The Delaware 149th General Assembly goes back into session next Tuesday, January 10th. The Delaware House of Representatives leadership picked the members for their committees. Some surprising changes are going on with the House Education Committee. Continue reading
I wrote earlier this week about the massive amount of education meetings going on next week. Add one more to the list: The House Education Committee on Wednesday, May 4th. On tap is House Bill 161 sponsored by State Rep. Deb Hudson which covers The Parent Empowerment Education Savings Act (school vouchers for special needs students), Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Rep Earl Jaques’ Senate Bills 92 and 93 dealing with autism, and State Rep. Paul Baumbach’s House Bill 333 which looks to lower school board terms from five to three years. Hudson’s bill was on the agenda a few weeks ago but disappeared. The Senate Education Committee meeting will take place at 3pm, but as usual, no agenda is up for it. That usually doesn’t happen until the day before.
The Delaware House Education Committee held their first meeting today after the long Joint Finance Committee break. On the agenda was one bill, House Bill 234, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams. As well, the University of Delaware gave a presentation on their overall enrollment trends.
House Bill 234 concerns wellness centers in three traditional school district high schools: Appoquinimink High School, St. George’s Technical High School, and Conrad Schools of Science. These three are the last remaining high schools in the state (not including charters) which have no wellness center. A wellness center is not just a school nurse. They also provide counseling services as well. The bill was unanimously released from committee. Several folks gave public comment in support of the bill: Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, President of DSEA Frederika Jenner, and a representative from Red Clay. Rep. Williams read a letter she received from a high school student. The young man was going through a depression and he credited the wellness center at his high school for getting him through this very troubled time.
There was some debate about which schools would get a wellness center first if the bill passes. Rep. Williams felt it should be the oldest school first, but State Rep. Charles Potter felt it should be needs-based. Rep. Williams indicated the JFC would determine this in the budget as the bill calls for each of the schools receiving the wellness centers at one per year for the next three fiscal years.
Dr. Nancy Targett, the Acting President of the University of Delaware gave a long presentation on enrollment trends and a general overview of the university. She showed many slides about minority enrollment, retention rates, and graduation rates. Afterwards, during a question and answer with the members of the House Education Committee, things got a bit more tense. State Rep. Charles Potter was very concerned about minorities being placed in the Associate program at the University of Delaware. This program is for students who need more help when they enter college. When asked about what may be holding these students back by Rep. Williams, Dr. Targett was unable to give a clear answer but did promise the committee she would get more information. Many civil rights advocates feel the University of Delaware under-enrolls African-Americans. Dr. Targett did say this is her number one priority and many universities across the country are dealing with these issues.
Dr. Targett felt the recent announcement about the pilot program concerning SAT scores not counting towards admission credentials could allow for more minorities to be accepted at University of Delaware. She said the University understands not all students do well on tests like that and a student could just have a bad day. They want to focus more on students’ actual Grade Point Average and other activities.
After the meeting adjourned, I asked Dr. Targett about an omission in her presentation: students with disabilities. She said she didn’t know the numbers offhand but gave me her email address so she can find out. Which I will certainly take her up on!
The second half of the 148th General Assembly begins next Tuesday, January 12th. While a great deal of focus is on the veto override of House Bill 50, there are actually several important bills about education that deserve to pass. The House and Senate Education Committees meet weekly, usually on Wednesdays.
House Education Committee Meeting, 1/13/16, 2:30pm, House Chamber
Agenda: Presentation by Vicki Innes with Reading Assist, additional items to be determine
Senate Education Committee Meeting, 1/13/16, 3:00pm, Senate Hearing Room (2nd floor)
Agenda: Senate Bill 165, House Bill 186
To view all the education legislation, the status of each bill, and who the sponsor is, please go here.
For any committees in the Senate or the House, public comment is allowed.
In the Delaware Department of Education presentation to their state House Education Committee today on the Elementary Secondary Education Act waivers, State Representative Kim Williams advised the DOE she is “appalled” at their vast overreach in terms of state code.
Mike Matthews wrote on Facebook:
Rep. Kim Williams just leveled an amazing charge against the Delaware Department of Education, asking why they requested language to be added to Epilogue Language that allowed for DOE to OVERRIDE state code. Rep. Williams said she was “appalled” that DOE acted in a manner to override her authority as an ELECTED official. Bam!
Her exact words: “The agency should explain why the addition or deletion is necessary and it should not be hidden away like it was. I’m really appalled by this. I’m embarassed to know this…I was elected by the people to create laws and you guys took it away from us and I’m not going to let that happen again.”
Many questions were asked by legislators and the public why Secretary of Education Mark Murphy would not sign off on the DASL report by the University of Delaware which rated two of the priority schools in the Christina School District as improving. Rep. Sean Matthews asked why charters were not included in the priority school selection process. Delaware DOE Chief of Proficiency and Accountability Penny Schwinn said they were not, but schools like Moyer and Reach had been ordered closed due to low academic achievement. State Rep. John Kowalko advised the DOE of his FOIA results and there was specific language in regards to the charters not being part of the decision on the priority schools.
Schwinn did say no more priority schools will be chosen this year, but she did not specify fiscal year or calendar year.
At the end of the meeting it was announced that next week, on January 28th from 11am to 1pm, the Vice-President of Policy of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers will present during an information session sponsored by the Office of the State Board of Education to discuss issues concerning charters in Delaware and how they relate to other states. As well, on February 18th, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will be asked to rationalize the Race To The Top spending in Delaware.
More information on this meeting will come later tonight, so stay tuned!