Markell’s Former Girl Friday Lindsay O’Mara’s Big Blog Post On The US DOE Website

Wow! Everyone is blogging these days!  Even former Education Policy Advisors for Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  Lindsay O’Mara, who left Governor Markell’s administration earlier this year, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for State and Local Engagement at the United States Department of Education.  What do we call that title?  DASSLE?  But I digress…

I don’t see this blog post, put up earlier today, as a coincidence.  Her boss got shellacked by the Education and the Workforce Committee earlier today.  Poor John King, in the eternal hot seat with those not willing to put up with his malarkey.

My favorite Lindsay story to tell is from the Delaware House Education Committee meeting on our opt out bill, House Bill 50.  It is a well-known fact that you don’t just go up to legislators during a hearing, even if it a Delaware Education Committee meeting and the DOE just openly sits at legislators’ desks.  Especially when they are just about to vote on whether or not they will release the bill from committee.  But there’s Lindsay, running over to State Rep. Mike Ramone who was the swing vote on the bill.  Trying to whisper something to Ramone.  The Chair, State Rep. Earl Jaques, told Lindsay she couldn’t do that.  She skirts away like she had absolutely no idea she shouldn’t.  Yeah, right!  The committee released the bill on the way to an eventual veto by her boss, but Lindsay kept many advocates for the bill (myself included) pretty busy in the Spring of 2015!

A View from the Field: Building Comprehensive ESSA Stakeholder Engagement

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, presents an opportunity to continue making progress towards educational equity and excellence for all. For the first time, the reauthorization of the nation’s defining elementary and secondary education law explicitly supports a preschool to college- and career-readiness vision for America’s students. It also creates the flexibility for states, districts, and educators to reclaim the promise of a quality, well-rounded education for every student while maintaining the protections that ensure our commitment to every child — particularly by identifying and reporting the academic progress of all of our students and by guaranteeing meaningful action is taken in our lowest performing schools and school with low performance among subgroups of students.

To realize this promise, states should engage meaningfully with a wide range of stakeholders to create a common vision of educational opportunity and accountability. This engagement can take many forms and still be successful. Regardless of the form, however, to be meaningful it must be wide-spread, inclusive, ongoing, and characterized by true collaboration. For the law to work we need all those who have a stake in our education system to have a seat at the table as states are making their plans.

While many states are still contemplating how to move forward, several have launched stakeholder engagement processes to start determining how to develop the best education systems for students in their states, and to explore the new flexibilities and opportunities within ESSA. Some have committees chaired by senior state officials working to develop plans for accountability systems, school interventions, and assessment systems, among other elements of the law.   Others have solicited input more broadly and are taking a grass-roots approach to beginning their planning.

Although each state will ultimately pursue an engagement strategy that works for its local context, the work of others, and the guidance and tools that national education organizations have created for state and local government officials and stakeholders, may prove useful in devising those strategies. Here are a few examples of states and their unique approaches:

  • There is grassroots engagement afoot in Pennsylvania, where Education Secretary Rivera has held a series of stakeholder sessions at the local level, creating working groups focusing on core issues of the law – e.g. accountability and assessment – to better allow citizens throughout the Commonwealth to engage on specific issues within the ESSA law. These working groups are comprised of a wide array of stakeholders including teachers, principals, community based organizations, education non-profits, businesses and higher education institutions.
  • Strong executive leadership is the highlight of Alabama’s outreach strategy, where the Governor established a committee through an executive order to lead the development of the ESSA state plan. This ESSA Implementation Committee includes representatives from across the education community, including parents, educators, superintendents, school board members, school leaders, state Department of Education officials, and education policy advocates. In addition to the meetings of the committee itself, the chair and vice chair are holding subcommittee meetings on a variety of topics (including accountability, early learning, and standards and assessments), and plan to host public forums so local leaders and members of the public have an opportunity to weigh in on the development of the state plan. A full list of committee members, along with meeting dates, times, and locations, is available here. The Committee is also soliciting feedback and comments from the general public through an online webform.
  • The Colorado Department of Education created an ESSA working group and in May led listening sessions in different regions of the state to gather input from stakeholders such as parents and teachers. The ESSA working group committees will utilize this information from the sessions to develop the state plan that will ultimately be approved by the Colorado State Board of Education.

As states continue to refine their plans it is important that citizens, civil rights groups, parents, educators and many more stakeholders become involved in the state and local level conversations on how to best implement ESSA both initially and in the months and years to come. Here are some highlights of the tools national organizations have created to help their members create a thoughtful and inclusive engagement plan:

We look forward to supporting state and local leaders as they work to engage their constituents in developing high quality implementation plans that provide every student with a high quality world class education. For additional information, please read Secretary King’s Dear Colleague Letter to state and local leaders that highlights additional engagement materials developed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Lindsay O’Mara is Deputy Assistant Secretary for State and Local Engagement at the U.S. Department of Education.

Now I don’t expect you to read most of the above links.  You can.  But a lot of it is going to be corporate education reform mumbo-jumbo.  Or it is corporate education reform mumb0-jumbo presented by organizations who have been brainwashed because of the mumbo-jumbo.

I wonder why she didn’t mention Delaware?  Oh yeah, we don’t have any ESSA stakeholder groups.  Just a clueless DOE and an even more clueless State Board of Education who will just take John King’s illegal regulations as law and implement them in Delaware while our crooked Governor sits back and goes cha-ching for all his buddies in Education Inc. while the students, teachers, parents, and schools suffer even more with high-stakes tests that offer nothing of meaning to anyone but the Rodel Foundation sure does love them!

We miss you in Delaware Lindsay!  Legislative Hall hasn’t been the same without you!

Delaware To Get Federal “Needs Intervention” In Special Education Again As Incompetent DOE Lies At Public Meeting

Delaware WILL get a “Needs Intervention” label for their Annual IDEA Determination from the Office of Special Educations Programs at the United States Department of Education.  The Delaware DOE knows this, but they aren’t announcing it.  My guess is they are waiting for the “formal” letter to come from the feds before they publicly release this information to the public.  Even though they were told this information at least four weeks ago.  If I were a betting man, we won’t find this out until after June 30th.  I predicted this three weeks ago when I found the letters that went out to the districts and charters.

At the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens meeting on Tuesday night, the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE gave a presentation to the council on the Local Education Authority (LEA) portion of the annual determination.  The presentation was given by Barbara Mazza and Maria Locuniak from the DOE.  In this presentation, there were several absolute lies that are in this article, for which I caught them red-handed.  It is very alarming they would try to dupe a state council devoted to the improvement of outcomes for persons with disabilities. Continue reading Delaware To Get Federal “Needs Intervention” In Special Education Again As Incompetent DOE Lies At Public Meeting

New Delaware Charter School Audit Bill Unanimously Passes In The House!!!!!!

House Bill 435 passed the Delaware House of Representatives today with not a single no vote.  This is in sharp contrast to last year when the majority of the House Republicans voted no on the former charter audit bill, House Bill 186.  With 39 yes votes and two absent, HB 435 will now head to the Senate.  Whether it is placed in the Senate Education Committee or the Senate Executive Committee remains to be seen.  Since the Senate Education Committee won’t be meeting again between now and the end of the 148th General Assembly on June 30th, a suspension of rules would have to be used for a full Senate vote if it is placed in that committee.  I reported earlier today the WEIC bills passed by the House were sent to the Senate Executive Committee instead of the Senate Education Committee for this very reason.

Congrats to State Rep Kim Williams and State Senator David Sokola for coming together and working on this new bill!

John King Gets Grilled By John Kline Over ESSA Regulations

This morning, United States Secretary of Education John King was once again asked to testify in a hearing before the US House Education and the Workforce Committee.  Chairman John Kline issued a press release:

Kline Statement on Hearing with Secretary of Education King

Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, released the following statement after Secretary of Education John King concluded his testimony addressing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act:

The Every Student Succeeds Act is based on the principle that state and local leaders can run their K-12 schools better than Washington bureaucrats. The law represents the best opportunity we’ve had in decades to provide every child in every school an excellent education. We will not allow the administration to destroy that opportunity by substituting its will for the will of Congress and for the will of our state and local education leaders. This hearing is an important opportunity to hold the administration accountable to those leaders and their students. We appreciate hearing from Secretary King, but in many ways he reinforced our concerns with the troubling direction the department is taking this new law. We will continue to use the tools at our disposal to ensure the letter and intent of the law are strictly followed. Our nation’s parents, teachers, and students deserve nothing less.

Kline also issued his opening statement in the hearing:

Kline Statement: Hearing on “Next Steps in K-12 Education: Examining Recent Efforts to Implement the Every Student Succeeds Act”

Welcome back, Secretary King, and thank you for joining us. When we last met, the process for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act was just getting underway. We had a healthy discussion about the bipartisan reforms Congress passed and the president signed into law. Those reforms are designed to restore state and local control over K-12 schools.That’s not just my own personal view. It’s the view held by governors, state lawmakers, teachers, parents, principals, and superintendents who recently wrote that, “[The Every Student Succeeds Act] is clear: Education decision-making now rests with states and districts, and the federal role is to support and inform those decisions.” It’s also the view of most honest observers. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized, the law represents the “largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”

That’s not just my own personal view. It’s the view held by governors, state lawmakers, teachers, parents, principals, and superintendents who recently wrote that, “[The Every Student Succeeds Act] is clear: Education decision-making now rests with states and districts, and the federal role is to support and inform those decisions.” It’s also the view of most honest observers. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized, the law represents the “largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”The reason for this hearing and our continued oversight is to ensure the letter and intent of the law are followed. A critical part of our effort is holding your agency accountable, Mr. Secretary, for the steps that are taken to implement the law. When you were with us in February, you said, “You can trust that we will abide by the letter of the law as we move forward …”

That is a strong statement, and it is one of several commitments you’ve made that the department would act responsibly. But actions speak louder than words. In recent months, we have seen troubling signs of the department pulling the country in a different direction than the one Congress provided in the law.

The first troubling sign is the rulemaking process itself. There are a number of concerns about the integrity of the negotiated rulemaking committee, including the makeup of the panel, the lack of rural representation, and the accuracy of statements made by department staff. The point of the negotiated rulemaking process is to build consensus among those directly affected by the law, yet it seems the department decided to stack the deck to achieve its own preferred outcomes.

The second troubling sign surrounds the long-standing policy that federal funds are to supplement, not supplant, state and local resources. Prior to the Every Student Succeeds Act, this rule was applied differently depending on how many low-income students a school served; some schools faced more onerous requirements than others. Last year, Congress decided the rule would be enforced equally across all schools. Now, school districts must simply show that funds are distributed fairly without prescribing a specific approach or outcome. The law explicitly prohibits the secretary from interfering, yet that is precisely what your proposal would do. 

What the department is proposing would be both illegal and harmful to students and communities. It would impose a significant financial burden on states and force countless public school districts to change how they hire and pay their teachers. This regulatory effort is trying to achieve an end Congress deliberately rejected and that the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service warns goes beyond “a plain language reading of the statute.” No doubt you have good intentions, Mr. Secretary, but you do not have the legal authority to do this. I strongly urge you to abandon this flawed scheme.

The third troubling sign is the department’s accountability proposal. Let me note that there are policies in this proposal we are pleased to see, such as how states set long-term goals and measure interim progress. But in a number of ways, we also see the department’s bad habit for making decisions that must be left to states.

This is especially troubling given the law’s explicit prohibitions against federal interference, including how states compare school performance and identify schools for support. For years, states grappled with a rigid accountability system imposed by Washington. The Every Student Succeeds Act turns the page on that failed approach and restores these decisions back to state and local leaders. I urge you, Mr. Secretary, to adopt a final proposal that fully reflects the letter and spirit of the law. 

We are raising these concerns because it’s vitally important for the laws written by Congress to be faithfully executed. And just as importantly, we are raising these concerns because we want to ensure every child has the best chance to receive a quality education. We cannot go back to the days when the federal government dictated national education policy—it didn’t work then and won’t work now.

If the department refuses to follow the letter and intent of the law, you will prevent state leaders, like Dr. Pruitt from Kentucky, from doing what’s right for their school districts. You will deny superintendents, like Dr. Schuler of Arlington Heights, Illinois, the ability to manage schools in a way that meets the needs of their local communities. And you will make it harder for teachers, like Cassie Harrelson from Aurora, Colorado, to serve the best interests of the students in their classrooms.

Later, we will hear from these individuals because they represent the people we want to empower. Every child in every school deserves an excellent education, and the only way to achieve that goal is to restore state and local control. That’s what the Every Student Succeeds Act is intended to do, and we will use every tool at our disposal to ensure the letter and intent of the law are followed.

WEIC Bills Bypass Senate Education Committee And Go Straight To Senate Executive Committee, Bad News For House Bill 399

Could this have been what that meeting in Governor Markell’s office at Legislative Hall was about after the WEIC redistricting House vote?  It turns out the two WEIC bills, House Joint Resolution #12 and House Bill #424, will not have to go through the Senate Education Committee.  Instead, they are going to the Senate Executive Committee.

The Senate Education Committee is the designated committee these bills should have gone to.  I looked in the Senate Rules from Senate Resolution #3 and there is nothing in there that states a bill can be petitioned out of committee unless it is not heard in committee for 12 consecutive legislative days.  And it has to be agreed upon by the majority of the full Senate.  While there could be a stipulation in Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedures (which is the go-to guide in case something isn’t covered in the rules), I find it very unusual they would skip that step.  The only scenario I can think of is there won’t be another Senate Education Committee from now until June 30th.  Which I just confirmed is the case.  The President Pro Tempore of the Senate is the one that assigns bills to a committee when they come from the House.  So Senator Patti Blevins is the one that assigned this to the Senate Executive Committee.

The members of the Senate Executive Committee are as follows: Senator Blevins (D) (Chair), Senator Henry (D), Senator Lavelle (R), Senator McBride (D), Senator McDowell (D), and Senator Simpson (R).  That is four Democrats and two Republicans folks.  Which means if all those Dems vote yes for release from committee it will go to a full Senate vote.

If the Senate Education Committee is NOT meeting again this year, that could have a huge impact on bills still in the House or recently passed in the House.  Like House Bill 399, the teacher evaluation bill, or House Bill 435, the charter school audit bill which faces a full House vote today.  House Bill 399 was assigned to the Senate Education Committee so there would have to be a suspension of rules to get it to a full Senate vote.  Which can only happen if the Chair of the Senate Education Committee requests it.  That would be Senator David Sokola…

It must be the last week of June in Delaware folks!  Shenanigans rule the day!