Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services outlined its preliminary 2024 budget request earlier this month, with preparations for the end of the federal public health emergency shaping many proposed budget items.
That transition away from the COVID-19-era emergency could have serious ramifications for Delawareans relying on public assistance programs; the emergency declaration brought with it expanded Medicaid access and requirements that states offer continuous coverage to anyone who enrolled in Medicaid before March 2020.
It also gave state agencies responsible for public health and social services greater flexibility in administering food benefits and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.
But Delaware DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik told Delaware Office of Management and Budget leadership in a 2024 budget hearing earlier this month that her agency is preparing for the end of the federal public health emergency in the coming year.
“When the federal public health emergency does end, in many ways the work is only beginning,” she said. “DHSS will have a significant undertaking to both educate the public about the changing benefit landscape and enact the requirements of what the feds are calling ‘the great unwinding.’”
That will mean disenrolling thousands of Delawareans from Medicaid – a daunting process that will require additional financial support from the state according to Magarik.
Magarik says that recent federal subsidies have made health insurance options plentiful and affordable enough that they may be able to help move some people from Medicaid to the insurance marketplace.
The 2024 budget door-opener presented this month includes nearly $70 million for one-time Medicaid costs stemming from the end of the federal public health emergency.
With more than 200 Americans still dying of drug overdoses each day, states are beginning the high-stakes task of deciding how to spend billions of dollars in settlement funds from opioid manufacturers and distributors. Their decisions will have real-world implications for families and communities across the country that have borne the brunt of the opioid crisis.
Will that massive tranche of money be used to help the people who suffered the most and for programs shown to be effective in curbing the epidemic? Or will elected officials use the money for politically infused projects that will do little to offer restitution or help those harmed?
Jacqueline Lewis, of Columbus, Ohio, is wondering exactly that. She lost her son, Shaun, this fall after his 20-year struggle with addiction.
After emptying her retirement account and losing her house to pay for his rehab, court fees, and debts to dealers, Lewis is now raising her 7-year-old granddaughter while also caring for her 95-year-old mother with dementia, on nothing more than Social Security payments.
She was eager to speak with members of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation, which was created to oversee the distribution of most of Ohio’s funds. As they determined priorities for funding, she wanted them to consider perspectives like hers — that of a mother and grandmother who’d faced addiction up close and saw the need for more treatment centers, addiction education in the workplace, and funding for grandparents raising grandkids as a result of the opioid epidemic.
But she couldn’t find anyone to listen. At an August foundation meeting she attended, board members excused themselves to go into a private session, she said. “They just left the room and left us sitting there.” When she attended another meeting virtually, audience members weren’t allowed to “voice anything or ask questions.”
A local group that advocates for people affected by the opioid epidemic has expressed similar concerns about the lack of opportunities for the public to speak with the foundation. That group is now suing the foundation for a lack of transparency, even though few decisions about funding priorities have been made yet.
Each state has its own approach to spending
The strife in Ohio highlights the tensions emerging nationwide as settlement funds start flowing. The funds come from a multitude of lawsuits, most notably a $26 billion settlement resulting from more than 3,000 cities, counties, and states suing manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health for their roles in the opioid crisis.
Payments from that case began this summer and will continue for 18 years, setting up what public health experts and advocates are calling an unprecedented opportunity to make progress against an epidemic that has ravaged America for three decades.
But, they caution, each state seems to have its own approach to these funds, including different distributions between local and state governments and various processes for spending the money. With countless individuals and groups advocating for their share of the pie — from those dealing with addiction and their families to government agencies, nonprofits, health care systems and more — the money’s impact could depend heavily on geography and politics.
“It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s going to a lot of places and going to be spread out over time,” said Sara Whaley, a researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who tracks state use of opioid funds. “It’s not going to magically end this crisis. But if it’s used well and used thoughtfully, there is an opportunity to make a real difference.”
And if not, it could be just another political boondoggle.
How to avoid the ‘tobacco nightmare’
The worst-case scenario, many say, is for the opioid settlement to end up like the tobacco master settlement of 1998.
States won $246 billion over 25 years, but less than 3% of the annual payouts are used for smoking prevention or cessation programs, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Most has gone toward filling budget gaps, building roads and subsidizing tobacco farmers.
But there are stronger protections in place for the opioid settlement dollars, said Christine Minhee, founder of a website that tracks the funds.
The arrangement specifies that states must spend at least 70% of the money for opioid-related expenses in the coming years and includes a list of qualifying expenses, like expanding access to treatment and buying the overdose reversal medication naloxone. Fifteen percent of the funds can be used for administrative expenses or to reimburse themselves for past opioid-related expenses. Only the remaining 15% can be spent any way the states choose.
If states don’t meet those thresholds, they could face legal consequences and even see their future payouts reduced, Minhee said.
“The kind of tobacco nightmare stuff where only 3% of funds were spent on what they were meant for is legally and technically impossible,” she said. Though, she added, “a different nightmare is still possible.”
Experts tracking the funds say transparency around who receives the money and how those decisions are made is key to a successful and useful distribution of resources.
In Rhode Island, for instance, public comment is a regular part of opioid advisory committee hearings. In North Carolina and Colorado, online dashboards show how much money each locality is receiving and will track how it is spent.
But other states are struggling.
Mistrust grows when there’s little public input
In Ohio, the document that creates a private foundation to oversee most of the state’s funds says that “the Foundation shall operate in a transparent manner” and that meetings and documents will be public. Yet the OneOhio Recovery Foundation has since said it is not subject to open-meetings law. It has adopted a policy that meetings can be closed if the board decides the content is “sensitive or confidential material that is not appropriate for the general public.”
“The board members are in a closed loop, and they’re having a hard time learning what the needs are,” Cauchon said.
The 29-member board includes representatives of local regions, as well as appointees from the governor, state attorney general and legislative leaders. Many are city- and county-level politicians, and one is the wife of a U.S. senator. They are not paid for their service as board members.
People who want to provide input “can always reach out to me as the chair or any other board member,” said Whittington, who added that two of her children have struggled with addiction. But the best option, she said, is to contact one of Ohio’s 19 regional boards. Those groups can elevate local concerns to the foundation board.
“We are still at the very beginning,” Whittington emphasized. No money from the 18-year settlement has been spent yet. The board’s operational expenses — including a $10,000-per-month contract with a public relations firm — is being paid out of $1 million from a previous opioid-related settlement.
But Lewis, the woman raising her granddaughter in Columbus, worries that the day for families to speak may never come.
“They keep saying it’s not ready, and before you know it, they’ll be handing out money and it’ll be too late,” she said.
Rhode Island will spend $2 million on a site where drug use is supervised
Rhode Island is one of the states working fastest to distribute settlement dollars. Its Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which controls 80% of the funds and works with an opioid advisory committee, released a plan to use $20 million by July 2023.
Although the plan doesn’t specify funding for people raising grandchildren, it does allocate $900,000 to recovery supports, which will include community agencies that serve family members, the department said. The single largest allocation, $4 million, will go to school-and community-based mental health programs.
Louisiana plans to give 20% of its share to sheriffs
In contrast, the process of distributing settlement dollars in Louisiana has barely begun. State Attorney General Jeff Landry announced in July 2021 that Louisiana was expected to receive $325 million from the 18-year settlement but has not released any additional information. His office did not respond to repeated inquiries about the status of the funds.
The governor’s office and state health department said they could not answer specific questions about the funds and had not yet been contacted by the attorney general’s office, which negotiated the state’s settlement agreement. Multiple clinicians who treat substance use disorder and advocates who work with people who use drugs were similarly in the dark.
The state’s written plan says it will create a five-person task force to recommend how to spend the money. Kevin Cobb, president of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, said the group had appointed its representative to the task force, but he didn’t know if other members had been selected or when they would meet.
One decision Louisiana has made so far is to give 20% of the settlement funds directly to sheriffs — a move that has made some people nervous.
My jail problem will resolve itself if we resolve the problem of opioid addiction.
“This plays into an increase in support for an authoritarian response to what are public health issues,” said Nadia Eskildsen, who has worked for syringe service programs and other such groups in New Orleans.
She worries that the money will be funneled toward increasing arrests, rather than helping people find housing, work or health care. Meanwhile, almost 1,400 Louisiana residents died of opioid-related causes last year.
K.P. Gibson, the Acadia Parish sheriff who will represent the sheriffs’ association on the state task force, said his focus is not on punishment, but on getting people into treatment. “My jail problem will resolve itself if we resolve the problem of opioid addiction,” he said.
Maine to spend 3% on special education; Colorado might expand telehealth
States’ choices generally reflect a range of local priorities: While Louisiana has carved out funds for law enforcement, Maine is dedicating 3% of its statewide share for special education programs in schools, and Colorado has allocated 10% to addiction infrastructure, like workforce training, telehealth expansion, and transportation to treatment.
Maine requires that some funds be used for special education because school districts also sued the opioid companies, said state Attorney General Aaron Frey.
Patricia Hopkins said she signed on to the lawsuit because she’s seen the impact of the opioid crisis on students over the past decade as superintendent of school district 11, a rural part of central Maine’s Kennebec County with 1,950 students.
A report compiled by Hopkins’ staff in 2019 showed nearly 4% of students had a parent dealing with addiction.
Sixty miles north, in rural Penobscot County, school district 19 social worker Meghan Baker said she knows two siblings who were home when first responders arrived to revive their parents with naloxone, and another set of siblings who lost their mother to an overdose.
Students who experience this trauma often become angry, act out at school and find it difficult to trust adults. When Baker refers them to counseling services in the community, they encounter waitlists that run six months to a year.
“If we could hire more guidance counselors and social workers, at least we [could] help some of those kids during the school day,” she said.
It’s clear that many people have high hopes for what the billions of dollars in opioid settlement funds arriving over the next two decades can accomplish. But they have questions too, because effectively using this large pot of money requires planning and forethought.
For people like Jacqueline Lewis in Ohio, whose family has lost so much to an epidemic too long ignored, progress feels slow.
As she tries to make do on Social Security, Lewis focuses on the positives: Her granddaughter is a happy child, and her older brother lives with them to help out. But the financial worries gnaw at her. And what if her own health falters before her granddaughter is an adult?
From: The Hill(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File) A New York City Police Department officer and a subway conductor look down the subway platform at the Grand Central Terminal subway station, in New York, on May 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
What drives economic growth and job creation, and decreases poverty? This is today’s dominant concern for senior policymakers in our cities, states, and, indeed, the entire country.
Adam Smith in “The Wealth of Nations” provided an answer much earlier in a related context: “Commerce and manufactures can seldom flourish long in any state which does not enjoy a regular administration of justice, in which the people do not feel themselves secure in the possession of their property.” More generally, human progress is a function of ideas, individuals and institutions.
Human capital is more difficult to expropriate. The primary reason most individuals invest in human capital (education, trade apprenticeship, professional training) is it enhances their ability to generate income and create wealth. As property crime and violent crime in a city deteriorate, people living in such cities are motivated to leave and move to safer areas. People with higher education and professional training, aka knowledge workers, are more likely to have the economic resources and job opportunities to move to a safer city. In a mirror image of this phenomenon, companies that employ knowledge workers as human capital would be motivated to move from cities with deteriorating crime to safer cities. As these knowledge workers and companies depart cities with growing crime rates, this has a negative multiplier effect on job creation and economic growth.
Technological innovation, primarily driven by the intellectual and creative efforts of knowledge workers, is a key driver of economic growth. Hence, knowledge workers and companies departing cities due to crime compound the negative multiplier effect.
My colleagues and I constructed two proxies for the rule of law in 199 of the largest U.S. cities: the rate of violent crime per 100,000 people, and the rate of property crime per 100,000 people. Per data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Under the program, property crimes include the offenses of burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. We obtained corresponding data on job growth rates and poverty rates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Decennial Census and the American Community Surveys.
Figure 1 highlights that cities with higher current property crime rates experience lower job growth rates in the future. Besides the size of the economic pie, which is related to the job growth rate, senior policymakers and media across the country are increasingly concerned about how this pie is sliced in terms of poverty and income inequality.
Figure 2 highlights that cities that have a higher current property crime rates experience higher poverty rates in the future. Conceptually, as law and order improves in a city, its citizens and businesses have greater confidence that they can enjoy the benefits of their investment in physical and human capital; that increased incentive to invest in physical and human capital leads to more jobs and income for the broader citizenry, resulting in less poverty.
In a more formal analysis, we found that the above results are statistically significant. Also, we found that cities that had higher current violent crime rates experienced lower job growth rates in the future, and cities that had higher current violent crime rates experienced higher poverty rates in the future. Once again, these relationships are statistically significant.
None of the above results are particularly surprising. In an earlier study, we did a comprehensive analysis of the empirical relationship between economic growth and the rule of law using panel regressions for 134 countries from the period 1984-2019. We documented a significant positive relationship between rule of law and GDP per capita. Also, we documented that countries with greater adherence to rule of law are characterized by less income inequality.
The above analysis leads to the following policy recommendation for political leaders in various cities and states around the country: Focus on ensuring respect for private property rights, effective police forces, prosecutors willing to enforce the rule of law, and fair courts. This will enhance the economic prosperity of your citizens and diminish poverty in your region.
Shoplifting and theft continue to hurt big retailers and chain stores, but it’s even harder for small businesses still trying to recover from the pandemic.
A spokesperson for the National Retail Federation said if someone comes into a store and steals below that state’s federal theft threshold, it’s highly unlikely that law enforcement will go after them.
Some small-business owners say they’re losing thousands of dollars each month and won’t submit every claim to insurance out of fear of being dropped.
They’re taking matters into their own hands, charging a 1% crime spike fee on all transactions, stepping up security and, as a last resort, shutting down completely.
Small business owners step up security to combat brazen shoplifting
They are brazened, aggressive and seemingly acting without a care in the world.
Shoplifters are hurting big retailers and chain stores, even reportedly forcing some locations in New York City and San Francisco to close up. But unlike many big retailers that can absorb the loss, some small-business owners say the crime wave is devastating to their business, especially now, with many still recovering from a global pandemic.
″[When] you see … several thousand dollars just walk out the door — there really aren’t words that you can put to a situation like that. It’s just tough. It’s very, very difficult,” said small-business owner Derek Friedman.
Small business owner Derek Friedman
Friedman, who owns two retail clothing chains in Colorado and Texas – Sportsfan and Sock Em’ Sock Emporium – said four out of his 10 stores in the Denver area have seen a significant increase in theft since mid-2019, with losses totaling more than $200,000 in less than three years.—
I didn’t even turn [some claims] into insurance because we would have [been dropped] – and a small business can’t afford to operate without insurance.
DENVER-BASED SMALL-BUSINESS OWNER
“Our average losses to theft before the beginning of the spike in 2019 were $2,000-$3,000 per month,” Friedman said. Since then, the retail value of stolen items has “averaged about $8,000 a month,” he said.
Exterior of Sportsfan store in Denver, Colorado
“We had to delay pay increases … [and] for almost two years, I took no income and just lived off of retirement as we tried to crawl out of Covid and try to recover from all the losses from the brazen theft,” Friedman said.
He’s not alone. According to a recent survey of 700 small-business owners by Business.org, 54% reported an increase in shoplifting last year, with one in four saying they’re dealing with the issue on a weekly basis.
In one surveillance video Friedman shared with CNBC, a shoplifter picks up a jersey and hat, then threatens employees with a 2-foot-long machete and walks out of the store with stolen merchandise. Friedman said he reported the incident to police, but to his knowledge, no one was apprehended.
Friedman said he was on the brink of losing his insurance because of the number of incidents his businesses were enduring.
“I didn’t even turn [some claims] into insurance because we would have [been dropped] — and a small business can’t afford to operate without insurance,” he said.
Last week, Friedman implemented a 1% crime-spike fee to help offset his losses at four of his hardest-hit Denver stores, which will be added to all transactions indefinitely. And that may be just the starting point.
“Hopefully, we don’t have to raise it,” he said. “I understood that [shoplifting was always a part of doing business] when I bought retail stores … but not at this level. We didn’t sign up for that, and it’s not right, — and it needs to change.”
I’ve been here for 12 years. It was never like this – never.
OWNER, CELLAR 53 WINE & SPIRITS
Peter Panayiotou, the owner of Cellar 53 Wine & Spirits in New York City, said he is always the first one in and last one out. He is so concerned about the rise in theft, he said, that he doesn’t remember the last time he took a day off.
Cellar 53 Wine & Spirits owner Peter Panayiotou
“I come in before my guys and … I don’t leave the store until I close at 10 p.m. Why is that? Because I don’t want to leave them alone here,” Panayiotou said.
In one surveillance video the shop owner shared with CNBC from last month, a man grabs a bottle of liquor and races out the door. Panayiotou chases after him, but the man gets away. That scene, he said, is playing out now more than ever before.
″ [I’ve been] here for 12 years. It was never like this — never,” he said, recalling a man who was coming into the store each day to swipe two bottles of Jack Daniels off the shelf.
Exterior of Cellar 53 Wine & Spirits in New York City
Panayiotou said he is securing his most expensive wine bottles to shelves with zip ties he bought on Amazon. Meanwhile, he’s also acting double duty as a security. And when he spots a thief, he immediately locks the door.
“I tell them, ‘Put it back — it’s not worth it.’ If they put it back and they leave, it’s fine. If they don’t, I lock the door until I take back what they got from me.” Panayiotou said. “I can’t depend on the police anymore. I just have to protect my business.”
According to Jason Straczewski, the National Retail Federation’s vice president of government and political affairs, if someone comes into a store and steals below that state’s federal theft threshold, it’s highly unlikely that law enforcement will go after them — unless it’s part of a frequent occurrence or it’s a group that law enforcement is tracking.
“Several states are looking at ways to aggregate multiple crimes so that when an individual does go above the felony theft threshold, it will be easier to bring charges against that individual — or group of individuals — as well,” Straczewski said.
So many people think you can walk out [with a pair of shoes], and not have to pay for it, and you won’t get prosecuted.
OWNER, SNEAKER CITY
In Seattle, Caroline Cho’s business, Sneaker City, has been in her family for three decades. But break-ins and brazen thieves — literally walking out with shoes in broad daylight — forced her to change the way customers tried on the merchandise.
Sneaker City owner Caroline Cho
The solution she came up with? Allowing customers to try on only one shoe at a time.
″ [It was] the only way to protect my inventory,” said Cho. “So many people think you can walk out [with a pair of shoes], and not have to pay for it, and you won’t get prosecuted.”
But her losses still added up. And when her landlord hiked her rent, she decided to liquidate her inventory and shut down for good, Cho said.
Exterior of Sneaker City in Seattle, WA
“It’s very bittersweet because you’re saying bye to something that you grew up with, that your family sacrificed a lot to make grow and that supported us,” Cho said. “But it’s also a little bit of a relief … because it was just getting to be too much.”
From: Impacting Our Future For years the dramatic decline in the number of volunteer firefighters, particularly young ones, has been threatening the ability of small departments to provide an essential public service.
Most people may not think this potential crisis impacts them, however almost 70 percent of firefighters across the nation are volunteers. It’s not just about fighting fires since most calls are for emergency medical services.
Several years ago the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported a majority of volunteer firefighters in the United States are over the age of 50. And while the number of on-call firefighters is decreasing, the demand for fire and rescue services is increasing — especially for EMS.
Some volunteer fire service statistics
As of February 2020, NFPA says there are an estimated 29,705 U.S. fire departments and 19,112 of them are all volunteer.
National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and NFPA report there are approximately 1,115,000 firefighters across the country and 745,000 (or 67 percent) are volunteers.
NVFC and NFPA also state the time donated by volunteer firefighters saves communities across the country an estimated $46.9 billion per year.
Back in 1980, a firefighter needed only 36 hours of training. Today that number has grown to hundreds of hours to obtain firefighter certification depending on the state. Earning the certification can take up to a year for someone working a regular job and taking the training in the evenings.
Because fire departments have expanded the scope of their duties to include answering emergency medical calls, many firefighters also are emergency medical technicians, which requires another 100 to 250+ hours of training.
Plus, the estimated cost to train and equip a firefighter can exceed $20,000 so it is a major investment for both volunteer firefighters as well as for communities.
But without volunteers, the fire departments can’t offer the fire and rescue protection to residents they are commissioned to offer. Aside from the safety repercussions, insurance service office ratings can cause home insurance rates for homeowners to go up several hundred dollars a year in communities without a fire department or volunteer fire department.
Something the COVID-19 outbreak, and recent riots have demonstrated to the public is during an emergency or disaster there may be a delay before public safety officials can arrive on scene so people should learn some basic preparedness, medical and response skills.
Some programs and resources for civilians, civic clubs, businesses, faith-based organizations and others include:
Fire Corps — A national initiative to recruit community members into local fire and EMS departments to perform non-emergency roles allowing department members to focus on training and emergency response while at the same time increasing the services and programs the department can offer. Fire Corps is a component of the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps initiative and is administered on a national level by the NVFC. For more information, visit www.firecorps.org.
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) — Educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, allowing them to focus on more complex tasks. Learn more at www.ready.gov/cert
Fire is Everyone’s Fight® — A national initiative of the U.S. Fire Administration to reduce home fire injuries, deaths and property loss by changing how people think about fire and fire prevention. Learn how to help your fire department increase community awareness about preventing home fires at www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/fief/
USFRA Family Preparedness ebook — Tips on what people should think about and do before, during and after several types of emergencies and disasters, as well as how to administer basic first aid. Download a free 62-page ebook at www.fedhealth.net/usfra.html
And finally, any local departments needing help recruiting and retaining personnel, the NVFC’s Make Me A Firefighter™ program has resources, tools, and customizable outreach materials for agencies at www.MakeMeAFirefighter.org.
Wilmington’s Poor Test Scores (before & after COVID-19)
The 2022 statewide K-12 test scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment given by Delaware’s Department of Education are not encouraging. Only 30% of Delaware students in 3rd to 8th grade met grade-level math requirements, while just 42% were proficient in English Language Arts.
The test scores pre-COVID-19 are worse for the eight city schools in the Christina, Red Clay, and Brandywine school districts that are slated to be included in the proposed Wilmington Learning Collaborative– see Graph 1 below. In 2019 less than 1/4 of students in Wilmington were proficient in math, while less than 1/3 of students were proficient in English Language Arts (ELA). These scores were before COVID-19, school closures, and remote learning.
The test scores post-COVID-19 following the remote learning and learning loss caused by school closures were even worse- see Graph 2 below. In 2022, 1 in 10 students were proficient in math, and less than 2 in 10 students were proficient in ELA. We are dealing with some terribly performing schools.
The proposed Wilmington Learning Collaborative (WLC) is the latest attempt in the state of Delaware to decrease the learning gap between city students and those in the suburbs of New Castle County, DE. There were several early editions of the WLC Agreement that proposed ideas that have been found in research to be effective in improving education. These included:
Having greater community involvement in the academic and extracurricular activities of the schools.
Allowing principals and teachers more flexibility to tailor the education assets they provide to the specific needs of the students.
However, as the negotiations have continued between the state and the three districts involved (Red Clay, Brandywine, and Christina), several other groups, including the Delaware State Education Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have added their ideas to the Agreement.
The Agreement has gotten more extensive and complicated with additional layers of bureaucracy, therefore, losing the beneficial academic flexibility that once characterized it.
Several WLC Board Members from the three school districts had some valid concerns with the proposed WLC. These include:
Who will be held accountable and liable for actions carried out by the WLC?
What is being done for the city kids currently attending schools outside of the city (particularly in the Brandywine School District)?
Many of the ideas of the WLC are already being implemented by the school districts (expressed by Darrell Green, Superintendent of Red Clay School District).
At the Caesar Rodney Institute, we think catering to the interests of the various groups that have now been added to the new WLC Agreement will not lead to the needed change for students in Wilmington who have been suffering for decades.
CRI’s Plea to Governor Carney for a Successful Student Outcome: Create a new experimental school entity We believe that taking a different direction is required for a successful outcome.
Governor Carney has already had, by his own count, more than 200 meetings with ‘stakeholders’ like school board members, superintendents, their staff, Wilmington city officials, and other interested parties who have contributed their ideas to the increasingly unwieldy WLC Agreement.
The Governor, however, has another option: go to the Legislature to create a new experimental school entity. TheCaesar Rodney Institute (CRI) proposes:
Drafting legislation that creates a new experimental school entity. This new school entity would comply with the Delaware Code as it relates to public schools and be accountable to the citizens of the state. It would have a seven-member board or council, each member of which would be elected by Wilmington voters – not appointed by the Governor or at the behest of certain interest groups.
The person responsible for managing the eight schools would be a “Director” appointed by the elected seven-member board or council.
Each school should continue to have a “Principal” directly reporting to the Director. The important issues such as state funding, insurance, budgets, and administrative support will be spelled out in the draft Legislation. The Delaware Department of Education has the facts to supply these numbers.
Conclusion: Effectiveness over Urgency
The statement repeatedly heard at the joint meeting of the three school districts, the Governor, and the Department of Education that “we have to do something” and “we cannot wait” are recipes for disaster. Doing “something” is not a good idea when the “something” will only exacerbate the ongoing problems that students in Wilmington have faced for decades.
Going through the Legislature to create a separate set of schools with more autonomy is a better solution than creating a half-hearted “collaborative” where no one knows who is responsible or liable for what.
The initial goal of more local governance is undermined by extra levels of bureaucracy, including a 12-person council which will be ineffective in its decision-making.
The next legislative session is less than three months away-plenty of time for drafting the law to create this streamlined experimental school entity.
Over two years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its effects continue to extend far beyond public health. A recent report released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress reveals a staggering decline in math and reading skills among the nation’s fourth and eighth grade students.
Specifically, the share of fourth-graders and the share of eighth-graders who are considered proficient in reading each fell by 3 percentage points since 2019, the last time the standardized test was administered. While there is no single explanation for the trend, experts attribute the historic decline primarily to the disruptions stemming from the pandemic.
Based on the latest NAEP test results, also known as the nation’s report card, only 33% of fourth-graders and 31% of eighth-graders are proficient in reading. In some states, reading proficiency rates are even lower.
In Delaware, just 25% of fourth-grade students and 24% of eighth-graders are proficient in reading. The average proficiency rate among the two grades of 24.5% is below the national average of 32% and fourth lowest among states.
In 2021, the federal government invested $123 billion in public education to help students catch up in the wake of the pandemic. The latest test results reveal it may take billions more. While the link between per pupil spending and student outcomes is complicated, many states with lower-than-average test scores also spend less on education than most – Delaware, however, is an exception. According to the latest data from the Department of Education, Delaware public schools spend an average of $15,910 per pupil annually, the 11th highest among states.
More than two years ago, the pandemic disrupted every industry in the country—but none quite like education. Millions of students were sent home for virtual learning, and parents became more involved in the education of their children.
After months of school closures, virtual classes, and learning loss, parents were eager for alternative education options for their children. Parents demanded change—and states across the country delivered. In 2021, often dubbed “the year of school choice,” dozens of states passed policies that improve education options for American families.
States are continuing that momentum in 2022. During this year’s legislative sessions, several states adopted policies that empower parents to make the best education choices for their children. From increasing academic transparency, to expanding charter schools, to protecting learning pods, states across the country are adopting policies that put parents and students first.
A Network of state think tanks played an important role in shaping and promoting these policies so all American children—regardless of where they live or how much money their family makes—can receive a good education that sets them up for success.
Promoting academic transparency
As parents became more involved in their child’s education, some grew dissatisfied with their school’s curriculum. In some cases, the curriculum wasn’t easily accessible for parents—leaving them in the dark about what their kids were learning. To give parents insight and access to teaching materials, several states adopted transparency laws—which let parents know what’s being taught in public schools.
ARIZONA: The Arizona Senate passed academic transparency reform. Backed by theGoldwater Institute, the bill establishes parents’ right to know what is being taught in public schools by requiring those schools to post on a publicly accessible portion of their website a listing of the specific learning materials used at each institution.
KANSAS: Kansas Policy Institute helped pass House Bill 2567. School boards are now required to annually review state academic assessments and conduct a building needs assessment in all schools, publicizing both to ensure transparency and accountability, before approving the district’s annual budget.
MICHIGAN: The Michigan Senate adopted a bill that asserts “the fundamental rights of parents to direct their children’s education.” The Mackinac Center noted parents have the fundamental right and responsibility to direct their children’s education, and students benefit greatly when schools treat parents as trusted partners.
MISSISSIPPI: The Mississippi Governor signed a bill that was authored by theMississippi Center for Public Policy to address Critical Race Theory in the classroom.
MISSOURI: The Missouri Legislature advanced a critical piece of legislation that would help to guarantee parents’ role in their child’s education. The Show-Me Institute explained that among other things, the resolution would require curriculum transparency and impose meaningful grading of schools and districts so parents can see how their schools and districts stack up to their peers.
COLORADO: The Independence Institute filed a citizens initiative to expand the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) to permit parental access to teaching materials used in their kids’ classrooms.
Expanding access to charter schools
Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are independently run. These schools contract or “charter” with a charter school authorizer—which can be a nonprofit organization, company, government agency, or university. By providing another tuition-free education option, charter schools benefit all families, but low-income families and families whose children do not thrive in a traditional school setting in particular. These parents, who normally don’t have a choice in where their child goes to school, are now provided with an alternative.
KENTUCKY: The Kentucky General Assembly overrode the Kentucky Governor’s veto of House Bill 9, which provides funding for public charter schools and will result in the opening of at least two of these schools in the commonwealth—one in Jefferson County and the other in Northern Kentucky. The Bluegrass Institute noted Kentucky’s parents will now have access to these innovative public schools just like families in 44 other states.
MISSOURI: The Missouri General Assembly passed a bill equalizing funding for charter school students with their district school peers. The American Federation for Children noted the legislation will ensure that all public school students are on an equal playing field with regard to state spending on education.
Giving families access to Education Savings Accounts and scholarship programs
Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are state-supervised funds that parents can use to pay for a wide variety of education options. The state government deposits a portion of what the state would have spent to send the child to public school into a private account that parents can use for education-related expenses. ESAs empower parents by giving them the freedom to choose the education option that best meets their children’s needs. Tax credit scholarship programs allow individuals and corporations to donate money to a scholarship program and receive a tax credit. The scholarship money is awarded to families, mostly low-income, so they can pay for education-related costs.
ARIZONA: In a significant win for Arizona students and their families, the Arizona Governor signed a bill that expands the state’s Empowerment Scholarship program to all students in the state. The Goldwater Institute played a key role in advancing the bill. Under the new law, the state’s 1.1 million K-12 students are all eligible—making it the most expansive school choice program in the country.
GEORGIA: The Georgia General Assembly passed a bill which increases the cap on Georgia’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program. HB517 also doubles the amount individuals, LLCs, and S Corporations may contribute and removes the automatic sunset of the program. The Georgia Center for Opportunity noted the real beneficiaries of this legislation are the thousands of Georgia kids who will benefit from expanded access to a great education.
LOUISIANA: The Louisiana Legislature passed a bill that creates ESAs for kids with disabilities. The Pelican Institute noted parents of children with disabilities know their child’s needs best, and an ESA will allow them to create a customized educational program in consultation with their doctor.
OHIO: The Buckeye Institute-inspired Ohio Afterschool Child Enrichment (Ohio ACE) program launched in April 2022—allowing eligible families to apply for a $500 account for each of their K-12 children. This is Ohio’s first ESA program and will help families pay for a variety of necessary educational services.
OKLAHOMA: A bill that would provide the most significant expansion of school choice opportunity in Oklahoma history has won approval from a Senate committee and will next go before the entire Oklahoma Senate. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs explained the bill would create the Oklahoma Empowerment Account (OEA) Program, which students could use to pay for a range of education services, including private-school tuition.
PENNSYLVANIA: The Pennsylvania House passed a bill to offer Lifeline Scholarships to students in underperforming school districts. The Commonwealth Foundation explained that if passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, the program will offer an Education Opportunity Account (EOA) to any student assigned to a district school in the bottom 15 percent of performance metrics based on state testing.
SOUTH DAKOTA: The South Dakota Legislature passed a school choice expansion bill. The American Federation for Children noted the legislation expands the eligibility and funding for the Partners in Education Tax Credit Program.
TENNESSEE: In a victory for school choice, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that a scholarship program for children from low-income families is constitutional and may go into effect. The ESA pilot program provides approximately $7,000 in funds for students to attend the independent school of their choice. Attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center represented a coalition of parents and schools and successfully argued to reverse a lower-court order blocking the program alongside attorneys from the Beacon Center and Institute for Justice. Beacon Center CEO, Justin Owen stated, “We are fully confident after this decision that families in Nashville and Memphis will finally get the choice opportunities that they deserve.”
UTAH: The Utah Governor signed a law that expands the state’s existing special needs ESA to include siblings of children with special needs who receive scholarships. State Policy Network formed a coalition of organizations to work on this bill and paid for polling and message research on school choice in Utah.
Protecting learning pods—a new, innovative option for families
A learning pod is a small group of children who come together to learn and socialize. Learning pods are organized by parents, who take turns teaching or may even split the costs and hire an instructor. No two pods are alike because they’re based on families’ specific needs. Students might learn inside a parent’s home, a backyard, or community center. Some pods use the students’ public school curriculum while others use their own course of study.
WEST VIRGINIA: The West Virginia Governor signed a law that permits learning pods to continue operating in the state. In 2020, State Policy Network conducted research on learning pod regulation and the threat it poses towards a parent’s ability to start and run learning pods. Later that year, SPN developed model legislation to define and protect this innovated education method from regulation—and in 2022 West Virginia adopted that legislation.
Funding students, not systems
Education funding formulas, or the process for distributing money to a school or school district, is often very complex. This complexity it makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for Americans to understand why a school generated the funding that it did or what the school used those funds for. It’s also very difficult for residents, and notably parents, to keep the school accountable for its academic results.
TENNESSEE: Thanks to the Beacon Center, Tennessee reformed its education funding formula to prioritize teachers and students, not systems. The Tennessee Legislature passed the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (TISA), a plan spearheaded by the Tennessee Governor which will allow more money to flow into classrooms. Under TISA, every child in the state will receive a certain amount of money for education. Tennessee’s Department of Education will provide school districts with the money in a lump sum, and those schools will have flexibility in how that money is spent.
State Policy Network works alongside state think tanks like Beacon to help them advance reforms like these that improve education outcomes for families. During this campaign, SPN helped connect Beacon with national partners who study education funding and how that process works in other states. SPN also provided messaging support on how to effectively communicate this issue to lawmakers and the public.
VIRGINIA: During Virginia’s 2022 legislative session, the Thomas Jefferson Institute successfully defeated efforts to halve the school choice funding in the state.
Adopting reforms to help students read
ALASKA: The Alaska Policy Forum, in partnership with SPN, spearheaded multiyear efforts to pass “Read by 9” in the state. This policy helps address Alaska’s 3rd grade literacy crisis. Each year, as the grade level demands go up, students who are not proficient readers tend to fall further behind and become outsiders inside the classroom. By fourth grade, if students are not proficient readers, half of the curriculum at higher grade levels will be incomprehensible to them.
Allowing students to transfer to a different public school
KANSAS: Kansas passed the Kansas Policy Institute’s public school open enrollment law. Now, if a public school has space, any child in the state may attend there. Kansas Policy explained the law requires districts to accept out-of-district students if there are ‘open seats’ available in district schools.
WILMINGTON, Del. — Dennis E. Godek has joined the Advisory Board of A Better Delaware, a non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization which supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency and accountability in Delaware’s state government.
Godek has dedicated his career to public safety. Most recently, he retired as assistant chief of career services with the Christiana Fire Company. In that role, Godek served as commanding officer of all paid fire and emergency medical service personnel.
The 2016 president of the New Castle County Fire Chiefs Association, Godek is a life member of the Elsmere Fire Company, having served since 1970. He has served Elsmere as secretary, ambulance captain, engine captain, assistant chief, deputy chief and fire chief.
Godek retired from the New Castle County Police Department in 1998 as a captain after 24 years of service on assignment with multiple commands, including commander of criminal investigations and commander of patrol. He started his career with New Castle County as a fire dispatcher in 1974. Since his retirement from NCCPD, Dennis has served as town manager of Elsmere, worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, served as vice president of a public safety consulting firm in New Jersey, conducted federal security clearance investigations for the Department of Defense, U.S. Customs, and the National Security Agency.
Chris Kenny, chairman and founder of A Better Delaware, announced the addition of Godek to the Advisory Board last week.
“Dennis Godek has dedicated his entire career to public safety. As Delaware combats crime, Dennis’s guidance will be invaluable,” Kenny said. “The pro-growth, pro-jobs policies A Better Delaware is advocating for can only be effective when Delawareans are assured that their property is safe and neighborhoods secure.”
“I’m honored to join the Advisory Board of A Better Delaware,” Godek said. “I’ve spent my entire professional life working to keep our streets safe. Today, especially in New Castle County, our small business owners and employees demand more from our government. A Better Delaware has a different vision for the First State, and I hope my guidance will help them achieve it.”
“Dennis Godek is a welcome addition to our Advisory Board,” said Kathleen Rutherford, executive director of A Better Delaware. “If Delaware doesn’t act swiftly to address the difficult issue of property crime, costs will inevitably rise and people will think twice about visiting or moving to the First State. Dennis offers common-sense policy solutions to prevent crime, keep our communities safe and create an environment for businesses to thrive.”
Two and a half years after COVID-19 first hit we are still in a state of emergency giving un-democratic power to Delaware’s Governor with no end in sight. His executive branch regulators are circumventing our elected representatives to dictate what kind of motor vehicle we can buy and how we power our homes.
Governor Carney’s executive decision to join the multistate Climate Alliancethat agrees to follow crazy California regulations is about to go into action. DNREC is already drafting regulations to ban the sale of gasoline and diesel-powered cars. Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) basis for this regulation is illegal.
California has completed its regulation on banning the sale of gasoline and diesel-powered motor vehicles by 2035.
In California, by mandate, 35% of new vehicle sales must be either plugin electric vehicles (EVs) or hydrogen-powered by 2026, increasing to 100% in 2035.
Some states that have joined the Climate Alliance have also committed to following California regulations. Most states, including Delaware, joined the Alliance by executive action, not giving their legislatures a chance to weigh in on the issue. In Delaware, last-minute Senate Bill 305 which might have provided legislative cover for this action was shot down in the House but will likely reappear next year.
Why is this so dangerous? First of all, Americans have fought and died for freedom, which includes the choice of what products we buy in a free market economy. The move to EVs will dramatically increase both the price of motor vehicles and electric rates to cover upgrades to the electric grid. Those increased costs will hurt the poor and middle class the most.
The US Energy Information Agency, before recent high inflation rates hit, estimated a 26% of US households were struggling paying electric bills requiring monthly decisions to pay the electric bill or buy food and healthcare. Some might argue that reducing carbon dioxide emissions is so critical that we must act.
This argument, however, is not factual based. Multiple studies of cradle-to-grave emissions show little reductions compared to conventional vehicles. EVs are about the worst choice to reduce emissions. Currently, EV batteries are warranted for 100,000 miles or eight years, whichever comes first. Then it’s most likely off to the landfill!
Estimates of emission reductions range from zero to about 14 tons over eight years. For perspective, Delaware has a tax on emissions from power plants now costing $14/ton,so the value of emission savings might be $0 to $196 over the life of the vehicle with a price premium averaging $18,000. That’s a lousy return.
Think the cost of EVs will come down? Tesla, GM, Ford, and other EV manufacturers have been raising vehicle prices $6,000 to $8,000 higher over just the last month, basically capturing the full value of new federal consumer tax credits for the manufacturers.
There are many more issues with electric vehicles.
Range drops dramatically in the cold, with some models averaging 30% less range.
You can’t charge during a blackout. Just four days after banning the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035, California asked EV owners not to charge during a peak demand period to avoid crashing the grid.
Massive spending will be needed for the electric grid and charging infrastructure, with one estimate as high as $5,800 per EV.
95% of charging occurs at home or work, so public chargers are used only a few percent of the time resulting in unprofitable, poorly maintained public chargers.
Lithium battery fires are a real concern and very difficult to extinguish.
The US Energy Information Agency forecasts that only about 13% of the US light-duty vehicle sales will be electric vehicles by 2050.
When the 2050 sales forecast for EVs is only 13%, it’s no secret the obvious and only way to increase future demand for electric vehicles is for the government to get involved by mandating and giving out subsidies, aka taxpayers’ money.
It is not too late to alert your legislators to stop this attack on your freedom. You may also consider only voting for candidates who will oppose these kinds of regulations.