Governor Carney is hitting the road this week up and down the state to different schools to drum up support for some of his proposed education initiatives in the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget. Each school he visits will have a different focus. Those areas are Opportunity Grants, Investing In Educators, Better Schools, Math Coaches, and Early Education & The Delaware STARS program. As well, Carney and Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will hold a Facebook Live event on Tuesday, February 27th. Which schools is he going to? Find out here! Continue reading “Governor Carney’s “Invest In Public Education” Tour At Delaware Schools This Week”
Today, Delaware Governor John Carney delivered his State of the State Address to the General Assembly in the House chambers. On the education front, he didn’t really say anything I haven’t heard before. He made it a point to specifically address Christina School District and the five schools in Wilmington. There was NO mention of Kindergarten to 3rd Grade Basic Special Education funding. He talked about math coaches but absolutely nothing about reading specialists. He wants to pour more money into the Pre-K Stars program. Pretty much everything sounds like a Jack Markell third term. Enough already Carney! How about coming up with some new and creative ideas? Because Governor Markell was a tyrant education Governor. You are putting all your eggs in the Wilmington basket. I’m not saying those kids don’t need help, but there are others across the state who need help as well. I got your message though. We can all expect to pay higher taxes very soon!
Between Regulation 225 and the public beating him up over a plan to close three schools in Wilmington, Delaware, the ground shook in Delaware today. It shook from Massachusetts to Virginia. Reports of a 4.1 magnitude earthquake from the U.S.G.S. only measure the tremors, not the cause. It was Delaware Governor John Carney’s approval rating sinking to a new low. The irony of this happening within miles of the capital of Delaware was not lost on me.
Perhaps it was an earthquake, but the fact that this is the biggest earthquake in recorded Delaware history says something. As Delaware Republicans get ready to pounce on Democrats in the 2018 elections with no mercy, the aftershocks could be one for the record books. The people are speaking loudly and they want change. If the tremors were not caused by Carney’s approval rating it could have been the collective roar of Delawareans saying “Enough!”. We the people are getting tired of the status quo and change is in the wind. Too many legislators who I refer to as “lifers” sitting pretty in Legislative Hall without a care in the world. Leadership is horrible. It is time. It isn’t even about party affiliation as much anymore. It is about things getting worse in Delaware: in our communities, in our homes, in our schools, in our wallets. It is about taxpayer dollars not being spent wisely. It is about a growing (and fast) discontent with those who think the State of Delaware is their playground.
In the meantime, the Dover tree lighting went ahead without a hitch, unless you count a couple of legislators and the Kent County Levy Court singing “Frosty the Snowman”. If that earthquake happened two hours later I would have sworn it would have been because of that singing. A huge crowd came to Dover to see the annual celebration and watch kids sing.
Delaware Governor John Carney hasn’t even been in his job a year and already he has managed to irk me more than former Governor Jack Markell. Why? Many reasons. Continue reading “Top Ten Reasons Not To Trust Delaware Governor John Carney”
You are a sly one. Sorry, your “aw shucks” personality doesn’t work on me. You have sold out Delaware public education. But you put too many of your cards on the table. I know EXACTLY what you are up to now. And I will be on you like white on rice every step of the way. I may not have blogged as much lately. I was growing tired of the fight, of nothing changing. But you woke me up. You think you are invincible, that you can do whatever the hell you want. You and all your minions. No more. I don’t care if I have to help flip the House and the Senate to stop you, I will do that. You are a dangerous man who cares more about power. You would gladly thrust your very bad education policies on our schools. You would sell the well-being of students to very evil plans to turn public education into a mind-numbing caste system. This is war King Carney. Don’t get too excited about your future plans. I will rally the people of this state like you have never seen before. One man. I will do it. Mark my words.
Delaware Governor John Carney released a statement about his meeting with the Christina School District Board of Education last evening. I felt obligated to give it the TC Redline Edition. In which I give a no-holds barred critique of Carney’s boneheaded idea.
Governor Carney to Christina Board: Let’s Partner to Improve Wilmington Schools
Date Posted: Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017
WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday met with the Christina Board of Education during a study session at Bancroft Elementary School to discuss a proposed partnership between the state and Christina School District to more effectively serve educators and students in Christina schools in the City of Wilmington.
I have to give kudos to Carney for actually attending and meeting with the Board. However, that does not excuse the backdoor closed meetings he had with two of their board members over the summer.
Governor John Carney
Full remarks to Christina School District Board of Education – October 3, 2017
*As prepared for delivery
Thank Rick Gregg, members of the Board, Principals, teachers, parents and others present.
Proper thing to do when you are in their house so to speak.
I’m here with Secretary of Education Susan Bunting and Dorrell Green. I appreciate the opportunity to address the Board in this workshop format.
They would be the ones to also be there. Was anyone else there? Perhaps your Education Policy Advisor, Jon Sheehan?
I’ve lived in this city for 30 years. And it’s always been clear to me that as goes the City of Wilmington, so goes our state.
I respect that Wilmington is the biggest city in the state and it is essentially the gateway to the rest of it, but the rest of the state has a lot to offer. Perhaps Wilmington wouldn’t be in the shape it is in if the state didn’t keep trying to put all its eggs in one basket when there are hundreds of others as well. We get you’ve lived in this city for 30 years. It’s all we heard from you when you were campaigning for Governor. But you had many years at a Federal level to do more for Wilmington. What did you do for Wilmington when you were in Congress?
Wilmington is our economic and cultural center. Its success in many ways will drive Delaware’s long-term success. And so we need a city that is safe, with strong neighborhoods and good schools. We’re working with Mayor Purzycki, legislators, members of city council, businesses and the community service agencies to achieve these goals.
And yet we continue to see murders and violent crimes constantly. All we hear from political leaders is “we’re working with…”. That doesn’t solve the problem. Action does and I have yet to see true action being taken to reduce those crimes and rampant drug use.
Our efforts have to start with improving our schools, and doing a better job educating city children.
No, your efforts have to start with improving the climate of Wilmington.
One of the first things I did when I took office was ask Secretary Bunting to visit Wilmington schools.
Which she did.
I joined her on some of these visits. And while we certainly saw dedicated teachers and principals, what we saw by and large was very discouraging.
Let me guess: you saw children with hygiene issues and worn clothing. You saw a look in their eyes you couldn’t really understand. It tugged at your heartstrings and thought, “I will be the one to fix this.”
And when the proficiency scores for these schools were released this summer, we saw that they fell well short of what’s acceptable.
Here we go… the test scores. For a flawed test. In most schools, anything below a 65% is failing. For Smarter Balanced, the whole state is failing. Is that the fault of teachers and students or the test itself. Don’t answer, we already know.
All of us, together, are responsible for doing better.
We can always do better, but don’t put the blame on all of us Governor Carney. The buck stops with you. While you inherited many of these issues from your predecessors, you are falling into the same traps.
It was pretty clear to us that Christina’s portion of the City schools – Bayard, Stubbs, Bancroft, Palmer, and Pulaski – are in the most need of help.
Was it only a year ago that the state refused to step in when Pulaski had all the mold issues? It is great that you visit these schools but what have you done to make life outside of these schools better? These are the schools with the highest concentrations of low-income and poverty students.
Already we have taken steps that, I believe, will help our efforts in all city schools.
And how many of those were created by you with no public input. How many of those efforts involved back-door secret meetings? Once again, don’t answer. We know the score.
We opened the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the Department of Education, to focus state energy on these and other high-needs schools.
Ah, yes. Your attempt at “reducing” the Delaware DOE. By making a satellite office in Wilmington.
We created an Opportunity Grants program that, while not funded at the level that I want, will help identify proven practices for serving disadvantaged students.
Don’t even get me started on that failure of a FY2018 budget Carney. You put aside a million bucks while cutting exponentially more. That does not serve disadvantaged students. It is a Band-Aid on an infected wound.
We put basic needs closets in Wilmington schools, so students can have access to hygiene products, school supplies, and winter clothing, in a dignified way.
Now this I do support and continue to do so.
We’ve reestablished the Family Services Cabinet Council to better coordinate services to families and children, and to address issues of poverty that are impeding the success of our city children.
Closed-door, non-public, back-door meetings. We have no idea what this council discusses. For something you like to scream from the rooftops about, we have no clue what they talk about. Put your money where your mouth is and make these meetings public. Otherwise, this is smoke and mirrors.
But we need to do much, much more, and that’s why I’m here today.
Every time the state tries to fix these issues, the problems get worse. I have to wonder if that is intentional.
We didn’t get here over night. And we could spend all day debating the reasons for how we got here. I know a lot of that history through my father who worked in the old Wilmington Public School District and through my many years in state government.
Yes, why debate how we got there. Because until you take a deep dive at those reasons, you will never understand. You can’t ignore things that come into schools. But I digress…
Some blame a lack of resources. Dysfunctional families. Inexperienced teachers. Weak leadership. Busing. Trauma in the home. Segregated neighborhoods. Too much testing. Not enough testing. Bad parenting. Education bureaucracy. Violence in the city.
I agree with some of these: a lack of resources, dysfunctional families, weak leadership (some from CSD in the past and definitely from the state), busing, trauma in the home, segregated neighborhoods, too much testing, bad parenting, education bureaucracy, violence in the city. I don’t see the inexperienced teachers (except for the TFAers who get their rush-job credentials in a matter of months) and not enough testing.
Over the last few years the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) did a comprehensive study of the challenges, and came up with a plan to make changes. We’ve incorporated many of their recommendations into what I’m about to discuss.
In other words, you are copying the work done from others for your own political benefit.
It’s clear to me that the most important thing we should do now is focus on making changes that will raise achievement levels for city children. That’s part of my responsibility as Governor, Dr. Bunting’s job as Secretary of Education and your jobs as school leaders and Christina Board members. We’re in this together.
Together? Are you kidding me? For months you’ve been circling the wagons and cherry-picking people to talk to about the “Christina problem”. Divide and conquer. That’s what I see. Not getting that warm and fuzzy feeling I felt at your inauguration Carney…
I’m here today, at the invitation of your Superintendent, because I want to partner with you to say “enough.” I believe it’s time to begin intensive efforts to get our teachers, principals and students what they need in the classroom.
Knowing Rick Gregg like I do, I believe he invited you because he was getting tired of your secret meetings and wanted to make it a public event so people can see what the hell you are up to. I think it’s high time Christina said “enough” with the endless interventions from the state that have been compete and utter failures.
To that end, I’m proposing that the State, Christina School District, and Christina Education Association form a partnership that focuses exclusively on Christina’s city schools.
You and your damn partnerships. Let’s be partners. Public-private partnerships. In other words, let’s do as much as we can behind closed doors and throw transparency out the window.
My vision is to spend the next few months talking as a group about what this partnership would look like, so that by the end of this calendar year we can sign a memorandum of understanding to work together to improve these city schools and the proficiency of the students. I want to be ready to put our new plans into effect by the start of the 2018 school year. This aligns with your Superintendent’s timetable for implementing change as well.
When I hear Memorandum of Understanding, I hear priority schools all over again. Who is your Penny Schwinn that is facilitating this? How much state money will be spent trying to craft this MOU for months? Cause I published all the emails where Schwinn painstakingly tried to make the MOU from the Fall of 2014. And that was based on Delaware’s clueless interpretation of their own ESEA Flexibility Waivers. Schwinn did everything she could to make sure it was six Wilmington schools within Christina and Red Clay. Definitely Markell’s biggest failure.
I think our partnership should address five main issues that I’ve heard over and over again as I’ve toured schools in Wilmington.
Who is telling you these things you’ve heard “over and over”? Let me guess: Senator Sokola, Rep. Jaques, Rodel, Atrne Alleyne, Michael Watson, Donna Johnson, Jon Sheehan, Kendall Massett, Greg Meece, etc.
First, principals need more control over key decisions in their schools. I would like to work with you to give principals the leadership tools they need and the flexibility and autonomy over structural areas such as staffing/hiring, school schedules, and programs. To give them the resources to implement extended learning time, and to create other school conditions necessary to best meet student needs. As part of this partnership, the Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with principals and our institutions of higher education to provide principals with high quality professional learning, coaching, and support. The Department of Education, using state resources, would assist Christina School District in training principals to better use observations to provide effective feedback that will elevate instruction.
Gee, that sounds an awful lot like the “empowerment zones” in Springfield, MA.
Second, educators in high-needs schools need more say in how resources are used. I plan to engage Christina’s city educators to ensure we are working in partnership with them, as they are on the ground every day working to improve student outcomes. I would like to work with you to empower teacher-leader teams at each school to partner with school administration on key decisions like working conditions, resource use, and school culture. The Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with our institutions of higher education and use the full expertise of the Department of Education to provide educators with professional learning that is relevant, consistent, and meaningful.
In other words, more useless programs through TFA, The Leader In Me, and other cash-cow Crackerjack box outfits that will happily take state money to “fix” the problems. And that “full expertise of the Department of Education”… are you serious? How many of these “experts” at the DOE have actually taught in these classrooms? How many came up the ranks from TFA or the charter world?
Third, we need to address the fact that student achievement rates at Christina’s Wilmington schools are among the lowest in the state. In partnership with DSEA and CEA, I want to create more flexibility for these schools to provide students with additional learning time, including vacation and weekend academies. Teachers would receive stipends for additional hours worked, supported by state funds and the redeployment of district resources. I would argue serious conversations, in partnership with the Christina Wilmington community, need to take place around building use. We are doing our students, educators, and taxpayers a disservice when we have half-empty school buildings — needlessly spreading resources thin.
Maybe if the state stopped intervening in Christina, stopped pumping up charter schools like they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, and stopped calling Christina a failure, those buildings wouldn’t be half full. The state created most of this mess by authorizing so many damn charters up there. This is where you are assuming DSEA and CEA are on board with your half-cocked plan. You are seriously messing with collective bargaining agreements here. Vacation and weekend academies? When do these kids get a break? Are you going to churn and burn them until they score proficient on the useless Smarter Balanced Assessment?
Fourth, we need a plan to address the significant trauma students in Wilmington experience outside the classroom. I’m proud of the work already underway between the Office of Innovation and Improvement, DSEA, the Office of the Child Advocate, and community leaders to train staff to create trauma-informed classrooms. We need to double down on those efforts. I have already directed the Family Services Cabinet Council to work with City leaders to implement the CDC report, including finding a way to share data across state agencies about students in need. That work is under way.
How about thanking the Christina teachers who spend every single day dealing with trauma first-hand? The ones who wash kids clothes, make sure they have food for the weekend, and help students deal with the latest murder that happened in their neighborhood? You are all about the kudos before anything happens while failing to properly thank those on the ground floor. And what will the closed-door Family Services Cabinet Council do with all this data that tells us what we have always known? Let’s get real Carney: until you fix the crime, violence, and rampant drug use in Wilmington, these problems will always exist. Until you find a way to desegregate the charter schools that cherry-pick students and put every single Delaware school back in balance with their local neighborhoods, these efforts will fail.
Finally, we need to build systems to create meaningful, sustained change in Christina’s Wilmington schools. As part of a partnership with you, the Family Services Cabinet Council would launch a two-generation network to support infants, toddlers and adults, with the goal of breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Additionally, we ought to convene higher education institutions and create a pipeline to develop teachers and leaders ready to enter into our Wilmington schools. These efforts cannot be a flash in the pan. We need to methodically build systems that will endure.
Are you saying the teachers in these schools aren’t ready? That they can’t handle the trauma they deal with every single day? There is nothing any higher education institution can do to adequately deal with these issues until the state takes an active hand in dealing with the issues coming into the classroom. And Wilmington City Council needs to get their heads out of their ass and deal with the corruption going on there before they enter into any “partnership”. Once again, make your beloved Family Services Cabinet Council public. This whole thing reeks of non-transparency and I’m getting sick of that.
Give principals a bigger say. Trust and support our teachers. Tackle low proficiency rates. Address trauma. Build systems. That’s what I propose we work on together.
You will never trust and support our teachers while they are under local control. Never. You want to mold them and cherry-pick them to serve the latest corporate education reform scheme. The best way to tackle low proficiency rates is to get rid of Smarter Balanced and stop judging schools, teachers, and districts based on meaningless and useless test scores. These misused and abused scores are just one of the reasons why I advocate parents opting their kids out of the state assessments. Addressing trauma is one thing but finding a way to actively eliminate it is the true hurdle and I don’t think you have the money, resources, or guts to do that. Working together doesn’t require a contract like an MOU. That is a gun to the head and we all know it. You are seriously overreaching here with your executive power here Carney and you need to slow your roll.
The partnership I’m proposing isn’t flashy. It’s not an education fad or sound bite. It’s about the nuts and bolts of educating children. It is a simple but intense effort to put the focus where I think it belongs — in the classroom.
This isn’t about kids at all. It’s about different ed reform companies lobbying through Jon Sheehan to get their latest programs or technology into the classroom. And you fell for it hook, line and sinker.
Frederick Douglass said that “it’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And that’s the choice we’re facing. We all have dreams for our children. But right now, we’re consigning far too many of our students to a life that no parent wants for their child. Every student we graduate who can’t do basic math or who can’t read or write, we’re sending into the world knowing he or she doesn’t have the tools to succeed. Doors are closing for these children before they even leave the third grade.
For the most part, the state created the conditions which led to these broken men. Through very racist laws and credos. The state allowed this to happen and now they want to rush in and save the day by fixing the schools. What about all these broken men? What are you doing to make restitution for the state’s absolute failure with them?
I believe, and I know you do too, that it would be immoral to let this situation continue this way.
Don’t speak for the Christina Board of Education Carney! It would be immoral for this board to give up local control so you can make education companies happy. How about you let Christina School District, under the leadership of Superintendent Rick Gregg and their elected Board of Education, do their thing. I like Gregg. I think he is the leader Christina needs. But your swooping in and undermining the hard work he has done is an insult at best.
So I’m asking you to form this partnership with us. Let’s take the next few months and work out the details. I’d like to hear your thoughts on what I’ve laid out, and on how you think we can work together.
I have to listen to the audio when it comes out today, but based upon reading the News Journal article on this last night by Jessica Bies, board member Liz Paige said it best:
Elizabeth Paige said the plan lacked specificity, but that she was willing to talk more as long as the state could guarantee they weren’t going to pull the infamous Charlie Brown football gag on Christina.
“We’re Charlie Brown and the football,” she said. “He has to prove he’s not Lucy.”
Don’t be fooled Mrs. Paige. He is most definitely Lucy!
Board member John Young gave Carney’s remarks at B+. I think he was being nice.
Harrie-Ellen Minnehan spoke the hard truth:
Harrie Ellen Minnehan said that students are often used as “political pawns” and that the plan sounded too much like just another in a long string of political solutions imposed on the education system but that have resulted in no gain whatsoever for students caught in a downward academic spiral.
The Christina Board of Education is at their best when they are fighting the latest state method of eroding local control. I saw this firsthand at the first Christina board meeting I went to in September of 2014. When they stood together and gave Markell’s priority schools idea a collective no thank you. I am hoping they do the same with this latest Markellian effort by Carney.
As for Dorrell Green, his quote in the News Journal is very concerning because it gives a good deal of insight into Carney’s plan:
“Do you feel you have the bandwidth or the internal capacity to see that plan through without our support?”
This was in response to Superintendent Gregg’s own plan to build up Christina. It as if Green was saying “You can’t do anything without the state helping out.” Which is exactly what the problem is here. The state interferes so much that it paralyzes the district. The state needs to do more on the side of fixing the crime and poverty in Wilmington. Let Christina deal with Christina. If the state wants to “partner” under forced coercion, that is bullying. Christina needs to enact a zero tolerance policy on state bullying. And just by using the word “bandwidth”, Green may have overplayed his hand. By using that particular word, he is suggesting Christina will get better by more corporate education reform double-speak education technology.
I have to give it to Carney. He has successfully learned how to play the field like Jack Markell did. He certainly has been busy trying to hand-select his pawns with this attempt. And yet he gave the farm away when he announced his trip to Springfield, MA on his public schedule. I didn’t see any of that in your speech. It’s like a super villain in a comic announcing their intentions before they even implement them. Look what I’m about to do. We see through you Carney. Stop listening to those around you who truly don’t have a clue about what is really going on. Otherwise you are just another Jack Markell. Be your own man, not a carbon-copy.
Don’t think for one minute that I don’t understand you Carney. I know about some of your antics with things lately. I know you hate my blog and will cast out those who support it. We both know exactly what I’m talking about. We know you have heard objections to this Christina scheme and totally ignored them. In fact, you punish those who don’t agree with you. You aren’t the person you put in front of the media. Who is the real John Carney? Time to take off the mask and reveal the true John Carney. We both know when this plan fails (and it will if implemented), the state will continue to blame Christina for their own failure and will embark on another scheme to “fix” the problem they create in the first place.
Tonight, Delaware Governor John Carney will attend a Christina Board of Education Study Session. When was the last time a sitting Governor went to a Board of Education meeting, much less a workshop? That is because Carney has big plans for Christina. Very big plans. But don’t fool yourself for one second into thinking any of these plans are Carney’s idea. For that, you have to look at those who surround him.
Race To The Top. Common Core. Delaware Talent Cooperative. Teach For America. Partnership Zones. Priority Schools. Focus Schools. DCAS. Smarter Balanced. These are all programs offered by the state. Their impact? A resounding thud. Failures. Every single one of them. For a state that likes to beat up on the Christina School District as much as it has, their efforts to turn them around have been utter failures.
But now Carney’s not-so-brilliant lightbulb of an idea is to model the schools in Springfield, Massachusetts. So much that he is visiting them on Friday along with Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and Dorrell Green from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. And now we know where the “innovation” part comes in.
The schools in Springfield, MA are part of what is known as an “empowerment zone”. Think priority schools without the federal mandate. More autonomy for building leaders, shared resources, and the ability to fire teachers better (even with union support). Just another sad attempt at eroding local control. To learn more about “empowerment zones”, please read the white paper on this:
In an article in The Boston Globe last Winter from reporter James Vasnis, he writes:
“These zones . . . allow educators to make the changes necessary to provide a better learning environment for our kids,” Baker said during the speech.
By freeing up the schools from the central office bureaucracy and most teacher contract provisions, local and state officials say, the Springfield middle schools are in complete control of their curriculums, staffing, budgeting, and ultimately their own destinies.
The empowerment zone, which is in its second year, has grown to include nine middle schools and next fall will add a long-struggling high school. The effort is overseen by a seven-member governing board jointly appointed by local and state officials. Principals report directly to the board.
So what happens to the local board of education for those schools? Do they lose their authority over these schools? If legislators have to put this into state law, and not local taxpayers who fund school districts, this could set up a battle royale in Delaware. And mark my words, we will see this in the second half of the 149th General Assembly. What makes an “empowerment zone” a success? The usual education reform barometer: standardized test scores…
But a turnaround could take years to achieve. Test scores at the zone’s highest-performing middle school are in the bottom 9th percentile statewide, meaning more than 90 percent of other similar schools scored better. The worst-performing school is in the bottom 1st percentile.
The sad part, the local teachers union is actually behind this.
“It’s a sea change,” said Timothy Collins, president of the Springfield Education Association, the local teachers union. “By having a culture of change where the critical mass of people feel they have a voice in what is being done and ownership in the plan, the likelihood of implementing the plan with fidelity goes up dramatically.”
But the roots of this education reform initiative go a bit deeper than all this. We have to go back to the days of former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his Digital Promise platform. Springfield, MA is a part of the League of Innovative Schools that likes to think of itself as a forward-thinking process that amounts to nothing more than education technology in a personalized learning environment. In other words, the teacher killer. No Delaware school districts are a part of this group, but 86 districts from around the country got suckered into this. This is the kind of crap the Rodel Foundation loves to foist upon Delaware.
In an article from the Progressive Policy Institute, they write:
While teachers cannot be dismissed at will, principals do receive support to help underperforming teachers improve where possible and to remove them where necessary. And there are real consequences – for principals and teachers alike – for school failure.
I have serious issues with any teacher union getting behind this ass-backwards corporate education reform double-speak. Especially when it is based on test scores. I have bigger issues with Governor Carney getting the smoke and mirrors advice that I have no doubt he believes will save the Wilmington schools here in Delaware. I knew something was up. Whenever a Governor starts sniffing around Christina, expect an unmitigated failure about to be thrust upon them. Perhaps, like former Governor Jack Markell, Carney truly believes that saving Christina will be the high mark of his tenure as Governor. It didn’t work for Markell. It backfired on him. And when the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission became the result of that, Markell and Carney gave it a drop-kick based on “funding issues”.
I was hoping Carney was better than this. I was hoping Secretary Bunting was better than this. But when you surround yourself up to the highest level with those who come from the corporate education reform world, it isn’t surprising in the least. Carney did just that in the form of Jon Sheehan, his education policy advisor. Markell had his inner circle from this world as well with Rebecca Taber and Lindsay O’Mara (now with the U.S. DOE).
The “Innovation Zones” came from a guy named Chris Gabrieli who ran (unsuccessfully) for Massachusetts Governor. But an elected Governor in the form of John Carney thinks he can ride in and save the day with an untested and so far unsuccessful brainfart of an idea. What Christina needs is for The State of Delaware to stop interfering so much and actually let the district do what it needs to do. All other state-born ideas have failed. What makes Carney think this one will work? Because he is being told it will. He runs the risk of becoming Markell 2.0 with this. But of course, no one who makes these kind of decisions will actually listen to the blogger. Or those who know it will fail. Because it is coming from the Governor, and what the Governor wants the Governor gets. Executive power at its absolute worst, because it affects kids most of all.
I have no doubt I will be writing more about this. And I fully expect blowback on this article. Especially from those who regurgitate the very worst from the corporate education reform world here in Delaware. They know who they are. Sharpen your knives. I’m ready.
I sent an email to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn and Governor Carney a few seconds ago alleging the legal opinion in regards to my FOIA complaint about the Family Services Cabinet Council was false in nature. Since the Council disburses funds, they fit the category of a public body.
§ 1605A Prevention component.
The Family Services Cabinet Council (Council), with the Department of Education and the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families acting as lead agencies, shall administer a program to offer prevention-related student support services (prevention services) to students to prevent them from becoming discipline problems and from failing academically in our schools. Within the limits of appropriations made for this purpose, the Council shall provide rules and regulations for the award of prevention grants and the conduct of prevention programs authorized under this section, subject to the following limitations:
(1) The Council shall issue prevention funding to local school districts proposing to establish an integrated plan to deliver prevention services including, but not limited to, academic tutoring and student mentoring programs to provide at-risk students with the extra help they may need to succeed academically and with positive adult role models; outreach programs to promote parental, family and community involvement in students’ academic studies and in reducing and resolving school discipline problems; school-linked support services to help students with family or health problems that may be adversely affecting their academic performance and their conduct at school; training to help students and school personnel resolve conflicts peacefully and non-disruptively; and assistance to help teachers better manage the behavior of students in their classrooms.
(2) Applications for funding pursuant to this section shall be made by school districts in accordance with procedures and standards established by the Council. Each applicant shall set forth an integrated plan to provide prevention services consistent with paragraph (1) of this section. To avoid duplication of effort, maximize the impact of limited resources, and increase the effect of efforts by state, local, community and private, nonprofit agencies through increased coordination and cooperation, the Council shall give preference to applications which:
a. Are submitted by 2 or more school districts working in concert, where appropriate;
b. Include private, nonprofit agencies and community organizations as partners in the application, and identify the roles those agencies and organizations are to play in delivering prevention services in the community;
c. Indicate how grants from the federal government and foundations will be used or sought to help deliver prevention services in the community; and
d. Identify the roles state and local agencies are to play in delivering prevention services in the community.
(3) The Council shall provide technical assistance to districts preparing applications and ongoing assistance to districts awarded funding pursuant to this section.
(4) The Council shall establish a timetable for the award of grants pursuant to this section which shall provide, at minimum, for a period of 1 month for joint planning between the Council and the applicants that the Counsel selects as finalists eligible for a funding award. During such joint planning, the Council and the applicant shall refine the applicant’s prevention plan, ensure that the plan makes cost-effective use of the resources and services of state, local, community and private, nonprofit agencies, and consider the incorporation of successful elements of other districts’ prevention programs into the applicant’s plans. Final awards shall be made by the Council on or before January 15 of each year for the subsequent school year, contingent upon the appropriation of funds for such purpose in the annual appropriations act.
70 Del. Laws, c. 215, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 180, § 92.;
any regulatory, administrative, advisory, executive, appointive or legislative body of the State, or of any political subdivision of the State, including, but not limited to, any board, bureau, commission, department, agency, committee, ad hoc committee, special committee, temporary committee, advisory board and committee, subcommittee, legislative committee, association, group, panel, council or any other entity or body established by an act of the General Assembly of the State, or established by any body established by the General Assembly of the State, or appointed by any body or public official of the State or otherwise empowered by any state governmental entity, which:(1) Is supported in whole or in part by any public funds; or
(2) Expends or disburses any public funds, including grants, gifts or other similar disbursals and distributions; or
(3) Is impliedly or specifically charged by any other public official, body, or agency to advise or to make reports, investigations or recommendations.
The Delaware Attorney General’s office released a Freedom of Information Act legal opinion today giving Delaware Governor Carney the right to use executive privilege for a council designed to improve family services in Delaware. In other words, they are allowed to hold non-public meetings and invite whomever they choose with no one the wiser. The Attorney General’s office agreed with Carney’s office because of a very bad “separation of powers” clause in state law. Continue reading “Governor Carney’s Office Cites “Executive Privilege” With Family Services Cabinet Council FOIA Complaint”
Delaware Governor John Carney is embarking down a very dangerous path. I assume this is in response to my article last month about how the first meeting of the Family Services Cabinet Council was closed to the public. Governor Carney rescinded his Executive Order #5 to create Executive Order #9 which established new wording in recreation of the Family Services Cabinet Council:
In accordance with the common law privilege protecting executive communications concerning the deliberative and policy-making processes, the records, investigations, internal communications, deliberations and draft work product of the Council shall be confidential and may be disclosed only at the direction of the Governor.
What kind of nonsense is this John Carney? A Cabinet-level council, and you deliberately shut any discussion this group has out of the public eye? The very term “deliberative and policy-making processes” demands it be open to the public. You are full of it Governor Carney. Your campaign promise and the part on your inaugural address about an open state government was a complete and utter lie. We both know what will happen in these meetings. Stop pretending you are a Governor and not a corporate puppet to the special interests that want to turn education and the workforce into their own molding. I am done listening to anything you have to say. With the stroke of a pen, in response to my article about transparency in your office, you have shown your true colors once and for all. Shame on you Governor Carney. You have destroyed FOIA in Delaware with this action by essentially excluding any of your Cabinet members on this charade of a Family Services Cabinet Council. They can cite executive privilege in any FOIA request by stating it is tied to the activities of this council. And with one line on this, you have made damn sure you can invite anyone to the party and protect them as well with no oversight or transparency whatsoever: “…and such others as the Governor shall invite.” But we will NEVER know who those others are, will we. Open government my ass. Dictatorship is more like it.
Governor Carney sent a letter to all Delaware public school teachers this morning for Teacher Appreciation Week. The irony of this letter, as several Delaware school districts are getting ready to layoff teachers, is astounding. Because of Carney’s proposed budget for FY2018, Delaware school districts are put in a no-win situation. School boards can either raise property taxes with the match tax or reduce their own budgets (of which they have to do anyways). Carney shifted the onus of the budget deficit away from his office with his “shared sacrifice” language. What he did was attempt to make damn sure the taxpayers of the state shift their anger at Delaware school boards when their taxes go up or see their children suffocate in huge classrooms with less teachers and programs.
I have this to say to Governor Carney: what you have done is shady and despicable. It is the ultimate in political posturing, but your muscle flex is going to backfire on you. You won’t get away with playing the budgetary Darth Vader where others do the dirty work for you if you want to survive past 2020. Your opponents are most likely salivating over all this because you exposed a major Achilles heel very early in the game. And you better believe if charters somehow benefit over all this, I won’t be the only one protesting. Many will join me. As an example, will the General Assembly get rid of the very useless charter school transportation slush fund? Will charter schools also have teacher layoffs? Will they actually lose some of their transportation budget like all the local school districts will? If the answer to any of these is a no, I don’t see much “shared” sacrifice.
If any members of our General Assembly think they can sneak in the usual perks into the epilogue language of the budget in the final hours of this legislative session (I’m talking to you most of all Mrs. Death Penalty flipper), it will cause a ruckus unseen in Legislative Hall for some time.
It is past time Delaware stopped using students and teachers as sacrificial lambs. It isn’t just Carney and the General Assembly who are doing this, it is also the school districts. I have yet to see any school district cutting administrative positions. So far, I am fairly sure Indian River, Christina, Caesar Rodney, and Colonial will be cutting teachers. That list will grow.
Below is Carney’s letter to teachers. Like I said, this is almost insulting. I have no doubt students said many things about their teachers, but Carney (or whichever staff member wrote this letter) seems to cherry-pick certain things to further
his Rodel’s own agenda. Can we just stop pretending John Carney? Just come out and rename the state Rodelaware. You aren’t fooling anyone. This letter demands the famous “John Young redline edition”…
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2017 8:34:32 AM
To: K12 Employees
Subject: Thank you
As the nation recognizes National Teacher Appreciation Week, we in Delaware have a lot to celebrate. Secretary of Education Susan Bunting joins me in thanking all of you for helping our students succeed in school and in life.
When you say “celebrate”, who is celebrating? Of course Bunting is going to join you. She will do whatever you want! Nothing against Dr. Bunting, but if I have learned one thing about a Governor’s Cabinet, they follow whatever the Governor says, which usually translates to what Rodel wants. Please don’t use words like celebrate at the same time teachers are facing unemployment. It is the ultimate insult.
If I needed any help remembering how lucky we are in Delaware to have such great educators, I got it Monday morning. Secretary Bunting and I visited Capital School District’s Hartly Elementary School and I asked the students why their teachers are special. Their rapid-fire answers were right on point:
What were the other answers provided by students? I have a very hard time believing that the majority of answers given by students in an elementary school were geared towards post-secondary education plans. But I’m sure the Rodel and Delaware Business Roundtable business types love these answers. Feed the beast!
“They make sure we’re ready for college.”
“Without them we wouldn’t know how to use decimal points.”
Okay, that’s a good answer.
“They’re helping us get good jobs some day.”
By standardize testing the hell out of these kids and forcing them to learn in digital technology classrooms, the state is robbing children of a true educational experience. This data collecting of children, geared towards shifting the workforce to select jobs for the future, is social engineering at its absolute worst Governor Carney. Please stop with the Markellian way of thinking and be your own man.
And my favorite:
“They teach us to care about each other.”
Awwww, that is so cute. Reminding teachers, as many prepare to get pink slips, that it is about the students and they should just shut up and share the sacrifice for the good of the state. And just so you know, many Delaware parents teach their children to care about each other. That isn’t solely owned by teachers. For many students, it is. But parents across the state play the main part in raising their children. So let’s not even get into the plans to transform education into a “public-private partnership”. Kids need to be in brick and mortar schools, not the local non-profits at younger ages.
Our kids get it. They know just how much you do and how invested you are in them.
Yeah, too bad our state isn’t invested in them. Too bad they aren’t invested in our students either. Unless you like having over 35 kids in a classroom. Tell me Governor Carney, how many kids were in YOUR classrooms when you went to school back in the day? But let’s keep paying for Smarter Balanced and all the Common Core bullshit. Let’s keep our classrooms wired at all times so corporations get those nice bottom line numbers at the expense of students. Let’s let the data whores continue to collect private information on our students through their iPhones and Google Chrome. Schools, teachers, and students are not “investments”. Those are corporate education reform words. Yes, the children are the future, but by putting them in terms of financial gain, you insult every single child in this state.
I hope you were able to join us on April 27, when we hosted a Telephone Town Hall with Delaware educators to discuss issues around public education in Delaware. Specifically, we discussed education and our state budget.
I was on that call. Most town halls end when the questions run out. But not on your schedule Governor Carney.
This is an important discussion, and I will continue to listen to educators during school visits across Delaware. We face a $400 million budget shortfall, but I remain dedicated to each of you and your students.
Dedication is more than “listening”. It means making damn sure any sacrifice stays the hell out of the classroom. But you can’t do that, can you? Let’s pray our General Assembly finally and collectively says NO to your horrible budget proposal.
Our plan is to fix our structural deficit, and get to a place where we can again invest in areas that will move our state forward: early childhood education, arts, additional supports for at-risk students, health and wellness, and after-school programing, to name a few.
The key wording is “get to a place”. That means you want to kick the can down the road, which Delaware is fantastic at doing. Your predecessor was excellent in that regard. “Invest now” all too often means “pay the price later”. No child should pay the price for adult decisions. If you want to fix the structural deficit, how about you actually go after delinquent property taxes? Sign an Executive Order demanding the counties exert pressure on those who feel they don’t have to pay at all! Like the Chinese company that owes Red Clay over a million bucks in back property taxes. Or the golf club in Middletown that likes to play games with Appoquinimink. Make sure our State Auditor has the ability to properly audit our schools and see where every single penny in Delaware education funding is REALLY going. Cause we both know there is foul play going on in some circumstances. But turning a blind eye to that has helped to lead us to where we are at now.
All Delaware students deserve a quality education, and an equal opportunity to succeed. And I know you work hard every day to deliver on that promise. Thank you for all you do.
All Delaware students do deserve a quality education. But not your definition of it. And let’s not even get into this “weighted funding” nonsense. We both know what that is really about Governor Carney, don’t we. If I were you, I would give considerable thought in the next week to revising your proposed budget. Because if you truly care about students, this is not the way to go. I tried to give you a chance and have faith in you. I have yet to see you live up to that promise. Tax the rich more. Seriously. That is the best way to start.
Kevin Ohlandt, the blogger who is getting sick of public education being a sacrificial lamb to the likes of Rodel and the Delaware Business Roundtable in the name of corporate profit and social engineering.
I will get the call at 7:45pm.
For those following, Mike Matthews is also going to live comment on his Facebook account. I told him I was going to live blog. He said to do it cause he won’t catch everything. I told him that is okay because I can just screenshot everything he says.
It is 7:46pm and no call yet. Mike Matthews hasn’t received one either. A government function running late? Say it isn’t so!
Out of ten people on Mike’s Facebook page, only one has gotten the call. Just got the call!
Carney is on the line! Thanking DASA and DSEA for getting the word out. Vehicle he has been using since he was our lone Congressman.
Been travelling up and down the state and has participated in about a dozen town hall meetings. Legislators helped to organize these. Has heard from people we have a structural budget problem. This should be a balanced solution. People want us to run government more effectively and proficiently. Thinks with “shared sacrifice” more people will chip in.
Most folks don’t want to see cuts in programs or tax increases. People want a balanced approach with shared sacrifice.
More kids with special needs. Forced to deal with almost $400 million dollar shortfall.
Purpose of call is to talk about education cuts and way to bring this to General Assembly. Thinks it will be $200 million in cuts and $200 million in new revenue. Corporate franchise tax will give us some extra bling.
Cigarettes going up a $1.oo.
Education spending is flat. Fund teacher units based on student growth, early childhood education, teacher step increases, professional development. Education is $1.4 billion. $1.2 billion goes to districts to pay for teacher salaries and other costs. State pays about 60% of all education spending in our state. Suggesting is an across the board cut of 1.5% and $22 million cut in educational sustainment fund. Wants districts to cut $22 million. When federal funds went away for math and reading specialists, state picked them up. Doesn’t want to cut anything. Need for Delaware to be more competitive in the long-term.
Talking about spending time at Red Clay school in 2nd grade class. Skipped around on questions. The moderator interrupted to hear my question. My question surrounds tuition funding for special education.
Sandy from Newark was cut off. Cindy from Dover asked if how long it could take the state to go from 19 school districts to 6 school districts and central supply ordering. To cut down on everything. Carney said the idea of district consolidation has been raised in the town halls. He said you would have to look at actual cost saving as a result. Was done in the 1960s down in Sussex County and in New Castle County under the desegregation order. Difference in pay scales can result in a level-up effect. Could be higher pay and larger cost to districts. Looking at all expenses for state through state-wide committee.
Back to Sandy from Newark. No Sandy. Got my question (Wow). Asked if they are going to look at tuition funding for special education students. Said the numbers have grown as much as twice a regular student to eight times a regular student depending on challenges for student. Making sure students meet that qualification is important. Dr. Bunting got on. If a student’s needs can’t be served in the district, tuition funding kicks in to make sure those funds are used for that child. It is also used for gifted students in Sussex County. There are specific allocations for those costs so they do look at them.
Carrie from Newark asked how budget cuts will affect related arts teachers. Said a lot of the decisions will be made by local districts and school boards. He would like to see administrative overhead cuts and not personnel cuts. Said he would much rather see higher tax revenue than cuts. $37 million in total cuts for education out of the total $200 million they are looking for. More than he would prefer.
Mike from Middletown is asking about rainy day fund. Carney said it is 5% and it is a one-time amount and if you built spending on it, it would be held inappropriated against that. It is for downturn in middle of fiscal year. Legislature can’t appropriate more than 98% of the budget. Rainy day plus that 2% cushion would be against the law. It is more for emergency situation. Can’t use those funds from year to year.
Jerry from Cape Henlopen is on the line. He is an ESL teacher. Hasn’t received 2% increase in five years and has more students that don’t speak English. Said he has no support. They have higher special education funding but none for ESL students. Very disappointed in Delaware with this. Said he talked to teachers in Georgetown about their needs. Wants more funds for these students. Biggest problem we have is the difference in proficiency levels between lower advantaged students and those from higher income. Wants ALL students to be able to read by 3rd grade.
Kurt from Dover asked about raising gas tax. Said we have the lowest gas in the area. Everyone would pay equally. Has heard this suggestion. Said if we have two funds for budget and one is transportation trust fund. Gas tax goes towards that. Transportation should pay for itself. Allows us to go to financial markets and get bonds. Started under Governor Castle. General Assembly refused to raise this under Governor Markell. Said they are in good shape. Secretary Cohen said doesn’t need a gas tax. Deficit is in the General Fund.
Jennifer from Kent County asked about classroom sizes. How can classroom ratios meet the needs of ALL our students. He supports the lowest ratios the districts can provide based on their funding needs. A lot of districts take waivers in K-3 for classroom ratios, allows 22 students to teacher. They get these waivers to allow for other programs like art and music. Budget would keep overall spending flat, would fund teachers, step increases, professional service days, discretionary funds like education sustainability funds. In perfect world, would love to spend on positive things.
Cameron from Woodside. Teacher at Poly-Tech High School. Have the budget cuts proposed looked at how tech programs could be cut? Looking at how student transportation funding works. Doesn’t think is as cost-efficient as it could be. Thinks we should consolidate in some way. Said transportation for vo-techs is same proportionate to districts. Asking districts to take on 5% more of those costs.
Andrea from Newark talked about school boards raising taxes without referendum. Would what they are asking for be equal to what they are asking for in Colonial’s referendum? Carney said $22 million is relatively small amount, would amount to $40-$50 increase. Said we can pay for these services. Said local district money that comes from property taxes is very low compared to New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. He said that is important cause people move here based on those low property taxes. He said that doesn’t mean people willingly want more property taxes. Said this keeps Delaware competitive.
Bob from Wilmington asked about raising property assessment values. They haven’t been raised in 30-40 years. Carney said he was on the property reassessment task force under former Governor Carper. Property assessments are not current. State law said if reassessment is done, districts are required to lower tax rates. That can change through legislation. Can’t be done in five months to put together budget proposal in March and then approved by June. Thinks it is something we need to look at.
Dawn from Delmar asked about lowering number of days state employees work. Right now she works 188 days. Said she would be willing to work 185. Carney said his budget director proposed lowering professional development days but he doesn’t want actual paycheck cuts. Believes that is counter-productive. Said half the cuts he is proposing would be recoverable from the districts through higher taxes.
Ashley from Kent County asked about after-school programs. If those programs are cut such as 21st Century, what are the plans to keep kids off the street and keep them away from legal issues. What do we do with those students? Carney said he supports partnering with non-profit agencies like Boys & Girls Club. Supports grant-in-aid funding for those types of programs. Wants sustainable budget to cover those programs and to make sure disadvantaged background students get those needs. Said 21st Century is federal program. His approach to budget is to maintain programs and funding we have.
Laurie from Wilmington thanked Carney for listening to teachers. Said we spend a lot on micro-management. Race To The Top gave us a very irresponsible and expensive accountability system. Said we need an overhaul of this system. Carney said he asked Secretary Bunting to reorganize the Dept. of Education be more of a resource department as opposed to an accountability machine. Administrative overhead costs are huge according to Carney across the state. Said this can be done with district administrative overhead.
In a poll, 68% of callers support paying higher property taxes to support education, 32% said no.
Michelle from Dover is up next. She asked if the solutions on the table are going to fix the structural problems. She said another place to look at is our income taxes. She said by raising income taxes a full 1% instead of 2/10th of a percent, it would raise $160 million dollars. Surrounding states are about 3% higher in overall taxes. Carney said PA and MD have sales tax. He thinks Trump’s decline in taxes announced this week is a bad idea. He said our tax bracket is low at $60,000. Seven states have flat rates and no brackets, like PA. He said one of the goals is to reduce the top marginal tax rates when our top rate was 19%. Today it is at 6.6% and he is proposing it go up to 6.8%. Wants to get rid of itemized deductions. Said this benefits higher income households. Said increasing the standardized deduction helps lower-income families. Said it is a shared sacrifice.
Jill from Smyrna asked why step raises always occur for teachers. He said they are contractual. They could suspend those but it is a relationship between teachers and school districts. He said there are other groups of employees that get steps as well, can’t recall what they were. He said it is unusual to do due to contractual obligations.
Last question is from Devon from Wilmington. I know that guy! He asked about assurances that shared sacrifice won’t disproportionately affect disadvantaged students. Carney said he thinks students will get what they need with his balanced approach. He said the WEIC group has worked on these issues for a number of years. He wants Bunting to take a hard look at this. He does have a million in education opportunity grants in his proposed budget. We still get federal Title I funding for these supports.
Governor Carney thanked everyone for being on the call. 5,000 people were on the call according to Carney. Appreciates the dialogue we’ve had. Encourage people to talk to their legislators about the revenue package. To all the teachers, thank you for all the great work you do every day. Thank you, and God Bless everyone.
With that, the Education Funding Tele-Town Hall is over. Thanks for following along!
Today, during a rainy and cold January morning, John Carney was sworn in as the new Governor of Delaware. We have a new Governor of Delaware who will face many challenges from the very start. I am willing to give Carney a shot. I have nothing to lose. I am hoping he keeps his eye on the people of Delaware over that of corporate interests. Especially when it comes to education. I also pray he is willing to listen to those who may not be cut from a certain cloth. This is our Delaware and he is here to serve us, not the other way around. But I will give him a chance. He will make mistakes. No politician is perfect. Congratulations Governor Carney!
Today, Delaware Governor-elect John Carney picked Indian River Superintendent Susan Bunting as the Delaware Secretary of Education when his term begins in January, 2017. This is probably the worst choice he could make and it has the potential to become ripe with scandal. Continue reading “Carney’s Pick Of Susan Bunting For DE Secretary Of Education May Not Be The Wisest Choice”
Once upon a holiday season, in the land of Delaware, there lived a man who would become Governor. He was promised the throne eight years ago, but another man took his seat. In this land, the people chose their Governor every four years. The man who would be Governor finally won the seat and 58.34% of the people rejoiced. As he sat in his car one day after returning from his job in D.C., he looked out the window. He saw the sun setting in the distance.
John was anxious to get things going in Delaware. He had to officially wait until January 17th, 2017. “Only 47 days,” John said to himself. He had been so busy for so long. Things wouldn’t slow down for him in the next four years, and hopefully the four after that. His day was filled with phone calls, texts, and emails. Everyone wanted a piece of Delaware. He knew not everyone could get a piece. He called his wife from the driveway and told her he was going to go for a walk to clear his head. Always supportive, she knew John needed this and told him to take all the time he needed. John drove to the nearby park. As he walked out of his car, he put on his hat. It was rare he could get away from his security detail but at the same time he didn’t want to be bothered. John walked down the trail…
Meanwhile, 3,529.75 miles away, the jolly one was settling into his favorite chair. The elves were busy preparing for the big day. Santa was happy he had an extra day to prepare this year. As a tradition, during these leap years, he would pick one day off each leap year to do whatever he wanted. Mrs. Claus always forgot about it, but Santa didn’t. Today was his day off! Santa picked up his laptop and on his favorites bar was the website he enjoyed going to the most: Exceptional Delaware. Ever since Santa learned about Common Core and opt out, he found himself checking back in to see what was happening with the children of Delaware and the rest of the country. Santa was not happy when he found out what happened a few weeks after Christmas earlier this year. The people of Delaware wanted the lawmakers to override Governor Jack’s veto of the opt out bill, but it got hung up in some silly rule business. He knew exactly which of those lawmakers would be getting coal this year, led by their Speaker and the leaders below him. Santa heard there was a new Governor in Delaware so he decided he would pay him a visit. While he didn’t usually venture so far south during the busy month, it was his day off and he could do whatever he wanted. At least the things Mrs. Claus wouldn’t have cause to file for divorce over.
As hard as he tried, John couldn’t stop thinking about his plans. He didn’t count on the new President actually winning the election. All his plans were contingent on the Hill winning. But the Tower Man won and he had to plan around it. The Tower Man was picking people who John couldn’t picture running things down in D.C. His office was frantic over the mess. John had to strategize very carefully how he moved forward with everything. Not only did the Tower Man win, but the two bodies of Congress won a majority in the election as well. John’s Delaware was still blue, but a shocking election there threatened to turn the Delaware Senate red too. The state he was to lead had some peculiar problems in it and at the top of that list was the economy and education. Governor Jack treated the two as if they were symbiotic with each other and made some poor choices along the way. John knew if he was going to improve both he would have to find a way to draw everyone in. It was a difficult maze and John knew he wouldn’t please everyone. Governor Jack chose a particular route but John knew if he did the same it would not be good.
Santa knew John’s mind was heavy. As his sleigh crossed the border between Pennsylvania and Delaware, Santa could feel the weight on John’s shoulders. Leadership always carries a heavy burden. Santa knew that better than anyone. Santa knew John ever since he was a little boy. He always knew John would become a leader. John didn’t have the same political sharpness so many politicians had but this also made him more relatable to the people. He watched John’s humble beginnings in the town of Claymont. Carney was one of those tough kids who excelled in football which helped him out at St. Mark’s High School and then Dartmouth College. Santa remembers John’s awards. As John was teaching freshmen football at the University of Delaware, he was also studying public administration. From there, John began his political career working for the county he lived in and then for Governor Tom. From there, John’s political ladder kept getting bigger and bigger. He became the Lieutenant Governor for eight years and decided to run for Governor. But the future “education” Governor Jack beat him in a close race. Others told Jack to wait his turn, it was John’s turn, but Jack ignored them. A couple of years later, John ran for Congress and won. For six years, having to run every two years for a total of three Congressional terms, John worked in D.C. and learned how the game of politics really works. But he never gave up on getting back to Delaware to win as Governor. After Governor Jack was expected to end his tenure, many thought Vice-President Joe’s son Beau would run, but tragically Beau passed away after a long illness. It was then that John decided he would run but wished it had been under better circumstances.
John walked down the path. There was a crisp wind in the air but the moon was bright. He used to walk down this path many times. It hadn’t changed much over time and he remembered it like the back of his hand. John tripped on a branch and fell to the ground. As he looked up, he saw a bright light in the sky above him. A voice cried out “John, we need to talk.” John reached for his phone but he had left it in the car. He thought to himself, “This is it, all alone in the woods with no one to help.” He began to picture the headline in the News Journal the next day. “Who are you?” John asked. “Someone you haven’t thought about in a long time John.” Santa gracefully landed the sleigh on the path in front of John. His lights were still on so John couldn’t tell who it was. “I do have security watching me right now. They are watching you right now. So I wouldn’t try anything They will find you if anything happens to me.” “No they won’t,” Santa said. “Remember you let all of them have the night off and you so conveniently told each one there was coverage?” John wondered how this guy would know that. “It’s me, John. Santa.”
John couldn’t believe his eyes. As a child, he always believed. But as children grew older, that magic disappeared. John saw Santa everywhere this time of year. He began seeing him in stores as early as October. But it wasn’t the same as the man who just walked off a sleigh that came down in the middle of the woods. John took that early childhood magic for granted, as every adult does. John wondered what in the world Santa Claus wanted with him. Did he visit all the new leaders? “John,” Santa said, “We have to talk about the kids. Come with me.” John felt the world spin beneath him. Santa’s words captured him. They weren’t words demanding John obey him, but those of comfort and a calm John hadn’t felt for a long time. John looked at his watch. It was 6:30pm.
Santa and John got in the sleigh. The reindeer, who John hadn’t noticed before, began running down the path. John felt the sleigh lift up into the December night. “John, did you read my letter last year?” Santa asked. John read letters every day. There were some days he couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast he was so busy. John shook his head. “Did you send it to me?” John asked. He knew he probably had not seen it unless it was an issue of critical importance. He was sure if one of his staffers opened it and saw a letter from Santa Claus it would go in the circular bin next to their desk. “No, I let Exceptional Delaware put it up. I thought everyone in Delaware reads it.” That was a name John was familiar with the past six months. The blogger. “You mean the crazy education blogger from Dover? That guy wants to meet with me but I don’t know…” Santa abruptly interrupted John “Watch yourself,” Santa warned. “I have the utmost respect for the blogger. He helped me out last year and he knows what he is talking about.” John responded to Santa. “But he tends to tick off a lot of people. People I’m going to have to work with. I was warned to stay away from him.” Santa’s eyes widened. “Oh really? Would that have been Senator So-coal-A,” Santa carefully empathized. “And all those other adults who don’t have the first clue about what education really is? Let me tell you something John. You will be a leader of Delaware. Any state has a foundation from which it must build on. That foundation is the kids. Not the adults, and especially not the adults who try to make money and get power from kids. There are those out there who will pretend to speak the truth. You surround yourself with them. But there are those who speak uncomfortable truths that people don’t always want to hear. But they do so out of an innate need for change, in the hopes someone with the ability to hear will actually listen.”
John was familiar with what was going on in education. He was told of the long-range plans and how education would be reformed so all kids can succeed. The children would be trained to become the workforce of tomorrow. As he began his campaign, he knew many people in Delaware were hurting. When he ran for Governor the first time, the economy of the whole country was collapsing. Even though Delaware recovered from this, not all of the citizens did. Some never got the jobs back that made them more money. The cities were becoming too violent again. Drug use was up and children were getting shot in the street. But still, Delaware did the one thing it knows how to do best- spend money. John knew all that money wasn’t going to the right places. He also knew that when he became the leader he would have to fix a lot of these problems. Many of his advisors told him that education was going to fix all these problems. Not now, but down the road. But if he didn’t help follow the same paths Governor Jack made, nothing would ever get fixed. This was happening all over the country. There were critics, like the damn blogger, but they were just a whisper in the wind. They didn’t see the big picture and how this was for the good of the state and the country.
“Santa, where are we going?” John asked. “To see the children John.”
“Uhm, Santa. We are flying into downtown Wilmington. No offense sir, but I can’t be seen riding around in a sleigh with someone people don’t believe in along with eight reindeer.” Santa pulled out a pouch from his pocket. “Thanks for reminding me John, I almost forgot.” Santa took out a handful of dust and blew it all around him and John. “They won’t see us now.” Santa parked the sleigh on top of the Community Education Building. The duo went down through the building and to the streets below. They walked over to the playground next to the building.
In a dark corner, an African-American boy was reading with a flashlight. The boy was shivering as he turned a page. “Why is this boy out here Santa? Why doesn’t he go home?” Santa sighed. “This is his home John. He lives on the streets. During the really cold months he goes to a shelter with his aunt. She is at work right now.” John saw a grocery cart a few feet away from the boy. Covering it was a blue tarp. John could see some clothes in there and a few boxes. As John looked away for a moment in horror, he saw a hypodermic needle on the ground. The boy was reading a worn-out copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with a flashlight between his yellow teeth. He saw the boy lift a crumpled up bag out of his coat pocket. The boy began eating the few crumbs left in the bag of potato chips. Santa told John about how his father went to prison a few years ago. He belonged to one of the gangs. During a shoot-out in front of their apartment building, a bullet missed hitting the boy but instead lodged itself in his mother’s brain. He told John this is the first thing the boy sees when he wakes up in the morning and the last thing he sees at night. “Come on John, we have more stops to make tonight.” John walked to the sleigh but kept looking back at the boy.
Santa and John flew once more into the night. It was very quiet between them. They landed in a very wealthy neighborhood with mansions all around them. John wasn’t sure if he had been on this street when he was campaigning. Many houses were decked out in Christmas lights and he even saw Santas made up in lights. “This is never what Christmas was supposed to be John,” as Santa looked down at his belly. They got out of the sleigh and went into one of the houses. A girl was on her computer playing the latest version of Minecraft. Her mom asked her if she finished her homework. “I sure did,” the girl said. “You can check it on Schoology.” “Did you finish all the stuff on iReady?” the mother asked. “Yes Mom,” as the girl rolled her eyes. She had just finished eating the steak and shrimp but she was still hungry. “Can you turn the heat down Mom?” she yelled. As her hand grabbed the ice cream bowl, Santa and John left. As Sarah pulled the spoon to her mouth, she wondered if she had to be at the school in her cheerleader’s outfit by 9am tomorrow or 9:15.
They flew down to Georgetown. John was last there on Return Day in November. All the candidates who run for office, whether they win or not, participate in this event to “bury the hatchet”. But they flew away from the town to a trailer park. Inside, a Hispanic girl was kicking a ball around with her little brother. A man came into the room. “Hicerion sus deberes?” the man asked. “No podríamos papá. No sabíamos lo que significaban las palabras,” the boy answered. The man watched as his children did what they do after school almost every day. Kicking around the same ball. “Sorry Santa, my Spanish is very rusty. What did they say?” John asked. “The father asked if his children did their homework. They couldn’t because they can’t read the words. They don’t know English very well. They know enough for very basic things, but not enough to learn what they need to know. Their mother is still at the chicken farm working her shift. One of them always has to be with the kids. They aren’t here legally. The father is afraid all the time that his kids will be taken from him and he and his wife will have to go back to their country. He doesn’t know English at all.”
John felt his mind stir as they flew north. He was very troubled by what he saw. When he was campaigning, he tended to see the best of Delaware. In the daylight or early evening when many of his “Meet and Chews” with people were attended by those who had the means and the desire to see him. When he went to schools, he could tell the kids were on their best behavior because “an important man” was coming to visit. He didn’t see people in their homes or on the streets the way he did tonight. He felt uncomfortable, like he was seeing a side of the world he heard about but didn’t see first-hand. “Santa, I should really be getting back. It’s getting late and my wife is probably worrying about me.” Santa laughed so hard the sleigh shook. “Look at your watch John. What time is it?” John looked at his watch in bewilderment. It was still 6:30pm. No time had passed since he first got in the sleigh with Santa back on the trail. “Let me guess, another bit of your magic?” Santa smiled at John as they flew into a middle-class neighborhood in Dover.
The odd couple went into the house. Inside, a boy was crying on the couch. His parents were arguing in the kitchen. “What do you mean he was suspended again?” the father asked. “I got a call from school. They said he was acting out in class again and when the teacher told him to stop he ran out of the room. When another teacher found him, he pushed her away. The Principal came down the hall and yelled at him to come with him. David yelled back at him and Dr. Smith called two teachers to help bring him to the office,” the mother explained. “I didn’t get the call until two hours later. By the time I got there he was so upset.” “Did they give him any work to do when he was in there for two hours?” the boy’s father asked. “I don’t know. But this is not what his IEP says. They aren’t supposed to drag him down the hall and yell at him. He isn’t learning anything there. He’s depressed all the time. He can’t learn in a class with thirty kids.” John knelt down in front of the boy. He saw such pain and sadness in the boy’s eyes. “This boy has no friends John. The things you had growing up, kids to play with and throw a football around, running around in the woods, even going to the amusement park, David can’t do those things.” Santa explained how David was labeled as high-functioning Autism. He could do the work, but only under certain conditions. If there was a lot of activity in the classroom, people talking, moving around, David couldn’t handle that. His brain couldn’t filter out all the stimuli. Some days it worked, but for David, it was an endless litany of suspensions and leaving school early. “Special education John. If you don’t know what is going on with a child, and everyone is different, how can we put all kids in the same box?” Santa asked him.
John could see what Santa was doing. He understood that not every kid is the same. But if they didn’t try to help all the kids nothing would change. The two flew to the building where John was destined to spend many of his days in the next four years. Legislative Hall. Where all the laws in Delaware happened. John didn’t think there would be any kids there at 6:30pm, and he was right. Inside, a meeting was taking place. John knew about half the people at the large table in the House Majority Caucus room. There were some from the Department of Education, a couple from the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the usual Delaware State Education Association contingent, some Superintendents, a few teachers, Delaware PTA, some of the disability advocates, the lady from the Delaware Charter Schools Network, four legislators, and a couple of State Board members. He knew them. A few people sat in the chairs outside of the table. A woman from the Delaware DOE was giving a presentation on the Every Student Succeeds Act. Delaware had to come up with a state plan so all students can succeed. She was talking about the Delaware School Success Framework and the measurements they wanted included in their state accountability system. It was all about proficiency and growth. Which John knew was based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. All these adults, sitting there talking about kids and how they can make education better. John knew a few of the people there had the best of intentions but this was what they do in Delaware. They sit around a table and talk. This was how things got done. They even had a name for it, The Delaware Way.
“You don’t get it!” John cried out. “We can’t keep testing these kids. They aren’t the same. We can’t keep doing this. Their lives mean so much more than these tests.” Santa looked at John. “They can’t hear you. Even if they could, too many of them wouldn’t listen. They think they know what is best. They forget what it was like when they were kids. Even that man over there.” Santa pointed to a man from Wilmington. “He kept fighting for the kids in Wilmington and how the teachers need to be better,” Santa explained. “The man believed what he said but he didn’t realize how much these children don’t have outside of school. The man didn’t understand that you can’t just wave a magic wand and make teachers better. And the best teachers, they were the ones already in those classrooms in Wilmington. They were the ones who came to school every day, knowing the problems these kids brought to the classroom. The look of hunger in their eyes as they wore the same clothes for the third day in a row. They dedicated their lives to helping these kids in the hardest classrooms in the state. In return, they were shamed by many of the people in this room. The little boy we saw on the playground tonight? He goes to the poorest school in the state. Most of the people in this room have never walked into his school. They don’t understand what he needs. That legislator over there? She sponsored a bill so special education would get better in the state. In their eyes, it did. Students went from 21% proficiency on the ELA part of Smarter Balanced to 23%. To them, that is growth. The Superintendent over there? She runs the district where the two kids from Georgetown go to school. She has a lot of students who can’t speak or read English. She hasn’t said one word tonight about how to help them. See the man over there? He runs a charter school in Newark. They just settled on a lawsuit against the Christina School District. In return they will get more money in the future. Remember the girl in the mansion? She goes to that charter school. That money will be taken from the homeless boy’s school. He will get less than he has today at school. The man over there? He sits on the board at the Rodel Foundation. He sees opportunity. He sees how the business leaders in the state can profit from all this. He is hoping they will start talking about more career pathway programs in our high schools. He knows that some will go to the coding school he sits on the board of. He talks with other business leaders and the graduates of that program do internships at their companies. Sometimes they get jobs. While they are learning, these coding students are building the network of tomorrow. They develop algorithms that will go into the education technology in all the schools. All that data, all that blessed data. They store it all. They keep everything, these futurists and visionaries. They have the money and influence to make sure what they want becomes policy and law. It is the way the modern world works John. Perhaps they know, and don’t care, that what they are setting up now will only make those children who struggle the most even further apart from any true opportunity to succeed. And them, over there, they work for the Department of Education. They are the middlemen between the schools and the business community. They make sure the business community gets what they want in the schools. They do this through regulations and conversations you will never hear about. That woman there, she runs the accountability section of the Department. Her job is to make sure all children in certain grades take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. When she sees the results come in, she doesn’t see the faces of the children who took the test. She sees numbers. Results. Scores. Her job is to understand why all the children we saw tonight got a 1 on the test last Spring except for the girl in the mansion who got a 4. She doesn’t see David’s disability. Or the two siblings who can’t read the instructions for the test in English much less understand the context of a passage in Spanish about the stock market. She doesn’t know that the African-American boy in Wilmington has slept in 124 different beds in the past year alone and the other 241 nights were outside with blankets. But she actually thinks they can close the achievement gaps and these children will grow into prosperity. How does she know this? It’s what her bosses tell her every single day. She hears the lie so much she believes it.”
John and Santa left the building. As the two flew north, they talked about what John had to do. What he needed to change. They talked about the blogger and the parents, teachers, legislators, advocates, and citizens who thought like Santa did. “Those are the ones you really need to talk to John. I’m sure you have heard from many of the people who were in that meeting tonight. If you haven’t, I have no doubt your advisors have.” John knew this to be true. “You need to understand the other side of the coin John, where the real world lives. These aren’t pleasant realities you saw tonight. For those fighting for the kids, even opting out of the test isn’t as easy as it once was. They are fighting for these kids, their kids. And their grandchildren. They are fighting for their jobs. They see beyond the results and the growth. They see what needs to change but no one listens. No one who can really make a difference. Some do, but not enough to make the changes. When they do speak, they are shunned by their peers. Given less importance. It isn’t right John. What the people in that room wanted, it won’t change anything. It will only cause more damage. You can’t incorporate education. These are children. You need to change all this.”
John walked out of the sleigh. He thanked Santa for showing him so much of the Delaware he didn’t see before. The two shook hands. “Santa, I don’t know if I can change all of this by myself. You know if I try I will make enemies. Those enemies won’t make my job any easier.” Santa put his hand on John’s shoulder. “That is what all leaders who understand what is right and just have to face. Some succeed and some fail. Some do it alone and some have support. All I can say is this John- remember what you saw tonight. Every single time you make a decision. Remember the children’s faces before you see the adults. You know in your heart who is really in this for the kids and who isn’t. When you hear that voice in your head, questioning what the true motives are, listen to that. Let that be your shield against your enemies John.” John hugged Santa. “Merry Christmas Santa.” “And to you as well Governor Carney.” Santa walked toward his sleigh and turned around. “John, find those who speak the uncomfortable truths.”
John looked down at his watch. It was 6:31pm. Santa was gone.