Exceptional Delaware Endorses Sean Matthews For State Rep. District 10

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Sean Matthews is awesome.  I can’t put it any clearer.  The 1oth Representative District in Delaware has only one choice to make on September 13th: Sean Matthews.

I met Sean in the beginning days of the 148th General Assembly when he came in as a rookie.  He is always friendly and cordial.  I knew he was an educator and stood for many of the same things I do.  But he took the ball and ran with it.  During the House Bill 50/opt out saga, he was in front of the bill supporting it all the way.  This brought him in conflict with some of his Democrat peers in the House, but he didn’t give up.  When there was a question if the bill would die in the original House vote, Sean added an amendment to make it just the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  My proudest moment with Sean Matthews came in March of 2015.  The News Journal had an opposing views column on opt out, and Sean annihilated State Rep. Earl Jaques position on the issue.

But Sean’s accomplishments go beyond just House Bill 50.  He sponsored House Bill 157, signed by Governor Markell, which would change how potential patients are able to gather crucial information about freestanding emergency rooms.  He helped ease some of the burdens citizens face during snowstorms when they live near a school with House Bill 129, also signed by the Governor.  Matthews also sponsored a bill that may not seem important now but could save many lives down the road with House Bill 91.  If a student is opted out of immunizations based on religious beliefs, that student would be temporarily excluded from school in the event of an outbreak for what that student could have received a vaccine for.  That one was controversial, but it makes sense in the context of that kind of frightening scenario.  Sean also signed on as a sponsor on many education bills that I pushed for, including House Bill 30 (basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade) and House Bill 399 (the teacher evaluation bill that I am hearing Governor Markell will sign in the next few weeks).

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As an educator in the Brandywine School District, Sean knows exactly what kind of challenges students face.  He doesn’t buy into the education fixit talk we hear from so many in Delaware.  He knows what teachers need to be able to reach students so they can truly succeed.  Not by a standardized test, but by treating students as unique and creative kids.  He knows that poverty is not an excuse for teachers to do their best with low-income students, but it plays a crucial factor in brain development.  I remember hearing him on the Rick Jensen Show one afternoon when he talked about the actual physical effects of poverty on the human brain and how that can impact a student’s ability to learn effectively.

On June 30th, 2015, Sean and five other Democrats valiantly said no to the budget that year.  He knew this would draw criticism from some of his peers who believe a budget vote must always be yes.  But he stood his ground, and for that I respect him.  I would rather see someone vote no for the right reasons than vote yes for the wrong reasons.

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He was one of the key members on the Assessment Inventory Committee that advocated for including the Smarter Balanced Assessment as one of the tests to look at getting rid of.  In the education arena we live in under Governor Markell, Sean consistently stuck his neck out in the face of fierce opposition.  But he did so with style and grace.  I don’t know if he first coined the phrase “cash in the trash” but it was the first time I heard it.  This term refers to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on education reform that doesn’t really do anything for students or educators.

He is one of the younger and newer faces at Legislative Hall, but also one of the brightest.  Rookie House Reps aren’t always able to get a lot done during their first term.  But Matthews will be one to watch, that I can bank on.  We have only begun to see what Sean Matthews has to offer and I urge the citizens in the 10th District to vote for Sean next Tuesday, September 13th.  Dennis Williams had his time.  It passed in 2014 when something better came along.

16 To Watch In 2016: The Seans

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Both of the Seans in the Delaware House of Representatives have a lot in common.  They are both Democrat, they are both named Sean, they both voted against the budget last June, and they both began their first terms as State Representatives this year.  They both supported House Bill 50 in a big way.  They brought in a much-needed amount of fresh young blood to the General Assembly.  They are both up for re-election this year.  Both of them dealt with some controversial issues in 2015.

Sean Lynn’s biggest moment came during the debate of Senate Bill 40, the legislation designed to repeal the death penalty in Delaware.  According to Delaware Liberal, Lynn plans to attempt a suspension of House rules to bring the bill back from its own form of death: not coming out of the Judiciary Committee.  This could happen as early as January according to the article.  The death penalty is one of those issues in Delaware that keeps coming back, draws the ire of both sides, and doesn’t move forward.  Will Lynn’s attempt to reanimate the bill be the difference?  Time will tell.

Sean Matthews sponsored or co-sponsored many education bills in the General Assembly.  He enjoyed moderate success with these bills, which helped to land him a slot on the assessment inventory task force stemming from Senate Joint Resolution #2.  As one of the key players in this group, Matthews will be the voice of reason in a group filled with many who lean toward Governor Markell’s way of thinking with state assessments.  Time will tell if this group can get rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, but I doubt it.

Both of the Seans will have their hands full with the rest of their own party.  As part of the “Six” who voted against the budget last year, along with State Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Kowalko and Williams, many in their party felt it was a mighty bold move for two legislative rookies.  It was.  I would rather see legislators vote with conviction and belief than going along to get along.  I fear there could be retribution of a political sort this year by the House leadership.  The easiest targets are the new guys.  But both Seans are a mighty stock and I have faith they will deal with any fallout from their decision last year with grace.

With an election year looming, many are assuming no matter what the Democrats will keep their power in Legislative Hall.  But there is a growing feeling of discontent in Delaware.  After years of questioned policies and agendas coming from Governor Markell and the leadership in Legislative Hall, many Delawareans are willing to vote out of party this year.  I predict both of the Seans will be safe because they are among those questioning what is really going on in Delaware.  The key to all of this will come in January when Governor Markell releases his budget proposal for Delaware.  We will get a very firm idea on where Delaware stands in terms of a budget deficit.

 

State Rep. Sean Matthews Reflects On The Waste To The Top

Many legislators are resistant to the Markell-given power of the Delaware Department of Education, but State Rep. Sean Matthews truly gets it.  I have watched Rep. Matthews, in less than a year, become one of the leading voices against corporate education reform.  He speaks truth!  He recognized the reform movement is an illusionary power and the true power exists in the hearts and voices of our educators, students and parents.  It is past time we yield that power as a force for change!

One of my co-teachers was recycling some old papers today. We found a school calendar from several years before Race to the Top, DCAS, testing-mania, etc came into effect. It was interesting to see how few days were spent on state testing as compared to our current State-mandated testing requirements. Are we better off for all these new days, hours and efforts spent on more standardized testing? Are kids learning more? Is our “reform” test/punish/test/punish cycle working? Recent NAEP data would say no. We have think-tanks and “reformers” with scant teaching experience driving the education agenda. Teachers/parents/students, take back your power!

Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews Tired Of “Test And Punish” & “Cash In The Trash” Education!

Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews has had enough!  Something I think many of us agree on!  As the Delaware DOE announced the long-awaited and much dreaded Smarter Balanced Assessment results, folks immediately started crunching the data to see what it all means.  On Delaware Liberal and Those In Favor, graphs were made showing the relationship between low-income populations in Delaware schools and the Smarter Balanced results.  These graphs were very telling, and show these high-stakes assessments are not doing any favors for low-income students.

This is what State Rep. Sean Matthews had to say about all this:

Enough already! The corporate education “reformers” keep pushing their “test and punish” agenda. It’s failed. It’s failing. It will continue to fail until we address the endemic poverty plaguing some of our students.

The millions we spend each year on standardized testing is nothing more than “cash in the trash.” If we just collected parent/guardian’s income levels, we would get the same data. There is a direct and enduring correlation between a family’s economic health and school performance.

Don’t believe me? Check out these 2 graphs. One from Red Clay School District and one from Christina School District. Keep in mind that within each district, the curriculum, teacher training and governing district polices are the same. The only major difference is the % of low-income students from school to school.

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Rep. Matthews hit the nail on the head!  None of this is about the kids.  It’s about other agendas which results in schools being labeled and punished.  We have seen this sad tale all over America, in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and New York City.  Why is it so necessary to turn public education into something it’s not?  These are the tough schools.  The ones where teachers go to, day in and day out.  They don’t have to teach in these schools, they want to.  They want to help these kids.  It’s not for a paycheck, or to have the summers off.  Their unions can’t protect them too much when a school is shut down over high-stakes testing results. They want to be, if they can, the difference in some of these students lives.  I hear so many stories from adults who came from poverty, and very often, they reference a teacher who made a difference in their lives.

When is America going to wake up and realize these kids don’t need the labels.  They don’t need companies and management organizations coming into their schools to “fix” them.  They need consistency.  They need compassion.  They need what they already have.  But the education reformers don’t think that’s enough.  They would rather test these children, all the while knowing the tests they are giving to them are designed for failure, so they can “turnaround” a school.  It all comes down to money, and it makes me sick to my stomach that anyone would use children in this manner.

Someone genuinely asked me if they should continue to send their child to a school like this or send them to a “high-performing” school.  Every time a parent makes a decision in favor of the latter, they are killing public education, one student at a time.  And that’s exactly what the reformers want.  The data in these graphs says one thing.  These tests are great for those with money and very bad for those without.  It’s not about the caliber of the school, or the teachers, it’s about the world these children live in.  The reformers can’t grasp the notion that if they spent their vast millions upon millions of dollars on actually improving communities and creating jobs, that would do far more for these children than any standardized assessment would ever do.  That would be the real reform our children need.

We keep hearing how the Delaware DOE needs this data, and that parents need it. What does it tell you?  You won’t see these graphs on the Delaware DOE website.  But they are more important than any amount of data they will ever put out.  Thank you Rep. Matthews for saying what so many of us are saying.  You have a powerful voice, and we need you to speak for a long time.

*Thank you to Delaware Liberal and Those In Favor for creating these graphs!