Teacher Evaluation Bill Unanimously Released While WEIC Bill Tabled In House Education Committee

It was a mixed bag of results at the Delaware House Education Committee.  A teacher evaluation bill, House Bill 399, was released unanimously from the committee.  But a Wilmington Education Improvement Commission bill, concerning the redistricting of Wilmington students in the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District, designed to make clear a school board can not raise taxes without a referendum, was not released.  It was immediately tabled after in the chance the bill can get enough votes to be lifted from that designation.  None of the House Republicans on the House Education Committee voted to release the bill, nor did Democrat Reps. Sean Matthews or Deb Heffernan.  While this doesn’t kill the WEIC redistricting plan (the main legislation for this is House Joint Resolution #12), it certainly doesn’t help.  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf attended the meeting in support of the bill.

With the teacher evaluation bill, House Bill 399, this came after years of back and forth conversation between Delaware teachers and the Department of Education.  The bill deals with how Component V, the major sticking point for teachers, is measured in teacher evaluations.  The major part of that section deals with the state assessment scores, currently the Smarter Balanced Assesssment.  This bill would make it so both the administrator and the teacher would have to agree on what to use for this section, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be the state assessment.  There are some restrictions with this based on a teacher’s prior rating through the DPAS-II evaluation system.  This wouldn’t kick in if they were rated below effective.  House Bill 399 will go on the House Ready list and awaits a vote by the full House.  If it passes there, it would have to go to the Senate Education Committee, and if released, to a full Senate vote, and ultimately the Governor for signature.  Teachers have been fighting this component for years ever since Senate Bill 51 was signed into law during the 2013-2014 legislative session.

Executive Director of the State Board of Education, Donna Johnson, expressed concern during public comment concerning an administrator still having the final word in an evaluation.  Kristin Dwyer, speaking on behalf of the Delaware State Education Association, was in support of House Bill 399.  One public speaker (I did not catch her name so I apologize) spoke about a lack of diversity on the sub-committee of the DPAS-II Advisory Group that came up with the recommendations.  Dr. Mark Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, spoke on behalf of the Chief State School Officers, spoke in support of the bill.

The slow climb to a House vote for the WEIC bill met with resistance by half the House Education Committee today.  Seven voted yes to release while seven voted no.  For a bill to be released from the committee in the House, it must have a majority.  A lot of the discussion concerned what House Bill 424 means in terms of a school board being able to raise taxes without a referendum.  State Rep. Sean Lynn deferred to the House Attorney who said it would not give school boards this right.  That was not enough to sway the half of the committee who voted no on release of the bill.

Over in the Senate Education Committee, House Bill 277 was heard.  This bill would give the Pathways to Prosperity program a permanent steering committee.  Questions were asked to DOE representatives by State Senator Nicole Poore concerning funding for the program.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee cut $250,000 Governor Markell earmarked to go towards this program.  Michael Watson and Luke Rhine from the Delaware DOE shared the funds for this mostly come from federal Perkins funds.  I gave public comment concerning a lack of parent representation on the proposed committee.  State Senator David Sokola thought that was in there and made it a point to make sure this was corrected.  A comment was made to Sokola’s question about this to the effect of “We can talk about this.”

As well, Senate Bill 278, dealing with the Freedom of Information Act at Delaware universities and proposed to make committees and sub-committees subject to FOIA, was heard in the Senate Education Committee.  Drs. Morgan and Galileo from the University of Delaware were in support of the bill as they met with stiff resistance in trying to find out what was even discussed at committee meetings.  They also shared that public comment is not allowed at committee meetings at University of Delaware.  Representatives from University of Delaware and Delaware State University were in opposition of the bill.

With the Senate, the results are not known right away if a bill is released or not.

While not officially on the agenda list yet, House Joint Resolution #12 will most likely be voted on tomorrow in the full House of Representatives.  This could either advance the WEIC redistricting forward or end it.  Senate Bill 277 is already on the agenda for a full Senate vote tomorrow as well.

Updated, 8:09pm: House Joint Resolution #12 is NOT on the House Agenda for tomorrow…

And So It Begins…Markell Signs Bills To Allow For Redistricting Of Wilmington Schools & Creation of WEIC

Let the games begin!  Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 122 and House Bill 148 into law today at the Hockessin Colored School.  Joined by city and state leaders, these articles of legislation will allow for the creation of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) and the redistricting of Wilmington district lines by the State Board of Education.  Any plans the State Board comes up with will be subject to approval by the 148th General Assembly.

Delawareonline, in an article written by their education reporter Matthew Albright, published the news and a video earlier today.  Albright said WEIC will be chaired by Tony Allen, the Bank of America executive who also chaired the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC), and will have assistant chairs consisting of Kenny Rivera, the President of the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education and Elizabeth Lockman, a parent advocate who also served on WEAC.

The plan will move the City of Wilmington schools out of the Christina School District into the hands of Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Some, including myself, have wondered if there are ulterior motives at play from Governor Markell, city leaders, some state legislators, the Delaware Department of Education, and the State Board of Education.  I’ve always hypothesized there is a secret plan to increase the number of charters in Wilmington or make it an all-charter district.

The bottom line is it will come down to funding.  The state of Delaware is already projected to have a $160-$170 million dollar deficit in next year’s budget.  So where will the money come from for this redistricting?  I can picture corporations wanting to donate funds, or non-profits like Rodel or the Longwood Foundation.  They will have stipulations for these funds, which could change the overall plan for the redistricting.  Yes, it needs legislative approval, but what if there is already a consensus among our state legislators?  This is conspiracy theory at it’s maximum for a state like Delaware, and I pray I’m wrong.  But if the DOE is already reneging on the promised priority school amount for Red Clay, how can the state assure adequate and proper funding for this endeavor?

“As I have said many times, the only way this all works is if Red Clay has a seat at the table as decisions are being made, is properly funded for taking on greater responsibility and is given a reasonable timetable that we all agree to,” Allen said.

What will be important for Red Clay is to make sure they have a seat at the table and they are not what’s on the table!

Governor Markell has less than a year and a half left in his term as Delaware Governor, and he will want to leave his “legacy” on Delaware.  The question looms over what that legacy will be, and if it will be for the people of Delaware or corporate interests and the privatization of our schools.  I like Tony Allen, and I want to think he is being true to his word on all of this, but there is just way too much that hasn’t been planned or answered in regards to this.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission will hopefully provide many of those answers.

Based on the video Delawareonline provided, in attendance were the following: Governor Markell, Tony Allen, WEAC Vice Chair Dan Rich, State Rep. Charles Potter, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Senator Margaret Rose Henry, Kenny Rivera, Elizabeth Lockman, Kendall Massett (Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network), Karen Eller (Christina School District teacher and WEAC member), Delaware PTA Vice-President for Advocacy Yvonne Johnson, State Board of Education member Gregory Coverdale, Red Clay Consolidated Superintendent Merv Daugherty, WEAC member and legislative aide Meghan Wallace, legislative aide Mark Rucci, and many others.  If anyone wants to add names that I missed or don’t know, feel free to comment or email me.