Longhurst Letter Questions Where The Hell Existing After-School Money Is Going

Good old Jack Wells.  Strong in the Force is that one!  When State Rep. Val Longhurst released her final report on the SAIL Task Force, which is basically asking for more education funding for after-school programs, the News Journal took the bait.  But so did Jack Wells, Delaware’s financial Yoda (especially with Red Clay funds).  So much so he wrote a very public letter to Rep. Longhurst.

TO:  House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst;

I support your efforts for more affordable after-school programs and bring together a collection of leading after-school care providers, educators and state agencies.  To be honest I believe many expenditures being charged to education revenue should be the responsibility of other state agencies.

In fiscal year 2016, DID our districts and charter schools expend more per student on EPER athletics, EPER extra curricular activities, and EPER miscellaneous, than on providing additional help to our children to improve their achievement in reading, math and other critical subjects.  I have no doubt very little of the $35 million expended for EPER was expended to provide additional assistance to improve the achievement of our children in reading, math, and other critical subjects.

After reading the recommendations regarding the lack of after school programs being provided to our children,  I cannot help but wonder why no comments where made on the after school programs currently being provided to our children by our districts and charter schools, programs that are funded from local school taxes, I would estimate at a cost of $35 million dollars.

Last year our districts and charter schools expended $19,043,456 to cover the salary cost for Extra Pay for Extra Responsibilities, EPER, when you include pension cost, 22.28% and other employment cost, 18.83% the cost for EPER compensation was $26,872,126.

In addition $2,335,617 was expended for Athletic Equipment and Supplies and $2,510,162 for Student Body Activities, added to these cost, must be custodian overtime, transportation, maintaining facilities, game officials, security, energy, association dues, conference fees, uniforms, etc..

The question which must be answered is, How and where was this $35 million dollars used.  What I do know is that EPER has 3 categories, Athletics, Extra Curricular Activities and Miscellaneous, shown below are compensation cost for each category.  I believe it’s reasonable to believe that almost all of the compensation cost for EPER Athletics, $9,559,540 was used in our 9-12 grade schools, as was the cost of game officials, conference fees, supplies and equipment, maintaining facilities, etc.. 

I also know that last year the principals in Red Clay 9-12 grade schools expended $439.53 per student, while the principals in K-5 expended $173.85 and middle school principals $198.97.  Why the difference? Was it EPER?

Shown below are the salary, pension and Other Employment cost for each category of EPER.

     Salary          Pension            OEC              Total

$6,774,596   $1,509,379   $1,275,565   $9,559,540   Athletics

$5,750,613   $1,281,236   $1,082,840   $8,114,689   Extra Curricular Activities

$6,518,247   $1,452,265   $1,227,385   $9,197,897   Miscellaneous.

Finally I would like to point out that the local salary cost for EPER of $19,043,456 is only exceeded by the local salary cost of our teachers, principals, assistant principals, custodians and salaries general, clearly this is a major local expense that only a very few have any idea of how and where it is being used and how it benefits our children.

Are our K-5 and 6-8 grade students being provided the same amount of local revenue for additional programs as our high schools?  Does the funding of athletics have a higher priority than funding additional help to our children who need help in reading, math, etc.?

I ask that you Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Task Force review how and where EPER expenditures are used and report your findings to the residents when requesting additional revenue.

http://delawarestatenews.net/news/task-force-recommends-expanded-school-programs/?utm_source=Delaware&utm_campaign=12397b98e6-Delaware+State+News+Daily+Enewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1e4f95e41f-12397b98e6-35998

Jack Wells

Delaware FY2017 Budget As Of 6/23/16, WEIC Redistricting Funds Are NOT In The Budget!!!!

Updated, 6:31pm: I’ve just been told the $6 million allocated to WEIC will be in a separate budget bill pending the results of the Senate vote next week.  Not sure how all that works, but okay…

Senate Bill 285 was introduced yesterday on the Senate floor in Delaware.  This is the Delaware State Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 as of 6/23/16 after the Joint Finance Committee made cuts a couple weeks ago.  Let me stress this, and I looked everywhere.  The budgeted $6 million for WEIC is not in Senate Bill 285.  The bill was left on the table.  Which means they will pick it up again next week and make many changes I’m sure.  The epilogue language has been written into the bill.  Anything underlined is new epilogue language.  That is where a lot of changes take place, and for education that is where we see things like the charter school transportation “slush” fund.  I am also including the Governor’s proposed budget, Senate Bill 175, to compare what Governor Markell put in there and what has changed since.

I went through the entire thing with a fine-tooth comb.  I wrote about the changes between the proposed budget and the current one below.  This is strictly for education.  But if you want to look in all departments the documents will have those.  Of note is the fact DEFAC found another $7.5 million earlier this week.  The state refinanced some bonds at lower costs based on interest rates.  But it was announced on Wednesday at the Joint Finance Committee those funds would not be going toward WEIC.  So where did the $6,000,000 allocated for WEIC in the Governor’s budget disappear to?  I just read the entire budget bill, word by word over the past two hours.  There is nothing with WEIC in there at all.

I did see that instead of being a line item, the $500,000 allocated to Autism legislation will come from the Tobacco Fund.  The charter school transportation “slush” fund is still in Section 342 (paging John Kowalko).

SEED Scholarship went down from $6,156,600 to $5,656,600 –$500,000

Student Assessment system went down from $6,051,100 to $5,916,500 –$134,600

Energy Costs for the DOE went down from $75,000 to $72,100 –$2,900

Charter School Performance fund taken out for $500,000

Technology Block grant went down from $3,500,000 to $2,500,000 -$1,000,000

Educational Sustainment Fund went down from $4,000,000 to $1,000,000 -$3,000,000

Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Program taken out for $1,000,000

Career Pathways taken out for $250,ooo

**Wilmington Education Improvement Commission taken out for $6,000,000**

Teacher Compensation Reform taken out for $1,000,000

Academic Excellence Block grant went down from $39,560,700 to $38,753,800 -806,900

Early Childhood Initiatives went down from $18,255,900 to $16,255,900 -$2,000,000

Education Block grants went down from $55,156,300 to $54,394,400 –$761,900

Special Needs Programs went down from $47,006,300 to $45,006,300, -$2,000,000

Total decrease for Department of Education from Governor’s proposed budget to current budget: -$16,956,300

 

DELAWARE SENATE BILL 285: THE BUDGET BILL

GOVERNOR MARKELL’S PROPOSED BUDGET FOR FY 2017

 

 

 

After-School SAIL Program Stuck In Harbor

The Delaware SAIL program, the legislation created by Valerie Longhurst is dead in the water, at least for this General Assembly.  As per the latest email from the Delaware House Democrats…

SAIL Program Put on Hold

With the state facing a multi-million-dollar budget shortfall requiring many difficult cuts, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst on Thursday announced she would put on hold her bill to create a new afterschool program providing homework help, enrichment activities and an extended school meal plan.

The program, dubbed the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning (SAIL) Program, was designed to help students become more effective learners and achieve better outcomes both in and outside their classrooms. However, House Bill 240 carried a $7 million price tag. Even with a drafted amendment to make it a pilot program and decrease the cost, Rep. Longhurst said Delaware’s budget crunch necessitated hard decisions.

“I am committed to creating a quality afterschool program that will keep kids engaged, boost attendance and enhance literacy, improving the likelihood that our students will stay in school and earn their diplomas,” said Rep. Longhurst, who sits on the board of directors for the Bear-Glasgow YMCA and Police Athletic League of Delaware.

“However, when I look at the full picture of our budget, I know we cannot afford it this year. It’s hard to ask for money for this program when we simply don’t have the funds for many basic state functions and have to make tough cuts across state government. This was a really difficult decision because I have seen firsthand the need to increase children’s access to quality afterschool programs.”

As part of the move to put a hold on HB 240, Rep. Longhurst also announced her intention to create a task force including afterschool stakeholders that would review afterschool programs in Delaware; how funds are spent; how to target children not currently being served; and how to best close those gaps.

Non-Transparent Delaware

The Associated Press did an article entitled “How open record laws are applied in state legislatures” on March 13th.  Delaware did not fare well in this report.  The AP sent Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to all fifty states asking for the public schedules for the state Governor and members of their legislatures for the week of February 1st to 7th of this year.  In Delaware, our General Assembly is exempt from FOIA requests.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who promoted “sunshine is the best disinfectant” regarding public transparency of Governmental records, seems to be having a very hard time with FOIA requests lately, between the FOIA request from his former State Treasurer Chip Flowers and the one he received from the AP for their article.  The article gave Markell’s response to the FOIA:

Delaware legislative leaders refused to provide their emails. The Legislature has specifically exempted emails of lawmakers and their staffs from the state’s Freedom of Information law, as well as any communications between lawmakers, or between lawmakers and their constituents. A bill to remove those exemptions was introduced earlier this month but has yet to be heard in committee. An attorney for the lawmakers also said many activities on their daily schedules are exempt from disclosure, asserting that exemptions allowed by statute or common law extend to the concept of “legislative privilege” based on the Delaware Constitution and common law. The attorney nevertheless released portions of the lawmakers’ schedules while asserting that doing so was not a concession that the information is subject to the FOI law. The activities mostly involved appearances at community meetings and charitable events. The deputy legal counsel for Democratic Gov. Jack Markell said the governor’s office is working diligently to respond to the AP’s request, but that more time is needed because review of the records requires legal advice. Markell’s office has previously denied formal records requests for his emails.

I guess I should count myself lucky for the FOIA I received from Markell’s office back in early 2014.  But the Chip Flowers FOIA denial is certainly interesting because Markell’s office used Exemption 16 to deny the FOIA request.  Exemption 16 is when a General Assembly member or the comptroller is part of an email chain.  I find it very ironic the Governor’s counsel would use that as a reason to decline a FOIA.  Especially since they seem to cherry-pick when they want to use this exemption.  In fact, the Governor’s office has actually shown legislators emails in earlier FOIA requests.  Something I recollected right away as I was reading the Chip Flowers petition from the Delaware Attorney General’s office.  I felt it was my civic obligation to let them know about this memory of mine.

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>

To: Gibbs Danielle (DOJ) <danielle.gibbs@state.de.us>

Cc: Denn Matthew (DOJ) <matthew.denn@state.de.us>

Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 10:04 AM

Subject: The Chip Flowers FOIA Legal Opinion

Good morning Danielle,

I read, with great interest yesterday, the FOIA petition from Chip Flowers.  I found it very interesting the Governor’s office would cite Exemption 16 for not releasing the information Chip Flowers requested. 

In December 2014, State Rep. John Kowalko received a FOIA from the Governor’s office regarding the priority schools in Wilmington.  He gave them to me to publish on my blog.  In several of the emails, General Assembly emails were used and not redacted, and in some of them they gave the actual email from State Reps. 

Here is the link to the FOIAs: 

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/the-priority-schools-foias-part-1-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-roof_o-delawarebats-netde-edude-delaware-edchat/

I find it very interesting the Governor’s office would cherry-pick who this information is released to.  There is absolutely no consistency and I would strongly question the use of this Exemption 16 when it is convenient.  Please feel free to use this information for any ongoing matters regarding Chip Flowers FOIA.  If you need any other clarification on this matter, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

With something that took up so much media interest, I would think the Delaware Attorney General’s office would respond, but so far I have yet to receive a response.  I can only surmise based on the behavior surrounding the Chip Flowers FOIA request and the fact the Governor would need legal advice for the AP FOIA request, the Governor is hiding things.  Could there be something in his daily schedule he doesn’t want people to know about?  Or in his emails?  Did they include his “Alan Jackson” email address?  I’ll be flat-out honest: I don’t trust Jack Markell.  At all.  He is dishonest and sneaky.  He seems to have the General Assembly under his thrall this legislative session.  They are suspending rules and passing bills in record time.  Just today, Governor Markell signed the Commitment to Innovation Act, otherwise known as Senate Bill 200, mere hours after it passed in the House of Representatives and 31 state representatives agreed to suspend the rules.  Including some who have gone on record as saying they never suspend the rules.  This tax-break bill, in conjunction with House Bill 235, are seen as great boons to companies in Delaware as the state faces potential deficits in their state budget.

I  have no doubt Markell will have instituted all of his education policies and agendas in Delaware by the time he leaves office next January.  Judging by the mad rush of legislation which will allow tech companies to swarm into Delaware with our generous tax breaks, Social Impact Bonds, Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education.  Kids will be earning their number of the beast data badges in the not-too-distant future.  Parents won’t be able to notice, because all of our little screen-time kids will be staying after school in the SAIL program.  And Jack’s buddy over at the Rodel Foundation, Paul Herdman… he actually uses LEGOs to lure unsuspecting parents and children into his personalized learning paradise.  If you think Kindergarten grit is bad, wait until you get a load of the money pouring into toddler grit.  Of course, we must determine what children are going to do when they are older before they even know how to tie their shoes.  But we call this Pathways To Prosperity.  We have Jamie Merisotis and the good folks at the Lumina Foundation to thank for all of this nonsense!  And if you think Delaware has issues with FOIA, wait until you hear more about WOIA!  Under the recently confirmed US DOE leadership of John King, these things are going on in just about every single state in the country.

The one thing our non-transparent Governor is good at is the art of distraction.  He gets us all riled up over charter schools, opt out, and teacher evaluations while he paves the road to hell for John Carney who doesn’t seem to have the good sense to come up with his own thoughts.  And in case we get too close to his overall plan, Jack throws things like the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission vs. State Board of Education battle in our faces but there are questions about the legality of that secret meeting.  Hard to tell since no one aside from Tony Allen has responded about that one.  Tony made it very clear to me the whole thing was the Governor’s idea.

This is Delaware.  A state filled with sinister plotting and backroom deals.  Legislators who get the “Jack call” and make miracles happen before our very eyes while telling us it’s all about the DuPont/Dow merger.  Markell is the master of spin.  He can turn crap into gold!  And the state legislators, DOE employees, State Board of Education members, and business leaders watch in amazement as they hold onto their illusions of power and wealth.  We call these people “stakeholders”.  But guess what doesn’t change?  Bullying, teacher dissatisfaction, high-stakes testing, a severe lack of funding and resources for our schools, and more segregation and discrimination for every single at-risk student than you can even fathom.  All under the guise of student success.  The stuff going on behind the scenes?  We will never get that cold, hard, tangible proof to bust these children destroyers.  They write the laws to protect themselves and the citizens of Delaware pay for it.  And we keep electing so many of them!  We are a state that is immune to true and radical change.  We act as if holding onto a political party’s belief is what we must do.  I hate to tell you Delaware, but greed is bi-partisan.  The love we need to have for our children, our unconditional love, that should be enough to make the necessary changes.  But we aren’t doing it.  We are holding onto the dreams of yesterday and think it really matters who becomes the next President or Governor.  We get sucked into the 24 hour news cycle about Trump, Clinton and Sanders while the distracters spin their webs and suck us in.  It doesn’t matter who wins the Presidency because corporate America bought our government while we blinked.  Our kids don’t have a chance.

Kavips, Where Are You? We Need You!

Kavips, you need to come back.  I haven’t seen anything on your blog since January 5th.  We had a major legislative battle with House Bill 50.  While the bill is still in limbo, aka Pete Schwartzkopf’s desk drawer, we need a rally.  I truly don’t think the House Republicans hail Mary bills are going to do anything except waste oxygen.  Once I discovered opt-out, your blog was the first place I found.  With all the Smarter Balanced Assessment questions and all the brilliant posts about why the test sucks so bad.  I don’t know if you are chilling for the winter, or up to other stuff, but your presence is needed!  You need to come back and help make sense out of all this as well as a way forward!  This year is crucial in education.  The reformers are getting their dream lists ready and going to town on them.  And they are happening.  I’m going to come right out and say I need your perspective on all this.  It isn’t just Common Core and SBAC, it’s everything: after-school community centers, the 5Essentials Survey, data going out of our schools like crazy, WEIC, priority schools 2.0, charter audit bills, etc.  We need your take on all this.  Rodel is going full-steam ahead with their copy and paste job of the DOE website into one big look at Delaware schools.  The charter bias is unreal.

COME BACK KAVIPS!!!!

Governor Markell Shuts Parents Out Again! SAIL Afterschool Program Has Dangerous Red Flags! Beware!

I just don’t get it.  What is it with this Governor and parents?  House Bill 240, the legislation behind the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning (SAIL) Program was officially released today.  I have several issues with this legislation.  Before I get into that though, I do believe afterschool programs for kids are extremely helpful if done right and in moderation.  But I have grave reservations with this program due to data release, the use of non-profits in this, and the amount of time kids are away from their homes.  I agree that activities students can get involved in after school are very dangerous, especially in our cities.  But this bill seems like it is very rushed.  It is already on the Delaware House Education Committee meeting tomorrow.

First off, as per the below legislation, the whole purpose of this is so students can “meet challenging State academic standards“.  As part of this program, a new council would be developed called The Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Council.  Sure, you would want to have some type of organization for a program like this.  Surely parents would be a part of this, right?  Wrong!  There are NO slots for parents on this council.  But it will have three members of non-profit organizations.  No Delaware PTA representation, no teachers, no special education teachers, no charter school representation, no health providers, no psychologists or psychiatrists, and NO PARENTS!  They want Delaware students and schools that “meet the approved state indication for low socioeconomic status” to be eligible for the SAIL program, but they don’t want ANY parents on this council?  They expect to have children staying afterschool for four to five days a week for three hours and they don’t want parent input?

Since this looks like it will be partly run by non-profits, the idea of a “data share” between teachers and the afterschool coordinators that are NOT employees of the state or the schools is frightening in my opinion.  “A computer based student information system” will be implemented with what?  What safeguards are in place to prevent student data from getting out there more than what it already has?

As a “means to measure the program“, school attendance and grades and at least one (but it can be all) of these factors shall be used: behavior evaluation through school discipline reports, surveys of teachers, standardized test scores, criminal justice records, physical health evaluations, student and parent surveys, class participation, course completion, homework completion, and afterschool program attendance.  That is a huge amount of data that would be put into outside hands, away from the school district and local control.

It seems like Delaware and the feds want children from low socioeconomic backgrounds to essentially became wards of the state for the vast majority of their academic lives.  And the potential data sharing has red flags all over it.  I could easily see Rodel becoming involved in this initiative.  I would NOT want my child’s health or behavioral or any type of information going to them, period.  And who decides who gets the program and who doesn’t?  The Delaware Department of Education.  I cannot support this bill as written.  I’m sure more will come out about it, and I would hope to God our legislators have the good sense to ask all the questions I have and more.

According to the Every Student Succeeds Act, these “21st Century Community Learning Centers” will require 95% of the grant funds will go to the Local Education Authority (districts or charter schools), only 1% can be used for administrative purposes, and the rest can be used for state activities.  If this law is already indicating non-profits must be used, isn’t that already stripping the local school districts of any control over how the program is created?  Yes, there are three Superintendents on the SAIL Council, the DSEA President, and the Secretary of Education (or his designated representative), but that is an extremely small amount of representation for programs that have 95% of the funds going to the districts or charters.  And sorry, I don’t trust the DOE or their ability to disperse these funds with fidelity and honesty.

According to this release  from the National Council of State Legislatures, activities for these programs can include “music and the arts as tools to support student success through the promotion of constructive student engagement, problem solving, and conflict resolution.”  I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that was the purpose of students learning music and art.  I thought it was so they could expand their creativity.  Who writes these things?  It doesn’t sound like anyone who is around children and teenagers too much.  This guidance also states “mental health services” could be used at the learning centers.  The potential for abuse and manipulation in that arena is too frightening for words…

Schools are not parents.  They will never replace parents.  I recognize that students in poverty and neglect suffer immensely without proper parental supports, but this solution is very radical and very dangerous.  Valerie Longhurst may have put this bill together, but this legislation is just a small part of the corporate education reform movement that is taking students away from parental control more and more every single day.  Our children are OUR children, and they don’t belong to you.  I would really like it if they get their grubby hands out of our children’s minds and schools.

To read the full legislation, please read below: