Federal Education Dollars Going To Private Schools Increase, Delaware DOE Gets Bigger Role In This

Updated, 7:02am, 5/26/17: This is NOT some new school voucher scheme.  This has always existed.  It is actually a federal rule.  If public schools want federal funds, they must ensure private schools within their districts have equitable services.  One of the requirements is the districts MUST reach out to the private schools, compare notes, and offer to share federal funds with them.  The system is changing, thus these new Delaware DOE documents.  The DOE has a larger role in making sure this happens which requires more follow-up with private schools to ensure this is happening.  As well, there is a larger amount of funds required to be shared with private schools.  But, the feds aren’t supplying more federal dollars to districts so that means the districts have to give up more of their share of federal dollars.  Can someone please tell me, with all the headaches and angst we get from federal funds, along with the testing mandates, why we still WANT federal education dollars?

It looks like the Delaware Department of Education is in the planning stages to set up a school voucher system in Delaware based on changes to the Every Student Succeeds Act.  I know some Delaware private schools do get funding from Delaware school districts for certain services.  As an example, a parent could file a due process complaint over special education issues and if they win, the district may have to pay for private school for the special education child.  I know Christina School District pays for transportation costs to some private schools for students with disabilities.  But this?  Can someone please explain this one to me?

The below document was created in PDF format on Monday, May 22nd but the document is dated February 8th, before the United States Department of Education even submitted their FY2018 budget proposal (which is chock full of funding for vouchers and charter schools).  The document below that was created on the same date by the New Castle Title I Consortium and the author of the PDF was Al “Superman” Minuti (I can’t make this stuff up folks).  Sorry, I don’t believe any Federal, State, or Local dollars should be going to a private school unless it is a case of wrongdoing by a school district under the terms of a lawsuit or settlement.  If there is some sane and logical explanation for all this, I will gladly update this article (which I did, see above).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This legislation has more holes than a donut shop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos… God Help Us All…

The United States Senate deadlocked in a vote for Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education with a 50-50 tie.  Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie, confirming Bad News Betsy as the next Secretary of Education in America.  Now we recoup, focus, and battle.  Hard.  Fast.  And Furious.  She is going to unleash holy hell on public education.  She who thinks grizzly bears can stop school shootings and IDEA is a state and local mandate.  She who does not know the difference between growth and proficiency.

This is a billionaire.  With no teaching experience whatsoever.  She buys power and support and does nothing to earn it.  Exactly what is wrong in education these days.  We are about to enter an era of voucher hell which will only further segregate our schools.  Hold on to your seats, this is going to be a very bumpy ride.

I salute Republican Senators Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) for their courage in voting no.  It is horrifying to think that 50 Republican Senators put party lines over the best interest of children.  But this is Trump’s world and we are just living in it…

Delaware ALREADY Has School Vouchers

But we don’t call them that.  We wouldn’t dare.  To do so would be a cardinal sin.  So what are these already existing school voucher programs going on all over Delaware? Continue reading “Delaware ALREADY Has School Vouchers”

**UPDATED**Delaware Senators Pettyjohn, Lopez, Lavelle, Simpson and DelCollo Publicly Support Betsy DeVos…Why? Please Withdraw Your Support

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*Please see below for a statement from Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn in regards to this letter.

This morning, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams published a letter from several state legislators around the country supporting Betsy DeVos in her nomination for the United States Secretary of Education.  Senators Anthony DelCollo, Greg Lavelle, Ernie Lopez, Brian Pettyjohn, and Gary Simpson represented the Delaware contingent of these signatures.  I am publicly asking these five Delaware Republican Senators to withdraw their support for Mrs. DeVos.

Last week, DeVos had her Senate Confirmation hearing.  She did not know the difference between growth and proficiency.  She supported guns in schools to prevent grizzly bear attacks.  She stated when she was first nominated that she supported dismantling Common Core, but history with the DeVos Foundation suggests otherwise.  She is a fervent supporter of school vouchers which have the strong potential to further issues of discrimination and segregation in American schools the way they are currently set up in many states.  She supports charter schools which have not shown to be a greater success unless the pull smarter students in through selective enrollment preferences despite the legality of those preferences in many states.  But most disappointing was DeVos inability to understand that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, is a federal law, not a state and local law.

As a father of a student with disabilities, I was appalled when Betsy DeVos said this.  The U.S. Secretary of Education is a person who leads all American students in public education.  The last thing we need is someone who does not understand special education going into the job.  DeVos is a billionaire but her ability to lead education in America is disturbing on many levels.

I have found myself in alignment with many bills that Pettyjohn and Lopez supported.  They stood with parents during the opt out saga.  They did not support the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Which is why I find their support of DeVos puzzling.  Education has become synonymous with standardized testing.  Students with disabilities do the poorest on these tests.  But they are expected to show the most “growth” in state accountability systems.  As a result, in my opinion, special education has become a gigantic mess.  It is now geared more towards the student outcomes on these tests than accommodating the true needs of each individual student.  If DeVos has her way, students with disabilities could be shuffled around different private schools through a very flawed school voucher system.  Private schools are not obligated to follow federal special education law unless they receive federal education funds.  Special education in public schools can be challenging enough, adding private schools to that mix with federal dollars could become a recipe for disaster for a population that is already marginalized to a great extent.

Once again, I urge these five Delaware Republican Senators to withdraw their support for Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education.  Our children deserve better.  Students with disabilities deserve better.  And my son deserves better.

**UPDATED**5:16pm: I spoke with Senator Pettyjohn about this issue shortly after I posted this article.  He echoed the statement he made on Facebook, which said:

Kevin, I agreed to support Betsy DeVos for her nomination to lead the US Department of Education based on my belief that an outsider view of the US DOE is necessary. In previous statements, Ms. DeVos had indicated her disdain for the Department and it’s overburdensome policies and regulations toward states and local districts. I have, for some time, been critical of the federal intrusion into our classrooms, and prior to Ms. DeVos’ confirmation hearings, those were concerns that she had also viewed with a critical eye.

That being said, I do have concerns that have been brought to light since her confirmation hearings; especially concerning her stance on special education. While this is an issue that our United States Senators will be faced with in the coming days, I believe that the letter that was sent, which I agreed to sign before the confirmation hearings took place, will have relatively little impact on the decision that will ultimately be made on Capitol Hill.

That Senate Confirmation hearing took a lot of folks by surprise.  In my eyes, it just proved that vast amounts of wealth does not always equal knowledge.  DeVos will face a vote for her nomination next Tuesday, January 31st.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, About Those Attorney Fees For The Charter Lawsuit…

Who is the benefactor to the 15 charter schools suing the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education?  You know, the one where the almighty (or are they?) charter schools want more money?  Led and initiated by Newark Charter School who got fourteen other charters to follow suit.  Literally.  As in a lawsuit.  But they had a little problem they had to take care of first.  The damn attorney fees.

I imagine taking a case like this would involve a lot of prep work and discovery.  Saul Ewing, LLP is the law firm representing the fifteen charter schools in their lawsuit against the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education.  As the named parties are represented by their own counsel, the charters would have to be able to definitively prove their case.  Or at least a perception of their case.  That’s what attorneys do.  Make a jury or judge believe their side of the story, whether it is right or wrong.  It is always about the belief.  But who is paying Saul Ewing for this lawsuit? Continue reading “So, About Those Attorney Fees For The Charter Lawsuit…”

Live From The Delaware House Education Committee

First up, House Bill 161, the Parent Empowerment Savings Account.  State Rep. Deb Hudson is talking about the bill.  She said it would not be a tidal wave of students that would be able to participate in the program.  She said there are only 12 students eligible for the program in Delaware right now.  She said the funds would be put on a debit card for parents to choose for whatever education program they wanted for their exceptional child.  She said the parents would almost become like a contractor in the state.  There are restrictions on what the parent could use the debit card for.  WaWa is out, Hudson said.

State Rep. and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques asked if there is a fiscal note for the bill.  Hudson said no.  She is explaining the money follows the child.  Jaques is saying it could be very labor-intensive for school districts.  These funds would only be used from state funds.  The local share of funding would stay in the district according to Hudson.  She wants the child’s name to stay in the district.  State Rep. Sean Matthews asked if this includes all children.  She said that was deleted and the description is included in the amendment.  Matthews said it seems like this bill would be in conflict with the State Constitution if funds were used in a religious school.  Hudson said it could also be used for tutoring and not just a religious school.  She said this would stand up in a court of law like it did in Arizona.  She didn’t want to write a bill that would wind up in the courts.  Matthews is asking if ALEC was the initiator of the legislation.  She said no, it was the Goldwater Institute.

State Controller Mike Jackson said the fiscal note is indeterminate based on the small amount of students.  He said the impact would be there since much of the state funding goes towards enrollment and affects teacher salaries.  She said the districts get to keep the local funding so it evens out.  State Rep. Kim Williams asked about the debit card policy with a pre-determined amount of money.  She said it isn’t a Visa card.  It would be put out by the State Treasurer’s office.  It wouldn’t be able to be used at a WaWa according to Hudson since it is illegal.  She said there would be accountability behind it.  Williams said nothing could stop someone from using the debit card at WaWa.  A gentleman with the Goldwater Institute said there are merchant codes on the card that would prevent the user from using the card for non-educational purposes.  The card would be rejected if it didn’t match the merchant codes.  Williams said the State is already obligated to pay for speech therapists for all students up to age 5.  She said this could overlap and would cause problems.  Hudson said it is neutral and would be paid from either source.  Williams stressed the state already pays for it so why would they make parents pay for it?  Williams asked how additional resources would be given to families if funds can be sent to college savings plan.  Hudson said she hasn’t read the synopsis lately and she is more focused on K-12 students.  The Goldwater Institute gentleman said parents spend the funds based on the resources and additional services needed for each child.  Williams asked if a parent could put all the money into a college plan.  Hudson said if she were leaving it up to the Delaware Dept. of Education, they would weigh in on the decision.

State Rep. Kevin Hensley said the education of students with disabilities is near and dear to him.  He said IDEA is administered by the school districts.  He asked how IDEA would be able to factor into this if a student goes to a private school.  The Goldwater man said a student would have to already be on an IEP to be able to qualify for the program.  Then Hensley asked about the IEP team.  Would the IEP team come to an outside school if a parent uses this program.  He said in Arizona some parents went back to the district and others did not.  He also said there are private providers that can develop the IEPs in Arizona as well.  Jaques said private schools don’t have to follow IDEA or even grant IEPs.  Goldwater man said the private provider could develop the IEP.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan said IDEA provides Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is provided for any student w/a disability up to age 21.  She said if FAPE cannot be provided for a student a parent has a legal right to file for due process to have school district fund private education if funds cannot be met at a public school.  She said this bill is a voucher system to fund private schools because their enrollment is down 35% in Delaware.  She is in opposition to the bill.  Hudson said she doesn’t care where the child goes to school.  She just wants parents to have a choice on where they send their school in order to meet the needs of the child.  She said this is not a voucher system but a savings account.  Hudson said she does not agree with the voucher system herself.  Heffernan stressed the part about FAPE and that a parent would sue the charter school or district to be able to get FAPE for their child.  She said this bill is, her fear, that it will become a voucher system.

Jaques asked about the several mentions of the Delaware DOE in the bill and if she coordinated with them.  She said she didn’t and believes they are capable of handling it.  Hudson said the DOE would get 3% of the savings account funds for administrative purposes.  Jaques said in addition to the student not getting the local funding, now they are getting even less.  Williams said the State Treasurer would also get a percentage of funds.  Hudson said they would get 3% as well.  Williams said we have a system in place where these students get additional funds for their IEPs based on the need.  Hudson said it would be determined based on the existing IEP.  Williams asked who is going to determine that funding.  She said a student could already be in a private school.  Hudson said the DOE would determine that.  Hudson said she doesn’t visualize a student already in a private school being able to use these funds.  Williams said she appreciates the intent of the bill but she is very confused.  Hudson stressed the DOE is capable of handling this.  If she never met with the DOE how in the world would she be able to determine that?  She said the DOE is able to meet the needs of all children.  Williams expressed disappointment that collaboration with the DOE didn’t occur.  Hudson said she doesn’t mean to give a Smart Alec answer but we institute policy all the time as legislators and then work out the details later.  Williams said it is her job to understand the bill and to make sure all the resources are in place.

State Rep. Harvey Kenton asked how many teachers would lose their jobs because of this bill.  He said he has family that are teachers and he thinks this is a step to destroy public education.  He stressed it is federal and state mandated but he can’t support it.  He said all 19 school districts have contacted him and none are in favor of the bill.  Matthews said the definition of participating schools is non-governmental school and he is looking at the allowable expenses for the bill.  He asked what it means about “allowable curriculum”.  He said he never heard of anyone having to buy a curriculum.  She said that is more for homeschool students where parents sometimes have to buy a curriculum.  Goldwater man said all those expenses don’t have to be bought once a year.  Heffernan asked if any other state agencies would be involved in this private school initiative.  She said the state and the school districts have the obligation to provide FAPE.  She said the DOE can’t get the private school to do anything.  Who would the parents sue if a student doesn’t get FAPE at the private school?  Would the public school still get sued if they can’t get the private school to do anything?  Hudson said the DOE would have to approve the curriculum.  Hudson said the DOE would be able to oversee the curriculum at the private school and if it changed they could let the private school know.  She fails to realize how public education versus private schools work.  Matthews asked if the DOE is currently able to tell private schools what to do?  Hudson said no.  Matthews said this would expand the DOE’s authority and they don’t have this authority.  Matthews asked if the DOE could deny which school a student with disabilities goes to?  He looked at several DOE employees who said no.  Goldwater man said the object of the language here is to protect the private school autonomy so the DOE can’t change it.  Goldwater man said there are a lot of possibilities.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked what the Blaine Amendment is.  Goldwater man said there are 37-38 states that have language in their constitutions that allow for these programs.  Baumbach said the law in Delaware’s constitution would not allow for this bill to be used since we would be breaking the law.  Baumbach said:

The State Constitution forbids this legislation so I would recommend the committee not release this bill.

Secretary of Education Godowsky said he would be willing to work with Hudson on the bill but he can’t commit to the resources needed for the bill.  Bill Doolittle gave public comment said protections under IDEA are safeguards for our children.  He said giving up those safeguards is something that shouldn’t be done.  He said if it isn’t choice for everybody, it isn’t choice.  He said most parents cannot afford a private school placement even after this savings plan.  He said it is not equitable for low-income families.  Sandra Spence with the League of Women Voters opposes the bill and said the bill would take more money out of public education.  John Marinucci with the DE School Boards Association echoed the previous sentiment and said they don’t support taking more money out of education especially to pay administrative fees.  He said they oppose this being tied to a blurring of state and religious schools.  He mentioned equalization funds which would affect the fiscal note of the bill.

Mary O’Connell, a teacher at Concord High School, talked about her own son with a disability.  She said her son was supported by the Bush School but wasn’t at Carrcroft.  She said they were denied the services he needed.  Her son’s anxiety level was so high and their psychologist recommended he be removed from the school.  He wound up in a regular class with 26 students.  Whenever his teacher was out the substitute would call and she would have to pick him up.  He is now at the College School and she has never had to pick him up.  She stated he is thriving at the school now.  She said she is not a strong supporter of inclusion programs.  She said public schools cannot always help these students.  She is here to support the needs of the students.  A young girl who attended a public school but now attends a private school said she doesn’t think she could read at the level she reads at now if she had to go to public school.  She gets nervous about testing and public speaking.  She attends the College School.  Another student who also attends the College School, a bit older than the previous student, said she has dyslexia.  She said she learns better in small classrooms.  She just started there in January.  A public commenter named Laurie Smith said her children attended the Northstar school.  She begged for help and she didn’t get it.  The mother was very upset.  She didn’t qualify for occupational therapy and had to pay out of her pocket.  She said the speech therapy her child gets is better than what the public school system is able to give.  She said that is where she needs to be able to pay for these services.  She said many parents are paying out of pocket for services for their disabled children.  She saved money for college for her daughter but she has spent all those funds already.  Her daughter is going into 5th grade and she doesn’t know how they can afford the expenses.  Another commenter said she has children in the Pilot School who are thriving.  She said the small classroom sizes allow for a better environment for her children.  She is in favor of this bill.   Martha Henley, another commenter, said she is in support of the bill.  She hears the concern of private vs. public schools.  She said she started out in private schools and that school was not able to meet the needs.  She is talking about the costs involved and how students sometimes have to go to more than four years of college.  A gentleman who gave public comment said his son doesn’t fit into any category and that the category of FAPE just doesn’t work in public education.  A little boy came up to the podium who said “I’m scared”.  His mother said her son is autistic and that he attended the Brandywine School District.  The teacher said it was not the right place for her child.  She had to get an evaluation out of pocket and had to use all their savings.  She said this is about the parents and working with the teachers and all the counselors.  Her son goes to Centreville now and they are able to accommodate his needs and has a very small class.  She said there about 20 kids in Delaware that are intelligent and high-functioning that fit into this category.  Another parent said her child’s learning differences are very rare and she is the mom that is always there and is pushing the school to get the services her child needs.  She supports this bill and she knows he will do better in a small classroom.  She needs to be able to help him and he needs a chance.  Cathy Morris said she is in favor of the bill.  Her grandson has multiple learning disabilities, a numbers type of dyslexia, attention-deficit, and other disabilities.  When he was in public school they were told he chose not to learn.  He is now at the College School and repeated 4th grade and has made tremendous strides.  He had to get out of the mindset where he felt like he was failing.  She wants other parents to be able to have the choice.  She wants to transfer him into a vocational school but also have options to have supplemental vocational training or services.  Martha Durham with Garnett Valley PTA said she had to move to Garnett Valley to get the services her son married.  She spent her whole life in Delaware.  Her son has multiple diagnoses.  Her son was put into public school and started having suicidal thoughts in weeks.  She said Delaware has great schools but there are some kids who just can’t make it.  Her son is important to her.

Kevin Carson with Delaware Association of School Administrators and also on behalf of the Delaware State Education Association said the funding mechanisms already in place cause both to stand opposed to the bill.

Jaques put forth a motion to table the bill.  8 in favor.  The bill is tabled.  Hudson said she wants to continue working on this bill and said it shouldn’t be about well-to-do parents being able to get these kinds of services.

Unfortunately, I had to leave at this point.  The meeting didn’t even start until 3:30 or so.  I will update or write another article when I find out what happened with the other four bills on the agenda.  But I will say this.  What I witnessed at this meeting broke my heart.  I saw many desperate parents, some spending their entire savings to get their children special education services they should be entitled to by law, speak from the heart today.  Whether I agree with the bill or not, it is more painfully obvious than ever that Delaware is not doing the right thing for special needs children.  Something has to change…

 

 

Delaware House Education Committee Today Promises To Be VERY Controversial

The House Education Committee has been updated and will include the following: House Bills 161, 333 and 349 and Senate Bills 92 and 93.

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Vouchers, Autism, Student Loans and School Boards!  I am hearing from several different sources that there will be fireworks over a few of these bills.  I can’t believe they crammed all these in for one meeting.  If you plan on going, I would get there early!  The meeting starts in less than an hour folks!

Next Week In The House Education Committee: Autism, Vouchers, & School Board Terms

I wrote earlier this week  about the massive amount of education meetings going on next week. Add one more to the list: The House Education Committee on Wednesday, May 4th.  On tap is House Bill 161 sponsored by State Rep. Deb Hudson which covers The Parent Empowerment Education Savings Act (school vouchers for special needs students), Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Rep Earl Jaques’ Senate Bills 92 and 93 dealing with autism, and State Rep. Paul Baumbach’s House Bill 333 which looks to lower school board terms from five to three years.  Hudson’s bill was on the agenda a few weeks ago but disappeared.  The Senate Education Committee meeting will take place at 3pm, but as usual, no agenda is up for it.  That usually doesn’t happen until the day before.

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Delaware GOP Poverty Plan Would Bring Social Impact Bonds & Glorified Vouchers To Delaware

Matt Albright with the Delaware News Journal unveiled the Delaware Republican Senate’s Poverty Plan before it was even presented to Delaware lawmakers.  Included in these 11 potential ideas are two items that are highly disdained by advocates for public education: Social Impact Bonds and school vouchers.

As if we haven’t learned enough from the problems with corporations dipping into education waters, the Delaware GOP wants Social Impact Bonds, or “Pay For Success” programs in Delaware.  I wrote about how Delaware opened the door for Social Impact Bonds last month.  This is extremely dangerous for any public education system.  Having corporations get the ability to earn a profit from student measures is a potential minefield.  If a goal, for example, is to have 95% of students in a pre-school not get special education in the elementary school system based on early interventions in reading, how do we know the results won’t be pushed towards that goal regardless of what a student actually needs?  As well, for some students, a disability may not manifest until a later age.  We have seen how Goldman Sachs attempted this in another state with very controversial results.  Social Impact Bonds have no place in K-12 education.  Students should not be fodder for corporate investment.

Also included in the poverty plan is a form of school vouchers called “Scholarship Tax Credits”.  This latest round of tax credits in Delaware would give additional tax credit to those who donate to non-profits for the purpose of scholarships to low-income students to attend private schools.  This is just another way of getting a school voucher system going.  If this point were brought into legislation, it would recognize school vouchers as an additional education funding mechanism in Delaware.  This is something Governor Markell opposes on any level.  This is one of those rare areas where the two of us are in agreement.  Vouchers would further deplete traditional school districts of funding when they are already losing a great deal of local and state funding to charter schools and other choice schools.

There are some other Easter eggs in this plan that concern me.  The plan calls for removing some restrictions from federal grants aimed at fighting poverty.  Instead of allocations to certain areas, the Delaware GOP wants those restrictions lifted.  This could result in the Delaware Department of Education wanting funds to go towards more “focus” or “priority” schools.  While most can agree schools with high concentrations of poverty certainly need more money, once the Delaware DOE gets involved, there is no guarantee those funds would make it into the classroom.  We saw that happen with Race To The Top funds where the DOE got half of the $119 million the state won.  Instead of actually making a difference with that money, most of it went to outside vendors whose reports made Delaware schools look bad and our State Longitudinal Data System, which makes it possible for corporate education reformers to get student data and use it to their advantage.

The part of the plan that also concerns me is an idea concerning more people entering the workforce as an apprentice.  The article in the News Journal specifically mentions Zip Code Wilmington, which is run by Ben DuPont.  The DuPont family is a huge influence on the Delaware GOP.  They are also a huge influence on Delaware charter schools.  They run the Longwood Foundation which has donated millions of dollars to Delaware charter schools.  This is just more of the same.  Governor Markell’s “Pathways to Prosperity” program is clearly designed to track students into certain career paths.  I covered a great deal of this master plan a couple weeks ago  and I have to wonder how much of it is included in this poverty agenda.  I know, many will assume I am looking for things that don’t exist.  They said the same thing when I said the Smarter Balanced Assessment will replace the SAT.  While it was the opposite, the SAT became more like the Smarter Balanced Assessment when the College Board retooled the SAT to align with Common Core.

One glaring omission about a whole agenda to lift folks out of poverty is no mention of increased wages.  The Delaware GOP consistently, as a majority of their party, fights against minimum wage increases.  That should be the first step to decreasing poverty.  Families can’t survive on the minimum wage.  It just isn’t possible.  While the plan concedes not all members of the GOP Delaware Senate agree on all of these ideas, it opens the door to Delaware Democrats who may actually want to see programs like Social Impact Bonds in Delaware.  Like everything in Delaware, it will come down to who is involved with any type of task forces or committees if this gets to that point.

To read the entire plan, see below:

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

EricBoye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Arizona Trip For DE Legislators Becoming Clearer @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

The previous information I posted about Delaware legislators being flown out to Arizona to view the Basis Schools charter chain may be incorrect. It is also unknown if the Delaware Charter School Network is sponsoring the trip. What is known is this email that floated around yesterday:

You’re invited to a School Choice Fact-Finding Trip to Phoenix, AZ on December 7-9

As you consider Education Savings Accounts and other school choice proposals, questions may arise as to how these programs work and whether school choice could benefit the children in your district. To assist you in this process, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice invites you on a special fact-finding trip to Arizona to learn more about school choice programs. The trip will include a tour of private schools and education providers that serve students who use school choice programs to pay for school, therapy, tutors and other services.

The registration form and tentative agenda are attached. This fact-finding trip will be limited to 15 state legislators, whose reservations will be made on a first-come first-served basis. We hope you are able to join us for this important trip.

Cordially,
Doran Moreland

Doran Moreland | State Programs & Government Relations Director
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
One American Square, Suite 2420
Indianapolis, IN 46282

This is for a school voucher organization, but it could just be a smokescreen. When it comes to these types of things, nothing is ever clear. I am curious how many legislators took the flight to Arizona and what they will be seeing. And you know what they say, when in Rome, so I won’t rule a Basis Schools visit out of the question. Even if the info may have been wrong, it was interesting to see Rodel’s ties to the Basis Schools. Mysterious ways and all that!