Led by Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, a total of thirteen Delaware legislators wrote a letter to Delaware Secretary of Education about the recently announced match tax giveaway to Delaware charter schools. I wholeheartedly agree. FY2018 budgets have already been approved by local school boards, tax warrants have gone out to the three counties, and districts are still hurting from the budget cuts when Governor Carney signed the budget on July 3rd. I hope Secretary Bunting ends this ridiculous farce. Watch the charters try to sue the state if Bunting decides to drop it because THEY based their budgets on it. Sometimes I just want to scream at the money grabs going on in Delaware…
This is exactly why I don’t trust the Delaware Department of Education. Taking a nod from the Christina School District settlement with 15 charter schools last year, the Department has decided to let charters get match tax funds in a phased-out plan for district exclusions. Continue reading “Delaware DOE Screws Over Districts By Allowing Match Tax Funds To Go To Charters”
Last December, the 15 Delaware charter schools and the Christina School District settled in a lawsuit over local funding from Christina to the charters. The district agreed to pay that portion of their local funding (even though the Delaware DOE colossally screwed up) going forward and both the DOE and Christina had to pay the charters attorney fees. As well, wording in the settlement around special education funding indicated there could be a change in the air with those payments. As well, the match tax was brought up in the settlement (but not decided on) and whether charters should get a portion of that. Almost six months later, I am curious if you agree or not whether this was a fair settlement.
New details emerged in the never-ending Christina-Delaware Department of Education-15 Charter Schools lawsuit/settlement thanks to Newark Charter School leader Greg Meece. I guess now that the ink is dry on the settlement, people can say whatever they want, right Greg? We shall see!
From the Weekly Bulletin sent to Newark Charter School parents yesterday afternoon:
Follow-up on the settlement letter
This will provide additional information and clarification about the recent settlement of the lawsuit filed by NCS and 14 other charter schools over what we considered to be funding errors which cost charter schools – and their students – a fair amount over the years. Because we are satisfied with the agreement reached over local funds and pleased with the new level of transparency created by the agreement, we are happy to offer the following clarifications:
– We stated that the general idea is that the property taxes paid by residents, which are initially held by the local school districts, should follow the child when families choose to enroll their children to a public charter or choice school in Delaware. We believe that, for whatever reasons, in the case of Christina School District (CSD) that was not being done. But we also concede that, as in most settlements, the district admitted no wrongdoing.
– We stated that the August decision was made by the Secretary of Education. Actually, the August decision was made by other Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) executives and Secretary Godowsky was not involved until later. In September, he reversed his Department’s earlier decision and we sued.
– Finally, we said that “both CSD and DDOE agreed to cover the cost of the charter schools’ legal costs.” Let us clarify. In the complaint filed in court, we demanded an award of attorneys’ fees. During the negotiations, we pressed that same demand. The resulting agreement, while not mentioning the subject of attorneys’ fees, provides for a one-time payment of $150k from each defendant. Naturally, the plaintiffs are free to spend that one-time payment as they see fit and have decided to pay their legal fees with it, and we have been told that both DDOE and CSD are paying that amount directly to the charter schools’ attorneys. We are told, in CSD’s case, that payment is funded from “true-up” funds created by a switch in the method of calculating the share going to charter schools.
We hope these clarifications resolve any confusion about the settlement and want to reiterate its essence: both sides agreed to a sharing of local revenues that each believes represents fair compromise and charters will now be given the information in coming years to assure that fairness continues. We are pleased that the Department and CSD have approved the settlement and look forward to working with each in the future.
Ah, Greg Meece, you are crafty. That is for sure! So if I understand this correctly (as well as the thousands of readers who are probably sitting with a dropped jaw right about now), Secretary Godowsky did NOT know about the changes to the local funding formula. Which is one of his job duties, to approve that formula by September 1st. But one could presume, if no changes were presented to him, there would be nothing to approve if the old formula was used. So can someone please tell me why the 15 charters named Godowsky personally in the lawsuit if they knew he did nothing wrong? And it’s not like this is new news. State Rep. Earl Jaques confirmed this in an email I published three months ago.
Greg Meece, are you telling me your attorneys willfully put something in a lawsuit they KNEW wasn’t true? Or was this oh-so-little detail discovered after the lawsuit was filed? Either way, it would have come up before the settlement was written. But the settlement specifically gives details about Godowsky back-tracking on his decision. But it was never a decision he made to begin with. So this ENTIRE mess went down because Delaware Dept. of Education officials neglected to give their State Cabinet-level superior information that IS IN STATE CODE and they only have to pay $150,000 to the charters for “whatever they choose but we planned it ahead of time to pay the attorney fees“. This seems VERY convenient. Too convenient. If this is not the very definition of a shakedown, I don’t know what is. Maybe Secretary Godowsky should sue the fifteen charter schools for a frivolous lawsuit. And Bob Silber. And the Christina School District. The only way Meece can say this wasn’t Christina’s fault is because of the nature of settlements. People try to tell me what a great guy Meece is. I don’t see it. Someone who is okay with playing games with tens of thousands of student lives, staff members, educators, and taxpaying citizens is not in my definition of a good guy.
So we have Greg Meece, the same guy who got this snowball rolling down the hill to begin with, openly admitting this was all the DOE’s fault, but he is glad Christina and the charters could come up with a mutual agreement? Are you out of your damn mind Meece? So why was Christina even named in the lawsuit to begin with if this was all a colossal screw-up by the DOE? IF I were the attorney for this, the only legal option would be to go after the DOE. UNLESS I was already planning on a settlement. With some other easter eggs thrown in for good measure. Things like the tuition and match taxes. Opening the door for them. Very smart. Very shady. Very Delaware. And 4 out of 7 Christina board members fell for it. For now. There is still some information that hasn’t come out yet Greg. But I know it. And it will. Good luck with THAT weekly bulletin Greg! But I do want to thank you for reading my article I put out last Monday based on your last missive to the NCS parents. Had I not put that article up, would you be bending over backwards trying to “clarify” things with NCS parents? I tend to doubt it.
To read the FULL NCS Weekly Bulletin, and learn all about the have to see it to believe it “Hour Of Code”, see below.
Dr. Steven Godowsky had quite a year as the Delaware Secretary of Education! As he sails off to distant shores (across the canal), away from the Townsend Building in Dover, Delaware, let’s look back on 2016. And stay tuned for the end of this article where I may or may not reveal a VERY BIG secret about Godowsky.
Kendall Massett, the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, will soon be standing at a crossroads. As someone who preaches district and charter collaboration on one hand, the other hand is busy trying to find ways to get more district money to follow students at Delaware charters. This dichotomy is going to define the future of charter schools in Delaware.
As anyone breathing in Delaware is well aware, fifteen charter schools sued the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Christina School District over funds they felt should have been going to charter schools. The defining moment in the lawsuit: when Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky reversed changes to the local funding formula for school choice payments after September 1st. They could have been patient and allowed Godowsky or the next Delaware Secretary of Education and the General Assembly the opportunity to figure it out. But instead, they took the legal route which was championed by Kendall Massett. As a result, the law firm of Saul Ewing will get $300,000. How many teachers could be hired with that kind of money? How many students could have received a paraprofessional in a school room bursting with over 25 kids?
If the collaboration Massett truly desires took place, this lawsuit wouldn’t have happened in the first place. If there is blame to be thrown around regarding who was at fault with the local funding formula, that blame lands solely at the feet of the Delaware Dept. of Education. They should have been the ones answering the questions for the charters. Christina performed their due diligence and submitted their exclusions to the Delaware DOE. This originated last Winter, with Newark Charter School calling in the DOE who apparently “confessed” to the powers that be about the exclusions submitted by Christina. The DOE had an opportunity right then and there to make good on this. The charter schools could have gone public with this information and forced the DOE to do something about it. And if that didn’t work, they could have brought in the General Assembly. But instead, they kept this a secret for many months. They had to know when the public found out about this they would be understandably upset. These were huge funding changes with charter payments. This was not a wise move for the charters involved. By alleging that Christina was purposely withholding funds from these charters when the district did the same thing they had been doing for 12-13 years, which I might add was completely legal since the DOE approved them, the charters started a war. It is not that difficult to see this was the original intent. It boils down to Greg Meece having a hissy fit because his school wanted more money and if Christina wouldn’t willfully give it up, he was going to punish them and cast blame.
In an article on Delaware First Media, written by Meg Pauly on December 1st, Massett weighed in on the Christina Board of Education signing the settlement with the fifteen charters. Massett, as the go-to spokeswoman for Delaware charter schools, seemed to have some very big misunderstandings about what this settlement really is.
She said the decision most likely won’t require a vote from each schools’ entire board of directors, which could make it easier to approve.
“Because there would not be any money going out – they’re not paying out a settlement, it would be money coming in – there’s not really a fiduciary responsibility that the board would have to approve,” Massett said.
There is certainly a fiduciary responsibility stemming from this settlement. The charters, according to the settlement, would have to make sure the funds were allocated to certain functions similar to what those funds were used for in the Christina School District. As well, the Pandora’s box called tuition tax funds were brought up in the settlement. It states:
In the CSD settlement agreement, CSD has agreed to catalogue and describe, for DOE and CSD Charter Schools, those services provided by CSD to children with special needs (“Special Needs Services”) that are funded in whole, in whole or in part, with revenues generated by the levy of the so-called Tuition Tax by CSD. The objective of this undertaking is to determine whether CSD shall be financially responsible under Section 509(f) for funding the same or similar Special Needs Services provided by CSD Charter Schools to their CSD resident students. If requested, DOE will participate in the discussions and inquiry described in this subsection, and, where necessary, shall enforce this provision.
So what does Section 509(f) of Delaware State Code say?
For any student, who because of educational need requires services that are appropriately financed pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title, either at the outset or subsequent to a decision to enroll in a charter school, the student’s district of residence shall remain financially responsible for such student and the charter school shall receive from such district a payment determined in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title.
Which brings us back to Chapter 6 of Title 14:
§ 604 Special programs.
(a) If any pupil is counted in the preschool, intensive or complex unit and attends school in a program operated by a district other than that in which the pupil resides, by an agency of the Department of Education or is in an approved private placement pursuant to § 3124 of this title, the receiving district or the Department of Education shall collect a tuition charge for the nonresident pupil, provided approval for attendance has been granted by the sending district. Such tuition charge shall be paid by the school board of the reorganized school district in which the pupil is a resident from the proceeds of a local tax levied for this specific purpose, except that in the case of a district assigned by the Department with the approval of the State Board of Education to administer a school or program for children with disabilities, or special programs approved by the Department of Education for persons without disabilities such as programs for bilingual students or programs for pregnant students, the district so assigned shall be both the sending and receiving district in regard to that school or program and is authorized to collect tuition charges accordingly.
(b) In determining the tuition to be charged for a pupil counted in the preschool, intensive or complex units or for a person without disabilities attending approved special programs, such as bilingual programs or programs for pregnant students operated by a district other than that in which the student resides or by an agency of the State Department of Education, the receiving district or the State Department of Education shall compute the tuition by adding such receiving district’s share of educational related expenses as allowed by the Department of Education regulations. The sum so obtained shall be divided by the total number of pupils in the special program as of September 30 of the current school year. The resulting figure shall represent the amount of the “tuition charge” per pupil.
(c) In determining the tuition charged to the sending district in the case of private placement for children with disabilities, tuition will be defined as in § 3124 of this title and the sending district will be charged 30 percent of the total tuition cost. The remaining 70 percent will be covered through funding provided by the State Department of Education from the annual appropriation for this purpose.
The charter schools get IDEA Part B funding from the federal government. They receive special education funding from the state for Basic Special Education for students in pre-school (if they have those programs) and students in 4th-12th grade. They get intensive and complex funding for students in all grades. Where the tuition tax gets very complex is how it is determined. The local school board votes to set the current year’s tuition tax rate for taxpayers. It is not something the district can change on a whim. And state code is very specific about what those funds can be used for. What makes Christina very unique is that they are the management district for several special needs programs. Those are not funds the charter schools could touch based on this settlement unless they are providing comparable services. Then we get into the definition of a comparable service. Would Gateway Lab School be considered the same school as the special schools within Christina?
Where Kendall, as well as the entire settlement, performs a massive overreach is in this particular section. It is tampering with state code in unbelievable ways. State code does not legally have to honor a settlement stemming from a lawsuit between a school district and a group of charters. As well, it can not, and should not, dictate what a state agency has to do. That is what we have our General Assembly for, to create and amend laws. We can certainly discuss the merit of some of those laws, but that is the very essence of the Constitution of Delaware. A settlement should not create new contradictions that try to negate existing law. Which is why Secretary Godowsky wanted the General Assembly to intervene in this entire funding process. I am assuming the Delaware DOE signed their settlement agreement with the fifteen charters. Which is even more concerning in my eyes. The fact they would allow changes in Delaware law without approval of the legislative body charged with performing that task. A settlement cannot create laws or regulations.
What this section does is change the duty of charter schools in regards to their adherence of special education law which they should already be doing to the best of their ability. This settlement is much more than a “fiduciary responsibility” in nature, as Massett put it. Something that magnanimous in scope should be approved by a charter school board, not a Head of School or even an interim principal in one case. It is fiduciary in a sense that the charters would receive more money from a tuition tax, but it would require an oversight of the special education services within each of those charter schools to make sure they are performing at a comparable level to Christina. That could involve extra resources and staff those charters may not have. Could a charter hire that staff and pay for those resources and then submit for those tuition tax funds? Or would those services and staff have to already be in place to be eligible for those funds? The settlement does not define that.
If, for some odd reason, legislation is created out of this part of the settlement, it would require districts to collect even more tuition tax from taxpaying citizens within their district. They would have to because more would be required to go out to charter schools for those students. They should not be tasked with divvying up the existing tuition tax they receive for the students within their own district with those needs or funds they are already sending to special education schools outside of their district. That would take away from those students. But here is the major problem with this: the local boards have to determine the tuition tax rate in the summer before the school year starts. They base this on projections within their own district. How can they determine the needs of special education students who reside in their district but attend charter schools before the school year even starts? For some they can, but special education can be very fluid, evolving from year to year. It is hard enough for the districts to do this for their own students.
If Kendall Massett wants more collaboration between districts and charters going forward, she needs to stop drawing this line in the sand when it comes to money. She is going to continue to piss off the districts and they will not want to collaborate with the charters who keep demanding more and more from them. Districts can’t always get performance funds or donations from foundations. They can’t always have silent auctions like many charter schools do. All Delaware public schools have the capability of applying for grants from the state or the federal government, including charters. Districts don’t get to keep their excess transportation spending if they set their budget higher than what they actually spend. And charters are free to use this money as they please. So please, tell me Kendall, if the charters are getting what you view as their “fair share“, will you promote removing those extra perks for the charters that districts don’t get? When it comes to education funding, there is a crystal-clear difference between what a charter school needs and what an entire district needs. In some ways, it is like comparing apples to oranges. You can’t complain about charters not receiving capital funding. That was the way the law for charters was set up. It was the price of admission into Delaware public education. So by default, on paper, it would appear charters get less than districts for that very reason.
Some could argue that this latest misstep by the charters is just more of an ongoing agenda to privatize public education. Just one more chunk taken from school districts and flowing into the hands of charter schools which are actually non-profit corporations. By state law, those corporations are required to file IRS tax returns. But because of loopholes in IRS guidance, the one charter school who actually started this whole charter payment mess is the one school that does not file those tax returns. The guiding force behind the lawsuit was Greg Meece and Newark Charter School. They created the very conditions that led to the lawsuit. The settlement promises severe disruption to all Delaware schools involving special education and funding. But Newark Charter School is not transparent with their own finances the same way the rest of Delaware charters are. I have grave issues with that. And I have no doubt in my mind Kendall is aware of this.
In a News Journal article from December 5th discussing the settlement details, written by Adam Duvernay, Kendall states the following:
“I’m glad everyone will have a seat at the table, and that the process will be transparent, so we don’t find ourselves in this situation again where charter schools go for years without answers and feel like they need to resort to legal action to make their voices heard,” Massett said.
What about the questions many Delawareans have been asking the charter schools for years without any real answers? Like how certain Delaware charter schools can cherry-pick students in defiance of state and federal law? When does Newark Charter School, which created this whole mess, finally implement their plan to balance their demographics at their school? When does Newark Charter School become fully transparent with their own money the way every other Delaware charter school is required by law to do? Massett cherry-picks her statements. She wants districts to answer any questions charters have, but when those answers are needed by others, she either deflects or states it just isn’t true. And when people do take legal actions surrounding charter demographics? Like when the Office of Civil Rights asked for all charter school applications a couple of years ago going back the two years before that request? The Delaware Charter Schools Network became the organization tasked with collecting that information. And what happened? Massett informed the Office of Civil Rights the charters did not know they needed to keep that information. And then there is the matter of the now two-year-old complaint from the Delaware ACLU against the State of Delaware and Red Clay regarding practices of segregation and discrimination from some Delaware charter schools. Kendall called that “a myth.” Two years later and that complaint has gone nowhere. Forcing someone to sit at the table with a menu where there are two choices, our way or no way, is not collaboration. It is not legal action. It is manipulation that doesn’t belong in education. With education, every decision eventually affects students in a good way or a bad way. For far too long, those decisions have existed for the benefit of charter school students.
Getting real here, Kendall’s job is to promote charter schools and to serve as a buffer between them and the state in certain areas. At heart, Kendall is a lobbyist, seeking to influence the General Assembly and the Delaware DOE in ways that will benefit charter schools in the state. Charter schools pay dues to the Delaware Charter Schools Network. In a sense, they are very similar to some of the roles the Delaware State Education Association plays in education politics. But the difference is that DSEA represents the teachers in district schools. They promote or oppose legislation that will benefit the teachers within their organization. I have no doubt DSEA would love to have charter school teachers unionize. But the Delaware Charter School Network exists for a niche within public education that almost serves as a parasite on the districts they feed from. It takes from the host body and sucks the energy out of it. That is the price of school choice that Kendall cannot seem to fathom.
In 2017, education will once again be front and center in Delaware. The corporate education reform movement, led by the Rodel Foundation in Delaware, will become more pronounced with the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. But in some ways, it almost seems like the charter movement in Delaware and those who advocate for them, seem to have become more emboldened with the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA. He promised billions of dollars to charter schools. To add salt to that wound, he appointed Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. A charter school lover if there ever was one. I have no doubt charter advocates across the country are feeling almost empowered by these events. Supporters of public education are very worried about what will happen to further erode an education system that has been in place long before the very idea of a charter school was introduced.
In Delaware, Kendall Massett will continue to have great relationships with the Dept. of Education and the State Board of Education. She will exert her influence on the General Assembly. If any bill is introduced that will negatively impact charter schools, she will wield her power and influence to put a stop to it. She is backed by some very powerful forces in Delaware that will not be trifled with in any way. But none of these forces see what their choices and decisions make to education as a whole. If charters and districts were funded the same way as the vo-tech schools in Delaware, I don’t think the issues with charter schools in the state would be as big. But this parasitic relationship between districts and charters is paralyzing to education in Delaware. There are other things that perform the same damaging results, but we can control how this particular relationship evolves. Districts and charters aren’t going anywhere. If charters want to co-exist with districts and have true and meaningful collaboration, they have to stop these games. And Kendall Massett, as the spokeswoman for the charters, will have to take on a different mantra. It isn’t a question of choice at this point, it is an answer that demands immediate implementation. Fair goes both ways.
If I were Kendall Massett, I would actually recommend the Christina Board of Education rescinds their vote on the settlement. Funding is important, but shaking down a district like this which will only tick off the other districts in the state, is not something to be proud of. It is not a victory when students continue to pay the price.
No one seemed to be the center of controversy in Delaware education more than Head of School Greg Meece, the face of Newark Charter School. Greg Meece had a very busy year behind the scenes of many headlines. It almost seemed like the ongoing district and charter school war centers around NCS and the Christina School District. Here, in it’s entirety, is the story of Newark Charter School in 2016. There are still 27 days left, so I may have to put some updates in before 11:59pm on December 31st! If you see blue in the article, that is a link to an article I published on NCS or Greg Meece.
Before I get into the whole local funding formula fiasco, we need to look at other events Meece was involved in. Prior to this year, I really didn’t write about NCS that much. The school tends to keep things to themselves. What happens at NCS stays at NCS. That changed in February. On February 5th, it was announced NCS would get a “distinguished Title I” designation for their students outstanding scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The only problem? NCS isn’t really a Title I school. The reward was based on the district surrounding them which has Title I schools all over the place.
The next day, I posted how a special needs girl was denied an opportunity to participate in NCS’ lottery. This caused a massive outcry all over the state. The NCS board, the previous fall, said any child who turned six after a certain date would not be able to participate in the lottery. For children with developmental or other disabilities who may start school later, this would prevent those families for applying to NCS. I had people email Greg Meece. He responded to my email the next day. and it eventually caused the school to change their mind. The girl was let into the lottery but she did not win a placement.
A month later, I discovered NCS does not file IRS tax returns because of very vague loopholes from the IRS dating back to 1995. I sent a tip to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office on this. As well, I submitted a FOIA to NCS to which they responded very fast. Nearly ten months later and nothing has come of the tip to the auditor. I know they were investigating this because I received a call from the state auditor’s office about this. When I called over the summer to find out that status of the investigation, I never received a confirmation that it was being worked on.
Things stayed relatively quiet until shortly after the school year ended. Delaware Senator David Sokola nuked a great bill dealing with teacher evaluations in Delaware. House Bill 399 was meant to undo some of the very damaging practices thrust open teachers from the state. Sokola got involved with the bill and put an amendment on it. One of the aspects of the amendment, the addition of parent surveys at the pilot schools, is something Meece implemented at Newark Charter School. The ties between Sokola and NCS just kept opening up like a can of worms.
As folks were getting ready for the 4th of July, I thought out loud about NCS, Senator Sokola, and the missing Kathleen Davies. I wonder if NCS had anything to do with that. Davies disappearance from the Auditor’s office hit mainstream media with a lot of details missing. While NCS and Meece were not mentioned in that article, that didn’t rule them out on my suspect list for what happened to Davies. State Rep. Kim Williams broke the news in comments on Kavips blog about a petty cash audit Davies had been working on that disappeared as well. I went into a lot of detail and started naming suspects. A few months later the mystery deepened what the petty cash audit turned into petty cash warning letters but NCS wasn’t involved.
While the Kathleen Davies mystery was simmering, I discovered NCS did away with the age restriction for Kindergarten applicants but they came up with a new policy that students entering Kindergarten could only apply once. So if a child with developmental or other disabilities did spend another year in pre-school, and the parents applied to NCS before that, they could not apply the next year. It was the same discriminatory package decorated in different wrapping paper.
After I received detailed breakdowns of every school district and charter’s payment allocations for Fiscal Year 2016, I began to take a closer look at NCS payments. I found they spent an exorbitant amount on student body activities. Only one district was higher than them. This raised my suspicions that something funky was going on which led me to examine the funding for their “cafetorium” addition along with a STEM laboratory. I didn’t find anything conclusive, but it was very ironic how numbers matched with other things.
By the end of August, as the school year started off nice and quiet, all hell broke loose. The local funding formula was changing so charter schools would get more from the local districts. I immediately pegged Greg Meece as the catalyst for this and dumped my feelings about NCS throughout the article. Less than 24 hours later, Secretary Godowsky changed his mind on the change to the charter payments. The next day I posed my theories on who was responsible for this at the Delaware DOE and openly asked Meece many questions about NCS. I never did get a response from him. I can’t imagine he is my biggest fan. This led to a resurfacing of Greg Meece’s famous crab bucket analogy. While all this was going on, Senator Sokola wrote a letter to the News Journal on his latest “discovery” for education. Speaking of the News Journal, they wrote a very misleading article on the whole thing which prompted me to do even more research. The President of the Christina board gave me the official news there would be no changes to the formula the next day. But apparently Meece and NCS Board President had their own thoughts on the matter and wrote their version of events in a letter to NCS parents. The true shock came the next day when a Senator Sokola email defended NCS and cast blame on Christina but I debunked a lot of his theories. Then Christina sent a letter to parents. For a week, NCS parents were coming out to defend their school. Some of them got very nasty which prompted this response from me. After a long ten days, I had to recap the whole thing and give some new information about district exclusions. On September 7th, Christina held an open to the public legislative briefing to explain their side of the story and how the funding works with payments to charters. I attended the meeting and recorded it. Transcribing it was a bitch but it gave a ton of key information (which still makes my head hurt when the final outcome of this reached its climax this week). I’ll have to see if I still have the recording to transcribe Part 2 of this meeting. I assumed Christina argued their case so well it caused Secretary Godowsky to issue a letter to the legislators calling off the whole thing for this year. Many assumed nothing would happen on this until the legislators returned in January based on Godowsky’s letter.
In the Spring, the General Assembly finally passed the Kilroy-inspired “All school boards must record” legislation. For Newark Charter School’s very first audio recording, it was a whopping 16 minutes. You can’t make this stuff up. The next week, they won the Blue Ribbon School status from the U.S. DOE for their “outstanding” test scores (smelling a theme here?). Senator Sokola got the spotlight treatment based on his upcoming General Election contest against Meredith Chapman so I felt obliged to showcase his very sad charter school legacy. Of course NCS got a nod.
One would think after such a crazy month, NCS would try to stay out of the news. Not the case. The school ended September with a student sit-in. Inspired by the U.S. Congress, students staged a sit-in when a teacher was fired over an incident with a student. Instead of getting barbecued by the parents, the students jumped in on the comment roasting of this blog. I actually admired the students for what some called “The Slappening”. The teacher got her job back a couple of weeks later as Earth started spinning on its axis again.
On October 5th, Delaware found out the charter school response to Secretary Godowsky not moving forward with the change in the charter school payments from Christina. 15 charters filed a lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE. I got my hands on the actual filing which named all the schools and parties involved. By this point, everyone knew it was NCS who started this whole thing which they confirmed in another letter to NCS parents. I soon received the whole timeline for the shenanigans involving Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and Bill Manning. This prompted me to look at some things that were very peculiar about this lawsuit.
A couple of weeks later, Delaware United made a three-part video series where they interviewed Senator Sokola. Care to guess what the biggest topic was? Education and Newark Charter School!
At the end of October, I found out that Newark Charter School was supposed to have an outreach plan to get more sub-groups in their school. This was a condition of their major modification to start their new high school. We are still waiting for this.
Last week, the Charter School lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE came back in a big way. Christina’s board accepted a settlement with a 4-3 vote. By the end of the week, the settlement leaked out before all the signatures were on paper. Where did the leak come from? Governor Markell’s office!
So there you have it: Greg Meece and Newark Charter School. More controversy than Donald Trump at a rally for Democrats! More scandalous than… I can’t think of anything… I sure do hope 2017 is quieter for Newark Charter School. They lost their isolationism label this year!
That didn’t take long. Three days ago, the Christina board agreed to the settlement. Last night it went public. Delaware Liberal has the whole thing in all its glory. From what I’ve read, the district is off the hook for any back exclusions. There will be a one-time payout for this year of $150,000 plus the per student allocation from a 2003 referendum that amounts to 10 cents for every $100 worth of assessed property value. Christina will pay out the charter school payment part of the $5.5 million they received from the last fiscal year. But going forward…
DOE will have to determine the exclusions and let the charters review them before the annual determination is made. Tuition tax will now be a part of the local district payments to charter schools if the charter has comparable special education services to Christina. Which explains why Newark Charter School took in a special needs child over the summer. As the parent wrote in comments on this blog, this student was 17th on the wait list at NCS. One day the parent got a call from the school and her child was in. That would mean a student left and sixteen parents said no or left the school. The parent did reach out to me to let me know NCS does not have a football team and that with students who may have moved played a factor. As well, the parent states the school was not aware her daughter had special needs and had to scramble a week before school to make sure she got a one-on-one para. They also said there are quite a few students at NCS with either Downs Syndrome or autism that have one-on-one paras.
The settlement also allows for both parties to claim or not claim exclusions from the Match tax. Which means more headaches in the future. I have to wonder how all the other school districts feel about part of their tuition tax now going to charter schools if the charters meet that “need”. Is this why Appoquinimink hiked up their tuition tax last summer? Did they know what the charters were planning back then?
This settlement releases the charter schools claims against Christina and their CFO, Robert Silber. But they also filed against the Delaware Dept. of Education. I don’t see language releasing the DOE. Is their suit against the DOE still alive?
I would attach the Scribd document from Delaware Liberal, but the ink isn’t dry on the settlement yet. Thirteen charters, the Christina board President, and Silber all signed. That leaves two more charters. Not a (legal) done deal yet. But why aren’t all the signatures by the President of each charter board? Some are. Some are signed by the Head of School or a title similar to that. But the board is the legal entity behind a charter school, not the Head of School. I suppose it would depend on the ability of a Head of School to legally bind the corporation to this settlement. I don’t have time right now to look through the bylaws of fifteen charter schools. I would think an interim principal, like the one at Great Oaks, does not have that kind of authority.
Out of everything I’ve written about this whole Christina/charter school funding war, beginning at the end of August, as well as the countless other articles in Delaware media, one question still hasn’t been answered. What made Greg Meece, Steve Dressel, and Joanne Schlossberg from NCS request a meeting with the Delaware DOE and Christina to discuss the local funding formula? In other words, for 13 years, this 2003 referendum and the 10 cent thing was in play. DOE signed off in it each year. But Greg Meece found out about this earlier this year which prompted this whole thing. Who told Meece about it? Meece would have gone after this a long time ago had he known about it. So who betrayed Christina? It had to be someone with inside knowledge of the district’s finances. Someone who knew a 13 year history of the finances. Someone with a deep understanding of school finances. Someone who had the motive and means and willingness to go after Christina. Someone who didn’t care that this would affect tens of thousands of kids across the state. Someone who didn’t care that telling Meece this would instantly cause him to bite the apple and unleash a lot of crap on the Delaware education world. That is cold and unfeeling. I am about 99.9% sure of who you are. I’ve known for a long time. I know how you like to play the long con. I also know how you play people. I know who your allies are and who your enemies are. One day, your actions will come out. And your justification for this does nothing. Not when your sins will cause thousands of students who already had less to lose out even more. You sold out the kids you claim to stand for. It doesn’t balance any scales and it doesn’t even begin to absolve you. You aren’t that crafty. I saw you coming a mile away.
This is a shakedown no matter how you slice it. The Delaware DOE, who approved the exclusions for all these years, gets the stiff penalty of having to do some more paperwork, something they thrive at already. In the settlement, Secretary Godowsky escapes any blame by simply stating he wasn’t aware of the exclusions. Which could very well be true since he wasn’t confirmed by the Delaware Senate until October, 2015. But all the former Secretaries of Education would have known: Mark Murphy, Lillian Lowery, and Valarie Woodruff. Why weren’t they named in the lawsuit if the charter schools had allegations going back to 2003?
I see this as just one more nail in the coffin of public education. Now this opens the door for charter schools to get more funds from a referendum. Funds earmarked for a district are now questionable. Unless some shady deal went down at some point between 2003 and 2015, Christina is not to blame. So why on earth would they settle? I highly doubt their attorney fees would have climbed higher than the results of this settlement. There is no possible way ninety minutes was enough time for their board to digest this settlement. I read it last night and I still have many doubts.
The whole part about Christina paying $150,000 as a “one-time payment”? That reeks of the amount Saul Ewing will charge the charter schools for their legal fees. Wasn’t the Longwood Foundation going to pay for them?
This will be seen as a victory by many charter school parents, especially the ones at Newark Charter School. They will point fingers at Christina and say “See, you settled, it was your fault.” This is not a win for kids.
Tonight, the Christina Board of Education will hold a meeting to go into Executive Session to discuss a potential settlement in the lawsuit of Fall 2016. At issue: 15 charters are suing Christina and the Delaware Dept. of Education over what they claim are illegal exclusions from the local funding formula for money sent to charters from the district. Christina claims they submitted the exclusions to the Delaware DOE and the DOE accepted those exclusions. Should Christina settle? I would take this poll now before they come out of executive session sometime between 7pm and let’s say 2am tomorrow morning.
While no news has surfaced about what the proposed settlement is between the Christina School District and the 15 charter schools suing them and the Delaware Dept. of Education, the board did release the agenda for the meeting tomorrow night.
The board is certainly in their legal right to have this meeting without seven days notice. It sounds like some attorneys were pretty busy over the holiday weekend. This bothers me, a lot. Any settlement will give the charters what they want… more money. It will ignore the history between Christina and the Delaware DOE. The bottom line is Christina submitted exceptions to the local funding formula and the Delaware DOE approved them. I think any settlement should be paid for by the Delaware DOE. But what concerns me even more is what happens to future local funding formulas with this settlement. Which could also impact every single school district in the state. This settlement agreement has to be made public. No questions asked. The people deserve to know exactly what transpired with this whole thing, from start to finish. It seems like the attorneys “negotiations” could put Christina in a bind. Is the cost of the settlement more than the potential attorney fees should Christina prevail in the lawsuit? I would tend to doubt it. This seems like a hasty rush to resolve a complicated situation before certain powers in Delaware begin their terms. This whole thing reeks of foul play. For all the fuss Greg Meece started with this because Newark Charter School didn’t get funding based on Christina’s two failed referenda in 2015, offering a settlement shows severe weakness on the fifteen charter schools part. Unless there was previous foul play involved long before this topic even came up earlier this year. Either way, we want answers on this. Transparency is a must!
Christina School District board member John Young announced on Facebook the Christina Board of Education will be holding an impromptu board meeting on November 30th. The purpose of the meeting: to go into executive session and then briefly come out in public session to possibly vote on a settlement in the lawsuit filed against Christina and the Delaware Dept. of Education. The suit was filed by 15 charter schools in early October who “claim” they weren’t getting their rightful share of Christina’s local funds and the Delaware DOE allowed this to happen.
I have a gazillion questions surrounding this.
Was this a settlement brought to Christina from the Charter cabal?
Was this a settlement offered by Christina to the Charter cabal?
Is the Delaware DOE part of this settlement?
Should Christina settle?
If they settle, would this cost less than a long drawn-out court battle and they won?
If they lost the court battle, would the judgment against Christina be less than what the charters want?
Why would Christina settle if their CFO Bob Silber said they did nothing wrong?
If they settled, is that an admission of guilt and would Silber resign?
What is the DOE’s role if this does go to court?
If Christina went to court and won could a judge rule the charters have to pay Christina’s attorney fees?
If Christina did settle would that mean the local funding formula would be how the charters wanted it at the beginning of the school year?
What do the legislators think of this news?
Is Betsy DeVos behind any of this? (of course not, but never hurts to ask)
If (and this is a BIG IF) Dr. Robert Andrzejewski becomes the next Delaware Secretary of Education, would this be seen as him clearing the deck for his stint in Dover? Would it be ethical for him to even entertain a settlement if this is the plan?
Christina doesn’t have an agenda up for this emergency meeting at this point, but I would guess it is coming shortly. As I reported a while ago, it appears the Longwood Foundation is paying for the charter school cabal’s attorney fees. And if I know the ringleader of all this (think Greg Meece), I can’t picture him wanting to all of a sudden settle on this. Could a third-party (say, a recently elected Governor John Carney) have reached out to everyone involved and basically said “work this out, I don’t want to start my stint with all this in the air”?
I need more details on this. I think Christina’s board should let it ALL out in their “brief” public session on Wednesday night.
According to the draft minutes of Charter School of Wilmington’s latest board meeting, the school lost a lot of money due to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky deciding not to move forward with changes to the local funding formula for choice schools in Delaware. So why didn’t CSW take the same sort of action Newark Charter School and fourteen other charters did in their decision to sue Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education?
According to their chief financial officer, CSW lost $90,000.00 due to Secretary Godowsky’s decision. That isn’t exactly chump change. But it also says a lot. It means it wasn’t just charter schools that take from Christina schools that were affected by the decision. While I don’t know the exact amount of students CSW has from Christina, I know it isn’t that much. So I would guess that CSW’s stated “loss” is due to Red Clay. On the flip side, Providence Creek Academy joined the big lawsuit and only has a very few students from Christina. I guess when you do it as a huge lump thing, matters like attorney fees and whatnot can be divvied up evenly among the many parties. It would not make sense from CSW to sue Red Clay, even if they had Delaware Military Academy join them. That would make their attorney fees a lot higher. If they lost, the amount they could expect to gain would be much less than $90,000.00.
With all this being said, I still think this lawsuit is complete idiocy in motion. It is just another excuse to go after Christina. And I still have a sneaky feeling there is much more to all this than meets the eye. Something doesn’t add up. But I’ll figure it out. Trust me on that!
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…
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 10:45 AM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Cc: Godowsky, Steven (K12)
Subject: information request
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.