The Ugly Truth About The Delaware Budget

Sometimes one person can put it all in perspective in such an easy and common sense way.  Today, that person is Steve Newton.  On Facebook, he posted the below in response to a post I put up.  Things are getting very heated on social media today and tonight it will only get worse.  Everyone is freaking out over this budget, especially state workers.  The article I put up yesterday about a 2% cut for state workers and increases in their insurance premiums is not a definite, but it has been brought up.  Some on social media are saying they never heard this but they also aren’t at Legislative Hall to know for sure.  I heard this from a few sources.  Before I get to the heart of Steve’s post, there was a brief discussion before that about prevailing wage.

Other person: We live in a global society. Monies are transferred all over the place all the time. We cannot expect that money spent by us here will remain here. What we need is for additional money to come back to us. We need to make Delaware some place people will come to spend THEIR money. Or, wait, is the actual problem we are all living in such austere times that no one has any money to spend at all? This nation needs to stop shrugging like Atlas and embrace the progressive core of Democratic Socialism.

Steve Newton: I appreciate that sentiment, but it doesn’t actually answer my question. Much of the work that is done here on school construction is done by companies that hale far from here. We spend a lot of time discussing returns on the investments, and I’ve personally spent time arguing that we shouldn’t be paying out corporate incentives to bring jobs to DE when, even when they employ people, those people often don’t live or work here. There’s an argument to be made on both sides here, but I have not seen it made with numbers. I’m also curious about the calculation of the prevailing wage–I know it’s based from a Federal number, but is it modified to reflect regional variations in cost of living, and–most importantly–is it recalculated on a regular basis according to some reliable metric? In other words, are we paying the same prevailing wage in Delaware that is paid in, say, San Francisco, where the cost of living is five times higher?

One possible answer is to require companies that accept prevailing wage contracts in Delaware to use a specified percentage of local hires for the work. This is (ironically) what rock and country bands do with musicians and road crews in the big concerts.

IF the point of the prevailing wage is to better the lives of the workers, and IF we are investing DE tax money to do that, it makes far more sense to me to have measures in place that insure that at least some of those DE tax dollars are in fact being used to better the lives of DE citizens. Again, there is an argument to be made on both sides, but I want to see the argument made with the numbers actually on the table, and so far I have seen no one–neither GOPers nor Dems–do this.

Other person: If the schools are using non-Delaware companies for construction, it stands to reason that it’s because the State requires it. I’ve not encountered too many times in my 16 years where the State didn’t restrict or flat-out dictate exactly what companies schools could use for what goods or services.

Steve Newton: OK but here’s the deal–you are advocating that as a point of principle towards solidarity with working people we keep the prevailing wage–even though that benefit may not be going to DE families. At the same time, “cost-cutting” measures in health care that the GA has already agreed upon with reduce our family’s salary by $5,000 next year, cause us as a married couple to pay MORE for health insurance than if we got a divorce and bought two separate policies, and they’re mooting a 2% pay cut on top of that. I do have a problem drawing a line in the sand over prevailing wage AFTER they’ve already thrown me and my family to the lions.

Where were the Democrats who are closing ranks over Prevailing Wage when it came to protecting State workers? Our pay and benefits were put on the table before there was even any discussion.

This caused Steve to write a very long reply on the thread:

Here’s the other elephant (pun intended) in the room: the GOP is right on some of this–for the wrong reasons. There remains massive structural fat in the State budget that could be eliminated with political will. Instead of massive increases in prison guards, we could legalize pot AND release all non-violent drug into prison AND eliminate prison sentences for non-violent possession in all drug crimes … thus reducing costs (incarceration 1 year=$37k; treatment 1 year=$9K) for more than 6-8,000 non-violent drug offenders in DE prisons. Reduce the prison population by 6-8,000 and there goes overcrowding and we can look at guard deployment again.

There are whole offices at DE DOE to be either eliminated or consolidated–I could cut 25% or more from that budget with a pen in an afternoon.

We have no compelling need for a Secretary of Homeland Security AND a commandant of the DSP–merge the offices, save millions. While we are at it, hand back coastal enforcement to the Coast Guard and get rid of the DSP Navy; then slash the “grey” budget for DIAC in Dover which has a greater record of violating civil rights than solving crimes.

We’ve had a massive influx from private schools to charters, so isn’t it time to stop paying transportation allowances, drivers’ ed money, and the salaries of school nurses for private schools while we are slowly eliminating funds to transport homeless kids to school? Extend school bus life to at least sixteen years or for as long as the bus meets safety and reliability standards and quit auctioning them off for pennies to private schools (this is how they get their bus fleets).

You want cheap in public education? Unfortunately, you can’t have “cheap,” “choice,” “charter,” and “effective” all at the same time. You want 3-5 school districts in Delaware? Fine–then require ALL charters to be approved by the geographical district, and require them to use consolidated transportation, food service, and data processing assets to qualify for any State money.

There is structural fat aplenty in the State budget, but precious little will to actually grapple with it. Everybody talks about health insurance costs, but take a look at the processing contracts we’ve handed out to Highmark for both Medicaid and Medicare–there are actually local Delaware companies that could do the same job for 30% less–and that money would stay in Delaware and pay wages to DE employees–which Highmark does not.

So everybody please do me a favor and quit pretending that only one side got us into this mess. “Delaware Way” politicians of both parties have been kicking this particular can as hard as they could. Both sides have signed off, again and again, on massive corporate giveaways that haven’t panned out (Fisker, Bloom Energy) or have been nothing more than embarrassing bribes to banks and financial companies.

I’ve already lost this argument. No matter what happens in the next few days or weeks, our politicians have already cut my salary, reduced my benefits, slashed my home mortgage deduction, put my grandson in larger classes, and guaranteed that my roads will continue to be full of potholes, while continuing to transfer huge amounts of public dollars into private hands via a whole variety of corporate dodges no matter who “wins.”

Shaking his head he leaves the room …

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Why Corporate Education Reform Eventually Fails

I love me some good Steve Newton in the morning!  Earlier today, I posted an article about a Blockchain technology bill getting a vote in the Delaware Senate.  If you haven’t read that article yet, you need to now so you can understand this response by Steve Newton.  Steve nailed it!  But this is also why I blog.  I like to get information out as well as my thoughts and predictions on it before these possible futures come to pass.  The best way to fight the future is to expose that future!

I both do and don’t agree with your analysis. In the abstract what you say about the intended potential of Blockchain is correct; I don’t doubt your assessment of the motivations (profit and otherwise) of corporate reformers. In fact I share them. But…

I do not believe that Blockchain or any other internet-based platform actually possesses the power to replace public education, though I do agree that under certain conditions it possesses the power to wound or destroy it. Nonetheless I don’t see that happening as the “reformers” intend.

Mostly this is because the reformers are just about as politically inept as it is possible to be. In Delaware the reform movement is in its third or fourth distinct incarnation because it’s lost almost every round by overplaying its hand. Not only is the domination of charters cracking open, people are beginning to question the concept of “choice” as it is currently written. Communities are mobilizing, in no small part because children like your son or my grandson cannot be successfully educated that way, and because it doesn’t provide any path forward at all for children from low SES backgrounds.

People tend to miss two big points in examining public education in America. The first is how WELL the system actually works, despite all its warts. It sends literally millions of graduates well-prepared into college or a career every year, despite the best efforts of critics and enemies to wreck the system. Even many of the children the current system “fails” are actually achieving some value from the system, which is remarkably resilient.

Second, we often fail to acknowledge that the US attempts to do something amazing on a scale approached by no other country on the planet: we attempt to educate everybody’s children. It is perhaps one of the most unparalleled experiments in the limits of the possible ever conducted in human history. No other country attempts to do this on such a scale with such a heterogenous population.

Finally, Blockchain and corporate intrusion into education highlight the ultimate dynamic–centralization versus decentralization. Corporations are pretty much as interested in centralization of authority as the government–they just want to do it in order to profit from it. But the tradition of public education here is all about local control (which, we know, Rodel would like to stamp out), and the irony is that the same technology they’re pushing to use in centralizing is the very technology that makes decentralized control more functional and adaptable if we seize the tools for our own purposes.

What’s really under attack here (and I think you get this part exactly right) is the SOCIAL objective of American public education as an empowering institution for ALL children, regardless of ethnicity, wealth, or class. That’s actually the part that the reformers (sometimes unconsciously) are attacking, because an American public education system that actually levels the playing field in statistically significant ways will change both the nature of economic relationships and political power in ways that scare the hell out of them.

Those changes are actually under way and more or less inevitable. The reformers are fighting a rear-guard battle with the very tools that will in the end undo them.

Don’t let your special needs child fall victim to “new”​ Federal and State voucher/choice policies

This article originally appeared on long-time Delaware special education advocate Steve Newton’s LinkedIn account yesterday.  I read it today and Steve not only hit a grand-slam with this article, but he hit it out of the park!  This is the must-read of the month and the timeliness of this could not be more important!  Normally, I would italicize this but for reasons which will soon become clear, I did not.  Great job Steve!

The road is about to get a lot rougher for special needs kids in America’s schools

It’s never been easy.

IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act] was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 to stiffen the supports for disability-challenged American students that already existed in Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. IDEA established the rules for determining the need for special services, how supports within the education system would be determined, and provided for their monitoring via IEPs [Individualized Education Plans]. The trifold intent of IDEA was to (a) guarantee parents and students a role, a voice, and an appeals option in the process; (b) fund services that would allow special needs students to receive FAPE [Free Appropriate Public Education]; and create mechanisms for monitoring/enforcing the entire process.

Despite the fact that none of those goals has ever really been attained (Congress has never fully funded IDEA in any budget in the past 27 years), IDEA represented a massive improvement for special needs students across America. Millions of kids with specific Learning Disabilities (as in Math or English), with Emotional Disabilities, with ADHD, with Autism, and with other, lesser-known disabilities managed to finish school and go on to college, or employment, and independent, productive lives. Flawed as it is in the execution, IDEA has been a hugely successful law.

But the last decade has seen major problems setting in Continue reading “Don’t let your special needs child fall victim to “new”​ Federal and State voucher/choice policies”

Kilroy, Stop The Union-Bashing! You Have MUCH Bigger Fish To Fry!

Every once in a while, Kilroy posts something about me.  It is usually in regards to some comment someone made over on his blog.  But lately, especially on social media, I see Kilroy taking potshots at DSEA and a couple of members in particular.  This led to a dust-up on Kilroy’s Facebook page tonight, over all things, social justice.

It appears Kilroy didn’t understand the context and went into a tirade over it.  This led to other commenters talking about the validity of unions and how the dues work.  Steve Newton completely evaporated the opposition and proved conclusively that union dues come with the application for a teaching job in Delaware school districts.  It isn’t a question of right or wrong, it is just the way it is.

Kilroy needs to stop trying to poke holes into DSEA and their upcoming elections and really focus on the things that are happening outside of teacher unions.  Like the complete and utter privatization of public education if certain parties get their way.  Like the Rodel-led hijacking of Delaware’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan.  Like the Christina-charter school settlement that will take away funds from every single school district in the state for things that are rightfully excluded from charter payments.  Like an incoming Governor who has not announced any leadership positions for Delaware education with a little over a month before his inauguration.  Like the swarm of education technology in our classrooms that is collecting a plethora of private student information with algorithms we will never know about.  Like how it doesn’t matter who won President of the country, that march to privatization continues.  Like the “Bad News Betsy” that will make Arne Duncan and John King look like rank amateurs.  Like the stealth tests coming our way sooner than we think in Rodel’s when you wish upon a star personalized learning and competency-based education environment.

For someone who claims to support teacher unions, he sure does talk about them a lot.  Especially their role in Race To The Top.  Six years ago.  Which, I might add, all nineteen school districts signed up for, along with the Delaware PTA and every other education organization in the state.  To say DSEA was the only party that led RTTT into Delaware is very misleading.  Being real here, I wasn’t involved in all of this when RTTT came out.  So my window on this is seen in perceptions of that time from others after the fact in the past few years.  But there comes a time when beating it over us is not productive.  Who is still in DSEA leadership from that time?  I don’t think anyone running for DSEA leadership was instrumental in the decisions from six years ago.  But if Kilroy has a grandchild in Red Clay, he needs to get up to speed with what is going on in education.  Cause it is not pretty and he needs to be on the right side of things.  I admire the hell out of Kilroy.  He got me my start in the Delaware blogosphere.  And I want him to focus on more because he has a great deal of influence on education.

In terms of social justice, I’m not sure what context Kilroy took it in, but as a result of Kilroy’s post, Mike Matthews updated his status to show what his definition of social justice is:

Social justice means to me…

…standing at a school board meeting begging for more supports for special needs students.

…going to Dover and speaking in support of the Opt Out movement before the House education committee.

…reading a book to kindergarteners on why sharing and respect are key values.

…protesting the State’s attempts to shut down community schools because of test scores.

…letting a Black student know that when all around them they feel like the world hates them, that their life DOES matter.

…demanding that Delaware get off the list of four states that doesn’t fund ELL students.

…ensuring that ALL students know that a classroom is a place where they can be themselves — no matter how different — and be accepted.

…organizing educators to make sure they understand their rights to speak up and ADVOCATE for their students when the time comes.

Social Justice, to me, is about education and NEVER indoctrination. Social justice is about respect. Kindness. Acceptance. Organizing. Advocating. Speaking up. Believing in who you are as a human being and being able to take action to fight for the most vulnerable.

That’s what social justice is. While that phrase may be dangerous to some, I will always wear it like a badge of honor.

Besides, it’s too much fun being an outspoken pain in the ass sometimes.

 

Well said Mr. Matthews.  That is some social justice I can get behind.  While I have been critical of DSEA leadership in the past, I have always seen the potential of what a united and strong DSEA could become in this state.  A DSEA that will have to align with parents in the coming years if they want to save public education.  Perhaps that is why I have been critical of DSEA at times because I have high expectations for them to be the voice that has the power to influence public education in this state, not be an observer while others feast on the scraps.

We ALL need to be concerned about Donald Trump and his very poor selection of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education.  Trump really doesn’t have a clue about education.  But he will surround himself with people who do.  And what they know and what they have planned is not good.

 

We Need Teacher Blogs In Delaware!

As I look at my Delaware blogger list, I see fewer posts by many on the Delaware blogs.  I see very few from teachers in Delaware.  I keep wondering why this is.  My first assumption is they are afraid of retribution for what they write.  Which is why we need Delaware teachers to write anonymous blogs.  We need to hear things from their perspective, the good and the bad.  What is working?  What isn’t?  How are students REALLY doing in the classroom?  How do they do on actual classroom assignments?  What are the concerns and fears teachers have?  How do they feel about Common Core and Smarter Balanced now that we are waist-deep in it?  This voice is dwindling in Delaware and people need to hear it.

So I am calling out for any teachers in Delaware to start anonymous blogs.  I welcome all education blogs in this state.  Kilroy doesn’t post as much these days, but that is for a good reason.  Kavips will sometimes post 10 articles in 2 days, and then nothing.  Delaware Way used to write an awesome collection of education blog stories from the past week.  Transparent Christina rarely writes new material these days.  Where has Steve Newton’s voice been?  What happened to Minding My Matters, Fixdeldoe, and theseventhtype?  I understand many of these people have real lives with things going on, but an occasional post about different viewpoints and opinions is missed.  I saw many blogs start in the past year and then they disappeared.

Blogging is free and it takes time, but it is also an essential part of today’s media.  Bloggers are the Wild West, able to post stories along with their opinions.  The audience is there, but they need YOU!  State Rep. Kim Williams is one of the busiest persons I know, but she recently started an excellent blog called Delaware First State.  Christina CBOC member Brian Stephan of Those in Favor now writes for Delaware Liberal.  So what say you Delaware teachers?  Care to give it a whirl?  Please use WordPress so I can reblog your stuff!  And I would love to hear from Kent County and Sussex County teachers!

Citizens of the 22nd District in DE, Vote For Steve Newton For State Rep Today! #netde #eduDE #Delaware

If you care about your child’s education, Steve needs your vote.

If you care about having someone who is an expert on special education in Legislative Hall, Steve needs your vote.

If you care about the toxicity of high-stakes standardized testing, Steve needs your vote.

If you care about teachers getting shafted by the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell, Steve needs your vote.

If you care about the damage Common Core is doing to schools and students, Steve needs your vote.

If you care about your district, Steve needs your vote.

If you care about Delaware, Steve needs your vote.

State Rep Candidate Steve Newton Educates The News Journal About the Truth Behind Standardized Testing @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat #netde #eduDE

This is why I really wish Steve Newton lived in my district.  I would vote for him, and go to each home in my district and convince them why Steve is the right choice to represent families and students in Legislative Hall.  It isn’t about Republican or Democrat anymore.  Those lines blurred a long time ago in Delaware when it comes to education.  It warped into legislators not doing the right thing for kids in return for political favors.  There are some who are not afraid to speak out about the education reform and all the fraud that has come with it.  Steve will, in my most fervent hope, join them in crusading against the shame our Delaware education has become.

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/editorials/2014/10/02/school-tests-teaching-us/16607495/

Steve Newton’s response:

The WNJ editorial board COMPLETELY misses the point on testing:

“Just what is it that we Americans don’t like about school testing? Is it too tough on our children? Is it too tough on the education establishment, especially teachers? Or is it a plot to totally federalize our school system, report cards and all?

“The answer probably is: All of the above.”

Actually, folks, the answer is far more fundamental: high-stakes testing transforms our schools from public education to workforce training establishments. What we lose in the myopic insistence on standardized testing is the impetus to value every child, to let every child grow and find new ways, to give a hand up to every child who has ever overcome obstacles just to show up in our classrooms with or without her homework.

No test can capture that moment when, in an English class, an abused child first sees himself and his life in a Shakespearian play.

No test can assess the impact on the child who has always struggled with reading as he becomes the first trumpet in the middle school marching band, and realizes that there are modes of self-expression at which he can excel.

No test can assess the impact of a teacher who does the best she can every single day with the little girl who never has her homework and never wants to talk, because that teacher knows there is one overworked parent too busy trying to pay the rent to keep “involved” parent hours for homework.

I could do this all day.

It’s not that the tests are too hard. It’s not that they’re somehow too tough on teachers. It’s not even that they lead to a Federal takeover.

High-stakes testing is systematically destroying the very strength of the American educational system–and there are strengths within that system, for all it faults and creaks and groans.

I know whereof I speak, because I have designed content standards, I have written and graded test items, I have been on the other side, and I understand that the high-stakes testing people are 110% sincere, just like anybody else trapped within the confines of a cult.

They BELIEVE that “assessment drives instruction” is the 11th Commandment. They BELIEVE that if we don’t impose the factory-like schools of Shanghai on our students that the entire American system will collapse. They BELIEVE that testing, rigorously applied, can wipe out the inequalities of poverty, and sand down the edges of all those square-peg children that corporate America wants to jam into those round holes. They are religious fanatics.

Assessment is critical to teaching, just like medicine is critical to health care. Yet if a doctor suddenly develops the belief that every patient, regardless of his or her malady, requires massive doses of antibiotics, then something is wrong.

Public education in America is NOT a business and children (along with their test outcomes) are NOT a product.

I’ll say this one last time for the two people still reading this screed: the Americans who are resisting high-stakes testing are NOT afraid of them, they simply understand what the education bureaucrats and corporate reformers don’t: they will destroy, not fix, our educational system.

Support Steve Newton at the Newcastle County Candidate Forum, 9/16 #netde #eduDE @DelawareBats @delawareonline @DoverPost @TheStateNews

stevenewtonforumsmallerpic

God I wish I lived in the 22nd district in Delaware!  This is the home of Steve Newton, and he is running for House Representative for his district as an Independent.  I could care less what party he is with, because he is a great guy!  If there is one voice in this election cycle that represents the best views on education, Steve Newton is the one!  And he also has a great handle on many of the other ailments Delaware is facing.  Transportation, financial matters, he’s got it covered!

I’ve known Steve for about four months, but I didn’t officially meet him until a couple weeks ago.  We met for lunch, and talked about special education in Delaware.  That night I attended the primary candidate forum up in Pike’s Creek, and watched as the three other candidates kept saying “I agree with Steve”.  The  first time I heard of Steve was on Kilroy’s Delaware.  He commented on a story I was writing on there, and what impressed me the most was how much he helped a friend of mine, who was also commenting.  Nobody knew the connection at the time, but her response was “We need more Steve Newton’s in the world.”  The fact that Steve could touch someone who doesn’t even live in Delaware is just one example of how his knowledge and experience can truly help the people of the 1st state!

Delaware needs a fresh new voice in Legislative Hall.  One that isn’t tainted by all the Markell years.  One that believes education needs to be returned to the school districts and special education needs to be massively revamped in this state.  What makes Steve even more awesome is he is also an advocate for parents who are having difficulty at IEP meetings.  He has helped children in many states across our country.

So to my readers in the 22nd District, vote for a person who will help to make education better.  Don’t vote for the same old guy you always have.  Vote for Steve Newton!

To find out more about Steve’s views, check out his Facebook page, Steve Newton for 22nd District State Representative: https://www.facebook.com/Newtonfor22ndStateRep

Interesting Debate Tonight in Hockessin: Miro, Newton, MacKenzie & Smith, Will Education Come Up? #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de

Tonight in Hockessin, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, candidates running for the House of Representatives in the 22nd District will meet in a debate at the Hockessin Memorial Hall. What will make this very interesting for me will be Joe Miro and Steve Newton. Miro is serving on the IEP Task Force starting this Thursday. Newton is a long-time special education advocate and has helped many children not only in Delaware, but across the country.

Common Core, testing and special education are all hot topics in Delaware right now, so I am very interested in those responses from all the candidates. Without being biased (I am), I think there needs to be a lot more Steve Newtons in this state. Advocates need to know what they are talking about when dealing with school administrations, and Newton, along with Kathy Willis and Diane Eastburn definitely know how to tackle schools when problems come up.

Miro voted yes for House Bill 334, which allowed the Smarter Balanced Assessment to replace DCAS as Delaware’s state standardized test. The bill almost died in the Delaware Senate, but Governor Markell sent his team in to let the Senate know it would be implemented anyways, no matter how they voted. The Senate took a revote and four Republicans flip-flopped on the vote, allowing it to pass. Many special education advocates and parents are against the test due to the lack of accommodations for special needs students, which are less than DCAS.