Tag Archives: Lobbyist

Email from DOJ regarding DOE Charter School Accountability Committee

The one thing I learned from all of this, the laws surrounding DOE’s Charter School Accountability Committee are very loose and the lobbying laws need to be changed. The Department of Education does not seem to think the public needs to be updated on changes to this committee’s membership or do they seem to have regulations in place to appoint people to this committee.  This committee should have additional members who are not employed by the Department of Education, work for the State Board of Education and who do not serve on a charter school or who lobby for charter schools — we need a balance.

Reardon, Allison E (DOJ)
Thu 4/14/2016 10:11 AM

To:

Williams, Kimberly (LegHall);
Dear Representative Williams:
 
Please allow this to respond to your additional concerns following receipt of our letter dated March 30, 2016. First, you provided an e-mail from David Blowman to you dated July 15, 2015 in which you were advised that  Chuck Taylor stepped down from the Charter School Accountability Committee “for the current major modification application under review.”  We followed up with the attorney for the CSAC and she confirmed that Mr. Taylor did in fact step down from the CSAC in July, 2015. However, he was invited to rejoin the committee and agreed to do so in January 2016 after Providence Creek Academy had completed its renewal process. Along these same lines, you also advised that Paul Harrell participated in the CSAC, made the motion to recommend closure of the Delaware Met School, and voted  at the CSAC convened in December 2015 when he was not a member of the  CSAC. Again, the attorney for the CSAC confirmed through DOE that Mr. Harrell was on the committee at the time he participated.  Membership on the CSAC is apparently somewhat fluid and the website apparently does not keep pace with changes in membership, but those are not issues for the Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust to address.
 
Also, you submitted that the calculation of time one spends lobbying should be based on the amount of time an individual spends lobbying while the Legislature is in session. However, our analysis is based on the specific language in the applicable statute which requires us to look at the amount of time spent lobbying “ in relation to the usual duties of [the person’s] employment.” 29 Del. C. § 5831 (b)(3).  Hence, our calculation arrived at the percentage of the person’s total work days in a year, not a percentage of days the legislature meets.
 
We hope this additional information is of assistance to you.
 
Regards,
Allison

National PTA has just lost its credibility!

The PTA has grown into a powerful lobbyist over the years. My children attended Forest Oak Elementary School where I was very involved with the PTA–I served on many committees and was elected president for a total of four years. Our PTA received many awards from Delaware PTA while I was president. I have to say that I am beyond disappointed in the letter that was sent to the DE PTA. I never thought I would see the day that a national association who’s primary mission is to advocate on behalf of children would send this message to parents!

Below is from the National PTA website where they speak of family engagement. The letter they sent seems to point towards family disengagement.

Today’s PTA is a network of millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. 

Here is the letter that was sent to Delaware PTA.

Questions from DE PTA to National PTA and National PTA’s response.

Members of the General Assembly asked AG Denn if the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network should be Registered as a Lobbyist?

Last July, the News Journal reported that Delaware Charter Schools Network was one of the top five lobbyists in Delaware. Yet, when the Public Integrity Commission was contacted and when the January 2016 lobbyist report was reviewed, Delaware Charter Schools Network, Executive Director Kendall Massett and Board President Chuck Taylor were not registered lobbyists. They both are members of the Department of Education Charter School Accountability Committee which makes recommendations as to whether a charter school will open, expand, close, go on formal review or be modified. They both are seen regularly in Dover speaking with Senators, Representatives, members of the Department of Education, and the State Board of Education. They are soliciting support for certain educational bills and then lobbying hard against other educational bills. They wrote Senate Bill 171 (Sen. Sokola’s replacement bill for my Audit Bill) and they were in Dover on June 30th to campaign against House Bill 186 – Charter Audit Bill.

Yesterday, I was reviewing the current lobbyist report and Kendall Massett is now listed on the report. I am hoping DOJ will respond to our letter soon.

 

Charter School Laws are they legal or not? Part 1

I was reading an article in The Washington Post titled: A perfect education storm in Washington state. In the article, they published a post on what is going on in Washington state by Wayne Au, an associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell and an editor for the social justice education magazine, Rethinking Schools. He was also a  plaintiff in the charter school legal challenge, along with organizations including the Washington Education Association and the League of Women Voters.

There are many great points in Wayne Au’s post which I have pointed out below.

The key issue is this: Washington State’s constitution has a provision that only “common schools” receive tax dollars allocated for public education. The law in Washington State is structured so that charter schools are governed at both the school level and state level by an appointed board, not an elected one. As such, charter schools in Washington State would receive public monies without any guarantee of accountability to any democratically elected, public body. The Washington State Supreme Court decided that this lack of public oversight of charter schools meant that did not meet the definition of “common schools” and therefore are not eligible to receive public monies made available for public schools.

In Delaware, charter schools are governed both at the school and state level by an appointed board, not an elected one. All charter school boards are appointed by the charter schools not elected by the residents where the charter school resides. Charter school board members are not required to be a resident of the State of Delaware; one would think they would be since they are making decisions using Delaware taxpayers dollars. Our State Board of Education and the Secretary of Education are appointed by the Governor; there are no checks and balances in place when it comes to Delaware Education. The state is the authorizer of all Delaware charter schools except for three: Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy, and Delaware College Prep, the Red Clay School District is the authorizer. Their charter board members are still appointed by the charter school in which they serve.

This year, I introduced House Bill 186, Charter Audit Bill.  Below is the bill synopsis.

Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts.  Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits.  There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes.  This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.

It was released out of the House Education Committee with a fight (I had just enough votes 8) and I pushed to get the bill on the House agenda. Finally, on June 30th the House voted on the bill (23 yes, 17 no 15 Republicans 2 Democrats, and 1 absent Peterman), I have posted the vote count as well. It was placed on the Senate’s agenda on June 30th and Sen. Sokola tabled it, it was placed in the Senate Education Committee. The charter school lobbyists were there all night in Dover lobbying folks not to support House Bill 186.

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLES 14 AND 29 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO OVERSIGHT OF CHARTER SCHOOLS.

Date: 06/30/2015 08:37 PM Passed

Vote Type:SM Yes: 23 No: 17 Not Voting: 0 Absent: 1

Barbieri Y J. Johnson Y Peterman A
Baumbach Y Q. Johnson Y Potter Y
Bennett Y Keeley Y Ramone N
Bolden Y Kenton N B. Short Y
Brady Y Kowalko Y D. Short N
Briggs King N Longhurst Y M. Smith Y
Carson Y Lynn Y Smyk N
Collins N Matthews Y Spiegelman N
Dukes N Miro N Viola Y
Gray N Mitchell Y K. Williams Y
Heffernan Y Mulrooney Y Wilson N
Hensley N Osienski Y Yearick N
Hudson N Outten N Schwartzkopf N
Jaques N Paradee Y

I have a hard time understanding why folks in Dover voted no on House Bill 186. How can you vote against transparency and oversight especially when it involves our constituents’ money and when we know about the abuses that have taken place. The Office of the Auditor of Accounts has issued audit reports on Delaware Military Academy and Academy of DoverFamily Foundations is currently under investigation and most recent Pencader Charter, Reach and Moyer have closed. Recently the State Board placed four charter schools on probation: Freire, Delaware Design Lab, Academy of Dover and Prestige Academy.

As Washington State’s Supreme Court has said: If a school is not controlled by a public body, then it should not have access to public funds. The logic is simple and compelling, and opponents of public school privatization in this country need to spread that message far and wide.

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