Breaking News: Secretary Godowsky Letter To General Assembly States No Changes In Charter Funding This Year, Including Exclusions

The District-Charter Funding War of 2016 has officially been declared over.

While this topic will assuredly come up again, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky sent a letter to the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate stating no changes will be made to choice and charter school funding this year.  This includes any changes in exclusions.  The Delaware Dept. of Education is putting a “hold” on what the exclusions had previously been until this blew up a couple of weeks ago in the public eye.

Please note how Godowsky frames the origin of this as “district to district” concerns.  That is an absolute lie.  We all know exactly where this originated from- Newark Charter School.  We also know the Delaware DOE was willing to stab school districts in the back in order to please the charters by circumventing state code any way they possibly could.  What they didn’t count on was the public openly revolting against them.  As I’ve been telling people, if you make enough noise, things will change.  We need to take this momentum and do more with it.  Markell, for all intents and purposes, is a lame-duck.  Godowsky will be gone in the next six months.  The DOE, at least their leadership, looks more like incompetent buffoons by the day.  This was a big mistake on their part.  Very big.  It would have been one thing if they made this a public matter.  Another if they clued the districts into it instead of all this cloak and dagger drama.

While this “resolution” doesn’t completely finish the job, the non-transparency role of this saga will end.  Any meetings going forward on this will be in the presence of the House and Senate Education Committees.  There is still one guy at the DOE who I believe has a lot to answer for.  I’m talking to you Mr. David Blowman.

Christina Legislative Briefing Clearly Shows Delaware DOE’s Incompetence With District-Charter Funding Fight

The Christina School District held a Legislative Briefing for Delaware legislators this morning.  The subject: the ongoing district-charter local cost per pupil.  Answers were given in a very effective way by Christina’s Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber.  Legislators in attendance were State Reps. John Kowalko, Earl Jaques, Ed Osienski, Mike Ramone, Kim Williams and Senator Bryan Townsend.  Most of the Christina Board of Education also attended as well as Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski.  Some charter advocates, such as Henry Clampitt who now serves on the Gateway Lab School Board of Directors also attended.

Silber gave specifics on what he believes the Delaware Department of Education is attempting to take out of Christina’s exclusion list from their local funding.  He also gave enlightening information on how the DOE specifically asked district Superintendents not to inform their local boards of the changes until a certain time.  As well, the meeting held at the DOE last week with district Superintendents was for them only.  No business managers were allowed to attend this meeting about education funding.  Which is ironic given that the business managers would have the most insight into these issues.  To me, it shows an unwillingness on the DOE’s part to make this a transparent and collaborative process.

Silber also presented a timeline of events from Christina’s perspective which almost mirrors my own that I posted last week.  Silber did mention that their legal counsel sent a letter to the Delaware DOE on August 26th.  The current status is that charter bills were pulled by Secretary Godowsky.  Silber did say some districts in Southern Delaware paid their charter bills but Christina will not until the funding amounts are correct.

I walked away from this meeting more convinced than ever that this began with Newark Charter School and once the DOE got involved, they took over and went crazy with it with absolutely no justification or ability to succinctly present anything associated with this mess that is in any way legal.  I will have more to say on this later when I transcribe the question and answer question with members of the audience, but in the meantime, feast on the presentation given by Silber.  He hit a grand slam on this and evaporated the DOE’s position on this, in my opinion.

What is always fascinating with meetings like this is who is watching who when certain things are said or questions are asked.

Christina School District Letter To Parents About Charter Funding Issues

The Christina School District just issued a letter to parents and citizens in the district to address the recent funding issues surrounding charter school payments and exclusions in their budget:

A Letter to Christina School District Parents and Residents
about Charter School Funding:

There have been recent reports in local media and on social media about possible changes to the funding formula used to determine the Local Cost per Student that determines payments to charter and choice students who attend schools other than traditional Christina public schools.

At a meeting on September 1 with the Superintendents of public school districts throughout the state, Delaware Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky stated that there would be no changes to the Local Cost per Student formula for the 2016-2017 school year. The district has not yet received a formal statement in writing from the Department of Education to this effect.

Unfortunately, statements have been made by a number of individuals that the Christina School District is excluding funds that should be included in the calculations of the Local Cost per Student.

We feel these are very serious statements that need to be addressed. We also feel that the Christina community deserves to know what these restricted funds are and how they support families who choose to send their children to traditional public schools in Christina.

FACT:
The Christina School District does not decide what appropriations are included or excluded from the Local Cost of Funds. That determination rests with the Secretary of Education, as stated by Delaware Code.

FACT:
The Department of Education informed District Business Managers, in August, that certain expenditures which have historically been deemed by the Secretary of Education to be inappropriate for inclusion in the Local Cost per Student Calculation may now be included. No explanations or justifications were provided other than citing that the decision is at the discretion of the Secretary of Education. This decision is contrary to the decisions made by previous Secretaries ranging as recently as last year and as far back as 17 years.

FACT:
In 2003, Christina voters approved a referendum by a vote of 5,334 to 2,431 to restrict 10 cents per $100 of assessed property value to support four specific programs for Christina School District students. These programs were 1) phase-in of Full-Day Kindergarten, 2) expansion of services for Gifted and Talented program, 3) expansion of services for Alternative Programs, and 4) technology replacement schedule. These funds, authorized by taxpayers, are restricted, and are considered District Specific Exclusions.

FACT:
Beginning in 2014, the Department of Education agreed that these funds were restricted and approved their exclusion from the calculation of Local Cost per Student.

FACT:
Another example of funds considered a District Specific Exclusion are those funds generated through the Match Tax. State Legislators often create unique programs designed to help students, such as Reading Resource Teachers, Math Resource Teachers, Extra Time Funding, and Education Technology. These are taxes that impact all traditional school districts. For example, the State recognized the need to assist elementary students in reading. The State provided funding for Reading Resource Teacher positions in Traditional Public Schools and in Charter Schools. State legislation empowered the School Boards of the Traditional Public School Districts to raise taxes to “Match” state funds on a 70/30 state/local basis. School Boards were authorized to match the amount provided to the District only. These Match programs have been excluded from the Local Cost per Student calculation for the past 14-17 years.

The Christina School district welcomes open and public conversation around appropriate public funding for all public school students. As a district that serves a high proportion of low-income, English Language Learners, and special needs students, the Christina School District is invested in ensuring equity, and meeting the educational needs of our diverse population.

The District will hold a Legislative Briefing on Wednesday, September 7 at 7:30 a.m. at the Eden Support Services Center.

Sincerely,
Robert Andrzejewski, Ed.D., Acting Superintendent
Christina School District

Robert Silber, Chief Financial Officer
Christina School District

 

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.

 

 

Official: No Change In District/Charter Funding This Year In Delaware

After six days of will they or won’t they, the Delaware Department of Education is not moving forward on any changes in the school district per pupil cost sent to charter schools out of their local unrestricted funding allocations.  Perhaps now we can all take a deep breath and spend the next year changing the date on this so schools aren’t stressing out over budgets the first week of school.

Christina School District Board of Education President Elizabeth Paige informed me the district Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, was officially notified of this decision by the Delaware DOE earlier this afternoon.

Paige said:

I am pleased that the charter funding allocation will not change for this year; however, I know that we can’t expect this not to come up again and come up often. We must continue to fight for equity and not equality when it comes to funding public education in the state.
Well said President Paige!  Even though there is a calm in the storm for now, this is definitely an issue I plan on doing extensive research on so when it does come up again it won’t be a shock to everyone, including myself.  I still have many unanswered questions surrounding the transparency on the charter schools and the Delaware DOE with this issue.  I will get those answers.

Charter Bias, Bad Math & Lack Of Integrity Shine In News Journal Article About District-Charter Funding War

The News Journal just put up an article on the charter school funding scam and their bias towards charters is painfully clear.

Saranac Spencer has just proven herself as one of the worst education reporters in the history of Delaware.  First off, I know you reached out to more people than Alison May, Bob Silber, Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and two legislators for this article.  Second of all, you didn’t research the facts behind this story at all.  If the charter supporters were so shocked by the reversal of the Delaware DOE’s decision because they planned for it in their budgets, didn’t that throw up a major red flag for you?  The districts didn’t know about this at all until last week.  Charters planned their budgets months ago.  Doesn’t that point you in a direction of collusion Ms. Spencer?  Do you even know how to investigate an issue?  I know you read my blog post.  You completely ignored the fact this was done in closed-door meetings at the DOE by a rogue Associate Secretary of Education and Secretary Godowsky didn’t even know about this until last week.  That was the true story here.  But you used the word transparency once in the article.

Furthermore, the DOE didn’t “begin looking into this in April”.  It was brought to them by Greg Meece and his merry band of firestarters over at Newark Charter School.  Or, as you put it, the beneficiary of $1 million dollars in this debacle.  The fact that the DOE is in negotiations on this matter after Secretary Godowsky told legislators this would NOT happen this year shows them to be proven liars, yet again.

May said Wednesday night that the department was in discussions with district and charter leaders that would determine which formula would ultimately be used this year.

And what you didn’t even touch on is the fact that the DOE (or is it?) is eliminating the match tax allocations from a restricted status.  Yeah, you forgot that VERY big part.

For the 2016 fiscal year, the district had excluded $9.3 million. Under the adjusted formula for the 2017 fiscal year, it would only be able to exclude about $650,000.

Actually publishing this elusive formula would help.  Did you even bother to look at Christina’s budget to see what that means?  What programs and district services would have to be cut for Christina students?  Take away from poor students so the more affluent students at Newark Charter can get more “cafetoriums” and Title I awards when they aren’t even a Title I school?  And before some NCS parent or teacher says “that is federal money”, you’re missing my point.  No.  Not one mention of that.  It’s all about what the poor charters aren’t getting.  Poor Greg Meece.  Boo-Hoo.  Poor Kendall Massett.  Boo-friggin-Hoo.  Ms. Spencer didn’t even bother to see what those cuts are and what they will mean.  She took the side of the charter advocates and didn’t even ask the districts what their opinion was.  That is bad journalism and in very poor taste on a controversial issue.  I  got lambasted by those “charter school supporters” because my article wasn’t “true journalism”.  Guess what, your article was not true journalism.  Not even close.  I have a good excuse.  This is a blog.  But you, you represent the largest newspaper in the state.  And your taking sides is not a good work ethic or even close to journalistic integrity.  How about the News Journal starts to really investigate what goes on in this state instead of being a public relations vessel for the DOE and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  It is getting really old.

But the worst bit of sloppiness in the article is the fact that THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP!  If you look at Christina’s preliminary FY2017 budget, there is something very wrong with her figures.  To anyone who decides to look up their budget, it shows over $49 million in Christina’s local restricted budget.  Now I can figure out where she got her $9.3 million figure from very clearly.  But to the readers of the News Journal who don’t happen to venture over here or bother to look up their budget, it paints a picture that Christina is skewing their numbers by 94%.  That is just bad journalism.  When the true story, based on what the charters are claiming to be true, is a very different percentage.  That comes out to 17.8% if  you take the TOTAL restricted funds they have of $48,389,296 by the very disputable $8.6 million the charters are claiming to be shortchanged from.  See what they did there?  Painting a picture like that on an already controversial issue is very deceptive.  It makes me wonder who in editorial is doing the fact-checking and let’s this hack work through to the printing press.

FY2016&2017CSD

If you subtract $650,000 from $9.3 million, you get $8,650,000.  Which number in this scenario shows $9,306,899?  That would be salary and wages.  But what the News Journal seems to forget is the fact that this district had a referendum last year.  And certain funds were earmarked out of the referendum revenue they will get to support the promises from that referendum.  Like restoring positions they cut when they lost their referendum attempts last year.  Which they have to do.  But the News Journal Lois Lane wannabe doesn’t bother to look into that important detail.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach plays the wishy-washy side here.

“The main concern is not that we are looking at the formula,” said state Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark. “The main concern is that too few eyes were looking at the formula.”

So whose responsibility is that?  What Rep. Baumbach fails to mention here is who has determined the formula for many years.  It is not the Delaware Department of Education.  It is the Office of Management and Budget, which comes out of the Governor’s office.  I pointed out in an article last night there was something very wrong with Christina jumping from $2.4 million to $7.3 million in payments to Newark Charter School over a three-year time span.  Especially when Newark Charter’s students that choiced from Christina only went from 1200 to 2000 in the same timeframe.  For a formula that hasn’t changed in well over a decade, except for minor inflation costs, that sure is one hell of a leap.  What has the Office of Management and Budget been doing with this formula?  Was this the same Office of Management and Budget that forced the Delaware Auditor of Accounts Office that forced Kathleen Davies to be put on leave?  The Auditor of Accounts for Delaware who was investigating charter schools in various inspections at the time?  One of which just so happened to be Newark Charter School?  I know that is a fact because I gave them the tip!  It looks to me like Newark Charter School has benefitted from this elusive formula for years!  Betcha didn’t know that very important fact Ms. Spencer!

The News Journal only mentions Baumbach and State Rep. Kim Williams as the legislators who reached out to Godowsky last Sunday.  There were many more.

But the topping on this farce of an article was the quote from Kendall Massett, of the lobbyist Delaware Charter Schools Network.

“This should not be a district-charter fight,” Massett said. “It’s about equity.”

Equity?  Coming from a paid lobbyist?  This woman has the unmitigated gall to bring up equity?  When she knows exactly what Newark Charter School does?  My God Kendall, please, just stop.  Equity and equality are too very different things.  Equity in this conversation would be closing down Newark Charter School based on their 21st Century racism, discrimination, and social engineering.  It is RACISM folks.  They can say they are coming around to it now, but the way their school is structured now with their demographics, it would take years for them to turn this discrimination factory around.  It is the affluent keeping out the unwanted.  It is segregation.  The very same school that will get more money and wants to cry poor?  When they just spent over $1.4 million dollars on a STEM lab and a performing arts center (or cafetorium as some may want to call it), when they refused to let a disabled six year old girl apply for their precious lottery until we beat them up over that?  Or when they get Federal money designed for Title I schools and they aren’t EVEN A TITLE I SCHOOL?  And our Delaware DOE was the one that submitted them for the award?  And they only qualified because the surrounding district was Title I?  The fact that this school applied for grant money, DOE performance funds, and a minor modification for a “performing arts center” that is actually a cafeteria and an auditorium already shows their inability to tell the truth.  And people just keep handing them dollar after dollar, and they want more.  Wake up!  Don’t you see what is going on here?

If this goes through tomorrow, Secretary Godowsky will have gone back on his word to the General Assembly legislators.  When he knew about this is immaterial at this point.  He knows about it now.  And if he does go through with it, we all know it isn’t even him making this decision.  It is Governor Jack Markell.  If this doesn’t go through, and things stay on course with our largest media outlet in the state heavily slanted on the charter side of the equation, it will happen eventually.  For a state that wants to do soooo much to help our kids in poverty and who are considered at-risk, we sure have a funny way of showing it.

The Heart of the District/Charter Funding War

History will teach us nothing.  Or that’s what they say.  In this case, history is teaching us everything.  Almost three and a half years ago, Newark Charter School had a major modification approved that allowed them to open a high school.  One of the biggest concerns was the financial impact it would have on Christina School District.

During the Public Hearing for their modification request, NCS Board President Steve Dressel said the financial impact of $2.4 million wouldn’t hit Christina until year five of their expansion.

While CSD will make the claim that an NCS expansion will be “devastating”, the reality is the financial impact on CSD is quite small.  CSD estimated it to be $2.4 million…

Dressel was correct in one aspect.  That estimation was “quite small” because when you flash forward three years later, that number jumped three times the original estimate.  In their final budget for FY2016, Christina had a picture in the presentation which showed how much Newark Charter School and other charters receive from them.

CSDFY2016FinalBudgetCharterPmts

Christina had 2,008 students choice out of the district to Newark Charter School.  On the Delaware DOE website, it shows NCS had 2,140 students enrolled.  That means nearly 94% of their students come from Christina.  And that number will go up for both this year as NCS reaches a 12th grade.  How do charter payments, which were estimated at $2.4 million three years ago, jump up to $7.3 million?  And counting?  Did the formula go up that much in just three years?  Are we sure this formula hasn’t changed already without anyone knowing?  This is a huge financial impact for a school district.  This illustrates that NCS knows exactly what kind of impact this has when they get their checks from Christina.  And still, they want more.

While some called my article the other day a call for a “holy war” against charters, it was Greg Meece who once said “this is jihad against charter schools,” when the Delaware State Education Association commissioned a report on the impact charter schools have on school districts.  This came from a 2008 article in the News Journal.  Ironically enough, David Blowman talked about the impact this had on the Brandywine School District to the tune of $2.3 million going to charter schools.  Blowman was the key figure in the now-failed attempt at changing the local cost per pupil formula which would give charter schools more money.

At the time of this article, legislation was brought forth to have the State Board of Education limit the number of new charter school applications if it would have a large financial impact on the districts the charters drew their students from.  The bill did not move forward in that session, but Meece’s claims of destruction to Delaware charter schools hardly came to pass.  The report DSEA bought was released to the press by former State Senator Charlie Copeland.  Copeland later opened up a charter school called Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.

I believe history will repeat itself if this new charter funding formula goes ahead at some point.  This scenario has been proven time and time again throughout America over the years.  The price tag keeps getting higher and higher every year.  Even though there was a moratorium on new charters in New Castle County last year, that didn’t stop the State Board of Education from approving many modifications for increased enrollment at some charters.  With all the increases, that might as well have been a new charter school.  But our State Board of Education, led by an Executive Director who is definitely in bed with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, keeps remaining oblivious to the reality before them.

But Meece, drawing from his infamous “crab bucket” analogy from 2012, still seems to think everyone is out to destroy his “successful” school.  Christina is not paying them what they deserve and they want more!  Regardless of the consequences.  The original opinion piece by Meece is no longer available from the News Journal, but luckily Delaware Liberal saved it for all to see:

Years ago, someone explained to me a phenomenon called the “crab bucket syndrome.” As crabs are caught and tossed into a bucket, the first crab tries to climb out to save its life. Other crabs, seeing his escape plan, grab hold of the first crab’s legs, which pulls him back into the bucket. Eventually, all the crabs perish. In schools, this is a metaphor for, “If I can’t have it, neither can you.” This is what happens when a group tries to “pull down” any other school that shows success can be achieved.  This is happening in Newark, where a group is trying to stop one of our most successful public schools, Newark Charter School, from expanding.

As Pandora brilliantly pointed out in her article on this, Meece forgets about all the crabs that are killed so the few can get out as well as the fact that Meece’s actions are what happened to Christina not Newark Charter School.  For Christina, the tipping point with Newark Charter School happened three years ago.  Now it is just the spear point jabbing at an already bleeding wound.

 

Who Was Pulling The Strings At Delaware DOE? It Wasn’t Godowsky. And A Message For NCS Parents.

Chartergate 2016 and the aftermath took over social media in Delaware yesterday.  When I searched “Secretary Godowsky” last night on Facebook I saw tons of posts.  Many people were outraged about Godowsky’s actions, but a fair number were upset about my comments concerning Mr. Greg Meece.  I won’t apologize for that.  Chances are probably pretty good I know a bit more about some behind the scenes stuff than you do.

Let me be perfectly clear on something.  I am not the News Journal.  First off, the News Journal wouldn’t write about most of the stuff I’ve figured out over the years.  Second, a blog is not true journalism.  That doesn’t mean the facts are wrong.  But bloggers do not have a journalistic credo they need to have like members of the Associated Press do.  I saw tons of posts about how I’m so wrong about things all the time.  I’ll own that up to a point.  Sometimes I am wrong.  And when I am called out on it, I will either correct it or write about how someone felt I was wrong.

I always use this as a classic example.  When the Family Foundations Academy fraud was going on at the school, I wrote about it before the mainstream media picked up on it.  One gentleman, and I know he won’t mind me saying this, blasted me for it.  How dare I disgrace the school and their leaders by writing about that.  Turns out I was right.  The same thing happened with Academy of Dover.   I wrote about the Smarter Balanced shenanigans, and still there were doubters, but it turned out I was right about everything.

I don’t mind people doubting my information.  I’ve received bad information in the past and ran with it, much to my chagrin.  Here’s the deal though: if our schools and the DOE were more transparent about things, I wouldn’t have to write at all.  But the hard truth some of you may not realize is this: there is a ton of shadiness that goes on in this state.  That’s what I write about.  I can’t just out sources all the time.  I can’t always produce a smoking gun.  But it’s out there.  Most of the time I turn out to be right.  And when I’m wrong and someone actually lets me know that, I’ll do what is right.  Let’s really be honest with ourselves.  With the stuff I find out, am I really going to get an honest answer?  If I emailed Godowsky about this before I published it, he would have ignored me.  I like Steve.  I think he has a very tough job, but at the end of the day, he answers to the Governor.  With what I do and what he does, there really isn’t a time where we can collaborate.  We have talked many times in person.  We’ve even joked around here and there.  But when it comes to the really tough questions I present to him… he can’t own up to them.  I get that.

Here are some facts for the whole mess.

Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, and Stephen Dressel met with Delaware Associate Secretary of Education David Blowman and the director of the Finance area at DOE, Kim Wheatly, last April.  Meece wanted more money from Christina.  Somehow this evolved to all districts and charters.  Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky is telling people he didn’t know about this until August 19th.  I do know David Blowman was out of the office all last week because I received an out-of-office reply from him.  Blowman and Wheatly set this whole thing up.  Which means Godowsky didn’t know about the letter sent to all the districts on August 8th asking them to justify their restricted and non-restricted sections of their local funds.  I can say with certainty Godowsky was not on that letter.  But I don’t believe it was solely Blowman and Wheatly who knew about this.  Blowman’s boss is Karen Field Rogers, the Deputy Secretary of Education.  And I have always believed that State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson makes it a point to know every single thing that goes on there.  Did it go up higher than that?  I would assume it did.  Education is Jack Markell’s baby, and nobody touches that baby without him knowing about it.

The charters have been holding meetings at the DOE, some public and some private, to change their organizational and financial framework sections of their budget.  They had representation on the Education Funding Task Force this year.  David Blowman was on that task force.  This issue, to the best of my knowledge, never came up during those meetings.

The change in the local pupil cost for charters and choice schools was all set to change.  I found out about this, ironically enough, when I was working on an article about charter school funding.  This news changed that whole article so you may not ever see it.  I heard from one person in one district, then another, and then another.  24 hours later I wrote the article and published it.  When it comes to stuff like this, I explained it the best way I could.  I’m sorry I didn’t pass the News Journal sniff test.  When I break big news, it isn’t going to be easily tied up like an episode of Murder She Wrote.  There isn’t going to be forensic evidence.  Sometimes I’m able to provide that.  But you need to understand that nothing in Delaware is neat and tidy.  We are a very non-transparent state.  There is a good reason we came in 49th place on a national state transparency ranking last year.  Trust me, I would love to have a smoking gun for everything I write.  I want that more than you do.

With stuff like this, you can either take my word for it or don’t and wait for it to be “officially verified”.  I can take the heat.  What I won’t take is someone trying to make an anonymous comment and attacking my son.  That is intolerable.  I’ve written over 2,800 articles on this blog and no one has ever done that until this article.  You don’t like me attacking your school?  I get that.  Blast me all you want.  But don’t you dare make an attempt to come after me through my son with false information.  There is a line, and you went way past it.  I never attack children on this unless they do something so heinous and it is already in the public spotlight, like the Howard High School of Technology murder.  I will write about adults, but attacking kids… no.  And if you disagree with me on something, that’s fine.  But I hope whoever this was realizes this.  You know who you are.

Today, Brian Stephan with Delaware Liberal wrote an excellent article going into the actual financial implications and what it all means.  Thank you Brian!  Brian has much more knowledge about education funding as a member of the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee.  I appreciate him explaining this better than I ever could.  In the article, Brian wrote about what the charter schools seem to be looking for.  It is bogus, in my opinion.

This is my big question, especially for Newark Charter School.  If you have such a great school, great classrooms, great teachers, manageable classroom sizes, students behave better than traditional schools, and so forth, what do you need all this extra money for?  Many charters get extra money when their transportation budget is higher than what they actually spend.  Some charters, like Newark Charter School, get tons of money from this.  Probably more than they would have made had this gone through with Godowsky.  Newark Charter School got free money from the charter school performance fund last year.  $250,000.  They got money from various foundations.  Is it worth all this fuss, especially when they know districts aren’t exactly swimming in money.  Lets face it, all Delaware schools have some fat they can trim.  This isn’t a charter thing, this is a Delaware thing.  I saw many comments about how I am so biased against charters.  I’m not.  I’m biased against financial abuse, closed-door meetings, things done in secret, high-stakes testing, an out of control DOE and Governor, and some legislators who care more about profit and pleasing the rich than they do about kids.  I will fully admit I didn’t understand a ton of aspects with district financing until the past few months.  Charters are smaller so it is easier to find stuff.   I look at them as well now.  But this move that was going to happen until I wrote about it was shady beyond all belief.

Yesterday, the legislators swarmed Godowsky, and he backed down from doing it this year.  And it was a lot more than the four I saw on one legislator’s Facebook post.  But it is not over.  On Thursday morning, all the district business managers are having a meeting at the DOE.  This is a closed meeting.  The charter leaders aren’t backing down on this, and I’m sure the district leaders aren’t going to let this just happen.  This will get ugly.  The legislators are involved now, so a lot could happen either way.  Godowsky and Markell will be gone in January.  So if Markell wants this to happen, he would need to do something now or after the election.

In terms of charter funding overall, the way we are doing it does NOT work.  At all.  It sets up animosity between districts and charters.  We also need to get rid of the false competition which is based on standardized test scores.  And I’m going to say this NCS parents.  Constantly saying we are “jealous” or “his kid must not have gotten into the school” is elitist.  To be honest, I never heard of Newark Charter School until a few years ago.  Ask Greg Meece about me.  See what he says.  Ask him all the questions I’ve written about.  The only time he has ever reached out to me was last winter over a lottery issue with a parent of a disabled child.  Ask him the following:

Why doesn’t NCS show other bank accounts run through the school or school activities on their website?

Why did the board remove their May 2016 board minutes?  These minutes were put back on the NCS website at 5:17am this morning by NCS CFO Joanne Schlossberg, and does discuss the meeting with Blowman:

NCSMayBoardMinutes

New Question: Why were the board minutes modified this morning and put up without approval of the Board of Directors at NCS who has to approve the minutes as per your very own bylaws?

NCSBoardMinutesModified

Why does the school refuse to file a tax return based on very bogus reasons for not doing so in the first place?

Why did Greg Meece ignore the IRS Guidance letter stating charter schools really aren’t exempt from filing tax returns?

Did the school divert funds from allocations they weren’t allowed to in building their STEM lab and their new auditorium?

Why did the school accept a Title I award from the US DOE when they have one of the smallest Title I populations in the entire state?

Why did a teacher from the school publicly state yesterday on a Facebook post that in a year NCS will be over 50% minority?

How can NCS make a claim (from the same teacher) that they have more kids in Basic Special Education in K-5 than many Red Clay schools?

Why would Meece email all the teachers and parents to support the Christina referendum but wouldn’t do it publicly?

Why does Senator Sokola write so much legislation that benefits charters, especially NCS, but has no problem writing laws that make things harder for teachers and parents?  How much input does Greg Meece have on that legislation?

Why does Meece refuse to collaborate on his innovative discipline practices with other schools?

Which, if any, legislators knew about this change in the way districts pay charters before a week ago?  Did any help in the organizing or structure of these secret meetings?  Did any attend these meetings?

Why have I heard from so many teachers in this state that if they disagree with Meece on even the slightest thing they are fired?

And the most important.  Does he believe NCS is better than everyone else?

When he can answer all those questions, which I publicly ask him to do, then I may change my mind about him.  But until then, no, I don’t have a high opinion of him as the Head of School at Newark Charter School.  Sorry, but I have seen and heard far too much to think otherwise.  I understand that for the parents and teachers at NCS it is the greatest place on earth.  There is a reason for that.  And maybe you don’t want to face it, but NCS supposed success is based on very selective enrollment preferences.  Set up a long time ago, this prevents many at-risk kids from attending the school.  Sure, some get in, but not enough based on the demographics.  There are key parts set up which prevent the often-heard excuse of “it’s a lottery, anyone can get in”.  You need to understand that choice has consequences.  It may be great for your kid, but when people like Meece want more money, after he gets tons of it already from Christina and other districts, that takes from the very same at-risk kids who can’t get into that school.  Not in the numbers where it would be a true picture of the surrounding area.  And setting it up with a five-mile radius also prevents kids from not even being able to apply.  So when folks see Meece wanting more money, that is what they see.  They see your kid going to a school built on a façade while their kids will have less.  This isn’t all charters.  But enough.  And when the one that is very guilty of this modern-day social engineering is the genesis of this funding change, you shouldn’t be surprised when there is major blowback.  That’s not jealousy, that’s understanding the implications these actions have on the state.  You want equal funding?  You have to earn that.  Prove it by opening your doors to everyone.  Until then, you can say whatever you want, but we aren’t hearing it.  Not until your demographics show otherwise.

 

 

Breaking News: Secretary Godowsky Is Changing Funding Formula So Charter Schools Will Get More School District Money

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky is about to set off an education war unlike any Delaware has ever seen.  If you thought the school district vs. charter school war was loud before, you haven’t seen anything yet.

In Title 14, the Delaware Secretary of Education has the authority to change the local cost per pupil.  When a student choices out of their feeder pattern, or their local school district, a portion of that school district’s local funds follows the student to the charter school.  To keep things in perspective, no Delaware Secretary of Education has touched this formula in the past 15-20 years.  There are slight increases each year based on inflation, but they are nominal in comparison to what Godowsky is about to do.

For big districts like Red Clay and Christina, this will hurt them… bad.  Any local school district that sends funds to charter schools will be affected by this decision.  Every school in Delaware already created their FY2017 budget months ago.  Each school district and charter set their budget on the expected number of students they anticipate having.  This was based on the same formula that has been in use for years and years.  When a district has a referendum, the funds generated from that referendum are earmarked for certain things.  Godowsky found a way to circumvent those funds to directly benefit charter schools in Delaware.

On August 8th, Secretary Godowsky sent all the Chief Financial Officers of each district a letter.  He asked them to list all of their restricted and unrestricted funds in their local budgets.  Restricted funds are not used in the calculation for money going to charter schools or other choice schools out of district.  These cover many things, like building maintenance, consultants, and food services as a few examples.  These are district expenses that only affect the district.  These aren’t services the student would bring to the new school.  The school the student choices to should already have those services.  Godowsky is moving budget allocations that were previously in restricted over to unrestricted.  By changing the way this is done, charter schools will get more money while districts will have less.  How much more?  It will differ between district and how much local money they have.  Even though Christina choices out more students, Red Clay has more money in their local share based on their tax base.  But the districts will bleed.  A lot of money.  From what I’m hearing it could be anywhere from 10-15% more money going to the charters, depending on the district.  Millions and millions of dollars.  This won’t just be a Red Clay and Christina thing.  Think Colonial, Brandywine, Appoquinimink, Smyrna, Capital, Caesar Rodney, Indian River… these districts will feel the pain as well.  Any district that sends dollars to charters will send more.

So when your kid comes home from school this year in school districts, don’t be shocked to see something cut that you thought they would have already had.  For charter school parents, they will be happy when their kid gets some new things they might not have had before.  In other words, charter schools will be getting more while districts will be getting less.  This will be in the double-digit millions.  I don’t have exact amounts yet.  But if your district pays a decent amount of money to charter schools, they will be paying a lot more.

Secretary Godowsky didn’t just wake up one day and say “I’m going to change the local cost per pupil formula this year!”  This wasn’t even his idea.  For this, we can thank the folks at Newark Charter School.  When Christina won their third attempt at a referendum last March, the school immediately pounced on Christina for more money.  Everyone wants more money, but Newark Charter School is relentless with their greed.  Immediately after the referendum, their board discussed a meeting that was about to take place:

NCSAprilBdMtg

This trio from the bastion of discrimination and cherry-picking in Delaware, good old Newark Charter School, is Head of School Greg Meece, Board President Steven Dressel, and their Chief Financial Officer, Joanne Schlossberg.  The Superintendent of the Christina School District, in an Acting Superintendent role, is Robert Andrzejewski.  The Associate Secretary of Education is David Blowman.  This was in April of this year, a month after Christina passed their referendum.  Ironically, Newark Charter School’s May board minutes seem to have disappeared.  I did read these board minutes when they came out, but I don’t recall specifics (I should have saved them).  I know there was a lot of discussion about the school refinancing their bonds.  In looking at Christina Board minutes and listening to their audio recordings, I did not see or hear any mention of “Bob A”, as their Superintendent is frequently referred to, and this strange group of people meeting.  I would like to publicly, right here, right now, ask Bob A what happened at this meeting and be prepared to discuss at their next Board of Education meeting on September 20th.  You don’t get a skate out of Christina free card Bob A.

Bob A did have a meeting with Newark Charter School earlier this year.  He asked Meece to support Christina’s upcoming referendum.  Meece flat-out refused.  Even though their charter school directly benefits from Christina School District with their five mile radius requirement for students.  Even Governor Markell and Senator David Sokola supported the referendum.  Which was a bit unusual.  But even that mystery will be cleared soon.

Meece, backed by the Delaware Charter Schools Network I’m sure, successfully lobbied the Secretary of Education to change the local cost per pupil formula.  By Delaware law, the Secretary of Education has up until September 1st of each year to do this.  But if this wasn’t the final straw, get ready, cause it gets worse.  Several sources are telling me this won’t just go into affect for this school year.  Godowsky wants districts to pay for last year based on the new formula.

Districts are at a loss.  They are in a frenzy and searching other possible remedies to address this education funding catastrophe.  When was this decision made?  I don’t have the answer to that one…yet…but I’m working on it.  It has been in play since April according to the Newark Charter School May Board minutes.  David Blowman, as the former Deputy Secretary of Education until earlier this year, oversaw the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE.  Since their Executive Director left in June, Blowman has been taking on the responsibilities as the authority figure in that area of the DOE until they find a replacement for Jennifer Nagourney.

I have to imagine that Meece had other help with this as well.  Something this high up and controversial would have to fly by Governor Markell.  I have no doubt in my mind Meece’s legislative buddy Dave Sokola had a hand in this as well.  Things like this don’t happen in a vacuum. I imagine the Delaware DOE will have to announce this by September 1st since this is the deadline for the Secretary to make these decisions.

This will create a war between school districts, charter schools, the DOE, the State Board of Education, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network unlike anything seen before.  If this change in the way districts pay charters goes through, expect a lot of hardship on districts.  Expect boons for charters.  You will have to pick a side.  You can’t sit there and stay neutral.  Every Delaware candidate for public office is going to face this question.  This isn’t going to be a situation where both sides can come to the table and stay neutral.  This move by Godowsky is the knife in the back that will cause outrage.

All because one little man hates the Christina School District so much, and he continually runs his “great” school.  The same school that continually benefits from the laws Delaware Senator David Sokola creates every single year.  And from what I’m hearing, Sokola isn’t the only candidate running for office that is getting support from Newark Charter School.  But the actions of this one little man will affect an entire state.  If you thought the funding issues for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan were rough before, get ready for this whole thing to take on a whole new level.

I wrote earlier today about this with cryptic words.  But make no mistake, Governor Jack Markell is leaving this in the lap of John Carney to deal with.  Markell doesn’t give a crap about Delaware education.  He has proven this time and time again.  This is just one more of his final revenge tactics before he leaves office (he will have more if Jack lives up to his true self).  Markell hates Christina.  Watching him in the video supporting the district for their referendum… he looked like he would rather have a root canal.  But it was very important their referendum passed.  Which was why Sokola also supported it.  If their referendum failed, Meece wouldn’t have been able to get the opportunity for his huge money grab.

This will affect every public school district student in the state.  For years, education reformers true goals have been to privatize education.  They found a very successful way to do it with charter schools.  They suck money out of local districts until they are gone in some cities.  But this time, I believe Meece overreached.   The reputation of charter schools as greedy, money-sucking vampires of local school districts is now set in stone.  All because of Meece.  Remember this moment.  Remember who started all of this.

District parents… I invite you all to attend the September State Board of Education meeting on September 15th.  The meeting begins at 1pm at the Townsend Building in Dover.  Bring picket signs protesting Godowsky’s actions.  Give public comment and demand the State Board of Education take action on this abuse of power.  Make your voice heard.  Go to your local school district board meetings and tell them to not send this money to the charter schools.  Go to the charter school board meetings and tell them they can’t get more while their children get less.  I have no doubt the charter side will make a lot of noise.  But only 10-12% of Delaware students go to charters.  We have the numbers.  We have the louder voice.  And we have more voting power.  Find out which legislators support the district side and which support the charter side.  If they tell you they support both, they are useless.  This war will demand strength in leadership.

When the dust settles on this, there will be casualties.  The question that remains is how much more students have to suffer because of stupid little men like Greg Meece.  We can’t tolerate this as a state any longer.  We can’t have a third of our state budget benefitting charter schools and allowing our kids in school districts to suffer because of them.  This has to change.  The war began a long time ago, but take a side.  And get ready to rumble!

I will be updating this story with new articles as they come out.  This is going to be a long Autumn.  With this action, Secretary Godowsky will replace Secretary Mark Murphy as the most reviled Delaware Secretary of Education in our entire history as a state.