Don’t let your special needs child fall victim to “new”​ Federal and State voucher/choice policies

This article originally appeared on long-time Delaware special education advocate Steve Newton’s LinkedIn account yesterday.  I read it today and Steve not only hit a grand-slam with this article, but he hit it out of the park!  This is the must-read of the month and the timeliness of this could not be more important!  Normally, I would italicize this but for reasons which will soon become clear, I did not.  Great job Steve!

The road is about to get a lot rougher for special needs kids in America’s schools

It’s never been easy.

IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act] was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 to stiffen the supports for disability-challenged American students that already existed in Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. IDEA established the rules for determining the need for special services, how supports within the education system would be determined, and provided for their monitoring via IEPs [Individualized Education Plans]. The trifold intent of IDEA was to (a) guarantee parents and students a role, a voice, and an appeals option in the process; (b) fund services that would allow special needs students to receive FAPE [Free Appropriate Public Education]; and create mechanisms for monitoring/enforcing the entire process.

Despite the fact that none of those goals has ever really been attained (Congress has never fully funded IDEA in any budget in the past 27 years), IDEA represented a massive improvement for special needs students across America. Millions of kids with specific Learning Disabilities (as in Math or English), with Emotional Disabilities, with ADHD, with Autism, and with other, lesser-known disabilities managed to finish school and go on to college, or employment, and independent, productive lives. Flawed as it is in the execution, IDEA has been a hugely successful law.

But the last decade has seen major problems setting in Continue reading

The Best of Publius, Part 1: Vouchers

Does Publius believe in vouchers? I would say he does based on this comment over on Kilroy’s Delaware from last year.

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While not coming out and supporting vouchers wholesale, Publius was promoting a credit or rebate to taxpayers for kids in private schools.  Why?  To reduce the tuition for parents.  A voucher is a voucher no matter how many different ways you try to shape it Publius.  You put a pig in crap it is still going to get filthy no matter how you do it.  That reminds me… how do our school board candidates feel about vouchers?

From Common Core To Competency-Based Education: The Slimy Tentacles Of Billionaire Foundations

Their reach is everywhere.  Foundations who say they represent the best interests of children.  Who want to fix education so all children can get a shot.  Why then, do so many of the children of these philanthropists, politicians, and corporate education reformers, attend private schools?  Ones without the invasive education technology and Common Core standards?  That alone should tell everyone they are not in it for the kids.  For them, it is about the profit.  Servant and master.  They feel we should bow down to their infinite wisdom and do as they say.  The reports from the Department of Labor showing increasing jobs don’t paint the same picture as the doom and gloom coming from the education “prophets”.  They talk about gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers while putting forth policy that enforces those gaps, whether it is from standardized tests, “IEPs for All”, the false importance of education technology, or the perception that traditional school district teachers are horrible.  They are the incubators of discrimination and segregation.  But they fail to understand how their actions contribute to the outside factors our schools should not have to deal with, such as trauma and poverty.  With all their vast wealth and power, they don’t spend their money helping to ease these issues.  They believe that it is okay to track students into career pathways starting at the first moment they are able to take a test.  They don’t care that very personal information goes out to 3rd parties that have no business seeing any information like this.  They wrote the Every Student Succeeds Act.  They are the ones pushing for more charter schools.  They have the US Dept. of Education in their back pocket along with the politicians and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the National Governors’ Association.  They have many colleges and universities doing whatever they say.  But they are wrong.  What they are doing is the best for themselves, not the kids.

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Christina Referendum Haters Using Donald Trump’s Playbook & Christina Releases Markell Support Video

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Donald Trump’s unfathomable success has been due to playing on the fears and worries of disenfranchised voters.  I see the same thing with First State Liberty’s overzealous attacks on the Christina School District referendum taking place on March 23rd.  It is becoming more than obvious there is more than meets the eye with First State Liberty.  Meanwhile, none other than Governor Jack Alan Markell did a video for the district which supports the referendum and urges voters to say yes on Wednesday.

There are a multitude of things I don’t agree with Governor Markell about on education.  But there are two things I think we can draw agreement on: support for the Christina referendum and we both oppose school vouchers.  I think most can agree the whole referendum process stinks.  But until there is another method or funding mechanism for our schools in Delaware, voting no on a referendum hurts children most of all.   As I just said to someone on Facebook in regards to the mindset of First State Liberty: “We know the ship is going to sink.  Instead of plugging the hole, we’re going to shoot a cannonball into it so it sinks faster.”  If a district doesn’t pass a referendum when they really need the funds, it will have a downward spiral that comes down to each and every student in the district.

The referendum opposers are getting robo-calls and emails from a right-wing group called First State Liberty.  I wrote an article about them the other day.  Who is supporting them?  The Delaware blogger Kavips did some digging last week and found out who was backing the robo-calls.  Many of the leaders of these organizations put their children in private schools.  They resent the fact they pay tuition for their children and pay school taxes.  They seem to forget that all citizens pay this.  They want voucher programs which have failed miserably in many states.  In Delaware, State Rep. Deb Hudson has tried to get voucher legislation through, but it doesn’t get past the bill filing.

When pushed to respond to requests to come to Citizens Budget Oversight Committee meetings in Christina, the front people behind First State Liberty don’t even respond to the invitation.  They come out once a year before these referendums and act like it is The Day After Tomorrow if a referendum passes.  They forget children are involved in their schemes and agendas and don’t care if students are affected the most by the damage they do.  They like to tout the Revolutionary War as their greatest inspiration.  They don’t realize the differences between the people from 240 years ago and what is going on in the present.  They will say and do anything to advance their agenda.  They lure people into their fold and they spout lies and untruths.  Then they get their followers to do the same.  It is a sad and pathetic situation.

Do I think our school districts could do a better job?  Absolutely.  They all play the absurd “Delaware Way” game where parties must compromise.  They just want a seat at the table without realizing they are on the table.  The compromises result in districts being forced to shell out more money for services to properly educate children based on state mandates.  What First State Liberty should take a more active role in is this conundrum.  Instead, they want to target children and their classrooms.  Forget everything they say about “administrative costs” and “spending per pupil”.  Their theories are debunked on a daily basis anymore.

I’ve said it before, when children lose, we all lose.  Even Governor Markell understands this simple fact.  Why can’t First State Liberty, who could be doing so much more in Delaware, get this concept?  Why do they target school districts but do absolutely nothing about the even bigger problem?  Do they have the political muscle to do more than bully referendum voters?  Of course, no one from their outfit will respond with intelligent answers on these issues.  When challenged, they delete information from supporters or just ignore it.  Why are they so hell-bent on destroying school districts?  Is it because their kids aren’t in public education and they don’t care what happens to other families kids?  I will fully admit, my son is in private school but I would still vote yes for this referendum if I lived in the Christina School District.  It’s about the kids, not your wallets.  Playing on the fears of unsuspecting citizens and giving false information while doing so is not only disingenuous, but bad form.

Lest we forget, this is the same outfit that thought it was okay to bring guns to Newark City Council meetings.  This is the same outfit that some right-wing groups really don’t want to be associated with.  But when it comes to referendums, it is okay for their hate and fear mongering?  Wake up Delaware citizens.  Don’t buy their hate-filled propaganda and smear campaigns.  They aren’t in it for you, they are in it for themselves.  I have some conservative ideals myself, but there is an ocean of difference between conservative ideals and this.  Shame on you First State Liberty…

 

Comment Rescue: The Truth About Charter Schools

Thanks to commenter Lori Michelle for putting into words what the heart of the problem is with far too many charter schools.

Charter schools, most of the time, are started by people who have read about this cool educational theory or idea that is working somewhere else (sometimes even an exclusive private school who aren’t beholden to state tests and CCSS and who can pick and choose their students and expel whoever they want…) and think it would be great to get an awful lot of grants and tax money to create a “public school” in the same model. These people are usually not educators who know better and who actually have experience with real live students. Even if these charter school founders aren’t corporate reformers trying to line their pockets with tax dollars, it takes more than good intentions and a good idea to run a school. I feel sorry, first, for the students, and second for those poor teachers who are trying to teach and earn a living under an unprepared and probably unqualified administration. Been there, done that…won’t ever do it again.

Governor Markell Bashes On Vouchers While Also Slamming Public Schools And Opt-Out But Fails To Realize His Policies Are Promoting The Idea

Delaware Governor Jack Markell has painted himself into a corner, and his escape latch is disappearing by the day.  In an article in EdWeek and also the Governor’s blog on his own website, Markell went to town on school vouchers while opposing opt-out, cherry-picking what schools kids should go to, and glorifying standardized testing.  I am against whole-sale school voucher programs, but sometimes there is NO choice.

With the next presidential campaign getting under way, pundits have quickly focused more on the horse race than on where the candidates stand on important issues like improving public education.

Are you promoting anyone in particular here Jack?  Someone who is very outspoken on education reform matters that you happen to agree with?

One area that deserves far more attention is the array of proposals to divert public spending on education into private school vouchers or “education savings accounts” that can be used for private and parochial schools, home schooling, and other programs that aren’t part of the public education system.

These other parts of the public education system, would they happen to include charters, magnets and vo-cational schools?

These policies, already enacted in several states and proposed in several more, are a reminder that privatization is not a ready-made solution for every government problem.

Because it would counteract the policies you have set in place in Delaware…

Here’s why these programs don’t produce results for our students.

Neither do yours…

Everyone agrees that solid academics are the foundation for career and college readiness. Yet, according to a review by the Center on Education Policy, numerous studies have concluded that vouchers, the prime example of privatization, “don’t have a strong effect on students’ academic achievement.” If voucher programs are motivated by a desire to improve educational outcomes for our young people, and not simply to divert public spending to private education, then their unsettled and uneven history does not support continuing them.

Is Markell actually backing away from calling this Common Core, or state standards?  Wow.  Now he’s calling it “solid academics”.  Let’s pull out a report from the Center on Education Policy, a very ed reformy group.  Say, isn’t Senator Sokola on their steering committee?  If vouchers steer public funding to private education, what do you call your seven year policies which have steered public school funding to private companies?  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Compounding this problem is that the private and parochial schools that receive tax dollars are, in many cases, not accountable for providing a quality education to young people, particularly those most at risk of falling behind.

They also aren’t required to provide YOUR education to students, which is why parents are desiring them more and more.  And let’s bring out the “those most at risk” card again… you will play this for anything, any topic you don’t agree with.

In the public school system, states are required to establish baseline expectations of accountability through standards and testing. Although hardly beloved, standardized-test scores are the most effective method we have to identify which students need our help, which is why civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the United Negro College Fund have been among the most vocal advocates for statewide assessments. They know it is most often poor, minority students—those who most need our help—who most often don’t receive the education they need. When we don’t provide a valid way to measure students’ achievement and hold educators and schools accountable for their academic growth, those students are too easily forgotten.

We are still waiting on the valid way for Delaware to measure students’ true achievement Governor.  But you use your corporate funded measures to label and punish schools that house those students so you can move them over to charters.  Let’s see, I’m thinking of a pot and a kettle…

Children in home, parochial, and private schools aren’t required to take state assessments. State officials can’t track these students’ growth to make sure they don’t fall behind. Private school teachers and home-schooling parents aren’t required to teach to the state’s educational standards; and they don’t have to be rigorously licensed or certified like public school educators.

Which is exactly why private schools are appealing to so many parents these days.  The fact is, many parents can’t afford them, so the very idea of a voucher system is very appealing.  You stepped into your own bear trap here Markell…

Voucher systems also divert millions of taxpayer dollars out of our public schools. While we should respect and encourage parental engagement and choice of schools—including private, parochial, and home schools—for their children, it is not acceptable to divert limited public education funding at the cost of the public schools that serve our communities.

At the risk of repeating myself, but it’s okay to divert limited public education funding to companies, non-profits and state vendors and fatten up our own Department of Education?  You reap what you sow Jack…

Public funding for these voucher programs also presents significant policy issues because so many schools affected include a religious component in their curriculum. In general, the government should not be in the business of funding programs or institutions that promote one religion over all others.

They also shouldn’t be in the business of promoting one type of public school over another, or just one curriculum, but we know that’s happening all over the country.  Education has become big business for the government.  This is pure hypocrisy.  You’re just bitching cause the money isn’t flowing to the “right” places…

But being against vouchers for these reasons isn’t enough. Political leaders have a responsibility to articulate a clear vision for what an improved public school system looks like.

Delaware parents are about to keel over and die cause they have been holding their breath for seven years waiting to see a “clear vision” of an improved public school system.

That means using parent choice among traditional, charter, and magnet schools to foster innovative instruction, and hold public schools accountable for giving students the best opportunities possible.

And here we have it, the Governor Markell legacy: Get kids out of traditional public schools by punishing those schools and send the students to “specialty” schools for free.  But doesn’t that go against the whole “common standards” ruse?  The standards must be the same, but the way they teach them  can be different?

It means demanding more rigorous college and career standards like the common core.

The mantra of the corporate education reform movement.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this the past year, I could afford to send every kid in the state to a private school to get away from this ideology.

It means providing better support for our teachers, including training them to use data about student achievement effectively, and evaluating them appropriately.

Which they won’t get until the kids go on to the next grade and they will use data from a previous teacher’s teaching style to mold their own.  But we can evaluate teachers based on another teacher.  This is a program with the sole design of pushing union teachers out of education, lowering the pension funds, and getting teachers cheaper.  Call it what it is Jack..

It means more dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement courses to challenge students and reduce the cost of college.

And more high school classes exclusively set up to teach to the SAT which will become aligned to the “solid foundation” you spoke of earlier, which will then determine which colleges and courses students choose.  Big brother isn’t just watching us, he’s controlling students every move…

It means investing in high-quality early-childhood programs so all kids enter kindergarten ready to learn.

More taxpayer money flowing into the hands of all-too-eager companies to get kids college and career ready while also learning to tie their own shoes….

And it means recognizing that too many of our students arrive at school hungry and from traumatic family situations. Serving these children effectively requires different types of training and community resources.

But you fail to recognize that children from these environments do NOT perform the same as their peers, but you expect them to so you can (rinse, wash, repeat): standardize these students through God-awful tests, punish teachers, convert to charter, pay companies…

I agree with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that policymakers should be “more daring” when it comes to education policy. But that must mean pushing the public school system to improve, not following the suggestions of a number of candidates for president and state lawmakers who would use taxpayer money on unaccountable programs that ultimately cut funding from public schools.

So is the Democrat Governor Jack Markell endorsing a Republican Presidential candidate?  Why oh why would he do that?  What could he ever hope to gain? (See Arne Duncan).  But if Hilary wins, could he gain from that? (See Arne Duncan).

Governor Markell must feel the walls closing in around him.  While doing the same to the public school system, he has put himself into such a small box that he is growing desperate.  He will attack anything that goes against his beliefs and agendas that make a ton of money for his corporate buddies.  But what he doesn’t realize is a very special kind of voucher system he has actually created.

By pushing the Common Core state standards down students throats and forcing teachers to teach to an invalid test, special education students are suffering immensely.  To the point where schools and teachers are so afraid of being punished they don’t even know how to implement IEPs for those standards.  Behavior issues are rising, and schools don’t have the time to filter through tem to see if they are a manifestation of the disability or true behavior issues.  As a result, schools are getting sued left and right by special education attorneys.  Those funds go into an educational trust for the students.  Which often go into, you guessed it, private schools or homeschooling.  Governor Markell created his own monster here by allowing the special education compensatory damage voucher program to thrive and flourish.  This is a program no parent wants but so many are forced into it.  Chew on that revelation for a little while Jack…

Two Delaware Private Schools That Serve Special Needs Children Announce Merger

Centreville School, which provides services for children in grades Pre-Kindergarten to 8th Grade, and Layton Preparatory School, which also serves special needs children in grades 9th to 12th, have announced they will merge. The new school will be called Centerville Layton and all school grades will be at Centreville’s Kennett Pike location.

This will be the only private school in Delaware with a Kindergarten to high school graduation program. Most of the students reside in Newcastle County, but some come from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey. The two heads of the former schools will still be in charge. Barton Reese, of Layton Prep, will be the new head of school, while Deborah Maguire, of Centreville, will be the assistant head of school.

In an article by Shirley Minn for WHYY’s Newsworks website, Maguire was quoted as saying “a learning community not yet seen in Delaware; one that can serve students with learning difficulties from the start of their education through high school graduation.” The article also had a quote from Paul McConnell, who is the chairman of Layton’s Board Of Trustees. “Students can now benefit from a continuum of education on a single campus, with the elementary, middle and high school programs being able to draw on each other’s strengths to provide an exceptional overall experience.”

Layton Prep had tuition of $25,500 a year, while the Centreville School had tuition of $26,975 a year for grades K through 8, and pre-school tuition of $16,500. For those wishing to escape Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessments, both schools had financial aid available. I would assume this would carry over into the new alignment. There is no word yet on what the new tuition will be with the combined schools.