Important Legislation In Delaware Will Affect Exceptional Children

The following bills are being looked at by the House of Representatives and the Senate for the state of Delaware.  Their fiscal year ends on June 30th, so any bills that aren’t voted on will die or be reintroduced in the next fiscal year.

House Bill 23: All school boards must record!  This bill would mandate all public school boards (public, charter, vocational, and alternate schools) to digitally record their school board meetings and make them available to the general public within seven business days.  Many school boards already do this on a voluntary basis, like Red Clay Consolidated, Capital, Christina, Delmar, Brandywine and Colonial.  No charter or vocational schools currently do this.  I am definitely in favor of this bill.  In fact, I spoke to the sponsor of the bill, Deborah Hudson, last Thursday.  She said this bill was created because this is something parents want.  I asked why it has been sitting and collecting dust for so long, and she said it is not a priority.  But she did say she was going to speak about it officially during a House of Representatives legislative session.  It is still on the Ready List, so I hope it is discussed today.  The Speaker of the House, Peter Schwartzkopf, needs to get this on the Agenda ASAP!  I believe ALL parents should know what is being said during board meetings, and not just in public minutes cause they can’t possibly cover everything.

House Bill 337: This bill would allow a local school district to decide on applications to other schools in the district.  For example, in Kent County, if an application for a new charter school was submitted, Capital School District would have the ability to decide on the application based on capacity, economic impact and other factors.  This could have huge implications in Newcastle County because a part of the bill would allow for the local school district to decide based on desegregation plans that are court ordered. If an application was declined by a local school district, it would then go the Department of Education for further consideration.  This bill came about because of many allegations in Newcastle County that the charter schools are getting too much funding diverted from the public schools due to the rapid increase of charter schools in that area, as well as accusations that charter schools are not accepting African-Americans.

Senate Bill 229: This bill would allow for the most “severely cognitively disabled students” to be exempt from state mandated standardized testing.  If the Smarter Balanced Assessment is passed, this would allow these students to skip the test with no ramifications.  The House Education Committee will be meeting on this bill today at 12 noon as it has already passed the Senate.  This bill would exempt students with an IQ of 50 or less, and they must be autistic, have multiple disabilities, or have a specific learning disability.  These students would be required to take the Alternate DCAS 1, which they currently take.  If this goes through the education committee today, it could come up for a vote this week.

House Bill 334: This bill would pave the way for the Smarter Balanced Assessment to take over from DCAS.  It would also allow for a once a year assessment instead of two prep tests and the final one in the Spring as students have done for several years with DCAS.  Opponents of the bill (of which there are many) state the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a joke, and even adults can’t answer the questions as they are very confusing.  This is a very important bill, and as you can see based on my comment on this post from Kilroy’s, I strongly oppose it: http://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/h-b-334-vote-will-be-defining-moment-if-delaware-public-education/

House Bill 340: This would require all schools to be compliant with the Omnibus School Safety Act by September 2014 instead of September 2017.  All schools would have to have two lockdown/intruder drills a year and two lessons a year on what to do in the event of a dangerous situation at a school.  This bill has been out of committee since 6/4/14.

Senate Bill 247: This bill just passed the Senate on 6/12/14 and it would require all schools to have a qualified school nurse within one fiscal year of hiring.  I would hope ALL school nurses would be highly qualified before they even apply to a school.  I would also hope all schools already had a highly qualified school nurse.  I believe all school and psychologists should be licensed with the Department of Education and the Professional License Board.

I agree with Kilroy that many of these bills could severely impact many elections coming up in November of this year.  I know I will be watching every single action or vote on these bills!  The Education Committee for the House will have many changes next year, and some of those could be based on what certain folks do in the next couple weeks.