Betsy DeVos & Delaware DOE Continue Delaware’s Special Relationship With U.S. DOE

“Delaware has always been a state of firsts, so it should be no surprise that theirs was both the first state plan submitted and the first approved under ESSA,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos seems to just love little old Delaware.  Isn’t that just nifty!  Most of our legislators and some folks I talked to at Delaware DOE couldn’t stand the thought of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education, but now they are using her for sound bites.  How pathetic we have become in Delaware.  Our leadership has become a bunch of kiss-asses, hell-bent on sucking up to Betsy DeVos of all people.  Below is the Delaware DOE’s press release for their next “first” status.

Delaware receives final approval on ESSA state plan

Delaware has received final approval from the U.S. Department of Education (USED) for its Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan, Delaware Secretary of Education Susan Bunting announced today.

Today’s ESSA plan approval comes just days after the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) submitted an updated version of the plan to USED to reflect changes based on federal guidance, public feedback and feedback received from the Governor’s Office.

“Delaware worked together to create a very thoughtful and effective plan, and we appreciate that USED sees the value in how we’ve designed our systems to improve student outcomes,” Bunting said. “Now the harder work begins as we continue to work across agencies and with stakeholders to support our districts and charter schools as they focus on implementing Delaware’s ESSA plan to benefit our students.”

Delaware was the first of 16 states and the District of Columbia to opt to submit their completed ESSA state plan by the first deadline on April 3. It is also the only state so far to have had its plan approved.

“Delaware has always been a state of firsts, so it should be no surprise that theirs was both the first state plan submitted and the first approved under ESSA,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

ESSA is the main federal law governing funding of public education and gives states more flexibility and more state and local control over the accountability process. In December 2015, Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA)  as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Under ESSA, states are required to outline their plans for spending federal funds, for measuring the skills students learn and for supporting students in making academic progress. ESSA gives the U.S. Secretary of Education final approval of each state’s plan.

Implementation of the programs outlined in Delaware’s ESSA plan will begin during the 2017-18 school year.

“Delaware has created a strong plan that makes certain all students have access to a quality education and an equal opportunity to succeed,” said Delaware Governor John Carney. “Every student will benefit from the work outlined in ESSA, especially our neediest students in the City of Wilmington. I am proud of how the state continues to join forces to help all Delaware students, and I am looking forward to lending my support to this work in every way possible.”

Last month, Governor Carney announced the creation of a Wilmington-based team to support struggling schools in the City of Wilmington. The Delaware Department of Education’s new Office of Improvement & Innovation will be led by Dorrell Green – a long-time Delaware educator with a proven track record in school improvement. Green began his work with the Department of Education on August 1.

The Department is also working closely with district and charter schools to make certain they have the supports they need to fulfill the ESSA state plan.

“We are excited to learn that the Delaware ESSA plan has been approved,” said Heath Chasanov, Superintendent of Woodbridge School District and the 2017-18 President of the Chief School Officers Association. “We recognize the hard work that the Department of Education has undertaken to meet the requirements of the application process.  We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Department to implement the changes for the betterment of our students.”

This past year, as Delaware drafted its ESSA plan, the state collected more than 1,000 comments and suggestions from families, community members and other education stakeholders through a series of community conversations and discussion groups, the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee, and online surveys and submissions. The department’s framework document provided additional context around the work.

“The development of the ESSA plan was the result of a broad-based team effort,” said Delaware’s Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field Rogers, who oversaw the coordination of the state’s plan. “Now that Delaware’s ESSA plan has been approved, we will continue to work with our districts, charter schools and our stakeholders to improve the education that each of our students receives.”

The remaining states’ ESSA plans are due to USED on September 18.

 All hail the conquering Delaware DOE! First to reach the Race To The Top, First to have their ESSA plan approved, and First to sign the Constitution and the last to follow it (see any number of articles on this blog).  It’s almost like Jack Markell never left office…

Newark Charter School 5 Mile Radius Bill & Education Funding SHOULD Be The Center Of Focus At Education Forum Monday Night

Delaware State Rep. Paul Baumbach will be moderating an education forum Monday evening at Newark High School from 7pm to 9pm.  Questions will be asked of the following: Senator David Sokola, Newark Charter Head of School Greg Meece, new Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg, Christina Board of Education President Elizabeth Paige, and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting.

Given the article on HS1 for House Bill 85 from yesterday, this forum could not come at a better time.  I challenge Greg Meece and Senator Sokola to explain WHY they didn’t want Christina’s Wilmington students included in the removal of the 5 mile radius legislation.  Yesterday, the Delaware House passed the bill with 27 yes and 13 no.

If you are able to get to this forum, I would strongly suggest doing so.  Especially if you are a parent of a Christina Wilmington student.

To clarify on the article from yesterday, I do not believe every legislator who voted yes on the bill is a racist.  I believe it was more political than anything else.  But, the unintended consequences of this bill will lead to more de facto segregation.

Education funding will also be a hot topic at this forum, as it should be.  I, for one, would like to know why the charters feel they should be able to keep their portion of the educational sustainment fund while local school districts don’t.  I would also like to know why there is talk that the charters will keep their transportation slush fund (extra freebie money they get to keep if they spend less than their budgeted transportation amount).

Newark Charter School Doesn’t Want Wilmington Black Kids Or Wilmington Special Needs Kids Going To Their Private School

Earlier this afternoon, State Rep. Rich Collins led the Delaware House of Representatives in prayer and asked them, no matter what, to put children first in their mind when they are voting on legislation.  Two and a half hours later, Collins along with 26 other state reps both Republican and Democrat, voted to keep Newark Charter School first.

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 passed the House today with 27 yes, 13 no, and 1 absent.  The bill removes the 5 mile radius enrollment preference for Delaware charter schools with one exception.  Since Christina School District has a portion of their district in Wilmington, that is not landlocked with the rest of the district, those Wilmington children will not be allowed to choice to Newark Charter School.  Even though the Wilmington students from Red Clay and Colonial can choice to other charter schools, those Christina Wilmington students can’t choice to that one school.  They can still choice to other charters within the district or even outside of the district, but not NCS.

The bill still has to go through the Senate.  By primary sponsor State Rep. Kim Williams’ own admission, if the bill did not have that provision it wouldn’t have moved forward in the Senate.  The Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Senator David Sokola, used to be on the board of Newark Charter School.  It isn’t really a state secret that State Rep. Melanie Smith bought a house in that area so her child can go to Newark Charter School.  Why does it always come back to Newark Charter School?

State Rep. John Kowalko put an amendment on the bill that would have removed that provision, but it failed to pass the House.  25 state reps voted no on the amendment.

I know State Rep. Kim Williams very well.  I know her intent with this bill was to get a start on changing this process.  It is better than what we had before.  But it really isn’t.  Yes, there will be a greater number of Christina School District students who will have the option of choicing into Newark Charter School.  That is true, provided the bill passes and gets signed by Governor Carney.  But it also sends a clear statement about Delaware as a state: we will allow de facto segregation.  Any time we are disallowing students from having a free and appropriate public education, we are not moving forward as a state, we are moving horribly backwards.

State Reps Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and J.J. Johnson, all African-American, voiced strong opposition to the bill for the same things I am writing.  Bolden said it best.  What does it say about Delaware as a state when legislation like this comes up?  She couldn’t say this, so I will.  It shows what a discriminatory state we are to the rest of the country.  It says city kids aren’t good enough for a charter in the suburbs.  It says we vote in legislators who would rather keep one charter school from opening up to ALL students than making Delaware, the first state to sign the U.S. Constitution, a fair and equitable state for all children.

Let’s be honest here, the only reason for this legislation in the first place is because of Newark Charter School.  Taking what could be a good portion of their student population out of the picture in the coming years defeats the whole intent of the bill in the first place.

Which State Reps voted to keep de facto segregation going in Delaware today?

Bryon Short (D)

Paul Baumbach (D)

David Bentz (D)

Gerald Brady (D)

William Carson (D)

Rich Collins (R)

Danny Short (R)

Tim Dukes (R)

Ronald Gray (R)

Kevin Hensley (R)

Deb Hudson (R)

Earl Jaques (D)

Quinton Johnson (D)

Harvey Kenton (R)

Ed Osienski (D)

William Outten (R)

Trey Paradee (D)

Charles Postles (R)

Melanie Smith (D)

Joe Miro (R)

Mike Ramone (R)

Steven Smyk (R)

Jeff Spiegelman (R)

John Viola (D)

Kim Williams (D)

David Wilson (R)

Lyndon Yearick (R)

Only one Republican voted no on the bill, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King.  I find it ironic that many of the Dems who have part of their district in the 5 mile radius for Newark Charter School voted yes.  A couple of the no votes surprised me, but I will take it.  For those who aren’t familiar with what our state legislators look like, there are no black Republicans in the Delaware House or Senate.  All of the above legislators are white.

No offense to Kim Williams, and I get her intent behind this bill, but I can’t support this bill.  I vehemently oppose it.  Any legislation that restricts a child from doing anything will never be a bill I can get behind.  Any bill that gives Delaware an ugly stain on our perception is one I can not support.  This is not progress.  This is very sad.

We need elected officials in our state who won’t follow the whims of Newark Charter School.  We need legislators who will look out for ALL students.  We need lawmakers who won’t bow to the Delaware Charter Schools Network and do what is right.  We need legislators who realize collaboration when it comes to education is NOT always a good thing.  Today was no victory by any means.  It was a horrible step backwards in Delaware.  We might as well paint a sign on Newark Charter School that says Wilmington students not allowed.  The original five mile radius for NCS was bad enough, but this… this is blatant discrimination by a public school that gets funding from taxpayers around the state.

Newark Charter School is one of the best schools in Delaware.  It is because of laws like this that have allowed them to cherry-pick their students and take advantage of the law so they give a façade of excellence.  If they truly let in any student, they would be no better or worse than the schools around them.  But they would be equal.  I would never let my child go to a school like that.  What kind of lesson would that teach him?  If he were picked in their lottery, I would tell him he won because so many kids could not.  If I lived in Wilmington, would I really want my child going to a school that practiced discrimination and segregation for over 15 years?

I would tell you to voice your opposition to the Delaware Senate on this bill.  But it really doesn’t matter.  If it passes as is, it is the same story.  If it fails, Newark Charter School still has their 5 mile radius and still keeps kids from the Christina School District out of their prestigious public school.  Any attempt at amending the bill will fail.  But the truest failure is how Delaware looks to the entire country with this one bill.

Updated, 6:52pm: I want to add one thing.  My thoughts on this bill are not a knock on all Delaware charter schools.  There are many charter schools in Wilmington who would be more than happy to take the students Newark Charter School doesn’t want.  And they do.  My main issues with charter schools in Delaware have been the very inequity I am writing about here.

 

 

 

Enrollment Preferences Bill Released From Committee But Newark Charter School Exclusion Remains Controversial

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 was released from the Delaware House Education Committee today.  There are very serious concerns due to a “compromise” brought forth by the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  The bone of contention surrounds the Christina School District and Newark Charter School.  Since a portion of Christina exists in Wilmington, those students would not be considered in the enrollment preference which includes all students in a choice school’s district.  The line of thinking appears to be the district section of Wilmington is not connected to the rest of the district.  However, those who oppose this section of the bill feel it is a barrier for Wilmington students who are part of the Christina School District.

Today, State Rep. John Kowalko is bringing forth an amendment but no one on the committee knew specifically what the amendment was.  State Rep. Kim Williams, the primary sponsor of the bill, stated she assumes it would be to remove lines 7-9 of the bill which would give Newark Charter School their Wilmington exclusion.  Williams said she would not support the amendment because she gave her word to Senator David Sokola.  This, apparently, was an addition to the bill from Senator Sokola which caused the House Substitute bill from the original House Bill 85.  State Rep. Joe Miro said he would not support the bill if the amendment passed.

State Rep. Sean Matthews said he is in support of the bill but does not feel the bill serves all students in the Christina School District.  He felt the bill does not allow for Wilmington students to go to Newark Charter School and the exclusion for NCS was put in so it can pass the Delaware Senate.

If Newark Charter School is so good, they should take all students. -State Rep. Sean Matthews

State Rep. Deb Heffernan agreed with Matthews.  The bill was released with 11 votes in favor of the bill.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the Delaware Department of Education is taking a neutral stance on the bill.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, said former State Board member R.L. Hughes was on the Enrollment Preferences Task Force and voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius. Kristin Dwyer, the Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing,  said she is happy the conversation is opened with this bill but DSEA does not feel the bill goes far enough.  DSEA feels the 5-mile radius should be completely removed.

My concerns with this bill are the very nature of Newark Charter School to begin with.  Even with their 5-mile radius, their student populations do not reflect that of the Greater Newark area.  This is the public comment I gave to the committee and my idea for a potential amendment.

While I am very happy to see this bill, I have concerns around Newark Charter School. When the charter school had their major modification approved to build their high school, they were instructed with formulating a plan to allow for more diversity in their district.  I have yet to see that materialize, even within their current 5 mile radius.  While their special education numbers have increased, they are still woefully under what the state average is, much less the Christina School District.  In the school profile for this school year, African-Americans represent 10.7% of their student population compared to 39.4% of Christina.  While factoring in the African-American population of the Wilmington contingent of Christina student population, the greater Newark area has a much higher population of African-Americans compared to NCS.  I would recommend an amendment be placed on this bill for a weighted lottery for charter schools, magnets, and any choice school where the demographics are disproportionately lower than that of the surrounding district to allow populations that do not seem to be getting access to certain charter school even footing and representation within those schools.  Enrollment preferences are meant to allow the most disadvantaged students into choice schools, not to keep them out. Thank you.

The bill, if passed, would take place immediately.  However, it would not be able to kick in until the 2018-2019 school year since the school choice calendar for the 2017-2018 school year closed in January.  During the House Bill 90 Enrollment Preferences Task Force, the majority of the members voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius as an enrollment preference for choice schools.  Williams said she does not necessarily agree with the Newark Charter School exclusion, but felt compromise was necessary.  If the bill didn’t move forward, she would not be able to help any students.

Once Kowalko’s amendment is public, I will add it to this article.

Can-Kicker Jack Letter Is NOT A Guarantee Of Funding

On June 29th, Delaware Governor Jack Markell wrote a letter to State Representatives Charles Potter and Stephanie Bolden and State Senator Margaret-Rose Henry.  In the letter he expressed his regret at not being able to “fully support” the funding for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan and how he expects to appropriate $7.5 million in his recommended FY2018 budget in January, 2017.  Later in the letter he states he will appropriate the funding in his recommended budget.  Back in September of 2014, Markell issued an Executive Order which created the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee which issued recommendations that became WEIC.  By doing so, through Executive Order, that should have been his FULL support.  Instead, he kicked the can down the road because he wasn’t able to give this his “full support”.

I’ve always wondered what the deal was with this.  It happened as Christina and Red Clay were calling for the DOE’s throat over the priority schools.  Constituents were pissed and the above-mentioned legislators, along with others, pleaded with Governor Markell to do something.  I firmly believe the entire WEIC redistricting plan was the official reaction to the priority schools.  But did Jack bite off more than he could chew with this?  By essentially creating all of this, it brought city advocates for under-served, under-funded, and high-needs city children to the forefront of Delaware education conversation.  It quickly became clear that much more was needed than the state would be able to deliver.  In hindsight though, it did force us as a state to renew conversations about race, education, funding, economic class, discrimination, and so much more.  Before the budget vote, State Rep. Stephanie Bolden explained how we are all neighbors in Delaware and what happens in Wilmington has a trickle-down effect to the rest of the state.  The opposite could be said though.  What doesn’t happen downstate affects the entire state.  It is my hope that as WEIC uses their extra year of planning that they add Kent and Sussex County voices to these essential conversations.

I don’t trust Markell to keep his word.  By the time he submits this budget, his time as Governor is done.  He will be sailing off to his next destination (for which I will be happy unless it lands him at the US DOE).  But even if he does, that is no guarantee that 1) the money will be there in a year, 2) the Joint Finance Committee will appropriate it, or 3) The General Assembly will approve it in the budget bill for FY2018.  This is not, by far, a done deal.

markell7.5millionpromise

The WEIC Redistricting Plan: Do You Support It?

Under The Radar, Another Delaware Charter May Go Down Tonight

All the media attention has been on Delaware Met, but another charter school may face the charter revocation knife in less than twelve hours!  The Delaware Department of Education is the charter school authorizer for most of the charters in the state, but three of them fall under the watch of the Red Clay Consolidated School District: Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep.  The last of those is on formal review, and the odds are in favor of Delaware College Prep getting their charter revoked at the Red Clay board meeting tonight.

If this happens, and Delaware Met goes down at the State Board of Education meeting tomorrow, that will be five charter schools shut down in the past few years: Pencader Business School, Moyer, Reach Academy for Girls, Delaware College Prep and Delaware Met.  For a state with anywhere from 22-25 charters (it is getting hard to keep track with the openings and closings), this is an abysmal track record.  Delaware doesn’t have the charter chains like many other states.  Most of them are “mom and pop” charters.  Most of these are serving children with needs greater than other charters.

The inner-city charter experiments are clearly not working.  Sure, folks can say East Side is a resounding success, but when you look at their Smarter Balanced results, they weren’t much better than their traditional school district peers.  I am not saying I agree with using standardized test scores as a measure of success or failure, but for the sake of argument, their perceived “growth” blew up with their SBAC scores.  The problem is also the charters who do “perform” well.  This is another illusion cast upon our state because of their enrollment practices.  We all know who those players are but nothing ever changes.  So we continue this game of Russian Roulette with our Wilmington students.  We are rolling the dice with them and the results are horrible.

And yet, the charters with some of the most egregious financial abuses in our state stay open.  Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy collectively wasted over $300,000 in taxpayer funds for personal use.  Their schools are still open.  Their former leaders are not in prison for outright theft.  But we will bounce students around Wilmington through choice and charter openings and closings without any regard to the amount of instability this inflicts on our districts, our communities, and most of all, the students.

Governor Markell Honors China Trip For 20 Students While Charter School Students In His Own Backyard Suffer

The Delaware Department of Education put out a press release today about twenty Delaware students who went to China for a month this summer.  That’s great Jack.  How about honoring the other 133,000 students in Delaware?  Or even the hundreds, if not thousands of Delaware charter school students in Wilmington who are forced to move from charter to charter to charter because the adults don’t know how to run a school?  But yes, by all means, please send out a press release about twenty students going to China to watch some company there for a month as part of your whole “World Immersion Program”.  Meanwhile, yet another charter school in Wilmington, this time The Delaware Met, vanishes into the ether before it even got off the ground.

The people of Delaware are really beginning to wonder about you Jack!  It’s like this is Jack’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it.  WAKE UP! Before the entire State of Delaware goes bankrupt!  But no, we shouldn’t judge Markell for the failure of others.  It’s not like he cares either way!  So without further ado, let me post the full China Press Release: Continue reading “Governor Markell Honors China Trip For 20 Students While Charter School Students In His Own Backyard Suffer”