Are Red Clay’s Administrative Costs Out Of Control?

A gentleman by the name of Jack Wells, a frequent commenter on Kilroy’s Delaware, has been hammering at Red Clay Consolidated School District for years over their administrative costs.  He makes my charter school financial stuff look weak in comparison!  I tend to focus on the Department of Education’s finances, but one of the major complaints I hear in Delaware is how administrative costs are out of control.  Every school district and charter school in Delaware should have a Jack Wells looking out for these types of things.

What has Mr. Wells upset right now?  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan.  More specifically, the clause indicating the Red Clay board may raise taxes without a referendum…

 

  1. Chart 1 shows total state, federal and local funds received by the district during the period 2006/07 through 2013/14 as reported by our State’s Department of Education.  {Excludes 2 special schools.}
  2. Chart 2 shows the same information for the period 2006/07 through 2015/16, figures for 2015/16 were taken from the districts 2015/16 Budget. {DDOE has not published revenue information since 2013-2014.}

 

%                                                   %

State        Total          Fed             Local        Total       Total

116,745,319  54.82    14,604,025   81,607,040   38.32  212,956,384  2013/14

113,643,134  62.06    11,867,910   57,580,215   31.44  183,091,259  2006/07

3,102,185  10.38      2,736,115   24,026,825   80.45    29,865,125  Total Increase

 

119,089,298   53.44   11,747,926   92,107,040   41.33  222,844,264  2015/16

113,643,134   62.06   11,867,910   57,580,215   31.44  183,091,259  2006/07

5,446,164   13.70  {-} 219,984   34,526,825   86.85    39,753,005  Total Increase

 

These charts show that in 2006-2007 the state provided 62.06% of the revenue and the property owners provided 31.44%, eight years later the state was providing only 53.44 percent, property owners 41.33%, and the districts delinquent school taxes had skyrocketed. During this period the state cut funding to our schools while continuing to fund overhead in our districts and DDOE. The fact are clear, funding overhead is a priority over funding our schools.

In 2014 after property owners provided the district an additional $24,026,825, that represented 80.45 percent of the total increase in revenue.  The Board than told community, if you do not approve increasing your current operating tax rate by 19.97 percent, we will have to terminate teachers, paraprofessionals, activities, etc.,  To prevent these cuts, the community approved increasing the tax rate, than the board voted to deny property owners the right to vote to raise the tax rate.

Chart two includes the additional $10.5 million received this year as a result of the rate increase, since the increased tax rate will be phrased in over 3 years, local revenue with continue to increase. Since the referendum was approved, the district built a new 600 student K-5 school, regular and special enrollment student declined, regular units decreased while special education Div. I Units increased. {Chart below shows changes in enrollment and units.}

Regular      Units   Special  Units

Enrollment  Earned  Needs  Earned

14,364        777       2175      309     2014

13,925        752       2169      321     2016

{-}439   {-}  25     {-}  6        12

When property owners provide 86.85 % of the total increase in revenue, and the Board still has insufficient revenue to provide funding for ELL and low income children, the board has a major problem.  Rather than doing a review on how and where funds were being used by program, and than allocating funding by priority, the WEIC, the board and the boards Community Financial Review Committee recommended doing away with referendums and authorizing the board to raise taxes.  NOW THAT IS A SLAP IN THE FACE TO THE PROPERTY OWNERS, SHOCKING.

I strongly oppose providing the Red Clay School Board authority to raised local taxes without a referendum and wonder why after the property owners provided 86.85% of all the additional revenue, they determined it was necessary to do away with referendums. NOW THAT IS VERY TROUBLING. 

Jack Wells

As a taxpayer, I would find this very troubling.  Charter school and DOE finances are tough enough to figure out, but Mr. Wells brings up many valid points concerning district funds and spending.  I know Christina had to make a lot of sacrifices when their referendums didn’t pass last year.  Teachers lost jobs or were sent to other schools.  Some board members even turned in their district-paid cell phones last summer.  But I also know there are several districts with folks making over $100,000 across the state.  If the Every Student Succeeds Act actually does give more state and local control and less fed mandates, does this mean there would no longer be a need for so much district administration?  Or would it actually increase?  Dare I actually crack the yolk of district funding?  I think Brian Stephan from Delaware Liberal (who is on the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee in the Christina School District) and Jack Wells should hold a forum on district spending!

I plan on sharing a lot of Mr. Well’s material (with his permission) since it is so brilliant!  What do you think?  I would love to hear from some district admins, especially in Red Clay, about their side of this.  It is a conversation that is not going to go away.  One big takeaway I have from all this is that Jack Markell can talk education all he wants, but in his administration, the percentage of funding to education has actually gone down percentage-wise.  Jack Markell likes to talk big, but he leaves it up to the districts and yes, even the charters, to carry more of the financial burden for his (not-so) moments of brilliance.

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Exceptional Winterfest Weekend: No Holds Barred Education Forum!!!!

Blizzard2016

Since the snowmageddon is upon us, I thought this might be a good time to hold the very first Exceptional Winterfest Weekend.  This event will be going on ALL weekend long during the Blizzard of 2016.  Below are the links to discuss education issues.  I want ALL sides of the issues to feel welcome and this will be no holds barred.  I encourage everyone to log in as their real name.  I would avoid personal attacks for all.  I would comment on this thread now to avoid your account going into moderation.  If my power goes out, I won’t be able to moderate comments and release them if you are a first-time user.  I would ask that if you are an elected official to send comments through your state email address to avoid any potential impersonations of elected officials.

I would love to see Governor Markell, Paul Herdman, Earl Jaques, David Sokola, Kendall Massett, Donna Johnson, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Chris Ruszkwoski, and Dr. Steven Godowsky come on over and comment.  If any of you have the means to contact them, please invite them to this one of a kind chance to really get to the heart of the issues.

My hope is that by the end of this weekend, if this experiment doesn’t fail miserably, that maybe we can reach consensus on some of these issues in Delaware education.  We are not going to agree on everything, but maybe we can understand the different sides and have more respect for each other’s opinions when all is said and done.  There is no better time than a blizzard to do this, as most of us will be in our homes with our loved ones.

These are the topics, all of which will be under the title of this blog:

Bullying

Charter Schools

Common Core

Corporate Education Reform

Delaware DOE/State Board of Education

Delaware Teachers

Early Childhood Education/Kindergarten

Legislation in Education/General Assembly

Low-Income/Poverty Needs

Parents In Education

Personalized Learning

School Funding

Smarter Balanced Assessment/Opt-Out

Special Education

Traditional School Districts

Wilmington Education

All comments are now turned on.  I apologize.  I didn’t realize these “pages” on my blog had to be individually turned on.  Thank you for your patience!

 

 

New Year’s Goals From 37 Of The First State’s Finest On Delaware Education

I’m going to kick back today and shut up on here.  After the last 365 days of yapping (487 consecutive days if we want to be technical), I figure it is time to give others a shot!  I reached out to a host of Delaware citizens for their 2016 New Years Goals for Delaware education.  The response was amazing!  You will see teachers, parents, Superintendents, State Reps, Senators, Republicans, Democrats, PTA, DSEA members, school board members, advocates, an attorney, a charter school leader, and more!  Unfortunately, Governor Markell, Rodel’s Paul Herdman, and several DOE employees did not respond.  I can only wonder why…  But there are a few in here I have taken potshots at before and I appreciate their seeing beyond that and responding.  I actually told Jack this would have no opinions or comments from me based on what people write.  I was actually hoping he would respond…

I would ask that folks don’t go nuts in the comments.  These were all well-thought out goals by all involved and I think there are some very recurring themes throughout.  I highly recommend every member of the Delaware General Assembly reads this.  It is a very good barometer of the education environment in Delaware these days.

If anyone wants to email me their own goals for Delaware education, feel free to email me at kevino3670@yahoo.com and I will be more than happy to keep this going.  This includes any who missed this the first time around, even Jack and Paul!

2016 New Years Goals:

Josiah Andrews, Wilmington Resident and Grandfather to Delaware Students:

  1. Make all charter school board members be residents of the State of Delaware. If you’re going to regulate tax dollars, they you’d damn well better have a vested interest as a tax payer in our state.
  2. Unionize charter school teachers so they are not constantly in fear of losing their jobs. Allow them to TEACH and FOCUS on the children, not be in a constant state of fear that they may become unemployed in a minute’s notice.
  3. Allow parents and teachers the ability to OPT OUT. Parents should not be forced to have their children stress out over these ridiculous Smarter Balanced Tests, and teachers should be permitted to TEACH a curriculum, not teach to a test.   I grew up learning how to actually read and write.  I also learned common sense math, rather than the nonsensical common core math.

Adriana Bohm, Red Clay Board of Education Member:

  1. I would like the DOE to implement a weighted funding formula which addresses poverty and institutionalized racism.
  2. I would like the educational system to stop disciplining students of color and those with special needs and IEPs/504s in a harsh, biased, and discriminatory manner.
  3. I would like the state to “deconcentrate” poverty in our schools.

Jennifer Cinelli, Milford School District Parent:

  1. Statewide Delaware Autism Program (DAP) assistance programming for all districts.  This would include respite, in home services, summer programming, etc. for all children in need.
  2. Funding for schools pushed down to the County level including a requirement that the counties be current on property assessments which would increase funding exponentially in Kent and Sussex Counties.
  3. Increase in statewide technology for all students.  I can’t understand the fact that Amazon is in our state but all the school kids don’t have Kindles instead of textbooks.  If we want our children to be competitive worldwide, we need to give them the tools.

Dr. Merv Daugherty, Superintendent of Red Clay Consolidated School District:

  1. Appropriate funding allocations for students of poverty and English Language Learners (ELL), Opportunity to support students and families.
  2. Increase Collaboration, especially in the areas of parent involvement and effective community partnerships.
  3. Increase Support for Pre-K programs, opportunity to work with students (age 4) to prepare them for their elementary experience.

Nelia Dolan, Indian River School District Parent:

  1. I would like to see our legislature consider the financial and spiritual harm that many of the policies they instituted over the last 20 years have inflicted on district schools, their students and their teachers. It is time to start supporting our district schools that accept all students, to stop punishing schools that house the highest percentages of at risk students, and rewarding those schools that manage to keep those children out.
  2. I would like to see the SBA thrown out. Having a test to measure individual student growth that is 9+ hours is ridiculous, and in the case of our younger students is abusive. We need the return of a test that can be reasonably given to all students, that is equal in length to a subject test that can be taken in a single period (50 minutes or less), and that can be used to inform instruction.
  3. I would like to hear serious discussion about making available quality preschool and summer enrichment for all of our low income and at risk students. The first place to look for money should be in our DOE. If the enormous amounts of money the DOE has spent on data, consultants, testing, surveys, salaries, etc., over the last few years had been spent on preschool for low income children in Wilmington, real progress could have been made.

Natalie Ganc, Caesar Rodney School District Special Education Teacher:

  1. Kim Williams funding bill for special education students in K-3. Being back to teaching in 3rd grade has been a real eye opener in this department. There are so many kids who aren’t being identified due to cell numbers and funding, it’s ridiculous.
  2. Delaware stops focusing on testing students, which ultimately would stop everything being ranked and tied to student test scores. I would like to just be able to do my job and spend time teaching students the skills they will need to survive in life. With test scores being tied to my school’s performance (even though they haven’t been tied to mine for going on 2 years), I end up having to spend an inordinate amount of time teaching test-taking skills to students who can barely read or perform basic mathematical operations.
  3. Get rid of Common Core standards and go back to the Delaware Standards that we already had. They were much more developmentally appropriate.  Rushing advanced concepts before a child’s brain is developed enough in that area to process them is very damaging.  I have students who feel like they are failures, because they can’t grasp the 5th grade concepts that they are now forced to learn.  If there are talented and gifted students, then they could work on the higher concepts, but trying to force them on everyone, especially my ELL and SPED students, before they are ready, is creating a culture where everyone feels inadequate. In fact, if you look at my 3 goals for Delaware Education Reform for 2016…  I’m afraid if there aren’t changes made in those areas, then we are just preparing more children to drop out of school.

Lorrie Gloede, Delaware Citizen:

Guess it could be entitled “Impossible Dream”.  I would like to see Delaware educators be free to teach, using their creativity and curriculum and standards planned by them (the way it used to be).  Student assessments would be done by teachers; teacher assessments would be done by the principals and assistant principals; principal assessments would be done by the superintendents.  This “old-fashioned” concept would involve separating ourselves from federal government mandates, federal bribes, corporate involvement; and paying our education taxes to the state and local districts, resulting in more local control.  I believe problems are more easily fixed when we are closer to them.

Karen Gritton, 9/12 Patriots:

  1. Parental oversight of the Delaware DOE to force transparency and get information out. FOIAs aren’t being responded to.
  2. Parental oversight of data collection by schools.
  3. Reversal of funding for Common Core and Smarter Balanced.

Eric Gustafson, Christina School District Teacher:

  1. Cancel SBAC
  2. Funding of charter schools unlined to traditional public schools, imitate vo-tech funding.
  3. Funding of traditional public schools addressed in the Era of Choice, do away with referendums.
  4. Wilmington education scene needs conclusive action. I favor Christina School District being removed from Wilmington.
  5. Reshaping the power of the Delaware Department of Education.

Terri Hodges, President of Delaware PTA:

  1. Establishment of a committee, under the direction of the Attorney General’s office to continue assessing progress and/or areas of improvement with the compliance of anti-bullying policies and reporting of incidents at the local level. As a caveat to this, I would like to see strong and clear language with regards to the rights of victims & their families.
  2. Real meaningful inclusion of parents, teachers, and other stakeholders in addressing components of the Every Student Succeeds Act in the form of legislative initiatives that will give more local control particularly over assessments and accountability. This includes replacing SBAC with a more reliable and valid assessment.
  3. Implementation of the recommendations from the Enrollment Preference Task Force.
  4. I would like to see the passage of House Bill 186.

Dr. Mark Holodick, Superintendent of Brandywine School District:

  1. Double down on early childhood programming and supports, ensuring that ALL children have access to quality early learning opportunities that ultimately lead to ALL children reading fluently and with comprehension by grade 3.
  2. We implement a weighted student funding formula that recognizes and addresses children living in poverty and English Language Learners.
  3. With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, districts refocus on the importance of Emotional Health and the Arts in education. Both are critical in the development of the whole child and deserve greater emphasis and resources within education.

State Rep. Earl Jaques, 27th District:

  1. Have audit procedures the same for every school district.
  2. Provide funding for children with disabilities in K-3.
  3. Pass redistricting for Wilmington.
  4. Eliminating test scores as part of Component 5 (in DPAS-II Teacher Evaluation System).
  5. Increase school funding for children of low-income families.

Yvonne Johnson, Vice-President Delaware PTA Advocacy Committee:

  1. Abandonment of The SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment: I wish there would not be a need for a state assessment. I wish that the Federal Government had a better way to measure how students are learning.  Children are not a one size fits all and when we use high stakes testing to determine everything about children and their proficiency, we are not recognizing that not all children develop on the same path. I have always been against high stakes testing, however, SBAC is probably the poorest assessment Delaware has ever used. Why? Because it does not inform instruction for teachers, it does not measure growth from fall to spring, it says that all students should master standards at a particular grade level, and the results land in the parents and educators hands when the student has already moved onto the next grade. My wish is to replace SBAC with a developmentally appropriate growth model assessment.
  2. Parent Engagement: Many school districts think they actually have 100% parent engagement in their schools. Why? Because they check the box off. If a school has a pizza party paid for by Title I funds and only 10 parents show up, the school feels that is parent engagement. I think that no matter how parents show up, it is a win, however, we need to look at parent engagement differently. We need to take the engagement to the families. We need to train parents on what true parent engagement is. Sure, volunteering is essential to support a school, however, parent engagement looks very different to different folks. I wish that we could actually have mandatory parent engagement seminars and activities in each school to show parents that it is not just about volunteering in the building but also about reading to your child, assisting them with their homework, and working with their child’s teacher to ensure that their children are learning while in school and receiving all the resources and services that are mandated. Parents must be their own child’s advocate but not all parents know how to do this. So my wish is that all parents would and should learn to be their own child’s champion.
  3. Weighted Funded for at risk students: In theory WEIC is a tremendous idea. It’s main goal is to ensure that the students in the poorest neighborhoods (at risk students and low-income students) get the best education possible. Delaware DOE has failed this population enormously. These students need more resources from the school system because they may not be getting it at home or in the community. There are so many recommendations for this to work however, if nothing else actually materializes, I wish that our schools can go to weighted funding. This would put the students at risk receiving the resources they most desperately need. These students should get more funding then perhaps their suburban counterparts because many of the students that are not at risk have other advantages to enhance and strengthen their education. My wish is that the state moves to weighted funded formula system and gets rid of unit counts.

Jackie Kook, Vice-President Christina Education Association and Christina Teacher:

  1. A method of monitoring student progress in classes based on the professional judgment of the educator. That could look like proficient scores on an agreed-upon test or a comprehensive, standardized portfolio system or anything in-between, but it should be personalized to the student and integral to the work of the class (i.e., not a standalone test with no relevance to the coursework.
  2. A well-rounded evaluation system for schools. This should include not only academic things but also access to extra-curricular activities, diverse arrays of elective/expressive courses, and respected staff that offers support to all learners on an individual basis.
  3. I’d like to see Dr. Dan Shelton rumored to be next Secretary of Education 😉 But seriously, the third thing I’d like to see is a rescinding of educational laws that make no sense, or that are holdovers from a prior federal educational policy maker. It would be great to take it all back to square one and come up with a new holistic plan instead of piecing it together a little at a time.

State Rep. John Kowalko, 25th District:

  1. Restore the cuts to public education that Governor Markell imposed in 2008-2009 which would enable smaller classroom ratios and a return of the “Minner” reading specialists among other things that have been taken away from the “educators” toolbox.
  2. Cancel all Race To The Top initiatives that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned off into the pockets of the corporate speculators. Stop asking for taxpayer money to continue this public education death spiral that will break our budget while ensuring failure for our teachers and students.
  3. An override of the Governor’s poorly considered veto of House Bill 50 with a legitimate consideration of dismantling the “Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium” commitment by Delaware.
  4. Making the State Board of Education an elected body.
  5. Cutting the ever-burgeoning bureaucracy that is the Department of Education, and electing a Governor who will insist that entities such as the State Board of Education and DOE serve the will and interest of the communities and families.

Matt Lindell, President of Capital Board of Education and Cape Henlopen Teacher:

  1. I would like to see Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 overridden by the legislature.
  2. I would like to see someone at DOE or the state admit that rating schools based on tests is a waste of time as it wastes money on something that we already know, which is socio-economic plays a role in successful and so-called struggling schools.  Fix the source of the problem; you fix the schools.
  3. I would like to see a State Board of Education that is a rubber stamp for DOE policy. They do not have to agree with my views 100% of the time; however, it would be nice to see some independent thought out of them on a consistent basis.

Mike Matthews, President of the Red Clay Education Association:

The time is now for the General Assembly and our Governor to act FOR the students in our neediest schools. Will they choose test scores or adequate supports and resources for our students? There are two big things coming down the pike this year: The House and Senate must immediately vote to override the Governor’s veto of HB 50, the parent opt-out bill. And even if they don’t pass the recommendations made by the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, then the Legislature must begin a full-scale review of our schools’ funding system to get more resources to our neediest schools. Which side will the Legislature and our Governor be on?

Greg Mazzotta:

  1. Delaware (state-level) Quality Program R & R – Refreshed and Realized – deployed by the six sections: Manufacturing, Small/Service Business, Non-Profit/Government, Health Care, and Education.
  2. Establish a Baldridge-in-Residence Leadership Program to support the state-level Quality Program regardless if Delaware has its own or is affiliated with that of another state. Currently, the fiduciary is the Missouri Foundation for Excellence and has been since 2012. With leadership changes in MD, NJ, and VA, it’s unclear who will be partnering with whom.
  3. That my work at DSU continues to show promising results in continuous improvement and that other Higher Ed organizations will take note.

Harrie Ellen Minnehan, President of Christina Board of Education:

  1. An end to all but end of the year annual tests and I’d only do them in Grades 3, 5, and 10.
  2. An end to administrative walk-throughs in classrooms. Nonsense, utter nonsense. All that is created is stress on both teachers and kids.
  3. Bring back REAL Kindergarten. Kindergarten kids do NOT NEED TO LEARN TO READ. Some do teach themselves but the typical Kindergarten child is not ready socially or intellectually to be reading. They need to learn to play, to get along with other kids, and to be part of a classroom group.

Sabine Neal, Smyrna School District Parent:

  1. A checks and balance system for IEP process.
  2. Schools to actually face accountability.
  3. For ALL children to receive a quality education.

Lauren O’Connell-Mahler, Attorney for McAndrew’s Law Firm:

  1. Improved collaboration between the state agencies that serve students with disabilities.
  2. Improved supports and services within our schools for students with emotional/behavioral/mental health needs.
  3. Increased focus on educating the whole student, not just boosting report card grades or state test scores, but also developing the other skills that our children need to be ready for life after graduation (e.g., social skills, vocational skills, adaptive skills, behavioral skills, organizational skills, etc.)

Liz Paige, Christina Board of Education Member:

  1. Christina School District moving forward with a permanent Superintendent and strong district leadership.
  2. An elected State Board of Education.
  3. Debates about education to be focused on what is best for students and not grown-ups.

Senator Brian Pettyjohn, 19th District:

  1. I’d like the relationship between the state DOE and stakeholders rebuilt. The animosity between the DOE and just about every group is apparent.
  2. Testing has to be manageable, reasonable, and reflect what we are expecting of our children when they are promoted or graduate. And those expectations have to be grounded in reality and aligned with what employers or colleges are expecting from the final product of our K-12 system.
  3. The funding model for education has to be fixed. It’s an outdated model that does not work efficiently and effectively in the 21st Century.

Lisa Radke, Appoquimink School District and First State Military Academy Parent:

  1. Override the veto on House Bill 50 and more strength in numbers with the opt-out movement in Delaware.
  2. New blood on our school boards if possible.
  3. Be rid of Smarter Balanced and Common Core.

State Rep. Mike Ramone, 21st District:

  1. Establish a unified rolling reassessment of real estate in Delaware in which each property would be grandfathered at their current assessment value and property tax rate until they sell their property at which time the “State Wide Current Market Value” is established and a new State wide property tax rate would then apply. Result: Immediately more income to fund our educational system in a fair equatable way State wide without the cost and time consumed to reassess property values throughout the State.
  2. Consolidation of our school districts into 5 Districts. Sussex, Kent, Southern New Castle, Northern New Castle and Vocational. Result: Reduction in administrative costs, allowing more monies to flow into the classrooms, and a more unified, streamlined educational environment for teachers, students and communities.
  3. Develop a statewide commitment to unified campuses with direct feeders from Elementary to Middle to High schools. Result: Consistency in transition from school to school. Teachers, Students and Administration would be more familiar with families and communities and would be better equipped to address the needs of those entities.

Three big steps but all needed to make Delaware School the Best once again. I am sure my thoughts may stray from my colleagues but they are all designed to help create a consistent environment which supports learning, allowing our teachers to help fill every child’s “cup” to the top regardless of how large or small that cup is. This results in children graduating from high school with the skills and knowledge to contribute to society in a valued and respected way. What more could we ask for?

Kenny Rivera, President of Red Clay Board of Education, Vice-Chair of Wilmington Education Improvement Commission:

  1. Support for Wilmington Education Improvement Commission recommendations (especially the current sustainable and weighted funding recommendations).
  2. Passage of the Enrollment Preference Task Force recommendations to come.
  3. More public education friendly legislators/Governor to be elected and/or stand strong.
  4. Opt Out Override.
  5. Less Testing and change the poor usage of that data to label students, schools, and teachers.
  6. Smarter Balanced replaced by SATs in high school.
  7. Kim Williams’ audit charter bill (House Bill 186).
  8. Expansion of Pre-K for at-risk children.

Ashley Sabo, Delaware PTA Advocacy Committee, Red Clay Inclusion Committee:

  1. More transparency from leaders- school boards, legislators, superintendents, state officials, ALL those in leadership positions.
  2. Return the focus of education to the children and their true needs, not the needs and desires of corporations pushing agendas and big ideas to earn a dollar at the expense of our kids- after all, these kids, our kids are our future- so fewer assessments, standards-based education, Common Core, etc.
  3. More social skills learning and active learning for our little kids in preschool and Kindergarten. They need more time to explore and hands on learning to allow their brains to grow and expand. Not more worksheets.

Dr. Dan Shelton, Superintendent of Capital School District:

  1. All High School graduates college ready and if they choose, prepared to begin the career of their choice.
  2. Full funding of the education budget.
  3. Full funding for initiatives that are places on schools by legislature (future and past).

State Rep. Byron Short, 7th District:

My key concerns regarding education are mostly related to policy leaders understanding the roll of poverty in our educational system. I think few of us really understand how desperate the lives of some of our students really are.  I would like to see schools in high poverty areas almost become community resource centers with social workers helping the whole family connect to available services.  We need strong wrap-around services.  Increased mental health services to address PTSD.  My daughter is at University of Delaware studying to become a teacher.  She is learning best teaching practices but so much of what is required of teachers to be successful are unmet needs outside of the classroom.  I am confident we can be successful but we have to take the real education challenges head-on and that means addressing the life challenges of economically disadvantaged students.

Brian Stephan, Christina School District Citizens Budget Oversight Committee:

  1. Sustainable traditional public school funding formula developed.
  2. Fund Charters via line item on State budget.
  3. House Bill 50 Veto Override.

Senator Bryan Townsend, 11th District:

  1. More funding/services for high poverty schools.
  2. Doing away with predominance of student testing in teacher evaluations.
  3. Reforms to enhance educator compensation.

Leroy Travers, Principal of Campus Community School:

I can basically answer your question with one statement that would encompass all three (and many more) things that I would like to see. That is that I would like to see more attention and emphasis, state and system wide, placed on the needs of students, all students!  That alone would solve many, many problems.

Niki Vella, Red Clay Consolidated School District Parent:

  1. Students with special needs and disabilities not labeled as students with behavior issues. For instance, a student who comes from a home of neglect or abuse and acts out, is NOT the same as a student with disabilities or special needs. Our Governor, Secretary of Education, and Delaware’s education system has failed to recognize this. If they bothered to it just might change things with our diverse students coming into the schools from neglected households in the city. This is not fair to them also. Also there would be less money for charter schools that don’t work who are draining the public school systems funds.
  2. Common Core and State Testing ABOLISHED! With this system our children and teachers strengths are being discounted. This is an ugly system that only benefits our money-hungry stingy government in Delaware and is NOT helping our children and their education in ANY way. It is a test and education plan to make our politicians discount our children’s education. Our special needs and disabled students should be exempt from this test because it is NOT the right way to measure their learning and intelligence.
  3. We need more public schools opening in the next few years. The size of our classrooms is WAY too large. Our teachers cannot keep up with the amount of kids in each class. It would be nice if they did what Jeb Bush did three years ago and passed a referendum that limited 25 kids per class and opened MORE schools per city. Our schools in DE are not evened out enough and there are limited schools in each of our cities. I blame this on the State Testing excuse and bad useless Charter Schools opening up and closing. This is causing the well to run dry! We need to re-open public schools and stop using the discrimination card. Diversity is a wonderful thing and as a parent I believe in it for my son, but these poor kids with behavioral issues caused by bad parenting coming in from the city cannot be expected to flourish in a class of 50 kids.  This is no way fair to those kids or any kids in the public school system. This is hurting ALL of our kids and the wonderful teachers in this state. This is a cry for help!

State Rep. Kim Williams,19th District:

  1. Kindergarten classrooms bring back their play stations, let children explore and use their imagination once again, instead of focusing on their performance on a test they will have to take in three years.
  2. House Bill 186- charter audit bill passes the Senate and is signed by the Governor.
  3. Weighted Funding for K-3 Basic Special Education and Students of Poverty
  4. Eliminate most enrollment preferences in our schools.
  5. No more labels being placed on our schools.
  6. No more teaching to a test, eliminate Smarter Balanced.

State Rep. Lyndon Yearick, 34th District:

  1. A reform to the unit count funding system. Let’s provide more discretion and flexibility for schools.
  2. Classify all education employees as essential and non-essential. For example, an essential employee is the teacher, paraprofessional, custodian, etc.- the individuals as close to the student as possible. Let’s build our schools from the classroom/student up.
  3. Standardize designs for new schools and construction.

The Draft Plan For Wilmington Redistricting Presented To State Board Of Education Yesterday

As this document put on a public website clearly says,

DRAFT: November 3, 2015, not reviewed in full or approved by Redistricting Committee or the Commission, not for dissemination or distribution

I will note, one more time, this is a draft, not approved yet.  I always have to crack up when I see things put on public websites that say “embargoed” or “not for distribution”.  The very act of putting it on a public website means it is now “out there” on the internet for anyone to see.  Granted, I don’t know how many dive into the agenda for a State Board of Education retreat, but I digress…

Here it is, but don’t stop reading after you finish that one, cause there is more

And once again, we have the same disclaimer on the appendices, which includes Red Clay and Christina’s plans with all of this and tons of funding resources.  The last few sections are blank because they have not happened yet.  Consider this a peak into the future taking place now sort of thing.  A paradox or will we see the same thing brought forward before the State Board of Education on 11/19?

So what is your take?  Will the State Board approve this as it is written now?  Would the General Assembly approve this?  If you had a vote, would you?

How Does The Rest Of Delaware Feel About Higher Property Assessments To Fund Our Schools?

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is proposing a plan for funding of the redistricting effort currently in the planning stages.  WEIC wants the state to look at increasing property assessments to raise more funding for our schools.  How do you feel about this?  With Wilmington schools as a test for a weighted formula funding, which would start there first, will Kent and Sussex counties support this without more funding going to their own schools?  WEIC does not have any true stakeholder input from Kent or Sussex right now.  I urge every Delaware citizen to read the below document and let WEIC know how you feel about this, as well as your state legislators.  Because if the State Board of Education passes this plan, it will go to the 148th General Assembly for a vote.

Delaware Education Legislation That Should Have Passed In The 148th General Assembly

I wrote earlier today about education legislation that passed the other day and went to Governor Markell for signature, veto, or no action.  To date, Governor Markell has never vetoed any education bill that has come before him.  But some legislation never gets there.  The following are bills that had tremendous merit, but for various reasons either never got heard in committee, were never voted on, never went to the other side (House or Senate), or were stricken.  Others are bills I’m going to label as very controversial and have danger flags all over them.  I’m not going to list them all, but the most important ones.

House Bill #28 Status: House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: Absent an agreement with the school district, charter schools are currently able to retain any funding received for the fiscal year for a student who transfers mid-year from the charter school to a school district. This bill mandates that, if a student transfers from a charter school to a school district after September 30th, such funds will be prorated between the charter school and the school district where the student is then enrolled.  

What Happened: This is the first of the many Kim Williams education bills she introduced this year.  While she has quite a few on this list, a lot of her bills passed.  She really took off, right from the very beginning of this year’s session, to get education bills out there to correct a lot of the injustices set up in the budget and with the way the DOE runs things.  Unfortunately, with the heavy-handed pro-education reform Governor Markell and his minions at the DOE, along with Rep. Earl Jaques as head of the education committee, bills like this are hard to be heard along with the stiff lobbying from the Delaware Charter Schools Network.

Prediction: State Auditor reports come out showing more charter financial mismanagement, the state desperately looking for any available funds for the budget, and Jaques either stripped of chairmanship power on the education committee or knocked down a peg or two from Schwartzkopf in the coming days of elections, and this one will pass.  The charter party in Delaware is going to get crashed, and it will change the entire landscape they are used to living in.  It wouldn’t shock me if amendment were added stripping charters from their transportation slush fund where they get to keep their excess funds from their transportation budget.  It will get strong opposition from the Republicans, but even some of them will realize the public will remember that come vote time!

House Bill #30 Status: sent to Appropriations Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.

What Happened: The budget.  This bill has a $7.5 million fiscal note.  The sad part is these students should have always been provided this funding from the get-go.  Unfortunately, this bill will be one of those that will rise or fall based on the budget next year.

Prediction: The IEP Task Force will reconvene, and in conjunction with House Bill 117, the Wilmington redistricting push, and the Senate Resolution group looking at funding, as well as IMMENSE pressure from this blog, it could pass.  Special education is about to become a huge topic in Delaware, bigger than at any time before.  Trust me on this!

House Bill #34 Status: sent to Senate Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, synopsis: This bill will allow a local school district board to delay new or changed rules, regulations, or administrative procedures from becoming effective during a school year once the school year has started. This will allow the rules, regulations, and procedures to be consistent for the whole school year.

What Happened: this bill, which I loved when it was introduced back in January, just passed the House on the last day of session.  It is a good solid bill which will prevent the DOE from sneaking in regulations during the summer forcing schools to submit to them without any guidance or support once they come back in August.

Prediction: It will pass the Senate, but not right away.  Spiegelman, as a young Republican in the House, wants to show some muscle.  In the Democrat controlled House and Senate, this can be dangerous.  They will not give him what he wants all the time, but they will give him lots of carrots.

House Bill #52 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: Under current educational standards, cursive writing is no longer required to be taught to our students, and many schools have abandoned teaching it to their students. As cursive writing is still an imperative skill in many professions, this bill will make the teaching of cursive writing a requirement for all public schools in Delaware.

What happened: not a lot.  It was released from the education committee.  It had so-so public support, but not a lot.  Both sides had pros and cons on the issue.

Prediction: If the House has a really slow day and Schwartzkopf is in a good mood, it might get to a vote.  I wouldn’t bet on it though.

House Bill #61 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes.
Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites.
The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.

What Happened: Pete Schwartzkopf.  I’m guessing the Speaker of the House really hate this bill, cause this is the third year in a row it came out of committee and sat on the ready list.  Also known as the Kilroy’s bill, the charters have fought against it by crying over the “expenses”, but it really isn’t an expensive venture.

Prediction: This will depend on charter school behavior between now and next year.  If the State Auditor finds more bad financial behavior, this could cause Schwartzokpf to finally put it to a vote.  I think it will pass with strong Democrat support, but like House Bill 186, the Republicans will shoot it down because of their strange obsession with charters.  It will pass under this circumstance.  And we can’t forget the Kilroy effect on this bill.  He is very pissed about the treatment of this bill.  He could drum up a lot of public support for this bill, and I will be happy to help him.

House Bill #107 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill articulates the principle that local school districts and school boards should have the authority to select their own leaders and staff from a pool of qualified applicants. These are decisions best left at the local level rather than imposed by a central authority.

What happened: This bill was a reaction to the DOE and Markell’s priority schools initiative, where six schools were told by the DOE they will get new leaders because of their bad standardized test scores.  The whole priority school controversy died down quick after the WEAC recommendations, but they are still out there.  Red Clay negotiated against the new leaders and won.  Christina is up in the air due to the whole redistricting legislation, Senate Bill #122.

Prediction: This won’t go anywhere, unless the DOE pulls a priority schools sneak attack in the fall causing the dormant issue to rise again.  Then this bill has a fighting change.

House Bill #108 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill requires that the General Assembly approve any ESEA Flexibility waiver prior to its submission to the U.S. Department of Education.

What happened: Too many bills like this, designed to give the General Assembly more control over the out of control DOE.  With the House Education Committee led by the very-friendly-with-DOE-and-probably-too-much Rep. Earl Jaques, it was never put on the agenda.

Prediction: It will depend on Jaques retaining his chair on the committee.  With numerous issues over House Bill 50 and House Bill 186, it would not shock me if Jaques had a conversation with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf.  This will also depend on DOE behavior regarding their current ESEA waiver application and next year’s as well.  Another curve ball could come in the form of ESEA reauthorization at a Federal level which would render this bill meaningless if waivers are done away with.

House Bill #117 Status: assigned to House Appropriations committee,  Sponsor: Rep. Deb Heffernan, synopsis: This Act will create a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income according to the Department of Education. This funding source will be in addition to the normal enrollment based funding provided to school districts and charter schools. The low-income unit will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12 where the funding can be used for such purposes as providing additional teachers and paraprofessionals for classroom instruction; additional counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and intervention specialists; Response to Intervention Services; and before and after school programs providing homework assistance, and for support for English language learners. To ensure the low-income resources reach the schools where they are most needed, this Act requires that at least 98% of the units be directed towards the schools that generate the funding unless otherwise waived by a local board of education during a public meeting. 

What Happened: The budget.  Another bill with a fiscal note during very tight budget negotiations.  With the already passed Senate Resolution to look at funding in schools, and the strong push from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, this bill will be on a fast track in 2016.

Prediction: How much money will we have?  They are already projecting a $160 million deficit in Delaware next year.  Unless revenue starts pouring in, this bill could die on the fiscal vine.

House Bill #161 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE ESTABLISHING THE PARENT EMPOWERMENT EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT ACT.

What happened: This one was dead on arrival.  The whole idea of vouchers, which is exactly what these are, is a Republican idea.  In Dover, the Democrats rule and have for many years.  Democrats, the DSEA, and even Governor Markell are dead set against any type of voucher plan.

Prediction: if this even makes it to the House Education Committee, it will be shot down very fast.  And with states like Nevada ruling voucher programs unconstitutional, and Colorado giving a state ruling against them, any potential support for vouchers will quickly fade.  With the upcoming election year, the very thought of vouchers will be brought up by many Republicans, but it is a toxic subject opposed by many.  If you want to see how a voucher system can bring an entire country’s education system to it’s knees, just look at Sweden.

House Bill 173 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsors: Rep. Richard Collins and Senator Greg Lavelle, synopsis: The Department of Education often implements policies and educational requirements based upon directives issued by the United States Department of Education. This Bill will require that any directive received by the Department of Education from the Federal Government be automatically disclosed on the Department of Education website without the necessity for making a Freedom of Information Request. 

What Happened: Nothing.  It was introduced on 6/10/15, late in the session, by two Republicans.  However, given the shenanigans with the DOE and the many issues legislators conveyed with the DOE this year, this should have been a no-brainer.

Prediction: Up in the air.  There are other bills like this, demanding more transparency and stringent rules for the DOE and State Board.  Can all of them get passed?  It will really depend on how the DOE, Secretary Murphy, and the State Board “play” in the next year.  But this would lend transparency to the DOE, and I can see them wanting this to give the illusion…

House Bill 186 Status: Passed by House of Representatives, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis of bill: Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.

What happened: In four words, Delaware Charter Schools Network.  They openly lobbied against the bill, even setting up an email your legislator campaign on their website which several charter schools reached out to parents about.  Meanwhile, charter schools from Dover to Wilmington had allegations and reports coming out regarding financial abuse by school leaders.  This bill rolled the previous Williams sponsored House Bills #53 and 154 into one.

Prediction: more reports will come out from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office regarding other charter schools under investigation.  DCSN will lobby even harder, but transparency and financial controls will rule the day. Once again, the charter party is coming to an end in 2016. Remember this.  I’m not saying they will disappear, far from it.  But they will be held to higher financial and organizational standards.

Senate Bill #72 Status: on ready list for Senate, Sponsor: Senator Bryan Townsend, synopsis: This bill increases the teaching and administrative experience qualifications for the Secretary of Education from 5 years to 10 years. The Bill also clarifies that at least 6 years must be of teaching experience and at least 2 years must be of administrative experience. 

What Happened: This bill came out around the same time the Delaware State Educators Association and their local organizations in Christina and Red Clay publicly denounced Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with their vote of no confidence.  It immediately became a must-read article for newspapers and bloggers.  Shortly thereafter, the Delaware Association of School Administrators issued the same decree.

Prediction: This one is tough.  While there is certainly not a lot of love for Murphy in Legislative Hall (and in much of Delaware), he does have some things going for him.  This past Monday it was announced he was joining the board of the Council for Chief State School Officers.  This give him even more federal protection under US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s gaze.  Rep. Earl Jaques is the DOE’s House boy, so he may not put it on the agenda for the education committee.  As well, he is the perfect patsy for Governor Markell who runs the show.  Murphy does not bend for anyone if it contradicts one of Markell’s education policies.  While I think this is the funniest bill out there, it could set up an even worse situation if it passes.  Imagine a Secretary with the same  mindset as Murphy but more qualified.  Someone with charisma and public appeal.  That could be more dangerous than Murphy could ever be.  Unless Murphy does something colossally stupid over the next year, he isn’t going anywhere.  No matter what passes, Markell will never sign this bill.

Senate Bills #92 & 93 Status: on ready list for Senate vote, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose-Henry, synopsis for SB92: Delaware Code Title 14§1332 addresses the Program for Children with Autism and its “Special Staff.” Enacted nearly three decades ago, these regulations established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. In addition, the code designates a Statewide Director who primarily has provided direction, training, and technical assistance within the DAP. However, current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education and parents’ desire to have their children educated within their local communities, seem to be incongruent with this older model of service delivery. In addition, the magnitude of the increase in students identified with ASD has clearly created difficulty for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services/support that once was offered.
Therefore, the recommended code changes also revise the concept of DAP toward a system in which the Statewide Director would work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. This recommendation reconstitutes the regulations to neutralize the distinction between DAP approved programs and other in-district options, thereby, allowing and providing adequate resources to serve on behalf of all student with ASD in Delaware. The number of technical/ training experts has been identified as one expert per 100 students statewide. It is suggested that the fiscal mechanism to support these changes should be through mandated district participation that is congruent with the current needs based funding system in Delaware. Lastly, the current mandatory committee structure is enhanced to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review board.
These changes include articulation of the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director for Students with ASD; the addition of a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions); and the further clarification / additions to the committee structure for family input, monitoring, and protections under human rights. This recommendation recognizes and supports the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes essentially expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students within them.
, synopsis for SB93: This bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism.  Among other things, the Interagency Committee on Autism is charged with a) utilizing evidence-based practices and programs to improve outcomes for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in Delaware by sharing information, initiatives, data and communications among both public and private agencies providing services and supports for individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in the State of Delaware; and b) implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2013 Delaware Strategic Plan entitled “Blueprint for Collective Action: Final Report of the Delaware Strategic Plan to Improve Services and Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism is to provide a resource for training and technical assistance for Delaware state agencies, organizations and other private entities operating in the State of Delaware that provide services and support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The Network is to support the operations of the Interagency Committee on Autism through the maintenance of the website, maintenance of reports created by the Interagency Committee on Autism and maintenance of meeting minutes, as well as other support as needed by the Interagency Committee on Autism.

What Happened: The budget.  This is one of those crucial bills dealing with a fast-rising population of children and adults with Autism.  This bill will cost a lot of money.   With the budget issues at the end of the session, there was no way this was going to get to a vote.

Prediction: If you thought the opt-out parents were vocal, the General Assembly may want to prepare for these parents.  The Delaware Autism Program is running out of money.  States are obligated under Federal law to provide services.  Cuts will have to be made in the budget to make room for this.  Taxes will increase after the 148th General Assembly closes shop, this is a given.  These bills have to pass.  This is one of the biggest health issues of the future, and if we don’t get control over it now, it will jeopardize thousands and thousands of children and adults with Autism.  If you think we spend a lot of money on residential treatment centers now, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the future. Anyone who votes no on this bill will instantly be seen as the state pariah and will be voted out of office. This bill will pass, but the cost will be enormous, and sacrifices will need to be made.

Senate Bill #137 Status: on Senate ready list, Sponsore: Senator Harris McDowell, synopsis: Delaware’s Community College System plays a critical role in the State’s economy by providing workforce development and transfer education that connects Delawareans with good paying jobs within the State and region. This Act gives the College’s Board of Trustees the authority to issue bonds to finance the cost of major and minor capital improvements, deferred maintenance, and the acquisition of related equipment and educational technology associated therewith and establishes the Community College Infrastructure Fund to pay the principal and interest on such bonds. This Act adopts the county vo-tech structure to finance the Fund by authorizing the College’s Board of Trustees to collect a local property tax subject to a cap.

What Happened: it didn’t get heard by the Senate Education Committee until the last week of committee meetings.  Too many other bills demanding to get a vote, got lost in the shuffle.

Prediction: this is one of those what I like to call “sneaky bills” where it gets passed, and all of a sudden citizens start wondering “Why did my taxes go up and I’m paying for community colleges?”  If this passed by June 30th, it wouldn’t have survived the House.  But in 2016, anything can happen with the budget.  This could either get a lot of support or it will die quickly.

Senate Bill #161 Status: Senate Education Committee, sponsor: Senator Gerald Hocker, synopsis: This Act requires public schools to begin their school year after Labor Day. There have been many economic impact reports done that show a positive impact from starting public schools after Labor Day. A report by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association estimates that $369 million would be lost if schools were not required to start after Labor Day. This includes $104 million in wages and $21 million in state and local taxes. Maryland is considering similar legislation. A study of Maryland found that pushing the start of school back would generate $74.3 million in economic activity and $7.7 million in new state and local tax revenue.

What Happened: Introduced on the second to last day of the session, this bill was destined to go nowhere by June 30th.

Prediction: This is another one of those downstate bills that aren’t popular in Newcastle and Kent.  This one goes nowhere.  Even if it saved the state money, the effect wouldn’t be seen to balance the budget by 6/30/16.

A lot of these bills will depend on the budget.  This is the reality.

House Bill 50 Update And Other Education Legislation That Passed In The Wee Hours Of The Morning Yesterday

House Bill 50 is waiting.  No action has been taken by Delaware Governor Jack Markell on the parent opt-out legislation.  Matt Albright with the News Journal spoke with Jonathan Dworkin, the spokesman for Governor Markell, and wrote yesterday:

“Markell has not asked for H.B. 50 to be delivered to his desk yet, Dworkin said. Once he receives the bill, he has 10 days to veto it; if he doesn’t, it becomes law with or without his signature.

That means the Legislature would have to wait for a veto override vote until next year unless they call a special session, which is unlikely.”

I checked Delaware state code, and found the following:

“Section 18. Every bill which shall have passed both Houses of the General Assembly shall, before it becomes law, be presented to the Governor;”

The key part concerning this seems to be “presented to the Governor”.  Whose job is it to present a bill to Markell?  The last place House Bill 50 sat in was the Delaware Senate and they passed the bill a week ago today.   I contacted Markell’s office, and they indicated he has ten days to take action on a bill, but when I asked specifically about the bill being “presented”, they did not have an answer but did indicate they would check on that aspect as well as the status of the bill and would get back to me either later today or Monday since their offices are closed tomorrow.

Meanwhile, other education bills passed both the Delaware House and Senate and are also awaiting a signature from Markell.  In no short order:

House Bill 91, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Rep. Sean Matthews, Synopsis: This bill involves the public school immunization program. Currently, the Affidavit of Religious Belief does not expressly alert parents or guardians who file for the religious exemption from the program that the child will be temporarily excluded from school in the event of an epidemic of a vaccine preventable disease. This bill amends the required affidavit so parents or guardians are directly made aware of the possibility of the child’s temporary exclusion from school. The bill also adds that the asserted cause of a medical exemption may be subject to review and approval by the Division of Public Health. Additionally, the bill would require the Division of Public Health to declare an outbreak, rather than the current language of an epidemic throughout the State or a particular definable region thereof.

House Joint Resolution #6 w/House Amendment #1, passed 7/1,  Sponsor: Rep. Earl Jaques, This House Joint Resolution directs the DPAS II Advisory Committee to review and make recommendations to the current educator evaluation system. This Resolution also limits the State Department of Education’s ability to propose changes to certain sections of the Administrative Code.

Senate Bill #61, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, This Act clarifies that school buses are not exempt from the requirement to stop at railroad grade crossings regulated by a traffic-control signal or at railroad grade crossings protected by crossing gates or flashing lights. Section 4163 currently is contrary to best safety practices requiring that school buses stop at these types of crossings to ensure optimal safety for students.
This Act also makes additional changes to § 4163 in keeping with the grammar and style guidelines of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.

Senate Bill #62, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, This Act updates the minimum insurance coverage requirements for school transportation to reflect current industry standards.

Senate Bill #94, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Brian Bushweller, This Act requires the Department to develop a regulation for the identification of a “military-connected youth”. The Act further provides that this identification is not a public record, is protected by the federal Family Educational and Privacy Act and shall not be used for purposes of determining school achievement, growth or performance. The purpose of this identification is to ensure the necessary individuals at the school level are aware of any military connected youth for services and supports.

Senate Concurrent Resolution #29, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Bethany Hall-Long, This concurrent resolution establishes the Behavioral and Mental Health Task Force to examine mental health in the State of Delaware and make recommendations for the improvement of services and the mental healthcare system. *editor’s note: while this is not a direct education bill, many students would benefit from a better mental health care system in the state

Senate Concurrent Resolution #39, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Colin Bonini,  This Concurrent Resolution forms a working group to make a recommendation as to whether or not the Budget Bill should continue to be treated as a simple majority Bill.  *editor’s note: this working group will take a hard look at funding for charter schools, University of Delaware, and Delaware State University.  Since they are considered corporations under state law, and corporations need a 3/4 majority vote for passage, and currently the budget bill only needs a majority vote, this group will examine this legal anomaly.

Senate Joint Resolution #2 w/Senate Amendment #1, passed 7/1, Sponsors: Senator David Sokola and Rep. Earl Jaques, The amount of testing required of our students and educators has grown significantly in recent years. While the General Assembly recognizes the need to administer assessments that provide valid and reliable data about how Delaware’s students are growing academically, it is also committed to maximizing time in the classroom for our educators to teach, and our students to learn.
The Department of Education is already coordinating an inventory of all assessments required at the state, district, and school level. This Joint Resolution requires the Department of Education to report the inventory results, and any assessments that districts or the state propose to eliminate, to the public and to the House and Senate Education Committees of the General Assembly. It also requires the Department to convene a group, consisting of members of the General Assembly and the public, to conduct an in-depth review of the inventory results and make recommendations for consolidation or elimination of assessments. 

Senate Joint Resolution #4, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, While Delaware is deeply committed to preparing every child to reach his or her full potential and succeed in the new economy, the State will not be able to build a world-class education system for its children without modernizing the 70-year-old education funding system. This Joint Resolution establishes the Education Funding Improvement Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of Delaware’s public education funding system and make recommendations to modernize and strengthen the system. The Commission will include stakeholders from across the education system and will submit a report and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly no later than March 31, 2016. 

House Bill #184, passed 6/30, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Heffernan, This bill establishes a mechanism for persons receiving special education services pursuant to an active Individual Education Plan until the age of 21 to receive license to drive.

House Joint Resolution #7, passed 6/30, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, Recognizing (1) that many of our educators are assuming greater levels of responsibility and demonstrating leadership in their classrooms and schools, (2) that our current educator compensation system does not reflect the work we value in our educators or provide them with a meaningful career pathway or ability to earn additional compensation for assuming additional responsibility, and (3) that we must retain and attract great educators to ensure that our students are prepared to compete in an increasingly global economy, this bill re-establishes the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation and Careers in addition to establishing two sub-committees: the Educator Work Group and the Technical Advisory Group. The Committee will continue its work in developing a plan for an alternative compensation structure and career pathway for educators aligned with the parameters set forth in Senate Bill No. 254, including providing educators with a meaningful career pathway, including higher starting salaries and recognition for working with high-needs students, and significant leadership opportunities for career advancement that keeps talented educators in the classroom.   The Committee must submit updated recommendations to the Governor by March 31st, 2016 with sufficient detail for implementing legislation, and will continue to meet thereafter to issue subsequent recommendations for consideration. 

I will be updating the page on this blog entitled “Education Bills in the 148th General Assembly” over the next week and as Markell makes decisions on these as well.  I also intend to go through all the legislation that was passed over and is left in limbo until January 2016.

Action Reaction: Delaware Charter School Network Is Stopping Audit Bills, Email The House Now In Support of HB 186!

Now I have a new website to look at on a weekly basis.  Thanks for that Kendall Massett!  It turns out the Delaware Charter School Network has a portal set up on their website to automatically email legislators when they don’t like a pending bill that might affect charter schools.  That’s fair, I suggest folks email legislators all the time.  However, when the messages sent do not give accurate facts, I take issue with that.

For example, the current campaign is against House Bill 186.  In a nutshell, HB186 is as follows:

Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015. (source: http://legis.delaware.gov website)

This bill combines the now stricken House Bills 53 and 154, which were both sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams.  She watched as Family Foundations Academy almost got shut down due to financial mismanagement (fraud), and has seen this time and time again at many of our charter schools.

Now the Delaware Charter School Network is gunning for any legislation that would hold charter schools accountable for their finances through their Action Center  on their website.  I find the following facts they are using to stop this bill either outright lies or gross exaggerations.

This is the text of the introduction:

Our email campaign last week to stop HB 154 from being released from the House Education Committee was a success! Representative after Representative told us that they had heard from their constituents and that it was so helpful. NICE GOING!! Your action along with other circumstances led to the desired outcome, but the fight is not over. We have learned that the bill’s sponsor has introduced a new bill that combines HB 53 and HB 154 – House Bill 186. The new bill has been placed on the House Education Committee agenda for Wednesday, June 17 (TOMORROW). This means that we must re-launch our campaign, and this time we will be alerting all House members with the same message not just the committee members. We have altered the message slightly so even if you sent an email last week, it is okay to send again. Start by entering your email address and home zip code over to the right. When you complete the next screen, the email will be sent automatically based on your home address. The reasons to oppose the legislation are the same…

Gee Kendall, what were those “other circumstances”?  I know you were at Legislative Hall last Wednesday cause I saw you at the Senate Education Committee meeting.  Your organization are registered lobbyists down at Leg. Hall.  More concerning is the text in this email you are having people send to their elected officials.

“This bill will not stop fraud.”

It might not, but it will find it much quicker than anyone else has in the past.  All too often we hear the same sob story: “We had no idea this was going on for years and years.  Heavens to Betsy, they were so secretive about it.”  We don’t just hear this from the charter schools but from our own Department of Education.  It would help if these charters actually took the time to have their Citizens Budget Oversight Committee meetings.  I saw fraud flags all over the purchase card website Delaware has.  It’s called opening your eyes.

“…our schools already receive less funding on average than district schools ($3000 less on average).”

There are several reasons for that.  Traditional school districts, on average, have more special needs students that get more funding for special education, more low-income students, and more minorities in some cases.  As well, the LIE they get $3000 less on average is completely false.  As per the DOE’s School Profiles website, statewide school districts receive $12,901 on average student funding whereas charters receive $11,521.  That my lobbyist friend, is a different of $1,380, not $3000.  Nice try.  Charters may not receive capital funding, and you will never let us forget it.  However, they do get some extra perks to make up for that.  We have the Charter School Performance Fund whereby some charters may qualify for up to $250,000 a year from the DOE based on certain criteria.  We have the charter school transportation slush fund, where the charters get to keep any extra transportation funds they don’t use which last year alone was well over a million dollars for most of the charter schools collectively.  As well, they get tons of money from donors like the East Side Foundation, or the Longwood Foundation which pours millions of dollars into charter schools each year.  They gave Odyssey Charter $1.4 million in grant funds for their new school.  As well as numerous other corporate donors.  Traditional school districts aren’t allowed to get these extra perks and aren’t included in the funding calculations the DOE provides.  I would say on average, with all these other factors involved, charters get more funds per average student than traditional school districts.

“…a one size fits all RFP will not take that into consideration and a school could end up paying a significant amount of money for something that they do not need…”

Yet the charters in Delaware seem to be okay with a one size fits all standardized test in the form of Smarter Balanced that gives the illusion of helping vulnerable students but in actuality will further separate them from their peers.  And the charter schools DO need this.  As a state, we must protect our students from funds not reaching the classroom, and if fraud is going on, we are legally and morally responsible to find, fix and punish actions like this.  There are three publicly known charters in Delaware under investigation by the State Auditor’s office: Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy and Providence Creek Academy.  Rumors suggest even more, and the auditor’s office confirmed they are looking at several but wouldn’t name any other schools.

“Charter schools support accountability.”

Then this bill should be a no-brainer.  But the reality is they don’t like getting investigated by anyone.  When they do, they often lie to protect themselves.  Because their board meetings are not recorded, and some charters rarely post their board minutes monthly, it is very difficult to know what goes on in these charter schools.  I am not saying this is all charters, but there are enough of them this bill is warranted.  And lest we forget, the Delaware Charter School Network is funded by non-profits, for-profits, and dues paid to them by the charter schools themselves.  If the DOE can’t hold charter schools fully accountable, perhaps we need even more legislation like this to hold their fat to the fire.

Please email the entire House of Representatives in support of House Bill 186.  I apologize for not having a fancy website portal that sends a one size fits all message to legislators, but I can offer your ability to send your own individual and unique message to legislators.  It’s called copy and paste!

Charles.Potter@state.de.us StephanieT.Bolden@state.de.us helene.keeley@state.de.us gerald.brady@state.de.us melanie.g.smith@state.de.us debra.heffernan@state.de.us Bryon.Short@state.de.us Quinton.Johnson@state.de.us Kevin.Hensley@state.de.us sean.matthews@state.de.us jeff.spiegelman@state.de.us Deborah.Hudson@state.de.us john.l.mitchell@state.de.us Peter.Schwartzkopf@state.de.us Valerie.Longhurst@state.de.us jj.johnson@state.de.us Michael.Mulrooney@state.de.us michael.barbieri@state.de.us kimberly.williams@state.de.us Steve.Smyk@state.de.us Michael.Ramone@state.de.us joseph.miro@state.de.us paul.baumbach@state.de.us Edward.Osienski@state.de.us john.kowalko@state.de.us John.Viola@state.de.us Earl.Jaques@state.de.us william.carson@state.de.us trey.paradee@state.de.us bobby.outten@state.de.us Sean.Lynn@state.de.us andria.bennett@state.de.us jack.peterman@state.de.us Lyndon.Yearick@state.de.us David.L.Wilson@state.de.us Harvey.Kenton@state.de.us Ruth.BriggsKing@state.de.us Ronald.Gray@state.de.us Daniel.Short@state.de.us Timothy.Dukes@state.de.us Richard.G.Collins@state.de.us

Opt-Out Obliterates The Rigor Imposed On Our Kids, Is It Enough To Change Education In Delaware?

Will the eight members of the Senate Education Committee vote yes or no for House Bill 50 tomorrow?  My gut tells me yes.  It’s what happens afterwards that concerns me.  The legislation needs to move to a full Senate vote as soon as humanly possible after tomorrows vote.  The Delaware General Assembly has numerous bills in front of them.  Due to the Beau Biden viewing at Legislative Hall on Thursday, there is now one less day for legislative action this month before it comes to an end on June 30th.  And say it passes the Senate.  Will Governor Markell pass it, veto it, or sit on it?

Meanwhile, the News Journal is giving full court to parent opt-out and House Bill 50 opinions.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko and I wrote a piece which will appear in tomorrow’s newspaper (oddly enough, only I got credit for it but it was a co-authorship).  You can read this here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/06/02/parents-know-smarter-balance-test-bad-kids/28383361/

I really wanted to delve into the Smarter Balanced field test scores.  I always knew they were much lower than even I expected for the children in sub-groups of low-income, African-American and students with disabilities.  But actually studying them, and comparing them to DCAS scores was very revealing.  It really drove home the realization this test is designed for nothing more than failure, especially for these three sub-groups.  Which is also why I can’t believe any civil rights group would stick up for the effectiveness of this test.  This test is not about reaching that “higher bar”.  It’s about one thing, and one thing only: money.  Not money that will ever reach the classroom, but money that goes straight into investor pockets.  It’s the greatest scam of our generation: using education “need and necessity” to basically steal taxpayer money to get rich.  I can’t even keep track of all these education reform companies out there anymore.  But when all this is said and done, watch  them fold up their tents like a cheap carnival trying to get out of town as fast as they can.

What comes after?  Is there an easy solution?  I’m already hearing rising talk about school vouchers and more “personalized learning” on computers.  Meanwhile, district funding and how schools use their money is coming up more and more.  Apparently, it’s not even just charters being investigated in the State Auditor’s office, it’s also some school districts.  Education is reaching a boiling point in Delaware.  Radical ideas will come up.  It’s going to take a revolution to fix all this.  But I can promise you one thing, parents WILL be a part of whatever comes next.

We will not allow the future of our children to be tied into corporate money-making schemes ever again.  We closed our eyes when this all started, but our eyes are wide open now.  We won’t be fooled twice.  The DOE may or may not realize this false ideology is falling apart.  If I were a DOE employee, I would be getting my resume together fast.  When it does collapse, and all stands revealed, I would not want my name associated with any of it.

The more these civil rights groups and Delaware business leaders push this damaging test, the more citizens will being to wonder why they are advocating for such an irresponsible and short-sighted test.  If any of these businesses or groups are concerned about public perception, they might want to reconsider their DOE/Markell tainted stance.  Will the “Delaware Way” be enough to stop the wave of parents demanding accountability and transparency for the funds involved in this education craziness?  I doubt it.  If opt-out has proven anything, it’s that parents do have a very loud voice, and the more you fight us, the louder we get!

Christina School District Should Apply For A Grant From The Longwood Foundation

Why not?  They already give millions of dollars to Delaware charter schools.  Is it even legal for a traditional public school district to do this?  I have no idea.  But I think the very nature of a referendum should not be legal.  Yesterday’s vote on the Christina referendum shows a clear disparity between traditional public schools and charters.  When a charter needs funds fast, there are many organizations willing to donate funds.  But when a district like Christina needs money, they have to beg for it.  The charters will say they need to beg, but when they get extra funds from transportation funds, non-profits, and even DOE awards, you never hear them offering solutions for the districts that give them their main source of funding.  Nearly 6,000 votes should not decide a source of funding for over 21,000 students and cause the termination of 200 teachers and support staff.

Legislators are already calling for change.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko sent out an email this morning in response to very concerned constituents in the Christina District:

I do not pretend to offer lip-service or support from a distance. I will meet with a House lawyer this Friday and plan to compose and consider legislation that may be offered immediately to help and legislation to create a task-force with a reporting requirement no later than Jan. 1 2016 to offer a plan to change Delaware public education funding structures and eliminate the referendum process. I am open and willing to hear any and all suggestions to accomplish that and will meet with your group at your convenience to discuss this. I want to thank you for all of your hard work in trying to secure a favorable outcome on the referendum and to specifically applaud all of your group’s efforts to dispel the lie and the implication that some unidentifiable flaw in Christina Board/Administration/educators should cause voters to pause before casting a ballot in support of the referendum. These types of references did much more damage and influenced many, many more negative votes than the weak whispers of support voiced by some leaders with the caveat that the district was corrupt, misusing funds or populated with malcontents. Once again thank you all for your reasonable and intellectually honest assessment of the needs of our public school children.

Respectfully,

Representative John Kowalko

With the topic of school funding already a hot topic in Dover, yesterday’s vote is just going to add fuel to a raging inferno.  Add standardized testing, opt-out, redistricting of Wilmington schools, special education funding, Autism, charter school audits, teacher evaluations, change in the Department of Education and Secretary’s roles, and how to protect our schools.  It is more than obvious that the biggest concerns in Delaware right now are around education.  Should the General Assembly extend their legislative session to deal with these crucial issues?  They essentially have five weeks left.  Three days a week.  With education committees meeting once a week for an hour or two.  They need to do more and act quicker.