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

paulbaumbach

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:

Advertisements

My Headache And Nasal Drip Are Gone!

This morning I followed-up on plans to observe a talented and gifted program in one of our Delaware schools.  It was great seeing the kids interacting with their teacher.  I arrived at Pulaski Elementary School at about 9:45am and stayed until shortly before noon.  I got a tour of the building.  I haven’t been in too many inner-city schools that are older, so it was great to see the design of the building and the different levels.

About fifteen minutes after arrival, I developed a nasal drip.  Which was very strange because I wasn’t congested prior to getting there.  About ten minutes later I began to have a headache.  I ate a full breakfast this morning and took my vitamins.  Most headaches I get require me to take some type of medicine like Motrin or Tylenol.  Alas, I didn’t have any with me.  The headache went away about 45 minutes after I left Pulaski.

I saw the rooms where the mold remediation took place.  They were sealed off with plastic zipper doors, like what we saw in E.T. back in 1982.  I asked if the carpeting was the same in the one room to which my guide said yes.  Other areas that were not remediated had a musty, damp kind of smell.  Not the whole building, but areas near the remediated rooms and above them.  Even the front office had a peculiar smell.

I met the principal.  A very nice woman.  I met quite a few teachers, most of them in passing.  All were very polite and doing what they do best, teaching kids.  There were a few times I had to ask my guide to repeat herself.  Unfortunately, under doctor orders, she had to wear an air filter mask because of lingering health issues.

By the way, the Christina Board of Education will meet tonight at the Sarah Pyle Academy in Wilmington.  The meeting opens to the public at 7pm and public comment is always welcome.  I know they will be discussing the mold issues as well as the charter school lawsuit against them and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Last night, the board held an Executive Meeting to discuss the litigation.  I anticipate a very large crowd in attendance this evening, so you may want to think about arriving early.  Meanwhile, the Delaware Division of Public Health is set to release a report on their walk-through of the school last Friday.

 

32 Questions: Delaware Candidates For Governor On Education

I sent education surveys to all four of the candidates running for Delaware Governor.  Three responded.  I want to thank all the candidates for responding.  Many of the questions I asked deal with the issues I write about on this blog.  The survey was sent a few weeks ago, so recent events such as the district-charter funding issue and Blockchain aren’t in here.

These were tough questions in many areas and I challenged the candidates to do some research with some of them.  In some areas, all three were in agreement and in others not so much.  There were 32 questions overall, dealing with issues concerning teachers, special education, Common Core, Rodel, Markell, FOIA, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and more. Continue reading “32 Questions: Delaware Candidates For Governor On Education”

WEIC’s Charter-District Collaboration Meeting Minutes Show Obvious Barriers

A student from the Charter School of Wilmington described the sense of community at his school, and the concern that this committee might break up that community that is very important to the school.

 

I didn’t expect the Charter School of Wilmington issues to come up so fast in the whole Wilmington Education Improvement Commission/redistricting initiative, but I’m glad the elephant in the room was addressed in the first Charter and District Collaboration Committee meeting.  The minutes from the September 23rd meeting, seen below, show many of the concerns surrounding the whole charter/traditional conversation from both sides of the aisle.

The one part that was brought up was the whole nature of a “consortium” for the Wilmington charters which was brought up in the original WEAC report (or book if you have it, there are a few thousand of these floating around Delaware).  A commenter made the following statement:

The recommendation in the WEAC report is on collaboration in the form of a consortium. It is important to focus time around that, and decide if a brand new consortium is necessary or if you should work with the existing Charter School Network and Innovative Schools. We need to embrace the existing options and use the organizations we have, and determine what target we are aiming at.

Yeah, I don’t know if I can recommend Innovative Schools as a role model these days.  They have their hands full with the schools they are operating in.  And we all know what is going on with Delaware Met.  To have the Delaware Charter Schools Network running the show is also a recipe for disaster.  They have not shown a true willingness to work with traditional school districts and this has caused a lot of angst with the issues.  Especially when it comes to equity among the two and legislation to even the playing field.

There are lots of other interesting and conversation-starting bits in here.

Governor Markell Wants A Conversation But Parents MUST Be An Equal Party

From the Delaware.gov website, my thoughts on the bottom.

Governor Initiates Statewide Plan for Future Education Offerings

Date Posted: Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Categories:  News Office of Governor Markell

Bookmark and Share

Announces review of public schools and programs to address unmet student needs

Dover, DE – Governor Markell today announced a needs assessment and strategic planning process for the future of Delaware public schools, including charter, vocational-technical, and magnet schools. The State will review current opportunities available to students, analyze trends, and quantify areas of unmet needs for Delaware families.

“Many amazing schools and programs across the state are offering students diverse and innovative opportunities to meet their individual needs,” said Markell. “However, not all of our students have access to the programs of their choice. Many schools are oversubscribed and should be expanded or replicated. At the same time, we don’t want our districts to start new programs, and we don’t want to open new charter and magnet schools, if families aren’t asking for what they offer.

“This effort will ensure that state and district plans are designed to best meet individual students’ needs and spark their interests.”

Launching the effort during a meeting of the State Board of Education, the Governor specifically referenced the tremendous progress made at Vo Tech schools in each county, noting that they don’t have the capacity to serve all of the students who select them in the school choice process.

Other trends include four new middle and high schools that will open in the City of Wilmington this fall, reflecting the desire for new options in the city. In addition, programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills that are needed for jobs in growing industries, like those offered at Conrad Schools of Science, as well as the college prep courses at Mount Pleasant High School, have garnered increased interest. However, no process has existed to systematically ensure that more students can gain from the experiences they want at traditional, magnet, and charter schools.

The strategic plan developed through the Governor’s Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities for Delaware Students will quantify programs where demand exceeds the state’s capacity and analyze demographic trends to project future needs. That will help the state, school districts, and charter school operators know where and how to invest, from which dual-enrollment programs are most valuable and popular to the types of curriculum from which more students would benefit.

“For the past two years, the State Board of Education has referenced the need for the state to develop a comprehensive analysis of our portfolio of public schools, a thorough needs assessment to identify strengths, weaknesses, saturations, as well as opportunities for success and innovation,” said Teri Quinn Grey, President of the State Board of Education President. “We believe that such an analysis would aid the state in the development of this strategic plan, as well as be a useful tool for local boards and school leaders in deciding school programming decisions, facility decisions, and other educational opportunities. It also will be a tool to be utilized by policy leaders, community members, and businesses to evaluate opportunities for further investment and expansion in Delaware.”

The review announced today was inspired by a proposal by the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) – a group formed by the Governor last year that has urged the state to be smarter and more strategic about the growth of educational opportunities, particularly for charter schools in Wilmington. Markell said he agreed with the Committee’s recommendation, but also believes we can’t limit this effort to one city or county, or to charter schools alone.

“It can benefit our education system statewide,” said Markell. “All schools are part of the solution.”

WEAC Chair Tony Allen voiced support for expanding on the group’s recommendation.

“There is no question that charter schools will remain a critical part of public education in Delaware and that many students throughout the state will be served by them, and in many cases served well,” said Allen. “However, we cannot continue to operate two systems with little interaction and coordination and expect the quality benefits that all of our children deserve. It is our hope that a plan for charter schools extends itself to public education in Delaware broadly and forces stronger collaboration across the traditional district, charter and vo-tech boundaries.”

Representative Charles Potter Jr. (D-Wilmington North), who the Governor recognized at the event for his advocacy in establishing WEAC as an opportunity for members of the community to have a stronger voice on issues involving education of Wilmington children, voiced his support of the plan as well.

“I’m in support of the governor’s efforts to undertake this statewide strategic plan,” said Rep. Potter. “I feel strongly that we have to take a comprehensive look at what is happening in Wilmington and address those issues as well.”

It sounds like someone is realizing education is a mess in this state.  I think the people are the ones who need to control this conversation though.  For every person in this group, you need to have an EQUAL and state-wide amount of parents.  And not parents who are in this group or that group.  I’ve been to meetings like that.  We need down to earth, grassroots parents.  It is very easy to pick out the good and capitalize on that, but if you aren’t looking at the bad, the rot will still be there.

Nobody knows children like a child’s parent.  I defy you to find anyone that knows more than a parent that loves their child.  I think we are willing to hear a conversation, but we want to be an EQUAL part of it.  Otherwise, this just isn’t going to work Governor Markell.