The Senate Education Committee in Delaware is about to hear House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill. The bill already cleared the House in Delaware by an overwhelming majority, 36-3. This is the next stop on the bill’s journey. There are lots of proponents and opponents of this legislation here today. If it passes here, it goes to the full Delaware Senate. If it is voted down today in committee, the bill is dead.
Who is here? Representatives from the Delaware Department of Education. Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsey O’Mara. Dr. Paul Herdman with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware. Red Clay Educators Association President Mike Matthews. Delaware PTA Vice-President of Advocacy Yvonne Johnson. Executive Director of the Delaware State Board of Education Donna Johnson. Wilmington Education Advisory Commission Chair Tony Allen. John Radell with the Faith & Freedom Coalition. Bill Doolittle with the Delaware PTA and also a member of the Governors Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens. And More!
House Bill 50 is up first.
Senator Townsend is speaking about how frightening this issue is for parents to be this worried. He is upset there wasn’t years of research done on this issue and the Smarter Balanced Assessment has not been proven. Parents want to see a test that works. He wants us all to work together to decide the issues. He has to go to another committee meeting but he will vote yes for releasing the bill.
Senator Lawson, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, is speaking about the bill. “Parents should in fact have the right to opt-out. This lays it out so they can under Delaware law. Senator Sokola is upset this test is aligned to international standards. He would put in an amendment to allow parents to get the reasons for the test. He is talking about an email from a 3rd grade teachers about all the testing going on. He thinks if parents can opt out of this test, they should be able to opt out of all of them. This is why he introduced Senate Joint Resolution #2. “We all want what’s best for our kids.” He doesn’t like the amount of time between the actual Smarter Balanced Assessment testing and when the results show up. He refers to No Child Left Behind as No Challenge Left Behind. He said the DSTP (the first major standardized test in Delaware) did give him a little bit of heartburn.
Senator Dave Lawson is talking about how the test has changed 3 times and how $70 million from Race To The Top went towards this test and the desired results. Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is speaking about children’s “educational journey to excellence”. He is talking about how we use this measurement to understand what’s working, how we allocate budgets, which schools need which resources. “We are testing too much.” He is now talking about the assessment inventory, and whether the tests have quality or if they are redundant. “These assessments help to unlock doors.” “We all need this information to move forward.”
State Rep. Kowalko came in. He is going over the essential facts concerning House Bill 50. He is talking about the lack of law on opt-out which is for or against. “This is not an indictment against Smarter Balanced Assessment or Common Core.” He and Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, President of the State Board of Education, had an interview with WHYY earlier today. He told her and he is telling the committee how this test is not needed and parents see this. “If a parent feels…this can harm (their child) psychologically, they have that right.” “It’s about parental rights, pure and simple the rights of the parents.”
Sokola has a problem with the local districts and the amount of money they spend on tests. He served on an international committee going over the assessments, and all the kids are taking these tests in the high-performing countries of the world. In no country, other than this country, are they taking these tests every year. “If kids aren’t learning, we have to figure out a way to teach them.” Kowalko said “It would be disingenuous for parents to opt their child out of any test.” There is no track record in place, he explained, but the bill does not say we are getting rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. “All we are doing is giving an opportunity for those who know their child best.”
Sokola asked why it was changed to just the SBAC. “What happens in two years if we change to the PARCC?” (Dear lord, no!!!). Kowalko explained that he didn’t want to shut the door prematurely if a test is designed that will give the results that matter. Sokola said this was why he introduced SJR #2. “We have real important issues we have to change.” This test is needed, according to Sokola, to help students that are having issues. He said “We can get real good data from this.” Kowalko spoke about the many emails he received from parents regarding the psychological damage done to parents and students over this test.
Bob Byrd with the Delaware Business Roundtable is speaking about their group’s opposition to this bill. “We think this is the wrong thing to do at this particular time.” He presented a letter from their chair, Ernie Dianastisis. Lorraine Gloede is speaking about how her neighbor opted her child out and there was definite repurcussions for his child in opting out. John Radell said every professional in the country are saying this test is not proven. “It is a disaster around the country.” “This is an experiment.” He said children should not be guinea pigs. “We don’t need more gimmicks!” We are testing kids based on empty skillsets. These kids don’t have time to be told six years down the road to find out this test doesn’t work.
Dr. Paul Herdman from Rodel Foundation is speaking. He has three kids in Delaware public schools. He has tried for eleven years to bring public and private education together. He opposes HB50. He said there is a lot of frustration around testing. He is referring to House Rep. Matthews News Journal opinion piece and how he said “He hopes that enough parents are getting out of the test that the data becomes invalid.” His concern is what’s next, and all the expense gone into this. “Every civil rights group in the country has come out against opt-out.” If you make this test invalid for one student, you make it invalid for all students, according to the civil rights groups. “We undermine the trust in public education.” He said we get $90 million dollars a year from federal funding for Title I students, low-income students. His concern is can we afford to risk losing these funds when we are already facing a $100 million dollar deficit in this state. “I don’t believe House bill 50 is the right way to go.”
The Delaware Chamber of Commerce spokesperson is speaking in opposition to the bill. They oppose HB 50 and support SJR #2. Mike Matthews is talking about how it is business group’s rights to talk about education, but they aren’t advocating for higher wages for the parents of low-income students. Yvonne Johnson is speaking about how she has never received so many emails and complaints in her many years with the PTA as they have with the SBAC. She is opposed to SJR #2. She doesn’t think SBAC is the answer to our children. HB 50 is a symptom to a larger problem. “No one is losing federal funding.” I spoke next and railed against the whole Smarter Balanced Assessment and how it is dangerous. Senator Sokola cut me off stating I was repeating things as I brought up the never-talked about in this meeting letters from the DOE indicating how it was illegal to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He said they have other bills to hear. Dr. Teri Quinn Gray spoke about the need for this data and how she is there to speak for the students. She was not cut off as she was allowed to speak much longer than myself. Tara Greathouse spoke and was cut off by Sokola when she asked questions about what is best for her children.
Due to other committees in session, the bill is being circulated so we do not know the results yet.
**UPDATED** 5:02pm, still no word on House Bill 50 and whether it has been released from the Senate Education Committee.