Ex-Priority Schools Princess Getting Run Out Of Texas

Penny Schwinn, the former Chief of Accountability at the Delaware Department of Education, is looking for a job in Massachusetts after a very controversial no-bid contract in Texas dealing with special education put her in the hot seat.

 

Schwinn serves as the Texas Education Association’s Deputy Commissioner of Academics.  The Texas tribune reported in December that the TEA’s no-bid contract with SPEDx that cost the Lonestar State $2.2 million dollars.  The purpose of the work done by SPEDx was to collect a huge amount of data on students with disabilities in the state.  Advocates screamed foul and the contract ended.  It also caused Texas to take a close look at no-bid contracts dealing with education.  In Delaware, any contract over $50,000 must go out for bid.  In Texas, it is $15,000.  But Schwinn was instrumental in getting the contract.  Now she is looking to leave Texas less than two years since she got the job, something an overwhelming amount of readers on this blog predicted.

In a pump and dump statement by the Education Commissioner’s office, they said the following:

In a statement Tuesday, TEA spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson said that Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath was aware Schwinn was being considered for the Massachusetts job and that Schwinn’s “professional background and leadership reflects a distinguished career committed to schoolchildren.”

“Penny Schwinn continues to do an outstanding job at the Texas Education Agency and would be a tremendous leader for the state of Massachusetts,” Culbertson said.

The survivors of Hurricane Schwinn in Delaware feel for Texans.  Schwinn came to Delaware in the Spring of 2014.  Right from the get-go, she caused controversy.  At a State Board of Education meeting, during a discussion about crime and violence affecting students in Wilmington, Schwinn said that wasn’t “necessarily a hurdle to overcome”.  After that, she embarked on a crazy Priority Schools agenda involving schools in the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated school districts.  The plans called for new leaders and firing half the staff in their buildings.  After teachers, parents, and advocates screamed bloody murder, the plans changed drastically.  The promised state funding for the plan was not what was originally promised.  Many feel that fiasco led to former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy “resigning” from his post.  In 2015, she led the horrible school report card creation which penalized schools for opt out numbers higher than 5%.  Eventually, the Every Student Succeeds Act took care of that travesty.  But by then, Schwinn flew off to Texas.

The ex-Broad fellows and Teach For America alumni continue to spread their not-so-magical woes from state to state.  They leave their mark, do some damage, and leave when the going gets rough.  And the cycle never ends.  I hope Massachusetts doesn’t make the same mistakes Delaware and Texas did.  Does Penny still own that charter school out in California?

For folks in Texas or Massachusetts who want to read more about Schwinn’s time in Delaware, please go here.

 

 

Controversy Erupts On Social Media Over Special Education Funding Task Force Resolution

House Concurrent Resolution #34, introduced on June 29th last year, will be on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting tomorrow.  One line in the legislation offended many, including myself, when it was brought to my attention.

WHEREAS, special education represents a growing financial burden on school districts as the need for services increases.

I can pretty much guarantee any parent of a student with disabilities would take offense to that wording.  While it is true that special education costs have risen over the past decade, referring to those costs as a “financial burden” is not a wise choice of words.  Schools have an obligation, under both state and federal law, to provide those services regardless of cost.  Which is exactly how folks took it on social media last night.  I do not think that was the intent of the legislators who sponsored the bill.

As well, parents took offense to there only being one slot on this task force for a parent.  That seat would be determined by the Delaware PTA.  The bill has an odd mix of sponsors.  With the majority of the sponsors as Republicans, some wondered why Democrat State Senator Nicole Poore would sign on as the prime Senate sponsor.  In addition,  Democrat State Rep. Ed Osienski also signed on as a co-sponsor.

State Senator Brian Pettyjohn joined in on the conversation and doubted the resolution would appear in the Delaware Senate.

Last week, news from Texas regarding allegations against the Texas Education Agency shocked Americans everywhere.  A report said the TEA was limiting the number of special education students in The Lonestar State since 2004.  Their special education population dropped from 11% to 8% over a seven-year period even though most states saw dramatic increases in those student populations.  Many blame caps instituted by the Texas legislature on special education funding.  Which is eerily similar to the recommendations a task force like this could come out with.

While I don’t believe there was ill intent with this legislation, the optics on it could not be worse.  In conjunction with the news from Texas, a lawsuit filed by the Delaware ACLU today against the state has special education funding as part of the overall complaint with education funding.

I have been saying for years that Delaware needs to revamp how they submit payments in their state financial system.  No one follows the recommended spending codes so it is impossible to track how money is being spent.  Especially with special education.  That should be an easy problem for our legislators to fix but no one wants to take up the baton.  Not sure why.  It isn’t a change to the Delaware Constitution.  It would be a simple bill mandating our school districts and charter schools accurately code expenditures in a uniform process.  And the Delaware Department of Education would have to oversee this and implement regulations in regards to Delaware state code.  Any task force, committee, workgroup or other such thing looking at any facet of education spending is useless until this is done first.  Which legislator wants to twirl a baton?  Anyone?

Meanwhile, HCR #34 is on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting.  Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews said DSEA does not support the legislation on one of the Facebook posts that came out last night.  I would hope that when legislation like this comes out that our state legislators would look at the wording of their bills or resolutions.  The people are watching them.

Penny Schwinn Lands In Texas

Former Delaware Department of Education Chief of Accountability and Assessment Penny Schwinn finally landed a new job in Texas of all places.  Her new title is the Deputy Commissioner for Academics in the Texas Education Agency.  Aside from overseeing assessments and accountability, her new job will see her also cover standards and programs.

As part of a complete overhaul of the Texas Education Agency, Education Commissioner Mike Morath replaced many of the top posts at the Texas equivalent of the Delaware Department of Education.  Morath’s role is equivalent to the Delaware Secretary of Education.

The Texas Tribune pointed out that out of the three positions Morath hired, three out of the five came from charter school backgrounds and only two were from Texas.  This appeared to be an issue with the Texas State Teachers Association and several traditional school districts.  It appears Delaware isn’t the only state that has our State Education Agency filled with charter/corporate education reformists.  I will be the first to start a poll on how long Schwinn will stay in Texas.