A Believable Falsehood

And Jackie Kook gets her blog on! Powerful stuff Jackie!

Minding My Matters

My morning went quite well… For about 90 seconds.

The first thing I did was check my messages for news on House Bill 399, the legislation that was inspired by the work of the DPAS II Advisory Sub-Committee. Upon seeing that it had been passed with amendments, I was thrilled. At 2:30 am, I was expecting amendments, though I had not seen the amendments that sent the bill back to the House, where it was approved in the wee small hours of the night, until they were linked in a blog post by Exceptional Delaware. Even the inimitable News Journal reporter Matt Albright hadn’t gone into the depth of explanation that sent me from excited to incensed in a very short span of time when I read the amendment.

Frankly, I expected the amendment clarifying the administrator’s role in approving the goals set, and I don’t really have an issue…

View original post 2,150 more words

House Bill 399 Senate Transcript Part 1: Sokola Gets His Pinocchio On

Senator David Sokola did not present the entire truth to the Delaware Senate last night when he gave his introductory remarks to House Bill 399 and introduced an amendment to the bill.  I immediately saw what he was doing and it worked because the amendment which completely changed the original bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate.  I find this legislative process, with no one able to rebut or correct Sokola’s statements a serious flaw in our law-making process.

His remarks concerned the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee, forged out of legislation last year.  The group met last fall and this winter to come up with new recommendations in the DPAS-II evaluation system for Delaware teachers.  The group had many recommendations, but the sticking point with the Delaware Department of Education was an administrator not having the final say for which assessment to use in the Component V of DPAS-II.  They didn’t feel as though teachers and an administrator should have an adult conversation and be able to mutually agree on this.  I wrote extensively about what happened during the last few sub-committee meetings and it completely contradicts the version Sokola gave his peers in the Delaware Senate.  As well, in reaction to comments given by ex-Delaware DOE employee Atnre Alleyne at the Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, one of the chairs of the sub-committee gave her version of other events transpiring out of those meetings.  In return, Atnre had many things to say about House Bill 399 in the past week.  He was absolutely right on one point:

But if anyone is paying attention, this is the week when powerful interest groups take the unsuspecting masses to school. It is the last week of Delaware’s legislative session and while most are ruminating on 4th of July plans, pressure groups are seeing their bills breeze by on their way to becoming law.

What he fails to distinguish is how he himself represents several public interest groups which I have referred to numerous times as corporate education reform.  Stacked to the brim with flawed research and reports, they manipulate the masses into thinking teachers are bad and the unions will make sure they stay in schools no matter how bad they are.  I may have had issues with the Delaware State Education Association over opt out last winter (to which I admittedly overreacted), but I think most can agree that if a teacher is really bad, they most likely aren’t going to be around for too long.  Is there such a thing as a perfect teacher?  Probably not.  We are, after all, only human.  No one is perfect.  But I will stress, once again, that anything using a monstrosity like the Smarter Balanced Assessment as an indicator of a student or a teacher’s performance is the high point of insanity.  But Senator David Sokola doesn’t seem to care about that aspect, as indicated by the below remarks he gave the Delaware Senate last night:

Sokola: Thank you Madam President. I’m going to talk very briefly about House Bill 399 before going to the amendment.  It was, the process of the DPAS II Advisory Committee was to, uhm, set up, uh, in the past from House Joint Resolution #6.  And we had various stakeholders who, uhm, met quite a few times, as well as a sub-committee, uh, to this group to look at the evaluation of, uhm, teachers.  Uhm, that, uhm, process got a little discombobulated towards the end of the process, and uhm, there were a number of versions of a bill drafter over a period of a few weeks.  And I was not satisfied at, at that.  Various groups were continuing to meet, and discuss, to try to come to a consensus on the issues. So, uh, with that in mind I would like to ask that Senate Amendment #1 to House Bill #399 be read and brought to the Senate.

Senator Patti Blevins: Senate Amendment #1 is before the Senate. Senator Sokola…

Sokola: Thank you Madam President. This amendment actually does a few things.  The one that it does is it does give the administrator final say on components, the components of the teacher evaluation process.  Dr. Susan Bunting (Superintendent of Indian River School District and Chair of the DPAS-II Advisory Committee) had, uh, sent a letter to the education committee for the last meeting.  That was very important.  It turned out a number of the proponents in the bill as it was indicated that they thought, uhm, uh, that was the intent of the bill anyhow.  I made a suggestion that we make that very clear in the amendment.  This amendment does clarify that the administrator does maintain the final say or discretion to determine whether the state standardized assessment should be used as part of the educator’s evaluation.  It also clarifies proposed changes to DPAS-II evaluation system as recommended, uhm, intended to be piloted in three education institutions over a work period of two years.  It has an input, information and deletes section 7 of the bill in its entirety.  Are there, uhm, any questions?  I’ll attempt to answer them.  Otherwise I’d like to ask for a roll call on Senate Amendment 1.

Roll call on Senate Amendment #1: 18 yes, 2 no, 1 absent

Sokola makes it sound like the consensus issues were within the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee.  They were not.  It was between the group’s recommendation and outside groups, like PACE, which was meeting with Alleyne and former Teacher Leader and Effectiveness Unit Chief Chris Ruszkowski in the weeks prior to their engagement with the committee.  To say Alleyne had a bias would be an understatement.  He and Ruszkowski were the two main guys at the DOE for the DPAS-II having Component V in it to begin with.

What Sokola never mentioned in his remarks and with little time for every Senator on the floor to read the full and lengthy amendment while discussion was also going on about the amendment, was a brand-new insertion into the legislation.  This insertion was to include student and parent surveys in the pilot program.  This drew the ire of teachers all across the state today if social media is any indication.  This idea came from Atnre Alleyne in his many comments and blog posts about this bill.  But Sokola took all the credit for it on Mike Matthews Facebook page today:

MikeFBa

MikeFBb

MikeFBc

MikeFBd

MikeFBe

 

To be continued in Part 2 dealing with a 2nd amendment, heartburn, and more!

 

Can-Kicker Jack Letter Is NOT A Guarantee Of Funding

On June 29th, Delaware Governor Jack Markell wrote a letter to State Representatives Charles Potter and Stephanie Bolden and State Senator Margaret-Rose Henry.  In the letter he expressed his regret at not being able to “fully support” the funding for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan and how he expects to appropriate $7.5 million in his recommended FY2018 budget in January, 2017.  Later in the letter he states he will appropriate the funding in his recommended budget.  Back in September of 2014, Markell issued an Executive Order which created the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee which issued recommendations that became WEIC.  By doing so, through Executive Order, that should have been his FULL support.  Instead, he kicked the can down the road because he wasn’t able to give this his “full support”.

I’ve always wondered what the deal was with this.  It happened as Christina and Red Clay were calling for the DOE’s throat over the priority schools.  Constituents were pissed and the above-mentioned legislators, along with others, pleaded with Governor Markell to do something.  I firmly believe the entire WEIC redistricting plan was the official reaction to the priority schools.  But did Jack bite off more than he could chew with this?  By essentially creating all of this, it brought city advocates for under-served, under-funded, and high-needs city children to the forefront of Delaware education conversation.  It quickly became clear that much more was needed than the state would be able to deliver.  In hindsight though, it did force us as a state to renew conversations about race, education, funding, economic class, discrimination, and so much more.  Before the budget vote, State Rep. Stephanie Bolden explained how we are all neighbors in Delaware and what happens in Wilmington has a trickle-down effect to the rest of the state.  The opposite could be said though.  What doesn’t happen downstate affects the entire state.  It is my hope that as WEIC uses their extra year of planning that they add Kent and Sussex County voices to these essential conversations.

I don’t trust Markell to keep his word.  By the time he submits this budget, his time as Governor is done.  He will be sailing off to his next destination (for which I will be happy unless it lands him at the US DOE).  But even if he does, that is no guarantee that 1) the money will be there in a year, 2) the Joint Finance Committee will appropriate it, or 3) The General Assembly will approve it in the budget bill for FY2018.  This is not, by far, a done deal.

markell7.5millionpromise

Teacher Evaluation, Charter School Audits, & WEIC Extension Pass The General Assembly

It was a wild and crazy night-morning at Legislative Hall in Dover.  I can honestly say I have never bounced back between the Senate and the House as much as I did in the past six hours.  But some of my “must list” legislation passed.  Some with changes and some intact.

House Bill 399 passed but not without some amendments and an odd conversation about teachers and a comment Jack Markell made years ago in the Senate.  Senator Colin Bonini talked about how Governor Markell gave a speech on the Senate floor many years ago and told everyone only 19% of students in Delaware were college and career ready.  But yet our teachers were rated 99% effective.  He couldn’t grasp these facts.  He said he would support the bill.  But then Senator Dave Lawson spoke against the bill and said the system isn’t working.  The bill passed with 19 yes and 2 no votes.  The no votes were from Senators Lawson and Henry.  The amendments added on can be seen here and here.  Apparently, this was the only way it was going to pass.  In looking at the first amendment, they changed a lot and many teachers won’t be happy about those changes.  But this was the compromise reached.  Will Governor Markell sign the bill?  We shall see.  I did speak briefly with Secretary of Education Godowsky and asked him if he thought they were good amendments and he said yes.

After four previous bills, the Kumbaya compromise charter school audit bill, House Bill 435, passed the Senate in the wee hours of the morning.  It hadn’t been on the agenda for the Senate.  I emailed Senator Sokola, and it appeared on there a few minutes later.  It passed soon after.

And the WEIC redistricting plan.  I thought rigor mortis was setting in on this plan, but it rose from the ashes.  A crucial amendment by State Rep. Kim Williams which deleted some of the unnecessary language in Senate Bill #300 seemed to be what is going to keep that train chugging.  This is what happened: WEIC is still alive, and they will plan for another year.  The $7.5 million initially requested in the final recommendations has been appropriated for FY2018.  But I will get to more of that after a message from Tony Allen, the Chair of WEIC:

Delaware General Assembly Affirms the Commission’s Plan
Governor commits the “necessary and sufficient funds” for next year
Commission suspends timeline

Tonight, an older African American woman stopped me on the Senate Floor and said “if you believe in this, you keep fighting on.” We did!

As the 148th Delaware General Assembly legislative session ended, the House and Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 17, an interim affirmation of the Delaware State Board of Education’s approval of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan and Senate Bill 300, which clarifies the funding implications and supports further analysis by the Commission.

In a related action, Governor Markell committed to put no less than $7.5 million in his FY 2018 plan to support the Commission’s plan, specifically to begin to change the 70-year old student funding formula. In a letter to the Wilmington delegation, Markell said, “I am proud to have worked alongside you in these efforts and pleased to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of the funds necessary and sufficient to fund the first year of implementation of the proposals of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, specifically an amendment to the unit count that would carry additional support for low-income students, English Language Learners and students with special needs statewide.”

Earlier this morning, I noted that because the “necessary and sufficient” funding has not yet been provided that we will immediately call on the Commission to suspend the timetable for implementing its plan.

While I am disappointed with several aspects of this legislative season, SJR17 allows the Commission to fight another day. After 62 years of waiting, fight on we will. The Commission is wholly committed to reducing the fragmentation and dysfunction caused by 23 different school systems currently serving Wilmington children, less than 10% of Delaware’s student population. In addition, the Commission will continue to focus attention on the needs of low-income students, English language learners, and other students with special needs in Wilmington and throughout Delaware. That includes meeting the non-instructional needs of these students, engaging empowered parents in school reform, and changing the antiquated funding system for students and schools that has for many years created sustained inequities dating back to well before Brown v Board of Education (1954). I am grateful to the 22 other commissioners, the previous members of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, and the more than 10,000 community members who have been participating in this process.

I urge your continued resolve.

There are some key words in this, especially Markell saying “to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of funds…  That isn’t a guarantee that the next Governor will do the same or that the 149th General Assembly will either.  We don’t know what the state’s financial picture will be a year from now.  But for now, WEIC lives after most thought it was dead and buried.  I find it odd that Allen talks about how 23 different school systems serve Wilmington students but the WEIC plan would only reduce that to 22.  Granted, Christina has a lot of Wilmington students, but that is still a lot students going to other districts or charters.  I will see what this additional year of planning will produce.  But it looks like I am not done writing about WEIC despite what I wrote earlier today.   I talked to Rep. Charles Potter after the vote and he said this isn’t what he wanted, but it keeps WEIC alive and it is about the students.

Senate Bill 93 passed, one of two Autism bills introduced last year.  Senate Bill 92, however, was another victim of funding issues in the state.  An amendment was added to Senate Bill 93 in the House which got rid of the Senate Amendment that had the DOE getting involved.  The Autism community in Delaware felt that was an unwelcome presence.  Good for them!

It was a long second half of the 148th General Assembly.  House Bill 50 had two shots to override the Governor’s veto in the House of Representatives and it failed both times.  But I want to thank Rep. John Kowalko for trying and standing up for parents.  I respect and admire him for doing that.  Had the House ever been able to actually vote on the override, I believe it would have passed.  The fact that they were never able to get to that point shows the will of the Governor influencing certain members of the House in very inappropriate ways.  My other “dream legislation”, House Bill 30, which would have finally given students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade considered to be “basic special education” students, never received a full House vote despite coming out of the House Appropriations Committee weeks ago.  I know Rep. Kim Williams fought hard for that bill.  I still remember when she first told me about it a year and a half ago and I truly felt it was a no-brainer.  For both of those bills, the 149th General Assembly will tell the tale on opt out and special education funding.

I will write more over the next few days about all the bills that passed and those that are now dead.  In the meantime, Happy Fiscal New Year 2017!

Legislation Heading Into July 1st

I went to the Wilmington Blue Rocks game earlier tonight and now I am at Legislative Hall.  The Delaware Senate defeated the WEIC redistricting legislation, HJR #12 with 6 yes and 15 no votes.  But they passed the new SJR #17 and SB #300 which kicks the can down the road and makes WEIC plan more.  There is a chance WEIC could continue based on a lot of stuff I heard involving amendments and very certain conditions which I didn’t completely understand.  Don’t get your hopes up too much though.

Kim Williams charter school audit bill is on the Senate ready list.  I wish I could tell you what the heck is on the agenda, but right now it says nothing and we all know that isn’t the case!  But the Senate and the House are in Caucus right now, so I haven’t seen Sneaky Pete or Val yet.  Went outside and talked to the one and only Danny Rufo next to the “tiki bar” outside.

House is back in session.  Sneaky Pete waved at someone up in the balcony.  I didn’t know who, so I waved back.  Val came in and was talking w/Sneaky Pete and then looked up at me with a kind of sort of smile.  I smiled back.  I heard Jack summoned Tony Allen and Kenny Rivera to come to the office to talk WEIC.  Hearing it is still on life support but might be coming off it soon.  It is now July 1st.  No word on HB #435 (charter audit bill).  Earl told me the Senate will be putting an amendment on HB #399 (teacher evaluation bill) and he hopes it comes back to the House.  Now they are going to work on Senate Joint Resolution #17, the latest WEIC bill.

There is a motion to suspend rules on SJR #17.  Passed, 22 yes, 17 no, 2 absent.  Rep. Collins talked about the letter from Red Clay and Christina asking them not to move forward.  Rep. J. Johnson said things have worked out and the districts are okay with the compromise reached (this was the meeting in Jack Markell’s office).  I have to wonder who on the Red Clay and Christina school districts are okay with this.  But it passed, with 22 yes and 17 no, 2 absent.  Okay, I’m going to stop writing two absent for every damn bill because they are going to be absent the rest of the night!  Now we are onto SB #300, the second WEIC bill covered in July, 2016.  Kim Williams put an amendment on it.  Amendment to SB #300  State Rep. Miro is asking about the possibility of Red Clay suspending the plan at their next board meeting.  Tony Allen was called up.  Tony said if this doesn’t move forward he will be suspending the plan right after the vote.  Something is up here.  Something isn’t right.  There is bait in the water, but I’m not sure who is biting.

State Rep. Mike Ramone asked what the $200,000 is for in the amendment and SB #300.  Tony said it would be to fund the commission moving forward.  Tony said the prior funding for the WEAC and WEIC books came from companies, donations, and even the Chair of WEIC (Tony Allen himself).  Kowalko asked Tony if this is similar to an architect, needing planning.  Tony said yes.  Senate Bill #300 w/Amendment #1 passes, 21 yes, 18 no.  The plan moves forward.  I don’t know what the hell any of this means.  Someone needs to explain it to me.

Heading over to the Senate now.  HB #399 is on the agenda.  And SB #300 has to come back to the Senate because the House put an amendment on it.  They are doing other bills so I’ll update on other bills during the wait.  Absolutely nothing on HB #30 (basic spec. ed. funding for K-3 students).  The School Breakfast bill is up in the Senate (HB #408 w/House Amendment #2).

And my battery died.  To be continued in a new post!