Saturday, June 1, 2013

Today's lessons about Jack Markell, Earl Jaques, DSEA and charter schools in Delaware

You have to start with a hefty quotation from today's News Journal (but I've helped you out with some highlights):

A bill that would toughen oversight of charter schools would also award more money to charters with proven track records and allow them to access capital funding from the state. 
The bill’s supporters say it will help successful charters grow while holding them more responsible, but some critics worry it could take resources from traditional public schools. They also say some of the oversight measures don’t go far enough. 
Gov. Jack Markell supports the bill and says it mixes measures to better hold charters accountable with efforts to give them more ability to succeed. 
“This bill has the support of many stakeholders, from DSEA to the Charter School movement,” Markell said. 
“Not everybody got what they wanted. But we think this bill is an important step to improving the charter system in Delaware.” 
House Bill 165, sponsored by Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, is expected to be debated in committee on Wednesday, would create a “Charter School Performance Fund,” which the Department of Education would use to dole out extra funds to charters it believes have “a proven track record of success.” 
That fund would be subject to state appropriations and would be limited to no more than $5 million a year. The General Assembly’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee has already approved $2 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, making the fund a part of Markell’s operating budget.
Let's do this seriatem:

1.  Governor Markell continues to wage war against the traditional public schools in Delaware.  Let's think about this:  in a budget wherein there is no money to prevent large lay-offs of teachers and other classroom specialists, Markell has no problem creating a $2-5 million slush fund for charter schools.  He also had no problem choosing computers (to the tune of $5 million) for reporting high-stakes test scores over classroom teachers.  He's already signed off on allow charters to be "separate but equal" in keeping unused transportation funds, which is illegal for traditional public schools.  And he continues one of the most robust programs of corporate welfare in the United States by budgeting $29 million to give away to multi-billion-dollar corporations whose revenues are nearly 100 times that of the State of Delaware.  Look at that quote again, "This bill is an important step to improving the charter system in Delaware."  One wonders when Governor Markell will find it in his heart (or in his checkbook) to support improving the traditional public school system in Delaware.

2.  Earl Jaques proves, despite his support for single-payer health care, that reports of his being a "progressive" Democrat are wildly exaggerated.  Now I'm no progressive, but I believe in truth in advertising.  Representatives like John Kowalko and Paul Baumbach actually ARE progressives, and actually try to act consistently with their beliefs.  I can respect them for that even when I disagree with them.  But by introducing this bill, Jaques joins Senator Dave Sokola in becoming just another political tool in the box of the education reform movement.  Nobody should believe for a minute that Jaques actually wrote this bill--it came direct from the governor's untouchable charter schools work group, and it has Rebecca Taber's DNA all over it.  The only way we will be able to tell whether Jaques is a whore or a prostitute on this one is whether or not he gets paid.

3.  DSEA is, according to Governor Markell, a "stakeholder" in favor of diverting yet more money into the charter school system where, by definition, the state teacher's union cannot have members, representation, or influence?  This is, quite honestly, just the latest occasion in which the state leadership of DSEA has proven quite conclusively that it neither (a) consults with nor (b) represents the interests of its member teachers.  Why not just officially change the name to Delaware State Education Lapdog Association and be done with it?

4.  Finally, the Charter School movement proves that, all bad press aside, it can flex its muscles with the best of them.  I support charter schools.  My twins attend a charter school.  But the original premise of charter schools was that the freedom from regulation would allow them to do more with less, to be creative instead of cost-intensive.  They would be lean, hungry animals, constantly on the move and seeking every resource for their kids while hiring world-class faculties and turning out educational miracles.  Turns out that being lean and hungry gets old after awhile, and that what they want now is BOTH freedom from regulation AND all the money, too.  The Charter School Network understands what most of you don't:  a high percentage of the people who sit in the General Assembly (and on the staffs of key decision makers), as well as a high percentage of the people with deep pockets for political contributions (both D and R), send their kids to charter schools and could actually give a rip less about poor black kids at Bancroft Elementary School in the middle of Wilmington.  They understand that neither blogs nor newspaper coverage nor citizen input matters when you have the Governor, faux-progressives like Earl Jaques (D-Charter School Network), and the Joint Finance Committee on your side.

Please remember, folks, that budgets represent the choices that we as the State of Delaware are making about our priorities.

Jack Markell, Earl Jaques, DSEA, and the Charter School Network are pretty clear on the fact that the budget process is a Social Darwinian struggle for resources, that as far as they are concerned the traditional public school system represents the late and unlamented passenger pigeon.


NCSDad said...

I have been warning for some time that pushing for charter capital funding would come with more strings attached. Nope, they don't need more money, but they cannot survive without the freedom.

Oh, Whore versus Prostitute? Steve, you must have a more nuanced knowledge of the oldest profession. What's the difference?

kavips said...

As someone with nuanced knowledge, the difference you are looking for, is on which side of $30,000 earnings per year one finds themselves....

kavips said...

As spoken to John Y, there is a lot of meat in this bill along with the few pieces of gristle you point out.

It seems like an amendment is the way to go, instead of trying to throw the bill out which counting numbers, won't happen.

My challenge to you is how can an amendment be inserted which takes care of the problems?

Perhaps, using another standard to rate a school's accountability? Or requiring teachers to be unionized in Charter Schools since as the News Journal spokesperson states: "they are public schools too"?

But as you state, the independence of charter schools is their reason for existence. The issue is that they steal from public schools...

So. how is this for a starter amendment?

(p) No new moneies diverted to Charter Schools can come from the loss of any public school funding. Nor can they come from the closing of any pre- existing programs. All funds for Charter Schools must come from new assessed revenue towards the State Treasury, increased by the amount expected to fund the Charter School's demands.

As said, if you want to have Charter Schools, go ahead... Just don't take anything from public schools to do so. If the rich want Charter Schools, that's the whole reason we have taxes...

Nancy Willing said...

There is nothing in the law that is barring Charter School teachers from organizing as a union. But there is ongoing struggle to do so in the two that I know of that have tried.

Ezra Temko is the one to speak to about his years of agony dealing with charter leadership while teaching in two DE charter schools in recent years.

kavips said...

Speak up Ezra....

Anonymous said...


I really do think the bill is worse than you may be seeing it.

Especially the convivial sensibility and tired malapropisms of multiple stakeholders and key stakeholder seemingly ALWAYS offered, but NEVER qualified or quantified by their offerers.

See HB 51 for perfect recent example of this. Also, RTTT.

Trouble lurking folks.

Still have a post coming.

kavips said...

John, you may be right. Which is why I asked for specifics which hopefully someone can provide.

Endemic to new legislation there are certainly problems with degree. That always must occur with first time legislation.

It's very much like wanting to put a stoplight up at my intersection because 5 people die there each year. I fight hard for it and then it gets put in. As I go over the legislation, I notice it doesn't specify the fines, just leaves them at the direction of the judge. Someone brings up the point that this means someone can run the light and get a slap on the wrist since the penality is not codified....

Do I scrap the whole bill, or go with it and try to put proper changes in, if not now, then later?

It appears that having some structure, as is in this bill, is better than having a plethora of charter schools be approved, simply because there is no vehicle to disprove them, and all fail like Pencader....

That at this moment is my vision. Can anyone find a reason that this bill which is not perfect, should be held up and not allowed to go forward...

A stoplight with no fines outlined, is better than no stoplight at all.

Duffy said...

I say:

1. Yay!
2. Meh
3. Meh
4. Yay!

I'm a little surprised that as a libertarian you come out for the state schools and against charters.