Delaware Education Legislation That Should Have Passed In The 148th General Assembly

I wrote earlier today about education legislation that passed the other day and went to Governor Markell for signature, veto, or no action.  To date, Governor Markell has never vetoed any education bill that has come before him.  But some legislation never gets there.  The following are bills that had tremendous merit, but for various reasons either never got heard in committee, were never voted on, never went to the other side (House or Senate), or were stricken.  Others are bills I’m going to label as very controversial and have danger flags all over them.  I’m not going to list them all, but the most important ones.

House Bill #28 Status: House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: Absent an agreement with the school district, charter schools are currently able to retain any funding received for the fiscal year for a student who transfers mid-year from the charter school to a school district. This bill mandates that, if a student transfers from a charter school to a school district after September 30th, such funds will be prorated between the charter school and the school district where the student is then enrolled.  

What Happened: This is the first of the many Kim Williams education bills she introduced this year.  While she has quite a few on this list, a lot of her bills passed.  She really took off, right from the very beginning of this year’s session, to get education bills out there to correct a lot of the injustices set up in the budget and with the way the DOE runs things.  Unfortunately, with the heavy-handed pro-education reform Governor Markell and his minions at the DOE, along with Rep. Earl Jaques as head of the education committee, bills like this are hard to be heard along with the stiff lobbying from the Delaware Charter Schools Network.

Prediction: State Auditor reports come out showing more charter financial mismanagement, the state desperately looking for any available funds for the budget, and Jaques either stripped of chairmanship power on the education committee or knocked down a peg or two from Schwartzkopf in the coming days of elections, and this one will pass.  The charter party in Delaware is going to get crashed, and it will change the entire landscape they are used to living in.  It wouldn’t shock me if amendment were added stripping charters from their transportation slush fund where they get to keep their excess funds from their transportation budget.  It will get strong opposition from the Republicans, but even some of them will realize the public will remember that come vote time!

House Bill #30 Status: sent to Appropriations Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.

What Happened: The budget.  This bill has a $7.5 million fiscal note.  The sad part is these students should have always been provided this funding from the get-go.  Unfortunately, this bill will be one of those that will rise or fall based on the budget next year.

Prediction: The IEP Task Force will reconvene, and in conjunction with House Bill 117, the Wilmington redistricting push, and the Senate Resolution group looking at funding, as well as IMMENSE pressure from this blog, it could pass.  Special education is about to become a huge topic in Delaware, bigger than at any time before.  Trust me on this!

House Bill #34 Status: sent to Senate Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, synopsis: This bill will allow a local school district board to delay new or changed rules, regulations, or administrative procedures from becoming effective during a school year once the school year has started. This will allow the rules, regulations, and procedures to be consistent for the whole school year.

What Happened: this bill, which I loved when it was introduced back in January, just passed the House on the last day of session.  It is a good solid bill which will prevent the DOE from sneaking in regulations during the summer forcing schools to submit to them without any guidance or support once they come back in August.

Prediction: It will pass the Senate, but not right away.  Spiegelman, as a young Republican in the House, wants to show some muscle.  In the Democrat controlled House and Senate, this can be dangerous.  They will not give him what he wants all the time, but they will give him lots of carrots.

House Bill #52 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: Under current educational standards, cursive writing is no longer required to be taught to our students, and many schools have abandoned teaching it to their students. As cursive writing is still an imperative skill in many professions, this bill will make the teaching of cursive writing a requirement for all public schools in Delaware.

What happened: not a lot.  It was released from the education committee.  It had so-so public support, but not a lot.  Both sides had pros and cons on the issue.

Prediction: If the House has a really slow day and Schwartzkopf is in a good mood, it might get to a vote.  I wouldn’t bet on it though.

House Bill #61 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes.
Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites.
The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.

What Happened: Pete Schwartzkopf.  I’m guessing the Speaker of the House really hate this bill, cause this is the third year in a row it came out of committee and sat on the ready list.  Also known as the Kilroy’s bill, the charters have fought against it by crying over the “expenses”, but it really isn’t an expensive venture.

Prediction: This will depend on charter school behavior between now and next year.  If the State Auditor finds more bad financial behavior, this could cause Schwartzokpf to finally put it to a vote.  I think it will pass with strong Democrat support, but like House Bill 186, the Republicans will shoot it down because of their strange obsession with charters.  It will pass under this circumstance.  And we can’t forget the Kilroy effect on this bill.  He is very pissed about the treatment of this bill.  He could drum up a lot of public support for this bill, and I will be happy to help him.

House Bill #107 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill articulates the principle that local school districts and school boards should have the authority to select their own leaders and staff from a pool of qualified applicants. These are decisions best left at the local level rather than imposed by a central authority.

What happened: This bill was a reaction to the DOE and Markell’s priority schools initiative, where six schools were told by the DOE they will get new leaders because of their bad standardized test scores.  The whole priority school controversy died down quick after the WEAC recommendations, but they are still out there.  Red Clay negotiated against the new leaders and won.  Christina is up in the air due to the whole redistricting legislation, Senate Bill #122.

Prediction: This won’t go anywhere, unless the DOE pulls a priority schools sneak attack in the fall causing the dormant issue to rise again.  Then this bill has a fighting change.

House Bill #108 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill requires that the General Assembly approve any ESEA Flexibility waiver prior to its submission to the U.S. Department of Education.

What happened: Too many bills like this, designed to give the General Assembly more control over the out of control DOE.  With the House Education Committee led by the very-friendly-with-DOE-and-probably-too-much Rep. Earl Jaques, it was never put on the agenda.

Prediction: It will depend on Jaques retaining his chair on the committee.  With numerous issues over House Bill 50 and House Bill 186, it would not shock me if Jaques had a conversation with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf.  This will also depend on DOE behavior regarding their current ESEA waiver application and next year’s as well.  Another curve ball could come in the form of ESEA reauthorization at a Federal level which would render this bill meaningless if waivers are done away with.

House Bill #117 Status: assigned to House Appropriations committee,  Sponsor: Rep. Deb Heffernan, synopsis: This Act will create a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income according to the Department of Education. This funding source will be in addition to the normal enrollment based funding provided to school districts and charter schools. The low-income unit will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12 where the funding can be used for such purposes as providing additional teachers and paraprofessionals for classroom instruction; additional counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and intervention specialists; Response to Intervention Services; and before and after school programs providing homework assistance, and for support for English language learners. To ensure the low-income resources reach the schools where they are most needed, this Act requires that at least 98% of the units be directed towards the schools that generate the funding unless otherwise waived by a local board of education during a public meeting. 

What Happened: The budget.  Another bill with a fiscal note during very tight budget negotiations.  With the already passed Senate Resolution to look at funding in schools, and the strong push from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, this bill will be on a fast track in 2016.

Prediction: How much money will we have?  They are already projecting a $160 million deficit in Delaware next year.  Unless revenue starts pouring in, this bill could die on the fiscal vine.

House Bill #161 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE ESTABLISHING THE PARENT EMPOWERMENT EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT ACT.

What happened: This one was dead on arrival.  The whole idea of vouchers, which is exactly what these are, is a Republican idea.  In Dover, the Democrats rule and have for many years.  Democrats, the DSEA, and even Governor Markell are dead set against any type of voucher plan.

Prediction: if this even makes it to the House Education Committee, it will be shot down very fast.  And with states like Nevada ruling voucher programs unconstitutional, and Colorado giving a state ruling against them, any potential support for vouchers will quickly fade.  With the upcoming election year, the very thought of vouchers will be brought up by many Republicans, but it is a toxic subject opposed by many.  If you want to see how a voucher system can bring an entire country’s education system to it’s knees, just look at Sweden.

House Bill 173 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsors: Rep. Richard Collins and Senator Greg Lavelle, synopsis: The Department of Education often implements policies and educational requirements based upon directives issued by the United States Department of Education. This Bill will require that any directive received by the Department of Education from the Federal Government be automatically disclosed on the Department of Education website without the necessity for making a Freedom of Information Request. 

What Happened: Nothing.  It was introduced on 6/10/15, late in the session, by two Republicans.  However, given the shenanigans with the DOE and the many issues legislators conveyed with the DOE this year, this should have been a no-brainer.

Prediction: Up in the air.  There are other bills like this, demanding more transparency and stringent rules for the DOE and State Board.  Can all of them get passed?  It will really depend on how the DOE, Secretary Murphy, and the State Board “play” in the next year.  But this would lend transparency to the DOE, and I can see them wanting this to give the illusion…

House Bill 186 Status: Passed by House of Representatives, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis of bill: Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.

What happened: In four words, Delaware Charter Schools Network.  They openly lobbied against the bill, even setting up an email your legislator campaign on their website which several charter schools reached out to parents about.  Meanwhile, charter schools from Dover to Wilmington had allegations and reports coming out regarding financial abuse by school leaders.  This bill rolled the previous Williams sponsored House Bills #53 and 154 into one.

Prediction: more reports will come out from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office regarding other charter schools under investigation.  DCSN will lobby even harder, but transparency and financial controls will rule the day. Once again, the charter party is coming to an end in 2016. Remember this.  I’m not saying they will disappear, far from it.  But they will be held to higher financial and organizational standards.

Senate Bill #72 Status: on ready list for Senate, Sponsor: Senator Bryan Townsend, synopsis: This bill increases the teaching and administrative experience qualifications for the Secretary of Education from 5 years to 10 years. The Bill also clarifies that at least 6 years must be of teaching experience and at least 2 years must be of administrative experience. 

What Happened: This bill came out around the same time the Delaware State Educators Association and their local organizations in Christina and Red Clay publicly denounced Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with their vote of no confidence.  It immediately became a must-read article for newspapers and bloggers.  Shortly thereafter, the Delaware Association of School Administrators issued the same decree.

Prediction: This one is tough.  While there is certainly not a lot of love for Murphy in Legislative Hall (and in much of Delaware), he does have some things going for him.  This past Monday it was announced he was joining the board of the Council for Chief State School Officers.  This give him even more federal protection under US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s gaze.  Rep. Earl Jaques is the DOE’s House boy, so he may not put it on the agenda for the education committee.  As well, he is the perfect patsy for Governor Markell who runs the show.  Murphy does not bend for anyone if it contradicts one of Markell’s education policies.  While I think this is the funniest bill out there, it could set up an even worse situation if it passes.  Imagine a Secretary with the same  mindset as Murphy but more qualified.  Someone with charisma and public appeal.  That could be more dangerous than Murphy could ever be.  Unless Murphy does something colossally stupid over the next year, he isn’t going anywhere.  No matter what passes, Markell will never sign this bill.

Senate Bills #92 & 93 Status: on ready list for Senate vote, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose-Henry, synopsis for SB92: Delaware Code Title 14§1332 addresses the Program for Children with Autism and its “Special Staff.” Enacted nearly three decades ago, these regulations established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. In addition, the code designates a Statewide Director who primarily has provided direction, training, and technical assistance within the DAP. However, current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education and parents’ desire to have their children educated within their local communities, seem to be incongruent with this older model of service delivery. In addition, the magnitude of the increase in students identified with ASD has clearly created difficulty for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services/support that once was offered.
Therefore, the recommended code changes also revise the concept of DAP toward a system in which the Statewide Director would work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. This recommendation reconstitutes the regulations to neutralize the distinction between DAP approved programs and other in-district options, thereby, allowing and providing adequate resources to serve on behalf of all student with ASD in Delaware. The number of technical/ training experts has been identified as one expert per 100 students statewide. It is suggested that the fiscal mechanism to support these changes should be through mandated district participation that is congruent with the current needs based funding system in Delaware. Lastly, the current mandatory committee structure is enhanced to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review board.
These changes include articulation of the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director for Students with ASD; the addition of a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions); and the further clarification / additions to the committee structure for family input, monitoring, and protections under human rights. This recommendation recognizes and supports the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes essentially expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students within them.
, synopsis for SB93: This bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism.  Among other things, the Interagency Committee on Autism is charged with a) utilizing evidence-based practices and programs to improve outcomes for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in Delaware by sharing information, initiatives, data and communications among both public and private agencies providing services and supports for individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in the State of Delaware; and b) implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2013 Delaware Strategic Plan entitled “Blueprint for Collective Action: Final Report of the Delaware Strategic Plan to Improve Services and Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism is to provide a resource for training and technical assistance for Delaware state agencies, organizations and other private entities operating in the State of Delaware that provide services and support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The Network is to support the operations of the Interagency Committee on Autism through the maintenance of the website, maintenance of reports created by the Interagency Committee on Autism and maintenance of meeting minutes, as well as other support as needed by the Interagency Committee on Autism.

What Happened: The budget.  This is one of those crucial bills dealing with a fast-rising population of children and adults with Autism.  This bill will cost a lot of money.   With the budget issues at the end of the session, there was no way this was going to get to a vote.

Prediction: If you thought the opt-out parents were vocal, the General Assembly may want to prepare for these parents.  The Delaware Autism Program is running out of money.  States are obligated under Federal law to provide services.  Cuts will have to be made in the budget to make room for this.  Taxes will increase after the 148th General Assembly closes shop, this is a given.  These bills have to pass.  This is one of the biggest health issues of the future, and if we don’t get control over it now, it will jeopardize thousands and thousands of children and adults with Autism.  If you think we spend a lot of money on residential treatment centers now, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the future. Anyone who votes no on this bill will instantly be seen as the state pariah and will be voted out of office. This bill will pass, but the cost will be enormous, and sacrifices will need to be made.

Senate Bill #137 Status: on Senate ready list, Sponsore: Senator Harris McDowell, synopsis: Delaware’s Community College System plays a critical role in the State’s economy by providing workforce development and transfer education that connects Delawareans with good paying jobs within the State and region. This Act gives the College’s Board of Trustees the authority to issue bonds to finance the cost of major and minor capital improvements, deferred maintenance, and the acquisition of related equipment and educational technology associated therewith and establishes the Community College Infrastructure Fund to pay the principal and interest on such bonds. This Act adopts the county vo-tech structure to finance the Fund by authorizing the College’s Board of Trustees to collect a local property tax subject to a cap.

What Happened: it didn’t get heard by the Senate Education Committee until the last week of committee meetings.  Too many other bills demanding to get a vote, got lost in the shuffle.

Prediction: this is one of those what I like to call “sneaky bills” where it gets passed, and all of a sudden citizens start wondering “Why did my taxes go up and I’m paying for community colleges?”  If this passed by June 30th, it wouldn’t have survived the House.  But in 2016, anything can happen with the budget.  This could either get a lot of support or it will die quickly.

Senate Bill #161 Status: Senate Education Committee, sponsor: Senator Gerald Hocker, synopsis: This Act requires public schools to begin their school year after Labor Day. There have been many economic impact reports done that show a positive impact from starting public schools after Labor Day. A report by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association estimates that $369 million would be lost if schools were not required to start after Labor Day. This includes $104 million in wages and $21 million in state and local taxes. Maryland is considering similar legislation. A study of Maryland found that pushing the start of school back would generate $74.3 million in economic activity and $7.7 million in new state and local tax revenue.

What Happened: Introduced on the second to last day of the session, this bill was destined to go nowhere by June 30th.

Prediction: This is another one of those downstate bills that aren’t popular in Newcastle and Kent.  This one goes nowhere.  Even if it saved the state money, the effect wouldn’t be seen to balance the budget by 6/30/16.

A lot of these bills will depend on the budget.  This is the reality.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.