Breaking News: Carney & Bunting To Announce Weighted Funding “Phase One”. Let The Education Hunger Games Begin Again.

Next Tuesday, January 15th, Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will hold a press conference at Legislative Hall to announce a weighted funding system for Delaware students.  Luckily, this blogger got the details of it this evening.  The devil, as they say, is in the details. Continue reading

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Capital School District WILL Have An Operating Referendum In 2019

Capital School District managed to hold off a referendum for the past eight years but that will change in 2019 as they will be going out for an operating referendum.

According to their Chief Financial Officer, Adewunmi Kuforiji, at their March board meeting, the district will hold this referendum next year.  The Capital Board of Education discussed placing school safety monitors (constables) in all of their elementary schools, their 5-6 middle school and hiring a Supervisor to oversee the 19 constables that will be in all their schools.  The price tag for adding these constables? Over $400,000.  Some of the funds would come from federal cafeteria funds.  Since the state does not give that specific funding, the rest would come out of the district’s local funds.  This would be in addition to the five constables in place now, three at Dover High School and two at Central Middle School which serves students in grades 7-8.  The board passed the resolution with three yes votes (two board members were absent).

Board President Sean Christensen asked Kuforiji several times if this action would push the district closer to an operating referendum.  Kuforiji responded it would not as they have room in their FY2018 budget for this along with their reserves.  But he did say, in no uncertain terms, more than once, the district would have an operating referendum in 2019.  He did not say when in 2019.

Nine years is a long time to go without a referendum.  Their last referendum helped to build the new Dover High School and the new district office.

Many in Delaware feel school referenda are outdated and refuse to support them.  Others feel they are a necessary beast in education funding.  Education funding has been a huge topic this year.  Property assessments in Delaware are severely outdated and based on formulas from the 1970s and 1980s.  The state’s education budget has grown over the years but it bounces from education cuts to new initiatives.  In my opinion, it is a very disproportionate system that does not focus on the students but rather the school staff and administrators.  With the exception of special education (and even that is messed up for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade), no extra funding is given based on student needs (poverty, English language learners).  Some support a weighted funding formula while others support adding to the current unit-based system.  Some feel no extra money should go towards public education and actually support school vouchers where the money follows the student, even if it goes to a private school.  How will Dover residents vote next year when their district makes the ask for more taxpayer money?

 

Sussex Montessori School Takes 2nd Stab At Application To Delaware DOE, Looking For Fall 2019 Opening

Only one application came in for a new charter school this year in Delaware.  It is the same one that applied last year but that school withdrew their application shortly after.  Sussex Montessori School is going for it again this year.

The proposed school is looking for 260 students in grades K-3 and by year four they are hoping to have 455 students in K-6.  There is only one charter school in Sussex County, Sussex Academy.  There are some very familiar names in their founders list and interested parties with a board consisting of nine people.  It sounds like they have their ducks in a row with this application.

What bothered me about their Executive Summary was this line:

It is clear that the traditional public schools are not working well for many children in Sussex County.

They based this on… what else… standardized test scores.  We will NEVER learn, will we?  This charter school isn’t even open and they are already assuming they can drive those Smarter Balanced test scores up.  I know, whether you agree with this or not, you have to kiss the ring of the Delaware DOE by promising higher achievement on the not-so-Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Shouldn’t there be more to education than this horrible measurement?

Sussex Montessori School does have three enrollment preferences in their application: siblings of students already enrolled, children of staff members, and children of the school’s founders.

The school is projecting a little less than 22% of their funding will come from local school districts for each year they are open.

To read the entire application and all the attachments, please go here.  The leadership team of Sussex Montessori School will have their first meeting with the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee on January 24th.

 

 

As Deep Budget Cuts Loom, Will New Tax Bills Save The Day In Delaware?

Fiscal Year 2018 will involve a lot of pain if the Joint Finance Committee’s marked-up state budget continues down the same dark path it is on now.  While some cuts seem like a good idea, others will make children go without desperately needed services.  The State Board of Education is kaput if everything stays the same.  But could new tax bills, which would bring in more revenue to the state, cause some of those cuts to disappear?

In Delaware, the General Assembly needs a 3/5 vote to pass any revenue bills.  In the House, that requires 25 yes votes and in the Senate, 13.  This is where it gets very tricky.  The House has 25 Democrats and 16 Republicans.  The Senate has 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans.  The House could conceivably pass the budget just on their Democrat base, but complications could easily arise.  Some Dems in the House will not favor certain perks in the epilogue language, such as the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund.  There is at least one Democrat, State Rep. John Kowalko, who will not say yes to the budget if that is in there.  The Republicans in both houses want something: prevailing wage.  They have wanted this for years, but this could be the year where they get what they want, or at least make some inroads towards it.

The Joint Finance Committee has to make the cuts until they see more revenue.  Are they going after some of the programs that help people the most?  Not yet.  But today is another day and is expected to be uglier than yesterday.  The JFC does not meet again until Tuesday, June 6th.  I expect a whirlwind of activity at Legislative Hall every single day someone is there between now and July 1st.

In Governor Carney’s proposed budget, the local share of student transportation costs went from 10% to 15%.  Yesterday, the Joint Finance Committee raised that to 20% with the expectation the school districts can recoup those costs from this mythological one-time Match Tax.  Carney proposed the district school boards utilize this option without a referendum.  Let’s be very clear on this: if this happens, do not expect taxpayers to pass referenda any time soon.

No matter how this plays out, John Carney’s vision of shared sacrifice will have winners and losers.  If the uber-wealthy get more perks like the estate tax repeal, it will become very obvious who is pulling the strings behind the curtain at Legislative Hall in Dover.

Delaware Auditor Report For Certain Eyes Only On School District Tax Rates For FY 2015 & 2016 Raises Questions

The Delaware Auditor of Accounts office released a report today on School District Tax Rates for the past two school years, Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016.  It shows many school districts receiving more in taxes than they were allowed based on the tax warrants.  While these were not huge amounts in many cases, a few districts raised red flags in my book.

But why is the tuition tax not included in this report?  Why is their no inspection by the Auditor’s office to make sure those funds are allocated where they are supposed to and not elsewhere?  This report is lacking in many details.  While it caught a few things, it is not enough.  Under Delaware state code, the Auditor’s office is failing in their fiduciary duty to perform what is required by the law.  You can blame that on funding and staffing issues for the Auditor of Accounts office but if Delaware State Code indicates a state office must perform a duty necessary to adhere to state law, the General Assembly MUST fund that office so they are able to carry out those duties.  Since they haven’t been, the General Assembly has been derelict in their duty.

What kills me is the end of the report:

This information is intended solely for the information and use of DOE and the management of the school districts.  It is not intended to be, and should not be, used by anyone other than these specified parties.  However, under 29 Del. C. 10002(1), this report is a public record and its distribution is not limited.  This report, as required by statute, was provided to the Office of the Governor, the Office of the Controller General, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office of Management and Budget.

So how many reports are out there that the public has not seen?  I have a feeling it is quite a lot.  I smell a FOIA coming because I want to see ALL the reports that are considered public but are not listed on the Delaware Auditor of Accounts website…

Updated, 3:13pm: This is listed on the auditor’s website, but after State Rep. Earl Jaques admission that he has seen annual audits performed by the Auditor’s office for each district, I have to believe there are a ton of reports the public never sees.  Why all the secrecy?

School-Based Health Centers Proposal May Collide With Parental Authority… This Is A Game Changer In Schools!

I’ve heard constant echoes of one thing over the past year: we need more supports in our schools for our high-needs students.  But what happens when that call is heard but we may get far more than we ever bargained for?  What if the services provided become very invasive in scope?

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) put out a request for proposal (RFP) for all nineteen school districts in Delaware and the thirty-two high schools within them.  The goal of the vendor contracts would be to increase the role of wellness centers in schools.  The funding was already put in place in the FY2017 budget.  A few high schools wouldn’t begin these kind of contracts until FY2018 because they didn’t already have existing wellness centers in the schools.

I have grave concerns with how much DHSS wants to happen in our high schools.  I understand why the bid for this is coming out of DHSS, but this is an education matter.  I fully understand that some students may not have access to medical treatment so I am not explicitly against these types of centers in high-needs schools.  But the amount of private student data involved is astounding.  Under HIPAA, that is merely a consent for information to go out from a health provider to another entity.  Parents need to understand exactly what they are signing consent for.  Where this gets confusing is the differentiation between HIPAA and FERPA.  FERPA only applies to educational records.  The data from these health centers in our high schools would not fall under FERPA.  Or at least they shouldn’t.

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There are several terms in the above picture that worry me.  “Prevention-oriented multidisciplinary health care”… I’m all for prevention, but prevention against what?  Where is the line drawn?  What if one of these multidisciplinary measures goes against a student’s religion?  What if the student is not aware of that but a parent becomes upset when they find out?  “Integration with primary care”… what does that even mean?  Integration would mean a data system cross-referencing the health information between a primary physician and the school-based health provider.  Does that information flow both ways?  Serious data privacy concerns here folks!

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“The delivery of medical and mental health services”… If a student needs immediate treatment, is a school even equipped to act as a triage type unit?  Is that the eventual goal here?  In terms of mental health services, I have long thought it was a good idea for school districts to have psychiatrists or neurologists on hand for IEP meetings.  All too often, psychologists are used to determine “behavior” issues but a psychiatrist or neurologist would be able to give more explanation of what is going on neurologically when a student manifests disabilities.  A psychologist can’t prescribe medicine and as a result, they may not have up to date knowledge of what different medicines do and how they metabolize with the human body.

Students come into our schools with trauma.  Of that, no one seems to be in disagreement.  If families aren’t able to provide students with safe and supportive environments at home, then the school setting would be ideal for students to get the help they need to deal with those issues.  But my concern is this becoming available for ALL students eventually.  All too often parents are denied health information about their child on certain things when it comes to the existing wellness centers.  With this program increasing in scope like this, I can picture that becoming a much bigger issue.

In private practices, these types of services are not cheap.  But that is where the best in their fields tend to go.  With this plan, how many would leave existing private practices to come work in schools?  Not too many I am afraid.  As a result, we would most likely get younger, fresh out of college mental health providers without the experience.  They would get paid less and as a result an inequity would develop between students who come from stable and wealthier home environments and those who come from low-income or poverty families.  Those who come from the stable homes would most likely continue to go to private practices.

DPH is the Division of Public Health.  They would provide partial funding for this project.  But what happens when the project becomes mainstream?  All too often, our school districts become the financial bearer of state mandated programs.  Yes, the funding exists now, but what happens when it isn’t available?  Do they cut these programs out of schools entirely or do local school districts bear the financial burden for paying for these programs?

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My first question: what is the School-Community Health of Michigan entity that appears to house school-based health information?  How secure is this data?  If one of the vendors chooses to implement the two years to develop their plan for data reporting, how safe is that data in the meantime?  Should all student risk assessments be standardized?  I would think students with disabilities, those coming from broken homes, or those dealing with poverty would tend to fall lower on a standardized scale as opposed to their peers.

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I don’t mind a culture of health.  Lord knows we can be healthier in this country.  But when I see “How youth and parents would be involved in the “planning, operation, and promotion of the SBHC,” that seems like a lot of emphasis put on parents.  If these services are for high-needs students whose parents aren’t big on family engagement, this would result in parents of regular students doing the pushing for these programs.  Will they want to do that if it isn’t for their own child?  “Potential partners and key stakeholders”… as defined by who?  And as we all know, data flows to “partners” quite a bit with education records.  Would parents be given consent forms to send their child’s medical data to entities who really don’t need that information at all?  It mentions HIPAA here, but this is a very slippery slope.  I need a lot more information here.  What is a “diversified funding base”?  Since, invariably, all of this would be paid for by the taxpayers of Delaware, will they really want to pay for other students health services?  We already do, to some extent, but this would increase those costs.

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I’m sorry, but did that really say “if the SBHC intends to be a Title X/family planning provider”?  For those who may not be familiar with Title X, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes this program on their website:

Family planning centers offer a broad range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods and related counseling; as well as breast and cervical cancer screening; pregnancy testing and counseling; screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs); HIV testing; and other patient education and referrals.

I hate to even bring this up, but if this could in any way lead to abortions being provided in schools that would cause a nuclear war between parents and schools.  No matter what your views on abortion might be, I would tend to think the school would be the last place anything like that should happen.  For that matter, the various “screenings” allowed under Title X could lead to serious contention as well.  For the “5 performance measures for the basis of evaluation”, based on federal guidance I imagine, does that mean every single school-based health center would be required to perform these five measures?  Chlamydia testing can be done by urine samples for both males and females, but sometimes they are performed for females as vaginal swabs.  I would hope that isn’t the method being proposed in this contract.  With all seriousness, I do know chlamydia is a very serious sexually transmitted disease and among the most common.  I don’t know if school-based health centers currently screen or test for chlamydia.  If anyone has information on this, please let me know.  I reached out to a few people who were shocked this would be included in this.

Once again, my biggest concerns with all this surround student data.  This goes way beyond my concerns with existing student data.  Parents should seek answers for this.  I know I will be!  Please read the entire RFP, seen below.  I need to know your thoughts on this.  This is very big and I don’t feel Delaware citizens are even aware of this going on without our knowledge.  The transparency on something of this scope has obviously not been present.  Please share this with everyone you know in Delaware.  Get feedback from your friends or those in the medial profession.  Is this too much?  I have seen a lot of “futurist” lingo talking about how our schools will become “community schools” in the truest sense of the word based on things like this coming to fruition.  Does the term “the whole child” include aspects that will eventually take authority away from parents when it comes to their children’s health?  How much will parents be able to opt out of these programs?

Milford Tuition Tax Increase Sparks Outrage From Area Residents

Imagine getting your tax bill in the mail and it goes up by $500.00 for the year.  For citizens in the Milford School District in Delaware, this was the new reality they faced last week.  Much of the controversy surrounds their referendum which passed last year.  A referendum and tuition tax are two very different things.  With a referendum, that is asking citizens to support increased taxes for operating expenses or capital costs.  A Delaware school board can’t just raise those taxes on their own.  The people need to vote on it.  But for tuition tax, as well as what is called a match tax, the school board can vote on an increase for that.

For newer readers, tuition tax is based on special education costs that exceed the funding provided by the state, the feds, and what the local school district appropriated for these costs.  This could mean increased funds for teachers and staff to accommodate students with disabilities or it pays for out of district placements for more complex needs of students.  Delaware has seen a dramatic increase in students sent to either day treatment centers or residential treatment centers.  Some of these treatment centers are out of state which causes the costs to increase even more.  It seems to have risen dramatically in the last year, and I’m beginning to really wonder why this is going on.

What happened in Milford was their board passed on raising the tuition tax for a number of years.  Meanwhile, they passed their referendum which would give the average citizen in the district an increase of $120 in their tax bill.  But in June, the board passed a tuition tax increase.  This double whammy dramatically changed how much of an increase citizens saw in their new tax bill.

Milford Live covered this increase on August 23rd.  A big issue surrounding the tax increase at the June board meeting dealt with transparency:

A review of the addendum for the June 20 meeting that is posted online did not indicate that there would be discussion about a tax increase at the school board meeting. However, when visitors arrived at the meeting, there was an addendum to the agenda with the presentation included, something that is common at Milford School Board meetings.

Milford has its fair share of senior citizens, and the sticker shock caused them to speak out in large numbers.  One commenter on the Milford Live article stated that when their annual income is $6,000-$7,500, an annual increase like this really puts a dent in their wallet.  What makes Milford unique, along with three other school districts in Delaware, is that they are located in two counties.  This means residents of both Sussex and Kent County have two different amounts based on property assessments in each county.  For Sussex residents, their new tax bill went up to $5.39 for every $100 of their assessed property value.  Previously, it had been $3.56.  For Kent County residents, the burden wasn’t as large as it went from $1.26 to $1.90.

Back in July, I questioned Appoquinimink on their huge tuition tax increase.  While the information they gave to the press indicated one thing, the reality was very different.  Appo said the rise in special education costs was dramatic last year and put a large emphasis on out of district placements.  But the increase in out of district placements was not a large percentage of their increase.  It was mainly for in-district special education services.

In Milford, their budgeted amount for their tuition tax was $2,100,000 as of July 2015.  That would include both their out of district placements and in-district special education services that are in excess of state and federal funding.  What they spent in FY2016 was $2,676,902 for these placements.  While I can’t see the difference between what they budgeted for out of district placements and in-district special education services because their FY2016 budget is not posted on their website, the amount they paid in out of district placements is more than they budgeted for the entire category.  As a side-note, their website does not have their monthly financial statements for either June or July of 2016 which puts them out of compliance with state law.

It really worries me that all these students with disabilities are being sent to places outside of school districts, in rapidly growing numbers.  I hear a lot of people blame parents for student behavior.  While that could certainly play a factor, how come no one is talking about education itself.  Since Common Core came out, I am seeing a rapid rise in these placements.  And it seems to have really gone up in the last school year.  I would be very curious how these students scored on the Smarter Balanced Assessment in the 2014-2015 school year.  I hate to go there, but does it become easier to send a student out of district if they were not proficient on this test?  Is the “rigor” and “grit” having a bigger psychological impact than we think?

The price for these students may wind up being higher than the rise in tuition taxes across the state.  And I’m not talking financially…

$2,676,902 $452,780

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:

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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.

 

Odyssey Charter School And Other “Successful” Charters Want Money To Grow

Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal wrote an article today about Delaware charters, and centered on Odyssey Charter School.  Delaware charter schools face obstacles to growth is the name of the article.  I think it’s funny, because many disadvantaged students face obstacles to getting into these “dream” charters like Odyssey, Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy.  Their student populations always have less African-Americans, students with disabilities and low-income students than those around them.  And their cheerleaders always say the same thing: “Their lotteries determine who gets in.”  Yeah, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

School leaders and parents at successful Delaware charter schools say the state can and should do more to help them grow.  While understanding that the Department of Education has to crack down on charters showing evidence of financial mismanagement or a failure to provide high quality education, parents and educators wonder: If a school has top test scores, deep community connections and parents clamoring for expansion, can’t the state help?

Did Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware write this article?  If a charter school has “top test scores”, which doesn’t mean squat to me because I don’t value any standardized test score as a true measurement of any school, than they have trimmed the fat and picked the better students and essentially recruited (stolen) them from their local districts.

Albright talks about Odyssey’s latest money problems, something I wrote about six days ago.  But of course, Albright, being a reporter for a somewhat major metropolitan newspaper would get more information.  I’m just a blogger!  Should Odyssey get more money from the state?  Hell no!  Charters wanted to have it their way, but when they can’t get things their way, they call the State.  Enough.  They get more financial perks from non-profits and loop-holes in the budget to make up for what they don’t get from the state.

Charter skeptics maintain that the state shouldn’t spend a cent more on charters while traditional school districts cry out for more resources to serve at-risk students. They argue charters don’t serve enough of the kids who need the state’s help the most, and every dollar that goes to a charter is a dollar less for districts charged with that mission.

Damn straight!  Some schools are literally falling apart, and Odyssey and other charters want more?  After they have siphoned money and students away from their local districts?  Sorry, you missed the boat.  Why don’t they call the Longwood Foundation?  They are always giving away money to charters.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko got the Albright call and didn’t mince words:

“Until you can prove to me, and I mean show me proof on a piece of paper, that these schools are taking in the same kind of students as our districts and doing a better job, then maybe we have a different discussion,” Kowalko said. “Until then, it is unconscionable for us to be sending additional taxpayer dollars to them.”

Why would we give more money to a school that is facing this on their latest financial framework with the DOE:

The problems reported include deficits, high debt-to-asset ratios, low cash reserves and negative cash flow over the past three years.

So we give them a get out of jail free card while Christina bleeds?  I don’t see the state rushing to help them.  And the article even has Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network joining the fray!  I’m not sure when she finally figured out there were other schools in Delaware aside from charters, but I’m not sure I buy what she wrote:

“If any public school, not just a charter, is doing great things for kids, we should be enabling them to do more of it,” Massett said. “Odyssey is a great example of that.”

The timing on this is impeccable.  The DOE and Donna Johnson will be presenting to the State Board on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  This is the strategy to “determine how charters operate in Delaware” along with all the other great programs our schools offer.  Another US DOE non-regulatory non-Congressionally approved “suggestion”.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers approved a moratorium on new charters until June of 2018, or until the state finishes a comprehensive strategic plan that would address how charters fit into the state’s overall public education system.

If anyone really thinks there will be a moratorium on charters until 2018, they are smoking something funny.  Once the State Board celebrates Donna and the DOE’s hard work and does their high-five party, the charter applications will flow.

Christina Superintendent Freeman Williams Submits Retirement Letter

The on-leave Superintendent of the Christina School District, Freeman Williams, submitted a retirement letter to the district effective February, 2016.  In August, Williams went on a leave status which prompted the Christina Board of Education to hire an Acting Superintendent.  Former Red Clay Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski is the current Acting Superintendent, but Christina’s Board must now look for a new and permanent Superintendent.

The first time I met Freeman was 13 months ago at a special board meeting at Christina surrounding the priority schools.  I found him to be very cordial and respectful, and he was greatly concerned about the priority status designated to the three Christina schools.  I attended quite a few Christina board meetings in the next five months and watched them systematically and efficiently hold back the Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell from making rash and hasty decisions over the Christina priority schools.

The last time I saw Freeman was at the Imagine Delaware Forum back in March.  I had a very pleasant discussion with him concerning House Bill 50 and parent opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which he supported.  Whatever his reason for retirement, I wish him the best and I hope he enjoys his time away from the crazy education environment we live in.

As Christina will assuredly attempt another referendum in 2016 amidst severe financial issues, the search will be on for a new Superintendent.  This district needs a very strong leader who can rally the people in favor of Christina.  While some think Christina may wind up in receivership by the end of the year, I would prefer to have hope.  The long-term impact of charters has definitely siphoned off a great deal of local funding due to many of the students in Christina’s feeder pattern choicing out to charters, and the emergence of so many new charters in Wilmington this school year alone has definitely had a negative effect.  Now is the time for Christina to strongly promote their strengths and eliminate their weaknesses.  What many don’t realize is Christina also holds the Delaware Autism Program and the Delaware School for the Deaf.  That could cause tremendous problems for the students involved if they have to transition out of the existing programs.

If The DOE Only Gets $1.3 Billion In State Funding, Why Do They Spend So Much More?

Avi with Newsworks made an excellent point last night in a comment.  He stated:

Wait. You’re saying the DOE spent $2 billion on employee compensation? They only receive about $1.3 billion overall from the state. Obviously there are other (much smaller) sources of revenue. But that still feels way off.

The reason the DOE shows such a high figure for employee compensation is because the paychecks are generated through the state.  So the entire cash flow for Delaware education has to flow through the state coffers.  Avi is right.  This duncehead somehow found the figure for employee compensation for all state employees.  That was the only thing I searched specifically for, so I apologize for the error and making you all do some math this morning!  In simple terms, my figures are way off.  But according to this breakdown from the Department of Education website, it shows how this could be.  Granted, this is for FY14, but it still shows the same basic formula:

State Source of Educational Revenue (2013-14)
Category 2013-14 Percentage
Federal $200,187,600.37 10.27%
State $1,147,977,149.19 58.88%
Local $601,621,774.97 30.86%

For FY15, the federal allocation is most likely smaller due to Race To The Top funds starting to dwindle.  If the DOE’s budget is $1.3 billion dollars in state money, than based on this chart, the total revenue in education dollars for Delaware would have to be $2.2 billion dollars.  This would mean local funding, usually in the form of school taxes, would have to generate $678 million dollars, and the feds would have to pony up $230 million dollars.  This is why a failed referendum can have disastrous results for a school district, like Christina recently had.  It’s also why rampant spending in the DOE on consultants and vendors, as well as very high salaries in their offices, takes away a lot of money from the classroom.  And yes, someone will go there, the districts could stand to shave off a lot of administrative costs.  How much do standardized tests really mean if the funding for it gets in the way of actual classroom learning?

This is also why charters taking away from local funding can also have a very bad result for a local district.  For a district like Milford, that doesn’t lost a lot of students to charters, it’s not that big of a deal.  But to a district like Christina or Red Clay, it is really bad.