A Rookie State Senator Might Get A Spot On The Joint Finance Committee

Sources around Legislative Hall are speaking loudly about a very unusual committee assignment in the Delaware Senate.  It appears to be a sure thing that a rookie Delaware State Senator will get a spot on the Joint Finance Committee.

While some think this is a most excellent idea others are fuming.  While I won’t name the Senator just yet, I can say they are a Democrat.  With a spot on JFC, this also gives a Senator or State Representative more money.  Almost $10,000 extra a year.  While the average salary for a State Rep. or Senator is around $45,000 a year, that is a big percentage more to be on JFC.  But I will say the bump is necessary because they do spend most of February and other weeks in hearings to help determine the final state budget for the next fiscal year.

A spot on JFC is something many legislators covet.  While the salary bump is nice, many legislators do not rely on their General Assembly salary as their primary income.  It is, however, a very powerful position.  This is where all the financial decisions for the entire state budget are made.  A voice on this committee is huge!  Most members of JFC earn it over the years so for a seat to be given to a rookie is extremely rare.

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Delaware House Education Committee Gives Fond Farewell To Secretary Godowsky

As Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky spends his last two weeks in the role, the House Education Committee gave Godowsky a fond farewell at the end of their committee meeting today.  Together with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and House Majority Leader Val Longhurst, the committee brought Godowsky up to the podium and a few members gave eloquent praise to the Secretary of Education who could only be seen as an improvement over his predecessor, Mark Murphy.

State Rep. and House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques stated Godowsky became a dear friend which was echoed by State Rep. Kim Williams.  Williams thanked Godowsky for always being there to answer her many questions and said she would miss him.  Godowsky informed me his last day will be January 24th.  Governor-elect John Carney named Indian River Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting as his choice for Delaware Secretary of Education.  Bunting will appear before the Delaware Senate on January 18th for her confirmation hearing.

I asked Godowsky if he was counting the days.  He stated he has mixed feelings about leaving.  He said he is sure on his last day he will be ready but he will miss working with the people.  But he is not done with education in Delaware.  While no formal announcement has been made about his post-Secretary plans, I have no doubt Godowsky will still be in the education arena.  He even joked at the tribute today that he will be “babysitting” education in the First State.

Despite my many articles about education policy and procedures, Godowsky was very much a sea change from Mark Murphy.  On a personal level, Godowsky was always approachable when I saw him and he would always say hello to me.  I can’t imagine leading the entire Delaware Dept. of Education.  The honest truth is I have no idea how Dr. Bunting will be as Secretary of Education.  So much of that will be based on the environment around her and what John Carney plans to do with that environment.  One issue she will face right off the bat is the education funding issue, especially in relation to Delaware’s projected $350 million dollar deficit heading into the FY2018 state budget talks.  I’ve been a bit rough on her on the Indian River audit investigation and the fallout from that scenario.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, best of luck to Secretary Godowsky and may good health and luck find you in your next plans.

godowskyhouseedcomm2

 

Delaware Governor Debates Show Interesting Perspectives On Education

Last week, Delaware Public Media released videos with the four candidates for Delaware Governor.  With issues ranging from education to the budget to jobs to healthcare to violence, this was an excellent way to hear what Colin Bonini, John Carney, Sean Goward, and Lacey Lafferty truly believe.  I think John Carney may have some severe competition, and not from the corner you think.  Goward delivered excellent responses to the questions.  Bonini was very vague with a lot of his answers.  Both Carney and Bonini played up their past job titles.  I did not agree with some of the education aspects Bonini and Lafferty support.  The only candidate who even touched on special education was Goward.  Failure to address special education while talking about behavior in the classroom makes me very worried if Bonini or Lafferty won.  I heard a lot of talk from Carney about getting kids ready for college.  All but Bonini said they want to reorganized the Department of Education.  All seem to think education funding is a big concern.

I don’t like how Carney just wants everyone to mend fences and get along.  That isn’t a solution, that’s the Delaware Way.  Education is very divisive because the most important sides to education have been ignored for years in favor of corporate education reform.  I do respect how Carney wants to recalibrate the DOE into a liason between the feds and the local school districts.  But he seems a little bit too embedded in the Delaware Way.  By ignoring the issues, he is setting himself up to be ineffective.

In my eyes, and I listened to all the issues, Goward won this hands down.  He has some very interesting ideas.  He isn’t bought by the system and he has unique perspectives on a lot of issues that actually make sense.  Thank you to Tom Byrne at Delaware Public Media for putting these videos up.  I still want to hear more from all the candidates on their ideas for education, but any candidate who mentions the OECD is already way ahead of the game!

Colin Bonini: Republican

John Carney: Democrat

Sean Goward: Libertarian

Lacey Lafferty: Republican

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Did Appo Shoot Itself In The Foot Tuesday Night?

Lastly, to the charge that money was transferred out of the tuition fund, Longfellow said that was true, but said that happens nearly every year and is a legal maneuver.

Additionally, Forsten explained that the money went to funds that help settle costs that aren’t part of the tuition tax budget itself.

Mr. Forsten, could you please tell me what the legal maneuver is that allows Appoquinimink School District to transfer funds out of the tuition fund and how it is legal?

I saw an item on Appoquinimink’s board agenda for last night that said “Tuition Tax Clarification”.  Assuming this was in response to my articles about their tuition tax warrant last month, I figured I would wait until their board audio recording to address this.  But as luck would have it, I didn’t have to wait very long because Kilroy just wrote an article based off WDEL’s article on the subject at their board meeting Tuesday night.  The above quote, taken from the WDEL article, clearly shows that Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows, Chief Financial Officer Dr. Charles Longfellow, and the Appo Board President Richard Forsten aren’t too familiar with Delaware accounting procedures and policies.

You can’t just take money from revenue collected through a tuition tax warrant and apply it anywhere you want.  That isn’t how it goes.  The law in Delaware is VERY clear about this:

(a) If any pupil is counted in the preschool, intensive or complex unit and attends school in a program operated by a district other than that in which the pupil resides, by an agency of the Department of Education or is in an approved private placement pursuant to § 3124 of this title, the receiving district or the Department of Education shall collect a tuition charge for the nonresident pupil, provided approval for attendance has been granted by the sending district. Such tuition charge shall be paid by the school board of the reorganized school district in which the pupil is a resident from the proceeds of a local tax levied for this specific purpose, except that in the case of a district assigned by the Department with the approval of the State Board of Education to administer a school or program for children with disabilities, or special programs approved by the Department of Education for persons without disabilities such as programs for bilingual students or programs for pregnant students, the district so assigned shall be both the sending and receiving district in regard to that school or program and is authorized to collect tuition charges accordingly.

(b) In determining the tuition to be charged for a pupil counted in the preschool, intensive or complex units or for a person without disabilities attending approved special programs, such as bilingual programs or programs for pregnant students operated by a district other than that in which the student resides or by an agency of the State Department of Education, the receiving district or the State Department of Education shall compute the tuition by adding such receiving district’s share of educational related expenses as allowed by the Department of Education regulations. The sum so obtained shall be divided by the total number of pupils in the special program as of September 30 of the current school year. The resulting figure shall represent the amount of the “tuition charge” per pupil.

(c) In determining the tuition charged to the sending district in the case of private placement for children with disabilities, tuition will be defined as in § 3124 of this title and the sending district will be charged 30 percent of the total tuition cost. The remaining 70 percent will be covered through funding provided by the State Department of Education from the annual appropriation for this purpose.

(d) Section 602(c)-(e) of this title shall apply to this section.

And let’s see what Section 602(c)-(e) states:

(c) The bill for tuition charges shall be verified by the Secretary of Education within 20 days after receipt of such bill. No bill for tuition charges shall be paid until such time as it has been certified by the Secretary of Education as being true and correct.

(d) For each pupil attending a public school of another district as of September 30, the receiving district shall bill the sending district and the sending district shall pay the tuition charges per pupil on or before January 1 of the fiscal year in which the bill is submitted to the sending district for payment. In the case of pupils attending the public schools of the receiving district for less than a full term, the tuition charge shall be prorated by reference to the period of time during which such pupils actually attended the receiving district’s schools, provided that attendance for part of any month shall be counted as a full month of attendance.

(e) Any reorganized school district sending pupils to the schools of another district shall levy and collect a tax to pay any tuition charges to the receiving district, and such tuition shall be collected by local taxation within the sending district according to the provisions of taxation as set forth in Chapter 19 of this title, except that no referendum shall be required. The sending district shall estimate the amount of, determine the rate for and levy the tax upon the estimate at the time that regular tax levies are announced to the appropriate taxing authorities, and the levy shall be adjusted annually to correct errors in the estimate as provided for in subsection (b) of this section.

So the tuition tax that caused the Appo board to issue a tax warrant last month is based on Section 604, and only Section 604.  There are additional areas where these funds can be used though, as per House Bill 1 from the Delaware 146th General Assembly:

House Bill 1, 146th General Assembly:

b. The following provisions shall apply to the Preschool unit:

v. Districts may use tuition to pay for the local share and excess costs of special education and related services.

b. The following provisions shall apply to the Pre-K – 12 Intensive Special Education (“Intensive”) unit:

ix. Districts may use tuition to pay for the local share and excess costs of the program.

b. The following provisions shall apply for the Pre-K-12 Complex Special Education (“Complex”) unit:

ix. Districts may use tuition to pay for the local share and excess costs of the program.

So districts can use tuition tax to pay  for their local share of special education and excess costs for each specific program.  But not for Basic Special Education students, just Preschool Special Education students, Pre-K-12th grade Intensive Special Education students and Pre-K-12th grade Complex Special Education students.

In Appo’s FY2017 preliminary budget, they state exactly what the Tuition Tax increase of $818,000 will be going towards:

FY2017AppoPrelimBudget

I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Appoquinimink School District last month which I promptly received.  I had not gone through it extensively until now.

I can see the out-of-district placements for students with disabilities going to Special Schools or day or residential treatment centers going up by $100,000.  For FY2016, they spent $2,441,295 for these students.  In FY2017, they are projecting it will go up to $2,570,633.  That seems like a modest projection based on the history with these payments.  I have no qualms with those figures whatsoever.  What I do take issue with though is the appropriation section #99970020/99999999 Needs-Based going up from $7,148,711 to $7,863,582 without any justification for that increase.  As well, we can see their projected amounts for FY2018 which will generate another tax warrant next year but maybe 10% less than this year’s based on their projected numbers.  But Appo did supply two other documents in my FOIA request…

In this document, we see a seven year history with students in the category of Pre-K, Intensive, and Complex.  Also included are the teacher units generated from these increases.  Note the Pre-K units are going down each year.  On the flip side, Intensive and Complex special education students are going up which generates more teaching units as well as services related to those students, such as occupational therapists, speech therapists, and so on.

Now the district was kind enough to give a breakdown of how much went to each category for FY2016.  I do appreciate that.  It does give quite a bit of insight into where they think the funds should go.  Now keep in mind Appo dated this document 7/20/16.

In their projections for FY2017, they based the FY2016 final figure at $9,590,006.  But in this document, it is $9,424,524.26.  That is a difference of $165,481.54.  So they are already way off on their FY2017 budget by having this amount wrong.  This is what they based their tax warrant on, the figure of $9,590,006 for FY2016, and they are basing their FY2017 budgeted projection off that number.  They are already off.  Even in their board meeting Tuesday night, they gave an amount spent as of 6/30/16 on Local Tuition Tax of $9,508,447.03.  This was the part of their board meeting where they approved the monthly budget as of 6/30/16 based on their Citizen Budget Oversight Committee recommendation.  Even they weren’t given the correct amount.  Do I go by a FOIA request, which has to be legal, or their preliminary budget, or the amount their CBOC provided to the board which comes from their CFO?  I’m sticking with the FOIA figure because that has the latest figures, as of 7/20/16.

Now look at the document and where it says “Indirect Cost” for an amount of $276,709.36.  These are funds they transferred out of their tuition tax revenue bucket into another bucket with no explanation of where it went or why.  So adding what they were already off and the “Indirect Cost”, we are up to $442,190.90, which is over half of their tuition tax increase of $818,000 going towards mathematical errors or shifting the money out of the revenue bucket it was supposed to stay in.  You can’t just transfer funds out and call that a legitimate expense.

Which brings us to legal costs.  In FY2017, Appoquinimink spent a total of $171,783.75 in legal costs for the entire district.  But we are expected to believe they spent $124,279.20 out of that figure just for special education legal costs?  Furthermore, should funds spent on legal costs in a special education dispute where a parent is suing the district be counted as legitimate funds to come out of a tax warrant?  Because I can see at least $28,500 going towards that purpose right off the bat.  That means the parents feel the school did not provide a Free Appropriate Public Education for their disabled child.  And if the school is paying those attorneys, that means at the very least there was some type of settlement involved whereby the district paid the opposing attorney as well as their own attorney costs.  As well, we see a payment made to another school covered under legal fees.  This could be a case where a parent sued the district and the district agreed to pay the tuition costs for another school.  That was for $25,575.  So with these VERY questionable legal items Appo feels they can cover under funds generated from a tax warrant, we are looking at another $54,075 in questionable charges in their FY2016 tuition tax expenditures, which brings us up to $496,265.90.    We are now up to over 60% of their $818,000 tax warrant increase.  I won’t even get into the fact they are paying a school nurse under legal fees.  Shall I keep going?

There are legitimate expenses they put on this document.  Teacher salaries and their benefits are okay to have in there.  Related services, which means “Specialists”, according to House Bill 1, does have some caveats:

“(12) Specialists. All related services units are earned at the district or charter school level. Preschool, Basic, Intensive and Complex related services units earned shall be used to support related services needs of students in those units. Districts may use earned units to hire any related services staff necessary or alternatively choose to provide all or part of those services through a contractual arrangement with a public or private agency. When providing services by contract, the dollar value of the contract shall not exceed the authorized salary for a teacher at the Master’s level plus 10 years and employed for a period of 12 months per year as provided for in 14 Del. C. § 1305 of this title, divided by the number of months in the terms of the contract. Partial unit funding is provided based on the dollar value of the unit. Any school district wishing to use funds under the contractual option set forth in this section shall make application to the Department of Education for that use, provided that the State Board may review any objection to the Department decision;”

So, as an example to this, Appo currently has two contracts with Therapy Services of Delaware for three occupational therapists and two physical therapists.  This contract is for FY2017, and I could not find one for FY2016.  But given that they keep projecting up with students who would need these services, it would stand to reason the contract for FY2016 was either similar or less.  But I will operate on the assumption it is similar.  That means, based on the above law, the district can’t pay out more than $60,558.00 for a full-time “specialist” based on the Appo Salary Schedule for a Teacher at the Master’s level plus 10 years.  In the case of Therapy Services, the contracts call for three full-time occupational therapists and two full-time physical therapists.  So they can’t pay more than $302,790.  In FY2016, according to Delaware Online Checkbook, Appo paid Therapy Services $302,442.63.  So it appears they are acutely aware of the laws surrounding these special education services given how very close to the maximum number they could go up to in the contracts.

The reason I brought up a situation where they are doing everything by the book was to illustrate they do know what they are doing.  But for some reason, maybe because of how they are audited by the DOE for certain special education costs, they are able to curtail other things that have a dramatic effect on what they are including in the tuition tax part of their budget.

I could go through more of these, but I believe you get my point.  Appo’s $818,000 tuition tax increase is based on very faulty math, bad accounting procedures, and violations of Delaware state code from their previous fiscal year.  The expenses they are covering under tuition tax don’t hold water with my tests in some areas but in others they do.  Yes, I do own the fact that when I originally wrote about this issues, I seriously questioned where $5 million disappeared to.  But I quickly corrected that a few days later when I found the missing $5 million in related services.  I just didn’t account for the related services amounts in my initial article.  But when I’ve already killed over 60% of your increase of $818,000, and I have barely scratched the surface of your entire tuition tax expenditures for FY2016, I have no doubt that percentage would increase.  So you are NOT justified Appoquinimink School Board of Education, to approve a tuition tax increase costing the Appoquinimink property owners an additional $7.76 per $100 of assessed property values based on this.  As a board, and some have done this in Delaware so they don’t raise the ire of local taxpayers, they can forego or decrease a tuition tax increase based on the projected increase.  But what you can’t do is charge more than what should be the budgeted amount.  Something Longfellow seems to think is the opposite case according to WDEL:

He said, not only is the district justified to increase the tuition tax based on enrollment, Appoquinimink isn’t even increasing the tax to the fullest extent permitted.

Would I expect the Appoquinimink School Board to know these facts?  Not really.  Unless you really do some digging like I have, you won’t just find these things on a piece of paper looking at it.  But should Longfellow and Burrows know these things?  Absolutely.  Let’s not forget, their board approved their FY2017 Preliminary Budget and the tax warrant before they approved a $500 increase for administrators in the district at their July board meeting.  I called that a sleight of hand on Longfellow’s part.  I believe he knew exactly what he was doing.  But the board just skimmed right past that part.

“It was just a case of someone not understanding everything,” Board President Richard Forsten said to WDEL after the meeting.

I will give Forsten that.  I knew something was wrong and I made some incorrect assumptions.  But my gut instinct still told me something was wrong even after I found my error.  And then I found Appoquinimink’s errors.  To be fair, I received the FOIA request two days after I requested it.  But did I get everything I asked for in the FOIA request?

719AppoFOIARequest

For the most part, I did.  But what the FOIA did not cover, and no one has been able to answer, is the breakdown of funds allocated in the categories of related services for intense and basic, as well as allocations for occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists and so on.  By lumping so much of their special education costs into very broad categories of “consultants”, “other professional service” or “medical services” would not give any member of the public the ability to see exactly what is going towards tuition costs.

Furthermore, neither Burrows or Longfellow ever replied to my email requests to discuss these matters after my original article on July 14th.  Not one single email, phone call, or response.  Until their board meeting last night.

Part of the blame for this lies with the state.  We have a Division of Accounting within the Department of Finance.  We have a State Auditor.  We have an Office of Management and Budget.  We have a General Assembly.  They should all be keeping track of these things and providing oversight into not only what our schools are spending money on, but how they are spending money.  When I hear a Board President state transferring over a quarter of a million dollars out of an account earmarked for only certain things related to special education as a “legal maneuver”, that concerns me.

“All the numbers are there and they’re all justified, its just that you have to know what you’re looking for,” said Forsten.

Are they Mr. Forsten?  I beg to differ…

But the biggest concern I have is the extreme lack of oversight from the Delaware Department of Education in these matters.  When it comes to special education funding, especially tuition tax expenditures, they should be looking into these matters.  It isn’t a question of “may”, it is a question of “shall” according to Section 352 of HS1 for House Bill 225, the budget bill for FY2016.  While this mostly concerns out-of-district placements, the last line says it all…

HS1ForHB225Sect352

I’m fairly certain that special education lawsuits should NOT be covered in tuition tax payments.  Nor should Indirect Costs going out of this fund.  And tax warrants should be based on a specific amount based on the prior year spending, not the highest of three amounts (and most likely the most inaccurate amount).  I look forward to their response to this article.  Will I get an email, a phone call, or another special section of their board meeting?  Or none of the above?

Student Body Activity In Delaware Schools A Hotbed For Fraud & Abuse! Why Is $118,126.88 Such An Important Number?

The Delaware accounting system is a train wreck of epic proportions.  I found 100% proof funds were switched around that benefit certain schools.  We have one charter school that can’t even follow proper accounting procedures and another charter school that seems to think Student Body Activities are their personal playground.

FY2016StudentBodyActivityDistrictCharters

For something like this chart, I would expect to see school districts firmly in the lead, but we don’t see that at all.  Cape Henlopen is a bit of an oddity when it comes to Delaware school districts.  They get a lot of money from school taxes and the residents in those areas don’t seem to mind paying them.  But Newark Charter School, with $445,000 in student body activities?  That is an excessively high amount.  For a charter school with a student population of less than 14% of the neighboring Christina School District, they spend 17 times more on activities for students than Christina.  Four districts and one charter don’t even have anything coded as “Student Body Activity” with the state: Caesar Rodney, Colonial, Delmar, Sussex Tech, and Sussex Academy.  Do they not have any student body activities or do they just put it somewhere else in the Rubik’s Cube called the Delaware Financial System (DFS)?

So how does this even work?  Are districts and charters paying out for field trips and fun activities and then reimbursing those costs as revenue generated from parents paying for them?  Are these schools paying for them without collecting any money from students?  Or is it a combination of both?

Do these activities affect the bottom line for the per student costs for each district and charter school?

FY2016StudentBodyActivityPerStudent

Rocketing to number one with $108,000 in student body activity costs based on their number of students is Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security (DAPSS).  That sure is a lot of field trips!  We know they bought a fire truck for their students last winter, but those funds were generated from a collection by students.  So what accounts for such a high amount based on their student population?  I went on Delaware Online Checkbook and found that DAPPS is coding all their student transportation costs under student body activity.  So that throws their numbers way off!  We can clearly see the transportation costs as part of this category, with an amount totaling $84,236.  Had they coded this correctly, under student transportation, their costs for student body activity would have been a little over $23,000.

For Newark Charter School’s student body activity expenses on Delaware Online Checkbook, there is no explanation for their very high amounts.  While we do see transportation costs, they are not as high as DAPSS.  They appear to be transportation costs associated with field trips.  What is even more bizarre are the many payments going to certain individuals.  As if they are parents or teachers.  We see amounts going out to American Airlines for 26 purchases of what I assume to be airline tickets at $818 each and one for $875 totaling over $21,000 on 2/5/16 which were bought with the state procurement card on 1/15/16.  I reviewed NCS board minutes and found no mention of any big field trips for students taking place that would warrant such high airline ticket prices.  The state’s accounting manual is explicit that no state employee can purchase first class airline tickets.  So where was this trip to that cost $818 for each ticket?

Cape Henlopen has an obscene amount of p-card activity associated with student body activities under student body activity.  Like Newark Charter School, I see a lot of names associated with these charges.

Where this gets incredibly odd is when I went to look at examples of student body activity for different school districts and charters.  A Delaware citizen submitted a FOIA request to the state and received the FOIA in early July.  All of this citizen’s information was run by the Department of Finance on 7/2/16 for every single district and charter school’s expenses for Fiscal Year 2016.  June 30th was the end of the fiscal year.  All the charts and graphs I have made to date have been based on those figures.  But upon review, amounts are changing in the state accounting system.  The total expenditures for each district and charter are the same, but funds are moving around in the coding system.  As an example, Odyssey Charter School showed over $35,000 in student body activity costs.  But when I look now on Delaware Online Checkbook, the amount is over $153,000.  This trend occurred with many districts and charters, some for nominal amounts and some for rather considerable amounts.  And this is just under student body activity expenses.

In looking at Odyssey, it became clear something was up, so I was able to actually find the exact amount that was shifted over to student body activity.

odysseystudbodyactivity

In the above picture, we clearly see Odyssey Charter School, as of 21:06:44 on 07/02/16 had a total amount for FY2016 in Student Body Activity in the amount of $35,831.91.

odysseystudbodyactivitydeonlinechkbook

In the above snapshot, taken from Delaware Online Checkbook today about ten minutes ago, we clearly see an amount showing $153,958.79.  The difference between the two is $118,126.88.  That is a rather steep increase for student body activities!  In looking at their expenses for student body activity for Odyssey, I found two rather large amounts going to First Student Inc.  This is the bus company Odyssey uses.  As seen in the below picture, the two charges were for $69,486.40 and $48,640.48.  If you add those up, you get $118,126.88.  Now why would those funds be shifted from some other category to student body activity?

OdysseyFirstStateIncBusPmtsFY2016

The two payments to First Student Inc. are listed in the below picture.

odysseyfirststateincpmts$118k

So if $118,126.88 was shifted to Student Body Activity, where did the funds come from?  If Odyssey’s total expenditures didn’t change, what happened to the money?  In the FOIA from 7/2/16, it clearly shows Odyssey’s Fleet Rental costs at $612,546.34.

OdysseyFleetRental

Now watch what happens when I go on Delaware Online Checkbook to find out the current Fleet Rental amount for Odyssey Charter School…

OdysseyFY2016FleetRentalDEOnlineChkbook

Wait, it went down from $612,546.34 to $494,419.46.  That is a difference of $118,126.88

There is one thing charter schools get that traditional school districts don’t get.  Some call it the transportation slush fund.  Every year, in the epilogue to the state budget, there is a stipulation that allows charter schools to keep any difference between their budgeted amount for transportation and what they actually spend.  For Odyssey, this is listed as “Transportation” in their budget.  These costs go up each year.  But how much did charter schools get to keep from these surplus funds.  Surely it wasn’t that much.  In the below pictures from FY2014 and FY2015, we see how much charters get back from this slush fund.

OdysseyFY2014TransportationFunds

FY2015BusContracts

Odyssey has clearly benefitted from this arrangement with legislators that has continued for the past seven years in the epilogue of the state budget.  I sincerely hope charters aren’t hiding any funds so they can actually get more from the Delaware Charter School Transportation Slush Fund then they already are!

What I am more curious about with these coding changes are 1) Why are they happening, 2) Who is making the changes, and 3) Are both the districts or charters and the state aware of these changes if only one of them are making the changes?  Something to keep in mind is this simple fact: this is only for Student Body Activity.  There are hundreds of codes in the Delaware Financial System.  This is just what I could find for our schools in one code.

FY2016CodingChangesStudentBodyActivity

In the picture above, this is based on rounded off figures to the nearest dollar which is why the Odyssey number doesn’t match up with the $118,126.88 I mentioned a few times.  I have not been able to look at the other schools to see where the money is going to.  Odyssey was easy because of the high amounts involved.  While some of these amounts are small, what other shifts are going on?  Why are they going on for other areas if they are?  We know districts and charters code things incorrectly but who monitors that?  Does anyone?  And how much does all this shifting of taxpayer dollars affect funding for the next fiscal year?

I would strongly recommend each district or charter school Chief Operating Officer or Business Manager proactively gets in touch with me and voluntarily lets me know of any changes being made to the Delaware Financial System, the justification for these changes, and how they are able to do it.  If they aren’t aware of these changes, they need to let me know that as well.  Because as I go through each of the different codes in the coming weeks, I will find more.  I’ve already done a cursory glance at different (and major) categories and found excessive sums of money shifting around.  If you don’t get in touch with me, don’t get upset when I blast the lack of transparency from your school or district in each article.  We know this is happening.  So the choice is simple: be held accountable or be honest.  If there is funny business, you know I will expose it and call you out on it.  And each time, I am submitting requests to the State Auditor’s office for each and every category.  So you can ignore me all you want, but know that someone else will be knocking on your door.  And if the State Auditor’s office ignores this, it is time to take steps at a Federal level.  None of you who are manipulating funds will be allowed to do so anymore.  If the Auditor won’t hold you accountable, I will.  And I will make so much noise you won’t be able to hear above the outcries of the citizens in your district or charter school.  This begins now.  I don’t want to hear any crap about “I didn’t know” or “no one ever told me”.  You are all subject to the rules of this state.  Your excuses are exactly that: an excuse.  If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you won’t have anything to worry about.  But someone has to shake all this up and see what settles at the bottom.

I sincerely hope I’m not spoiling anyone’s party and ruining a chance to get some extra money for themselves.  The party’s over.  Deal with it.

 

Back To School Message For Students, Parents, Teachers & Schools

In Delaware, all public school students are back in school.  This will be a very interesting year ahead for all of us.  The invasion of corporate education reform will be felt the strongest this year.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment results will be released on a statewide level in a couple days and the results will go to parents in a few weeks.  Priority and focus schools will feel the pain of submitting plans to the Delaware Department of Education.  Opt-out will become bigger and more complicated.  Schools will lose essential funding due to budget issues in our state government that will continue to go unaddressed.  Reports will come out showing how some charters in this state should practice certain application tactics.  Parents and teachers will complain about things.  The DOE will make it look like everything is awesome when they come out with press releases.  Governor Markell will most likely have about 20 weekly messages and 30 public comments about how great education is but how much we need to do to make Delaware the best state in the country for education.  A new Secretary of Education will decide if the DOE should stay on course or course-correct.  The 148th General Assembly will debate education issues for our children and the DOE and their reform buddies will lobby the legislators for their own agendas.  Parents will become increasingly vocal about hotbed education issues in our state.  Common Core will be a common pain for students and parents.  Wilmington schools will be the front page headline for most schools in the state.  Vouchers won’t go anywhere.  Most of the people in the state will still have no clue who Rodel is.  I will keep blogging about all of this.  But at the end of the day, it’s about our children.  We all need to keep them safe and keep them learning.  The rest is just detail.  Best of luck to all involved in any way with education this year!