Lowery Doctrine”.

It is obvious the Board of Directors at Newark Charter School have ignored this condition to their modification.  Four years later and a Delaware Secretary of Education has yet to see their Outreach Plan.  Lowery never got it.  Murphy never got it.  Godowsky never got it.  But here was are, as Newark Charter School has its first graduating class, and NO Outreach Plan.  As of their September 30th count by last school year, they had less African-American students than the year before.  They did go up in students with disabilities from 5.6% to 6.5%.  And their Hispanic population went up a little bit.  But that is not the same as an actual Outreach plan.  Where is this NCS Head of School Greg Meece?  For all the talk and bluster coming out of this school, no one at the top of this school has delivered what they were supposed to.  I’ve heard parents say they are attempting to rectify their demographic situation, but when they were given a direct order by the Dept. of Education, they blew it off.  For a school that seems to want others to follow their perceived notion of “the letter of the law” they sure do cherry-pick what to follow…

The Peculiarities Of The Charter School Lawsuit

wheelsonthebus

It struck me, as I awoke today at 5:30am, that some things involved with the charter school lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE, that the charters were well aware of a simple fact.

Christina did not pass two referenda in 2015.  As a result, their funding from Christina was going to be less per student than what it had been last year.  With referendum, it doesn’t really kick in until the next school year.  You still have to get the taxes from the people.  So they were all warned.  They knew their payments would be less.  This is why Greg Meece became desperate, searching for needles in a haystack.  Anything to get mo money.  It’s kind of like a scientific experiment.  You want to turn air into gold.  You know it won’t work, but you keep trying.  So Meece began his journey last winter, looking for anything to justify his school getting more money.

He had help.  Of that I am nearly certain.  Someone had to give him something to look for.  Whether he searched out that person or they came to him is a matter of debate.  Meece also knew he had big financial issues coming up if he didn’t get that money.  This school year was the year his long-held dream came to fruition: a K-12 school.  His students would finally become seniors.  But if he was getting less per student, who would pay for these rising costs to run NCS?

Out of all the 15 charter schools who filed suit, NCS has the most to gain.  But do you want to know who will most likely get the most money, if they should prevail?  Saul Ewing LLP.  The attorneys always make out like bandits!

Another thing struck me.  I’ve been very hard on David Blowman through all this.  But if the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education is the one that sends the charter bills to the districts, and Blowman was attempting to make some type of course correction from previous years, then who was the one sending the prior charter bills?  Last winter, David Blowman and Karen Field-Rogers switched places at the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Blowman used to be the Deputy Secretary of Education.  Field-Rogers was the Assistant Deputy.  Which means she was the one sending the charter bills to the districts all those years.  Or at the very least, signing off on them.  I’m sure I could go back years and years on this, all the way back to 2008 which seems to be this critical flashpoint for the charters.  I’m sure there were others.  Under that theory, if Christina submitted exclusions to the DOE and the DOE signed off on them, the case against Christina is gone.  This is all on the DOE, not Christina.  Legally, it doesn’t matter if the DOE should or shouldn’t have approved those exclusions, the simple fact remains that they did.

Here is another one.  Godowsky didn’t know about this until after the charter bills went out.  So why is Godowsky named in the lawsuit?  He inherited another DOE employee’s mess.  But Godowsky’s job, as per Delaware law, is to either change the formula or have it remain the same, by September 1st of each year.  The local funding formula did not change.  Because e=mc² no matter what the variables are in each part.  So Godowsky didn’t change the formula after September 1st, he changed the amount based on the already existing formula which he didn’t even know about until after it was done to begin with.  There is a huge difference.  I know, I’m defending the Delaware Secretary of Education here, but I do believe in fairness.

But here is the kicker.  If the charters win, they stand to get a bucketload of money, right?  Which would cause Christina to most likely seek another referendum.  Which would give the charters even more money based on the court-approved decision with the exclusions.  But if Christina lost that referendum, the charters would get less money the next year (like what happened to them this year based on the 2015 failed referenda).  Or, if they put Christina into such a financial pickle the State of Delaware had to bail them out, they would then be relying on getting funding from the same entity they sued.  But if the Christina School District went bankrupt, and the state took them over or converted the whole district to charter schools, and the state only gives so much to each district or charter, what would happen to the 15 charters share of local funding if the local district isn’t there anymore?  They would wind up with less money.  Or even better yet, if WEIC goes through and the Christina Wilmington schools convert over to Red Clay before this goes to court, would they then have to include Red Clay in the suit even though Red Clay’s local funding to charters is different?  I don’t think they thought this through long-term.  I can’t believe the “charter school Don” as Kilroy puts it even took this case.

If their “smoking gun” is what I think it is…good luck with that one 15 charters!  Meanwhile, the wheels on the bus go round and round…

Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and Bill Manning: How The Lawsuit Against Christina And The Delaware DOE Happened

On September 2nd, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and Assistant Deputy Secretary David Blowman met with Greg Meece, Stephen Dressel, Joanne Schlossberg, Chuck Taylor, Margie Lopez-Waite, Kendall Massett, and William Manning at Newark Charter School.  The last name is important because William Manning is the lead attorney in the lawsuit filed on Tuesday against the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education.  William Manning is a partner at Saul Ewing LLP, which also happens to be the lead charter school attorney law firm.

Delaware charter schools, especially ones alleged to “cherry-pick” students, have long complained about not getting their rightful share of money while at the same time they constantly boast how they “do more with less”.  In fact, Manning complained about this to the U.S. Congress back in 2000, as I wrote in an article last year:

I believe, as do many of you, that charter schools are already improving the educational landscape by offering variety, quality and single-school focus to those who previously had to pay to get those things. That’s the good news. The bad news is that charter schools are still regarded by the educational establishment in some quarters as the enemy. Thus, the organization that owns our school buildings is sometimes stingy with them when it comes to housing charter schools. Nor do the funding formulae in many state charter school bills provide adequate capital- as opposed to operating- assistance to charter schools. Please don’t overlook them.

Manning served as the President of the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education when the original Delaware charter school law was written in 1995.  But where this gets more interesting is Manning’s very direct tie with the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  His wife, Martha Manning, created the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  She is also on the boards of Innovative Schools and the Red Clay Education Foundation.

Martha Manning stepped down from the Delaware Charter Schools Network in 2006, but her husband is still heavily involved with Saul Ewing LLP.  It was not a coincidence he was called in for the Sept. 2nd meeting at Newark Charter School, mentioned above.  Chuck Taylor is the Head of School and Providence Creek Academy, the President of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, and a member of the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Margie Lopez-Waite runs Las Americas ASPIRAS.  And Kendall Massett… good old Kendall… who gave a presentation at the State Board of Education meeting last month on, of all possible things, charter and district collaboration.  The irony is still astounding!  Kendall gave a quote to the News Journal yesterday:

Kendall Massett, director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, said in a prepared statement, “We applaud the state Department of Education for recognizing the out-of-proportion exclusion requests from Christina School District this year and for taking steps to bring them in line, in the interest of fairness for students and to make the process consistent among all districts. But that decision was reversed after the deadline mandated by state law.”

Whatever Kendall!  Many decisions were made without full clarity.  In fact, the whole process beginning with the NCS Trio getting a meeting with David Blowman wasn’t readily shared with all district financial officers.  In fact, we can see how the Delaware DOE actually blew off Robert Silber when he asked the DOE why they wanted a list of district exclusions.

This was why State Rep. John Kowalko submitted a request to Secretary Godowsky in early September for a list of who was involved and specific dates.  Godowsky did provide that timeline and specific names to Rep. Kowalko on September 20th.  Rep. Kowalko asked me to share this with the public so that everyone knows what the specific timeline was and who was involved in each step.  In addition, there are several emails from the Delaware DOE to charter and school leaders.


From: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 10:45 AM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Cc: Godowsky, Steven (K12)
Subject: information request

Rep. Kowalko,

Please find answers embedded in red below as well as attached copies of email correspondence in response to your questions.

I need to know the details of the meeting in April which was attended by Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, Stephen Dressel and David Blowman, with a list of anyone else who attended that meeting, whether from DOE, State Board, or other (for instance the DE Charter Schools Network, etc.). I would like to know if any legislators attended that meeting. I am also asking if there were additional meetings with any smaller groups discussing this matter and who were attendees. I want to know if there were any unannounced meetings w/CFOs or Superintendents regarding this issue. I realize the DOE has monthly meetings, usually separate, with all the charter and district CFOs. Has anyone else attended these meetings?

Those four were the only ones at the meeting, which occurred at the request of the school.

Please send me a timeline of events, including:

When the CFOs were notified about submitting a list of excluded information (in May as I’ve been made aware by one district) and whether the notification went to all districts and when was that list due.

                *Discussed at April 8 Business Managers meeting (see agenda from April 7 email attached)

                *Follow-up email sent May 25 (see attached)

                *Christina response received June 8 (see attached)

Which individuals took part in the decision-making process regarding which exclusions were allowable or not allowable by DOE

                *David Blowman, Brook Hughes and Kim Wheatley

When (specific date needed) the new allowable exclusion list was sent to CFOs/Superintendents

                *August 8 (see attached)

When (specific date) charters were notified so they could send their bills to DOE to send to districts

                *August 12 (see attached)

When (specific date) DOE sent those bills to the districts

                *August 16 (see attached)

When Bob Silber (Christina CFO) was notified of the exclusion issue with Christina

                *See above dates

Please send a list of all persons that attended the meeting at Newark Charter last week.  Steve Godowsky, David Blowman, Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, Stephen Dressel, Margie Lopez-Waite, Bill Manning, Chuck Taylor, Kendall Massett

As you can surmise I expect a list of any and all attendees at any meeting discussing this issue. Please send an accurate report of this information to me as soon as possible.

This also was discussed with superintendents at their September 1 Chief School Officers Association (CSOA) meeting at POLYTECH.

And this is what the Delaware DOE sent to State Rep. Kowalko in terms of email discussions concerning this issue.  Note the absence of any emails from the Newark Charter School trio to anyone at the DOE prior to April 8th when they would have requested the initial meeting with Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman.

In the complaint against Christina and the DOE, it states the charters want a full accounting of what funds were excluded from the local payments to charters going back to 2008.  Why 2008?  At that time, the Superintendent of the Christina School District was Lillian Lowery.  Shortly after Governor Markell’s first inauguration in 2009, Lillian Lowery was confirmed by the Delaware Senate to become the Delaware Secretary of Education.  The looming question is what was signed off on back in 2008 and 2009 by the Delaware DOE.  Obviously, NCS feels this is some type of crucial timeframe which pertains to the lawsuit.  But the even bigger question is who was giving them information and why.  I’ve heard some wild tales about that timeframe.  But until I am able to confirm anything, I will remain mum.

Jaques And Sokola Emails Actually Reveal Levels Of Collusion & Deception At High Levels…But From Who?

An email from Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques and State Senator David Sokola sheds new light on the district-charter funding debacle that has taken over Delaware education talk in the past week.  Meanwhile, the News Journal came out with another article on the issue that is sure to confuse everyone.

In the below email sent from Jaques to the House Education Committee, he gives a timeline of the events from the point in time he got involved in the issue and clarifies when Secretary of Education Dr. Stephen Godowsky found out about this.  He also put in a reply Sokola sent to a constituent regarding the issue which has some very accusatory statements toward Christina School District.

From: Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall) Sent: Thursday, September 1, 2016 2:41 PM To: Bentz, David (LegHall); Bolden, StephanieT (LegHall); Dukes, Timothy (LegHall); Heffernan, Debra (LegHall); Hensley, Kevin S (LegHall); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Kenton, Harvey (LegHall); Lynn, Sean M (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); Miro,   Joseph (LegHall); Osienski, Edward (LegHall); Potter, Jr, Charles (LegHall); Ramone, Michael (LegHall) Cc: Schwartzkopf, Peter (LegHall); Sokola, David (LegHall)

Subject: School Funding Formula  

House Education Committee Members,   Late last week I received notice about  a formula change between Charter Schools and our traditional Public Schools. I immediately called and talked with Secretary Godowsky to see if what I heard was correct and if so why was this change being made.  I was told by him that yes a change was proposed and he wasn’t aware of this change until just the day before.  On a side note, I wasn’t very happy to hear about this – since I and Dr. Godowsky just had breakfast only a couple of days before this news broke and no mention of this was discussed by him to me!  I was told by Dr. Godowsky that he has put a hold on any possible changes to the funding formula until there are complete discussionswith all stakeholders.  I then called Governor Markell to voice both my concern and outrage   at how this proposed change was brought forward with no regards to public input, transparency or discussion with either myself or Senator Sokola. I then called Superintendent Burrows, this year’s head of the chiefs, and was assured by him that no discussions between the “chiefs” and DOE regarding this change had occurred.  Their only acknowledgement came when they starting receiving bills from the charter schools and subsequently called DOE to find out what was going on.  On the very next day I was at a public event with Governor Markell.  He reinstated to me that no actions regarding the funding formula will occur this year and any discussions on this subject will be transparent and inclusive. Again, I followed up with Secretary Godowsky, requesting  that any changes to the   formula would require an open, transparent and inclusive process involving all stakeholders and plenty of public input. Today, there was a story in the News Journal that you might want to read to gain more insight.   

In addition, I have attached below part of an email that Senator Sokola sent to one of his constituents which gives very good details and background on the formula mechanism.  Although, his email talks about the Christina School District, I want to remind   you that this formula applies to all public schools across our state.

“It turns out that the funding formula has not changed, and the Secretary does not have the authority to change the formula that is in the code. There have been times over the years when there have been disputes about how the formula works, and apparently   we have one now. The dispute relates to the part of the code that allows for certain exemptions from the money that “follows the child” to a Choice or Charter alternative. The code allows for 4 specific areas and then has some general language that allows   a district to petition the Secretary of Education to allow for additional exemptions of local operating funds, and to sign off on those itemized expenses. The Christina District increased that line from under $700 thousand to about $9.2 million since 2011,   and has not asked the Secretary for approval of the increased exemptions. No other district in NCC has had anything but nominal changes in that time frame. The money in question also has nothing to do with the Autism Program or the Program for the Hearing   Impaired that are managed by Christina. It is my understanding that any action from the Secretary at this time is on hold, however Christina still has a legal obligation to specify those expenses beyond the 4 that are in the code that should be exempt, and   to have a formal sign off by the Secretary. I have supported for quite some time a weighted student funding policy, and would hope that we could make more progress on such a funding system. The money needs to specifically follow a student to a school, which   is not done well in Delaware including in Christina. Dispute resolution should be done by some mutually agreed upon mechanism, or one established in the code. If there still is not agreement, we have constitutionally protected separation of powers, and the legal system would be the mechanism of last resort. That is generally not a win-win result for the parties who are in disagreement.

The specific funding issues you mentioned can certainly be submitted to the Secretary and the district needs to be open, transparent and detailed with the financial records to make their case. The Secretary will be willing to consider the specific lines   of exemption that CSD has the legal obligation to propose. He would be negligent if he did not follow his statutory authority to review any specific exemptions proposed by CSD, and CSD would be negligent by not specifically submitting line items of proposed   exemptions to the formula that is in the code. If CSD does not make specific proposals, the district is at risk of legal action that the legislature and the Secretary are constitutionally barred from intervening in. My hope and advice to the Secretary has   been to give broad discretion to the specifics identified by Christina, and that we could have that open, transparent and inclusive process involving all stakeholders to clarify the financial obligations of a sending district to the various choice options   made by students and families.”  

As I receive additional information regarding this subject I will keep you informed…  

Earl Jaques

Chair, House Education Committee

So how is that Sokola tells a constituent that Christina performed this horrible deed but the News Journal doesn’t mention it once?  Sokola is saying Christina purposely withheld submitting their exclusions from the Delaware DOE.  Jaques states Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows didn’t know about this situation unfolding since last April until recently.  So how is it that the DOE asked the districts for this information in April as suggested by Saranac Spencer, the author of the News Journal article?  Actually, it was in May based on the below timeline.

In order to try to unify the system, the department began considering adjustments to the formula in April, when it asked districts across the state for an inventory of the exclusions they claim.

The actual timeline of events is as follows:

March 11th: Newark Charter School Head of School Greg Meece meets with Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzjewski to discuss the upcoming Christina referendum and payments from Christina to NCS. (source: Newark Charter School March 2016 Board Minutes)

Early April 2016: NCS representatives Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, and Stephen Dressel meet with Associate Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman to discuss exclusions in the funds Christina sends to NCS.  The DOE indicates all exclusions will require approval from the Secretary of Education. (Source NCS April and May Board minutes)

April 8th: DOE holds District Business Manager’s meeting where the subject of district exclusions is brought up with District Chief Financial Officers.

May 2016: DOE sends out notices to District CFOs to send lists of their exclusion items in their local school budgets.

Mid-May: Kathleen Davies put on leave as Auditor of Accounts at Delaware State Auditor’s office.

August 8th: DOE sends out letters to District CFOs stating what exclusions are allowable and which aren’t.

Week of August 16th: Districts start receiving bills from charter schools for projected students choicing to charters from their districts.

August 19th: Secretary Godowsky finds out about situation going on with charter school payments from districts.

Week of Augusts 23rd: Word on situation slowly trickles out to school administration and some boards.

August 27th: Exceptional Delaware breaks news of a coming change in the way districts pay charters based on an approval from Secretary Godowsky, blogger was given information from various sources about changes regarding restricted funds being moved to non-restricted funds, no information given to blogger about specific exclusions.

August 28th: Legislators pound Godowsky who informs them there will be no change in the funding structure this year.

August 31st: News Journal covers story and states districts may have to adhere to the exemption list from the August 8th letter.

September 1st: NCS Board President Stephen Dressel writes letter to NCS parents alleging wrongdoing from Christina and a “few other districts”, states this isn’t a change in the formula for local cost per student but a correction, commenter on Facebook alleges parents from Las Americas ASPIRA also received a similar letter.

September 1st: Another News Journal article quotes DOE Spokeswoman Alison May as stating they may not be able to change this because bills already went out from charters to districts.

September 1st: Email from Earl Jaques to House Education Committee references a change in the formula, not a correction, email also has Sokola accusing Christina of not sending approval for exclusions to Secretary since 2011 for what was a $700,000 amount then which is now $9.2 million.

Here is the question no one seems to be addressing though.  What is the amount in that discretionary budget was approved once and didn’t have to be again?  When a district goes out for a referendum, it asks taxpayers to help the district pay for certain things.  What if Christina had a referendum at one point in time, designated a specific amount for what would become an exclusion in their local budget, and the DOE approved it.  Say that was 10 cents for every $100 of assessed property value.  As Sokola alleges, Christina kept shoving money into this fund causing it to rise over $8 million dollars.  But that 10 cents from a referendum, which becomes a part of the district’s local funds would certainly grow over time.  In 2010, Christina narrowly won a referendum.  But it stands to reason some of those designated funds could go into this “discretionary” bucket in their budget.  Which would certainly build up over time.  If the DOE approved this in July 2010, which would have been Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery, then that exclusion would not have to be approved every year.  That portion of the tax payments sent in from residents would just keep building in that bucket.  So Sokola’s allegation that Christina was willfully withholding payments from the charters by shoving money in this hidden bucket is blatantly false.

Now the big question is what started this runaway train.  Yes, charters have lobbied for more money from districts for years.  No one is arguing that.  But they were not going after these discretionary amounts approved by the Secretary of Education.  They wanted a share of the food services revenue the districts received, which is explicitly exempt from being a part of the payments made to charter schools since they have their own food programs which they get funds from at a federal, state, and local level.  So how would Greg Meece know to look for this one specific thing and start a chain of events that led up to now?  I’m working on that answer as we speak and I expect I will know the answer to that one in the next couple of weeks.

What leads me to believe Christina wasn’t “stuffing” money away into this secret account is also the reaction of one man to all of this.  If the DOE sent out these notices about the exclusion items last May, Christina CFO Bob Silber would have been freaking out back then about it.  If he knew the direction this was heading, he would have planned for it in their FY2017 budget, which he clearly did not.  From many people I’ve talked to in the district, Silber didn’t start freaking out until the district received the DOE letter stating what the new exclusions were and when the charter bills started rolling in.  Which leads me to think he wouldn’t have had to keep getting approval for the exclusions he put in this bucket based on a referendum allocation, approved by then Secretary Lowery, which would, over the years, increase this bucket.

In the meantime, I have to wonder why Sokola would specifically mention the year 2011 to this constituent he replied to.  That is crucial to all of this under my theory.  It makes Christina look really guilty.  Why would Sokola make Christina appear to be guilty?  I think we all know the answer to that one.  Which confirms my suspicion about his involvement in all of this.  His incessant talk in this email about legal action if Christina doesn’t comply and who can do what and when and where shows he is been looking into this for much longer than anyone else has.  Sokola is not an attorney.  He worked at DuPont for many years.  Is he smart though?  Yes.  Devious?  Hell yes.  Would he be able to paint a picture showing Christina as a district that was denying money to charter schools, especially Newark Charter School, who was “denied” one million dollars this year if this “finding” doesn’t work out in their favor?  He did in his email to the constituent.

I would go so far as to say there is an integrity issue with Sokola at this point.  The ethics involved with this whole mess certainly lend a certain weight to Sokola and Meece being the brains behind all of this.  Jaques wasn’t involved in this based on what he wrote in his email.  But he made it a point to include what Sokola wrote as part of his email which lended considerable weight to perception of this issue.  For that, I have to wonder what Jaques knew and when he knew it.

Is this the end of this?  Probably not.  Someone will come on here and say I have it backwards and I’m theorizing all of  this.  That’s certainly an option.  But at the very least, this opens the door to careful inspection about what the Secretary of Education approves and if it is for exclusions in the local restricted budgets for districts based on referendum amounts, does that item need continuous approval from the Secretary.  I don’t believe it does.

 

 

Mark Murphy Is OUT At Council Of Chief State School Officers

Since Mark Murphy resigned as Delaware Secretary of Education, along with his counterpart in Maryland, Lillian Lowery, they are no longer eligible to sit on the Board of Directors at the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Murphy’s last day is September 30th.  Interim Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, will have to be confirmed by the Delaware Senate.  I do not envy Dr. Godowsky in the weeks and months ahead.  One of the biggest things he will have to deal with is me.  I don’t envy him that at all.  I requested a meeting with Dr. Godowsky and Governor Markell.  We shall see if they respond.  If not, oh well.  I’ll just keep doing what I do.

The Council of Chief State School Officers is a non-profit company based out of Washington D.C.  I will have much more to write about CCSSO in the coming days.

Maryland Superintendent Lillian Lowery Resigned, Was Mark Murphy’s Predecessor In Delaware

Breaking News: Maryland Superintendent Lillian Lowery has resigned according to ABC Channel 2 News out of Maryland.  She will be going to a company called FutureReady Columbus to serve as the President and Chief Executive Officer.  The article describes FutureReady as “an education non-profit corporation with an initial focus on early childhood education, public policy, and community engagement.”

Lowery resigned as the Secretary of Education in Delaware in 2011.  She is best known for helping Delaware win the Race To The Top competition in securing Delaware $119 million a few years ago.  In 2012, Mark Murphy became the Secretary of Education, but he announced he is resigning as well a couple weeks ago.

The Prophet Of Delaware Talks About The Profit Of Race To The Top

I stumbled across something last night, a whole cache of videos created by none other than Transparent Christina’s John Young!  These are pretty funny, especially given what came to pass!  Enjoy!

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium MOU With Delaware, Signed By Governor Markell

Thanks to deutsch29 getting the entire Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium application for Race To The Top and 15 state Memorandum of Understandings with SBAC up on her website.  This is a treasure trove of information, and I appreciate it immensely.  Below is the Delaware portion of this huge document, signed by Governor Jack Markell, then Secretary of Education for Delaware Lillian Lowery, State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, and Delaware DOE CFO Karen Field-Rogers.  Back in June of 2010….

The Relationship Between The Delaware DOE and Public Consulting Group Revealed, It’s Worse Than Before!

The Delaware Department of Education and the Public Consulting Group have a relationship based on a contract, but the circumstance regarding the implementation of this contract are very alarming. This contract is to help support the Children Services Cost Recovery project, which provides federal Medicaid reimbursement to Delaware. PCG has had a vendor contract with the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) for many years, but it wasn’t until the end of 2011 that the DOE gained a contract with PCG.

When a student with disabilities receives Medicaid and also receives special education services through an IEP, the state can actually get part of the costs for the special education reimbursed to them. Special needs parents of a child with an IEP should receive a letter asking for authorization from the state to recover such costs. This could include occupational therapy, speech and language, or even a school nurse. This would be classified as School Based Health Providers. As per the DOE website, the letter should indicate something to this effect:

Written Notification to Parents/Guardians/Custodians

Regarding Use of Public Benefits or Insurance (MEDICAID)

You are receiving this written notification in order to provide you with information about your and your child’s rights and protections under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). This information is to assist you in making an informed decision about whether you should give your written consent to allow your school district or charter school to use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for special education and related services that your school district or charter school is required to provide at no cost to you under IDEA. This written notification must be provided to you before the school district obtains your consent for the first time and annually thereafter. Your rights include the following: 

Before your school district or charter school can use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) for the first time to pay for special education and related services under IDEA, the school district or charter school must obtain your signed and dated written consent. 

Under Federal law—the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) and the confidentiality of information provisions in IDEA—your school district or charter school is required to obtain your written consent before disclosing personally identifiable information (such as your child’s name, address, social security number, student number, student number, IEP, or evaluation results) from your child’s education records to a party other than your school district or charter school, with some exceptions. In this situation, your school district or charter school is required to obtain your consent before disclosing personally identifiable information for billing purposes to the agency in your State that administers the public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program. Your consent must include a statement specifying that you understand and agree that your school district or charter school may use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for services under 34 CFR part 300, which are special education and related services under IDEA.

Your school district or charter school if the school district or charter school seeks to use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid).

Your school district or charter school may not require you to sign up for, or enroll in, a public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program in order for your child to receive a free, appropriate public education (“FAPE”) under IDEA. Additionally, your school district or charter school may not require you to pay an out-of-pocket expense, such as the payment of a deductible or a co-pay amount for filing a claim for services that your school district or charter school is otherwise required to provide to your child free of charge. Finally, your school district or charter school may not use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) if using those benefits or insurance (Medicaid) would: (a) decrease your available lifetime coverage or any other insured benefit, (b) cause you to pay for services that would otherwise be covered by your public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program because your child also requires those services outside of the time that your child is in school; (c) increase your premium or lead to the cancellation of your public benefits or insurance (Medicaid); or (d) cause you to risk the loss of your or your child’s eligibility for home and community-based waivers that are based on your total health-related expenditures.

You may withdraw your consent to the disclosure of your child’s personally identifiable information to your State’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program agency at any time.

If you provided your consent for your school district or charter school to disclose your child’s personally identifiable information to the State agency that is responsible for administering your public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program, you have the right under 34 CFR part 99 (FERPA regulations) and 34 CFR part 300 (IDEA regulations) to withdraw that consent at any time. If you wish to withdraw your consent, you should ask your school district or charter school what procedures you would need to follow.

If you refuse to provide your consent, or subsequently withdraw your consent, your school district or charter school must ensure that your child is provided all required special education and related services at no charge to you or your child.

If you withdraw your consent or refuse to provide consent under the FERPA and IDEA regulations, your school district or charter school may not use your withdrawal of consent or refusal to provide consent to disclose personally identifiable information to a public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program to deny your child the special education and related services he or she is otherwise entitled to receive under IDEA. Therefore, if you refuse to provide consent or withdraw consent, your school district or charter school has a continuing responsibility to ensure that your child is provided all required services necessary to receive an appropriate education at no charge to you or your child.

We hope that this information is helpful to you in making an informed decision regarding whether to allow your school district or charter school to use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for special education and related services under IDEA.

What this notice does not mention is the specific corporation that is receiving a lot of private information based on this program, which is PCG.

Another result of this contract is what is called “A Random Moment In Time”, which is a computer system that contacts random Direct Service Providers in Delaware to log into the system and record what they were doing for one minute. The methodology behind this system is to provide accurate data to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) for billing purposes for Medicaid reimbursement. Since DHSS is the provider for Medicaid, CMS required the DOE to be included in this project due to special education and School Based Health Providers. The DOE had to utilize PCG as what is called a sole source provider due to a tight timeframe in which the state risked losing this source of revenue. Since PCG had an existing vendor status with DHSS, this gave the impetus for the DOE using PCG as a sole source vendor, which was approved by then Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery. As part of Delaware Medicaid, DHSS contracts with the Direct Service Providers for what is known as Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Services given to those who receive Medicaid benefits under the age of 21. The criteria for this is set forth by the Delaware Medicaid Assistance Program (DMAP).

DMAP has a website which indicates what records are to be provided to DHSS or their contracted agents (PCG) by the School Based Health Providers. The website states the following:

All providers participating in the DMAP are required to maintain records that will disclose services rendered and billed under the program, and upon request, to make such records available to DHSS or its representatives in substantiation of any or all claims. These records should be retained a minimum of five (5) years in order to comply with all State and Federal regulations and laws.

In order for DHSS to fulfill its obligation to verify services provided to Medicaid eligible clients and that are paid for by Medicaid, providers must maintain auditable records that will substantiate the claim submitted to Medicaid.

At a minimum, the records must contain the following on each client:

• Notice of referral for physical therapy services by a licensed physician, updated annually

• Referral/authorization for services by an appropriately credentialed service provider

• Full assessment(s) in the appropriate discipline area(s) with pertinent documentation such as tests, evaluations, and diagnosis (updated at least every 3 years), and an annual reassessment documented in written format including narrative information summarizing the child’s status and the continuing need for treatment

• A treatment plan prepared by the respective therapist(s) that describes the goals/objectives and level of service(s) (i.e. type and frequency of service) needed. The treatment plan is required annually. A progress note is required approximately every six months or at a reasonable interval to document the student’s progress and the continuing need for service. An I.E.P. must be developed within 30 calendar days following the determination that a student is eligible for special education and related services.

• The name and title of the professional providing services and/or supervision

• Each occurrence of the student’s service, including the date, type, length, and scope of professional services provided

• Any significant contacts made in relation to the student

DHSS has also delegated authority to Children’s Services Cost Recovery Project (CSCRP) personnel to periodically review the ongoing operations of a school based health services provider with respect to:

• Certification requirements

• Service documentation, including need for services, treatment plans and case/progress notes

• Service practitioner’s qualifications

• Billing records

Where this gets real interesting is in the area of mental health school based health providers:

Mental Health Treatment Assessment

Assessment refers to the process of determining the need, nature, frequency and duration of treatment; deciding the needed coordination with others; and documenting these activities.

Screening

Mental Health screen has four primary components:

• Child study team meetings – a meeting of staff who have knowledge of a referred student to discuss the referral problem for the purpose of determining the next step in the screening process.

• Observations – a period of time spent observing a referred student in a natural setting for the purpose of determining student’s academic and/or interpersonal behaviors.

• Group testing – Psychologist’s or psychiatrist’s participation in administration of tests for the purpose of obtaining specific information about a student or group of students.

• Records review – Information gathering on a designated student by way of examining academic, health, behavioral and any other related records for the purpose of providing data relevant to concerns.

Evaluation

Evaluation includes a “Psycho-educational Assessment”. This assessment includes psychological and/or educational testing, typically for intellectual, personality, and/or educational evaluation of referred student, for diagnostic purposes resulting in the generation of a report. The psychological component of the assessment evaluates the intellectual, academic, perceptual motor skills, social and emotional adjustment, and readiness for learning.

Mental Health Treatment Services

Mental health treatment services includes the following therapeutic and related services:

• Individual Therapy – This service consists of supportive, interpretive, insight oriented and occasionally directive interventions.

• Group therapy – This service is designed to enhance socialization skills, peer interaction, consensual validation, expression of feelings, etc.

• Family Therapy – This service consists of sessions with one or more family members, for purposes of effecting changes within the family structure, communication, clarification of roles, etc.

• Case Consultation (Reimbursable for the time of the mental health professional only and must pertain specifically and completely to an individual student.) The role of consultation is monitoring, supervision, teaching and training of professionals, paraprofessionals, parents and student in the educational environment, home and/or community environment. Case consultation includes:

o Providing general information about a specific student’s handicapping condition

o Teaching special coping and intervention techniques necessary for the specific student’s interpersonal skills

o Recommendations for enhancing a specific student’s performance in educational environments

4.2.5.3 Mental Health Treatment Services: Service Procedures

The following services are included in the mental health treatment services category and should be used to document service provision for the purpose of reimbursement:

• Mental health treatment assessment

• Individual therapy – one therapist to one student

• Group therapy – one therapist to six or less students.

• Family therapy – one therapist to one or more family members of the student’s family

• Individual co-treatment therapy – two therapists to one student

• Group co-treatment therapy – two therapists to six or less students

• Family co-treatment therapy – two therapists to one or more family members of the student’s family

• Case consultation

Mental Health Treatment Services: Treatment Plan Requirements

An assessment and treatment plan are required annually. This treatment plan must be based on an evaluation by a qualified mental health treatment provider. Further, the treatment plan must indicate goals/objectives and level of service (type and frequency of service). A progress note is required approximately every six months or at a reasonable interval to document the student’s progress and the continuing need for service. The progress note must:

• Indicate where the student is in relation to the treatment plan goals

• Indicate if the treatment plan requires changes in the goals and/or objectives and

• Indicate if the type or frequency of the treatment requires modification.

So what records do the School Based Providers need to submit to DHSS and by default, PCG?

Service Documentation

School based health services providers must make all records of services provided to students with special health needs available to Medicaid program personnel or its representatives for monitoring and auditing purposes. These providers must maintain the following information for at least five years on all individuals for whom claims have been submitted:

• Dates and results of all evaluations/assessments provided in the interest of establishing or modifying an IEP, including specific tests performed and copies of evaluation and diagnostic assessment reports

• Copies of the IEP/treatment plan documenting the need for the specific therapy, treatment or transportation service (updated annually)

• Documentation of the provision of service in the student’s record by individual therapists and individuals providing service, including:

o The date of service

o Signature of the therapist rendering the service

o Duration of the service

• Documentation of case notes, at a minimum of once a month, by the individual therapist or the individual providing the service. The definition of case note is a descriptive summary of service provided with identification of any isolated or recurring problems. If a practitioner chooses to document session notes, there is no need to document monthly case notes. Session notes must contain some written narrative.

• The provision of special transportation services will be documented by the responsible schools in a client specific, date specific format.

• Progress notes delineating the continuing need for service are required approximately every 6 months or at a reasonable interval to document the student’s progress.

This then helps to determine medical necessity:

Medical necessity will be determined by judging what is reasonable and necessary with reference to accepted standards of medical practice and treatment of the individual’s illness.

School based health services shall be determined medically necessary based upon the assessments and evaluations conducted and the prescribed care as found in the student’s treatment plan. The treatment plan shall be developed by a multi-disciplinary team, or by an authorized therapist or other authorized medical professional and signed by treatment team members. The treatment plan should address the medical necessity for the identified service(s).

Although a physician signature is not required on the treatment plan, evidence of annual physician referral is required for physical therapy services.

What other information needs to be provided to DHSS, and by default, PCG?

The student’s service record shall contain, but is not limited to, the following:

• Identifying data including name, address and phone number, sex, date of birth, next of kin, date of initial referral or assessment/evaluation, date of service initiation, and source of referral

• Date of most recent EPSDT screen

• Referral documentation by a physician or other health care professional

• Assessment, evaluation and testing reports

• Handicapping condition of the student and/or a diagnosis which has been determined using a recognized diagnostic system (e.g., ICD-9)

• An Individual Education Program, if the student is determined to need special education and related services

• A current treatment plan which sets forth the type, level and frequency of services provided to the student

• Progress notes and other relevant service documentation which denotes status of services and progress to identified service goals

• Documentation of each service rendered which describes the type of service(s) provided and the date the service(s) were provided

• Documentation supporting the discontinuation of services including treatment outcome(s) or referral for continued/enhanced services outside of the school based health services provider

RECORD MAINTENANCE A. Nursing Services B. Psychological and Counseling Services C. Speech, Language and Hearing Services D. Occupational Therapy E. Physical Therapy F. Transportation A through F should include student specific identifying information, amount of service, date of service and signature of provider. All records must be maintained for a period of at least five (5) years.

All of the above in regards to DMAP guidelines can be found here: https://www.dmap.state.de.us/downloads/manuals/School-Based.Services.Provider.Specific.pdf along with other more detailed information.

DMAP clearly states that student identifiable records must be provided to DHSS and by default, PCG, as their contracted 3rd party vendor. But does the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) recognize a contracted vendor, such as PCG, to be a party that is allowed to see all of the above types of records? A study done in 2008 through the Fordham Law School’s Center on Law and Information Policy, indicated this was a clear violation of FERPA in a similar situation in New Jersey. The Department of Treasure Purchase and Property Division had a contract with Public Consulting Group, but the contract called for personal identifying information regarding students with the New Jersey DOE. Because the contract was with a separate department, and not the DOE, the authors of the report stated the New Jersey DOE was out of compliance with FERPA based on this. They also found the following:

If the information we collected mentioned that the state used a third party vendor for the development of the system or for the storage of the data, we also made a request for a copy of the agreement with such third party vendor. Most states responded promptly; however, as of the date of this report, we have not received requested contracts from a few of the states. Also, some states may use third party vendors without disclosing those relationships publicly on their websites.

FERPA generally covers a local school district, or LEA, that receives funding from the Federal Government due to the LEA being part of a public school district. State Educational Agencies (SEA) typically aren’t covered under FERPA unless it has to do with records delivered from the LEA to the SEA. In the above, the Delaware DOE definitely receives a great deal of information from local school districts in regards to special education student identifiable data. The Fordham report goes on to state the following in regards to 3rd party vendor reception of student records and parental consent:

Another exception to the written consent requirement arises for educational agencies or institutions that disclose personally identifiable, non-directory information to organizations conducting studies on behalf of the educational agency or institution. To be in compliance, these studies must be conducted in order to develop, validate, or administer predictive tests, administer student aid programs, or improve instruction. The agency or institution may release information without prior written consent only if the study is conducted in a manner that does not permit personal identification of parents and students by anyone outside of the research organization and as long as the information is destroyed when no longer needed for the purposes for which the study was conducted. Recipients of information under this exception may not redisclose personally identifiable information outside of the research organization. Under this exception a school or school district may disclose educational records to a third party vendor that such school or district has contracted with for research purposes provided that the information disclosed to such vendors remains confidential and there is a schedule for deletion of such records following the completion of the stated purpose. This exception does not permit SEAs to disclose educational records to third parties for research purposes. Research contracts must be directly tied to the school or local education institution.

So how exactly does this related to PCG and their vendor contract with Delaware?

“…further disclosure by the state to any third party vendor is only permitted in narrow circumstances. The vendor must enter into an agreement with the state department of education, which provides that such vendor is a contractor and is under the direct control of the department. Any disclosures that do not meet this criterion, or that are done simply for research purposes, are not permitted. At least one state, New Jersey, does not appear to comply with this restriction. The New Jersey contract with Public Consulting Group is between the Public Consulting Group and The NJ State Department of Treasury Purchase and Property Division rather than the Department of Education and does not indicate that the Department of Education has direct control over the vendor.”

Does current FERPA law still agree with this?

99.31 Under what conditions is prior consent not required to disclose information?

(a) An educational agency or institution may disclose personally identifiable information from an education record of a student without the consent required by 99.30 if the disclosure meets one or more of the following conditions: (1)(i)(A) The disclosure is to other school officials, including teachers, within the agency or institution whom the agency or institution has determined to have legitimate educational interests. (B) A contractor, consultant, volunteer, or other party to whom an agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions may be considered a school official under this paragraph provided that the outside party– (1) Performs an institutional service or function for which the agency or institution would otherwise use employees; (2) Is under the direct control of the agency or institution with respect to the use and maintenance of education records; and (3) Is subject to the requirements of 99.33(a) governing the use and redisclosure of personally identifiable information from education records.

Based on those regulations, the answer would be yes. This means the Delaware DOE was out of compliance with FERPA regulations from the moment they began working with DHSS on the Children’s Services Cost Recovery Project until the time they signed a sole source vendor contract with PCG on 12/1/2011. This may be why Lowery had to act fast in obtaining PCG as a sole source vendor contractor in late 2011. From the time they were first notified in 2008, it took three years for the Delaware DOE to become compliant with the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services regulations. When it became a matter of the revenue being suspended due to this non-compliance issue, the DOE signed a very quick contract with PCG.

In terms of the ability for PCG to accurately protect data, I have not heard of any breach. But parents need to understand they do have access to a great deal of special needs student information, including personal identifiable information as well as psychological or psychiatric evaluations that could contain deeply private information. Parents need to know what they are signing when they sign the Medicaid reimbursement form when they obtain an IEP for their child. This would be a personal decision, but as a parent, I certainly won’t do it.

My investigation into PCG and the Delaware DOE wouldn’t have lasted as long if the DOE was more transparent on their website with vendor contracts. PCG is mentioned in one place on the DOE website, and that is on the Random Moment In Time training manual. Are they obligated to release this information? Probably not. But if they are having parents sign a form indicating information will be released for Medicaid reimbursement purposes, they should also include every single Delaware agency as well as 3rd party vendors that may be able to see this information. This isn’t a legal matter, but one of transparency and common sense. Parents need to know when they are signing a document of this sort what the full implication of that signature actually means. As well, with school based health providers, if they are required to keep their records for five years if they are involved with this program, where is that data stored? Is it protected?

Nowhere on the Delaware Awarded Contracts website does it show the contract between the Delaware DOE and Public Consulting Group or PCG. It does show two contracts through DHSS. I have seen the contract though, as a result of an FOIA request I submitted last weekend. This contract states PCG will work with the Delaware DOE on implementation of the Random Moment In Time study and the DOE’s share of the annual cost reporting and cost reconciliation for fiscal years 2009-2012. The contract has been extended each year since it ended on June 30, 2012, and the current extension will expire on June 30, 2015.

Is the timing coincidental for when the Fordham study was released, clearly showing non-compliance on the part of the New Jersey DOE with FERPA regulations, and when Delaware was notified of non-compliance with this very similar reimbursement program and the same vendor? That is not for me to judge. Just to report the facts as best I can with the information provided to me.

The Delaware DOE is not selling IEP information to anyone. But pertinent and private information is being released to third party vendors all over the country, and transparency laws need to be much stronger in the USA so all parents know exactly who is seeing this type of personal information.

I am personally disgusted that anyone would need to see case notes from what I would otherwise assume to be a private and confidential session between a student and a psychologist or psychiatrist. It sounds like HIPAA and FERPA need to get together and come to terms with some discrepancies. I understand the need for a reimbursement program, and the fact that Delaware has recovered $8 million dollars in revenue from the Children’s Services Cost Recovery program is probably a good thing for the state coffers. But the price, as usual, is students and their personal information. Is $8 million worth the time, money and resources spent dealing with PCG on this project? I am sure PCG provides other types of services with DHSS, but the tally on their bill for the last four years alone, as per Delaware Online Checkbook, is over $12 million dollars, so what is Delaware truly getting out of this? I am quite sure the Random Moment In Time system is an annoyance and burdensome to the school based health providers. Some are never picked at all for this study, while others are picked multiple times. Most teachers have never heard of it.

Based on my findings on PCG, they are aligned with some of the most loathed and despised entities promoting Common Core State Standards and high-stakes testing. In a survey released by Gallup yesterday, it showed the country is very divided among those who support Common Core and those who oppose it. Many states are struggling with very pissed off teachers who are justified in their opposition to this federal intrusion into public schools. The US DOE has come under fire in the past couple months from the GOP Senate due to how Arne Duncan and his cohorts are conducting business. Even President Obama may have a lawsuit against him based in part on how his administration has handled education reform in America. But here is Delaware, with our Governor Markell, Secretary of Education Murphy, the DOE and the State Board of Education, proudly cheerleading what a growing number of parents in this state are beginning to hate. The government in Delaware has aligned itself with many of these entities that promote this faulty education agenda. Does the state have a back-up plan if something happens that outlaws Common Core and the tests that go along with it? They may want to start thinking about this if the current trends stay on the same track. Meanwhile, companies like PCG will continue to reap the benefits of the system that allowed them to become richer and richer.

UPDATED at 3:20pm: http://www.hockessincommunitynews.com/article/20140818/NEWS/140819818 Apparently someone hacked into the Delaware State Treasury website this morning. Although not on a state server, I ask once again, how secure is our children’s private information?

Helpful links to get more out of this article:

Delaware Online Checkbook

Random Moment In Time Training Manual

2008 Fordham Report

DOE 2013 Data Acquisition List

Delaware Awarded Contracts Website