Why Governor Carney’s $60 Million Plan Will Fail & Why Opt Out Is More Important Than Ever

Opt Out

Delaware State News said everything you need to know about Delaware Governor Carney’s plan to use $60 million dollars and why parents hold the key to stopping this madness:

Education officials, community groups and parents will annually evaluate how successful the programs and services implemented by schools are to determine what should and should not continue. The state plans to use the Smarter Balanced standardized test to determine whether more students are proficient in English and math as a result of the spending.

When asked about the future of that spending, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting told the Delaware Joint Finance Committee the following:

Education Secretary Susan Bunting replied that the state hopes to adjust the state’s education funding formula in the future to give more weight to disadvantaged students.

The key word in what Bunting said is “hopes”.  Delaware’s students don’t need hope.  They need results.  They need resources.  And the fact Carney and Bunting would dare to use a flawed assessment as a short-term fix to a long-term problem is frightening.

No one uses the words “opt out” anymore.  It is archaic in the education world just as Common Core is no longer used.  New words like “participation rate” and “the standards” are used with regularity.  The spirit of opt out in Delaware suffered a serious blow when the 148th General Assembly failed to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill #50 back in 2016.  Not even a month and a half later, it suffered a similar setback when the National PTA ordered the Delaware PTA to shut up about opt out.

Parents still opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But they are few and far between.  We don’t hear of schools failing to make the “mandated” 95% participation rate.  The penalty for not making it is so vague but Delaware doesn’t really care because every school makes it now.

We continue to use the Smarter Balanced Assessment standardized test as the barometer for school success.  The 2019 testing season begins again next month.  Governor Carney is holding a $60 million carrot to schools but they fail to understand their successful use of these funds is based on the assessment most of them loathe to give.  It is Race To The Top all over again.

What if school boards up and down the state, district and charter school alike, said no to Carney’s $60 million?  What if they said we don’t want you to use the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the method of measurement for how we use funds we should already have?  What if parents said “No more” and began the opt out movement again to show Governor Carney and his pals at Rodel and DelawareCAN that Delaware’s children can no longer be used as poker chips in the high-stakes testing arena?  If Rodel and DelawareCAN were truly in it for kids, they would support opt out at the highest levels.

It is time, past time, that parents started exercising their power and began opting their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  In numbers not seen before in Delaware.  Parents in New York do it in massive numbers that would make Delaware quake.  So why can’t parents do it here?  Is it the fact they just don’t know how bad this test is?  If that is the case, we need every single able-bodied parent in this state to know they can make that choice for their child.  And why it is a good one.  But they need to go a step further and share this with other parents.  It is time to give parent power the voice it can truly be.  We must not sit idly by while our state government capitulates to corporate interests and snake-oil salesmen promising us another vision that never succeeds.

There is more parents can do.  They can tell our legislators to stop bowing to those same corporate interests.  Some of them really should know better.  Like newly elected State Senator Laura Sturgeon.  Today, she sat at the table with Atnre Alleyne and DelawareCAN.  For those who may not be aware, Sturgeon beat long-standing Senator Greg Lavelle this year.  DelawareCAN donated money to Lavelle’s campaign.  The same DelawareCAN (which they will never admit to) that was instrumental to Mike Matthews’ resignation as President of DSEA.  The same Lavelle who signed a letter of support for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s nomination by President Donald Trump.  The same Donald Trump who made it a campaign promise to eliminate Common Core.  We can talk about a wall all we want but the wall between the haves and the have-nots that bad corporate education reform has made in America will turn students into complete drones in coming years.  We continue to use the apparatus of standardized tests to measure success.  It is built on a house of cards.

Sturgeon should know better.  As someone who sat on the Executive Committee of DSEA she knows exactly what bad education policy can and has done.  She knows the damage it does to the teaching profession as well as students.  Does this make her a Judas?  No.  But it does mean I have my eye on her and I will be watching every single education move she makes with renewed interest.  As the Chair of the Senate Education Committee she has significant power when it comes to education legislation.  She should not use that power to further the agendas of supposed non-profits like DelawareCAN.  It comes down to a matter of trust.  And we simply cannot afford to have yet another legislator who surrenders their principles for power.

Parents should not trust the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They should not trust any amount of funding that is tied to it.  While I think it would be wonderful for all schools to get the FULL funding our state should be giving to them, for low-income, ELL, and ALL special education students, it is disingenuous when it is tied to high-stakes testing.

Contact your legislators today and demand they change the legislative language around Governor Carney’s $60 million carrot.  Demand they reformulate House Bill #50 from 2015 and create legislation codifying a parent’s right to opt out.  It is never about permission.  They have that.  And parents, opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment the very first chance you get.  Just hand the Principal of your child’s school a letter saying their child WILL be opted out.  When they beg you to change your mind, put your child first and SAY NO.

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