Yesterday, the Delaware Attorney General’s office opened up Delaware to the world of the Delaware Pathways. Granted, this had to come in the form of a FOIA complaint from yours truly. But feast your eyes on all the big plans rolled around this initiative. An initiative so big Governor Markell had to issue an Executive Order when the General Assembly said no thanks to legislation creating a Steering Committee around the Pathways gig. Given how much is tied into this thing: Common Core, the state assessments, millions upon millions of dollars of state funding, outside businesses, all three of our major colleges, etc., is it any wonder this group has tried to keep things hush as long as they can? All I can say is whenever Rodel gets involved, something goes wonky with transparency. So what is “Work-Based Learning” and “Working To Learn”? The answers lie within. If you oppose this, let your voice be heard now. I do not believe it is a coincidence at all that Delaware will be handing in the first draft of their Every Student Succeeds Act state plan in the next few days. Between this and the ESSA state plan, with all the smoke and mirrors involved with that, NOW is the time to be extra vigilant. Read every single word in these documents. Every. Single. One.
The root of the State of Delaware cutting day treatment centers that have state contracts lies with Medicaid. The federal government issued guidance in 2011 urging states to look at their state Medicaid plans. As a result of Delaware’s plan, it has been determined that day treatment centers can no longer be reimbursed for education through Medicaid as of June 30th, 2016. The news coming out about the state closing these centers has not been officially released yet but something is supposed to come out from the Division of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families this evening.
What this means is day centers can no longer provide any education services for children under the age of 21. They can only provide direct treatment or counseling. Many students that currently attend these centers receive both. It will force these centers to essentially shut down. So far, it has been confirmed that the two most impacted day centers will be the Terry Center in New Castle and Seaford House in Sussex County. But there are others, and this will impact a lot of children.
So where will these children go? Many parents of these students fear they will be placed in their district Intensive Learning Centers (ILC). I have found these ILCs to be more like a boot camp than a place where students with disabilities or troubled youth can get the true help they need. The ILCs tend to treat all problems as behavior, but most severe disabilities are neurologically based.
All of this was reported by the State of Delaware through the regulatory process, but the language used in the writing is somewhat vague and never once mentions the words “day treatment center” which is the commonly used terminology for these places. This is from Regulation 763 which was finalized on February 1st, 2016:
As I feared, they are taking out services that are necessary for students with disabilities and attempting to replace those with either in-home services or school-based services. I’m sorry, but even with the strides some schools have made with special education, these students are not meant to be in an inclusive setting at times based on their disabilities. And ILCs are a prison for these kids. They are psychological torture. This is very bad. Delaware will say they went through all the proper channels, but if the Regulation was finalized in February, why are parents just finding out about this now? Why didn’t they send something to parents that have their child in the state Medicaid program to let them know of these HUGE changes? Writing about regulations with all their confusing jargon and legalese is not the same thing as making sure that information gets disseminated to citizens in a clear and coherent way. This is how both state and federal government get away with things.
But who is going to pay for these increased services in our schools? We don’t have enough money now to properly service public education. Will this mean more federal grants tied to the Every Student Succeeds Act? Or will we start to see the slow invasion of non-education entities coming into our schools? Is this just Delaware or will other states go through this process? These are burning questions I mean to find the answers to.
Unless the legislators don’t check their state email, they should all know about this by now. I emailed every one of them, along with Governor Markell, Attorney General Matt Denn, DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and several others about this today. But this information regarding the regulation and the Medicaid situation I just found out about in the past few hours. In reviewing the FY2017 Budget Proposal by the DSCYF to the Joint Finance Committee this year, this plan wasn’t clearly laid out to the General Assembly. But the timing on this, when these day treatment centers would close, would be after the General Election even though Medicaid stopped reimbursing for these services as of 6/30/16. How many people knew about this? Did John Carney?
I have wondered over the past two years, as I fell deeper into the corporate education reform rabbit hole, how students with disabilities, especially those with the most severe, could ever survive in the upcoming personalized learning/competency-based education world. The answer is becoming very clear: they can’t. I believe the intent is to push them out of public education. To force parents into homeschooling their children with moderate to severe disabilities. The problem becomes the affordability of this. That would mean one parent can’t work a normal 9-5 job. It means less revenue for the state. But these families will still be expected to pay property taxes to pay for our schools. How is that just in any way? I have always spoken out against voucher programs. But if our state wants to force the hand of families of disabled children, perhaps it is time a new conversation started.
The District-Charter Funding War of 2016 has officially been declared over.
While this topic will assuredly come up again, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky sent a letter to the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate stating no changes will be made to choice and charter school funding this year. This includes any changes in exclusions. The Delaware Dept. of Education is putting a “hold” on what the exclusions had previously been until this blew up a couple of weeks ago in the public eye.
Please note how Godowsky frames the origin of this as “district to district” concerns. That is an absolute lie. We all know exactly where this originated from- Newark Charter School. We also know the Delaware DOE was willing to stab school districts in the back in order to please the charters by circumventing state code any way they possibly could. What they didn’t count on was the public openly revolting against them. As I’ve been telling people, if you make enough noise, things will change. We need to take this momentum and do more with it. Markell, for all intents and purposes, is a lame-duck. Godowsky will be gone in the next six months. The DOE, at least their leadership, looks more like incompetent buffoons by the day. This was a big mistake on their part. Very big. It would have been one thing if they made this a public matter. Another if they clued the districts into it instead of all this cloak and dagger drama.
While this “resolution” doesn’t completely finish the job, the non-transparency role of this saga will end. Any meetings going forward on this will be in the presence of the House and Senate Education Committees. There is still one guy at the DOE who I believe has a lot to answer for. I’m talking to you Mr. David Blowman.
Incompetence seems to rule the Delaware DOE these days.
The Delaware Department of Education, Delaware Charter Schools, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network have been holding meetings this year to look at changing two areas of their annual Performance Framework. The Financial and Organizational Frameworks are two sections that have been controversial for charter schools in the first state. Some of the proposed changes are minor but some are very big. One statement from the proposed draft for the organizational framework probably sums up what many of the charter schools feel when these things roll out each year:
In order to avoid penalizing charter schools for anything less than perfection, the authorizer will apply a reasonable interpretation of sufficiency that acknowledges attentiveness, prudent compliance, and generally sound stewardship.
Let’s get real here Delaware! Unless a charter school falls apart like Delaware Met, Moyer, and Pencader, you aren’t going to see the DOE or even Red Clay doing a lot in terms of compliance on some of these issues. Especially website maintenance. Far too many charters have been raked over the coals by bloggers such as myself for not adhering to the law on tons of the requirements. But when it comes time for the charter to renew or get a modification, or even get a formal review, those things are rarely mentioned in the conversation. The State Board of Education rarely talks about any of that stuff. But in my eye, they need to be perfect with those things. The districts do as well (see: Indian River).
One of the biggest flaws in this new system pertains to board membership. Delaware law clearly states:
At the time at which the school commences its instructional program and at all times thereafter, the board of directors must include a teacher from at least 1 of the charter schools operated by the board and at least 1 parent of a student enrolled in a charter school operated by the board;
With this new organizational framework, they are proposing to change Delaware code, without any regulation or legislation, by giving charters a 90 day window to fill the parent and teacher slot for their board membership. This label in the framework would give the charter a “partially meets standard”. You can’t partially follow the law. You either do it or you don’t. In this area, you are either “meets standard” or “does not meet standard”. As well, they want to do the same thing with not posting minutes and financial information on their website, but this would have a 60 day window. You can’t cherry-pick through state law. If the law needs to change, lobby legislators to change it. But you can’t do it through the Delaware DOE and the State Board of Education. This Department continues to defy Delaware legislators. It is the legislators duty to write the laws of this state, not the Charter School Office at the DOE.
The proposed financial framework would give charters some leeway when it comes to reporting requirements or how they submit financial information with the state. Let me be the first to say ALL Delaware schools need to get some serious training on this. The training exists, but everyone seems to do what they want with limited to no oversight. There have to be uniform procedures and policies across the board for every charter and district in the state with absolutely no excuses. Once again, it comes down to partially breaking the law. A misnomer if I’ve ever heard one. But even more important, there have to be very real consequences for those who violate financial laws in our state. This is something I hope and pray the 149th General Assembly tackles when they come back in January. Because right now, it’s a train wreck.
I will fully admit I sometimes feel bad for the charters. Especially when it comes to the DOE’s constant nitpicking about things. An organization filled with more non-educators in leadership roles that doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a right and left hand most of the time.
But the most egregious thing out of all this: the window for public comment begins on September 1st. But try finding them anywhere. Good luck with that! I happened to find the below documents in the DOE search engine. How can you say this is an open, transparent, and collaborative method when the public can’t even comment on what you are proposing? Even worse, the State Board of Education won’t let you comment on any action item on their agenda. This won’t come up for final action at a State Board of Education meeting until their October 20th meeting, but if these documents are never released to the public it will be highly illegal for the State Board to take action.
The Delaware DOE Charter School Office needs to release these drafts to the public and let them comment on it. These documents have not been posted on the DOE website. Care to take a wild guess who is running the show on this? If you said David Blowman, that would be correct on the surface. Until they find a replacement for Jennifer Nagourney, who left the DOE on July 1st, Blowman is the guy in charge. But in a very odd find, well, you’ll get the picture…
How can Jennifer Nagourney be the author of the below documents when she is no longer an employee at the Delaware DOE? Doesn’t she work in the Charter School Office at the New York City DOE now? What in God’s name is David Blowman doing? This is the same guy who has run the non-transparent local cost per pupil scam that has caused a “firestorm” in Delaware. The same guy who went ahead and sent out changes to school districts and charter schools without the old Secretary of Education Seal of Approval? And he is in charge of this hot mess? Where charters seem to think it will be okay to partially follow the law? With a guy like Blowman running the show no wonder they think they can do as they please! And, it goes without saying, I’m sure the Sisters of Sin, Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network have their hands involved in this. But Nagourney? Unless you are getting paid for this work when you are no longer employed by the State of Delaware, why are you even involved at this point? It’s not like I haven’t written about the old PDF right-click trick. And you guys keep forgetting that essential thing!
At this point in time, our General Assembly needs to meet for emergency hearings and subpoena the hell out of the entire Delaware Department of Education. Every single document in their system. Every nook and cranny, from top to bottom. The more than obvious fraud and lies coming out of this Department is readily available for anyone to see. I’ve proved it over and over again. But no one does anything about it. It’s time. You know it and I know it. So stop making postures and just do it!
Below are the two proposed frameworks. These are not approved, just in draft form.
Proposed Financial Framework
Proposed Organizational Framework
I went to the Wilmington Blue Rocks game earlier tonight and now I am at Legislative Hall. The Delaware Senate defeated the WEIC redistricting legislation, HJR #12 with 6 yes and 15 no votes. But they passed the new SJR #17 and SB #300 which kicks the can down the road and makes WEIC plan more. There is a chance WEIC could continue based on a lot of stuff I heard involving amendments and very certain conditions which I didn’t completely understand. Don’t get your hopes up too much though.
Kim Williams charter school audit bill is on the Senate ready list. I wish I could tell you what the heck is on the agenda, but right now it says nothing and we all know that isn’t the case! But the Senate and the House are in Caucus right now, so I haven’t seen Sneaky Pete or Val yet. Went outside and talked to the one and only Danny Rufo next to the “tiki bar” outside.
House is back in session. Sneaky Pete waved at someone up in the balcony. I didn’t know who, so I waved back. Val came in and was talking w/Sneaky Pete and then looked up at me with a kind of sort of smile. I smiled back. I heard Jack summoned Tony Allen and Kenny Rivera to come to the office to talk WEIC. Hearing it is still on life support but might be coming off it soon. It is now July 1st. No word on HB #435 (charter audit bill). Earl told me the Senate will be putting an amendment on HB #399 (teacher evaluation bill) and he hopes it comes back to the House. Now they are going to work on Senate Joint Resolution #17, the latest WEIC bill.
There is a motion to suspend rules on SJR #17. Passed, 22 yes, 17 no, 2 absent. Rep. Collins talked about the letter from Red Clay and Christina asking them not to move forward. Rep. J. Johnson said things have worked out and the districts are okay with the compromise reached (this was the meeting in Jack Markell’s office). I have to wonder who on the Red Clay and Christina school districts are okay with this. But it passed, with 22 yes and 17 no, 2 absent. Okay, I’m going to stop writing two absent for every damn bill because they are going to be absent the rest of the night! Now we are onto SB #300, the second WEIC bill covered in July, 2016. Kim Williams put an amendment on it. Amendment to SB #300 State Rep. Miro is asking about the possibility of Red Clay suspending the plan at their next board meeting. Tony Allen was called up. Tony said if this doesn’t move forward he will be suspending the plan right after the vote. Something is up here. Something isn’t right. There is bait in the water, but I’m not sure who is biting.
State Rep. Mike Ramone asked what the $200,000 is for in the amendment and SB #300. Tony said it would be to fund the commission moving forward. Tony said the prior funding for the WEAC and WEIC books came from companies, donations, and even the Chair of WEIC (Tony Allen himself). Kowalko asked Tony if this is similar to an architect, needing planning. Tony said yes. Senate Bill #300 w/Amendment #1 passes, 21 yes, 18 no. The plan moves forward. I don’t know what the hell any of this means. Someone needs to explain it to me.
Heading over to the Senate now. HB #399 is on the agenda. And SB #300 has to come back to the Senate because the House put an amendment on it. They are doing other bills so I’ll update on other bills during the wait. Absolutely nothing on HB #30 (basic spec. ed. funding for K-3 students). The School Breakfast bill is up in the Senate (HB #408 w/House Amendment #2).
And my battery died. To be continued in a new post!
Yesterday, Senator David Sokola laid his righteous judgment on Delaware blogs by stating we don’t talk about the good things happening in education. While I gave public comment at the meeting when he said this, indicating that was the DOE’s job and I will do my thing, maybe he is right. So here is some good news!
Senator David Sokola has a very worthy opponent for his Senate seat in the upcoming election and he is scared. Real scared.
Delaware has great teachers that no test can ever measure.
The students of Delaware are awesome and they are not failures.
The parents of Delaware are watching the General Assembly like never before and are calling them out on their antics.
Governor Markell will be gone after January.
Pete Schwartzkopf and Valerie Longhurst pissed off a ton of parents, teachers, citizens, and even fellow legislators last night. How is this good news? It was live and recorded.
Charter schools will have to record their board meetings in a few months and post them on their website.
Everybody now knows the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the worst test Delaware ever made.
Meredith Chapman is running for the 8th Senate District seat.
Precious Little still makes me laugh… a lot.
John King gets grilled by the US House Education and the Workforce Committee on a monthly basis.
God gave me the good fortune to be present at certain times and places to witness and record what happens in Delaware education.
Winter is coming.
As I’m sure most of America has heard, the Delaware Department of Justice filed charges against three teenagers involved in Amy Joyner-Francis’ murder two and a half weeks ago at Howard High School of Technology. There is absolutely no mention of Amy’s head being slammed into the bathroom sink even though some reports stated that at the onset. Only one girl, Trinity Carr, actually hit Amy. She has been charged with criminally-negligent homicide. The other two helped plan the assault up to twenty hours earlier. But the true shocker was that Amy had a pre-existing heart condition.
According to the News Journal article linked above:
Investigators determined that the fight was a planned confrontation in the girl’s bathroom, but only one girl – 16-year-old Trinity Carr – actually hit Amy that day, according to a statement by the DOJ. The fight was filmed, according to court documents, and shows Carr hitting Amy repeatedly in the head and torso area with “what what appears to be a closed fist.”
The video then shows Carr leave and Amy attempt to stand up from the floor, according to court documents. Amy then appears disoriented, court papers say, and collapses back to the floor. When paramedics found her, she was unresponsive and went into cardiac arrest shortly after.
Knowing what really happened won’t take away the pain and sadness surrounding all this. It won’t bring back Amy who apparently didn’t know this was coming. Just a sweet, innocent teenage girl going to school one day. The question is how many others knew about it. I am still upset no one else in that bathroom intervened. I’m assuming her heart condition was private as that has never been mentioned before. If the intent was there to do bodily harm to Amy, what did Carr think would happen? While they may not have planned actual murder, how is this “criminally negligent”? Our justice systems works in funny ways. Why did it take two and a half weeks when the police had the video the entire time to arrest Carr? At the very least, the evidence clearly shows an assault.
Trinity Carr, Zion Snow, and Chakeira Wright will have to live with what they did every single day for the rest of their life. Carr will most likely spend what should be some of the best years of her life in prison. Snow and Wright will probably be in juvenile detention while their classmates are going to the prom and graduating. But no amount of justice will ever make any of this alright. Amy will never have the opportunity for any of those things. I really hope this is a wake-up call for all of us in Delaware. We need to make sure this never happens again, and that includes the adults.
Tim Furlong with NBC Philadelphia gave a bit more detail about what happened after the fight:
After the fight, Joyner-Francis complained about head and chest pain. A school resource officer called 911 and Joyner-Francis lost consciousness before medics arrived. CPR was performed as she was flown to a nearby children’s hospital. She later died at the hospital.
Where was this school resource officer during the fight? I understand fights can happen fast, but where were any adults during this assault? That is the question no one is asking. I challenged the district about this a couple of weeks ago. It was important to clarify their board meeting change, but in regards to my other concerns, they completely ignored them. Last week I saw the Superintendent of the district for Howard High School, Dr. Gehrt. She knows who I am cause I’ve seen her at many meetings where I gave public comment. I saw her at the assessment inventory meeting at the Delaware DOE. Usually she gives me a smile. At this meeting, she could only scowl at me. I’ll take my lumps where I get them. But at least own up to… something.
Amy’s death affected me immensely, and I didn’t even know the poor girl. She is a memorial to what we need to fix in our schools. We can’t stop what happens outside of school, but we can make sure Amy’s death is a living testament to change. I haven’t heard one word about school climate from those in power. We have seen plenty in social media comments, but once again it is an empty echo chamber from the decision-makers in our state. Our legislators have been strangely quiet on the issue. The Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Governor Markell have been eerily quiet about the situation. Perhaps things will start to happen now that the investigation is over and charges have been filed. All I know is something has to happen. We can’t have another Amy, or all the many living victims of bullying and assault in our schools. It has to stop.
This question came up last year and it is happening again this year. Why do many Delaware charters get to begin Smarter Balanced testing anywhere from 3-7 weeks after traditional school districts take the assessment? That is a lot more instruction students are getting. That can make a large difference in the scores on SBAC. It can make some schools look better. Not that I think anything involving standardized test scores actually means anything, but our state and policy-makers do and they allow our DOE to judge schools based on the performance of these tests. As well, schools are now getting rewarded based on their test scores and receiving financial awards.
I challenge all school districts and charters, or the parents thereof, to let me know when kids started taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment in your schools this year. When the scores come out, it will be very interesting to see if that additional month makes a difference. My feeling is that it probably does. As well, how do we really know, since the tests are already out there so much earlier, that some schools aren’t given a heads up on what to expect on the tests and design instruction based on that? I’m sure the DOE would respond “they can’t do that”. But we all know the DOE does many things “they can’t do” but they do it anyway.
If there is one consistent thing I’ve heard this year about opt out it is that some schools are still sending out the -yawn- Delaware DOE template letter they sent to schools and districts way back in December of 2014. The one with laws with … two times in the middle of the sentence. The one where it cherry-picks certain words in the law without giving the full context, weight, or even the meaning of the law. You know, the illegal letter. The one that is about enforceable as a Resolution in the Delaware General Assembly. I know the testing season is nearing the end for this year, but some schools haven’t begun testing yet, so it is important to continue to get the word out there for parents who don’t know this information. Of course, this wouldn’t even be necessary to point out if our General Assembly did the right thing with House Bill 50. But it appears that ship has sailed. Please share on your Facebook pages and social media.
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is having a full commission meeting tonight at the Community Education Building in Wilmington. The meeting on the 2nd floor in the teacher’s lounge begins at 5:30pm. Many big education meetings are going down Monday afternoon with overlapping times, thereby ensuring no one can possibly make all three meetings. As well, the very odd-sounding EFIC group has another meeting and the candidates for the Capital School Board are having a question and answer night! But first, the WEIC agenda:
I would imagine the group is a bit nervous since no legislation has been introduced to move forward on their redistricting plan. If I were a betting man, it is coming but not until late June. Tomorrow, one of the WEIC sub-committees is having a meeting: The Charter & District
mud fight Collaboration Committee.
But next Monday is where a lot of the action is as groups meet about the assessment inventory, student data privacy and the Every Student Succeeds Act. It is possible to make all three if you drive REALLY fast and miss portions of two of the meetings. But if you want free soda and pizza on the taxpayer’s dime, go to the last meeting!
The first one, which I’m most interested in given that I write a lot about student data privacy all the time these days, is the
Data-Mining Club Student Data Privacy Protection Task Force. They canceled the last meeting because they knew they wouldn’t have a quorum. I would have put the agenda in, but of course the link doesn’t work. I guess they want to make it private! 😉
In the next episode of “We Hate Parents so we are going to trick them out of opting out by making it look like we are getting rid of the bad tests”, the committee meets to discuss testing in Delaware. Someone on the DOE side will talk about how essential the Smarter Balanced Assessment is and someone from the “good guys” side of the table will question what the hell we are even doing. Audience members will give public comment overwhelmingly on the side of “Smarter Balanced sucks”.
To see the wonderful world of the Every Student Succeeds Act through the eyes of
Corporate Education Reform Cheerleader State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson, come to Grotto’s Pizza at 5:30pm. Keep in mind, everyone is still trying to figure out what the hell this mammoth law even means so anything Donna talks about will be subject to change. Expect many “I don’t know”s and “We don’t know yet”s coming from the microphone for this one. We can expect a lot of the same people to show up to this one. Last time I went to one of these I got to take part in a table discussion with Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Melissa Hopkins from the Rodel Foundation. Talk about awkward! But it was all good…
And then on Tuesday, the Education Funding Task Force is meeting again to finalize their
pre-determined potential education funding plan for the General Assembly to squeeze in during the last days of their legislative session.
But THE most exciting education event next week will actually take place at Central Middle School on Wednesday May 4th at 7pm. Candidates running for the Capital School Board are having a debate!!! Shameless plug: I am one of the candidates. Come and find out what our priorities, ideas, and concerns are and what our plans are to improve the district. And don’t forget, no matter what district you live in, the school board elections are only two weeks away, on May 10th.
As predicted, the final hours of the Delaware 148th General Assembly are going to be a hotbed of activity. It will be Governor Markell’s last chance to get the legislation HE wants passed while he is still Governor. For the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee, no date has been scheduled for their next meeting. The final report is due 6/30/16. And just now, the Delaware Senate passed Senate Concurrent Resolution #56. This concurrent resolution which will most likely get passed by the Delaware House of Representatives today, extends the due date for the final report of the Education Funding Task Force. This group was formed from Senate Joint Resolution #4 last year.
These are the kinds of shenanigans where transparency goes out the window. Rules are suspended so bills aren’t heard in committee and bills fly in and out of Legislative Hall on the last day of session. The Governor will sign them because he is the one calling all the shots. And on so many of these kinds of bills, we see the same names: Sokola and Jaques. The education bullies of the state. The ones who treat the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education like they are the royalty of Delaware. The ones who treat parents and their rights as if they are a fly to swat away. The ones who take good education bills and make mincemeat of them (or try). Enough. Someone run against these two education thugs. Please! If I were a betting man, I would say the results of these two committees are a foregone conclusion and the legislation that will come out of them was written a long time ago. They just want to ram it through in the wee hours of June 30th, possibly into July 1st. When everyone will be going nuts over the budget, Markell will take advantage of this and get his usual legislative accomplices to do his work. WAKE UP DELAWARE!
The Delaware State Board of Education approved all the major modifications that came across their table last Thursday. The charter schools involved either raised or lowered their enrollment numbers with their modification applications.
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security got rid of 8th grade and lowered their enrollment numbers to 330 for the 2016-2017 school year with increased enrollment of 375 by the 2020-2021 school year to keep them as a 9th to 12th grade school.
Delaware Design-Lab High School also lowered their enrollment, but they will be adding 11th grade next year as per their original charter application. Their growth is a bit more aggressive with 350 students in 9th-11th grade for 2016-2017, 475 for 2017-2018 when they add 12th grade, and up to 600 by 2019-2020.
First State Montessori Academy, who will be taking over the former Delaware Met building next door to them, was approved to add a middle school with students in 6th to 8th grade. Their enrollment for 2016-2017 must be 430 students in Kindergarten to 6th grade and by 2021-2022 they must have 654 students in K-8.
Prestige Academy is now a 6th to 8th grade school instead of a 5th to 8th middle school, and their enrollment has been lowered to 240 from the 2016-2017 school year and every year proceeding that.
Odyssey Charter School had a modification approved without the consent of the State Board of Education since it was considered a minor modifications. Their modification surrounded enrollment with increases less than 15%. Odyssey’s approved enrollment includes their high school which will make them a K-12 school by the 2019-2020 year. Both Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks Charter School had similar minor modifications approved in February by Secretary Godowsky with no grade level changes.
With the charter moratorium for Wilmington still in effect from House Bill 56, no new charter schools can apply for a Wilmington location. But that doesn’t seem to stop the existing schools from tweaking their numbers. Many First State Montessori parents wanted the change, but some folks submitted public comment around their enrollment preferences and were worried this could create more bias in the school. Prestige and Delaware Design-Lab were both on probation due to low enrollment figures last year. Their will still be many charter school enrollment changes next school year based on these approvals. More students in flux around Wilmington is not, in my opinion, a way to stabilize the situation with constant student movement in the city. If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan is approved by the 148 General Assembly, it will create even more flux with students as Christina’s Wilmington schools become a part of the Red Clay Consolidated School District.
I just updated the Delaware “Education Legislation” page on here, but I haven’t been posting new legislation as faithfully as I did last year. I thought it would be a good idea to give an overall update. If it states it is on a ready list, that means it is up for a full vote by either the House or the Senate. And embedded in this article is news Kilroy will be VERY happy about!
House Bill 229: “Under the current School Choice program, there are certain students who may receive priority consideration for enrollment in the school of their choice. This Bill adds a new priority consideration for students who have a medical condition or disability that carries an ongoing risk of a sudden medical emergency. If the parent, relative, guardian or caregiver can demonstrate that they would be able to respond quicker to an emergency at the selected school, the student will receive a priority consideration.” Status: House Education Committee 1/7/16, Sponsor: Rep. Wilson
House Bill 231: “This bill requires that charter schools participate in the state retirement system.” Status: released from House Education Committee 1/27/16, on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Matthews
House Bill 232: “This Act will require the State Board of Education to accept public comment on all agenda items at its meetings, including charter school applications and changes to regulations. The Board is not required to accept public comment concerning student disciplinary appeals. The Board retains discretion to limit the manner, length, and timing of public comment at its meetings.” Status: House Education Committee 1/7/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams
House Bill 234 “This bill requires all public secondary schools, including vocational-technical schools, but not including charter schools, to have a school-based health center. The state is required to fund start-up costs at the rate of one school per year for secondary schools that currently lack such a health center. Wellness centers are an important means of providing preventative and primary medical care to teens and overcoming obstacles to care such as lack of transportation and cost. Pursuant to House Bill No. 303, approved in June of 2012, insurers are required to reimburse for services provided at school-based health centers recognized by Delaware’s Division of Public Health. Under DPH regulations students under 18 must enroll for service by having a parent or guardian sign a consent form.” Status: released from House Education Committee 3/9/16, assigned to House Appropriations Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams
House Bill 236: “This bill will allow for a school property tax exemption for a person of any age who has been designated as a disabled veteran by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs.” Status: House Education Committee 1/12/16, Sponsor: Rep. Miro
House Bill 240: “This bill establishes the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Program. The Program will provide grants to public schools, that qualify as Title I schools, to develop afterschool engagement of students that will provide extended learning, homework assistance, enrichment, and nutrition.
Quality afterschool programs have been proven to enhance student engagement, improve likelihood that students will stay in school, and graduate on time. High quality programs can improve participating students school attendance, enhance literacy and help to apply classroom learning in fun and enriching ways to boost students attitudes toward various academic subjects.
After school hours, from 3-6pm, is the most dangerous time for youth and crime, accounting for the peak time for youth to commit crimes or become victims of crimes. 11.3 million children are unsupervised in the United States after school. 28,292 kids in Delaware are on their own during the hours after school.
According to the Afterschool Alliance’s 2014 ‘America After 3PM’ state survey, of all Delaware children not currently enrolled in afterschool, 40% (48,140) would be likely to participate if an afterschool program were available in their community.” Status: released from House Education Committee 1/13/16, assigned to House Appropriations Committee 1/14/16, Sponsor: Rep. Longhurst
House Bill 243: “Under current federal and state regulations implementing the statewide assessment program, if a school or district has less than 95% of their students taking the state assessment, this can be used against the school or district as it pertains to accountability or progress ratings, and further may disqualify the school or district from safe harbor provisions. As the decision to opt out of state assessments is made by parents, and not the school or district, this bill will prohibit the state from using the rate of participation against a school or district.” Status: House Education Committee 1/19/16, Sponsor: Rep. Miro
House Bill 250: “In 2014, the Legislature passed a bill adding instances of “reported and recorded” bullying to the list of reasons why a child could be withdrawn from a choice or charter school before the expiration of the statutory minimum enrollment period or why an application for admission or withdrawal could be accepted outside of the statutory timeframe for submission. This bill seeks to clarify and strengthen that law by adding a requirement that the instance of bullying must also be substantiated. This will ensure the integrity of the law by limiting its exploitation by persons who wish to change schools for unrelated reasons, but preserving the exception for children truly in need of special consideration due to school bullying.” Status: released from House Education Committee 3/16/16, on House ready list,Sponsor: Rep. Williams
House Bill 261: “Under existing law, when a child applies to enter a charter school, the burden is placed upon that charter school to contact the previous school district of the child to determine if the child was subject to expulsion. There are also children who are placed in alternative schools programs for discipline reasons who were not expelled. It has become more common for parents of these children to apply for enrollment in charter schools in order to circumvent the expulsion or discipline program. This has been made possible because some school districts have not responded to the requests made by charter schools for these discipline or expulsion records. If the Charter school enrolls the student and later discovers this issue, the Charter school is not permitted to disenroll the student and is thereafter responsible for that child’s cost. The previous school district thus benefits financially from its failure to respond as it is no longer responsible for the cost of that child. The changes in this bill close this loophole for parents and remove the disincentive for school districts to respond to these requests. If the previous school district fails to respond to a request, they will now have to resume responsibility for the costs of the child. The loophole should be closed for many of these parents as the charter schools will have this information available to it when deciding whether to enroll a child, and they are required to disenroll the student upon discovery of this information.” Status: House Education Committee 1/28/16, Sponsor: Rep. Ramone
House Bill 279: “This bill would require that public comment be permitted at all open meetings of any board, bureau, commission, department, agency, committee, ad hoc committee, special committee, temporary committee, advisory board and committee, subcommittee, legislative committee, association, group, panel or council. The minimum time will be one minute. Maximum time and procedural rules are left to the discretion of the meeting body.” Status: House Administration Committee 3/8/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams
House Bill 292: “This bill requires schools to post the toll-free telephone report line number for child abuse and neglect in a conspicuous location, where it may be viewed by students. Currently the number is 1-800-292-9582.“ Status: House Education Committee 3/17/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams ***On House Education Committee agenda for 3/23/16, 3pm
Senate Bill #171: “Currently, all regular school districts, charter schools, and vocational schools are subject to audit by the Auditor of Accounts. This legislative authority is granted to the Auditor of Accounts in multiple sections of the Delaware Code which must be considered together.
This Act seeks to strengthen certain aspects of Title 14 of the Delaware Code with respect to charter school audits and seeks to improve the relevant sections of the Title for consistency and cross-reference of terms.” Status: released from Senate Education Committee 1/21/16, on Senate ready list, Sponsor: Senator Sokola
Senate Bill #180: “This Act provides procedures to ensure that each child with a disability who has reached age 18 has an identified educational decision-maker to exercise rights under this chapter. A child with a disability who has capacity may exercise his own rights or appoint an agent to exercise educational rights. A child with a disability who does not have capacity to provide informed consent with respect to educational programming will have an educational representative appointed, with a parent receiving priority for that role. The Department of Education, with the approval of the State Board of Education, shall promulgate regulations to implement this section. The Act shall be in effect 180 days from the date of enactment to allow regulations to be developed and provide school districts and charter schools time to receive training.” Status: Senate passed 1/27/16, released from House Education Committee 3/16/16, on House ready list, Sponsor: Senator Poore
Senate Bill #186: “This Act creates a Disabled Veteran School Tax Refund Fund to provide property tax refunds of up to $500 to individuals who are disabled veterans of the Unites States Armed Forces with a disability rating as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
This Act provides that an individual eligible for a refund under this Act and a credit based on being over 65 years of age may receive only the greater of the refund or the credit, not both.” Status: Assigned to Senate Finance Committee 1/28/16, Sponsor: Senator Townsend
Senate Bill #202 w/SA#1: “This Act excludes buses operated by the Department of Education, any public school district, or any charter school from the requirements for minimum insurance coverage contained in § 2904, Title 14 of the Delaware Code. This Act is a follow-up to Senate Bill No. 62, which was passed by the General Assembly during the first session of the 148th General Assembly.” SA #1: “This Amendment makes clear that the insurance required by § 2904, Title 14 is for buses that are used, owned, leased, or operated by a person with a contract the Department of Education, any public school district, or any charter school. In addition, this Amendment makes clear that the changes made by Senate Bill No. 202, as amended, take effect upon the enactment of Senate Bill No. 62 of the 148th General Assembly.”Status: Senate passed 3/15/16, assigned House Education Committee 3/16/16, Sponsor: Senator Sokola ***On House Education Committee agenda for 3/23/16, 3pm
Senate Bill #204: “This bill would allow for a student to participate in the Inspire Scholarship Program for eight continuous semesters instead of the current six. This would allow a student to use Inspire Scholarships for each of the semesters during a traditional college program.” Status: Assigned to Senate Finance Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Senator Bushweller
Senate Bill #207: “This Act would improve the state’s response to incidents of school bullying by better informing parents of the availability of intervention by the Department of Justice’s School Ombudsperson, and clarify that the Ombudsperson has authority to intervene in both incidents of criminal activity and incidents that meet the statutory definition of bullying but do not constitute criminal activity. This Act would also give schools and victims’ families discretion whether to report misdemeanor assault incidents between juveniles to law enforcement agencies, rather than mandating the involvement of the criminal justice system in all such incidents. Finally, the Act would ensure that parents of students involved in bullying incidents are informed that such incidents are reported to the Department of Education, and are informed when such reports occur.” Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Senator Rose-Henry
Senate Bill #208 w/SA #1: “This Act makes the following technical corrections to two online privacy protection bills passed during the General Assembly’s 2015 session: (i) the Act amends Section 1204C of the Delaware Online Privacy Protection Act, Chapter 12C, Title 6, to insert language that was inadvertently omitted from the bill as enacted; (ii) the Act amends Section 8105A of the Student Data Privacy Protection Act, Chapter 81A, Title 14, to correct a typographical error; and (iii) the Act amends Section 5 of the enacting bill, Chapter 149, Volume 80 of the Laws of Delaware, to correct a misinterpretation of the effective date of new Chapter 81A, Title 14 of the Code.” SA #1: “This amendment clarifies that the term “sexually-oriented” has the meaning set forth in § 1602(18) of Title 24.“ Status: released from Senate Education Committee 3/16/16, on Senate Ready List, Sponsor: Senator Blevins
The following bills were either introduced and passed this session or were carry-overs from the first part of the 148th General Assembly and passed this year:
House Bill #85: “This bill allows school taxes and property taxes to be collected by tax intercept.” Status: Passed House of Representatives 1/26/16, Passed Senate 3/10/16, Signed by Governor Markell 3/17/16, Sponsor: Rep. D. Short
House Joint Resolution #4 w/House Amendments #1,2,3: “Many students in Delaware schools are failing to receive the education and training that is required to achieve the financial literacy required to be productive citizens. This joint resolution is designed to establish a task force to study and make findings concerning financial literacy education in Delaware. The task force will also make policy and program recommendations that will help increase the financial literacy of our students.” HA #1: This amendment clarifies that the 2 teachers to be appointed by the President of the Delaware State Education Association and adds two representatives from the Delaware Bankers Association.” HA #2: “This amendment changes the report due date to June 30, 2016.” HA #3:“This amendment requires that the representatives from the State Board of Education must themselves be members of the Board.” Status: House passed 1/19/16, Senate Passed 1/28/16, signed by Governor Markell 2/1/16, Sponsor: Rep. Briggs-King
House Resolution #22: “This Resolution will require the Delaware Secretary of Education to propose options for the General Assembly to consider for adoption as Delaware law as it pertains to the decision by parents to opt their children out of statewide assessments. The Secretary shall provide options for implementation of a uniform procedure and process by which all schools and school districts within this State notify parents of their right to opt out, along with a standard procedure to accomplish the same. This joint resolution also prohibits the Department and schools from penalizing any student deciding to opt out. It is intended that such prohibition be incorporated within any legislation adopting a procedure offered by the Secretary.“ Status: House Passed 1/14/16, Sponsor: Rep. Dukes *this House Resolution is not enforceable by law and the Delaware Department of Education has not acted on this at all.
Senate Bill #172: “This Act reduces the at-large membership of the Milford School Board from 4 to 3 as of June 30, 2016. The current at-large member holding that seat will continue to do so until the end of his term on June 30, 2016.“ Status: Passed Senate 1/21/16, Passed House 1/18/16, Signed by Governor Markell 2/3/16, Sponsor: Senator Simpson
I would be remiss without giving the official 2016 update on House Bill 50, the opt out bill:
House Bill #50 w/House Amendments #1 and #2, w/Senate Amendments #1 and #2: “This bill creates the right for the parent or guardian of a child to opt out of the annual assessment, currently the Smarter Balanced Assessment System.“ House Amendment #1: “This amendment clarifies that the bill only applies to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The amendment also clarifies that the parent or guardian must give written notice at least two school days prior to the start of the assessment. Finally, the amendment includes an effective date of August 1, 2015″, Senate Amendment #1: “This amendment adds “district-wide” to the assessment. This amendment also clarifies what information should be included in the notice.” Senate Amendment #2: “This amendment affords eleventh grade students the opportunity to elect not to participate in the statewide assessment.” House Amendment #2: “This amendment removes the provision that allows eleventh grade students the opportunity to elect not to participate in the statewide assessment.” Status: Passed House 5/22/15 (Senate Amendment #2 stricken that date), Passed Senate 6/25/15, Vetoed by Governor Markell 7/15/15, Placed on House Ready List for potential veto override: 1/14/16, Sponsor: Rep. John Kowalko
These bills are leftovers from the 1st part of the 148th General Assembly Session but have moved forward in some way this year:
House Bill #34: “This bill will allow a local school district board to delay new or changed rules, regulations, or administrative procedures from becoming effective during a school year once the school year has started. This will allow the rules, regulations, and procedures to be consistent for the whole school year.” With HA #2: “This amendment allows the Department of Education to make changes to rules, regulations, or administrative procedures if required to do so by law or if necessary to address an emergency situation, public health, or safety matter. It further defines the terms administrative procedure.” With SA#1: “This Amendment requires that the restriction only applies when there is a direct financial impact created by the new or amended rule, regulation or administrative procedure. This Amendment also clarifies that Charter Schools are included in the restriction.“ Status: Passed House 6/30/15, Passed Senate 3/15/16, Passed House w/SA#1: 3/17/15, went to Governor for signature, Sponsor: Rep. Spiegelman
House Bill #61: “This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes. Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites.
The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.” Status: Passed House of Representatives 3/10/16, Assigned to Senate Education Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Rep. Hudson ***On Senate Education Committee agenda for 3/23/16, 3pm
House Bill #107: “This bill articulates the principle that local school districts and school boards should have the authority to select their own leaders and staff from a pool of qualified applicants. These are decisions best left at the local level rather than imposed by a central authority.” Status: Released from House Education Committee 1/20/16, On House Ready List, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams
House Bill 165: “This legislation requires that all full-time employees of the State, including employees of school districts, continuously in the employ of the state for at least one year, shall be eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child 6 years of age or younger. Both parents would be eligible for such leave. Employees shall continue to have the right, as they do under current law, to use accrued sick leave for maternity and paternity purposes. This legislation leaves intact the rights of persons adopting a child over 6 years of age to take unpaid leave. Due to lack of adequate paid family leave policies, many parents must return to work sooner than is optimal for the health of mothers (in the case of biological birth) and children. Granting paid leave will contribute to the establishment of parent-child bonds, breastfeeding establishment, and allow infants to receive vaccines and develop stronger immune systems prior to entering daycare. Further, a more generous leave policy will increase the productivity of workers and reduce employee turnover.” Status: released from House Administration Committee 1/27/16, on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Debra Heffernan
House Bill 186: “Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct post-audits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.” Status: Passed House 6/30/15, released From Senate Education Committee 1/14/16, On Senate Ready List, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams
Senate Bill #161: “This Act requires public schools to begin their school year after Labor Day. There have been many economic impact reports done that show a positive impact from starting public schools after Labor Day. A report by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association estimates that $369 million would be lost if schools were not required to start after Labor Day. This includes $104 million in wages and $21 million in state and local taxes. Maryland is considering similar legislation. A study of Maryland found that pushing the start of school back would generate $74.3 million in economic activity and $7.7 million in new state and local tax revenue.” Status: released from Senate Education Committee 3/16/16, on Senate ready list, Sponsor: Senator Gerald Hocker
And last, but not least, these are holdover bills that SHOULD move forward but they haven’t been heard in committee or are sitting on a ready list waiting for a full vote and have been there since last year:
House Bill #30: “This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.” Status: Released from House Education Committee 3/25/15, Assigned to House Appropriations Committee 3/26/15, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams
House Bill #117: This Act will create a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income according to the Department of Education. This funding source will be in addition to the normal enrollment based funding provided to school districts and charter schools. The low-income unit will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12 where the funding can be used for such purposes as providing additional teachers and paraprofessionals for classroom instruction; additional counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and intervention specialists; Response to Intervention Services; and before and after school programs providing homework assistance, and for support for English language learners. To ensure the low-income resources reach the schools where they are most needed, this Act requires that at least 98% of the units be directed towards the schools that generate the funding unless otherwise waived by a local board of education during a public meeting.” Status: Tabled in House Education Committee 5/13/15, Released from House Education Committee 6/3/15, Assigned to House Appropriations Committee 6/18/15, Sponsor: Rep. Debra Heffernan
House Bill 173: “The Department of Education often implements policies and educational requirements based upon directives issued by the United States Department of Education. This Bill will require that any directive received by the Department of Education from the Federal Government be automatically disclosed on the Department of Education website without the necessity for making a Freedom of Information Request.” Status: Assigned to House Education Committee 6/10/15, Sponsor: Rep. Richard Collins
Senate Bill #72: “This bill increases the teaching and administrative experience qualifications for the Secretary of Education from 5 years to 10 years. The Bill also clarifies that at least 6 years must be of teaching experience and at least 2 years must be of administrative experience.” Status: Released from Senate Education Committee, on Senate Ready List 5/6/15, Sponsor: Senator Bryan Townsend
Senate Bill #92: “Delaware Code Title 14§1332 addresses the Program for Children with Autism and its “Special Staff.” Enacted nearly three decades ago, these regulations established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. In addition, the code designates a Statewide Director who primarily has provided direction, training, and technical assistance within the DAP. However, current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education and parents’ desire to have their children educated within their local communities, seem to be incongruent with this older model of service delivery. In addition, the magnitude of the increase in students identified with ASD has clearly created difficulty for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services/support that once was offered. Therefore, the recommended code changes also revise the concept of DAP toward a system in which the Statewide Director would work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. This recommendation reconstitutes the regulations to neutralize the distinction between DAP approved programs and other in-district options, thereby, allowing and providing adequate resources to serve on behalf of all student with ASD in Delaware. The number of technical/ training experts has been identified as one expert per 100 students statewide. It is suggested that the fiscal mechanism to support these changes should be through mandated district participation that is congruent with the current needs based funding system in Delaware. Lastly, the current mandatory committee structure is enhanced to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review board. These changes include articulation of the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director for Students with ASD; the addition of a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions); and the further clarification / additions to the committee structure for family input, monitoring, and protections under human rights. This recommendation recognizes and supports the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes essentially expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students within them.” Status: Released from Senate Education Committee 6/3/15, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose Henry
Senate Bill #93: “This bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism. Among other things, the Interagency Committee on Autism is charged with a) utilizing evidence-based practices and programs to improve outcomes for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in Delaware by sharing information, initiatives, data and communications among both public and private agencies providing services and supports for individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in the State of Delaware; and b) implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2013 Delaware Strategic Plan entitled “Blueprint for Collective Action: Final Report of the Delaware Strategic Plan to Improve Services and Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism is to provide a resource for training and technical assistance for Delaware state agencies, organizations and other private entities operating in the State of Delaware that provide services and support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Network is to support the operations of the Interagency Committee on Autism through the maintenance of the website, maintenance of reports created by the Interagency Committee on Autism and maintenance of meeting minutes, as well as other support as needed by the Interagency Committee on Autism.” Status: Released from Senate Education Committee 6/3/15, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose Henry
In my article on our Non-Transparent Delaware, State Rep. John Kowalko left a comment that deserved its own post.
As regards the “Commitment (of taxpayer money) To Innovation Act” please read the following:
I certainly have not and will not support any of these corporate tax welfare bills. DuPont/Dow moved the majority of research and other jobs in the agricultural spinoff to Iowa and Delaware taxpayers are left with some extremely costly crumbs (headquarters only) in Wilmington. Let me point out to all that there was and will continue to be opposition to this ravaging of the taxpayers’ wallet and I certainly will do my best to expose my colleagues to the illegitimacy of such policies that offer no return on investment for Delaware taxpayers.
My point is that making a product (Oreos for instance), moving 600 jobs from Chicago to Mexico across the border for dirt cheap wages and rueful working conditions benefits only those multi-billion dollar corporations and their CEOs (see DuPont/Dow $80 million bonuses) while idling thousands of American workers who no longer have spendable income to support the consumer spending that is needed for local businesses to survive. Ross Perot was right about that sucking sound. For example: DuPont $200 million factory built in China (recently opened) employing thousands of Chinese workers manufacturing solar panels for sale back here, or Johnson Controls recently constructed and opened battery manufacturing facility ($150 million) in China for distribution from the Delaware distribution center in Middletown that taxpayers invested millions in infrastructural and road improvements. For example DuPont spinoff headquarters staying in Wilmington while a significant majority of the actual jobs of the agricultural research branch goes to Iowa leaving Delaware with 1700 layoffs of well-paid positions and only a potential for job growth with a price tag of $16 million for Delaware taxpayers. The list goes on and on.
The “Corporate Welfare” policies of this Administration have cost the Delaware taxpayers $250 million during Governor Markell’s term. This irresponsible wasting of the taxpayer dollars has resulted in no discernible return on investment and has stopped absolutely no job losses from these wealthy corporations. Further compounding this administration’s erroneous economic missteps is the recent policy that was passed, despite my and Representative Williams objections, labelled the Delaware Competes Act. This corporate giveaway will cost over $48 million in lost revenue to Delaware with absolutely no appreciable effect to retain or grow jobs. Now the Administration has filed more legislation branded as “The Commitment to Innovation Act” that will further erode necessary revenue that provides basic, necessary services to Delawareans. Neither of these misguided economic policies will reinforce local business growth or stability and will leave a gaping hole in Delaware’s budget that this Administration will attempt to fill on the backs of state employees, seniors and the poorer families in Delaware.
Adding to the insult of these types of corporate giveaways is the actual statistical proof that these types of bribes and irresponsible economic policies have been marked by failure after failure at an unaffordable expense. Read the linked article and please note that $22 million went to JPMorgan which profited to the tune of $24.5 billion last year with “promises” of job growth that would inevitably have occurred without this taxpayer outlay. Note also the proposed $14.16 million to DuPont which totally dismisses the fact that there has been 1700 well-paid jobs recently and irretrievably cut by DuPont in Delaware. And the bulk of its future jobs with the newly created agricultural spinoff (Pioneer) will be lost to Iowa. Consider the $11 million gift to Incyte Corp. with the promise of creating 130 jobs in the future on the heels of the announcement by Incyte that they were laying off 137 Delawareans. The Fisker and Bloom debacles speak for themselves as monuments to irrational and irresponsible wastes of taxpayer dollars. One tenth of that $250 million diverted to supporting locally based businesses for job growth, infrastructural investments and production improvements via tax credits and subsidies would ensure a healthy and robust growth in our local communities and not end up in the pockets of corporate profiteers. Call your legislators and demand that they resist this callous and flawed attempt to redistribute and divert revenues from Delaware families into the coffers of wealthy corporations.
The Associated Press did an article entitled “How open record laws are applied in state legislatures” on March 13th. Delaware did not fare well in this report. The AP sent Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to all fifty states asking for the public schedules for the state Governor and members of their legislatures for the week of February 1st to 7th of this year. In Delaware, our General Assembly is exempt from FOIA requests. Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who promoted “sunshine is the best disinfectant” regarding public transparency of Governmental records, seems to be having a very hard time with FOIA requests lately, between the FOIA request from his former State Treasurer Chip Flowers and the one he received from the AP for their article. The article gave Markell’s response to the FOIA:
Delaware legislative leaders refused to provide their emails. The Legislature has specifically exempted emails of lawmakers and their staffs from the state’s Freedom of Information law, as well as any communications between lawmakers, or between lawmakers and their constituents. A bill to remove those exemptions was introduced earlier this month but has yet to be heard in committee. An attorney for the lawmakers also said many activities on their daily schedules are exempt from disclosure, asserting that exemptions allowed by statute or common law extend to the concept of “legislative privilege” based on the Delaware Constitution and common law. The attorney nevertheless released portions of the lawmakers’ schedules while asserting that doing so was not a concession that the information is subject to the FOI law. The activities mostly involved appearances at community meetings and charitable events. The deputy legal counsel for Democratic Gov. Jack Markell said the governor’s office is working diligently to respond to the AP’s request, but that more time is needed because review of the records requires legal advice. Markell’s office has previously denied formal records requests for his emails.
I guess I should count myself lucky for the FOIA I received from Markell’s office back in early 2014. But the Chip Flowers FOIA denial is certainly interesting because Markell’s office used Exemption 16 to deny the FOIA request. Exemption 16 is when a General Assembly member or the comptroller is part of an email chain. I find it very ironic the Governor’s counsel would use that as a reason to decline a FOIA. Especially since they seem to cherry-pick when they want to use this exemption. In fact, the Governor’s office has actually shown legislators emails in earlier FOIA requests. Something I recollected right away as I was reading the Chip Flowers petition from the Delaware Attorney General’s office. I felt it was my civic obligation to let them know about this memory of mine.
From: Kevin Ohlandt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Gibbs Danielle (DOJ) <email@example.com>
Cc: Denn Matthew (DOJ) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 10:04 AM
Subject: The Chip Flowers FOIA Legal Opinion
Good morning Danielle,
I read, with great interest yesterday, the FOIA petition from Chip Flowers. I found it very interesting the Governor’s office would cite Exemption 16 for not releasing the information Chip Flowers requested.
In December 2014, State Rep. John Kowalko received a FOIA from the Governor’s office regarding the priority schools in Wilmington. He gave them to me to publish on my blog. In several of the emails, General Assembly emails were used and not redacted, and in some of them they gave the actual email from State Reps.
Here is the link to the FOIAs:
I find it very interesting the Governor’s office would cherry-pick who this information is released to. There is absolutely no consistency and I would strongly question the use of this Exemption 16 when it is convenient. Please feel free to use this information for any ongoing matters regarding Chip Flowers FOIA. If you need any other clarification on this matter, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
With something that took up so much media interest, I would think the Delaware Attorney General’s office would respond, but so far I have yet to receive a response. I can only surmise based on the behavior surrounding the Chip Flowers FOIA request and the fact the Governor would need legal advice for the AP FOIA request, the Governor is hiding things. Could there be something in his daily schedule he doesn’t want people to know about? Or in his emails? Did they include his “Alan Jackson” email address? I’ll be flat-out honest: I don’t trust Jack Markell. At all. He is dishonest and sneaky. He seems to have the General Assembly under his thrall this legislative session. They are suspending rules and passing bills in record time. Just today, Governor Markell signed the Commitment to Innovation Act, otherwise known as Senate Bill 200, mere hours after it passed in the House of Representatives and 31 state representatives agreed to suspend the rules. Including some who have gone on record as saying they never suspend the rules. This tax-break bill, in conjunction with House Bill 235, are seen as great boons to companies in Delaware as the state faces potential deficits in their state budget.
I have no doubt Markell will have instituted all of his education policies and agendas in Delaware by the time he leaves office next January. Judging by the mad rush of legislation which will allow tech companies to swarm into Delaware with our generous tax breaks, Social Impact Bonds, Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education. Kids will be earning their number of the beast data badges in the not-too-distant future. Parents won’t be able to notice, because all of our little screen-time kids will be staying after school in the SAIL program. And Jack’s buddy over at the Rodel Foundation, Paul Herdman… he actually uses LEGOs to lure unsuspecting parents and children into his personalized learning paradise. If you think Kindergarten grit is bad, wait until you get a load of the money pouring into toddler grit. Of course, we must determine what children are going to do when they are older before they even know how to tie their shoes. But we call this Pathways To Prosperity. We have Jamie Merisotis and the good folks at the Lumina Foundation to thank for all of this nonsense! And if you think Delaware has issues with FOIA, wait until you hear more about WOIA! Under the recently confirmed US DOE leadership of John King, these things are going on in just about every single state in the country.
The one thing our non-transparent Governor is good at is the art of distraction. He gets us all riled up over charter schools, opt out, and teacher evaluations while he paves the road to hell for John Carney who doesn’t seem to have the good sense to come up with his own thoughts. And in case we get too close to his overall plan, Jack throws things like the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission vs. State Board of Education battle in our faces but there are questions about the legality of that secret meeting. Hard to tell since no one aside from Tony Allen has responded about that one. Tony made it very clear to me the whole thing was the Governor’s idea.
This is Delaware. A state filled with sinister plotting and backroom deals. Legislators who get the “Jack call” and make miracles happen before our very eyes while telling us it’s all about the DuPont/Dow merger. Markell is the master of spin. He can turn crap into gold! And the state legislators, DOE employees, State Board of Education members, and business leaders watch in amazement as they hold onto their illusions of power and wealth. We call these people “stakeholders”. But guess what doesn’t change? Bullying, teacher dissatisfaction, high-stakes testing, a severe lack of funding and resources for our schools, and more segregation and discrimination for every single at-risk student than you can even fathom. All under the guise of student success. The stuff going on behind the scenes? We will never get that cold, hard, tangible proof to bust these children destroyers. They write the laws to protect themselves and the citizens of Delaware pay for it. And we keep electing so many of them! We are a state that is immune to true and radical change. We act as if holding onto a political party’s belief is what we must do. I hate to tell you Delaware, but greed is bi-partisan. The love we need to have for our children, our unconditional love, that should be enough to make the necessary changes. But we aren’t doing it. We are holding onto the dreams of yesterday and think it really matters who becomes the next President or Governor. We get sucked into the 24 hour news cycle about Trump, Clinton and Sanders while the distracters spin their webs and suck us in. It doesn’t matter who wins the Presidency because corporate America bought our government while we blinked. Our kids don’t have a chance.
Appoquinimink does not want parent opt out at all. They don’t want parents talking about it with outsiders. Especially me. Parents are getting VERY upset and they have justification. I wrote about the latest intimidation tactics the district is taking earlier last week. It turns out that isn’t all they are doing!
Last Thursday, I spoke with the Public Information Officer for Appo, Lilian Miles. I advised her the Appo letter about opt out is very confusing to parents and it is hard for them to understand what it even means. Between the “absent” for the purposes of testing portion and the illegal portion with federal and state code with their glaring omissions surrounding parents, I told her they need to change the wording in the letter.
Lilian explained she understands but they are following the Delaware Department of Education’s suggested template. She was going to check with some district folks and get back to me. She asked which parents were coming to me about this. I advised her I didn’t feel comfortable giving out that information. Apparently, she didn’t like that.
From: Miles Lilian <Lilian.Miles@appo.k12.de.us>
To: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2016 1:12 PM
Subject: wording on letter
To: Miles Lilian <Lilian.Miles@appo.k12.de.us>
Cc: Denn Matthew (DOJ) <email@example.com>; Kowalko John (LegHall) <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Burrows Matthew L. <email@example.com>; Godowsky Steven (K12) <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Lawson Dave (LegHall) <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2016 4:33 PM
Subject: Re: wording on letter
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: If John or Jane have to worry about if there is going to be food on the table for dinner tonight, worry about if they will have a roof over their head, or worry about being hit by a stray bullet within their neighborhoods, the self-actualization required to succeed on these tests, or for that matter, school, is made even more difficult for these students. This translates into schools that service large high-need populations facing a difficult climb to reach accountability targets.
I was curious why the Capital School District Board of Education did not pass an official policy on opt-out the way Christina and Red Clay did. They were the first Delaware school board to pass a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of high-stakes state assessments way before anyone else did, back in October 2014. The answer to that question is included in the below letter. It was introduced at their January meeting and will be voted on at their meeting next Wednesday, February 17th. This is the best letter I think I’ve ever seen written about opt-out, anywhere! And I have seen some awesome letters! Kudos to Board President Matt Lindell, Vice-President Sean Christiansen, John Martin, Nauleen Perry, and Ralph Taylor for this letter that says more about Delaware education than anything I have seen in a long time! Thank you!
I wrote an article over the weekend about Newark Charter School that touched on the heart of this blog. It was about a denial of the ability for parents to apply their daughter to NCS. Their daughter happens to have a very rare disability. Only a few people, from my viewpoint, have defended the school’s actions. One was the head of school. Thousands have come to the defense of the parents. Eventually, the school heard the people and allowed the little girl into the lottery. While she didn’t get picked in the lottery, equality was reached. This is why we fight.
I don’t write this blog for the schools. I write it to be a voice for parents in Delaware. It began as a voice for my own son, but quickly spread to ALL parents. In this article, the parents reached out to the admissions office, the school board, and the Delaware Department of Education. In all three instances they were told NO. The parents then reached out to a State Representative which was how I became involved. I brought the people into this and they spoke with a loud and clear voice. This is why we fight.
Had I contacted the school first, the article most likely would have been very different. The school could have flat-out refused to respond to me, which has happened in many situations. They also could have reached out to the parent, spun the tale their way, and no article would have been written. The parents wanted this information out there. They wanted parents to be aware of what was going on at one of our most “prestigious” public schools in Delaware. This is why we fight.
Right now, Delaware Governor Jack Markell is signing a joint resolution apologizing for slavery in Delaware. He will talk about how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go. In the meantime, his education policies, followed by those of the US Government, have done more to cause 21st Century segregation and discrimination in Delaware schools than anything else in the past ten years. Students with disabilities, English Language Learners, African-Americans, Hispanics, and children from low-income and poverty environments all bear the brunt of his false ideology. This is why we fight.
I changed the header image on Exceptional Delaware this morning. In my opinion, all seventeen pictures represent the faces of education reform in Delaware. They have ignored parents and caused most of the problems. Whether it was through their votes, policies, agendas, manipulation, fraud, plots, schemes, lobbying, coalitions, dictatorship, coercion, money-grabs, or arrogance, they are all guilty. This is why we fight.
Penny Schwinn. John King. Earl Jaques. Mark Murphy. Jack Markell. Greg Lavelle. David Sokola. Kendall Massett. Arne Duncan. Teri Quinn Gray. Chris Ruszkowski. Paul Herdman. Donna Johnson. Pete Schwartzkopf. Michael Watson. Chris Coons. Tim Dukes. This is why we fight.
They are the power brokers of education in Delaware. They destroy what is good and meaningful. They believe high-stakes testing is the right thing. Not for the good of students, but for their power. They institute policies that give no regard to what children are. They use them, as pawns and widgets in their laws and regulations. They don’t believe parents have the right to voice their opinion and they view transparency as a joke. This is why we fight.
To date, not one of them has been held accountable for their actions. Sure, they’ve had mud slung at them, but nothing has resulted in anything positive for students. Some are new to the landscape while others have been around from the very beginning. I’ve met some of these people, and they are very nice when it is just the two of you. But behind the scenes, in the offices where nobody sees what really goes on, that is when the plans take shape. This is why we fight.
Parents have the power to stop all this, but we lack the numbers. We talk about all this, or write about it, but to date we haven’t been able to stop anything they are doing. We need to change this. We need to fight, in unity and as a large and powerful group. Parents did this in New York. They forced change and it has come. There is no reason why, in a state as small as Delaware, we can’t do the same. Until they hear us, really hear us, we must opt our children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. We must face those who would ignore us and make decisions about our children without any thought to the damaging consequences. We must stop believing the lies and manipulation and force the truth out of these people. This is why we fight.
Our children are the legacy we leave the world. They are the future. They are tomorrow. The forces around them will smile in front of you while planting the seeds for their control of your children. Every single law, every single regulation, every “non-profit” event we attend… we give them power. There are some organizations that have no choice but to comply with some of this. They will fight, but their power is limited because of who they are. I get that. They are also fighting for their own survival. I have judged these groups in the past, sometimes with humor, but most times with righteous anger. We just need to go around them and not go through them to make change. They are not evil, but they are in awkward positions. This is why we fight.
Only parents can speak loud enough to make the changes necessary for our children. We are their voice in the truest sense of the word. They need us to fight their battles for them until the time comes when they need to do the same for their children. They can’t see what is happening. They need us to find the truth and act on the knowledge we find. They need us to stop what is going on in their classrooms, in their schools, and how they want to control our children outside of school. This is why we fight.
We fight for our own children and we fight for all children. We fight for those who have neurobiological actions they cannot always control. We fight for those who are not picked because of the color of their skin or their last name. We fight for those who have nothing except the clothes on their back. We fight for those who want to teach our children the best way they can but have no voice because of the fear of retribution. We fight for equality and justice. We fight for public education and getting rid of anything that brings profit to those who don’t belong in our schools. We fight for our own rights, silenced by those in power because they know as a whole we can destroy what they seek to tear down. This is why we fight.
The University of Delaware rendered a verdict on Common Core: We don’t care! As Delaware First State reported on Friday could happen and the The News Journal reported last night, the University of Delaware is now making SAT scores optional on applications. In other words, they don’t care what your SAT score was high school students of Delaware! What does this have to do with the Smarter Balanced Assessment? Last May, the Delaware Department of Education made a big showing about the College Board redesigning the SAT to align with Common Core standards. At the same time, high school juniors were the largest group of students opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. At the end of 2015, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky made his big announcement about getting rid of Smarter Balanced for high school juniors in lieu of the SAT. And now the largest university in Delaware has said the test is now optional.
Members of the committee that came up with the idea say research at other universities – and their own research into UD students – suggests that high school grade point averages are a better predictor of college success than the SAT.
This follows 815 other colleges and universities around the country who already did the same. The message is loud and clear: our higher education institutes in America do not believe Common Core and the SAT are what makes a student “college-ready”. Of course the article doesn’t come right out and say this, but for University of Delaware to do this now, right before the new alignment comes out? Governor Markell’s education agenda failed. There are no other words to accurately describe what the University of Delaware declared with this. When I read the words “GPA” in the News Journal article my heart leaped! These are the words I have wanted to hear for years! Nobody talks about actual grades students are getting anymore. All the big decisions made rotate around the state assessment.
The Delaware 148th General Assembly needs to have someone bring legislation forward to ban the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware. We can no longer sit idly by and pretend this test has been anything but a colossal failure. I believe we can now expect parents to opt their teenagers out of the SAT. Really, what is the point? Yes, the test cost money. Do we continue to spend millions of dollars on waste (I know, this is Delaware)? I know this has been on the minds of many legislators in Dover but no one has crossed the Rubicon to make it happen. I can say this, anyone envisioning a future role of higher public office could almost guarantee success by sponsoring something like this today.
While we are already transitioning to the Every Student Succeeds Act, now is the best time to reevaluate education in Delaware. This means getting rid of Common Core, high-stakes assessments, how we evaluate our teachers, funding, and how to best serve all students in the state. There are already several initiatives going on, but we need something bigger. We need to bring ALL the existing groups and gets tons of parents, teachers, and even students in on this. We need an education summit like no other. Before we were knee-deep in the current wave of education reform we did this twice: in 2001 and 2005. We need to look at everything: special education, bullying, district alignment, everything! We are at a pivotal crossroads with education, and there is a ton of room for error. Let’s bring everyone together and make something that is good and lasting for our kids.
On January 27th, Delaware Governor Jack Markell issued Executive Order #57 dealing with a Delaware Open Data Council. In November, Executive Order #55 concerned a Delaware Cyber Security Council. So where is Executive Order #56? I can only imagine what it might have been. I have some thoughts though. Given the timing of the other two, I can easily picture an Executive Order dealing with high school juniors taking the SAT instead of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. This did happen, but not from the lips of Markell. Perhaps an issue like that didn’t fall into the legal definition of an Executive Order.
Perhaps he was going to issue an Executive Order mandating all students take the state assessment and outlawed opt-out. That wouldn’t have gone over too well with parents, schools, and legislators. Maybe it was WEIC related. I could foresee him issuing some type of Executive Order on that, after all, that is how the whole thing began to begin with. What would have been really nice is if he issued an Executive Order mandating funding for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.
The likely reality is something could still come out with the number 56 on it. This happened before during his Governorship, back in 2014. I would expect to see this in the next couple weeks. Our legislators have skipped around with bill numbers in the past as well. What usually happens is something is pre-filed, but isn’t ready for full release. It will be interesting to see what it is. Any guesses?
This is all conjecture on my part.
Despite what others have said, House Bill 50, the opt-out legislation in Delaware, is not dead. It isn’t finished. It is merely hiding in Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf’s desk drawer. It is on the ready list, but Schwartzkopf has not put it on the agenda for a full House vote. What is he afraid of? That the House and Senate will pass the veto override? That the lame-duck Governor Markell will be upset if his veto is overturned? We the people demand House Bill 50 gets a full vote for the veto override in the Delaware House and Senate.
I am giving this petition a long time to breathe because the General Assembly doesn’t return until March 8th. I need all your help to make this happen. I need you to share this petition with every single person you know in Delaware. I want Schwartzkopf to see this with no less than 20,000 signatures from Delaware citizens. We have a month to make this happen! Let’s Do It!!!!! To go to the Change.org petition, please click the link: