Archive for June, 2014

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.


Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »


To all attendees of our Sixth Annual Dinner:

On behalf of everyone at the the Caesar Rodney Institute I would like to thank you for attending our Sixth Annual Dinner at the Wilmington Country Club.


We hoped you enjoyed the presentation by Dr. Bartley Danielsen as much as we did. Dr. Danielsen’s research clearly shows the urgent need to improve education in Delaware at the risk not only to our children, but to our economic future.

As part of CRI’s education policy efforts, CRI helped draft legislation that was introduced last week to establish Education Savings Accounts in Delaware.  These accounts would allow lower income parents to send their child to private or parochial school at no additional cost to themselves or to the taxpayers.

Please consider supporting CRI with a generous contribution so that we may continue to work for effective education reform.


Best Regards,



James P. Ursomarso

Chairman & CEO

Read Full Post »