Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will talk to educators, parents, and citizens tonight about education funding and the state budget tonight at 7:45pm. To be included on the call, you had to sign up yesterday by 2pm. I signed up on Tuesday. I will be reporting live from the Town Hall. What concerns me the most is not what Carney is saying. It is what he isn’t talking about… Continue reading “Carney & Bunting Tackle Education Funding But The Red Herring Fooling Everyone Lurks Around The Corner”
Yesterday, the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee (DEFAC) projected Delaware’s budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2018 to be $395 million dollars. This is up ten million from the last time the committee met. Tonight, the Christina Board of Education will discuss the impact on taxpayers. Governor Carney is suggesting school boards raise what is known as the match tax (the portion the state matches certain funding) by having the district school boards levy the tax without a referendum.
Christina’s Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, created an impact budget for how this increase would hit taxpayers. In the below example, a home that just sold for $224,000 would see their property taxes raised $46.50 with the match tax scenario. Keep in mind, this is based on the property assessment value of $63,700, which is almost a quarter of the home’s actual value based on the sale price.
This is not the only sting homeowners, as well as all Delaware citizens, will feel starting July 1st. State taxes, collected from paychecks, will go up for most. State employees will see higher insurance rates. Salary raises for state employees will most likely disappear. Services will be cut. It is all rather bleak. Our General Assembly has utilized every single benefit to state funding, such as the proceeds from the tobacco lawsuit, without realizing those perks were eventually going to disappear. State revenue does not match state expenses. Companies, such as DuPont and soon Barclays, left Delaware for the most part, causing a severe lack of revenue and jobs. Delaware has, and will continue to, spend more than it makes.
With the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, there was a request to raise property assessment values. While Delaware’s assessment values are still far lower than most states, it also created an influx of senior citizens moving to The First State because of that. But the ability of school boards to raise property taxes, already through the special education tuition tax and soon the match tax, could have a negative impact on the desire of the elderly to move to Delaware or even stay here.
Meanwhile, there has been no action on the Governor’s part to institute the basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade. State Rep. Kim Williams introduced two bills in the last two General Assemblies to take care of this but neither bill has moved forward due to the state funding issues. Oblivious to all the future costs by not having this essential funding in place, our state continues to bumble through special education with this very real omission to the foundation of special education students who are just beginning to manifest their disabilities. The projected amount to fund what should have always been there is a little bit less than $13 million a year. By not providing that funding, the state relies on the school districts or charter schools to pay for these services. Either way, it has a negative effect. If the school does provide those services, it results in more of a drain on local funding. If the school doesn’t, they are not only breaking special education law if the child qualifies for an Individualized Education Program, but they are also looking at higher costs for that student in the future by not providing that foundation. So that $13 million a year mushrooms to much higher costs for these students down the road.
Just this morning, State Rep. Earl Jaques announced a new bill on Facebook creating a fund in the Delaware Dept. of Education budget for an Educational Support Professional of the Year award. Delaware has 16 school districts, 3 vocational districts, and over 20 charter schools. This bill would allow each district (20, which includes one award for all the charters) to give their winner an extra $1000.00. The overall winner would get $1,500.00. While $21,500 in the DOE budget doesn’t amount to much, it is symptomatic of the mindset of far too many of our legislators. Instead of finding solutions, too many of them find ways to spend even more money. If our state was swimming in money, I would be okay with this bill. But not now.
Delaware’s legislature is going to have their hands full when they return from Spring Break next Tuesday. This budget deficit is not the result of a national recession like what we faced in 2009. This is Delaware created. We spent our way out of the recession and now we are paying the piper. Governor Carney looks like a deer running towards headlights with his reactions to this ever-increasing budget deficit. I predict he will have a very tough time getting re-elected in 2020 if this trend continues.
Yes, you heard it right. The Olympics are coming to Delaware. Or, to be more specific, to Barley Mill Plaza! Odyssey Charter School, in celebration of their 10th Anniversary, is bringing the Olympic Torch to Delaware. I just have one question though… If this is to benefit Odyssey Charter School, why are folks asked to make checks out to the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and not directly to Odyssey Charter School? Does that mean the schools get all the money from these sponsorships for their 5k Run/Walk on September 24th? Awesome! But when I went to the website included in the press release (seen below) to register, it doesn’t give an online option to register. You can only mail checks to the AHEPA Wilmington Chapter. Wow! I can’t wait to see how much revenue they raise for the school!
First off, I don’t think any charter school that has not even opened should be getting a “performance award”. They haven’t done anything yet. Second of all, it is obvious their “long-term” strategy for this school didn’t work as they are closing a little over a month after they opened. Third, if they don’t, I know at least two legislators who will be screaming foul on this. And rightly so. Finally, they should openly, honestly, and with great transparency return ALL unused funds immediately.
|$250,000||$175,000||High-quality plans for start-up or expansion; AND Serve high-need students||Start-Up Costs||Funds may not be used for marketing materials or mentor appreciation/exhibition events||No|
In the above chart, it was taken straight from the 2015-2016 list of Charter School Performance Award winners. They requested $250,000 for “start-up” costs, even though they already received $250,000 from the Longwood Foundation in 2014. They won the $175,000 out of the $250k requested. In their application for the performance fund the school stated they needed a special education coordinator in the amount of $46,000.00 to “ensure we can meet the needs of our high IEP student population“. Don’t federal funds coming under the IDEA-B allocation already cover that need based on how many special education students they already have? This means the school already knew they would be having a lot of students with disabilities and they had not even hired a coordinator as of July 7th of this year, a month and a half before they opened.
The big question is where these funds even come from. Do they come from the DOE, or somewhere else in the Delaware Government? If you look at Delaware Online Checkbook, it shows them receiving $39.83 in revenue this year. These are funds that have already been sent to these schools. So where is the money and where did it go to? Why isn’t it being reported by the state?
To be on the safe side, I checked Kuumba Academy who received $425,000 last year as their charter school performance fund. This was announced after Fiscal Year 2015 started. Even though the budget states the charter school performance fund comes from the General Fund, since the funds are allocated to a specific purpose (i.e. a special education coordinator), it would then go the Special Fund once the General Fund sends funds to that allocation. In the bill for Fiscal Year 2015, on page 59 of this pdf: Senate Bill 225 Final FY2015 Budget it shows $1.5 million allocated to the charter school performance fund, coming out of the General Fund. But Kuumba shows no revenue in their General Fund for FY2015 on Delaware Online Checkbook. So it had to come out of what is called the special fund. But the only special fund items listed with an amount higher than $425,000 are “Donation Contributions” of which Kuumba received $1,671,735.39. $500,000 of that was a donation from the Longwood Foundation at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2015. And in their May 2015 board meeting minutes, Kuumba’s board announced they were getting another $1 Million from them as well. So that is $1.5 million alone in their “Donation Contributions” section which is the only place $425,000 could have possibly gone. But it doesn’t fit with $1.5 million being donated by Longwood, so where is it?
Even though the Delaware MET is showing less than $40.00 in revenue, that doesn’t mean the $175,000 wasn’t sent to them. It’s just a question of where, in the maze that is Delaware funding, the hell it is. This charter school performance fund is one of the abominations that sprang out of House Bill 165 during the first half of the 147th General Assembly back in 2013. Maybe the 2nd half of the 148th General Assembly can get rid of this monstrous waste in taxpayer funds by next June, and save the state some semblance of money.
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)|
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.