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