What Happened AFTER The WEIC Vote

Immediately after the Wilmington redistricting bills passed the House, local and state media interviewed State Rep. Charles Potter and Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Chair Tony Allen.  Both stated this is a positive step forward.  Allen reiterated that if the funding isn’t there, the plan will be suspended by the commission.  He stressed the funding is critical at this point.

TonyAllenAfterHouseWEICVote

Afterwards, Delaware Governor Jack Markell came down from his Legislative Hall office and offered congratulations to Jea Street, Tony Allen, and Senator Margaret Rose-Henry.  After that, Markell, Allen, Dan Rich, Senator Henry and the Governor’s Education Policy Advisor, Meghan Wallace all went up to Markell’s office for a closed-door discussion.

JeaStreet

Rumors are swirling that New Castle County will be giving money towards the redistricting plan.  There has been no verification of this, how much money, or what the source of the money would be.

The redistricting resolution heads to the Senate now.  I’m hearing the full Senate vote will be much harder than the House.  Which means it may not have 100% Democrat Senate support either.  No one is offering names in the leaky corridors of Legislative Hall.

WEIC Redistricting Bills Pass The Delaware House

With a vote of  23 yes and  16 no, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan to send the Christina School District’s Wilmington students to the Red Clay Consolidated School District now heads to the Delaware Senate.  The House Republicans and Democrat State Rep. Kim Williams voted no for House Joint Resolution #12, which was similar to how the votes went down for House Bill 424.

Delaware Senator David Sokola, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, will now have to schedule a Senate Education Committee meeting to discuss the bill.  If released, it will face a full Senate vote.  If it passes there, it will head to Governor Markell for signature into law.  The commission could still suspend the redistricting plan if the funding is not available.  They will have two opportunities to do this at the start of the fiscal years for 2017 and 2018 should the funding not be available as recommended in their plan.

All the big WEIC folks were in attendance: Tony Allen, Dan Rich, Jea Street, the WEIC attorney who I gave up a seat on the floor for and I went up to the balcony.

Right before the vote, the Joint Finance Committee met and indicated that even though the state found another $7.5 million for the budget due to refinancing bonds yesterday (yes, yesterday), none of those funds would be allocated to the WEIC redistricting plan.

First up was House Bill 424.  It was read in its entirety.  The sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Sean Lynn, stated his big concern with the plan was the ability for school boards to raise taxes without a referendum.  State Rep. Deb Hudson went to line 37 of the bill, which covers funding for the plan and that there must be funding mechanisms from state and local sources.  Lynn had House Attorney Bill Bush come to the floor to go over this aspect of the bill.  Bush stated this not binding language.  Hudson stated it is suggested, but Bush stated once again it is not legally binding.  Lynn said Hudson was reading that part of the bill out of context and went over an earlier part of the bill that covered that sub-section.  Lynn stated it does not bind the state, town, district, or local political subdivision to the plan.  Hudson said the plan requires funding but there is not funding for this bill.  Ramone asked why it was changed with the simple adjustment from shall to recommended.  Bush said it was a “soft” language change.  Ramone said even if it just said “resources”, this would be a money bill.  Bush disagreed and said it is not binding to the General Assembly.  Lynn said the impetus for the bill was that the General Assembly adheres to the plan.  The bill does not bind the government or any subdivision to the bill.  Ramone said recommendation of resources was changed from resources to show this was not a money bill.  Bush agreed.  Ramone asked if this is a majority bill, or the Joint Resolution, because of the changes.  His concern is Red Clay going to referendum because the funds aren’t provided by the state for the plan.  Ramone said the need to fix the schools is a true need.  He gets all that.  Ramone asked who is going to pay for it.  He said no one wants to pay for it because no one can answer the funding questions.

State Rep. Joe Miro said he and Bush go back many years and thinks he is a good attorney, but he asked how another attorney would view this bill.  He heard that the bill isn’t binding, but he has heard some things like this before.  He said it is like going to a doctor, you get a diagnosis and a 2nd opinion, and that opinion could be the basis of a lawsuit.  Bush said this bill provides a clarification that the state is not bound by anything within the bill.  Miro said the state set aside $6 million for this “project” but it isn’t enough money.  He said the minimum amount is $7.5 million and even that is not going to meet the $6 million in the budget.  He is confused in terms of allocated funding which isn’t enough.  He doesn’t want the constituents of his district to go to referendum to cover the costs.  He asked why the funding is in the budget at $6 million if the state isn’t bound to it.

Speaker of the House Schwartzkopf excused Bush.  Roll call: 24 yes, 15 no, 2 absent.  All the House Republicans voted no.

House Joint Resolution #12 came up next.  The bill was read in.  An amendment was read in as well.  The amendment clarifies once again the state is not bound to the plan.  Hudson addressed the sponsor, State Rep. Charles Potter, and asked if there is capital funding needed for the plan.  Potter said this bill realigns the school district.  Hudson asked where that funding would come from.  Potter said he is here to talk about HJR #12.  After some back and forth, with Hudson asking the same type of question with Potter giving the same response.  She said her concern is her constituents and if new schools will have to be built or if students will be put in trailers.  State Rep. William Carson said the General Assembly is non-binding on this resolution.  Any future funding would have to be voted on by the General Assembly, Carson clarified, to which Potter agreed.

State Rep. John Kowalko thanked WEIC for taking on the task of serving at-risk children.  Kowalko said this is a plan.  He said “It is time for us to step up” and deal with children in poverty.  To step up for students who are a victim of their environment.  Kowalko said the boundaries that were set up by the courts were ludicrous.  He said there are some harsh realities with the funding, but it has been set up judiciously.  Ramone commended Potter and WEIC and said there is not an illusion about what the problems are with low-income students and special needs children.  As well as English-Language Learners.  He said they did a remarkable job with spelling that out.  He said this is a step, but the step could be a stall.  He said we need to change how we fund our schools better.  He asked Potter what the purpose of the House Joint Resolution really is?  Potter said “The resolution is the resolution,” which gives the General Assembly the power to realign the school district.  Ramone asked what the purpose of the amendment was.  Ramone asked for someone from the Budget office to explain some math.  Schwartzkopf said he doesn’t see anyone around.  They called downstairs to bring someone up.  While they were waiting, State Rep. Kim Williams read the resolution passed by WEIC which states if the funding isn’t provided, the commission, Red Clay, or Christina could suspend the plan if there is not enough funding.  Potter asked if that helps Ramone’s question.  He thanked Williams and Potter, but said he still wants someone from the budget office.

State Rep. Miro said whenever there is change or a need to implement something, there is a cost associated.  He said he knows what HJR #12 says, but the fact of the matter is there is going to be a cost associated with any changes any time you absorb something from someone else, in this case Christina to Red Clay.  Miro said this absorption will come from state or local funds and it is very difficult to make a promise that we can’t keep.  He feels what will take place is the General Assembly will not be able to keep their promises.  He said with the budget and the deficit we face, it is going to be difficult to answer the calls from his district.  “In order to maintain money,” Miro said, “it is going to be difficult.”  He doesn’t believe anyone in the room today doesn’t want a better future for these students.  He said this is a bill of hope, not money.

Deputy Controller General Mike Jackson came to the podium.  Ramone asked about the State of Delaware and if changing schools from one district to another would be a revenue neutral transtition.  Jackson said the state funding would be reallocated from one district to another.  Ramone asked how the tax rates would change.  Basically, he said by changing from the poorest sections of one district, the tax rate would change.  Ramone said the resolution doesn’t bind the state to financial allocations.  “If I am moving children from Christina”, Ramone said, but they will have more room for administration costs while the students will move to another district with a lower tax rate.  Schwartzkopf asked what the question is.  State Rep. Valerie Longhurst said this resolution is not about financial issues but solely redistricting.

The vote came up for a roll call: 23 yes, 16 no, 2 absent.   The redistricting plan passed the Delaware House of Representatives.

See How Rigor And Grit Can Change The Minds Of Babies! Markell Was Right!

BabyReading

Hey Jack, Why Are You Deleting Tweets?

Delaware Governor Jack Markell was caught red-handed deleting a tweet!  On Friday, at 4:29 pm, Markell put up a tweet from a conference in Washington D.C. sponsored by a group called Select USA.  Delaware had a booth there.  Two seconds after he posted the tweet, he deleted it.  Apparently there is a group called the Sunlight Foundation that monitors when politicians delete tweets.  They put it up on their website.  When you click on the link in Markell’s tweet, nothing comes up.  So even a website link appears to have been deleted as well.  But I looked to find out what @DelawareGlobal is.  They are actually called Global Delaware.  Global Delaware is a part of our state government.  They are located in the Carvel building in Wilmington at 820 N. French St.

But just cause Jack retweeted a tweet from Global Delaware, does that mean he was even at this thing?

Yeah, he was there!  This conference was so big, even the President went!

So why would a Governor attend a conference with a state organization and delete the tweet about it?  What’s the big secret here Jack?  Global Delaware promotes financial investment in Delaware from other countries.  On their website blog, you can see posts about The Delaware Blockchain Initiative, the Whitehouse Business Council, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Global Cities Initiative, among others.  I don’t usually get too involved in economic events with the State of Delaware, but when the Governor closes the blinds on letting the sunshine in, I have to write about it.  Especially when it involves education!  Wait a minute, how does foreign investment play into Delaware education?

For years, we have been told by the Governor that we have to fix education to fix the economy.  Because our economy is so bad and our students aren’t college and career ready.  But yet, even Select USA states on their website that the USA is the number one country in the world for foreign investment:

The United States is the largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world because companies recognize the United States as an innovative and stable market, as well as the world’s largest economy. As global investment continues to evolve, SelectUSA showcases the advantages of the U.S. market to an increasingly diverse range of investors.

So if our education system is soooo bad, and other countries are soooo far ahead of us, why would they bother to invest in the good old USA?  Perhaps the farce that our public education system is horrible is just that, a carefully designed illusion driving the corporate education reform agenda.  In Delaware, this is highlighted by Markell’s best buddies at the Delaware DOE and the Rodel Foundation.

As a reader, you are probably very confused by now.  Still not getting the education connection yet?  By bringing all these foreign companies to Delaware, the state will have lots of new jobs.  That’s good, right?  Not if it deters students from going on to a four-year college.  This is the plan: get students to do the “Pathways to Prosperity” thing, get certificates in high school, do apprenticeships, perhaps attend a two-year community college like Del-Tech (which the Governor has been talking about a lot in 2016).  That way, when these foreign companies come to Delaware, the students are ready to start their jobs.  These jobs that are most likely lower-paying jobs than they could get if they did attend a four-year college.  Cause that option, in the future, will be reserved for the more advantaged students.  The ones who aren’t low-income or poverty, don’t have disabilities, and so forth.

Now how on earth could a Governor get the public to buy this hook, line, and sinker?  By constantly talking about how we need to “fix” education and incessantly chatting about his Pathways to Prosperity.  Ironically, Senate Bill 277 which would create a permanent steering committee for Pathways to Prosperity, has been on the Senate agenda for a full vote twice, yesterday and last Thursday, but the Senate has not voted on it.  An amendment was added to the bill to include a Delaware parent as well as “one member from a non-profit corporation that advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities“.  How much do you want to bet that advocate will have ties to the Rodel Foundation?  Any takers?  Is the General Assembly less than enthralled with this Markell push?

But he doesn’t just want Delaware students to be a part of this global initiative, he even wants Delawareans to invest in it!  There is already pending legislation to lure the citizens of Delaware into taking part in start-up companies in the state.  All those tax credit bills that swept through the General Assembly so fast?  A boon to companies coming to Delaware!  Why do you think so many companies invest in Delaware?  Cause of the tax breaks.  But when it comes to giving relief to the taxpaying citizens of the state?  Forget about it!  When it comes to ending the corporate workforce education reform agendas that changed public education without any concern for what it does to students and their future?  Forget about it!  For Markell, it is all about bottom line, the almighty dollar.

We will know exactly what kind of man Jack Markell is when House Bill 399 comes to his desk.  Assuming Sokola allows it on the Senate Education Committee agenda in the next week.  If the Governor vetoes the bill, we will know once and for all that he does not care about students, parents, or teachers.  He already proved this last summer when he vetoed House Bill 50, the opt out bill, showing he doesn’t care one iota for parental rights.  For Markell, it is all about “the best test Delaware ever made”, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He can’t permit any legislation that would somehow diminish the test.  Because the Smarter Balanced Assessment, whether it is given once a year or eventually segmented into smaller chunks through end of unit personalized learning assessments, is the key to everything.  All the data and tracking will lead to students being tracked into certain career paths based on their scores on SBAC.  Which is the direct link between education and this deleted tweet.  Markell posts about these kind of things all the time, so I am not sure why he would delete a tweet based on a conference that nobody in their right mind would write about as much as I am today.  But he did.  Did he not want people to know he was there?  Did he not put it on his travel itinerary?

Of course, all of this plays directly into the “future guide” that was so carefully written… 24 years ago…