Author Archives: Kim Williams - State Representative 19th District

Trump, St. Andrew’s School in Florida, school choice and state vouchers – the appearance of helping disadvantage students – Fake News!

On February 28, President Trump addressed Congress, speaking briefly about school choice for disadvantaged youth, breaking the cycle of poverty.  He talked about how families should be able to choose the schools that are right for them, whether they be public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home schools.

On Friday, President Trump visited a private school in Florida  – St. Andrew Catholic School – Florida is one of 14 states and DC, which has a state-funded school voucher program to qualifying students.

If you look at St. Andrew’s admission requirements you must provide most recent report card and state assessment, which would be ok since it is a private school. But President Trump though is pushing for school choice and vouchers. There is a $250 registration fee (non-refundable) per child is assessed. There is an admission test for students 2nd through 8th grades.  A parent needs three teacher recommendations.  There is a list of priorities, one being you must attend church on a regular basis and ENVELOPE USE AS DEFINED BY THE PASTOR.  

How are policies like this going to help break the cycle of poverty?  Folks living in poverty cannot afford a $250 non-refundable registration fee, $25 application fee or financially supporting any church every week? How are they going to pay for the balance of the tuition that is owed after using their voucher?

It is very interesting when you look through the qualifying student requirements for school-funded voucher programs, because most states require that a student has an IEP, certain disability or specific income level tied into the federal poverty level.  THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART – In Delaware, most students who have an IEP or disability, and leave a private or charter schools, do so because the school does not provide the necessary special education services or the school tells a family that they cannot provide these services for the child – this school is not a good fit.

We have people creating policy that really have no idea as to what is really going on in our public schools, because if they did, they would understand that they are not helping disadvantage students.

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New Study: Michigan Test Score Gains are Lowest in the Nation

Diane Ravitch's blog

Will Betsy DeVos do to the nation what she has done to Michigan?

A new study by Professor Brian Jacob of the University of Michigan demonstrates that Michigan’s gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress were the lowest in the nation. Now we know why DeVos was unable to explain the difference between “growth” and “proficiency” at her Senate hearings. She really has no idea that her own state has been stagnant as her philosophy of choice took hold. Brookings has not yet posted the study online. But the Detroit News reported its results and interviewed Jacob about his findings.

A new analysis of results of a national educational test shows Michigan students have continually made the least improvement nationally of scores since 2003.

The study, by University of Michigan professor Brian A. Jacob, of scores of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), also found that Michigan…

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Steven Singer: The Founding Fathers Opposed School Choice

Diane Ravitch's blog

Here is a terrific post by Steven Singer, documenting what the Founding Fathers said about education.

There was no public education when they wrote the Constitution. There was private education, Dame schools, church schools, and large numbers of children who were not educated at all. Some states funded charter schools, which were private academies for wealthy children. In the early nineteenth century, not much had changed. It was a great step forward when real reformers like Horace Mann and Henry Barnard began a national campaign to persuade states to take responsibility for creating public school systems, tax-supported and staffed by qualified teachers.

The curious thing about today’s reformers is they want to return us to the olden days, with the public paying for religious schools and private schools, subsidized by taxpayers.

Singer writes:

“One of the founding principles of the United States is public education.

“We fought a bloody…

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DE Republicans you operate multiple PAC’s, please do not act like you are the victims!

I was reading a Delaware Online article this morning titled: Biden, Democrats pull out stops for state Senate race.  The Republicans and Copeland blasted the spending through the First State Strong PAC. He called the group “shadowy” noting that Delawareans won’t know who donated until next year. Please give me a break! I watched you guys during the last general election, the Republicans here in Delaware operate many “shadowy” third party PAC’s and used these PAC’s during the last general election. I saw the third party advertisers who sent multiple mailers out against former Sen. Blevins. Below are the third party PAC’s that are run by our local Republicans and used in the last Delaware election -lots of money here. You can view more of these PAC’s by clicking here.

 

 

Sunset Joint Committee Reviews Delaware State Board of Education

The Sunset Committee reviewed the State Board of Education, they met on February 1, 2017. You can see all the documents that the State Board of Education submitted to the Sunset committee members, I have highlighted a few of the documents below. I sat in during the review, here are a few things that I took away from the review. I found former Rep. Scott’s comments supporting the State Board of Education interesting, I believe former Rep. Scott  was the enabler with respect to the State Board of Education when he chaired the House Education committee. I was also surprised by Dr. Allen’s letter of support, the State Board of Education would not allow Dr. Allen or Dr. Rich to speak at certain times during the WEIC presentations.

  • School districts do not feel that the State Board of Education is an ally.
  • They do not hold meetings in the evening; teachers, community members, parents, and legislators cannot make their meetings.
  • They do not allow for public comment for all items on the agenda.
  • They are not accountable to anyone.
  • Their meetings are too long.
  • They do not take a formal vote when they oppose or support legislation, the executive director attends House/Senate Education Meetings and gives comments.
  • Sunset Committee requested a list of State Board of Education members and the committees/task forces etc. that they have served on.
  • Charters go to the State Board of Education first instead of the local boards.
  • One person who came out and offered a positive comment with respect to the State Board of Education was former State Representative Darryl Scott.
  • A few charter school leaders were there as well.
  • No school districts were present or to my knowledge sent in any comments about the State Board of Education.
  • Dr. Tony Allen sent in a letter of support as well.

State Board of Education Questionnaire

State Board of Education FOIA Complaints

State Board of Education – Executive Directors Job Description

1 to 5 Star Ratings Are Being Pushed by Some Members of the State’s ESSA Advisory Committee

star

I was a member of the ESSA Advisory Committee and our last ESSA meeting was last week. I read the entire updated draft ESSA Plan, 90 + pages, and there are a few things that are very troubling – one being the state would like to move forward with the continued labeling of our public schools with a 1 to 5 star rating – similar to a hotel rating. There were members of the ESSA Advisory Committee who support the 1 to 5 star rating but there were members who opposed it. 

There are schools in Delaware that are allowed to select their students based on grades, attendance, behavior, a test, an interview, or a state assessment. There are schools in Delaware that have low percentages of ELL, Spec Ed and Low Income students compared to other schools in our state. How can we compare our schools when some schools can admit students based on academics? How can we compare schools when certain public schools are “Counseling out” students with disabilities  – other schools enrollment practices limits access to certain student populations? How can we compare schools when certain schools can say to a family this school is not the right fit for your child? How can we compare schools when some schools are testing in March compared to those schools that test in April or May? Our bigger schools will have to test earlier so they can test all the students to meet the 95% participation rate so they are not penalized and the smaller schools can afford more classroom time because the size of their school.

Recently, I wrote to the Department of Education, asking why Family Foundation Charter School was approved for a name change. DOE’s response was: Family Foundations Academy stated its rational for the name change was, “There have been many changes in the last two years for Family Foundations.  These changes have included new leadership, new curriculum and a new focus for our future.  With all of these changes we have been focusing on the impact we wish to have in New Castle County as well as the city of New Castle. We are deeply committed to seeing the children of New Castle actualize into adults that make a deep and positive impact on our future.   We want our name to reflect our focus on our community.

Family Foundations Charter School has had plenty of bad press during the last few years. Two of their former leaders were accused of misspending school funds and Federal prosecutors have charged one of the former leaders with theft. According to a Delaware Online article from January 2015, one leader made $73,956.02 in purchases with the cards, while the other leader spent a total of $20,673.85. I have provided a link to the Delaware Auditor’s Office audit on Family Foundation.  The Department of Education and the State Board of Education supported Family Foundations name change but is pushing for the 1 to 5 Star rating – so there is a different set of standards in place when it comes to some of our public schools. The state approved two/three name changes for Moyer Academy Charter School which eventually closed. Changing the name of a charter school attempts to conceal the issues, which in the end hurts the students and community. These schools should to keep their names so we can make sure they are actually improving and that they are transparent. How can our State Board of Education hold some of our public schools to a higher standard than others?  

Gary Rubinstein: Lying about Detroit and Muskegon Heights and Michigan

Diane Ravitch's blog

In the debate about the appointment of Betsy DeVos, the failure of her brand of reform in Michigan has not gotten enough attention. Would you hire a plumber whose previous jobs were all failures? Would you trust your car to an auto mechanic who was known to be incompetent? Would you go to a doctor who lost his medical license for malpractice?

DeVos’s allies have been beating the drums about a Detroit miracle, but no one else can see it but them. Despite more than 20 years of charters, the Detroit school district is the lowest performing urban district on NAEP. As the Detroit Free Press has repeatedly written, many of the charters in Detroit are failing schools. DeVos fought off legislative efforts to impose accountability on charters.

Most recently, one of the boosters for privatization in Michigan published an article about the miracle of Muskegon Heights, a predominantly African…

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Please Send a Tweet to Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska @Senatorfischer

Diane Ravitch's blog

Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska is the deciding vote on the nomination of Betsy DeVos.

Apparently DeVos promised not to force vouchers and charters on Nebraska. But, Senator Fischer is making a decision that will affect every state in the nation, not just Nebraska. State’s like North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Florida, the Rust Belt, the Deep South, the Midwest will see hundreds of millions–nay, billions–of public funds taken away from public schools and transferred to religious schools with no certified teachers and to charter schools that are neither accountable nor transparent, with academic performance no better than public schools and possibly worse.

Senator Fischer’s mother was a public school teacher. Senator Fischer served on her local school board and was president of the Nebraska School Boards Association.

Please reach out to her. Her twitter handle is @senatorfischer.

She needs to know that the future of public education in America…

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Network for Public Education Vows to Carry Fight Against DeVos to Senate Floor!

Diane Ravitch's blog

The Network for Public Educations vows to carry the fight for a qualified Secretary of Education to the Senate floor.

We now have more than 300,000 members, located in every state.

We will fight for a Secretary of Education who will uphold the laws, support the right to an education for all children, and strengthen our public schools.

http://networkforpubliceducation.org/2017/01/devos-nomination-moves-senate-npes-300000-will-continue-fight/

NPE just released this statement:

Although disappointed by the decision of the HELP committee to send the vote on Betsy DeVos to the Senate floor, The Network for Public Education (NPE) was pleased by the strong opposition to DeVos. All Democrats voted against DeVos. Senators Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska while voting to move her nomination forward, would not commit to voting for her when the vote comes to the full Senate.

“Betsy DeVos put a spotlight on the threat to public education that charters-both online and brick and…

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