Updated 1/1/16, 9:20pm
I sent an email to all the Delaware House Representatives and Senators on 12/29/15 asking for their support of House Bill 50. An override of a Governor’s veto in Delaware requires a 3/5th vote by both the House and the Senate which cannot be done on the same day. The House would introduce it, and if passed, it would go to the Senate. This is the email I sent to each one of them:
Dear (name inserted)
I am asking for your public support of the House Bill 50 Veto Override in the 148th General Assembly this year. I would like to publicly announce your intention to vote yes on this historic legislation. We all know the reasons why a yes vote is needed on this and the immoral and disgusting behavior surrounding those who are attempting to dissuade you from voting yes on the override.
This is a simple bill about honoring rights that already exist for a parent and stopping the bullying and intimidation by Governor Markell, the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, special interest groups in Delaware and across the country, and fellow legislators who appear to care more about what they think than the voice of the people.
I understand the legislative process and the need to compromise in certain situations. But this is not the time to cave in to those. This is a time where your political future will depend on THIS vote.
Please understand that no matter how you respond, I will be continually publishing those who support this and those who do not. An inability to respond to this will be viewed by thousands as not caring at all about the issue. If you are voting no, please let the people know and let them know why you are voting no. Also keep in mind I will debunk many of your reasons very publicly.
While some of you may view this letter as that of arrogance and putting you in a no-win situation, I choose to see it as an opportunity to let the people know you support them no matter what. I did not create this situation to begin with. We have Governor Markell, who chose to ignore your votes, to thank for this mess. You have the ability to fix that.
The following are the responses received from the Delaware State Representatives and Senators. A yes is for the veto override, and a no is against the override.
State Rep. Paul Baumbach, State Rep. Andria Bennett, State Rep. John Kowalko, State Rep. Sean Lynn, State Rep. Kim Williams, Senator Gerald Hocker, Senator Dave Lawson, Senator Karen Peterson, Senator Brian Pettyjohn, Senator Bryant Richardson
State Rep. Tim Dukes
I will be posting responses as I receive them which could easily go into next week based on the holidays. In the meantime, I would be very concerned about the no votes and I urge every citizen in that voting district to contact their State Representative or Senator immediately. Below are the reasons why they are voting no:
State Rep. Mike Ramone: Kevin, I appreciate your passion on this issue and believe that passion is helping us get traction in solving what I believe is the real issue behind this bill. That being the testing. I am a strong supporter of reducing testing to 3 to 4 times during a child’s 12 year education. I have committed to not overriding the opt out bill as long as I see a plan initiated to reduce the testing of our children. I have shared and educated my constituency and they know the importance of this initiative.
I truly appreciate your efforts. Your efforts are resulting in helping us reduce the ridiculous number and type of tests our children are being forced to undertake on an annual basis. In the event that there is no movement to reform our testing procedures and reduce the number of test being required of our children on a daily basis, I will be supporting the override. I believe you win either way. If I get what I am requesting, you are the reason. If not, you get an override. I am trying to be very honest and clear so you understand what I am doing and why. I also appreciate your insight and passion. However I am very focused on what I believe is the true issue and that is the testing. And if I can get that changed I will be grateful to you for that result.
Kevin, I have been respectful, honest and forthright in responding to your request. I would request the same respect from you. I believe we are on the same page with the same priorities. If you would like to sit and discuss this with me I will make myself available to you. Just let me know when and where you would like to meet. Again, thank you for what you are doing,
I took the time to respond to Rep. Ramone since he gave a clear and thought-out reason for his no vote:
I appreciate your position, but the assessment inventory is a ruse. It is designed to get rid of the assessments that are not directly tied to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The cry for reduced testing is coming from parents who are tired of the state assessment and the insane amount of time, effort, and money placed into it. DCAS was given 2-3 times a year which resulted in a lot of the confusion over “too much testing”. It was a well-played and crafty maneuver by the DOE and the Governor. But I am not hearing parents wanting to opt out of MAPS or DIBELS. It is the Smarter Balanced Assessment. We both know that will not go away in this assessment inventory. And by the time the HB50 Veto Override is decided one way or another, the assessment inventory task force will still be deciding what stays or goes. And Smarter Balanced will still be here, and parents will still be opting out, and parents and schools will continue to be bullied and intimidated.
Therefore, I will be putting you down as a no because your answer is contingent on something that won’t happen in the timeframe required for the override.
And the no response from State Rep. Tim Dukes:
I think I explained my thoughts the other day. I want to be honest with you, I will not support a veto override. I feel this would only hurt the local districts. Thanks,
Now when Rep. Dukes is mentioning about explaining his thoughts the other day, I wrote a post on Saturday about a message he sent to citizens of Delaware. Dukes message was about people reaching out to their legislators to make their voice heard and to perhaps make a difference. As it often happens, there was a lot of discussion on Facebook about this article. In response to someone asking about his no vote on House Bill 50 and how that vote contradicts the inalienable rights of parents, Dukes wrote:
Because parents could already opt their kids out. Can you name a district in the state that told a parent no? I really felt that this was not about parents rights. I am for a parents rights. By allowing students out of testing you don’t get a true measure of education effectiveness. How can you judge a teachers success (or a district) if you allow possibly some of the better students out of testing? I sincerely hope you understand my logic.
The responses piled on at that point. Several commenters actually named several school districts, and even a board member from a school district added: There are some parents who feel intimidated to exercise their choice.
Dukes responded by inviting the board member to talk after the new year, and the following:
I am presently serving on an assessment task force and hopefully we will have some good recommendations that come from this. Parents should never be made to feel intimidated from a district. — I responded to (name deleted) comment because I was tagged in a post. If anyone has suggestions, please feel free to email. I would love to talk further about these issues. I want to continue to make Delaware the best.
The moment that would make me question my own thoughts on this issue if I were a legislator with my mind up to vote no on the veto override came when a commenter wrote the following:
Rep Dukes is absolutely correct when he states that parents already have the right to opt out. However, unless and until that parental right is codified, there are any number of actions the state can take against schools and districts that will in essence, strip parents of those rights. We have to remember this whole issue started because there are those in leadership that do not believe that a parent has this right simply because it is not explicitly stated anywhere in state law, regulation or code. As long as that remains the case, the behaviors displayed by some districts last year will continue and in some cases, become worse. This is why we need HB 50.
In regards to the assessment task force, it really is a separate issue. In addition, that task force does not have any “true” parent representation. When I say true parent representation, I am referring to the parent that has no connection to a school, district or public education other than having a student in the public education system. Once again, the voice & contribution of the parent has been devalued and muted!
Nobody understood Dukes’ logic on the issue at all.
To clarify to my readers, I had nothing to do with the idea behind an “assessment inventory”. Since I started this blog in June, 2014, I have always opposed the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I have never said our students are being tested too much. That was all the Governor’s idea, and I opposed the legislation behind it, Senate Joint Resolution #2, even before the public knew about it because it is a ruse and a lie. SJR #2 was created as a direct result of HB50, not the other way around.
I emailed Mike Ramone about my thoughts on this and let him know I will happily switch him to the yes side. Parental rights have no room for conditions.