After a two-week recess, the Delaware General Assembly returns tomorrow Both the Delaware Senate and House Education Committee meetings have some controversy coming on Wednesday in the form of two bills. Both of these bills may draw a crowd, so get there early! And two very popular bills will finally get a vote this week.
In the House, the Education Committee will meet at 2:30pm to discuss State Rep. Hudson’s school voucher bill. House Bill 161, introduced a year ago, would take the state funding allocated to a particular student and put it in a “Parent Empowerment Education Savings Account”. So, as an example, say a student gets $11,000 in state funding from Lake Forest School District. If the student goes to a private school, those funds would be deposited into the savings account and it would go towards the tuition at the private school (which can also include books, tests, and more). The bill does specify this would only be used for “exceptional children” as defined by state code. When this bill first came out, many thought it would not just mean a child with a disability, but also talented and gifted students. An amendment, added to the bill last June, eliminates that option. This bill is just for students with disabilities.
The problem with school vouchers is it is more funds disappearing from the local education district. The referendums are bad enough, but this would just add fuel to the fire. Many folks who are anti-referendum want school vouchers and they don’t want their local taxes paying for public education. In my opinion, if a parent makes a choice to send their child to a private school, you should still have to pay school taxes. Every state has school taxes, and Delaware is no exception. School vouchers are very popular with Republicans, but the results from other states have been very mixed.
At 3pm, the Senate Education Committee will hear Senate Bill 165. After the controversial Red Clay referendum last year, Delaware Senator Karen Peterson introduced Senate Bill 165. This legislation would cut polling places in school board elections and referendums, and all voting would be done through the U.S. mail. As well, all voters would have to be registered to vote. To add more heat, all school board elections AND referenda would be on the second Tuesday of May. For districts that don’t have a referendum pass, they would have to wait another year to have another one.
A lot of folks do not like this bill at all. Ironically, First State Liberty, the organization in Delaware that makes robo-calls during Christina referenda, is vehemently against this bill. To be honest, I haven’t talked to anyone who supports this bill. This one will draw a crowd. I imagine some folks may want to attend both meetings, so I could see a mad rush to get through the House Education Committee meeting and then folks literally running upstairs to get to the Senate meeting half an hour later.
The Senate meeting will also have a presentation from the Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE). Another bill which will be heard in the House meeting will be State Rep. Kim Williams very awesome House Bill 232. This bill would allow public comment on any action item, be it a resolution, a charter school action, or anything else the State Board of Education votes on. Currently, the State Board does not allow public comment at any of their meetings on any action item unless they give explicit permission (as they recently did with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan). As well, the House Education Committee will hear Senate Joint Resolution #8, which honors Delaware State University for their 125th Anniversary.
School vouchers, referenda, and school board elections. While I don’t expect any of these drawing a crowd like House Bill 50 (the opt out legislation) did last year, I already know people who will be there. The votes from the committee members will be very interesting on these bills.
Two bills released from the Senate Education Committee last June will be given a full Senate vote on Thursday. Senate Bills 92 and 93, both dealing with Autism (see the Education Legislation tab at the top of the page). April is also Autism Awareness Month, so it is fitting these bills will get a vote this month.