I just sent the following email to Delaware Senators Patricia Blevins, David McBride, and Margaret Rose-Henry, who form the majority Senate leadership. I also forwarded the email to the Senate Minority leaders, Gary Simpson and Gregory Lavelle.
Senators Blevins, McBride and Henry,
My name is Kevin Ohlandt and I am a parent advocate for the parent opt-out movement in Delaware. Today, House Bill 50 was finally scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee. Many parents traveled to Dover to hear the bill, and many more were eagerly awaiting the results. Some arranged for babysitters, or took time off of work. I fully understand that agendas are subject to change, but it was painfully obvious to all in attendance what was going on during the meeting. House Bill 50 was the oldest bill on the agenda. While I in no way mean to disparage the importance of the others bills, because they are all equally important, I found the meeting to be very disorganized. Senator Sokola arrived ten minutes late for what he knew was a very full agenda. The room was filled with people, and I understand it is customary in a situation like that to limit public comment. As the meeting went on, many members of the public gave public comment which was not limited in any way whatsoever. As well, Senator Sokola gave prominence to Senate Joint Resolution #2 over House Bill 50. To give some background here, Senator Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques both sponsored this resolution, with the collaboration of Lindsey O’Mara from the Governor’s office and the Delaware Department of Education. I published a document circulated by the DOE labeling SJR #2 as an alternative to House Bill 50, the same day SJR #2 was formally introduced. As well, I have seen an email sent out by Shana Young with the DOE indicating that SJR #2 would not give the General Assembly any “formal authority” over the assessment inventory. Today, at the meeting, time was spent on an amendment giving the General Assembly more authority. It was also announced the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the very test parents are opting out of, could be included in this supposed “assessment inventory”.
To give an idea of the manipulation being perpetrated by the DOE, I submitted a FOIA request to the DOE for this exact email. I was told today it does not exist. So either the DOE employee is using personal email for state business, the email was deleted, or there is a cover-up. I have already called out the DOE on their outright lie in response to their FOIA response, and I will submit yet another complaint with the Department of Justice in regards to these matters. It is my contention, and that of many concerned parents, this has all been done under the watchful eye of Senator Sokola. The Delaware Department of Education, including Secretary Murphy, were very smug and condescending as the meeting abruptly ended without House Bill 50 even being heard and I was receiving texts it would not be heard before the meeting was only 1/4 done. At no point during the meeting did Senator Sokola attempt to limit public comment, or even advise parents who came for House Bill 50 the bill would not be heard. It is also many parents contention around Delaware that certain legislators are more tied to Governor Markell’s education agendas than serving their constituents and the citizens of Delaware. Unfortunately, this includes both Chairs of the Education Committees in the General Assembly. This is a bill that was passed by the House with a 36-3 vote, and it is disrespectful to let it fall prey to these types of political games. It is disrespectful to the parents, students, teachers, and supporters of this bill who have fought for so long to have their voice finally be heard in education matters. Therefore, I would like to ask you, Senator Blevins, to suspend Senate rules and petition House Bill 50 out of committee prior to its 12th legislative day based on the following Senate rules:
RULE 16. PETITION OUT OF COMMITTEE.
Upon written request signed by the majority of the members elected to the Senate and directed to the Presiding Officer, any bill, joint resolution, or other business that has been in a committee for a period exceeding 12 legislative days, except those assigned to the Bond Bill or Finance Committees, shall be reported to the Senate.
Delaware parents need this bill to be heard. The abuse, intimidation, and outright lies stemming from the Department of Education and the Governor’s office is very damaging to the integrity of Delaware. Many parents have seen and felt the manipulation and abuse of power in education matters in our state, and it is becoming more transparent every single day. The stall tactics on this legislation, first very smugly done by State Rep. Jaques in the House Education Committee, and now more overtly done by Senator Sokola, do not paint a nice picture for the legislative process in Delaware. It shows a level of corruption and maneuvering that brings shame on the Delaware General Assembly.
Thank you for your consideration in this matter.