Delaware does not need a school voucher system. A Republican legislative proposal to allow parents to use money intended for public schools for tuition at non-public schools may be labeled an “Educational Savings Account Act,” but it is really a voucher system. And despite the sponsors’ description of the proposal, the act would be a subsidy for non-public schools.
This plan sounds close to school vouchers and is likely to kick up as much dust as similar initiatives in other states. According to recent U.S. Census Bureau data, Delaware is the No. 9 per-pupil spender on students, but its average NAEP scores are still substandard. This disconnect shows why the state would be searching for new ideas, however, encouraging families to take money and support out of public schools is probably not going to make them better.
Epilogue: of a prestigious award, coming to terms, and legislative ideas
During the last week of school for the 2013-2014 school year, Jon’s parents attended a “moving up” ceremony for Jon’s class. The students would be leaving that public elementary school in the County of Kent, and in September they would be going to that public middle school in the County of Kent. Jon’s parents had never been prouder than when Jon got a Presidential Academic Award for receiving As and Bs during his time at his new school. Jon’s parents knew they made the right choice for Jon. An IEP wasn’t even a question. Jon’s parents negotiated for months to make sure it was right. They had educated themselves on every single process and concern they had for Jon. Jon was getting accommodations before the IEP was even drafted. He had some minor issues, as all children do, but Jon never got into a fight. He was never suspended. His parents never had to come to the school to pick him up unless he was sick. When Jon was getting overwhelmed in class, he was provided breaks, without question, so he could walk off his stress or just talk to one of the many helpful staff they had there. The school had educated the whole 4th grade on disabities prior to Jon starting there, and when some issues came up, they educated the entire staff as well as Jon’s class. Jon made new friends, and his smile came back. Jon even helped out the Kindergarten class with reading for the past couple months and Jon said “That was my favorite thing to do at the school.” The boy they saw nine months before was vastly different then the more mature young man they saw now. Jon still had his disabilities, but with support, he thrived.
At home, Jon’s parents slowly began to see a more confident child. He was able to talk about his problems more with his parents. He had gone off the Abilify the same day he started at his new school, and the new medicine worked just as well without all of the weight gain. Jon had gained thirty pounds while on the Abilify, and he looked like a different child, but he has worked most of it off. Before long, their house became a zoo at times with various children in the neighborhood from Jon’s school coming in and out. Jon had a lot more options about who he could hang out with.
That charter school in the County of Kent just finished their school year as well. Miss Summertop left earlier in the year. Sir Yosemite stepped down as the head of the school around the same time Jon left, but he did join The Board. He also served on a greater board for all the charters in the Kingdom of Del. The rest of the cast was still there. My wife and I would hear many things from many parents about the current state of the school. One parent told me how two of her children were staying there, but the other one wasn’t. It upset me but I kept my opinion to myself. I felt that all three of her children should be educated with a free and appropriate public education. I heard many things about how other children were going through similar situations as Jon, and that was when I decided to write about Jon’s story. If only one person read it and it was able to help them, that would be sufficient.
I still miss some of the teachers and students at that charter school in the County of Kent. I’m sure they know who they are. There were several teachers I didn’t write about in Jon’s story. I just didn’t feel their communications with myself were applicable to Jon’s story. If it served a purpose, I wrote about it. I certainly hope nobody feels left out. I miss the old days when you were on that academic campus, but change had to be made.
For the longest time, I have been living with hate in my heart. It wears you down, and it makes you bitter and angry. I hate what was done to my child there. I hate how it made him feel. But there comes a time when you have to forgive. You may never forget, but with forgiveness comes healing. Writing Jon’s story has actually allowed me to forgive the school. For months there would be so much going on and I never had the time to just sit down and process at all. I wrote the story based on what I felt at the times each event occurred. There were times when I was writing chapters, I would just start crying. I cried for Jon, and his pain. But it was also my own, and my family’s as well. But now that I have reached the end, I feel differently. People make mistakes. Lord knows I have. It’s what makes us human. But when it comes to our children, parents don’t have as much capacity for forgiveness. It’s our job to protect our children, and when we fail, our child fails. I want to believe that everyone at the school had my child’s best interests at heart, and perhaps they didn’t have all the knowledge required to accurately handle Jon. What he has is extremely rare. But I have to believe, as a woman at the school once told me, that Jon would teach the school some things. Because when all is said and done, I want to believe that everyone learned something from this experience. I am sure this will never be taken seriously, but if that charter school in the County of Kent needs my help, don’t hesitate to ask. Believe it or not, there is a lot I can teach you. And a day will come when you may need the sort of help I can offer.
For the last nine months I kept asking myself “Why? Why did this have to happen to my child?” So I started to research everything. The more I looked, the more I found. Beyond that charter school in the County of Kent. There are players out there, dictating our children’s every move in public schools and charter schools. We are all puppets to these forces. To these forces it is a game that serves them with the benefits but our children pay the price. I won’t let my son be a puppet. I honestly couldn’t give a crap if he is college ready when he is going into 5th grade, because 10 YEAR OLDS ARE NOT ADULTS!!!! I don’t care about Common Core, or Smarter Balanced Assessments, or Race To The Top. Because when you get right down to it, most of the educators out there don’t either. And states are dropping this crap left and right. But Delaware seems to be hanging onto it, like it’s their lifeline to the future. For some individuals who stand to profit greatly from this shameful debacle, it probably is. But when it has run it’s course, and our children are unquestioning, unreasoning, less intelligent zombie clones from the public and charter schools alike, we will all be asking ourselves “what the hell happened?” It’s not about competing with Asian kids. It’s not even about competition. It’s about a lower class subservient to the rich. Just like it’s always been, but with the elimination of the middle class. So Common Core, you can take your stupid arrays, and charts, and your wall street profit induced text books and technology, and your ludicrous smarter tests, and shove them up your Common Ass!
A month and a half ago, I realized I could just accept what happened to my son and move on, or I could try to make a difference. I may have forgiven the school, but I still have many issues with the system that allowed it to happen. As parents, we owe it to our children to hold our educational institutions under the microscope when they are doing the wrong things. But to all special needs parents, get involved! Go to support groups. If you can’t find one, create one. Study your child’s disability until you know more than the professionals. Don’t go into an IEP meeting without voicing what YOU want on the IEP. Bring an advocate. Record the IEP meeting. Never sign an IEP at the meeting, take the 10 school days to go over it with a fine tooth comb and make sure the IEP benefits your child individually. Make sure there are realistic goals. Don’t just assume your child is at fault with behavior issues, find out if there is more going on at the school than what you are being told. Observe at the school. Watch how supervision is done at your child’s school. Document everything. Email is the best option, but if that isn’t readily available, take notes. You can even ask for the other party in the room to sign those notes so there is no question about what they say. Don’t ever be afraid of the administration at a school, but don’t go in guns blazing. Go in with a clear head, and focused. If you aren’t being heard, go to the board. If they won’t listen, go to the DOE. If they won’t listen, go the US Department of Education. There are so many choices out there, but don’t expect to just have someone drop them in your lap. Talk to other parents. Go to board meetings, let your voice be heard. I would caution against joining some groups, because once you do, you have to conform to their bylaws with what you do and say. See where your elected officials stand on certain issues in regards to your child’s education. It’s not just about your party of choice, it’s about who is going to do the best possible things for your child. For parents just entering this world of education, check with folks in your community who might know a bit about schools in the area. Look on the Delaware DOE website in the school profiles section to see if that can answer your questions.
If you do that, I will do my part. I think there are several things that need to become bills pretty fast in the Delaware legislative branch. And many schools won’t like these, but it will keep them compliant. These are just thoughts for now, but let’s see what happens.
1) All IEP and 504 meetings must be digitally recorded. Of course, FERPA will protect the rights of these students, but they could be very useful if something goes wrong.
2) All school board meetings, for any school that receives public funding, charter, public, vocational and alternative alike, must digitally record their board meetings and have them available to the public within 7 business days. (This is already House Bill #23)
3) All school districts, charter, public, vocational and alternative alike, must have psychiatric or neurological consultation available for any suspected neurologically-based condition within twenty days of a parent’s request for an IEP.
4) All school districts, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, shall put on their own website, the number of IEPs, 504s, IEP denials, and 504 denials they have had in the past month, to be updated monthly. For public schools, this must be put on the district website, as well as the website for each individual school in the district. They shall also share annual numbers as well, for each school year AND on a 12 month rolling basis. If a student changes from a 504 to an IEP, or if a decline becomes either an IEP or a 504, the school must make a note of that with the monthly numbers.
5) All school districts, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, shall be completely transparent on their website. All staff must be listed. All board minutes must be listed. All attachments must be listed with the exception of something that can only be handled in an executive session. All monthly financial information shall be listed. With that monthly financial information, you must break down the sub-groups of funding you are receiving.
6) All schools must report to the DOE, on a monthly basis, how many current IEPs and 504 plans they have, as well as any IEP or 504 denials.
7) The DOE shall do a yearly audit of all school districts, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, not only for already established IEPs and 504 plans, but also denied IEPs and 504 plans. The individuals doing these audits must be highly qualified special education professionals who understand IEPs and 504 plans, as well as all of the disabilities and disorders that these plans accommodate children for. If the DOE determines an IEP or 504 plan was denied for the wrong reasons, the school district must contact the parent(s) within 5 business days and explain to the parent(s) of their procedural rights as well as mail a letter to the parent(s) with the reason for the change as well as a copy of their procedural rights. The Department of Education shall publish the results of these audits within 30 calendar days of their completion.
8) All Delaware parents, custodians, guardians, et al, shall receive, along with their child’s teacher and supply list, prior to the start of the next school year, a pamphlet indicating what Child Find is, a full disclosure that any evaluations a parent requests must be done at public expense, what IDEA is, how it works, a listing of every disability covered by IDEA, even those covered in other-health impaired, an IEP timeline, a sample copy of an IEP, what a 504 plan is and how it differentiates from an IEP, a sample copy of a 504 plan, and parents procedural rights, whether a child has a disability or not.
9) Any school district found in violation of three or more individual special education audit failures, shall be put on the newly created Special Education review, which shall have the same weight as any other criteria that would cause a school to go under formal review.
10) All school boards, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, must have a parent of a special needs child as a member of their school board.
11) No charter school may ask on an application if a child has an IEP, has special needs or any questions relating to a disability. If a child is selected to attend a charter school through a lottery or the school accepts an application prior to that, then the charter school can ask that question after a student has been accepted.
12) All charter school lotteries must be a public event, published on the school web site 30 days in advance, with two members of the local school district board members in attendance, and all names from applications must be shown to them before they are placed in a closed area prior to the picking of names.
13) All public, charter, vocational, and alternative schools shall change the number of suspensions that warrants a manifestation determination from 10 to 3. As well, if a child is removed from a classroom setting 5 times for a period of more than 30 minutes, a manifestation determination must kick in as well. For any child with an IEP or a 504 plan, a Functional Behavioral Analysis must be completed as well as a Behavior Intervention Plan or modification of an already existing Behavior Intervention Plan. Ten suspensions is too much missed instructional time and doesn’t benefit anyone.
If some of the schools don’t like these, too bad. They haven’t earned the right to be snippy about it. If schools are in compliance, most of this is just tweaking your web page. If you want our students to be responsible, you need to be as well. What’s the point of making students accountable if you aren’t? I think I speak for all parents of special needs children who had problems with schools in saying these may not fix all of the problems, but it will hold all the schools to a level of transparency never seen before. Some of these, such as the recording of all school board meetings are already bills in the legislative branch, but they are sitting there, doing nothing.
Since Kilroy was kind enough to let me tell Jon’s story, I would like to extend the favor by inviting anyone willing to join to me on Thursday June 12th, at 10 a.m., outside of Legislative Hall to raise public support for House Bill #23. This bill would mandate that all school districts digitally record their board meetings and put them up on their website within 7 business days. Kilroy has fought long and hard for this, and it’s time for the public to help him out and raise awareness. This bill was put on the House Ready list on 3/27/14, and it needs to be looked at immediately! This is no joke, and I certainly hope Kilroy and the gang will show up. He deserves this, and I am in support of it, and so should all of you. Parents have a right to know what is going on with our schools, and the school boards make the decisions for the most part. I can say from experience that what is put in minutes is not always the same as what is said in many meetings. When the school boards don’t have general elections to place members on the board, the public has even more of a right to know what is going on at board meetings. Some public school districts already do this, as well as the DOE. They ALL need to!
I will be starting my own blog soon. It will spotlight the whole special needs world, with Delaware as the local flavor. If anyone wants their story told, or has any ideas for something they want me to look into, contact information will be provided on the website. I will do my best to be a good voice for parents in Delaware and tell you the things schools may or may not want you to know. I will let Kilroy know when my launch date is. I hope to get into more detail about how special education affects all areas of students, including minorities, those with low income, and so on. I can say Jon’s old school is very diverse, so they do well in that department.
I don’t hate charter schools. But I don’t like what a lot of them do, for the same reasons Kilroy and Kavips state on their blogs. I think any school that has their basic tenets set up in such a way that could put anyone at a disadvantage needs to take a close look at current reality. Cause reality is ringing your doorbell but you forgot to put in the batteries. I take great issue with another charter school in the County of Kent that has only 4.4% of their student population listed as special education (which classifies as a child with an IEP). This tells me either the school is cherry picking kids when they apply, or they aren’t accommodating enough students. Either option is wrong in my opinion. On the flipside, another charter school in the County of Kent has a special education population of 63.3% of their enrollment. While this seems extremely high, this school specializes in students with these unique needs. Exempt from any investigations will be Jon’s old school. I truly feel I would have a tainted bias when it comes to them. The only exception is if it would affect an entire group (like all of Delaware’s schools or all of Delaware’s charter schools) based on current things going on. So they may be mentioned, but only in context to a whole list of schools.
I want to thank all of you who read Jon’s story. His story at that charter school in the County of Kent may have ended, but his life continues.
Kilroy: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for giving me this chance. From one dad to another, you are a great person! I took up a lot of your blog space with this long story, and it wasn’t something you ever had to do. I sincerely hope we can collaborate on something again in the future.
Publius e decere: I would love to meet you sometime. Your comments on this and other stories Kilroy has put up amuse me to no end.
Kathy: I can’t wait to hear your stories!
To unknown person: I’m sure you know who you are, but watching you in action inspired me and lit a fire that is still burning. You helped to show me the bigger picture without even realizing it, and I am eternally grateful for that. Jon has a better future because of you, and I hope more children do as well.
Jon’s loving mother: You were Jon’s advocate from the very start, and I joined the ride much later. Jon is blessed to have you as a mother and I am blessed to have you as a wife. Everything I learned during most of this journey came from you. I shudder to think where Jon would be right now if you didn’t make all the important discoveries.
Jon: I love you with every part of me, body and soul. You are my son, and you are everything to me. Ever since shortly after you were born, laying in that little incubator and you reached up and grabbed my finger, I have promised to protect you from the wrongs in this world. I know I haven’t always fulfilled that promise, but I will always promise to try harder. When you hurt, I hurt, and inside is a father’s cry for his son.
“Come stop your crying it will be alright, just take my hand, hold it tight. I will protect you, from all around you, I will be here, don’t you cry.” Phil Collins
“You have to carry the fire.” “I don’t know how to.” “Yes you do.” “Is the fire real? The fire?” “Yes it is.” “Where is it? I don’t know where it is.” “Yes you do. It’s inside you. It always was there. I can see it.” Cormac McCarthy
Time: 10AM, June 12th, Where: On the green in front of legislative hall in Dover, DE, What: Support House Bill 23!!!! Bring posters, bring your voice, but bring order. Chaos not allowed! Spread the word and make our schools be more transparent!
While they acknowledge it is unlikely to pass this session, the Republican leaders who proposed the bill say parents deserve more control in their children’s education.
Called the “Parent Empowerment Education Savings Account Act,” HB 353 would allow parents to place a percentage of the per-student funding that goes to a public school into accounts with the state treasurer’s office. They could then spend the money from those accounts on whatever educational purposes they choose, as long as they do not enroll their student in a public school.
“We always talk about how, in Delaware, the money follows the child. But that’s only true within the government schools,” said House Minority Whip Deborah Hudson, one of the bill’s sponsors. “That unnecessarily limits some kids, and we want to change that.”
Rep. Hudson gave up the fight for House Bill #23 that would require all school districts, Votech District and Charter school boards to record the public sessions of their board meeting and put online for all to hear. She fails to see the road to real public school reform is to open the widows re: transparency. Government cannot be it’s own effective watchdog whereas the people are better suited. Republicans often talk about the federal government infringing on personal right and state autonomy but yet here in Delaware a Republican state legislator does far worst!
Rep Hudson didn’t write HB#353 and I’ll be Pete could tell you who did! Hudson has no concept of Delaware Constitution Article X and conflict of church and state. Also, there is infringements on local taxes. Hudson is nothing more that a brainless political mule carrying satchel full of shit!
How much a family would receive depends on how much money they make.
Households with income low enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch would receive the same amount as a school district would get to educate their child. For last year, that means $43,568 for a family of four. Families that earn less than 1.5 times that amount would get 75 percent; families than earn between 1.5 times and twice the amount to qualify would get half, and families that earn between 2 and 2.5 times the amount to qualify would get a quarter.
The remainder of that student’s allotment would go to their home district as normal, Hudson said.
Students whose families make more than 2.5 times the reduced-price lunch level would not qualify to receive money for one of these accounts.
“I don’t want people to think this is just money going to rich kids going to a fancy private school,” Hudson said. “This is an opportunity for kids to go to a school they couldn’t get to in any other way.
Obamacare for public education! Way to go Debbie Hudson! And what part of fair and equitable did you screw? What about IMPACT Debbie!
That amount wouldn’t cover tuition at many private schools: Salesianum’s tuition this year was $13,700; tuition at St. Mark’s High School next year is $10,500, and elementary tuition at Ursuline Academy is $14,150.
Church and State!!!!!!!!!!! Think Debbie Think !!!!!!!!!! Debbie how are the Special Ed programs at these schools?
Gov. Jack Markell does not support the idea, believing it is a form of school vouchers, in which the state reimburses parents for private school tuition.
“[The accounts] would not help strengthen our schools across the state, and would drain funding from our system at a time when more parents than in the past are choosing Delaware’s public schools as the best education option for their children,” Markell spokesman Jonathon Dworkin said in a statement.
Damn! Now Jack and I get on the same page! Go figure! Hey Jack you want to piss off Hudson! Twist H.B.#23 into an Executive Order and deliver on that transparency promise you made!
Parents it’s time to put Rep Hudson in a rocking chair! Looks like she is tracking that way come November’s elections.