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After reading Matthew Albright’s article in the News Journal (“Virtually no Delaware Teachers Received Poor Evaluations”) those of us who are enthusiastic about improving the quality of education in Delaware had to stop and ask ourselves this question: Are there really no teachers in Delaware who are ineffective at teaching children?

We understand that ever-changing “standards” and severe fluctuations in education dollars for public schools makes teaching difficult for many who enter the profession. At the same time Delaware’s 51st overall ranking in SAT scores (mandatory testing was factored in and we are still last) should be considered unacceptable, despite whatever rankings the state was coming up with on the DCAS testing. The fact that two-thirds of all students, and four-fifths of low income, Black, and Hispanic students, cannot read or write at a grade level comparable to their peers in other states should be considered unacceptable.

There should be accountability for the two-grade gap between White students and Black and Hispanic students, particularly students in Wilmington and Dover. There should be accountability for why, despite the mediocre to poor results in Delaware’s public schools, the state has the fourth highest ratio of administrators to students and why Delaware employs as many “support staffers” as they do teachers in the public schools.

There should be accountability for why, out of $435,000 per classroom per year the state spends, 80 percent is not spent in the classroom.

Does anyone living in Delaware not think Wilmington has real problems? Wilmington and Dover, two areas with higher than average crime rates, would benefit from better education which will come only when there is a real movement for education reform.

Terri Hodges, president of the state PTA, was quoted as saying, “We support a fair evaluation system, but we can’t say that 99 percent of teachers are effective when we look at the number of student’s we’re seeing reaching proficiency or how we stack up to other states.”

We agree with Ms. Hodges on this statement. We would like to see a review of the Delaware Performance Appraisal System (DPAS) which is supposed to make sure ineffective teachers are removed from the classroom. Children are a nation’s most valuable asset and without well-educated children America will not be able to compete with children in other nations for jobs which offer good wages and a sense of security.

All of this starts with the Delaware Department of Education, the Delaware State Education Association, and the Markell Administration. Eventually the government and the public will have to acknowledge the poor service the state is providing education-wise to Delaware’s children. The first step will be to review this DPAS evaluation system to make sure it is there to protect students’ education and not teachers’ jobs. The second step will be to stop treating non-public schools as the enemy and instead welcome the opportunity to prove why public schools are a good option for parents and families through innovations where the student and parents are the VIPs and not the administrators in charge of collecting and disbursing funds. No child should be forced to play guinea-pig with her or his education experience to try out “standards” which have never been tested before. We at CRI hope the state and public will listen.

NEFW logoNEFW 2014 infographic

Original post from the National Employee Freedom Week movement http://employeefreedomweek.com/state/delaware/

National Employee Freedom Week takes place every August; this year workers’ rights to not be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment takes place August 10-16.

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Because Delaware is not a Right-to-Work state, your freedom to leave your union is restricted, but you still have options to leave or reduce your union membership.

The first option is to become an agency fee payer, which means you only pay dues for the union’s cost of collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment. As an agency fee payer, you do not pay for any other activities, including the union’s political activities.

As an agency fee payer, you are not a member of the union, but since you continue to pay the “representative” portion of your dues, the union must continue to represent you fairly and without discrimination in all matters subject to collective bargaining.

As an agency fee payer you are still entitled to every benefit under the labor contract with your employer, including health care, pension, step increases, etc.

A generic letter to become an agency fee payer is here. You will need your union’s address and contact information. We recommend that you make a copy of your letter and either deliver it in person and receive a stamped copy or mail it with Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested Signature. This protects you in case, a union boss “loses” your letter. We also recommend sending a copy of the letter to your employer’s payroll department.

Although the generic agency fee payer letter includes text noting that your objection is continuing and permanent, some unions will not respect this and will make you annually resubmit your refund request.

For a smooth exit, you may have to leave during specific opt-out timeframe or “window.” Ask your union for a copy of your signed enrollment form to determine when your window is.

Download a generic agency fee payer letter.

The second option is to become a religious or conscientious objector. If you would like to become a religious or conscientious objector, go to ChooseCharity.org. ChooseCharity.org includes a simple application process that requires no additional out-of-pocket costs.

Once the application is submitted, the ChooseCharity legal staff will take care of the rest of the process.

If you become a religious or conscientious objector, your full dues equivalent will be deducted but made payable a charitable fund exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code. You will not be a member of the union, but are still entitled to every benefit under the labor contract with your employer, including health care, pension, step increases, etc.

If you think you may want to become a religious or conscientious objector, it is important that you do not request to be an agency fee payer.

State laws can differ depending on your profession, please consult with an employee rights organization if you have questions about your specific situation.

More Information About Your Rights

All Employees:

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation

Workplace Fairness Institute

Your Rights (Center for Union Facts)

Unions and Union Dues (American Center for Law and Justice)

For Teachers:

Teacher Rights (AAE)

Coalition of Educators Against Forced Unionism

 

The bottom line is you, as an employee, should not be forced to pay dues to any entity you do not choose to without your consent. There is a reason private sector unionism is down: while pro-union proponents blame entities like CRI for being “anti-union” the reality is that the biggest push to end forced unionization comes from the employees themselves who are unionized and who see hundreds or thousands of union dues dollars taken from worker’s paychecks, especially at a time when household incomes are shrinking, to support political causes or union activities the rank and file do not agree with.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can legally leave your union and not pay union dues but still keep your job, please click on the links or call us at (302) 273-0080 or e-mail us at info@caesarrodney.org.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article yesterday based on a longer study by the Brooking Institute on the trend of the average age of businesses in America aging:

“Why it’s worrying that U.S. Companies are Getting Older”

“Older firms are increasingly controlling the largest market share in different sectors of the economy, according to a paper by the Brooking Institution’s Robert E. Litan and Ennsyte Economics’s Ian Hathaway. By 2011, the portion of U.S. businesses aged at least 16 years reached 34%, compared to 23% in 1992. Moreover, those mature companies went from employing only 60% of private-sector workers in 1992 to employing nearly three quarters of the private-sector labor force in 2011.

The report attributes this trend to declining entrepreneurship, among other reasons. The rate of new business creation in the U.S. has been constantly shrinking in the past three decades. “The decline in new firm formation rates had occurred in every U.S. state and nearly every metropolitan area, in each broad industry group, and in all firm size classes,” the authors explain.

Moreover, it has become more difficult for younger companies to survive and compete with the bigger ones. Business failures are more frequent and likely among start-ups, which may account for the fall in business creation after the 1990s. The economy has grown more advantageous for incumbent firms and less helpful for fledgling ones.

The authors argue that younger companies are crucial to attaining a healthier economy as they have had the largest contribution to past “disruptive and thus highly productivity enhancing innovations” across different sectors ranging from airplanes and automobiles to computers and internet search.

“If we want a vibrant, rapidly growing economy in the future, we must find ways to encourage and make room for the start-ups of the future that will commercialize similarly influential innovations,” said the authors.”

 The first chart shows that more businesses close than open, which includes start-ups which fail. Nearly 90 percent of all businesses fail within 10 years. The second chart shows a specific breakdown by industry.

 

 

 

This is not difficult to understand: new business face the inherent challenges of promoting a brand of a product or service in the face of well-established, existing brands. Why try something new when the old version works for you? Then you add in the high tax rates, high energy costs regulation compliance costs, all sorts of entry fees (examples include taxi medallions and occupational licenses), and new laws pushed by the old businesses, mainly larger firms, which drive out the smaller competitors who cannot keep up with the ever-increases taxes and regulations, and the result is that fewer and fewer people even consider starting up a new business, and those who do are more likely to keep the size small enough to handle the taxes and compliance requirements  manage rather than spend energy trying to grown the business or make it more profitable. This is a significant reason why most of the new start-ups are companies which do not need a lot of energy use or space, such as a tech start-up where one only needs a computer with the right programming and internet access and which can be done from an apartment or coffee shop. The problem is that not everyone knows how to, or is capable of, learning to code and managing a computer-based business. On the downside there are fewer start-ups in other sectors of the economy like construction and manufacturing which can offer good-paying jobs needed for many working Americans. Start-ups provide people with job opportunities and can create new ideas which make civilization’s progress better for more and more people. Just imagine a world with no light bulbs, automobiles, or commercial internet access, for example.

The short- and medium-term implications is that this is a disaster decades in the making. Fewer competitors in a particular sector means less choice, which inevitably leads to higher prices and a lower quality product or service because the incentive to be better disappears if either a) you do not have competition or b) if you can simply lobby the government’s elected and unelected officials to devise ways to limit or defeat the competition’s ability to challenge the “established” brands. The resulting weakness in economic growth then fuels the “need” for stimulus dollars, tax credits, and subsidies to keep certain businesses competitive, rather than allow the private marketplace to decide what is valuable and what is not. But even in this way we are only taking money from those who produce and redistributing the wealth to those who are well-connected or who are in the business those in charge of the money deem “sustainable business.”

This is what cronyism does to the economy: it will enrich the well-connected and wealthy while making prosperity harder and harder for an increasingly few people. We are past the debate as to whether cronyism harms economic growth; the question is if and when the majority of people will recognize the problem and stand with organizations like CRI in opposing cronyism and the devaluing of the dollar.

Two related stories:

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UD expels Data Centers project as ‘bad fit’

Millsboro poultry plant fight shifts to court

 

The University of Delaware cancelled its proposed contract with The Data Centers LLC to build a new power station to complement a data facility on UD’s campus. The argument became very fierce as both sides accused the other of malicious conduct.

As Dave Stevenson wrote last Fall in “Newark Data Center Not a Choice Between Jobs and Environment” the Data Center would have been cleaner than the alternative, which is for Delaware to import electricity generated from coal-fired power plants from states like Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. If Carbon Dioxide emmissions are what worries the anti-Data Center crowd then they should realize that the air pollution generated from the proposed power plant on UD’s campus would STILL be less than what we are doing now, which IS to import coal-generated electricity from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. As Dave wrote:

“Since much of our power comes from generation facilities in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia we average about an 11% transmission line loss. That means we burn an extra pound of fuel for every nine pounds of fuel producing useful electricity. With a power plant on the Data Center site there will be essentially no transmission line loss. In fact, it is environmentalist pushing hardest the idea of distributed generation, power made where it will be used.”

The Data Center would have also created jobs, some temporary like construction and some permanent such as those people needed to staff the data center and the power plant. Overall, while we do acknowledge that The Data Centers LLC made some missteps in defending their positions and in not providing all the relevant information to move the deal forward (which is their own fault) the truth is building a power plant in Delaware is needed in order for the state to lower residential and industrial electrical bills.

 

As for the Allen Harim chicken plant in Millsboro, the same story is unfolding: residents do not want the chicken plant and the allegations of industrial waste and  pollution are being used. The specifics over how to best renovate the land to minimize environmental damage should and absolutely must be worked out, because industry must accept responsibility for its own waste without dumping it (literally) into the private space of others, meaning the public. However, at some point the land should be developed in order for desperately needed jobs in Western Sussex County to be created.

In both “liberal” New Castle and “conservative” Sussex counties, the same situations unfolded: local residents opposed a major development project by out-of-state based corporations on environmental and noise pollution grounds, with residents clearly not wanting this development in their areas of living. Whether residents opposed to the Allen Harim plant will win in court remains to be seen, but if they do win then count those as jobs lost for the state, a state which is still behind pre-2008 job creation levels.

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CRI made sure to be in attendance of a Vision 2025 meeting, sponsored by the Rodel Foundation, in Georgetown on Wednesday the 25th. Here were the highlights of the presentation:

a)      The presenter was Kurt Landgraf, husband of DHSS Secretary Rita.

b)      The presentation had many common lovely sounding buzzwords: improving education by “empowering parents, students, and teachers”, “innovation, “student-centered learning/focus on the student”, “More access to quality learning opportunities” “technology in classrooms”, “self and socially aware” “excellence, equity, efficiency in learning “ “high standards” and so forth.

c)      One woman in attendance  said she didn’t want localized control of education because some districts might suffer from nepotism at the local level whereas she believes this would not be a problem at the state or federal level. She also tried to argue that charter schools were not public schools though she was politely reminded that yes, charter schools ARE private schools only without the same (over) regulation and funding allotment traditional public schools receive.

d)      The audience attendees became angry with one former education when he pointed out that USA is #1 in total K-12 spending per pupil, but whose results were not #1. They either really believe, or tell themselves, that we have an underfunding of public schools problem in America. Evidence of generous spending on education funds (much of that money which never makes it to the classroom) can be read HERE  and HERE  and we will write more about this in the future. The problem is not even so much how much money is spent, but on where the money goes. As stated above, a large amount of money ends up paying generous salaries to non-educators, including those who come up with ideas like Common Core.

For the record Delaware spends $12,000-$13,000 average per public school pupil (minus capital/miscellaneous expenses, which brings the total to about $17,000)

e)      A question on Education Savings Accounts was asked. Would ESA’s be part of the new education plan? the question was not answered though the usual criticism of private/charter schools were abound: they are more selective because traditional public schools must take everyone (fact: 20% of Prestige Academy in Wilmington students are special-needs/IEP students, and 30% of Tall Oaks students come from single parent/low income backgrounds and about 40% of their students are not White) .  A study by Dr. Bart Danielsen of Delaware’s child enrollment in public schools showed a massive gap between children 0-4 in Delaware and 5-9, many of whom were located in places like Chadds Ford, PA (sources used: US Census Bureau and IRS tax data). Meaning, many parents were taking their children 5 and up to places like PA where the public schools are perceived to be of higher quality. Not a solid answer from the presenter(s) as to why this was, though a lack of funding for public education in Delaware was a popular culprit, as was a lack of focus on letting teachers teach, too many administrators, a need for more parental involvement in both their children’s education and in the education process (a statement the Rodel Foundation and presenter Kurt Landgraf agreed with, as does CRI), a lack of access to Pre-k programs like Headstart (Mr. Landgraf said a study showed that students who attended Pre-k (a.k.a ‘early childhood education’) were better prepared for kindergarten. As an example he said Princeton, NJ tots got Pre-k while Trenton’s kids did not. Princeton kids had an average vocab by Kindergarten of 5000 words while Trenton’s kids had 800-1000. Source not cited. A retired educator disputed this stat later by saying that for some students Pre-k works but for others they are better off staying at home), a streamlined process between educators, administrators in the schools, and administrators outside the school (like the state DOE). CRI agrees with some of the ideas, such as more parental involvement in  the education process, reducing the number of total administrators and non education “support staff”, particularly those NOT in the schools themselves, and letting teachers innovate in the classroom.

The Rodel Foundation says they favor individualized and tailored learning programs for each student to meet his or her needs. CRI agrees with this, but the question as to whether or not the Rodel Foundation supports Common Core, which is a one size fits all model allowing for no innovation that doesn’t meet arbitrary “national” guidelines were not answered or asked. There is no doubt that allowing students, parents, educators, on on-site administrators like principals to best manage the education process, come up with curriculum tailored to what the students need, and working with each child to maximize their potential is critical. For example, a student who ought not to go to college should not go. According to Mr. Landgraf, 45% of college enrollees do not finish within SIX years. Vocational classes which prepare those students who just are not college material but can help them find a decent job after high school ought to be offered. Helping struggling students who are behind and allowing gifted students to excel, at their own paces, should be promoted in the schools.

f)      A Californian judge’s ruling on teacher tenure was not mention, but our retired educator and former superintendent friend mentioned that some teachers are bad teachers who hurt kids and should not have tenure/should be fired, a position Mr. Landgraf agreed with publicly and Rodel Foundations seemed to agree with. Simply put, teaching tenure was created for college professors to protect them from being fired for their research or their speech. It was NOT intended for K-12 teachers to earn a lifetime job simply for showing up for sometimes as little as 2 years without getting fired or failing some performance reviews. Guaranteed jobs for all teachers, even those who are not teaching well or in extreme cases are convicted of felonies and/or crimes against students, is one of the main objections education reformers have with the teacher’s union and the education system.

The theme of the presentation was, “We want your input.” Will this prove to be true? Or was the meeting a dog and pony show to make people think they are a part of the process while the real decisions are made behind closed doors? The big Rodel Vision 2025 conference will be on October 29 at the UD Campus in Newark. Details TBA.

 

This blogpost first appeared the week of June 9, 2014, on the website http://jaypgreene.com/2014/06/10/delaware-lawmakers-to-debate-broad-esa-measure/. This is a guest post by Matthew Ladner Senior Advisor for Policy and Research at the Foundation for Excellence in Education. This is in reaction to the hearing on HB353, the Parent Empowerment Education Savings Account Act (PEESAA), which was heard on June 11, 2014 in Legislative Hall.

Delaware lawmakers are set to debate a broad ESA measure with a sliding scale by income.  The proposal has activated the anti-bodies of the public school establishment, and the sponsors acknowledge in the article that they do not expect the measure to pass this year. NAEP indicates that Delaware has done a good job in improving the public school system in recent years, and it seems likely that parental choice is playing an unsung role in Delaware’s improving scores.

Delaware has the second highest private school attendance rate in the nation (behind only Hawaii) at 20% of students. Note that this percentage dwarfs that in states like Arizona and Florida, whose private choice programs are essentially trying to play catch-up to the old-fashioned checkbook choice widely exercised in states like Delaware. Delaware charter schools have been heading towards a 10% of the market as well, and many Delaware charter schools have waiting lists.

The question for Delaware lawmakers to consider therefore is not whether they should have parental choice.  They already have parental choice.  The question to face: who should be exercise parental choice?  Currently Delaware’s answer to that question is: the wealthy, with others getting a less-diverse form of choice in the form of charter schools or their wait lists.

People prize stability in life, and it is clear that many in Delaware feel acute discomfort from the mere advent of charter schools. Education spending ought however to be the entitlement of the child, not of any system of education. Moreover, the Census Bureau forecasts a 90% increase in Delaware’s elderly population between 2010 and 2030, foretelling a deep battle between health care and education spending in the state. It would be wise for the state to experiment in making parents the voluntary offer of less spending in return for greater control and flexibility. Simply maintaining the status-quo does not represent a viable option even in the medium term. Our experience from other private choice programs demonstrate that there will not be a mass exodus from the public school system.

The Delaware proposal is admirable in giving the most to the children starting with the least. I look forward to the conversation.

A bill to allow poor families the financial assistance to improve their children’s education is being met with stiff resistance by both the left and the right.

 

The left opposes choice because many are strong advocates of the public schools (debate is not even on government paying for schools-debate is over whether government should actually be running the schools). They believe that you should be made to send your child or grandchild to the local school chosen solely on your zip code because “they believe in public education” and that’s that. Some even benefit greatly from the generous perks one can receive by teaching in a public school. While it is true that almost no one chooses to become a teacher in order to get rich, and just about all (if not all) are motivated by the genuine desire to help young people, the fact is that public school teachers and their union reps do get generous benefits such as: 12 week summer vacation (some in-service hours during the summer are still less than the typical worker putting in a 40 hour week in the summer), a reasonable salary, a generous pension plan, dues for the reps, etc. Some are threatened by the recent arrival of charter schools and a greater demand for private schools and homeschooling, since our model for funding traditional public schools is based on counting kids who attend the schools and receiving funding per student. They believe “charters and choice” will destroy public schools, and for many they may believe this will take away their jobs or lower salaries. The response is this: why do some parents want the schools? For one, it is the parent’s/guardian’s/grandparents (grand)child or (grand)children. They do not belong to the community as some might want you to believe. If the parent truly feels that a religious education, a cyber school education, a charter education, or even a traditional public school education is best, then that’s their right. If the public school defenders dislike charters and choice, they ought to ask WHY there is even a movement in the first place (and no, it is not an astroturf movement funded by the Koch Brothers or ALEC). The problem is NOT that we spend too much money. Delaware spends over $12,000 a year on public education, close to $17,000 a year if capital improvements and expenses are included (such as building new schools or upgrading a cafeteria or electrical outlets in a building). Many good private schools charge less than that per year, so cost is not the issue.

 

Many on the right appear to be opposed to ESA’s as well. Many look at this from a purely tax and spend perspective and conclude that this is just “welfare” for poor people. That all this is is more big government. That assertion is incorrect. The state regulates and oversees the ESA programs, within reason, to cut down on any fraud and abuse which might occur. the ESA’s are given to parents based on income and need, and must be renewed every year by the state. Guardians found to be irresponsible with the money will have their privileges revoked, to the tragic and great detriment of the children who need it most. The cost of one ESA is ALWAYS equal to or less than the lost of a traditional education, and 10% of the ESA money goes to the public school to begin with. Spending $7,500 to help a parent to send her intelligent child to a school like Tatnall is a far better deal than spending $12,000 on the current model is a better deal for taxpayers. A long-term study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that 88% of those currently incarcerated all had one (of several) things in common: they could not read even at a basic proficiency by the time they completed 3rd grade and went to 4th grade. Most young people who are not engaged in the classroom and who come from “bad” areas such as parts of Wilmington are likely to drop out of high school and end up on the streets, where they will not have the knowledge or skills to find a good paying job and many will sadly end up in prison or receiving government assistance. Given the severity of the situation, and the fact that Delaware’s education system is mediocre (proof: look at IRS data and see how many more families move to other states such as right across the border into PA) we should be doing everything we can to improve education. Just because a government program is created does not automatically make it bad; yes there will be issues but they pale in comparison to the issues we have now. Creating a government program which reduces spending by another is a positive achievement.

Try being told what grocery store you will use, what movie theater you can go to, what doctor or dentist you must see, what restaurants you are allowed to eat at based purely on your home or apartment address.

The bill, HB353, will be heard on Wednesday the 11th at 2:30 PM. If you agree that something must be done to offer poor parents and special needs students a real choice in education, one where parents are not assigned to a school purely based on address, then please read the bill on the Legislative website and see what you can do to improve the quality of Delaware’s K-12 education.

As always, please feel free to comment.

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