I have to be honest here. Until 2014, I had never heard of Earl Jaques. That all changed in 2015, and everyone knew who he was then! Earl started the year as the Chair of the Delaware House Education Committee. He took over the slot from former State Rep. Darryl Scott who chose not to run again in 2014. Many assumed the position would be held by State Rep. Kim Williams since she was the Vice-Chair since 2012. Before the General Assembly even convened in 2015, State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf booted Kowalko off the education committee. State Rep. Kim Williams remained as the Vice-Chair. Why Jaques was assigned the Chair position was baffling, but it soon became apparent.
Jaques role as Chair of the Education Committee defined his year in the 148th General Assembly. He went head-to-toe with the Department of Education over Race To The Top. An epic battle played out on the House floor between Kowalko and Jaques over House Bill 50, the opt-out legislation. Jaques allied himself with Governor Markell over opt-out, which led to Jaques very unfortunate comments about opt-out which appeared in Delaware media. Referring to those who opt-out as “failures”, many parents of children with disabilities jumped on Jaques’ comments and slammed him for it. He told a group of Christina teachers that House Bill 50 would never pass. He helped create very controversial legislation with Senator David Sokola in the form of Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory bill that was meant to be a cure for opt-out. He fought a charter school audit bill created by Kim Williams which led to more angst in the House due to Jaques not releasing the bill from committee to give it a full House vote.
By the time House Bill 50 came up for its first House vote, Jaques and two other lone wolves were the only nay votes for the legislation and it passed 36-3. It still passed overwhelmingly by the time the Senate added amendments to the legislation causing it to bounce back to the House for a vote. Jaques still voted no.
Even after the General Assembly went into recess for the recess for the rest of the year, Jaques still caused some controversy. He was overheard talking negatively about parents at a State Board pizza party in early October. At the end of October, Kowalko sent out an email to tons of people about the falling NAEP scores. Jaques tried to hush Kowalko up by telling him not to use the state email system and his facts were biased. This caused many people to defend Kowalko, including radio-show host Rick Jensen with WDEL.
Jaques will continue as Chair of the House Education Committee in 2016, even though most folks don’t take him seriously at all. They understand he will do whatever Governor Markell instructs him to do. As well, the Delaware DOE seems to know exactly how to maneuver Jaques with controversial legislation. There is SO much more I could say about Earl Jaques, but for those who want to know more, just write Earl Jaques in my search bar and all can be found on here!