The Red Clay and Christina School Districts responded quickly and definitively to the new legislation kicking the can down the road for the redistricting plan with no guarantees of funding and asking for more planning.
The Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education released their Annual IDEA Determinations for each state, and despite what I previously wrote, Delaware received a “needs assistance” rating for the second year in a row. This only proves, without even seeing the letter or the actual report on Delaware, that the Feds are more lenient to the state than the DOE is to their own school districts and charters. Even though the Delaware DOE links to the website that is supposed to show the letter generated from OSEP to Delaware, it only shows last year’s letters. But I believe that is the rating given to Delaware, but it is not accurate. Delaware has been failing students with disabilities for well over a decade, consistently and methodically. Our Governor cares more about getting them into low-paying jobs as adults and tracking them in pre-school than giving them the funding when they need it the most. With a few exceptions, our General Assembly is asleep at the wheel. Our General Assembly, once again with exceptions, cares more about testing our special needs kids with high-stakes and growth measures that are unsustainable or realistic.
Here is the spin machine on Delaware’s rating:
Focus on special education leads to sustained federal rating
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) gave Delaware its second highest rating in its evaluation of the state’s special education services. The state fell just shy of earning the highest rating.
This is the second consecutive year Delaware has received the “needs assistance” rating and the second consecutive year it has seen progress: Delaware moved from an overall grade of 53 percent in 2014 to 68 percent in 2015 and to 76 percent this year. The state needed a grade of 80 percent to receive the highest “meets requirements” rating, a difference of one point on its evaluation.
This year’s evaluation, based on school data from the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, takes into account the following improvements Delaware made to special education after receiving a “needs intervention” rating in 2013. Delaware’s “needs intervention” rating was based on performance data from the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years.
For the past two years, Delaware has:
- Provided professional learning for special education teachers on standards-based Individual Education Plans (IEPs), positive behavior supports and accessing the general curriculum.
- Included special education teachers in all trainings related to the state’s academic standards.
- Assisted districts and charters schools in developing transition plans for students with disabilities who are 14 years old or entering the eighth grade to help them succeed in jobs or further education. The state has been collecting data to ensure those plans are being prepared and carried out.
- Clarified for districts and charters the policies requiring students with disabilities to take the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and state assessments to ensure the state has full information on the progress of these students.
- Provided districts and charter schools with comprehensive data on their performance to help local leaders better understand how well they are complying with state and federal law and how their students with disabilities are performing academically.
- Provided targeted state technical assistance to those districts and charter schools found to be in need of assistance and intervention.
In addition, the Delaware Department of Education, in collaboration with various stakeholder groups, developed a five-year, K-3 Literacy Initiative to ensure that specialized instruction and support is provided to the state’s youngest readers with and without disabilities. In the 2016-2017 school year, the initiative will identify major areas of need as well as develop, implement and evaluate specific interventions for students in these grades.
The state first improved to the second-highest rating, “needs assistance,” in its 2015 evaluation, which used data from the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 schools years.
Last year OSEP also began calculating its ratings using a combination of compliance and results indicators for students with disabilities called results driven accountability (RDA), rather than relying solely on compliance data. RDA incorporates measures such as the percentage of students with disabilities who are taking state assessments as well as NAEP; how students with disabilities performed in reading and mathematics on NAEP; and proficiency gaps between students with disabilities and other students. This year’s report from OSEP also includes the graduation and drop-out rates of students with disabilities.
District and charters have welcomed the transition, which looks more closely at student outcomes than it does at how well districts and charters complied with the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).
“Having data that measures true student outcomes makes the annual determination process invaluable to educators, and it is especially vital to students with disabilities and their families,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “We appreciate this year’s rating that acknowledges the progress made, but we also are still focused on the work we have ahead of us to ensure the expectations for students with disabilities align with those we have for all students.”
Delaware is working closely with school districts and charter schools to ensure students with disabilities have opportunities to learn the same content as their peers, receive support they need to prepare for success after high school, and have their social, emotional and behavioral needs addressed.
IDEA Annual Determinations for FY2014: District and Charter ratings now available
In keeping with OSEP’s new evaluation method, the Delaware Department of Education uses RDA in assessing the performance of the state’s school districts and charter schools. District and charter school reports for 2016 are available on the Exceptional Children section of DDOE’s website here. Between FY2013 and FY2014, the following districts and charters saw improvements:
- Caesar Rodney
- Gateway Lab Charter
- MOT Charter
- Positive Outcomes Charter
POLYTECH Superintendent Deborah Zych credited a focused approach to meeting individual student needs for the improvements in her district.
“We added an enrichment period when students with learning deficits receive interventions and formed the Instructional Support Team to focus on individual student needs,” she said.
The Caesar Rodney School District made special education outcomes a priority during the district’s goal-setting with principals last summer. The district’s Student Services Division focused on on-going trainings on standards-based IEPs, student outcomes with an emphasis on Transition Age Students and instructional interventions designed to meet individual student needs. The division also conducted on-going audits of programming at the school and classroom level to ensure compliance as well as best practice. This summer’s professional development calendar also includes nine sessions specifically for working with special education students.
“We established a quarterly data review of special education students … The goal was to identify red flags early and develop intervention plans to keep students on track,” said Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald. “ Our improvement was the result of working together, setting goals and focusing resources.
“We understand that while we have made improvements there is more work to be done and we will continue to make this a priority,” he said.
Sheila Swift, whose son, Sam, completed the Project SEARCH program through Red Clay Consolidated School District in June, said special education in Delaware has experienced some improvements the past few years but students with disabilities need more supports statewide.
“Services after high school have gotten better,” Swift said. “Project SEARCH has been an excellent program. Six of the 10 students in my son’s class went right into jobs at Christiana Care.”
Still, Swift says that before her son entered Project SEARCH, she fought hard against putting him in an inclusion program. She said more supports, including those related to school climate, are needed for students with disabilities who attend traditional middle and high schools.
The department continues to provide targeted technical assistance to all districts and charter schools found to be in need of assistance and intervention.
Alison May email@example.com (302) 735-4006
I’ve written many articles over the past two years pointing out inconsistencies and downright violations of Delaware and Federal law. I have called out elected and state officials countless times. I care about education. I care about transparency. I care about due process. I care about the law. There are many who I believe, and others constantly agree with me, that talk the talk but their actions speak otherwise. They are the Governor, the Delaware DOE, the Delaware State Board of Education, Delaware Congressmen, and several of our State Senators and Representatives. They are district and charter leaders as well. They are lobbyists and special interests. They are non-profit corporations.
But there are also those that desperately care, that stick their neck out to do the right thing. People like Kim Williams and John Kowalko. Those that defy the will of their party in favor of the will of the people. Who listen to their constituents and act. People like Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook, who do everything in their power to make things right for teachers in our state. People like Dave Lawson, who I don’t always agree with, but is willing to call out our DOE and attempt to make changes to our education system even though it is an exercise in futility. People like Jennifer Nagourney, who I also don’t always agree with, but made sure transparency was a top priority for our Delaware charter schools. People like John Young and Liz Paige, who aren’t afraid to question and call out the actions of the Christina School District. There are countless others. Those I don’t always agree with, but I know they are trying to do the right thing.
When it comes to kids and education, there is no right and left. There is no liberal and conservative. There is no Democrat and Republican, blue or red. There are children and teenagers. With disabilities, different skin colors, talented, gifted, poor, who come from environments of trauma and violence. All across the state. Who don’t speak our language. Who don’t understand the machinations of adults who do not have their best interests at heart. They are my political allegiance. Over 130,000 children who don’t have an allegiance. Who aren’t getting what they rightfully deserve. Who are the pawns in a game of corporate interest and profits. They are who matters.
So when I call out a collective body, such as the Delaware General Assembly, it is not to insult those whose hard work I admire. It is the group as a whole. I am angry. I show it and I know it. And I truly don’t care. I am constantly told to calm down, or to temper my thoughts, or to compromise. Sometimes I do, but more often than not, I blast. I lash out. I act. Why? Because if I don’t, who will? I’m not trying to martyr myself here. But every thought, every word I write, is about kids. It is about our future who we, as a collective country, are throwing to the wolves. It’s about my own son, who was violated and discriminated against. Who is just one of many in our state who experienced the same thing. They dominate my thoughts and my words. If it isn’t good for them or their future, I write. I don’t care who I tick off along the way. I don’t care if my articles offend those who have a vested interest that will not ultimately benefit the students of Delaware. I don’t care if politicians treat me like dirt or laugh at me or ignore me. I don’t care if I am called a conspiracy theorist or that I wear a tin hat. They are not why I do this. I am not here to appease or compromise. I am here to teach, and educate, and inform. I am here to point out the issues and the situations that will lead to a bad outcome for students. To catch the cracks in the dam before they explode. View this is arrogant all you want. I don’t care. If I get something wrong, I’ll fix it. I will edit or update. But what I will not do is compromise my integrity or morals over the best interests of children. What began as a fight for special needs children evolved a long time ago into all students. I will always befriend both sides of the aisle and those who don’t pledge to those two sides. I will engage with my enemies as well. I will take the awkward or angry stares and conversations. I will put myself into the den of the lion and roar. But that does not mean I will tolerate violations of the law. I will not tolerate interpretations of the law that have no justification. I will not hide behind a black curtain covering up the truth.
There is a dark and festering rot in this state. It isn’t going away any time soon. As long as it is there, taking away from children and benefitting adults, I will continue to piss off many. I will speak for those who aren’t able to or don’t know how. For the parents of these children who are struggling in their own way who may not have the means or ability to speak. For teachers who truly care about students and just want to do their job, who are threatened and demeaned by many. I almost caved and joined the system by running for the Capital School Board. In hindsight, I am very glad I lost. It would have forced me to be in a position of compromise and to not always act in the best interest of children. It would have tainted me. It would have forced me to look out for a corporation, a school district, instead of the students that are the heart of the district. This is who I am. Take it or leave it. Like it or hate it. Accept me or not. I’m here to stay.
On Tuesday, the Delaware Senate passed Senate Bill 285, the FY2017 budget bill, with a vote of 15 yes and 6 no. The Delaware Constitution requires 3/4 of both the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate to vote yes in order for the budget to pass. The Delaware Senate did not get the necessary 3/4 vote. It was a little bit over 71%, not 75%. But they passed it anyways and sent it to the House who did pass it with the required 3/4 vote. Now it heads to Governor Markell’s desk. As El Somnambulo pointed out on Delaware Liberal this morning, only the General Assembly can declare this unconstitutional and could send it to the Delaware Supreme Court. This is the dark side of shady Delaware Politics as El Som pointed out:
The question, of course, was moot when the budgets passed almost unanimously. But that’s not the case this year. I don’t care whether the R’s are doing this just to be pains in the ass. The idea that the General Assembly would willfully pass, and the Governor would sign, a budget that might not meet constitutional standards is, well when you think of it, not surprising. Just depressing and sorta outrageous. And business as usual.
The absolute corruption and fraud in Dover continues. It isn’t just education folks, it is everything. This General Assembly has no respect for the Delaware Constitution or those who came before them. They set up laws to allow illegal activity in our state. Yes, that is an oxymoron, but it is what they do. And we still keep voting the same people in, year after year. At least Senator Karen Peterson has the good sense to get the hell out of there before they do something even more stupid. The same day the Senate illegally passed the budget, WBOC reported a federal judge ruled Delaware’s abandoned property collecting practices violate due process law. Amounting to revenue for the state to the tune of almost $500 million dollars on an annual basis. That is about 1/8th of the state budget folks. How can we, as the citizens of Delaware, allow this to continue? When will the people rise up and take control? Are we just as guilty as the politicians that look the other way on illegal activities by electing the lawmakers who violate our Constitution?
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan is dead. Not officially, but close enough. Two bills introduced by the Delaware Senate basically say “We aren’t going to approve the plan but we are going to kick the can down the road.”
The two new bills, Senate Joint Resolution #17 and Senate Bill #300 hold about as much clout as a snowflake in July. If I were the advocates for WEIC, I would feel very insulted. These legislators need to get some gumption and either vote yes or no. Jea Street is going to sue you. He has been adamant about that. Tony Allen is going to be very angry about this. And Governor Markell? What’s his stance? Does it matter at this point? Not really. Quack-quack.
And so WEIC ends, not with a bang, but with legislative whimpers.Del
Yesterday, Senator David Sokola laid his righteous judgment on Delaware blogs by stating we don’t talk about the good things happening in education. While I gave public comment at the meeting when he said this, indicating that was the DOE’s job and I will do my thing, maybe he is right. So here is some good news!
Senator David Sokola has a very worthy opponent for his Senate seat in the upcoming election and he is scared. Real scared.
Delaware has great teachers that no test can ever measure.
The students of Delaware are awesome and they are not failures.
The parents of Delaware are watching the General Assembly like never before and are calling them out on their antics.
Governor Markell will be gone after January.
Pete Schwartzkopf and Valerie Longhurst pissed off a ton of parents, teachers, citizens, and even fellow legislators last night. How is this good news? It was live and recorded.
Charter schools will have to record their board meetings in a few months and post them on their website.
Everybody now knows the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the worst test Delaware ever made.
Meredith Chapman is running for the 8th Senate District seat.
Precious Little still makes me laugh… a lot.
John King gets grilled by the US House Education and the Workforce Committee on a monthly basis.
God gave me the good fortune to be present at certain times and places to witness and record what happens in Delaware education.
Winter is coming.
House Bill 399 was heard in the Senate Education Committee today, June 29, 2016, the penultimate day of the 2015-2016 legislative session. This bill, which passed the House unanimously (with two absent Representatives and one amendment), was one of only two bills heard by the committee, yet the public filled the small meeting room beyond capacity. Among the onlookers were the usual subjects; individuals from the Department of Education, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, a handful of educators, lobbyists, and the general public affiliated with different groups of their own. It was the general tenor of the public comment that compelled me to pen this post, as although I have studiously refrained from engaging in the raging online debate up to this point, I do feel that misconceptions need to be cleared and the process, as transparent as it has been, should be outlined.
Please note that all of the information I am sharing comes directly from the information that can be found through the online state calendar if you care to scroll back through each and every Department of Education meeting from September 15, 2015, through March 8, 2016. The only two meeting dates that do NOT have associated minutes were November 9 and 30 of 2015, although draft minutes are floating around.
Let’s take this back to the beginning, shall we? That’s always a good place to start.
In April of 2015, I was contacted by the Delaware State Education Association to participate in a workgroup of teachers, specialists, and administrators, co-facilitated by the Delaware Association of School Administrators. The pitch was novel: Let’s get teachers, specialists, and administrators in a room and give them a task discussing the evaluation system and see what happens. As I have undergone the training for new administrators at the Department of Education and was, at one time, a credentialed observer, and because of my continued interest in and work with the evaluation system, I understood why I was invited. As for the other members of the workgroup, I cannot say, but as I got to know them I realized that they were all amazing individuals with really spot on observations and unique perspectives on the evaluation system. Only one of the nine other educators did I know prior to our first meeting.
On April 21 we met, broke into groups, and began the task of looking at the current rating system to make a proposal for alignment of formative component ratings with summative component ratings as well as to look at the summative component ratings and how they could roll up to an overall rating for teachers and specialists. The groups were random, although an effort was made to have teachers/specialists mixed in with administrators, so no group had just one category of educator. By the end of our allotted time together, we realized that more work needed to be done, and we were eager to continue, so we met again a week later, on April 28.
After the two work sessions, the team had come up with terminology that would be consistent across formative and summative categories, designed a numerical system that would go along with the ratings and reduce the potential for inconsistencies and “discretion” in the system, and made a few recommendations that addressed some issues we discussed, including the concept of an annual summative process (instead of the current biennial process) and a pilot for the numerical system (which is being referred to publicly as an algorithm).
The workgroup recommendations and proposals were presented to the DPAS II Advisory Committee, a group of educational stakeholders who meet regularly to discuss the evaluation system and offer suggestions for changes as necessary. Based on feedback from the committee members, the workgroup reconvened and refined the process accordingly on May 12, 2015. What has come forward into HB399 that bears mentioning here is the mathematical algorithm, and specifically how it was established and the criteria for “cut scores”.
It was not really a question that an Unsatisfactory rating should be unacceptable, and as such a numerical value of 0 was assigned to that. To further differentiate Unsatisfactory from Basic, which can be acceptable as a starting point in some circumstances (hence the need for discretion), Basic was assigned a value of 2, with Proficient and Distinguished assigned values of 3 and 4, respectively. It was agreed that, if multiple data points were available for specific criteria and/or components over the course of a two-year summative cycle, those data points would be averaged to come up with an overall score for the summative rating. It may be important to note here that, under current regulation, all teachers and specialists must be evaluated by a credentialed observer at least once a year, with recommendations and accommodations made to facilitate more regular observations. For instance, certain categories would warrant additional evaluations (novice status, under improvement, etc.), and shorter observation times could be used for supplemental evaluations as necessary.
Let me say that again. Under current regulation, every teacher and specialist must be observed and have a formative feedback document at a minimum of once a year. The summative rating can be done every year in current regulation, though it must be done at minimum every two years.
Let’s say I am evaluated, and in Component I, Planning and Preparation, I receive Proficient scores on all 5 criteria. That means I have earned an average score of 3, Proficient, for Component I. In Component II, Classroom Environment, I receive Proficient scores on 2 criteria and Basic on the other 2. I have earned an average score of 2.5, which falls under Basic. In Component III, Instruction, I received an Unsatisfactory in 2 criteria and a Basic in the other 3. That averages to 1.2, which is an overall Unsatisfactory rating. In Component IV, Professional Responsibilities, I score Proficient for all 4 criteria, earning an average score of Proficient for that category. Finally, in Component V, Student Improvement, I earn an Unsatisfactory, giving me an overall 0 score for that area.
Component I = 3. Component II = 2.5. Component III = 1.2. Component IV = 3. Component V = 0.
Total rating is 1.94, which puts me into the Basic category. Which we could have guessed, because so many of my scores are low. These ratings would also trigger an Improvement Plan, and my teaching career would be in jeopardy unless I followed the plan and earned higher ratings in the next observation and evaluation.
I would be a Basic teacher even with two of five Components rated as Proficient.
I’ve earned 11 Proficient ratings at the criteria level, 5 Basic ratings, and 3 Unsatisfactory ratings, yet am still rated as Basic and warranting an Improvement Plan.
That’s how the algorithm would work. The cut scores are based on the full workup of the entire set of possible ratings combinations, which I calculated using an Excel document with the gentle prodding and patient guidance of my husband, who neither saw nor cared about what I was actually doing, just told me how to get it done. This document was made available to the workgroup, and due to the areas where there was significant potential for the rating to be really inaccurate based on a quick glance at the numbers, a pilot program was suggested. The pilot was generally regarded as a simple thing to do, as the possibility of having one system (Bloomboard, for instance) write in the algorithm so it automatically calculates seemed easy.
Let me repeat that this time that these workgroup meetings, though not “public”, resulted in group consensus on recommendations that were presented to, refined as a result of feedback from, and then endorsed by the DPAS II Advisory Committee. Furthermore, all documents created were made available to the Department of Education, DSEA, DASA, and the Advisory Committee as well as the Sub-Committee later on.
Who was on the workgroup? Who were these educators who sat in a room together and dared to create a set of recommendations and proposal to change the entire evaluation system so dramatically (end sarcasm font) without the possibility of public input?
The members were published in the document made available to all entities listed above, and are as follows: Sherry Antonetti, Clay Beauchamp, Cheryl Bowman, Kent Chase, Charlynne Hopkins, Chris Jones, Jackie Kook, Suzette Marine, Dave Santore, and Nancy Talmo. Four teachers, two specialists, and four administrators.
Two of those individuals were also sitting members of the DPAS II Advisory Committee.
Six of those individuals became members of the DPAS II Advisory Sub-Committee.
When it is alleged, as it has been, that the information from the workgroup was never shared with the DPAS II Advisory Sub-Committee, and that no questions were asked about it, the data shows differently. A presentation on the workgroup recommendations was made on September 28, 2015, at the second meeting of the Sub-Committee. Discussion was held around the recommendations over the September and October meetings, and it is noted several times in the minutes that “discussion was held”, though not every word uttered was captured. Many committee members have their own notes, but the minutes could not possibly be a transcription of the level and detail of conversation that occurred.
The pilot was requested at least in part because there was no way to see all the possible kinks in the system, and rather than going full-on statewide with an untested program we felt it was more responsible to try it out and make sure it was accurate. After all, these are folks’ jobs we are talking about, as well as the education of students. We must get it done right, even if that means it cannot be hasty.
I do not pretend to speak for this diverse, talented, dedicated group of individuals. The legislation was inspired by the recommendations of the Sub-Committee, and although the words may not reflect verbatim the discussions that were held (after all, even the minutes don’t) and this may still be an imperfect system, the group did work hard and have impassioned discussions about what would be best not only for the educators in the system but also for our students. Keep in mind that The Conjuring was inspired by a true story…
One final point of note, since the data is readily available in the published minutes.
On September 15, the Department of Education was represented by Shannon Holston, who is documented as arriving at 4:45, and Christopher Ruszkowski, documented as arriving at 5:50. The meeting began at 4:30.
On September 28, the Department of Education was represented by Angeline Rivello and Laura Schneider.
On October 12, the Department of Education was represented by Angeline Rivello.
On November 9, the Department of Education was represented by Eric Niebrzydowski, Shanna Ricketts, and Laura Schneider. *Note that these are draft minutes, as final approved minutes are not available on the State Calendar.
On November 30, minutes were not available in draft or final form.
On December 14, the Department of Education was represented by Eric Niebrzydowski, who is documented as leaving at 4:30, Laura Schneider, who is documented as leaving the meeting at 3:30, and Christopher Ruszkowski. The meeting began at 2 pm.
On January 13, the Department of Education was represented by Atnre Alleyne, who is documented as arriving at 4:49. The meeting began at 4:30.
On February 1, the Department of Education was represented by Atnre Alleyne, Laura Schneider, Shanna Ricketts, and Christopher Ruszkowski, who is documented as arriving at 5:01. The meeting began at 4:30.
On February 16, the Department of Education was represented by Atnre Alleyne, Shanna Ricketts, Laura Schneider, and Dr. Steven Godowsky, Secretary of Education.
On February 29, the Department of Education was represented by Atnre Alleyne, Shanna Ricketts, and Christopher Ruszkowski, who is documented as leaving before Public Comment.
On March 8, the Department of Education was represented by Christopher Ruszkowski, who is documented as leaving before Public Comment.
For those of you keeping track, that brings Department of Education representation to a total of 8 different individuals, including the Secretary of Education, and no single representative was present for every single meeting. Again, this is based on the minutes from each available meeting (including one set of draft minutes I personally had for a meeting which minutes are not posted online) that had the individuals listed as “Department Staff/Other Members” and does not differentiate between those who sat at the table and those who did not. The final submitted report lists only Christopher Ruszkowski, Atnre Alleyne, Eric Niebrzydowski, and Angeline Rivello as Department of Education representatives (non-voting members) of the Sub-Committee. Any notation of late arrival and/or early departure is from the minutes themselves and included solely to be comprehensive in providing information. Of the 10 meetings for which documentation is in my possession, no single DOE representative attended more than 5.
Tonight, I witnessed the death of a dream. That our Delaware House of Representatives would finally do the right thing for our children. Delaware State Representative John Kowalko brought back House Bill 50 tonight, the Delaware opt out bill that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate a year ago. Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill less than a month later. The last time the House considered this bill was for an override of the Governor’s veto on January 14th. Kowalko received bad information from the House Attorney on how to present a veto override. He was told he had to have a suspension of rules prior to a vote on the reconsideration. I can’t speak to the lack of knowledge or the reason this attorney gave bad advice to Kowalko. I do know House Attorney’s are not employed by the State, but retained from law firms. But Kowalko found out it was not necessary with carefully vetted research into veto override attempts in Delaware. He brought up what is known as a Parliamentary Inquiry to the House tonight. Had he been able to explain how the legal advice given to him by someone who is supposed to know House Rules and Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure in the event a situation is not covered by House Rules, the House would have understood what he was doing. The Delaware House could have voted on the reconsideration of the Governor’s veto back in January without a suspension of rules.
Instead, what we got was Val Longhurst and Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf turning it into a power play and putting forth a point of order motion. It was a trap, probably planned ahead of time since Kowalko told the House Attorney he would be requesting the Parliamentary Inquiry. He had a representative lined up to second the motion for the Parliamentary Inquiry. As Kowalko brought it up, Longhurst interrupted Kowalko while he was speaking and stated House Bill 50 was not on the agenda. Kowalko knew this and stated he was talking about a Parliamentary Inquiry. Schwartzkopf said Kowalko was out of order even requesting a Parliamentary Inquiry, which Kowalko challenged. Kowalko appealed Schwartzkopf’s point of order. Val Longhurst seconded it, said “Oh shit” (nice conduct of an elected official during a legislative session) and then retracted her second as the floor of the General Assembly burst into laughter as Schwartzkopf said “Jiminy Christmas” and said the motion was dead. Gavel went down, case closed. But is it? By denying an elected official the ability to request a parliamentary inquiry under the guise of a point of order given while the elected official was speaking which had nothing to do with the matter at hand could be ruled as illegal.
Once again, we have Democrat leadership in the House who don’t know the policies of the floor they are supposed to govern. They have committed themselves to a lame-duck governor at the expense of our high-stakes tested children. There are good legislators in Legislative Hall, but the vast majority are in it for themselves and don’t know what they are doing except how to put forth legislation from corporate lobbyists or to further their own careers.
Prior to Kowalko’s motion, the House had just voted on a very emotional budget bill. It passed, but eight voted no. Some voted no who have voted before, but State Reps. Stephanie Bolden and Charles Potter voted no due to the lack of funding for the WEIC redistricting plan and the Senate’s refusal to move forward with the legislation. Even State Rep. Miro, who voted yes on the budget, gave a well-intentioned speech about how the state is not doing well economically and it will be worse next year. Kowalko objected to the budget after he filed an amendment to take the charter school transportation slush fund out of the budget. The amendment failed but eight voted yes. Which fell in line with the budget vote, 31 yes, 8 no, and 2 absent.
I firmly believe our state needs a serious fiscal and ethical investigation by the Federal government into where every single penny of our state funds are going and who is profiting off of shady backroom deals. They need to start with Governor Jack Markell and work their way down through the House, the Senate, the DOE, vendors, school districts, charter schools, the auditor’s office, the treasurer’s office, the Department of Health and Social Services, and pretty much everywhere anyone gets funds from the State of Delaware.
Our children are used as guinea pigs. We see it from Sokola, the DOE, Markell, Schwartzkopf, Longhurst, Melanie Smith, McDowell and others. Godowsky puts on another face constantly. He tries to save face with the Governor when he knows the stuff they are pedaling out of his building is absolute crap. None of these people care about kids. Not a single damn one of them. I’ve tried to deal with the legislators in Legislative Hall. I’ve tried to reach out to some of them in good faith. They don’t respond. Those that do know who they are and I know you are trying your best, but when the majority is corrupt, the whole building is. I see many of you get upset when good bills that will truly help the children of Delaware go nowhere. Our DOE is not a State Agency. It is a collection of education reformers and lobbyists, selling our children out to the highest bidders. A great deal of the legislation passed in Delaware for education allows them to do this.
When a State Representative votes against a budget because of the rampant corruption in our state, they are a hero. They are not unpatriotic. If patriotism is following orders and never questioning anything and allowing children to suffer while you remain in power Rep. Melanie Smith, then you may want to look at what the patriots who founded this country actually did so you could hold elected office. You allow a great deal of bills that go through that will only please corporations at the expense of the citizens of Delaware. Tonight, I was ashamed to say I live in Delaware. Everything the other legislators said about the budget was from the heart, not quotes from books or a Tedx talks speech. It is a legislator’s responsibility to pass a good budget, not a bad one. This was a bad budget. You can do all the glad-handling and take the applause for getting it passed, but it is still filled with pork. You know it, and I know it. We all know it. We know who this budget truly serves, and it is not in the best interest of children or the citizens of the state who by your own admission deserve more.
For someone who wants what is best for Delaware, why have you, Pete Schwartzkopf, consistently gone with the Governor’s wishes and not the will of the people. You are the Speaker of the House. It isn’t your House. It is ours. The people of the state. Until you learn that valuable lesson, you will continue to be called Sneaky Pete all over the state until your time is done. Because you refuse to find out the answer concerning how the State Representatives would vote on the override of Markell’s veto, you are not a friend to parents in the state of Delaware.
The Senate Education Committee just ended their 2:30 meeting about half an hour ago. House Bill 399 was discussed with many proponents and a few opponents. The opponents were Secretary Godowsky, Donna Johnson, and Atnre Alleyne (former DOE employee who has become very active in trying to stop meaningful teacher evaluation reform). Senator David Sokola expressed more than once his feelings of “heartburn” with the bill. I recorded the whole thing. Excellent comments were provided by Mike Matthews, Kristen Dwyer with DSEA, Jackie Kook, a teacher from Caesar Rodney (I will have to get his name later), and others. Hopefully the other members of the Senate Education Committee will see through the obvious smoke and mirrors. But a few thoughts here. Godowsky and Johnson were not this vocal during the House Education Committee. Judging by the fact Godowsky just left from meeting with Governor Markell’s office in conjunction with Godowsky’s adamant opposition of the bill, I think we can all safely assume who is calling the shots here.
As the lead Senate Sponsor, I felt Senator Bryan Townsend could have supported the bill more than he did. I have found he tends to play to both sides on education issues. During his second “round” so to speak on the bill, he did defend Delaware teachers and appeared to be more on their side. As usual, Sokola played it up for the audience. At one point he made a comment about how there is good news in education and something to the effect of not being able to see that on the blogs. So I made a point in my public comment, as well as supporting the bill, to point out the DOE can get the “good” news out and I’ll do my thing. Perhaps he didn’t like that but I truly don’t care. He can stare daggers into me until the general election if he wants.
I don’t know if it will be released from the committee. I hope it will. New York is already getting out of the kind of teacher evaluations Delaware’s DPAS-II is similar to. In regards to my comment about the Native Americans waiting to meet the Governor, Governor Markell literally just walked past me and we greeted each other. I am assuming the Governor was out of the building. I don’t see the Native Americans now, but the Delaware House did pass House Concurrent Resolution #97 recognizing November, 2016 as “Native American Heritage Month” in Delaware. Yes, it is going to be one of those days! Or possibly one of those lifetimes!
Hedge funds, eh? I distinctly remember writing about them and a local Delaware non-profit about 20 months ago…
The Wall Street Journal reports that Randi Weingarten is taking union pension funds away from hedge funds that attack teachers’ pensions. Leading hedge funds have contributed to organizations that want to eliminate defined-benefit pensions and substitute 401k plans for them. The hedge fund billionaires have also taken the lead in funding nonunion charter schools.
Randi has pushed the investment committees of unions to withdraw their pension funds away from hedge funds that are subsidizing attacks on teachers’ pensions.
Defenders of the hedge funds say that the unions should seek the best return on their funds, without regard to the politics of the hedge fund.
Randi has the better side of this dispute. Why should teachers invest their pension funds in a company that wants to take away their pensions?
Daniel Loeb, Paul Singer and dozens of other hedge-fund managers have poured millions of dollars into promoting charter schools in New…
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A recent due process hearing in Delaware, filed by the parents of a child with a mood disorder, gave an example of the first thing parents should not do with special education. The due process hearing was against the Cape Henlopen School District. The parents claimed the district did not fulfill their obligation under IDEA with manifestation determination. The case also showed a glaring flaw with special education law in the Delaware code, one I hope a legislator picks up on in the 149th General Assembly beginning in January. Or if a very brave soul with a great deal of tenacity picks up the baton and literally runs for their life during the last two days of the 148th General Assembly and miraculously gets a law like this passed in the next two days, that would be a true miracle. What did the parents do that ultimately caused a dismissal of the case? Continue reading Delaware Special Education Due Process Hearing Showcases What Rights A Parent Should NEVER Give Up
State support for higher education is slipping with one large exception at the University of Delaware. One department, actually one individual, at the university is slated for a 38% increase according to the latest draft of the state budget. This is in contrast to the state contribution for university operating expenses falling from about 21% in 2000 to about 12%, according to the University’s 2015 Investment Office Annual Report.
The currently proposed 2017 Fiscal Year proposed budget consists of fifty-nine pages of tables of budget numbers by department, and two hundred and twenty-six pages of “epilogue” language. The epilogue pages are similar to footnotes and most of it is innocuous and a pretty boring read. It can also be a place where bad policy goes to hide.
This may be the case with Section 285, page 199, which reads:
Section 285. Section 1 of this Act makes an appropriation…
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We are down to the homestretch on the 148th General Assembly. It is the bottom of the ninth with two outs. The next batter is up. This will be Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s last sphere of influence with Delaware legislation as Governor of the First State. For that, we should all have reason to celebrate. As of July 1st, all eyes will turn towards elections in Delaware and the USA. But there is a bit of unfinished business in Legislative Hall. We will know by about 4am on Friday, July 1st what happened.
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting resolution is ready for a Senate vote. The Executive Committee will clear it for a full vote. But then, it gets very interesting. I reported a few days ago that one Senate Democrat was a no and another was on the fence. Now we can make that three Senate Dems as a no. And the Senate Republicans which gives Senate Joint Resolution #12 a vote of 9 yes and 12 no. But, I’m also hearing from the cracked walls of the basement of Legislative Hall that there might be new legislation kicking the can on this down the road into the 149th General Assembly. Will Red Clay and Christina say “Enough” and get out of the whole thing? Or will we have another year of “will they or won’t they” speculation? In the chance SJR #12 does pass, the question then becomes “what happened to $6 million dollars”? The Senate passed the budget today and WEIC was not in it. I did find out the answer to this. The funds are in reserve but they don’t want to put it in the budget without an affirmative vote on SJR #12. What happens to the $6 million if SJR #12 doesn’t pass? It goes to the Bond Bill. For those who don’t know what the heck a bond bill is, in a nutshell it is a capital improvements bill. Here is an example from FY2013. We should see the FY2017 bond bill in the next 24 hours.
The Basic Special Education Funding for K-3 students, House Bill 30, has not received the full House vote yet. I hope we will see it, and then a rush to the Senate, but I am not optimistic. I did hear today that the Education Funding Improvement Committee may ask for an extension, but then that they may not. We will know if a final report is issued to the General Assembly in the next 27 hours.
House Bill 399, the teacher evaluation bill, has become a very odd bill with a great deal of power. As the story goes, State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola’s tiff is still going on. Today in the House Education Committee, Jaques pulled Sokola’s teacher certification legislation, Senate Bill 199, from the agenda. House Bill 399 is on the Senate Education Committee agenda for tomorrow. Apparently a deal was reached whereby House Bill 399 will get to be heard in the Senate Education Committee and will most likely be released for a full Senate vote. In exchange, Jaques will “walk” Senate Bill 199 for signatures from the House Education Committee members. But then House Bill 399 has to go before the full Senate. Which is a toss-up for how it could go there. I’m hearing different things from different people. Honestly, if anyone is still concerned about defying the will of Governor Markell, I would think twice before using that empty-handed justification. Did you hear that quacking sound? It is the sound of a lame-duck desperately grasping for power in a vacuum.
There is more at stake here than current bills. Election season is coming fast and broken alliances and grudge matches could make things real ugly for the Delaware Democrats. I’m pretty sure if WEIC fails in the Senate, Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Reps. Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and Helene Keeley will have a lot to say about that! They say Wilmington wins elections for state-wide positions in Delaware, but the reality is that Jack Markell would not have become Governor if he didn’t win crucial votes in Kent and Sussex County when he beat John Carney in the primary in 2008.
Speaking of Carney, it looks like he is finally getting around to reaching out to different groups and state agencies in Delaware to firm up support for the Gubernatorial election in November. He still hasn’t officially filed for the 2016 election yet, but he has until July 12 to do so. We also have filings from Republican Lacey Lafferty and Libertarian Sean Goward. Nothing from Republican and current State Senator Colin Bonini. Goward and Lafferty have been the most visible on Facebook. In my mind, you have to work for my vote and get your name out there. I want to know your original ideas, not more of the same-old I hear now. Many Delawareans are in this mindset. If I had to vote today, Carney would not get my vote. The only candidate who has reached out to me and presented many ideas I agree with is Sean Goward. And not just about education either. I would reach out to him and hear what he has to say!
The Congressional race in Delaware is going to amp up big time as well. The News Journal declared Townsend as the “front-runner” a couple of weeks ago, but it is still a long ways off. Townsend has massive support over at Delaware Liberal with some calling him one of Delaware’s best legislators. He does certainly get a plethora of bills passed. But Lisa Blunt-Rochester also has a great deal of support from the African-American community which could change this tale. In terms of signage, I can’t speak for what is popping up in New Castle or Sussex County, but I can say Hans Reigle signs are all over the place in Kent County. And not just roadside ones, but also property signs as well. I have seen Mike Miller and Sean Barney popping up a bit more on the Democrat side. While Townsend may have amassed the biggest war chest thus far, how much of that will be spent on the primary between five candidates? I’m sure some will drop out between now and then. This will be a contest between Townsend and Blunt-Rochester when it comes down to it. Assuming no one else files on the Republican side, Hans Reigle will have an all-clear until the General Election. After the primary, we will see massive competition between Reigle and the Democrat candidate. With a growing feeling of disillusionment with the Democrat party in Delaware, especially in an environment with more in-fighting among themselves, I wouldn’t count Reigle out. Delaware might be a “blue state”, but this year could change things. Look at how much traction Trump has gotten in the past year. I would like to hear more from Scott Gesty as I think he has some very interesting ideas as a Libertarian candidate.
In terms of the State Rep and State Senate races, we may see a mad rush of filings in the next couple weeks. While some are already saying the Republicans don’t have a chance of changing the power structure in Dover, I wouldn’t be too sure. At least in one House of the Delaware General Assembly. People don’t like what is going on. They see a lot of the egregious glad-handling and deals being made in Dover and they don’t like it one bit. This is becoming a more vocal community, especially on social media. I’m going to go ahead and predict many new faces in Dover come January. I think the citizens of Delaware deserve a more balanced legislature. Too much on one side has not been a good thing for the middle-class and lower-income families of the state. I don’t like the assumption that certain people should win office because they are Democrat, or that certain bills will pass because they have Democrat support. I like to hear both sides of the issues, but all too often some voices are drowned out by the high-fives and fist-bumping going on. By the same token, there are some Republicans who need to realize they could be on the cutting line as well come November, or even September. They should stop thinking of this as a frat club. If you want respect, you have to show respect. Especially as an elected official. For those who are about to call me a hypocrite, bloggers don’t count!
Things are going to get very interesting over the next 55 hours and in the next four months. This is Delaware. Anything can happen! The crazy action will take place on Thursday night in the General Assembly. I’m not sure about the Senate yet, but the House begins their legislative session at 7pm.
Oh yeah, what about House Bill 50? And the Autism bills, Senate Bills 92 and 93 with their assorted amendments? To be continued…
I had a sneaky feeling this was going to be the outcome on this bill. While Senate Bill 161, sponsored by State Senator Gerald Hocker, passed the Delaware Senate last week, it did not have the required votes to get out of the House Education Committee. Since the bill passed last week in the Senate, a growing chorus of opponents to the bill reached out and feel this kind of decision should be made by local school district boards of education. They did not feel this should be a statewide decision. Currently, some districts in Sussex County already begin school after Labor Day. Once the official details on the vote count in the House Education Committee come out, I will update this article. It appears only 3 or 4 of the legislators in the committee were in support of the bill which is far short of the But for now, it appears there will be no more action on this controversial legislation.
Senate Bill 161 had a good ride, and I thought it may have a shot. But many of the members of the House Education Committee are fervent supporters of local control as opposed to state control. We can consider this matter closed. Until the 149th General Assembly that is!
I touched on this last week, but it is essential that the citizens of Delaware not believe the final recommendations of the Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Committee. Their report is due to the General Assembly by Thursday, June 30th. In a public meeting, one of the members of EFIC (as it is commonly known as in the halls of power in Delaware) stated the committee could not agree on any of the recommendations brought forth at their final committee. No formal vote was taken on any specific actions.
I learned this by attending the meeting of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) last week. GACEC Chair Robert Overmiller was a member of EFIC. Along with all the other DOE special education shenanigans at that meeting, there was also this tidbit culled from my recording of the meeting:
The Senate Joint Resolution 4. We had our meeting yesterday and the reality is they have approved zero motions and zero recommendations for the unit count. Because they spent the whole year trying to convince the committee to throw out unit counts and put in what the DOE and Governor Markell want. And they were totally unsuccessful in convincing the committee to do so. So I don’t know what the report is going to look like when it comes out. At the end of the month it will be turned in to the legislators but they definitely approved zero recommendations and zero anything. Nothing was ever voted on for approval or exception. So that committee produced nothing this year.
That sounds like a very clear statement to me! I expect the Delaware DOE to post the final report any day now. Like the Assessment Inventory Committee final report issued yesterday, I do not expect this report to be a complete record of what really went down at these meetings. I still don’t understand why former State Rep. Darryl Scott is allowed to run committees like this and have a seat on the Southern Regional Education Board when he is not now an elected official, but this is Delaware. If we see a weighted funding formula recommendation for education coming out of this report, it is a lie. This is what happens when a committee is stacked with Markell sympathizers coming out of Rodel and the charter sector.
Okay, I got all sorts of crap from those who support the “New Christina”. What exactly are they paving the way for? Not librarians! That’s for sure. But I guess the newly created job of Supervisor of Professional Development is okay? For those who complain about high administrative costs in districts, I’m beginning to see the point. Such was the case today when Newark High School Principal Curtis Bedford announced he would be taking this brand-new position (not mentioned in the referendum I will point out). He had a whole article on the Newark High School website about it. And they already have a temporary replacement until the new Principal is found.
Sorry, I know “Bob A” has his supporters, but I’m not getting it. Robert Andrzejewski seems to like rising costs. Most Delaware Principals make about $100,000. I imagine this new district role is at least $100k, if not more. So not only does the district have to create the funds to pay for this new position but also backfill a Principal. Keep paving Bob A, keep paving… I hope you pave the way out of your contract! A lot of people stood up for you. Now I am wondering why. More shenanigans and unfulfilled promises. Can’t wait to see the excuses for this one! Here they come… one… two… three…
This makes me sick. All that time, wasted. What did this assessment inventory accomplish? Not a heck of a lot. That’s for sure. Just another notch in the DOE’s bedpost sucking away money from public education, yet again. A bunch of people got together, but at the end of the day we still have Smarter Balanced and districts still have assessments. So what was the point of all this? Oh yeah, it was the “antidote” to opt out. We still have the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Let me reiterate. We still have it. Even though everyone NOT affiliated with the DOE and Markell’s pals in the General Assembly said “Get rid of it”.
I don’t remember all the talk about computer-based assessments as a best path forward. How about those who attended a lot of these meetings? Do you remember that? And I’m sorry. I don’t know Equetta Jones at all aside from a public comment she gave at a Red Clay board meeting. But the “parent” representative was picked by Governor Markell and she showed up to one meeting, the first one. I don’t know her circumstances, but if she was unable to commit to being on the committee, she should have resigned. All that time was wasted when a parent (who is not also a teacher) could have been giving worthwhile feedback. State Rep. Kim Williams noted in public comment at one of the meetings that she reached out to the Delaware DOE about this without any response. Once again, parents were completely shut out as if our opinions don’t matter at all. The usual kick in the back by those who know best.
Here is the final report folks. I predicted months ago nothing of great importance would come of it. It was a distraction, pure and simple.
This article is just for you. You don’t know who you are yet. But you are about to. Because I know. I know what you did the summer before last summer. I know how you did it, and I know why you did it. I know the illusion you give is false. I know you care about power. And your name. I know you have fooled everyone and you are counting on that. But I am not fooled. I never was. I saw right through you the first time I saw you. Enjoy the warm season now because it is about to get very cold. A chilling and long winter is coming for you. Enjoy your time on the pedestal because you won’t be on it long, that I can assure you.
I firmly believe you are arrogant enough to believe you could weather this. I don’t think so. Life doesn’t work like that. I’m the wild card you never saw coming. I will disrupt your hand. When you lay down your full house that is when I will come back with a better hand. I’m just giving you forewarning so you know it’s coming. You wanted the spotlight and you will certainly get that, more than you have now.
I was told by many people there would be no Senate Education Committee meeting next week. That appears to have changed since an agenda is up, and House Bill 399 is on it! The meeting will be on Wednesday at 2:3opm in the Senate Majority Caucus Room (first floor, behind the Senate Chamber). If you are an educator in Delaware who has some free time, I would strongly suggest attending and lending your support. The bell will start ringing at 3:00pm for the full Senate to convene in session. So if you want to give public comment, I would suggest using your time wisely but also giving full support of the teacher evaluation bill.
Thank you Senator Sokola for making this happen. Sokola tends to add legislation at the last minute. It is my sincere hope that his and Kim William’s charter audit bill (House Bill 435) appears on the Senate Education Committee agenda. Both bills got unanimous votes in the House last week.