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…