The Key Moments For House Bill 50 Opt-Out Victory In The Delaware House

House Bill 50, Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

There were many seminal moments on the road to this important victory for parents in Delaware.  I’ll start at the beginning:

1) Delaware bloggers Kavips and Transparent Christina begin talking about opt-out in the Spring of 2014.  It’s who got me to start thinking about it for Delaware.

2) Matt Lindell and the Capital School Board: a year ago, the Capital school board started the discussion on this, but it was tabled.  Then it came roaring back last fall for a unanimous vote by the Capital Board.

3) The Delaware DOE letters: In early December of 2014, the Delaware DOE began sending school districts a “suggested” letter to give to parents about opt-out should they ask or opt-out.  The confusing Delaware state code regarding this was exposed immediately by yours truly.  It took a while for this to be clarified by the DOE, but once the genie was out of the bottle, it made the DOE look ineffective

4) Delaware State Rep. Kowalko and Senator Lawson introduce House Bill 50 in early February. WDEL radio show host Rick Jensen starts having opt-out advocates on his show.

5) The Delaware PTA holds the first Delaware Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in mid-February.  Wide discussion about bullying tactics by school districts really ticks parents off.  What was meant to be a scare tactic fast turns into a rallying point for Delaware parents. President Terri Hodges announces publicly she is opting her own child out.

6) Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques tells a group of Christina Educator Association teachers House Bill 50 will never pass as Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick attempts to dictate terms about opt-out to parents in that district which does not work out as planned.

7) Delaware PTA holds Kent County Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in early March.  DOE is forced to admit parent opt-out can’t be stopped and the state law only applies to teachers and school staff, not parents.

8) Christina board of Education passes parent opt-out resolution in large measure due to the hard work in preparing the resolution by board member Elizabeth Paige and a fiery speech supporting parent opt-out by board member John Young.

9) Governor Markell announces initiative to reduce assessments for Delaware students while conveniently ignoring the elephant in the room, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This leads to Jaques referring to Smarter Balanced as a “little test”.

10) Governor Jack Markell is forced to talk about opt-out at Howard High School, which leads to remarks by Jaques which fans the opt-out flames even more, especially for special needs parents.  Jaques quickly apologizes.

11) The Delaware News Journal publishes a front-page cover story on opt-out from both sides of the fence.  A cover photo of parent Jackie Kook with her daughter brings it home for many parents.  Parent who never heard the words opt-out start looking into it.

12) In front of an audience of over 1,000 people at the Imagine Delaware forum, teacher and President of the Red Clay Educator Association Mike Matthews announces he supports the opt-out movement.

13) As the Smarter Balanced Assessment begins, parents start opting out by the hundreds in Delaware.  Many schools give parents a rough time, which causes parents to talk to each other and spread the news about opt-out.

14) Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews and Jaques go head to head in a News Journal dual opinion piece on opt-out.  Matthews clearly wins the contest and shows why opt-out is important in regards to Delaware education.

15) Both Red Clay and Christina Educators Association hold joint press conference announcing no confidence vote in Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.

16) Delaware PTA passes resolution officially supporting opt-out and House Bill 50.

17) DSEA (Delaware Educators Association) passes resolution supporting opt-out and House Bill 50, as well as a vote of no confidence in Mark Murphy.

18) Parent Press Conference/Rally at Legislative Hall in early April, though small, draws most Delaware media to it and more media coverage of opt-out.

19) Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams publicly announces she is opting out her own son, a high school junior who, like many Delaware juniors, are forced to take weeks and weeks of testing.

20) Mark Murphy appears on The Delaware Way with Larry Mendte and states “parents aren’t allowed to opt-out students”.

21) Red Clay Consolidated School Board passes parent opt-out resolution with excellent writing by board member Adrianna Bohm.

22) The day before the House Education Committee vote, Governor Markell announces initiative to have Smarter Balanced Scores tie into elimination of remedial classes for four Delaware universities and colleges.  The announcement is critically slammed by legislators, parents and teachers.

23) At the House Education Committee meeting on April 22nd, Kowalko and Jaques battle each other as Kowalko is forced to answer a barrage of questions by Jaques.  Kowalko successfully fends him off.  After discussion from other legislators, public comment from parents shows near overwhelming support for the release of the bill.  Opposition includes organizations well-known to support Governor Markell’s corporate education agendas.  After a vote to have the bill tabled falls apart, the bill is released from the committee in an 8-4 vote ending the over two hour debate.

24) Mark Murphy’s claim of federal funding cuts of $40-$90 million over potential opt-outs and the passage of House Bill 50 is debunked the next day with the release of the US DOE letter which clearly states schools cannot opt students out, and the letter never mentions the words parent opt-out.

25) Last week, organizations such as GACEC and Council for Persons with Disabilities release near identical letter in opposition to House Bill 50 with claims that are quickly debunked.

26) In a hasty and damaging example of executive overreach, Governor Markell announces to radio host Rick Jensen on WDEL he will veto House Bill 50 if it reaches his desk.

27) Parents begin emailing all the legislators of the Delaware House and public support for the bill is clearly seen by the legislators.

28) State Rep. Sean Matthews introduces an amendment to House Bill 50 the day of the House vote which changes the language of the legislation from “the state assessment” to the “Smarter Balanced Assessment”.

All leading to today’s enormous victory in the Delaware House of Representatives, with a 36-3 victory with two reps absent.  At the end of the day, this is about parents using their voice to initiate change.  This could not have been done by one individual at all.  It took a great deal of advocacy, hard work, sweat, social media, and legislators, parents, organizations and ordinary citizens spreading the word and supporting the cause.

What also helped were some obvious tactical blunders by the Delaware DOE, Secretary Murphy, and Governor Markell.  And God bless him, we cannot forget Earl Jaques.  He revealed today House Bill 50 got in the way of his planned legislation to reduce the Smarter Balanced Assessment to only three grades of testing.  Which is a noble gesture, but legislation getting rid of the “little” test would be a much grander statement.

While getting the bill through the House was an undertaking, it remains to be seen how the Delaware Senate will receive the legislation.  Folks are already guessing which Senate members will support the bill.  Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn already announced on Facebook tonight he will vote yes.  Senator Lawson, a co-sponsor of the bill, is a lock.  But the others are a mystery for now.  I can guess and predict, but until they publicly announce their intentions or a vote, we must email them and call them as much as we can.

Hello Delaware Senate, Meet Delaware Parents! You’ll Be Hearing From Us A LOT!!!!

House Bill 50, Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

Delaware Senate Education Commitee.  Next stop on the opt-out House Bill 50 train.  Opt-out parents and supporters, this is your mission if you choose to accept it:

Chair: Senator David Sokola

Bethany Hall-Long

Margaret Rose-Henry

Ernie Lopez

Robert Marshall

Brian Pettyjohn

Nicole Poore

Bryan Townsend


I’ll have their emails up shortly.

Parent Opt Out Legislation House Bill 50 Passes Delaware House of Representatives

House Bill 50, Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

36 Yes, 3 No, 2 Absent!  Next stop, Delaware Senate!  The vast majority of the Delaware House of Representatives voted yes for the parent opt-out bill, House Bill 50.  They nay votes were State Reps. Earl Jaques, Michael Barbieri, and Timothy Dukes.  Absent were Stephanie Bolden and Jack Peterman.


Pictured, Top: Jackie Kook, Mike Matthews, Bottom: Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, Delaware PTA Vice President for Advocacy, Delaware State Rep. Sean Williams, Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko, Kevin Ohlandt

Here is the amendment to the bill:

Primary Sponsor(s): Matthews Additional Sponsor(s):    Rep. B. Short & Rep. K. Williams

Co-Sponsors: { NONE…}

Introduced On: 05/07/15

Long Title:

Synopsis of Bill: This amendment clarifies that the bill only applies to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The amendment also clarifies that the parent or guardian must give written notice at least two school days prior to the start of the assessment. Finally, the amendment includes an effective date of August 1, 2015.

Current Status: Passed

Here is the official roll call:

HB 50 w/HA 1 Kowalko Passed


Date: 05/07/2015 04:58 PM Passed

Vote Type:SM Yes: 36 No: 3 Not Voting: 0 Absent: 2

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

Live From Legislative Hall In Dover, It’s House Bill 50 In The House!

House Bill 50, Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

The legislators are trickling in.  I see a lot of the big supporters of the bill coming in.  I’m not seeing a lot of the Republicans in here yet.  We don’t even know the order of the agenda yet.  But I’m hearing HB 50 is first.  We are in session.  Here we go!

State Rep. Sean Matthews is adding an amendment that HB 50 only applies to the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This bill will not apply to any future assessments, only the Smarter Balanced state assessment.  Kowalko supports the amendment.  House unanimously passes the amendment.

Kowalko stating the bill merely codifies the existing right for a parent.  Jaques is up for personal comment.  He said parents have been opting out for weeks, said risk of losing Federal funds, said this bill has been very disruptive to House forums, said he wants to introduce legislation to have only have Smarter Balanced three times during a student’s career.

Barbieri thinks this is a matter between legislators, the DOE, and the local school districts.  They are doing the roll call for the bill, only nays are Barbieri and Jaques.

Delaware House Of Reps. Still In Caucus, No Open Session Yet

House Bill 50, Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

The crowds are waiting for the Delaware’s House Bill 50 to be heard on the floor of the House of Representatives.  Once the floor opens I will be live blogging.  This shall be interesting.  I’m hearing rumors about a change…

I’m not seeing many DOE reps over here.  Yvonne Johnson from the Delaware PTA is a few seats down from me.  I have a prime seat, and I will go live once it starts!

An Important Message For Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques

House Bill 50, Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
Please vote out of courage and not fear, no matter what or who has you scared.  We both know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

Every Delaware Parent Needs To Be At Legislative Hall Today To Support Their Right To Opt-Out & House Bill 50 #supportHB50

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

“The rights of parents to the care, custody and nurture of their children is of such character that it cannot be denied without violating those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions, and such right is a fundamental right protected by this amendment (first) and Amendments 5, 9, and 14.” Doe v. Irwin

“This decision clearly affirmed that the Constitution protects the preferences of the parent in education over those of the State. In the same decision, the Supreme Court also recognized that the right of the parents to delegate their authority to a teacher in order to instruct their children was protected within the liberty of the Fourteenth Amendment.” re: Meyers v. Nebraska, Christopher J. Klicka, esq.

“This case involves the fundamental interest of parents, as contrasted with that of the state, to guide the religious future and education of their children. The history and culture of Western civilization reflect a strong tradition of parental concern for the nurture and upbringing of their children. This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring tradition.” Wisconsin v. Yoder

“It is cardinal with us that the custody, care, and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the State can neither supply nor hinder.” Prince v. Massachusetts

“The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excluded any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right and the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” Pierce v. Society of Sisters

“By allowing the state to override the decisions of parents regarding the upbringing of their children… significantly interferes with the fundamental rights of parents.” Lulay v. Lulay

“Although such measures have been deliberately approved by men of great genius, their ideas touching the relation between individual and State were wholly different from those upon which our institutions rest; and it hardly will be affirmed that any legislature could impose such restrictions upon the people of a State without doing violence to both letter and spirit of the Constitution.” Meyer v. State of Nebraska

“These aren’t just words, they are the law, upheld by some of the highest courts in the United States of America. A no vote from you today tells all Delawareans you don’t believe in the law of the land.  See you later today!” Kevin Ohlandt in email to the Delaware House of Representatives including all the quotes in this article

This is it.  Today is the day House Bill 50 gets a vote in the full Delaware House of Representatives.  We need every single parent who supports essential and fundamental rights of parents to please come down and support this legislation.  This is it.  If this bill does not pass today, it is dead.  If you don’t want schools to act the same way next year with opt-out, and the mass confusion parents went through, then please come down or up to Dover.  Legislators who are on the fence or don’t support the bill need to see the faces of who they are saying no to.  Because a no vote for this bill is a no vote for parents.  It is that simple.