Youth Drug Prevention Curriculum Task Force Final Report Deals With Gripping Questions

Last June, Delaware legislators passed a concurrent resolution which created a task force to look at curriculum for drug prevention in Delaware’s public schools.  The final report came out on January 7th.

The task force was led by Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend and State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King.  They met from September to December last fall.  The main purpose of the task force was to make recommendations for the best drug prevention programs in our schools.  The law demands evidence-based programs to curtail drug use in Delaware students but there is simply not enough evidence on the effectiveness of the many different programs utilized by the 19 school districts in Delaware.

One program stood out above all others.  The Botvin program was frequently named in the task force minutes.  I read the minutes last night but was not able to read through the Botvin material.  When it comes to drug use in kids, I say whatever programs works best should be used by all districts.  There was a lot of discussion about unfunded mandates among the group and the expense for these programs.  This was followed by talk about local control or state control over these programs.

The report is very long but it is worth the read.  I want to know more about the skateboarding program in Sweden that they use!  Make it happen Erin!

District Consolidation Task Force Bill Kicked Back To Delaware House, Bonini Amendment Takes Charters Back Out Again

House Concurrent Resolution passed the Delaware Senate a short time ago with amendment by Delaware Senator to take charter schools out of the district consolidation task force’s discussion.  A prior amendment in the House from State Rep. Earl Jaques included charter schools in the task force discussion.  Oddly enough, Senator Bonini’s amendment didn’t remove a representative from the Delaware Charter Schools Network from the task force.

Senator David Sokola said this bill did not have to be heard in committee but felt it was an important enough topic to have that voice.

Senator Bryan Townsend expressed hope that charters would be a part of the task force’s review.  He said the intent of the legislation is a coordinated school system.  He recognized Delaware’s unique education system and understood the ideological discussion of Senator Colin Bonini but still felt all Delaware public schools should be part of that system.

Senator Bonini’s amendment passed with 12 yes, 8 no, and 1 absent.  For the concurrent resolution, it passed with 17 yes, 3 no, and 1 absent.  I imagine it will come back to the House tonight.

Senator Townsend’s Senate Concurrent Resolution #39, requesting an advisory opinion from the Justices of the Delaware Supreme Court on the efficiency of Delaware’s public school system, was defeated in the Delaware Senate with 9 yes, 10 no, 1 not voting, and 1 absent.  House Bill #142, dealing with training for School Resource Officers in situations dealing with students with disabilities, passed the Senate with 20 yes and 1 no.  The Kim Williams sponsored bill goes to Governor Carney for signature.

Here Comes The School District Consolidation Task Force!

House Concurrent Resolution #39 would create a School District Consolidation Task Force.  Yes, another task force in Delaware.  Because we must always have a group of people sitting around a table before we can do anything.  This task force would study if it is worth consolidating school districts in Delaware.  This is something I actually favor.  Nineteen school districts in little old Delaware?  There are school districts in other states with more students than the entire student population of Delaware.  I believe it will happen, but the question is how many?  I don’t think there should be more than five.  Expect a lot of battles on this one.  I am fairly sure nineteen superintendents won’t want to give up their titles.  Some would have to if this went through.  This will be one of the hottest topics in the second leg of the 149th General Assembly beginning in January, 2018.  I’m calling it now!

Where it goes from here is the House Education Committee.  It is on the agenda for the meeting tomorrow (must be nice to be the Sponsor of the bill AND the Chair of the Committee).  But tomorrow is the last day of committee meetings before the General Assembly closes up shop this year so this is my guestimation on what will happen: clears House Education Committee, gets a House vote in the affirmative, gets sent to Senate Education Committee, a suspension of rules allows it to bypass the committee, Senate votes yes, and the task force gets going late summer/early fall.

 

Longhurst Letter Questions Where The Hell Existing After-School Money Is Going

Good old Jack Wells.  Strong in the Force is that one!  When State Rep. Val Longhurst released her final report on the SAIL Task Force, which is basically asking for more education funding for after-school programs, the News Journal took the bait.  But so did Jack Wells, Delaware’s financial Yoda (especially with Red Clay funds).  So much so he wrote a very public letter to Rep. Longhurst.

TO:  House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst;

I support your efforts for more affordable after-school programs and bring together a collection of leading after-school care providers, educators and state agencies.  To be honest I believe many expenditures being charged to education revenue should be the responsibility of other state agencies.

In fiscal year 2016, DID our districts and charter schools expend more per student on EPER athletics, EPER extra curricular activities, and EPER miscellaneous, than on providing additional help to our children to improve their achievement in reading, math and other critical subjects.  I have no doubt very little of the $35 million expended for EPER was expended to provide additional assistance to improve the achievement of our children in reading, math, and other critical subjects.

After reading the recommendations regarding the lack of after school programs being provided to our children,  I cannot help but wonder why no comments where made on the after school programs currently being provided to our children by our districts and charter schools, programs that are funded from local school taxes, I would estimate at a cost of $35 million dollars.

Last year our districts and charter schools expended $19,043,456 to cover the salary cost for Extra Pay for Extra Responsibilities, EPER, when you include pension cost, 22.28% and other employment cost, 18.83% the cost for EPER compensation was $26,872,126.

In addition $2,335,617 was expended for Athletic Equipment and Supplies and $2,510,162 for Student Body Activities, added to these cost, must be custodian overtime, transportation, maintaining facilities, game officials, security, energy, association dues, conference fees, uniforms, etc..

The question which must be answered is, How and where was this $35 million dollars used.  What I do know is that EPER has 3 categories, Athletics, Extra Curricular Activities and Miscellaneous, shown below are compensation cost for each category.  I believe it’s reasonable to believe that almost all of the compensation cost for EPER Athletics, $9,559,540 was used in our 9-12 grade schools, as was the cost of game officials, conference fees, supplies and equipment, maintaining facilities, etc.. 

I also know that last year the principals in Red Clay 9-12 grade schools expended $439.53 per student, while the principals in K-5 expended $173.85 and middle school principals $198.97.  Why the difference? Was it EPER?

Shown below are the salary, pension and Other Employment cost for each category of EPER.

     Salary          Pension            OEC              Total

$6,774,596   $1,509,379   $1,275,565   $9,559,540   Athletics

$5,750,613   $1,281,236   $1,082,840   $8,114,689   Extra Curricular Activities

$6,518,247   $1,452,265   $1,227,385   $9,197,897   Miscellaneous.

Finally I would like to point out that the local salary cost for EPER of $19,043,456 is only exceeded by the local salary cost of our teachers, principals, assistant principals, custodians and salaries general, clearly this is a major local expense that only a very few have any idea of how and where it is being used and how it benefits our children.

Are our K-5 and 6-8 grade students being provided the same amount of local revenue for additional programs as our high schools?  Does the funding of athletics have a higher priority than funding additional help to our children who need help in reading, math, etc.?

I ask that you Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Task Force review how and where EPER expenditures are used and report your findings to the residents when requesting additional revenue.

http://delawarestatenews.net/news/task-force-recommends-expanded-school-programs/?utm_source=Delaware&utm_campaign=12397b98e6-Delaware+State+News+Daily+Enewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1e4f95e41f-12397b98e6-35998

Jack Wells

Assessment Inventory Task Force Meeting Tonight, Don’t Opt Out Of This One!!!!

I strongly encourage everyone in Delaware to go to the Assessment Inventory Task Force meeting tonight at the Delaware Dept. of Education Townsend Building in Dover at 5:00pm.  The transparency surrounding this task force has been horrible.  When Senate Joint Resolution #2 was discussed during the Senate Education Committee meeting last June, the audience was told these would be public meetings with full transparency.  We are now seeing that isn’t the case at all.  I’m really not sure where the minutes are for this because there are none.  We can thank Senator David Sokola for this.  Tonight’s meeting is the third meeting and no minutes have been listed on the SJR #2 page.  You would think the DOE would also put minutes for this group on their website since it was their idea anyways, but no.  Unless you go to these meetings, we have no idea what they are doing.

For those thinking “Why should I go?  It’s not like they care about my input anyways!”, you are probably right.  But we need all eyes on this.  When asked if the Smarter Balanced Assessment would be a part of this conversation, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Lindsay O’Mara said:

“Absolutely, yes, all assessments will be the subject of discussion.  We were all invited together to have a discussion about assessments.  Hopefully those discussions will be grounded in the reality of the cycle of state legal requirements around assessments.  But were happy to have any conversation around any assessment that any member of this group would put on the table.”

Time to live up to that promise Lindsay!  If we want this task force to Achieve it’s original promise, then we need to start making sure it is wide open to all.

Updated 15 minutes later.  The minutes for the second meeting are out there, but I could only find them on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar in draft form:

So I ask again: where is the conversation about Smarter Balanced being put on the table?  Or is the Smarter Balanced the power brokers behind this that want to eat up all the other assessments unless they support SBAC?  And I see a whole let of Achieve Inc. mentions in these minutes.  Speaking of power brokers…

House Concurrent Resolution #5 To Create Education Funding Task Force in Delaware

House Concurrent Resolution #5 will create a task force to examine how funds are allocated per student in Delaware.  My biggest question though is why the hell a representative from Rodel is needed on this?  The Delaware Charter Schools Network I can sort of undertand, but Rodel?  This “non-profit” has no business interfering in Delaware education more than it already has.  Enough is enough.  Haven’t they caused enough problems?

SPONSOR: Rep. Briggs King & Sen. Pettyjohn;
Reps. D. Short, Hudson, Kenton, Smyk, Wilson, Yearick; Sens. Lawson, Simpson

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES148th GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 5

 

ESTABLISHING A BLUE RIBBON TASK FORCE ON EDUCATION SPENDING TO AUDIT PUBLIC SPENDING FOR EDUCATION IN DELAWARE AND TO MAKE FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO ASSURE FAIR AND EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION.

WHEREAS, the Delaware Department of Education currently provides K-12 funding to a variety of educational systems throughout the State; and

WHEREAS, the existing formulas for distribution are inequitable and create a large disparity in the quality of education that our children are able to receive; and

WHEREAS, it is the intent of the General Assembly that a task force of qualified persons study the current formulas for distribution and develop alternatives that will allow for an equitable distribution among all children receiving an education in the State, by and among all school districts and non-public forms of education.

NOW, THEREFORE:

BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the 148th General Assembly of the State of Delaware, the Senate concurring therein, that the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Education Spending be established to study and make findings regarding the current formulas for distributing public funds for education among all forms of education, and to make recommendations to improve the formulas for distribution to assure fairness and equity for all children receiving an education in Delaware.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force be composed of the following members:

Two members of the House of Representatives, one appointed by the Speaker of the House and one appointed by the Minority Leader;

Two members of the Senate, one appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate and one appointed by the Minority Leader;

The Controller General, or designee;

Two representatives from the Department of Education;

One representative from the Rodel Foundation;

One representative from the Delaware Charter Schools Network;

One representative from the Delaware State Education Association;

One parent, appointed by the Education Committee of the House of Representatives;

One teacher, to be appointed by the Education Committee of the Senate;

One Public School District Superintendent from each County, to be appointed by the Governor; and

One representative from a Vocational School, to be appointed by the Governor.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that two co-chairs are to be selected from the members, one to be chosen by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and one to be chosen by the President pro tempore of the Senate.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Co-Chairs of the Task Force shall be responsible for setting the initial meeting of the task force and guiding the administration of the Task Force.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Department of Education shall provide access to any information and resources that may be required to complete this study, and may provide reasonable and necessary support staff and materials for the Task Force.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force report its findings and recommendations to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Governor, the Department of Education, and the Directors of the Division of Research and the Delaware Public Archives for public dissemination by one year from the date of passage of this Resolution.

SYNOPSIS

Under the current Department of Education formula for providing State funds for education, there is a wide discrepancy in the funding per pupil between public school districts and among the other educational systems offered in this State.   This Resolution will establish a Task Force to examine and study all Department of Education K-12 spending in Delaware, as it exists across all forms of education. The Task Force will be able to use that information to make recommendations that will create and promote an equitable distribution among all children receiving an education in Delaware, by and among all public school districts and alternative educational systems. This Task Force will be comprised of 16 persons with diverse backgrounds and interests, including those from public, charter, and vocational educational systems.

IEP Task Force Meeting #6, Live From Dover, DE **UPDATED**

A week and a day after the last meeting, here we are again.  Back in the conference room we should have been in last week when the DOE hijacked the room from the task force for their town hall meeting.

Matt Denn asked for approval of minutes rom last meeting.  Everyone agreed. He said there are two meetings left before the report is due to Governor Markell on January 1st, 2015.  Denn will recommend to the legislature to continue the task force after that date to go over further issues that have come up.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) representative speaking about significant changes coming to transition through legislation. They serve many adults as well as students. No new funding with these new measures. Every high school in DE has a VR rep in high schools to deal with students in the year prior to their exit year. They have MOUs with every high school in the state. They help students get jobs after secondary schooling. Work with hospitals, such as Bayhealth. Also have program called Early Start to Employment. They have received a lot of good data on that program, including a 95% success rate. However, they had 60 students choose not to participate in the program so they want to get the word out since it is so successful. They are working with DOE on program for students w/learning disabilities and behavioral problems. These are students with a high risk of dropping out and not going to college. They need to get the buy-in from the education system to start this process early.  PETS services helps transition students who may not be a transition youth (need to do some research on this).  Many states don’t have partnerships with their state DOEs so Delaware is ahead of the game with this.  They think with upcoming IDEA reauthorization it will provide more useful language in the law for these kinds of transition matters.  Information on upcoming law will come out in January 2015.  The law is requiring them to be the gatekeepers for sheltered workshops.  They don’t normally do this anyways, but if the IEP states a student wants to attend this kind of program.  Student will need a statement stating they are so disabled they can only work in this type of environment, otherwise they can’t participate.

Matt Denn asked VR rep if transition can be included in IEPs earlier than junior or senior year?  She responded that due to capacity (and funding I’m sure) they don’t have the staff to do that.  They may able to do some consultative work but they can’t attend every IEP meeting.  She agrees transition planning should start at an earlier age.  Through working w/Dale Mitusevich at Delaware DOE, they have been able to work more with juniors in high school than seniors.

A representative named Andrea from In The Works, works w/many agencies including state Medicaid agency on a program called Pathways To Employment for students 14-25 years old.  God bless her, she’s talking very fast and dropping many abbreviations for state agencies.  I may have to go to the audio recording on this part.  Sorry folks.  They want to provide services that are “less like crisis management and more like support management.”

A rep from Division for Visually Impaired spoke about how resources are shifting to an older population in the state.  They provide braille instruction, consultative services, technology, employ child youth counselors, orientation services, assistive technology and an array of service providers.  They are currently serving 250 students across the state.  They are part of the PATHWAYS program.

Bill Doolittle asked how much grant amount might be, VR rep said $1,000,000.00.  Andrea said Pathways to Employment would be eligible for service if they receive Medicaid and meet other criteria.  DVI rep said they get $100-120,000 from DE DOE and $125,000 from other state agencies.

Marissa Band asked if they would work with the DEDisabilityHub website.  VR rep said absolutely, and has worked with Wendy Strauss on matters already.  Liz Toney asked how many teachers they Div. of Visual Impairment employs, rep said 8 out of the 9 employed in the state.  She asked rep if task force is able to acquire additional funding and get more teachers if that would help.  He said they would have to examine other factors since they are not an education agency.

No more questions.

Matt Denn opened the floor to suggestions for issues of transition planning.  Nobody is talking.  Denn looks flustered.  Ruth Lavelle spoke up and wants services to come in at age 14.  She would also like to say large group resources to help get the word out better.  She stated it is a very confusing subject when first introduced.  She said there needs to be a better game plan in the earlier years.  Marissa Band said the transition task force recommended there be transition coordinators in every high school.  Matt Denn asked who those people would be, Band said it would be school district staff.  Said could spread out amongst middle and high schools.  VR rep agreed and said this was an important recommendation coming from that task force.  Dale Mitusevich (sitting in for Mary Ann Mieczkowski from the DOE) said every school district has one transition person assigned to their job duties.  He said DOE has a transition matrix, said it could be a teacher or an educational diagnostician.  He said this is a burden on these individuals.  Pam Atchison said Charleton School hired a transition coordinator, but later added that due to funding she had to pull a teacher from the classroom.

Dale Mitusevich said there was a meeting at DOE about transition today.  He said district reps coming in to transition cadre has to have an administrator on their team.  He said four charters are involed with this.  They have multiple transition training sessions with the charters throughout the year.  Denn said he wants to get a price tag for implementing a resolution to have a coordinator in each high school, independent of other duties.  He said he also wants to enhance abilities of PIC and Community Legal Aid to help parents.

Ruth from VR said career assessments need to be done as early as possible to help in the IEP planning to help people point students in the right direction.  Mitusevich would like to see more reaching out to higher education programs.  He stated transition planning in this group can be confusing due to lack of knowledge.  Ruth from VR said she has worked with the Autism Task Force and DAP has an assessment program that works very well.  Ruth said it doesn’t have to be a certified evaluator to do career assessment, she said it could be a paraprofessional.

Matt Denn thanked the guests, and now he wants to look at the 2nd draft that appears on the IEP Task Force website.  http://ltgov.delaware.gov/taskforces/ieptf/141120/IEPTaskForceReportDraft111714.pdf

Mitusevich said Delaware has a higher standard than many other states.  Marissa Band said she has some issues with language in the draft but she will put in information via email or talk with Kim Siegel.  Matt Denn said there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about what other states are doing in other states with IEPs.  Liz Toney brought up the presentation from the first meeting.  She brought up Wrightslaw as a good resource.

A parent gave public comment thanking the task force for their recommendations for visually impaired students.

I gave public comment about how special needs students at the priority schools and Gateway Lab School are victims of special education games in the state.  I referenced my article from last night about Rodel and Markell and how special needs children have suffered immensely in Delaware.  I also recommended the task force adds the subject of IEP denials if they continue past the Governor’s report.

Sarah Celestin from DOE gave public comment about Standards-Based IEPs, student led IEPs, and translating Behavior Intervention Plans into IEPs.  She said there is training and assistance through University of Delaware.  She said they have been working w/districts on standards-based IEPs (Common Core for the IEP in my opinion).  She said through funds from a Federal grant DOE wants all districts and charters in the state to have these IEP strategies in the next two years.  She asked Mitusevich to talk about student led IEPs.  He spoke about the transition conference at Dover Downs a few weeks ago.  He said there was a big group from DC to speak about these, as well as folks from Virginia, Dr. Jim Martin out of University of Oklahoma on student led IEPs and student active participation in IEP meetings.  He said this means a student doesn’t just read a script and actually participates in the IEP meeting.  Celestin said DOE is offering training and coaching.  Denn asked if this is required for districts to implement.  She said standards-based IEPs are not required but it is about standards not standardized.  She said parents and IEP teams have struggles with implementing these kinds of IEPs because they need to help students close achievement gaps.  She said teachers are struggling with this and stressed it is not required.  (as Steve Newton mentioned in an article on these IEPs, the measurement for it is the “fidelity” component of the grant in getting schools trained on it).  She did say through compliance monitoring in the future they will look at things that are part of standards-based IEPs in terms of students needs so they will hold IEPs to a higher standard and best practices.  Matt Denn said this isn’t a subject for the IEP Task Force report, but he is hesitant to make recommendations for  something that isn’t required.

I raised my hand to speak again, and Matt Denn jokingly said something about “or if anyone wants to give second public comment”.  I went up and responded to Sarah’s comment.  I advised I went over to DOE presentation to the GACEC (Gov. Adv. Council For Except. Children), and it absolutely is tying IEPs into standards based on “curriculum” which is code word for those who may not know what Common Core is.  I advised the word “rigor” is used in the document which is used by Common Core proponents all the time.  I said rigor is not a word parents like, especially special needs parents, because the way it is used would indicate students with disabilities need to try harder to get to a regular students level, which completely invalidates the spirit of IDEA.

My commentary on tonight’s meeting: Interesting stuff with these transition services coming in.  All of them said “we need more funding”.  In regards to comments made by DOE employees, I know these folks work very hard at their jobs, and for that, they have my respect.  But if Delaware holds such a higher standard for IEPs, why did you need Federal intervention in Special Education?  Why would you hold a higher standard for something that isn’t even legally required?  Cause you like what you have created?  If they look at best practice, why the hell won’t they look at IEP denials?  Who are they trying to protect? (I already know the answer to that, and they know I know but they don’t care) Sorry Sarah, you can say whatever you want, but any presentation that has the word “rigor” in it, which is one of those words that make opponents of common core flip out, is not going to work for me and many other special needs parents.

To Be Continued December 3rd…