Legislation & True Education Reform That NEEDS To Happen For Schools, the State Board and the DOE In Delaware

I’ve talked about legislation that did pass, and bills that are still pending.  The following are bills that should happen given the current state of education in Delaware.  I strongly encourage our legislators to read this and start thinking about these ideas if you haven’t already.  If we really want meaningful change for students in Delaware, we need to start thinking outside of the very small box we have placed ourselves in with curriculum, assessments, transparency, accountability, discipline and special needs.  These are by no means my only ideas, but ones I feel could best benefit everyone involved in education in a meaningful way.  I welcome comment on these ideas and actual ways to move forward on these if consensus is reached on them.

1) A bill to mandate the Delaware Department of Education places any contract with any outside vendor, regardless of active or non-active status, on their website.  This shall include the original request for proposal, any bidders and their proposed bids within 10 business days after the selection of the contracted vendor, any addendums to the contract, change orders, or extensions, a clear and concise timeline for the contract, and any violations of the contract unless involved in current legal action.  As well, all funds released to such vendor must be fully transparent for each vendor along with the dates of such payment and the services rendered for those funds.  If any contract is in conjunction with another state Department, the Department of Education shall also release the same contract and financial information regardless of the reporting Department for the vendor.

2) A bill to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the state assessment for Delaware.  Any further state assessments developed in the state for the purposes of assessing Delaware students shall not be used for teacher evaluations and shall have no impact on a school’s accountability ratings, annual yearly progress, or the ability for a student’s retention or summer school options.  Any state assessment shall be used for informational purposes only to guide teachers and educators in best practices for instruction of students and further advancement of researched and normed best educational practices.  Any future state assessment must have a 3/4 majority vote in both the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate in the event that item #10 on this list does not occur.  Any testing vendor or contract associated with a state assessment must clearly indicate on their request for proposal any method of data collection and disbursement, internet safety protocols, conflicts of interest, scoring system with open and transparent rules and regulations surrounding such system, and ability to collect, collate and disseminate the scores based on the educational material to the State Board of Education and all school districts, charter schools and vocational school districts in a manner which will give reliable, timely (within one month), and purposeful educational direction designed for the ability to help students progress to the next level and to identify key barriers on an individual and local level for any student achievement.  Any accommodation approved by an IEP or 504 team for the purposes of students with disabilities shall be honored as long as it does not prevent the student from actively taking part in such assessment.  Any student who appears to be having undue stress or anxiety while taking such assessment shall immediately be given the ability to stop the assessment and take it at a future time.  No assessment shall be more than three hours long and shall take up more than three school days.  Any section of any such assessment shall be given no longer than one hour increments for each. No elected Governor of Delaware shall issue an Executive Order for any such state assessment, curriculum associated with the state assessment, or state standards for any such assessment.  No local school district, charter, or vocational school district shall provide more than two assessments a school year, longer than two hours, as approved by the State Board of Education and the local school board of education based on the above and below criteria within this act.  This does not include final exams, mid-terms end of unit assessments, teacher created assessments, the SAT, ACT, or classroom quizzes.  None of these assessments shall create situations where a student is exposed to deductive reasoning or opinion based on any religious, racial, civil rights, violent, or current controversial issues that could create any type of belief system or cultural group to be affected, compromised, or in any way cause civil unrest or situations pitting students, parents or educators against each other.

3) The Delaware Department of Education and the State Auditor of Accounts will create a Comptroller General to oversee the financial flow of education funds coming in and out of all Delaware school districts, charter schools and vocational.  This comptroller shall report on a monthly basis to the State Board of Education on the financial viability of all the above as well as any red flags that come up during their constant review and monitoring of all state, local, and federal funds.  Any funds received by charter schools in the form of grants or donations, whether individual, group or foundation, shall be shown on the Comptroller General website as well as each charter school’s website.  The charter school website must show where the funds are allocated, the purpose, and the progress of those funds being spent.

4) An act to remove the provision regarding the State Board of Education.  Previously, the Governor appointed members to the State Board of Education.  All seven members of the State Board of Education shall be elected by the general populace during the general election occurring each Election Day in the state.  No member shall serve longer than a 3 year term, and term limits are set at two terms.  No member who previously sat on the Governor-appointed State Board of Education shall be able to announce candidacy for the State Board of Education.  The Executive Director of the State Board of Education shall be appointed by the General Assembly with a 3/4 majority vote in both the House and the Senate.  The make-up of the State Board of Education shall consist of the following: Three members from Newcastle County, two members from Kent County, and two members from Sussex County.  Three members shall be parents not affiliated with any state organization, department, group, commission or task force.  No legislators shall be a member.  Two members must be educators or former educators.  One member must be an administrator or former administrator.  One member must be either a special education educator or have sufficient special education background to represent the population of students with disabilities.  No member shall be on the board of any current school district, charter, or vocational technical district.  No member shall be employed or sit on the board of any past or present Department of Education contracted vendor.  This act removes the Cabinet position of Secretary of Education and any reports created through this duly-elected State Board of Education must be sent to the Governor within 3 business days.

5) All school districts, charter schools, and vocational districts must have on their website the following: the number of Individualized Education Programs (IEP) the school currently administers, to be updated by the 5th day of each calendar month; the number of applied for IEPs and the number of accepted IEPs, the number of administrative complaints filed with the Department of Education against the school in terms of special education, the number of mediations through the Department of Education, the number of Due Process Hearings and their decisions with redacted identifiable student information, the number of special education lawsuits the school has or had, and the financial awards, including any applicable attorney fees or other amounts of each resolution if applicable; no hearing officer of any Due Process Hearing or Administrative complaint shall serve on any other state Department, group, commission, council, or division.  The newly selected Due Process Hearing Council shall consist of five members, to be appointed by the duly-elected State Board of Education, and shall have the following qualifications: two parents of a child with a current IEP or last had an IEP within the past five years, one special education teacher currently employed by the State of Delaware, one member with a license to practice psychology, and one member with a license to practice psychiatry.

6) This act is to clarify that all schools must report any incidents of bullying, offensive touching, or fighting through the E-School or any such future designated system within two calendar days.  All perpetrator and victim reports must be filled out.  Any incident with a perpetrator or victim on this system shall be communicated with the parent or legal guardian of the student within 3 business days and signed by the parent or legal guardian.  All such reports shall be given to the parent or legal guardian of a student along with their marking period or trimester report cards.  Any proven failure to follow this act more than 3 times over any rolling three month period shall results in a filing by the State Board of Education to the Delaware Attorney General’s office to conduct an immediate investigation of the school or district, which shall have public notice of such filing both on the school or district website along with the most circulated newspaper in each county, to determine if the school is considered a persistently dangerous school and if determined, the school shall notify all parents of this designation within 5 business days of this decision.

7) This act is to clarify the process of “manifestation determination” as dictated by Delaware state code and Federal law.  Any student on an IEP or Section 504 plan has clear and concise rights in regards to discipline.  In the event of multiple suspensions, currently 10, but with this act changed to 5, the IEP or 504 team must convene within five business days to determine if the actions associated with the suspension or expulsion were a manifestation of the student’s disabilities.  If it is determined by the team to be such, the school psychologist must do a functional behavioral analysis of the student within ten business days, report the findings to the team, and a behavioral intervention plan must be developed to assist the student with coping mechanisms, best proven practices associated with that particular disability to prevent such behaviors, and appropriate steps to educate students and all school staff in regards to the student’s disability as approved by the parent or legal guardian.  This act shall also apply if a student spends more than 30 hours out of the instructional classroom due to any discipline incident.  In the event the parent or legal guardian cannot be notified within 15 business days for any part of this process, one member of the duly-elected State Board of Education or the Due Process Hearing Council shall be appointed to represent the parent or legal guardian after all efforts to contact the parent have been exhausted within a 10 day period of time.

8) Any incident of an educator, school staff member, contracted vendor, or adult on school property or school function, seen by witnesses, whether student or adult, or viewed on school surveillance equipment, or reported by a parent after the fact in both writing and verbally, physically assaulting a student in retaliation or with malicious intent, including the following: punching, kicking, scratching, pulling hair, spitting on, biting, head butting, twisting any part of the student’s body with intent to cause discomfort, pushing to the extent the student falls down or falls into a surface to cause any type of mark on the student’s body, struck with a foreign object, or seen to actively notice and not react in  a timely manner while other students engage in such activity against a student, shall result in the school administrator, or designated appointee, district superintendent, or designated appointee determining of the local law enforcement shall be contacted and an emergency convening of the local board of education within three business days with a quorum present to determine the nature of the incident and if any result of the action was through legal seclusion and restraint mechanisms as allowed by state law, and what the next appropriate steps shall be.  This information must be reported to the State Board of Education and the Attorney General’s office within 24 hours.  If either body determines the local board did not act in the student’s best interest, such adult will be terminated without pay or pension if employed by the state, or banned from the school property or any school function if not.  Collective bargaining rights, if applicable, shall be suspended during this investigation.  The local educators association, if applicable, must be notified of any such investigation within 24 hours and both the agency and the educator must be notified of the exact details of the allegation.  In the event of any such action where the school is legally bound to contact law enforcement under state code and regulation, any decision determined by the state court system shall supersede any decision by the local board or state board of education.

9) This act shall remove Title 14, paragraph 508, section 347 of state code, the provision that charter schools shall keep any excess transportation funds over the contracted bid with any school bus company.  In the event a charter school or school district owns the school buses, they must report on a monthly basis on their website, to the State Board of Education, and the Comptroller General all receipts for fuel, tolls, bus driver wages, repairs, estimates for repairs, and any maintenance receipts or costs for such buses.

10) Any Federal mandated curriculum, assessment, waiver, or regulation designed to give any type of educational direction to any school, student, or educator must be approved with a 3/4 vote by the following coalition of representatives: The State Board of Education, the President of the Delaware State Educators Association and each local president of the local educators associations based on a majority vote by each member of such local organization, three members of each school district board of education, one member from each charter school board of education, one member of each vocational school district, the President of the Delaware Association of School Administrators based on a majority vote by that body, the President of the Delaware Parent Teacher Organization based on a majority vote of that membership, and five Delaware State Representatives, three of which must be on the House Education Committee, three Delaware State Senators, two of which must be on the Senate Education Committee, and a State Board of Education appointed “50 Parent Council” consisting of the following: 22 parents from Newcastle County, 15 parents from Kent County, and 13 parents from Sussex County, all of which must have children currently enrolled in Delaware public schools with at least four years left in school, and not a member of any of the other organizations listed on this act.  This body must then approve any such Federal education designation with a 3/4 majority vote.  Any Federal funding linked to such curriculum, assessment, direction or regulation, shall be a means to give punitive action to any school, student or educator, nor shall a rule, threat or veiled threat of the removal or reduction of any mandated Federal funding give rise to intimidate, bully or coerce any type of public school establishment or state governing body into accepting these actions on a Federal level.

11) All state employees associated with any type of disbursement of educational funds, or employed to receive any such funds, with approval by the Comptroller General and the local board of education shall, in the event of the issuance of a state purchase card, list on the school or district website any and all receipts for such purchases, the reason for the purchase, and the exact description of the purchase designed for and approved under norms and regulations as determined by the Comptroller General and the State Board of Education to best serve the education of students in Delaware.

12) All school district and charter school board meetings must be digitally recorded and live-streamed from their websites.  Minutes from non-executive sessions of board meetings must be posted on the school website within two business days if any action items were voted on or discussed to give parents and citizens the ability to view these items.  All recordings must be placed on the school website within three business days of such board meeting.  All boards must have a clear and concise agenda listed one week prior to any board meeting along with a description of any action items.  All school board meetings must take place at either the district office or a school within the district.  No board meeting shall take place at any location outside of these two designated areas, including any retreats which shall also be open to the public with the above rules and regulations.  This will also include the State Board of Education.

13) The convening of a task force to determine how the Department of Education in Delaware effectively guides and determines best education policies for students in Delaware. No member of this task force shall be any past or present employee of the Department, or any contracted vendor employee currently or in the past receiving any funds from the Department.  This task force must consist of the Governor, three members of the duly-elected State Board of Education, the Comptroller General, the President of the Delaware State Educators Association, the President of the Delaware Parent Teacher Association, the President of the Delaware Association of School Administrators, three board members from each traditional school district, one member from each charter school and vocational district, 5 parents from Newcastle county, 3 parents from Kent County and 3 parents from Sussex County, two special needs advocates, two parents of special needs students, two members from any minority-based Civil Rights group, and nine State Representatives (three of which must be on the House Education Committee) and five State Senators (two of which must be on the Senate Education Committee).  This task force shall look at all best practices, rules, regulations, salaries, reporting structure, and communications within the Department and vote with 3/4 majority on proposed legislation to be reported to the Governor, publicly shown, and brought before the General Assembly within 30 days of the report or the first day of the assemblage of that body if after 30 days.