Carper & Blunt-Rochester Do Not Like Proposed Federal Education Budget

A couple of weeks ago, I sent emails to the Delaware members of Congress regarding President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposed education cuts.  I received responses from U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt-Rochester and U.S. Senator Tom Carper.  To date, U.S. Senator Chris Coons has been silent.  Betsy DeVos’ education budget promises to give more money to charter schools and plants funds for a nationwide school voucher system.  I am opposed to both.

 

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President Trump Issues Executive Order About Federal Control Of Public Education

Hot off the press, United States President Donald Trump just issued an Executive Order concerning federal control of education.  This order gives U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos a lot of authority to remove regulations that may interfere with state or local control of public education.  It also talks about Common Core.  Worth a read…

Missing The Friend I Never Met

It has been five months since my friend disappeared.  That is a long time.  I haven’t seen a trace of my friend ever since.  What black hole swallowed up my friend never to been seen or heard from again? Continue reading “Missing The Friend I Never Met”

Delaware DOE Aid To Migrant Students Comes With A Catch

The Delaware Department of Education is helping students who happen to be classified as migrant student population.  But they can only get the “hygiene bags” if they register as such under ESEA.  How many of these students’ parents will register them so the federal government can track their every movement in Delaware?  The DOE issued a press release on their Facebook page yesterday.  Bolded areas are for emphasis.

DDOE staff prepared over 40 hygiene supply bags last week for Delaware’s migrant student population. Migrant students are the school-aged children of seasonal workers traveling to Delaware each year for agricultural work. These children face unique educational barriers as a result of multiple family moves. Many migrant families stay in Delaware through late fall before returning to their home states. During this time their children attend Delaware schools.

Funded with a federal grant, the insulated bags are filled with sunscreen, insect repellent, first aid supplies, and related items. DDOE provides the bags as a support service to eligible migrant families upon their enrollment into the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I C Migrant Education Program. This program identifies, recruits, teaches, and supports migrant children so they can focus on school success. DDOE also collects donated clothing for the students and their families.

DDOE supports activities for migrant students to ensure all kids receive a clear path for becoming college and career ready after high school. Migrant families who choose to live in Delaware permanently continue to receive education-related support services.

With everything going on with immigration in this country, would you trust the Trump administration with this enrollment information?

Ron Russo Lost Me With Jeb Bush, I Think I’m Going To “Go Home”!

Ron Russo, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Caesar Rodney Institute, wrote a blog post yesterday with a BOLD PLAN for Delaware schools.  By even mentioning former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Foundation for Excellence in Education in the very first sentence, it was hard to lend any credibility to this piece.  But I read the whole thing out of morbid curiosity.

…Governor Jeb Bush, the keynote speaker, told the attendees that they had to, “Be big, be bold, or go home.”

I would have left at that point and proudly went home.  Jeb Bush has made a ton of money capitalizing off the backs of schools and students.  He is the very essence of corporate education reform.  I give anything he says zero weight.

Russo seems to view former Red Clay Consolidated Board President William Manning as the Messiah of Delaware education:

He recommended a confederation of independent schools each locally managed and free of regulations about who to hire and how to teach.  The schools would be evaluated only by performance data that would be shared with the public.

Manning’s vision created charter schools that do not serve the populations within their district boundaries.  Quite a few Delaware charters have selective enrollment preferences that seem to further segregation and push out kids with high needs.  Manning was the lead attorney in the lawsuit against the Christina School District when charters that serve Christina students sued the district to get more money per student.  Eventually the lawsuit wound up becoming a settlement that further stripped funds away from the district.  Russo’s BOLD PLAN is modeled after the original charter school bill, Senate Bill 200:

The Caesar Rodney Institute is supporting a systemic change to our education bureaucracy called the “BOLD PLAN”.  It significantly alters the way the current education system operates by empowering the individual schools to make operational decisions to best serve their students.

In theory, this would be a great idea.  However, Russo lost me yet again when he brought up the VERY controversial priority schools as a potential model for this plan:

CRI’s BOLD PLAN incorporates the best features of the 1995 Charter School Law and the Memorandum of Understanding designed by Delaware’s DOE for Priority Schools.  If the changes proposed in the MOU were expected to raise the performance of the state’s lowest performing schools, why wouldn’t those changes be offered to all public schools?

Sorry Ron, but the priority school Memorandums of Understanding were absolutely horrible and did more to create parent backlash in Wilmington than anything seen before.  So what would this plan consist of?  Therein lies the rub:

BOLD legislation would specify areas of local decision-making.  Such areas would include: 1) Authority to hire and dismiss all staff; 2) All programing inputs (school calendar, schedule, curriculum aligned to Delaware standards, instructional practices and methodology, textbooks, technology, etc.); 3) Marketing and planning; 4) Support services including transportation, food, and maintenance; 5) Budget preparation and expenditure control with surplus operating funds retained by the school.  Schools will have autonomy from any district or Delaware DOE requirements not mandated by state or federal law.

This legislation has more holes than a donut shop.

  1. What happens if the board membership or the Superintendent of the district is not operating under normal parameters of their function?  What if personal grudges get in the way of a sound decision to hire or dismiss all staff?  Delaware is a small state and conflicts of interest are well-known in this state.
  2. You lost me at “Delaware standards”.  If you truly want to give local education authorities the coveted local control, they would be free to set their own curriculum without being tied to any type of standard pushed down from the state or federal government.  I have yet to see any indication Delaware will get rid of Common Core which was created under false pretenses.
  3. Don’t they already do this anyway?
  4. See #3
  5. That would not be a good thing.  Delaware charter schools already keep their surplus transportation funds in a sweetheart deal with the General Assembly and there is no apparatus to make sure those funds are being used with fidelity.  What is the point of even having a district or charter board if the school can do whatever it wants with extra money?  This proposal sounds like anarchy.

Russo’s logic becomes even more confusing when he casually drops the Rodel Visionfests and Race To The Top into his conversation:

The BOLD PLAN complements Delaware’s other education improvement efforts (Visions, Races, etc.).  In fact, it may even complete them.

I don’t think completion of those plans is something anyone in Delaware really wants.  Race To The Top was an unmitigated disaster with funds going to the state Department of Education more than local school districts.  The Vision Coalition goals further perpetuate many bad corporate education reform policies.  It is hard to take anything they do seriously when the CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, Dr. Herdman, makes over $345,000 a year.

Ironically, Russo channels Dan Rich who has been very involved with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s proposed Wilmington redistricting.  But Russo doesn’t bring him up in any way related to that endeavor but rather his involvement with the Vision Coalition:

At the very first Vision 2015 meeting hosted by Dan Rich, then Provost of the University of Delaware, he ended the meeting by telling the attendees that if they wanted to improve Delaware’s public schools they had to be bold and, if they didn’t want to be bold, they should get out.  Hmmmm, it seems that Dan was way ahead of Jeb.

Comparing Rich to Jeb Bush almost seems insulting.  Of course, any education push should be bold.  But by telling people if you don’t like it to “get out” or “go home” it is essentially saying if you don’t agree with us we won’t give you the time of day.  That is NOT the way education issues should be ironed out and only creates more of a divide.  The Delaware charter school experiment, now well into it’s third decade, has met with very mixed results.  It has not been the rousing success the forefathers of the original legislation thought it would be.  Why would Delaware even entertain this idea based on that?  And lest we forget, all this imaginary “success” is based on standardized test scores, of which Delaware has gone through three different state assessments since then.  Sorry Ron, but this is not a BOLD PLAN.  It is an old plan, that just plain doesn’t work.

I have to wonder about the timing of this article.  The Caesar Rodney Institute has long been a fierce supporter of school vouchers.  Delaware has been very resistant to that system under Democrat control but under the Trump administration and the appointment of Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education, it is not surprising to see Russo coming out with this type of article.  President Trump and DeVos want a federal school voucher system that has already met with disappointing results in several states.

Christina School Board Tackles Student Immigrant Status Round Two With Proposed Board Policy

Last month, the Christina School District Board of Education failed to pass a resolution regarding safe harbor for students in the district who could be targeted by ICE officials.  Never one to quit, board member John Young wrote a policy for the board to look at for their next meeting.  I like this policy.  It is very thorough and states explicitly what can and should happen.  I would be shocked if the board didn’t pass this one.  I hope the discussion has the same harmony the above picture of the board has!

John Young Takes On Donald Trump!!!! Resolution On Safe Zones For Christina Schools Pending!

Christina School District Board of Education member John Young is going head to toe with President Donald Trump in what could be a first for Delaware!  In response to what many are viewing as President Trump’s very heavy-handed immigration tactics initiated shortly after his inauguration, Young crafted a brilliant resolution declaring the district a safe zone for any student within its property.

The resolution would make it so any United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement official would have to get permission from the district Superintendent and coördinate any activities before entering any of the buildings of the district.  When asked what prompted the decision for the resolution, Young stated the following:

This resolution is in response to current political environment which was spurred on by a presidential immigration ban but it was not designed to be a reaction to it but an act to protect our students and our schools as the learning environments that they were and are designed to beBasically students should not fear coming to school for any reason and no student should be subjected to being a witness to a federal immigration and customs enforcement action.
There should be no reason any logical board member would not say yes to this resolution.  All students deserve to have schools be a safe haven!  If approved, this would be the first Delaware school district to institute this type of resolution.  The Christina Board of Education will vote on the resolution at their board meeting this evening.  The meeting will take place at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School and will begin at 7pm.
*Updated, 9:45pm: The resolution failed to pass with a vote of 3 yes and 4 no.

What To Make Of Bad News Betsy’s Letter About ESSA To Chief State School Officers

On Friday, newly christened U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sent a, how shall I call it, awkward letter to all the education leaders of each state.  Alarm bells went up immediately.  Many people are scratching their heads about the missive dealing with state Every Student Succeeds Act implementation plans.  The word “may” in relation to Title I, II, III, IV and V funding is the part that is confusing many.  Is this Betsy’s way of phasing from Title funding to her school voucher plan?  And how many enemies of modern-day accountability standards are equally confused about Betsy gutting the John King regulations from last fall?  This could be a Trojan Horse leading to more Competency-Based Education.  We all know CBE is a darling of the ed reformers these days.  Read the below letter and sit and wonder like the rest of us!  I have no doubt President Trump is clueless about any of this and is applying his next daily helping of orange glow.

Susan Bunting’s Senate Nomination Will Not Happen Today

Delaware Governor John Carney named Dr. Susan Bunting, the Superintendent of the Indian River School District, as his Secretary of Education for the First State. In a discussion with current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky a week ago, he informed me Bunting’s nomination would take place today. There are Senate Confirmation Hearings on the agenda, but Bunting is not one of them. Godowsky told me she wanted to be confirmed by the time of the State Board of Education meeting tomorrow. It does not look like that will happen as a hearing date has not been set at this point.

Bunting’s nomination was read in for the Delaware Senate yesterday along with all of Carney’s selections. Those could not be formally recognized by the General Assembly until Carney was sworn in which happened yesterday. I don’t believe this means anything as the docket is very full today for nominations. I just talked to a source at Legislative Hall who informed me that if it is not on there it won’t happen today. But I have no doubt it will. It could happen tomorrow or next week knowing how things worked around these chambers.

Many in Delaware education have saluted the possibility of Bunting as the Secretary of Education. Many in lower Delaware were pleased this position went to someone from Sussex County which has not been a practice in many years. Many feel that the Indian River audit investigation seemed to place the blame on Patrick Miller, the former Chief Financial Officer who allegedly abused finances in the district for well over a decade. The scope of the audit investigation was limited to the past few years but many feel Miller’s transgressions occurred years before that. The Delaware Attorney General’s office did announce they would be looking into the matter with Miller shortly after the audit investigation came out.

It remains to be seen if the audit investigation will affect Bunting’s confirmation hearing. I would have to assume someone will bring it up and potentially ask her how she could have not seen what was going on. As Secretary of Education for Delaware, Bunting would be responsible to oversee roughly a third of Delaware’s state budget. I will let readers know when Bunting’s confirmation hearing is scheduled.

At a national level, Betsy DeVos had her own U.S. Senate Confirmation Hearing yesterday but the U.S. Senate has not taken a vote on her nomination by President-Elect Donald Trump as of this writing. Her hearing was somewhat controversial as some Democrat Senators grilled DeVos on her motivations with public education. At one point, Senator Al Franken asked DeVos a question about proficiency and growth and she did not appear to know they are two different things.

17 Who Will Make An Impact In 2017: Kevin Carson

kevincarson

The former Superintendent of Woodbridge and Cape Henlopen, as well as the very recent former Executive Director of the Delaware Association of School Administrators could have a very big 2017.  As well, he served as the interim Superintendent in the Woodbridge School District.  Kevin Carson could be handed a role that will define his legacy in Delaware.  This is a man who knows the ins and outs of Delaware education.

I’ve met Carson several times, usually at Legislative Hall.  As the head of DASA, Carson represented every single Delaware school administrator during one of Delaware’s most tumultuous times in education.  He challenged former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with a vote of no confidence, along with leaders from the two biggest local teacher unions in the state and the Delaware State Education Association.

If Carson is picked as John Carney’s Secretary of Education, he will have to juggle many balls all at once.  There is the mounting deficit in our state budget.  Delaware will be submitting it’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan.  New charter school applications will begin pouring in.  A growing chorus of Delaware citizens are demanding more financial transparency with education.  The Rodel engine will want Carson on their side.  Education technology is poised to  dilute the teaching profession to something unrecognizable.  Education funding will continue to be a thorn in the side of Delaware students.

Carson would be in charge of a Delaware Department of Education that is ripe for change.  He has the logistic ability and intelligence to transform the Department into something that delivers on transparency and better communication.  As well, he would serve as the Secretary for the State Board of Education and would have valuable input on who would be good picks for future board members.  There is nothing in Delaware state code that would prevent Carney from picking an entirely new State Board of Education.  There is now one vacancy on the board and Carson’s opinion on who that replacement should be could be pivotal.

Carson would also have to deal with events transpiring at a federal level.  President Trump and his Cabinet of private sector billionaires will want to change education and privatize it.  As a blue state, Delaware will fight this tooth and nail.  But one compromise could threaten Delaware education in varying ways.  We need a Secretary that has vast amounts of experience in dealing with events at the local level.  Someone who sees the issues from a wide perspective.  Someone who would be the voice for Delaware students and educators, who understands the complexities that divide us.

I completely understand that any Delaware Secretary of Education would have to conform to Governor Carney’s platform.  With Jack Markell, he had a very clear agenda and God forbid if you disagreed with that agenda.  He micro-managed Delaware education to the point of absurdity.  But at the same time he let financial issues run amok in our schools.  While I don’t see Carney as well-versed in education matters as Markell was, I believe that will become a strength of a positive Secretary.  I would like to think Carney would give his Secretary more leeway in implementing education policy in Delaware.  Godowsky was a mixed bag.  Like I’ve said before, he would have been a great Secretary under a different Governor.

Nothing against the other potential choice for Carney’s Secretary of Education, but we need someone who has served as more than a leader of one district.  We need someone who has a multi-leveled array of experience in Delaware education leadership.  That man is Kevin Carson.

The Battle For The 10th Begins As Republicans Pick John Marino

The 10th Senate District will have a vacancy when Senator Bethany Hall-Long officially steps down when she becomes the next Delaware Lieutenant Governor.  As many predicted, the Delaware GOP chose John Marino as the Republican candidate.  Who will the Dems pick?  Whoever it is, this will be a hot race.  The winner determines which party controls the Delaware Senate.  Many felt State Rep. Earl Jaques would run, but he informed me two weeks ago he is NOT running for this Senate seat.  Here is the official release from the Delaware GOP:

Republicans Choose Marino for Upcoming Special Election:

 Middletown Republican Won 49% Of The Vote in 2014

Newark, DE: The Republican Party of Delaware announced today that they have selected John Marino of Middletown as the party’s candidate for the upcoming special election to replace Lt. Gov.-elect Bethany Hall-Long in the State Senate.

John Marino is a highly-decorated retired police officer, and is currently President of J & J Homes, LLC and a top-producing Realtor®. John has been an active volunteer in the New Castle County community for many years: as the former President of Lea Eara Farms/Summit Farms Maintenance Corporation, a volunteer position which he held for ten years; as a longtime volunteer at a horse rescue; as a Little League Coach at MOT Little League, winning the State tournament and taking his team to the regional championship; as well as a past volunteer for the Appoquinimink Sports Boosters.

Marino has lived for the last 20 years in the Middletown area with JoiAnn, his wife of 25 years, and their three children.

“I am honored that the Republican Party has selected our team for this important challenge,” said Marino. “I look forward to spreading my message of reforming and improving our government to the great people of the 10th District. Delaware deserves much better than we’ve been getting from our state government, and I have a plan to get the results Delawareans deserve.”

State GOP Chairman Charlie Copeland noted Marino’s campaign experience, in particular his 2014 campaign against Hall-Long, where Marino earned 49% of the vote and fell short by a narrow margin.

“John Marino knows how to run a top-flight campaign and earn the votes of the people of the 10th District,” said Delaware GOP Chairman Charlie Copeland. “And the people of the 10th District can see that one-party rule has failed our schools, our government and our economy. We look forward to a fantastic campaign.”

Should Marino be successful, the Delaware Senate would change power for the first time in over 40 years. The Senate will be evenly split between the Democrats and the Republicans following Hall-Long’s inauguration.

“The Senate Republicans have been offering consistent solutions for years, only to be shut down entirely by the ruling Democrats,” said Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley). “We’re ready to win this race and show Delaware that balanced government can make a lasting difference for them. John Marino is exactly the right person to win this race and serve the people of the 10th District in the State Senate.”

Had Hillary Clinton become President, this election would not mean as much.  It still would have been big, but now that we live in Trumplandia and all that will come from that, this should add some extra oomph to this election.

President Obama’s Office Releases Massive “Rethinking Discipline” Report For Schools

Today, the White House released a very long report on school discipline entitled “The Continuing Need to Rethink Discipline”.  The report has a plethora of recommendations for public schools in America.  I agree with most of them based on a cursory glance, but like many reports of this nature that I write about, it fails to recognize the fact that Common Core State Standards or other similar standards along with the high-stakes testing environment accompanying those standards are causing more problems than they are worth in our schools.  I will write more about this as I go through the report in the coming days.

The Every Student Succeeds Act addresses school discipline and how our schools carry out punishment for negative behaviors.  On Monday evening, the ESSA Discussion Group I am a member of in Delaware addressed this very issue.  As well, a Delaware newspaper is working on an extensive article about bullying in Delaware and how our schools respond to bullying reporting.

It remains unclear how the incoming Trump administration will view this report.

For now, please read the below report.

17 Who Will Make An Impact In 2017: State Rep Paul Baumbach

paulbaumbach

A month ago, I participated in a forum on Delaware education funding at the monthly Progressive Democrats for Delaware meeting.  State Representative Paul Baumbach from the 23rd Rep District also discussed the issue.  Baumbach is very supportive of implementing a weighted education funding formula in Delaware.  Last Winter, Baumbach and then Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman presented a report on a weighted funding system to the Education Funding Improvement Commission.  That commission was unable to get a consensus on any particular funding apparatus and ended the 148th General Assembly with no final report.  The WEIC redistricting plan also called for implementation of a weighted funding system.

Education funding, with implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, will take center stage in 2017.  As more and more citizens realize the system we have now is not working for all students, attempts at fixing the problems will appear.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and their redistricting plan for Wilmington Christina School District students is still bubbling under the surface.  Last night, Christina’s board voted 4-3 to settle on a lawsuit filed against them and the Delaware Dept. of Education by 15 charter schools that receive students from Christina.  The charters claim Christina was filing exclusions that were “improper” to the Delaware DOE and the DOE signed off on them.  While the settlement has not been made public, it will assuredly have an impact on local funding formulas going forward.

Baumbach’s plan is to have more money go to students with higher needs, such as low-income or poverty, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.  Currently, students with disabilities do receive additional funding based on a unit-count system (with the exception of basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade).  This system determines how much staff each district or charter school receive based on their September 30th count of students.  With the funding system Baumbach is pushing for, the money would follow the student based on their needs.  Another question involving this funding system is if Talented and Gifted students would be considered high need as well.

This is not equality funding but equity funding.  Schools who have less sub-groups of students with higher needs would receive less money.  Final accountability regulations for ESSA will require each public school in America to show the amount of funding per student based on local, state, and federal funding.  The biggest problem with education funding in Delaware is property assessments.  No county in Delaware has increased their property assessments in decades resulting in severe imbalances to what the current assessed values would be.  As well, referenda held by school districts have had mixed results.  Adding to this mix is the potential of school vouchers coming to Delaware if President Donald Trump and his pick for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, get their way.  Baumbach argued against a bill that would allow vouchers for special education students last Spring and stated it would be a violation of Delaware’s Constitution to send state funds to a religious private school.  Trump also announced he wants to incentivize new charter schools across America.  Capital costs for school buildings is also a major issue.  Delaware has many outdated schools that have serious structural issues with the recent Christina mold problem as a glaring example.

Baumbach will most likely bring forth legislation in 2017 to change how we fund our schools.  As well, there is increasing talk in Delaware about re-examining property assessments.  Some state officials have even suggested consolidating school districts to save money, possibly to a county school district system with New Castle County having two districts based on the population.

For my part, I can’t support ANY changes to our education funding system until we can get more assurances the money we are already spending is used with fidelity and honesty.  The recent audit investigation into Indian River showed very clearly that this district was not being honest.  We’ve had far too many Delaware charter school leaders and employees committing major fraud with funds that are not getting to students.  Our state auditor is supposed to audit each school district every year and publish the results.  This is not happening.  Charter school annual audits, usually, do not have the ability to catch financial fraud.  The State Auditor of Accounts Office, run by Tom Wagner, is massively understaffed.  Why in the world would we dump more  money into education when we can’t accurately keep track of the money already there?  This is the viewpoint of many conservatives in Delaware, but more on the left are also waking up to a reality that can no longer be ignored.

As the chief legislative advocate for a weighted funding system, Baumbach will have his hands full in the first six months of 2017.  If the Republicans manage to take control of the Delaware Senate after the special election for Bethany Hall-Long’s Senate seat, the voucher conversation will become very loud at Legislative Hall.  Tony Allen also warned that time is running out to fix education for Wilmington students and advocates may file a federal lawsuit against Delaware which could leave education funding and districting in the hands of a federal judge.  The icing on this education funding cake is the very flawed measurement of success for Delaware schools- the standardized test.  If we use them as a barometer of success or need, the system will continue to be a confusing mess with no end in sight.

No matter how you slice and dice money for education, no system will please everyone.  This has become painfully obvious.  We need to look at what is best for Delaware students and not those of corporations who seek to profit from education.  As corporate education reform is more embedded in our schools, more administrators are implementing the very bad policies from those reformers thus turning them into profiteers of education.  Yeah, Baumbach is going to have a big fight on his hands with any legislation involving this system!

To read the final report conducted by Hanover Research for the Delaware DOE on a weighted funding system, please read below:

DSEA President Battle Heats Up As Three Vie For The Top Spot

To date, three Delaware educators have announced their intention to run for President of the Delaware State Education Association.  All three have announced this on Facebook.  I know two of them, but I haven’t met the other candidate.  Two of the candidates are running on a ticket with a Vice-President candidate.  Who are these brave souls? Continue reading “DSEA President Battle Heats Up As Three Vie For The Top Spot”

Congress Is About To Pass $100 Million Social Impact Bond Bill, More Corporate Bets On Student Outcomes Coming

The best way to get something embedded into the American society?  The power of distraction.  Once again, while all eyes are on Donald Trump, Congress is acting in the dawn of Winter to pass a bill that will affect the children of America.  This time, it involves social impact bonds.

This action is only part of a larger bill, known as the 21st Century Cares Act.  Spearheaded by Vice-President Joe Biden after the death of his son, Beau Biden, the bill has become so much more than finding a cure for cancer.  Special interest groups and lobbyists infiltrated the $6.3 billion bill to include things they want.  The bill is expected to pass the U.S. House next week and the U.S. Senate the week after.

The $100 million dedicated to “pay for success”, also known as “social impact partnerships”, will be up to the states to submit grant applications.  The states will work with “nonprofit social service providers, intermediaries, evaluators, and philanthropic organizations,” according to an article from the Social Innovation Research Center.  I’ve written about social impact bonds a bit since I first came across them over a year ago.  These are nothing more than corporations, non-profits, and banks hedging bets on certain outcomes.  And reaping the profits if they succeed.  For some areas of society, this is not necessarily a bad thing, such as medicine.  But when it branches into education, I am very concerned.  The timing of this bill coinciding with full implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act is not a mere coincidence.

The U.S. Dept. of Education will assuredly dip into this vast pool of money.  The Social Innovation Research Center all but guarantees this:

The legislation tasks the Treasury Department with overseeing the Social Impact Partnership program, although the department may delegate oversight authority for individual projects to other federal agencies.

ESSA calls for greater intervention in American public schools- more counselors, more community-based organizations, etc.  The full invasion of American education by corporations will be like nothing seen before once ESSA is firmly entrenched in every single state.  This will, of course, lead to the reinvention of American education into less of a brick-and-mortar system and more of a personalized learning and competency-based system with outside non-profits and corporations calling the shots.  Teachers will become glorified moderators to the education technology invading our schools.  But with the passage of the 21st Century Cares Act, children will become fodder for nothing more than a gambler in Vegas trying to win big.

Because this legislation is wrapped into such a noble cause, that of curing cancer, it is the perfect vessel for the corporate pigs to come home and feast on the trough.  Congress will pass this, regardless of the pork included in it, because “it is the right thing to do”.  And once again, children will pay the price.

To see the full bill, and how education will come into play, please go here.  Of particular note are pages 946-949.  By giving the very vague “improving rates of high school graduation“, that one line is the entrance into education.  One of the first forays into public education with Social Impact Bonds by a major U.S. Bank, Goldman Sachs, resulted in a ton of controversy.  The bank tried to bet on pre-schoolers in Utah.  The “outcome” they wanted was less children getting special education services.  But failing to understand why students even need special education in most cases, because of neurological disabilities, shows corporate America doesn’t believe in reasons, just profit.

Final U.S. DOE Regulations For ESSA Accountability Leave Same Bad Test, Shame, & Punish Policies & No Changes On Opt Out

The United States Department of Education released the final regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability section of the law.  Once again, despite protest by the Republican led Education & The Workforce Committee, the U.S. DOE is leaving many things that ESSA was supposed to get rid of.  We still have the damn standardized tests as the measurement of what makes a school failing.  We still have the blame game for teachers in the “lowest” 5% of Title I schools.  We still have the Feds indicating that state accountability systems must factor participation rate below 95% as part of their scoring matrix.  Nothing has changed.  Of course, the states can submit their own state standards to the U.S. DOE, but let’s get real- most states already have their standards (Common Core) in place.  Common Core and tests like PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment are NOT going anywhere.  I don’t care what Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos say.

One thing the U.S. DOE did change was the due dates state ESSA plans.  Now they are April 3rd and September 18th.  Previously, they had been March 31st or July 31st.  The Delaware DOE (with no stakeholder input) chose the March 31st deadline (but said they would submit it on March 6th).

So can we expect more “priority” schools coming out of ESSA?

In schools identified for comprehensive or additional targeted support and improvement, the final regulations require that their improvement plans review resource inequities related to per-pupil expenditures and access to ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers; advanced coursework; in elementary schools, full-day kindergarten and preschool programs; and specialized instructional support personnel such as school counselors and social workers—drawing on data already collected and reported under ESSA.

And what about opt-out?  Did the U.S. DOE offer any mercy to schools where parents make a constitutional, fundamental, and God-given right to opt their child out of the state assessment?  Yeah right!

To provide a fair and accurate picture of school success, and help parents, teachers, school leaders, and state officials understand where students are struggling and how best to support them, the law requires that all students take statewide assessments and that states factor into their accountability systems participation rates below 95 percent for all students or subgroups of students, such as English learners or students with disabilities. The regulations do not prescribe how states do this; rather they suggest possibilities for how states might take into account low participation rates and allow states to propose their own actions that can be differentiated based on the extent of the issue, but are sufficiently rigorous to improve schools’ participation rates in the future. Schools missing 95 percent participation must also develop plans to improve based on their local contexts and stakeholder input.

This is just more of the same but wrapped in a different package.  And of course, the National PTA, NEA, AFT and other organizations that should have known better jumped all over this law a year ago.  You reap what you sow!

Trump Picks Betsy DeVos For U.S. Secretary of Education: Let The Privatizing And Union Busting Begin

Out of all the people President Donald Trump could have picked for the United States Secretary of Education, why did it have to be Betsy DeVos?  She supports Common Core, hates teacher unions, loves school choice, vouchers, and more of the same corporate education reform crap we’ve had to deal with in education for the past 15 years.  She supports Right To Work laws, which she helped get through in Michigan.  Her family is the heir to the Amway Corporation.  The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation started their own charter school in 2014, the West Michigan Aviation Academy.  That’s all we need, is one of… them.  Someone with big money thinking school choice and vouchers are the answers to everything.  So much for Trump’s promise to get rid of Common Core.  He is a liar.  But I am not shocked.

As for the unions, this is going to be a looooong four years for them.  According to Detroit News :

Speaking in July during a school choice forum at the Republican National Convention in Ohio, DeVos accused teachers unions of holding back innovation in education and called them “a formidable foe” at both state and national levels.

Both NEA and AFT should have picked Bernie Sanders in their endorsement for President.  They jumped on the Hillary train and look where they are now?  If they thought they had a tough time under President Obama, they haven’t seen anything yet!  I have no doubt there will be some serious meetings for both organizations in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile, every charter school cheerleader is probably doing cartwheels alongside the private school voucher advocates.  Public education will not know what hit them.  Meanwhile, we have Diane Ravitch backtracking on an earlier article she put up this week where she actually endorsed DeVos.  She thought people would see it as a joke, but apparently they didn’t.  A little too late Diane!  Thanks for that…

 

The Supermoon

Before a secret is told, one can often feel the weight of it in the atmosphere.

-Susan Griffin

On January 26th, 1948, a full moon shone brightly in the Winter sky.  The next time the full moon will be that close to the earth will be on Monday morning at 6:22am.  The next time you can see a Supermoon that close to Terra Firma will be 2034.  Tonight, it is just Waxing Gibbous.  It is at 97.4% of a full moon.  And it is cold out.  There is a frost in the air and the stars are shining bright.  Winter is coming.

They are saying it is going to be a mild winter this year.  Another La Niña.  So this means I could probably lay on the beach for New Years.

It’s the middle of the night.  Sleep comes and goes tonight.  I’m feeling restless, more than I have in a long time.  Afraid to close my eyes and afraid to stay awake.  Work comes in three and a half hours.  It will be a long day.

My arm is doing better.  I had a case of hairspray fall on my left elbow a month ago.  It hurt like hell when it happened, but only for a few minutes.  But then a week later this… thing… started sticking out of my elbow.  Like a Dr. Scholl’s pad golf ball.  I’ve been to doctors a few times for this.  I even had my first MRI.  Not an experience I care to repeat.  Last week I learned I had a slight tear in a tendon.  So I’ve been on light duty at work for a month and will be for another few weeks.  I work a tough job, but for scheduling purposes, there are reasons why I work that job.  It isn’t for the weak, that’s for sure.  But I feel the weight of age creeping up on me sometimes.  An odd ache here, a desire to take a nap in the middle of a day off.  And I’m not even fifty.

I haven’t been writing here as much as I could.  I have plenty to say, and plenty or articles ready to pop.  I’ve never had more research in my life.  But right now, America and Delaware seem to be dealing with President Trump in one of two ways: it is the end of democracy as we know it or it is the best post-coital bliss ever.  I don’t want to throw stuff out there that will get bypassed for yet another article about Trump.  I’m also at that point in education where I have to start calling people and organizations out.  Ones that, when I began this journey, I thought were on the side of kids.  But they aren’t.  The picture starts to get blurry and the colors start to merge.  I wish I could say there are those that I thought were the “bad guys” but then I discovered they aren’t.  But I can’t say that.  Yes, Jack Markell will sail off into the sunset.  Secretary Godowsky will go with him.  But what Jack made for Delaware is still in play.

I have this sense of foreboding tonight.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I do.  Things are going to change.  I know this but I want to wish it away.  Taking things for granted is never a good idea.  I want things to be simple again.  But they won’t be.  The last time things were simple for me was in 1975.

The summer after Kindergarten, my mom had to have an operation of some sort.  I couldn’t tell you what it was for, but it was enough for my parents to send me and my brothers to a family friend’s house for a couple of days.  We went to see Peter Pan, the classic cartoon version.  Afterwards, we went to our friend’s church.  I don’t remember how it got to that point, but I remember the minister asking me if I had anything to say.  So I told the whole church about Peter Pan.  I went on and on and on.  Everyone in the church was laughing and smiling.  I didn’t understand at the time that they weren’t laughing at how great Peter Pan was, but the fact that a five year-old boy was talking about this in God’s House of Worship.  Of course, I felt like the king of the world and the audience loved me.  I was the star of the show.

That was the last time things were truly simple for me.  Genuine, unadulterated bliss.  When you are that young, the world revolves around you.  You are the center of the universe.

I won’t be falling back to sleep tonight.  I would be getting up in an hour and a half anyways, so what’s the point.  I’ve already started my first cup of coffee.  To me, there isn’t anything better than that first sip.  Hopefully that, and a couple more, will do the trick for the day ahead of me.

Now I’m thinking of an earlier time, before Peter Pan.  My family and I were in church.  My Dad, Mom, my three brothers, and myself.  All I remember was that I was crying because my Mom went up to get Communion.  My Dad was holding me in his arms.  But I felt lost and scared.  I couldn’t have been older than two or three.  My father pulled out a little toy giraffe, no bigger than my hand.  For some reason, that giraffe gave me comfort.  It eased my troubled toddler little mind.  But I see it differently now.  I see a father holding a crying baby who wanted his mommy.  And in that moment, he found a connection.  Instead of getting upset, he gave me something he hoped would give me comfort and a feeling of safety.  It worked.  I remember holding that giraffe in my tiny hand and looking up at my dad.  In his eyes I saw a feeling of calm, of peace.

I haven’t thought, or written, about that moment in a long time.  The last time I wrote about it was in 1988.  I was in a creative writing class for the first half of my Senior year of high school.  Our final project was to write an autobiography based on something important in our life.  I wrote about my walk with God.  And I couldn’t very well talk about God without writing about all the people in my life.  This project became bigger and bigger the more I wrote.  It was about my life, from birth until that very snowy January over seventeen years later.  I believe it was about 24 pages, typed.  I got an A on it.  We had to read it in class.  I remember a few of my classmates crying when I read it.  I remember asking them later why they cried.  They said they had no idea or close I was with God.  I wasn’t a Bible-thumping evangelist running around my high school reading scripture every chance I got.  But in my thoughts, I pondered and wrestled with questions of faith back then.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.  At least that’s what they say.  It is now 3:15am.  My alarm will be going off at 4:30am.  I’m leaving it on in case weariness overcomes me and I succumb to somnus.

I was  a wreck last Christmas.  I never got the tree fully set up.  My son was transitioning to his fifth school since Kindergarten.  In six years.  It took its toll on me.  On my family.  I wonder sometimes if I will ever find a reason or answers to why my son had to go through so much at such an early age.  I watch him sometimes, struggling with his disability.  Those times when he asks God why he has to suffer through painful and repetitive tics.  Why his mind sometimes feels muddled.  Other times he refuses to believe in God because how could any God do that to a human being.  I see the host of people who have come in and out of his life.  Too much “goodbye” and not enough “hello”.  I struggle with my own thoughts on this.  When do I let go a little?  When does my fighting interfere with his ability to self-advocate?  He is fast becoming a teenager.  That transition period between boy and man.  When do I see the disability?  When do I see the boy-turning-into-a-man chrysalis?  Tourette Syndrome is not all he is.  He has it.  It affects him.  But it isn’t his whole being.  It is not his whole life.  It is just baggage he has to carry with him on his own walk through life.  One day, he will have to find peace with it.  I pray that day comes soon, but all things come in time.

What madness has struck upon me during this waxing gibbous that I am poring all these memories and feelings onto the screen?  I don’t know.  But it feels right.  Sometimes writing is my way of purging things.  Or coming to terms.  Reconnecting with the world.  I can throw numbers and statistics and secrets on the screen all day long.  But none of it means anything if I don’t have that reconnection.  I can’t be tethered to education all the time.  How I see education is not how most see it.  I dive into the cesspools most don’t even know exist.  Waters that don’t look that deep, but they will suck you in and drown you for all its worth.  But it is worth plenty.  I have no regrets.  This is my way of walking away from it.  At least for this moment.  To see life beyond the lies.  Because there is so much that human beings never learn in the classroom.  The painful and hard lessons they learn in real life.

schoolgaiman

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors.  He has this uncanny knack for dealing with the most abstract of thoughts in the simplest of ways.  So that anyone can understand it.  The above picture comes from his Sandman comic-book series.  It ran 75 issues, from 1988 until 1996.  I didn’t catch on to this series until 1991.  By then it was well-known.  Each issue became a gold-mine when it came out.  By the time the 74th issue came out, I was preparing to move to another country.  Young love and a huge sense of wanderlust brought me to Sweden in 1996.  I was there for two months when I walked into a newsstand one evening.  I was killing time before going over to a friend’s house.  I sold about 90% of my comic-book collection before moving and I didn’t really have much intention of picking up the habit again.  But there it was, staring at me.  Sandman #75.  The last issue.

William Shakespeare appeared in an earlier issue of Sandman.  Gaiman crafted a reimagining of the Bard’s inspiration for A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream in the story.  Morpheus, also known as the Sandman or Dream, granted William Shakespeare the inspiration for all his plays in exchange for a boon.  Shakespeare wrote two plays for Morpheus.  The play highlighted in the earlier issue was A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream.  But the last issue was based on The Tempest.  Ironically, this took place prior to the pivotal moment in the series six issues earlier, but it served as the perfect moment for Dream to sleep.

I’m halfway done with my second cup of coffee.  For the first time in well over eight years, I read the last issue of Sandman again.  I am left wondering: do I inspire or am I inspired?  Do I write for you or do you read for me?  Do I amuse or am I your muse?  Weighty thoughts, heavier on my shoulders by little sleep and not having the ability to dream.

I leave for work in an hour.  This has been a distraction.  Away from my fears, my worries.  A distraction from a truth wrapped up in a secret.  We all do this.  We refuse to face a reality so we hide from it.  We try to cover it up.  But it’s always there, staring down at us like a Supermoon.

secrets