In less than 20 hours, Delaware’s new Governor will be sworn in. Jack Markell’s eight-year term as the Governor of Delaware will end. I’ve seen reviews of his term all over Delaware and social media in the past week or so. I believe it is no secret that I view his education initiatives as an unmitigated disaster. But were they?
If there is one thing Governor Markell was a master of, it was the craft of illusion. He had an uncanny ability to sell the most diluted facts and spin them into gold. This is why he will be known as a corporate Governor. The people bought his education stances. At least enough that they didn’t do enough about it. The opt out debate was probably my biggest battle with the Governor. Two sides. One won. The other didn’t. I concede that defeat to Governor Markell. I did not have the power or the ability to manipulate decision-makers. I still believe in opt out. I believe it is a parental choice that cannot be swayed by any law or regulation. Which is also why Jack Markell never made it illegal. As I said all along, there is nothing in state or federal law prohibiting a parent from opting their child out of the state assessment. To do so would be political suicide and even Jack knew that. Time will tell if Jack’s opposition to opt out even matters as the once a year test will assuredly become a series of stealth assessments throughout the year.
I actually saw Markell less than ten times. The first time was also my first visit to Legislative Hall. It was June, 2014. I promised Kilroy I would help with the all boards must record legislation. When I got there, Markell was talking to ROTC students in the House Chamber. They were asking him questions. One of the students asked him about his stance on charter schools. Markell said he is not opposed to charter schools but felt bad ones should close. The next time I saw him was at the Imagine Delaware education forum in March, 2015. He came and gave a quick speech and left. Next was the day of the Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month in May of 2015. I will never forget as he asked my son his name and he had a puzzled look. Then I introduced myself and I saw that perma-smile twitch a bit. The irony of the pictures taken that day gave many a good laugh. I didn’t see him for a long time after that. Not until his last State of the State speech. A legislator invited me to the speech. Markell has always been a great orator. I just don’t agree with him on his messages most of the time. A couple of weeks later, he attended the Pathways to Prosperity event at Del Tech. He gave a speech at the beginning. I remember him walking around before it started looking for someone to talk to. Following that, I saw him a few months later on the second to last day of the legislative session last June. He came through the hallway with his bodyguard like his pants were on fire. He had a very serious and stern look on his face. But he looked at me as I looked up and said hello. The last time I saw Jack in person was at the House Bill 399 signing at his Wilmington office. I crashed the signing but he invited me to the table and asked for my thoughts on the bill. As much bad press as I’ve given him, he didn’t have to do that but he did. So I thank him for that inclusion.
Purely in terms of education, I have no doubt Jack Markell will be remembered for his education stances. I don’t think history will be too kind to him on that front but I don’t believe that will matter to him. He honored his constituents. The problem was that he forgot who his constituents really were, the people of Delaware. Instead he honored the lobbyists and corporate education reformers who always had some new plan in the education fix-it get rich schemes that the Governor led through the door like pirates on a Somalian trading ship. Those were the voices that mattered more to Markell than what all the teachers and parents were saying. It’s a shame because with Markell’s persuasive personality he could have really been a force to be reckoned with had he been on the side of those fighting those pirates. Instead, we got Mark Murphy and the accountability soldiers at the Delaware Dept. of Education. I believe his greatest failure was allowing the DOE to move ahead with their priority schools public relations disaster.
My prediction? He is going to lay low for a while. I sincerely hope he takes a nice and long vacation. Let Governor Carney hit the ground running without interference from the last guy. Despite my many predictions about Markell’s post-Governor employment, I don’t think any of those predictions will happen. But I am sure we have not heard the last of Jack Markell.
While I didn’t get involved in Delaware politics until the last two and a half years of Markell’s second term, it was interesting to say the least. I pray I will never hear his worse time/right time speech ever again. We have all heard it, loud and clear. Message received. I plan on having some type of cordial relationship with John Carney. My shoot first ask questions later worked sometimes but it wasn’t the best approach at times. I will openly admit that. But I don’t mean to upstage your farewell post with Carney talk Governor Markell. Best of luck to you and Carla and, oddly enough, I do wish you the best. I’m sorry we never got to do those interviews I requested from you, but maybe one day we can meet for coffee and just have a real conversation.