A Conversation With Earl Jaques Yesterday & How He Wants Me To Betray The Opt-Out Movement

After running some errands yesterday, I stopped by Legislative Hall in Dover.  There was no particular reason for going.  As the House Education Committee came out of their meeting, I was approached by State Rep. Earl Jaques.  He asked if he could speak with me in his office.  I immediately thought he was going to blast me for blasting him on this blog.  This wasn’t the case.

Last Spring, right before the House voted on HB50 for the first time on May 7th, Earl approached me about changing provisions for students with disabilities when it comes to the state assessment.  In 2014, Senator Nicole Poore brought Senate Bill 229 forward.  Her bill, which passed, allowed for the most cognitively impaired students to take an alternate assessment in lieu of the state assessment.  It was a bill I fully supported.  It passed within days of the HB334, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The law states this is for students who are “clinically incapable of producing valid results on a standardized assessment”.  This is for a very limited number of students, usually 1%.  These are children who don’t even have the ability to hold a pencil, or they are so challenged they can’t put words together.  Earl told me he wanted to add more disabilities to that list.  I advised him right then and there it doesn’t work like that.  You can’t just pick disabilities and say this child has to take a test and this one doesn’t.   He told me he wants to help out kids like my own.  I advised Earl my son is very smart, but I don’t want him taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He told me to think about it and let him know.

A couple days later, I received an email from Earl:

Additions to SB 229

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Schwartzkopf Peter (LegHall) <peter.schwartzkopf@state.de.us>; Markell Jack <jmarkell@comcast.net>; Godowsky Steven (K12) <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; “John.King@ed.gov” <john.king@ed.gov>; Johnson Donna R. <donna.johnson@doe.k12.de.us>; “David.Sokola@state.de.us” <david.sokola@state.de.us>
Sent:
Thursday, January 28, 2016 10:24 PM
Subject:
Opt-Out Clauses For Students With Disabilities

Good evening all.
Most of you know me, but for John King, please allow me to introduce myself.  I am one of, if not the, most vocal proponents of opt-out in the State of Delaware.  I supported Delaware’s House Bill 50 before it was even filed.  This was a legitimate bill, aimed at honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Our House and Senate passed it, but Governor Markell vetoed it.  I’m sure you know all of this and what has happened since.
According to our State Representative Earl Jaques, he had a conversation with you last Friday during your visit to Wilmington. About his idea to add disabilities for students who take the alternative assessment.  He made it sound like you were encouraged by this and you asked him to send you information on it.  At least that’s what he told me…
Getting to the root of this email, Earl approached me yesterday about adding disabilities to Senate Bill 229.  Mr. King, this was Delaware’s bill which would allow the most severe cognitively impaired students to take an alternate test. Either Rep. Jaques truly thinks disabilities can be added to this bill like a specific disability defines what a child can or can’t do, or he was playing me.  I believe he was trying to weaken opt-out by getting one of it’s biggest advocates to slow down the cause.  He wants me to give up the fight and cave.  I just have to offer labels to him.  As a father of a student with disabilities who is very intelligent and smart, and no longer attends public school in Delaware because of the insanity that has become public education, I find it disgusting and reprehensible that Jaques would think I would even think about participating in his sick game.
Rep. Schwartzkopf: You made a very big mistake putting Earl as the Chair of the Delaware House Education Committee.  Is this how State Reps behave?  Playing on what they perceive to be an Achilles heel of someone who opposes them?  And then uses students with disabilities to accomplish this?  This is some sick stuff, and I hope you take action on this immediately.
I sincerely hope none of you in this email put Jaques up to this.  I truly hope none of you would stoop that low.  I can promise you though, my resolve with opt-out has never been stronger and thanks to Earl I am more determined than ever to educate every single parent of a child in a Delaware public school on opt-out.  We could have done this clean without all of this.  Oregon passed an opt-out bill Governor Markell, but you had to stick to your guns and look out for business interests over the rights of parents.  We can stop with the charades here.  It is what it is.  We all know what Smarter Balanced truly is and what it’s true goals are.  I would have to be a morally bankrupt human being, with what I know, to not encourage every single parent in this state to say no to SBAC.
But I’m not done there, because as we all know there are many parts to this machine in Delaware.  I am going to tear the whole thing apart.  Don’t believe me?  You don’t think I can do it?  Watch me!
Mr. King, since you aren’t really a part of all this, but I feel you should bear witness, I do have a boon to ask of you: Call off your participation rate attack dogs with their threatening letters about cutting Federal funding because of a parental choice.  Schools have no control over opt-out.  There is nothing they can do to stop a parent from making this choice.  And there is nothing you can do against a parent.  If you want to be helpful, stop with all this assessment inventory nonsense you are pushing and encourage states to get rid of the very tests parents are opting out of: the standardized test.  The jig is up.  Parents are only going to opt out more which renders the test useless.  We don’t want it for our children.  It is designed for data to track our children and to sell them to the lowest bidder.  We don’t even want it embedded into the personalized learning competency-based education widgets.  We don’t want our children to be investor’s little playthings.  Look me in the eye and tell me that isn’t what this is all about.  You can “personalize” and “standardize” all you want.  But leave our kids alone.  We aren’t stupid.  And the charter love, that is going to go down like the Titanic more and more every day as the cracks are exposed and the rot festers through the foundations behind that movement.
Governor Markell… Jack… I’ll bet you didn’t even think twice about not putting the basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to third grade into your neat little budget.  But you made damn sure to get the $11.35 million in for all the early childhood education.  Let me ask you this though: what happens to those children, who got all that extra support when they were a toddler with disabilities, when they go to school and become a student with disabilities?  In an oversized classroom with limited resources?  I’m sure we would blame the teacher then, right?  It’s almost like you want students with disabilities to fail.  But they can’t just fail, they have to fail spectacularly well!  And we will stretch that proficiency gap so hard it snaps!  But hot damn, if we can get them a low-paying job when they graduate, then by golly, we did our job!  And we will continue to pay University of Delaware millions and millions of dollars to come up with “behavior” programs to deal with those neurologically-based special education kids!  But hey, we have money to throw around.  Let’s allocate $3 million for bike trails…
If any of you need more information on all of this and more detail about Earl, please read my article about this on Exceptional Delaware.  This email will be included in it.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt

 

 

 

State Rep. Mike Ramone Is Going To Ignite An All-Out Charter-District War With House Bill 261

RamoneHybrid2

Delaware State Representative Mike Ramone’s House Bill 261 may cause even more controversy than the war of the charter school audit bills!  Ramone’s proposed legislation would protect charter schools if they don’t get timely records from school districts when an expelled student or a student who was placed in an alternative school setting for disciplinary reasons choices into a Delaware charter school.  The bill would make it so the local school district would have to pick up any costs for that student.  This bill is assuredly in response to what happened at Delaware Met.  Many students who went to the school were alleged to have been either expelled or came from an alternative school setting.

I see red flags all over this bill.  I am already picturing charters not taking these students based on this information.  The key word in this legislation is “applies”.  How would a local school district know when a student applies to a charter?  Of course it is the burden of the charter to request that information.  It would be like applying for a new job and my old job would be responsible for proactively sending my references to the new job, prior to my even being accepted at the new job.  Using the word “burden” in the synopsis of this bill makes it look like “Oh, the poor charters. The problems they have with those bothersome districts.”

Ramone, you are letting your charter bias shine through with this bill.  This could put the stigmatism of “cherry-picking” to a whole new level!  I understand the intent here, but this is NOT the way to do it.  As well, the proof is in the pudding on whether or not records are sent.  This is also a two-way street.  Local districts do not always get records from charters in the allotted time period.  If you want to further the tensions between districts and charters, this is a great way to go about it.  I hope this bill dies a quick and sudden death in the House Education Committee…

Governor Markell’s FY2017 Education Budget Gives Funds For WEIC, SAIL, Autism, & Early Childhood Education But Stiffs Basic Spec. Education For K-3 Students

Provide greater support and accountability to Priority Schools and ensure the State and districts collaboratively intervene in failing schools.

 

Once again we have the Delaware Governor and his Department of Education labeling schools as “failing”.  This is based on standardized test scores.  It doesn’t take into account the high number of low-income/poverty students, students with disabilities, and the students who bear witness to horrible violence which has a severe impact on their ability to learn.

Governor Markell put in $6 million for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan and $1 million for the SAIL (afterschool) program.  Charters have the recommended $500,000 for their “performance” fund which is the same as last year.  $2.5 million would go towards “school improvement” funds (priority schools, focus schools).  The Governor is recommending $4 million for “teacher compensation reform”.  He nixed nearly $10.7 million in base teacher increase pays, but allowed for $5.3 million to cover inflationary costs.  This is a $57 million dollar increase from the FY2016 budget for personnel costs so I am a bit confused on that one.

From what I can see, it looks like the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit at the DOE is losing some funds.  Secretary of Education Godowsky requested an increase from $1.8 million to $2.4 million, but Markell is recommending $1.75 million.  Godowsky also wanted to double the state funding for technology operations from $2.8 million to $5.7 million, but Markell is looking at $3.6 million in his budget.  SEED scholarships, which increase scholarships for Delaware students going to Community College, has a proposed $1.6 million increase.

What I do see is a $10 million increase in special needs programs.  Although it doesn’t explain the increase, I am assuming this is to cover the funding for Basic Special Education for Kindergarten to 3rd Grade students in Delaware.  Currently, there is no state funding for these students with disabilities.  This was one of the main recommendations from WEIC and is also pending legislation from State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 30.  It looks like, upon inspection of Senate Bill 175, which breaks down everything in the budget, these funds are going towards early education.  Since the Race To The Top for Early Childhood Education ended, Markell is putting $11.35 million towards this.  So Basic Special Education funding doesn’t get funding, but we are going to pay for early childhood “intervention”.  I will have MUCH more to say about this one later.  Many other special education programs remain the same, including alternative settings.  Allocations for out-of-school placement, like Day Schools and Residential Treatment Centers looks the same as last year, even though costs for these programs have skyrocketed over the years.

On the Dept. of Health and Human Services budget, Markell is looking to increase funding for Autism by only $500,000.00, which is much less than the funds requested through Senate Bills 92 and 93.  Altogether, the fiscal notes for those two bills totaled $1.3 million.

Many of the increases from the previous year are based on inflationary measures.  In the below document, I’m not sure why the first page has all the black on it, but I will attempt to fix it later. Updated 4:58pm: I’m just going to put a picture of it in here…

DOEProposedBudget1stPage

And the detailed version, giving a full breakdown of where the money would go…

Governor Markell Issues Executive Order To Create Delaware Open Data Portal

MarkellTransparency

Yesterday, Delaware Governor Jack Markell issued Executive Order #57 to make state data more transparent and available to the public.  The Delaware Open Data Council, consisting of the Secretaries of the Delaware’s State Agencies, will make recommendations for what kind of data will be available on this new portal available to the public.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, or his representative, will serve on this council.  These are the kinds of documents I would like to see on this Open Data Portal:

  1. All Delaware Department of Education vendors, contracts, change orders, and funds sent to the vendor.  This would include any and all companies the DOE sends funds to that may not necessarily have a contract, such as The Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  All testing contracts should definitely be on this Open Data Portal.
  2. All documents, including emails, sent to or received from the United States Department of Education.  This would include any ESEA documents.
  3. Any document pertaining to the outflow of student data to any State agency or outside company.
  4. All district and charter school bullying and discipline reports, regardless of the controversial n#.
  5. All DOE and State Board of Education documents, including appendices, going back to the creation of the Department of Education.
  6. Any and all emails, meetings, and documents coming to or from the Delaware Governor’s office in regards to education.

I’m sure I can think of more, but this is just a start.

A few months ago, Delaware came in 49th place in a ranking of Open Government and the ability of states to be transparent.  Markell himself got quite a bit of heat after the disclosure of his private email, the infamous Alan Jackson account.  Delaware citizens should not have to submit FOIAs at their own time and expense to get information that should be readily available to the public.

I also think the General Assembly should have representation on the Open Data Council.  While the House Education Committee is very good about posting minutes of their meetings, the Senate Education Committee doesn’t do it at all.  The public has a right to see this information.

To read Markell’s Executive Order, please see below.

Perfect Timing On This State Board Of Education Legislation!

It’s the middle of the day.  You are at work and you start to wonder about something you read a couple days before.  It was something about education, something concerning students with disabilities.  Your son has a disability.  Oh yeah, it was concerning suspensions and expulsions.  You read it on some blog.  It was alarming to you because little Johnny has been getting in trouble at school.  You aren’t sure if it the disability or his bad manners.  He got suspended a couple times.  The State Board of Education was meeting right now to discuss a regulation about it.  The blog post rattled you a bit because Johnny could easily be one of those kids.  You wish you could go to the meeting, but you are out of vacation days and you certainly don’t want to use up your sick time to go to a State Board meeting.  If only they had these meetings later in the day…

Delaware State Representative Kim Williams introduced a bill yesterday that would allow the above worker to attend that State Board of Education meeting at 5:30pm or later.

HB260

I fully support this bill.  It would allow parents and teachers to attend State Board meetings without having to interrupt their day.  The State Board isn’t exactly a paying position either, so it would benefit the State Board members as well.  As well, many Superintendents and other school admins attend these meetings which takes time away from their school or district.  The timing is perfect on this bill!  As parents become more involved in education matters, it is important they have the opportunity to attend these kinds of meetings.  About 99% of Delaware school boards meet at night because they know parents want to come.  Why should our State Board of Education be any different?

There was a time when both the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education did not hold as much power as they do now.  They were more of a compliance body as opposed to the policy setting machine they have become.  Even the role of the Executive Director of the State Board of Education didn’t have such a fancy title back then.  And that position certainly didn’t run the show like our current one does.  Please support this bill as parents, teachers, educators and Delaware citizens!