Delaware Youth In Government President Madeline Campbell’s Speech To The Delaware General Assembly

Every once in a while, when I’m down at Legislative Hall, I get to witness something really good happening.  That happened today.  I saw Madeline Campbell, the Delaware Youth In Government President, give a speech to the entire Delaware House of Representatives.  Prior to that, she did the same thing in front of the Delaware Senate.  If you know much about public speaking, it can be intimidating to do in front of a class or a group of people.  To do it in front of an entire legislative body is something else.  To do it at her age is phenomenal!  Campbell did an awesome job with her delivery.  It is kids like Campbell who represent the future of Delaware!

With Madeleine and her Mom’s permission, I present the speech she gave to the Delaware Senate and the Delaware House of Representatives today:

Hello! My name is Madeline Campbell, and I am a senior at Newark High School. Over the course of the last year, I have had the honor and privilege to serve the State of Delaware as the 49th Youth Governor to the Delaware Youth in Government program.

Some of you might not know this, but every April 16th middle and high school students fill these chambers, as well as the courthouse and create a mock government. There are five separate components to our program. The House of Commons which is our middle school group, the judicial branch which functions as an appellate court, the lobbyist corp who all represent different companies in our state, the press corp which documents our entire conference, and last but not least, our legislative branch which is broken up in to two separate House chambers, and a Senate.

Before our delegates get to Legislative Hall, they have weekly meetings at their schools or their local YMCAs to prepare for our conference. Students work for months to draft legislation to combat an issue that they see in our state. This year, topics ranged from education reforms, teacher support, expansion of opportunities for ELL students and deaf students, dark money groups and their involvement in political campaigns, bioremediation, gun control, abortions, and mental health care. To see students my age that are passionate about topics that affect not only our state, but our nation as a whole is truly inspiring. We look at problems in a fresh light, and bring a perspective to the table that not a lot of adults might think of.

This year, there were two key pieces of legislation that I thought stood out above the rest.

The first, is entitled the Gun Safety Act, and it was written by a delegate at Salesianum High School. The intent of his bill was to “increase gun control measures in the State of Delaware, requiring owners of handguns, rifles, and shotguns to receive a permit to own a firearm. Said permit shall be contingent upon passing a gun safety course, and firearms transfers shall not occur before a permit is obtained. The bill also prohibits magazines above a certain size depending on the type of fire arm.” The legislation put specific requirements on who could legally obtain a license for a gun. Anyone under the age of 18 would not be granted permission to own a long arm and anyone under the age of 21 would not be permitted to own a hand gun. Additionally, any person convicted of a violent felony, or anyone who had previously been committed to a hospital or sanitarium for a mental disorder would be barred from obtaining a permit. The penalties for obtaining a gun or magazine illegally would be either jail time or a heavy fine, depending on the severity of the case.

The second piece of legislation that caught my attention this year was entitled “An Act to Make Delaware a Sanctuary State”, and was also written by a delegate from Salesianum High School. The purpose of this delegate’s bill was to strengthen Delawarean communities by restricting the acquisition of information about immigration status by local and state agencies and to limit the communication of immigration status to federal immigration agencies. This legislation hopes to bar state and local law enforcement agencies from using any department money, facilities, property, equipment or personnel to investigate, interrogate or arrest any persons for immigration reasons. The legislation also does not prevent the state agencies from sharing already public information with federal authorities, if they ask.

These two bills stood out the most to me, because these delegates attempted to solve issues that our own legislature struggles with. As I sat up in the balcony and watched debate happen on these bills, I was worried that students would get emotional and heated, and let their feelings control the debate instead of their minds. But that never happened. When I watched my peers debate on these topics I saw nothing but respect. No, not every person in the chambers agreed, but they argued passionately and disagreed respectfully, and that matters more than whether or not both of these pieces of legislation passed.

The character that I saw in these chambers, from students my own age, is my favorite aspect of youth in government. Yes, we are a program that teaches students about politics and the legislative process, but that is not all we are. We are a program that prides ourselves on upholding the four core values of the YMCA: Honesty, caring, responsibility, and respect. We are a program that teaches students how to care about issues, and then fight for those issues. We are a program that teaches students that they have a voice in our state, and that their voice matters. We are a program that teaches students that politics is about the people, not about the party. We are a program, that is building the future of this state, and for that I could not be more proud.

I would like to thank the following people for investing in the future of our state by sponsoring students in the Youth in Government program: Senator Brian Bushweller, Senator Anthony DelCollo, Senator Bruce Ennis, Senator Margaret Rose Henry, Senator Bryan Townsend, Senator Jack Walsh, Rep John Viola, Rep Paul Baumbach, Rep Deb Hudson, Rep Ruth Briggs-King, and Rep Kim Williams.

For those of you that have not gotten the chance to come see what Youth in Government is all about, I would like to invite you to pop in next Spring, and see what we are all about. I promise you will be blown away by the caliber of greatness that the students of our state possess.

Thank you for all for your time, and for allowing me to give you a little glimpse of what the Delaware Youth in Government program is all about.

 

 

**UPDATED**Christina Public Comment By Board Member Alleges Involvement Of Other Board Members In Hate Emails

I don’t normally take down blog posts.  I have sometimes done so in the past, but it is not the norm.  I have received information in the past that I have never written about since it was a matter best dealt with by the authorities.  Given that the matter I wrote about in this article is potentially a part of a current police investigation, I have chosen to take the post down.  If I feel the situation bears putting it up again, I will certainly do so.  Thank you for understanding.

 

 

Breaking: State Board of Education Not Released From Sunset Committee

I don’t have all the details yet, but the Delaware State Board of Education is being held for another year in the Delaware Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee.  There are several areas of concern the committee still has with the State Board of Education.  I also heard someone from the State Board of Education named John Marinucci as the State Board’s contact person for all Delaware school boards.  Marinucci is the Executive Director of the Delaware School Boards Association.  Only 15 out of the 19 school districts in Delaware belong to that organization.  None of the Delaware charter schools do either.  So how could Marinucci possibly represent all the school boards to the State Board of Education?  Anyone who has been around the State Board of Education knows who acts as a liaison between Delaware charter school boards and them- Kendall Massett, the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.

As soon as I know more, I will update this article.  I heard this on the fly from several people while I was down at Legislative Hall today.  Actually, I heard a lot of things down there today!  All I can say is get ready for an absolutely crazy time from now until June 30th (July 1st for those who know how things work in Dover).  If you think the conversation is heated now, strap your seatbelt on and get ready for an insane ride until the end of the legislative session!

Will Executive Director Donna Johnson and the State Board of Education meet the requirements to get out of Sunset review?  I guess we have to wait until next year!  But the fact they are being held over until then means they did not satisfy the committee.  Meanwhile, long-time State Board of Education receptionist Danielle Moore is retiring at the end of June.  I’ve seen Danielle probably hundreds of times between the Townsend Building and Legislative Hall.  She is an awesome lady and is always courteous and genuine.  Best of luck on your future endeavors Danielle!

Christina Board of Education Unanimously Passes Resolution Condemning Governor Carney’s Proposed Education Cuts

Last night, the Christina Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution concerning Governor John Carney’s proposed FY2018 budget for Delaware.  The resolution encourages all Delaware legislators in New Castle County to reject Carney’s proposed education cuts.  The FY2018 budget has to get through the Joint Finance Committee and will then go to the149th Delaware General Assembly in the final days of legislative session in late June.

Expect more of this in the days and weeks to come.  The reaction from Delaware teachers, educators, parents, citizens, schools, districts, and school boards is getting louder by the day.  Especially when teachers are getting pink slips.  Last night at a forum about the budget at the Delmar Fire Station, even Carney acknowledged these are bad choices.  I have to think, with all the perks inserted into the epilogue language of the state budget every year, there is room for unnecessary programs in our state to get the chopping block.  If Carney wants our state to be competitive, forcing schools into no-win situations involving less money is not the way to go.  This wasn’t a bad choice, it was a horrible choice.

Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal Hates Parents Just Like Jack Markell Does! State Rep. Earl Jaques Pretends New Opt Out Legislation Doesn’t Exist!

Diane Ravitch just wrote about Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal’s veto of opt-out legislation that passed the Georgia General Assembly.  This immediately reminded me of Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s horrible veto of House Bill 50 in the summer of 2015.  Say, State Rep. Earl Jaques, why the hell hasn’t the new opt out legislation, House Bill 60, been put on the agenda for the House Education Committee.  You promised me it would be over two months ago.  Guess it isn’t a priority for YOU so it won’t get on there.  Being the Chair of the Delaware House Education Committee means allowing all education bills to be heard in committee.

Opt out is alive and well.  I may not write about it as much, but it is still happening.  New York continues to have terrific opt out numbers.  It won’t be until July or so until we find out Delaware’s opt out numbers for this year.  That is when the Delaware Dept. of Education releases all the Smarter Balanced information from this year.

Down in Georgia, Jeb Bush’s insane Foundation for Excellence in Education jumped on the veto bandwagon.  Ravitch quoted the Atlanta Journal-Constituion:

“The proposal would have harmed students and teachers by denying access to measurements that track progress on standardized assessments,” the advocacy group, founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said in a statement. “Maintaining a transparent and accountable measurement systems is critical to ensuring students are on track to succeed in college and beyond — and indicates how successful schools are in preparing students for the future.”

Hey Jeb, we don’t want progress on standardized assessments, we just want regular student progress.  These flawed and meaningless tests don’t provide that.  They feed the data whore beasts and waste a crapload of time in our schools.  They stress kids out and the tests are used to label and shame teachers and schools.  Enough already!

Red Clay’s Super Merv Writes Letter To Community About Budget Cuts & Deficits

In a week of somber news around Delaware in the wake of pending teacher and educator layoffs, districts are scrambling to figure out their budgets for next year.  Through this blog and other social media sources, citizens of the state are growing concerned about teachers losing their jobs and classrooms becoming more bloated than they already are.  In response to this public outcry, Red Clay Consolidated Superintendent Dr. Mervin Daugherty wrote a letter to the community about what this means for the district and the community.

I’ve seen many Delawareans giving Governor John Carney a pass on this since he inherited most of this mess from former Governor Jack Markell.  But his almost boneheaded solutions could make the situation much worse for citizens across the state.  In the coming weeks, I will be going through last year’s budget as well as the proposed budget for FY2018.  I will also recommend areas across districts and charter schools where funding should be cut or consolidated without losing teachers.  I will present these recommendations and findings to the General Assembly and Governor Carney.  I am sure it won’t be in any official capacity, but I will do so all the same.  Any input or recommendations from the general public will be most welcome!

Mike Matthews On Personalized Learning And Digital Technology In The Classroom

The upcoming Delaware State Education Association President, Mike Matthews, just wrote an excellent post on Facebook about the rise of digital technology and personalized learning in the classroom.  His post was in response to the recent announcements by various Delaware school districts of Reduction in Workforce notices going out to schools based on Governor John Carney’s proposed budget for FY2018.

For the past several years, personalized and blended learning have been strong dialogue points in education circles. The thinking behind personalized and blending learning is that it offers different environments to meet students’ needs for learning. One of those environments is digital, where some of the learning is done on devices as opposed to direct teacher instruction or small-group instruction.

There is a belief out there by some that many education reformers and corporatists are supporting personalized and blended learning because, ultimately, it could reduce personnel costs by getting rid of large numbers of teachers. Me? I’m a fan of “personalized learning” in a very basic sense: that all learning, in effect, should be personalized to meet student needs. However, I am beginning to have some concerns with the personalized and blended learning information I’m seeing as well as the propagation of 1:1 devices in classrooms across the state.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Technology is a must in today’s digital environment and students MUST be exposed to its responsible use. However, eight years ago, then-Gov. Jack Markell made a series of devastating cuts to education. And we still haven’t recuperated from that.

Governor John Carney is proposing a series of devastating cuts to his education budget now. We never saw Gov. Markell’s cuts come back to education. Will we see Gov. Carney’s cuts come back if they’re passed by the legislature? Will these layoffs — these hundreds of human beings about to lose their jobs — be victims to technology because it’s cheaper to purchase a Chromebook than it is to pay a teacher’s salary?

Two years ago, I had a very open mind about personalized learning when I was president of the Red Clay Education Association and some fellow members introduced me to personalized learning. And, to an extent, I’m still VERY open to what personalized learning is and can be. I made sure to share with those teachers that at no time should personalized learning EVER be seen as a means to layoff and cut teachers in our schools and the they agreed with that. However, I’m concerned that these heartless and cruel layoffs coming could only grow worse as policymakers embrace the idea that technology can do cheaper or better what humans can for children.

I will never accept a world where computers take the place of living, breathing, caring human beings. We must fight like hell to bring these positions back to our school districts as quickly as possible. Anything less should be cause for direct, organized action by educators and the public that supports us across the state.

Amen Mike, Amen!  With that being said, the reaction of the state and local education associations to this technology push in our classroom will be instrumental in making sure that future never comes to pass.  DSEA will have to be at the front of the line opposing this future.  When Mike said “some believe”, those numbers are growing fast and it isn’t just a belief.  It is happening in districts across the country and it will happen here if we don’t get enough educators, parents, citizens, and students to fight it.

In Delaware, the Rodel Teacher Council has been pushing personalized learning a lot in the past couple months.  They met with legislators and the State Board of Education.  As I have said many times, I don’t believe these teachers are the bad guys.  But I don’t trust Rodel at all.  For the life of me, with everything I’ve written, I can’t understand why these teachers continue to listen to Rodel and do their bidding.  These teachers spend a lot of time working for Rodel with little to no pay for their time and effort.  At the end of the day, Rodel is a corporation.  They may say they are a non-profit, but when their CEO Dr. Paul Herdman makes over $350,000 a year, that gives me considerable pause.

The personalized learning push goes beyond computers replacing teachers though.  There is the matter of massive exposure to screen time and what kind of effects that has on students.  There is the massive amount of data collection.  There is the presumption by many that the algorithms in many of these apps and learning programs are being used to push students toward certain types of future careers.  There is the competency-based education aspect of it all that has a severe danger of putting at-risk students even further behind than their peers.  While I don’t expect many to get this yet, they soon will.  Right now, I am John the Baptist, wandering around in the wilderness warning everyone.  A madman?  No.  One who would rather prophet for students than profit from students?  Yes.