My Email To Delaware Senators About The Highly Flawed Pay For Success Legislation

Last night I wrote an article about the Delaware Pay For Success legislation, Senate Bill #242.  I stand firm in my convictions and I am calling on ALL Delawareans to contact their Delaware Senator and urge them to either table SB 242 or vote no today.  The more I thought about this legislation, the more disturbed I am with it.  Say the Pay For Success program an investor initiates does not reach its objectives.  The state won’t pay the investor for this “project”.  But what happens with all the data collected during the program?  Does the investor get to keep that?  As we all know, in the 21st Century, data is currency.  It is bought and sold all the time.  When that data concerns children, we have cause to worry.  The whole point of the “investment” could very well be the data collection that comes with it.  We see massive data collection on pre-schoolers in these kind of programs going on across the country.  Investors love social-emotional learning and are investing millions of dollars for that treasure trove of data collection on students.  Children.  Think about that.

Let this sink in for a minute- the person pushing this the most is a DuPont.  A member of a family that is worth billions of dollars.  Someone with deep connections and the ability to snap their fingers so things go his way.  His brother already runs Zip Code Wilmington, a coding school.  There runs the Longwood Foundation.  He is heavily involved in the Delaware Community Foundation which funds the Rodel Foundation.  We need to wake up and question motivations here.  They are already “invested” in Delaware education.

Good evening distinguished members of the Delaware Senate,

I am urging you to table Senate Bill #242.  This bill, dealing with Pay For Success programs in Delaware, is being fast-tracked through the General Assembly. 

My concerns with the bill are the eventual forays Pay For Success programs will make into public education.  While this bill is being touted as an economic development bill (which I support), it will also be used for “social programs”.  There are not enough safeguards in this bill to prevent potential fraud and abuse.  I also believe any programs like this, that would use our children as guinea pigs for an investor, is fundamentally and morally wrong.

I have put out the call for Delaware citizens to attempt to stop this bill.  But given that it was introduced Tuesday, released from committee today, and will be on the Senate Ready list tomorrow does not fill me with hope.  I attended the committee session today and voiced my concern.  I was pretty much told to trust the system and if problems arise those could be fixed later on. 

This is a huge program that the general public knows NOTHING about.  It was put in a committee that does not usually generate much citizen traffic aside from lobbyists.  There was no big splashy article from the News Journal on this bill as we see so often with other bills.  It is my contention the intention was to get this through as soon as possible which is not a sign of transparency whatsoever.

I put up an article on Exceptional Delaware tonight which goes more in-depth with my concerns.  I urge you to table this bill or even vote no on it.  I am not opposed to some parts of the bill, but I believe it should be held over until the 150th General Assembly.  Let the public weigh on it.  Let’s do some research into who this benefits.  Please, let’s look at some of the very controversial ways programs like this are being used.  The Salt Lake City program, run by Goldman Sachs, is praised by the investment community.  But the data in that program was flawed to begin with.  And it dealt with finding ways to reduce future special education services for students with disabilities.

I respect both the prime sponsors on this legislation, but it needs to be looked at very carefully before we rush into this sort of thing.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Dover, DE

I contacted Mike Matthews from the Delaware State Education Association and urged him to have DSEA weigh in on this bill.  After I emailed all the Delaware Senators, I forwarded the email to all of the State Representatives.  I begged them to do what is right and to do their due diligence with this legislation should it pass the Senate.

Good evening members of the Delaware House of Representatives,

I sent the below email to every single member of the Senate.  Several other Delaware citizens are sending similar emails to them as well.  If this bill should happen to pass the Senate tomorrow with no changes, it would fall on the House to do what is necessary.  I am not 100% opposed to this bill.  But there are very real dangers that will come out of it.  We talk about unintended consequences with education all the time.  While this is not an education bill, it will dip into that sector.  Please do what is right.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Dover, DE

I spread the message far and wide last night.  The clock is ticking.  If you want to take action and contact your Delaware Senator but aren’t sure who they are, please go to this map: Who is my Delaware State Senator?

I have no doubt defenders of the bill are emailing the Senate at this very moment saying things like “This is a great bill that will help the Delaware economy”, or “This is from a blogger who thinks everything in education has some nefarious motive”, or “Just ignore him”.  So I will ask the Delaware Senate this question: do you value children or profits?  Because you have the chance to do something good here.  To do what is right.  Do it!

The Senate adjourns at 2pm today.  It is #7 on their agenda but bills can be switched around.  Time is running out…

Delaware GOP Poverty Plan Would Bring Social Impact Bonds & Glorified Vouchers To Delaware

Matt Albright with the Delaware News Journal unveiled the Delaware Republican Senate’s Poverty Plan before it was even presented to Delaware lawmakers.  Included in these 11 potential ideas are two items that are highly disdained by advocates for public education: Social Impact Bonds and school vouchers.

As if we haven’t learned enough from the problems with corporations dipping into education waters, the Delaware GOP wants Social Impact Bonds, or “Pay For Success” programs in Delaware.  I wrote about how Delaware opened the door for Social Impact Bonds last month.  This is extremely dangerous for any public education system.  Having corporations get the ability to earn a profit from student measures is a potential minefield.  If a goal, for example, is to have 95% of students in a pre-school not get special education in the elementary school system based on early interventions in reading, how do we know the results won’t be pushed towards that goal regardless of what a student actually needs?  As well, for some students, a disability may not manifest until a later age.  We have seen how Goldman Sachs attempted this in another state with very controversial results.  Social Impact Bonds have no place in K-12 education.  Students should not be fodder for corporate investment.

Also included in the poverty plan is a form of school vouchers called “Scholarship Tax Credits”.  This latest round of tax credits in Delaware would give additional tax credit to those who donate to non-profits for the purpose of scholarships to low-income students to attend private schools.  This is just another way of getting a school voucher system going.  If this point were brought into legislation, it would recognize school vouchers as an additional education funding mechanism in Delaware.  This is something Governor Markell opposes on any level.  This is one of those rare areas where the two of us are in agreement.  Vouchers would further deplete traditional school districts of funding when they are already losing a great deal of local and state funding to charter schools and other choice schools.

There are some other Easter eggs in this plan that concern me.  The plan calls for removing some restrictions from federal grants aimed at fighting poverty.  Instead of allocations to certain areas, the Delaware GOP wants those restrictions lifted.  This could result in the Delaware Department of Education wanting funds to go towards more “focus” or “priority” schools.  While most can agree schools with high concentrations of poverty certainly need more money, once the Delaware DOE gets involved, there is no guarantee those funds would make it into the classroom.  We saw that happen with Race To The Top funds where the DOE got half of the $119 million the state won.  Instead of actually making a difference with that money, most of it went to outside vendors whose reports made Delaware schools look bad and our State Longitudinal Data System, which makes it possible for corporate education reformers to get student data and use it to their advantage.

The part of the plan that also concerns me is an idea concerning more people entering the workforce as an apprentice.  The article in the News Journal specifically mentions Zip Code Wilmington, which is run by Ben DuPont.  The DuPont family is a huge influence on the Delaware GOP.  They are also a huge influence on Delaware charter schools.  They run the Longwood Foundation which has donated millions of dollars to Delaware charter schools.  This is just more of the same.  Governor Markell’s “Pathways to Prosperity” program is clearly designed to track students into certain career paths.  I covered a great deal of this master plan a couple weeks ago  and I have to wonder how much of it is included in this poverty agenda.  I know, many will assume I am looking for things that don’t exist.  They said the same thing when I said the Smarter Balanced Assessment will replace the SAT.  While it was the opposite, the SAT became more like the Smarter Balanced Assessment when the College Board retooled the SAT to align with Common Core.

One glaring omission about a whole agenda to lift folks out of poverty is no mention of increased wages.  The Delaware GOP consistently, as a majority of their party, fights against minimum wage increases.  That should be the first step to decreasing poverty.  Families can’t survive on the minimum wage.  It just isn’t possible.  While the plan concedes not all members of the GOP Delaware Senate agree on all of these ideas, it opens the door to Delaware Democrats who may actually want to see programs like Social Impact Bonds in Delaware.  Like everything in Delaware, it will come down to who is involved with any type of task forces or committees if this gets to that point.

To read the entire plan, see below:

Get A Chance To Find Out What The Delaware DOE Is Doing With Student Data!!!!

StudentData

This has been a huge question on my mind for the past six months: How secure is student data?  Next Tuesday, March 15th, Open Data Delaware is hosting a presentation with Atnre Alleyne and Shana Ricketts from the Delaware Department of Education to talk about data in the Department.  From the announcement on Meetup.com:

We’ll hear from Atnre Alleyne & Shanna Ricketts, both with the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware Department of Education.  Most recently Atnre has been the Director, Talent Management & Educator Effectiveness, while Shanna has worked as a Data Strategist.  They will be discussing how the DDOE uses data, what education data is currently available to the public, and what some high impact projects could be.

I really want to know what happens to the data once the DOE uses it.  How much is going to the Federal Learning Registry, the joint system shared by both the United States Department of Education and the Department of Defense?  What happens to data from algorithms in existing programs?  How much data from personalized learning and standardized assessments is going out to education vendors?  How much social-emotional student data is going out?  Will Delaware ever see the very frightening “data badges” Colorado is doing a pilot program for?

For those interested in these kinds of things (something ALL Delaware parents should really know about before it is too late), I highly recommend attending this presentation at 1313 N. Market St. in Wilmington on March 15th at 6pm.  If you are unable to attend, I plan on going and I will definitely let everyone know what I am able to find out.  Open Data Delaware is sponsored by 1313 Innovation and Zip Code Wilmington.