Delaware Charter Schools Network Removed From District Consolidation Task Force Membership

It was one of those blink and you miss it moments.  In the midst of budget negotiations in the early hours of July 1st, the Delaware House of Representatives voted again on House Concurrent Resolution #39 after Senator Colin Bonini added an amendment in the Senate.  The bill passed the Senate but because the amendment was added, the House had to vote again.

Bonini’s amendment removed charter schools from being a part of any district consolidation discussion.  When the bill came back to the House, State Rep. Kim Williams added another amendment which would remove the Delaware Charter Schools Network from membership on the district consolidation task force.  It was a logical amendment.  If charters didn’t want to be a part of the discussion, why would they want membership?  The amendment barely passed with 21 yes and 20 no.  The sole Republican yes vote came from State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman.  Democrats who voted against it were Earl Jaques, Melanie Smith, Larry Mitchell, Quinton Johnson and Pete Schwartzkopf.  None of those Dem votes really surprise me.  Some who voted yes surprised me, but I have seen similar votes with charter related bills this year so perhaps there could be a shift in thinking on that front.

The Delaware Department of Education is the support agency for this task force.  While no meetings have been scheduled at this point, the final report is due to the General Assembly by January 30th, 2018.  I expect this task force will get going at some point later this summer.

Delaware Senate Passes Bill Discriminating Against Christina Wilmington Students, Not Given Preference To Newark Charter School

It appears de facto segregation is just as okay with the majority of the Delaware Senate as it was with the Delaware House of Representatives.

The Delaware Senate just passed House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 with 12 yes, 4 no, 2 not voting, and 3 absent.  The no votes belonged to State Senators DelCollo, Henry, Marshall, and McDowell.  Those voting yes were Bonini, Bushweller, Cloutier, Hansen, Hocker, Lawson, Lopez, McBride, Poore, Richardson, Sokola, and Walsh.  Lavelle, who originally voted yes, switched to “not voting” and Senator Simpson stuck with his original not voting.

An attempted amendment, similar to the failed amendment in the House, would have removed the very controversial part of the bill that would disallow Christina Wilmington students to be given the same preference as the Greater Newark Christina students for Newark Charter School.  Sokola argued it was an unfriendly amendment.  The amendment failed with 6 yes, 8 no, 5 not voting, and 2 absent.

Senator Robert Marshall said he believed the amendment would open the preference to everyone in the Christina School District and if parents really wanted their child to get an NCS education, they would find a way to make sure their child gets there.

A representative from the Delaware State Education Association testified they would be in support of the amendment which echoed their stance at the Senate Education Committee meeting two weeks ago.

The bill will go to Governor John Carney for signature.  I call on ALL to contact Carney’s office in deep opposition to this bill that I fear will set up the State of Delaware for a massive lawsuit for furthering de facto segregation.  He needs to veto this discrimination factory of a bill!

To see how your legislators voted on this horrible bill, please go here: http://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?LegislationId=26068

ALL The Delaware Education Legislation In The General Assembly: Signed, Passed, Pending, & Tabled

*Updated with new legislation, votes on the floor, and committee agendas for tomorrow

Confused by all the Education legislation floating around in Delaware?  Can’t keep track of it all?  Don’t worry, I can’t either sometimes.  But I felt it was necessary to reestablish my old tradition of putting it all together.  I will update this as the Delaware 149th General Assembly finishes off the first half of this session on June 30th and when they reconvene in January 2018.  Below are all 50 of the education bills that have come up in the 149th General Assembly just this year alone.  More legislation will come by the time it is all done on June 30th, 2018. Continue reading “ALL The Delaware Education Legislation In The General Assembly: Signed, Passed, Pending, & Tabled”

Newark Charter School Doesn’t Want Wilmington Black Kids Or Wilmington Special Needs Kids Going To Their Private School

Earlier this afternoon, State Rep. Rich Collins led the Delaware House of Representatives in prayer and asked them, no matter what, to put children first in their mind when they are voting on legislation.  Two and a half hours later, Collins along with 26 other state reps both Republican and Democrat, voted to keep Newark Charter School first.

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 passed the House today with 27 yes, 13 no, and 1 absent.  The bill removes the 5 mile radius enrollment preference for Delaware charter schools with one exception.  Since Christina School District has a portion of their district in Wilmington, that is not landlocked with the rest of the district, those Wilmington children will not be allowed to choice to Newark Charter School.  Even though the Wilmington students from Red Clay and Colonial can choice to other charter schools, those Christina Wilmington students can’t choice to that one school.  They can still choice to other charters within the district or even outside of the district, but not NCS.

The bill still has to go through the Senate.  By primary sponsor State Rep. Kim Williams’ own admission, if the bill did not have that provision it wouldn’t have moved forward in the Senate.  The Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Senator David Sokola, used to be on the board of Newark Charter School.  It isn’t really a state secret that State Rep. Melanie Smith bought a house in that area so her child can go to Newark Charter School.  Why does it always come back to Newark Charter School?

State Rep. John Kowalko put an amendment on the bill that would have removed that provision, but it failed to pass the House.  25 state reps voted no on the amendment.

I know State Rep. Kim Williams very well.  I know her intent with this bill was to get a start on changing this process.  It is better than what we had before.  But it really isn’t.  Yes, there will be a greater number of Christina School District students who will have the option of choicing into Newark Charter School.  That is true, provided the bill passes and gets signed by Governor Carney.  But it also sends a clear statement about Delaware as a state: we will allow de facto segregation.  Any time we are disallowing students from having a free and appropriate public education, we are not moving forward as a state, we are moving horribly backwards.

State Reps Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and J.J. Johnson, all African-American, voiced strong opposition to the bill for the same things I am writing.  Bolden said it best.  What does it say about Delaware as a state when legislation like this comes up?  She couldn’t say this, so I will.  It shows what a discriminatory state we are to the rest of the country.  It says city kids aren’t good enough for a charter in the suburbs.  It says we vote in legislators who would rather keep one charter school from opening up to ALL students than making Delaware, the first state to sign the U.S. Constitution, a fair and equitable state for all children.

Let’s be honest here, the only reason for this legislation in the first place is because of Newark Charter School.  Taking what could be a good portion of their student population out of the picture in the coming years defeats the whole intent of the bill in the first place.

Which State Reps voted to keep de facto segregation going in Delaware today?

Bryon Short (D)

Paul Baumbach (D)

David Bentz (D)

Gerald Brady (D)

William Carson (D)

Rich Collins (R)

Danny Short (R)

Tim Dukes (R)

Ronald Gray (R)

Kevin Hensley (R)

Deb Hudson (R)

Earl Jaques (D)

Quinton Johnson (D)

Harvey Kenton (R)

Ed Osienski (D)

William Outten (R)

Trey Paradee (D)

Charles Postles (R)

Melanie Smith (D)

Joe Miro (R)

Mike Ramone (R)

Steven Smyk (R)

Jeff Spiegelman (R)

John Viola (D)

Kim Williams (D)

David Wilson (R)

Lyndon Yearick (R)

Only one Republican voted no on the bill, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King.  I find it ironic that many of the Dems who have part of their district in the 5 mile radius for Newark Charter School voted yes.  A couple of the no votes surprised me, but I will take it.  For those who aren’t familiar with what our state legislators look like, there are no black Republicans in the Delaware House or Senate.  All of the above legislators are white.

No offense to Kim Williams, and I get her intent behind this bill, but I can’t support this bill.  I vehemently oppose it.  Any legislation that restricts a child from doing anything will never be a bill I can get behind.  Any bill that gives Delaware an ugly stain on our perception is one I can not support.  This is not progress.  This is very sad.

We need elected officials in our state who won’t follow the whims of Newark Charter School.  We need legislators who will look out for ALL students.  We need lawmakers who won’t bow to the Delaware Charter Schools Network and do what is right.  We need legislators who realize collaboration when it comes to education is NOT always a good thing.  Today was no victory by any means.  It was a horrible step backwards in Delaware.  We might as well paint a sign on Newark Charter School that says Wilmington students not allowed.  The original five mile radius for NCS was bad enough, but this… this is blatant discrimination by a public school that gets funding from taxpayers around the state.

Newark Charter School is one of the best schools in Delaware.  It is because of laws like this that have allowed them to cherry-pick their students and take advantage of the law so they give a façade of excellence.  If they truly let in any student, they would be no better or worse than the schools around them.  But they would be equal.  I would never let my child go to a school like that.  What kind of lesson would that teach him?  If he were picked in their lottery, I would tell him he won because so many kids could not.  If I lived in Wilmington, would I really want my child going to a school that practiced discrimination and segregation for over 15 years?

I would tell you to voice your opposition to the Delaware Senate on this bill.  But it really doesn’t matter.  If it passes as is, it is the same story.  If it fails, Newark Charter School still has their 5 mile radius and still keeps kids from the Christina School District out of their prestigious public school.  Any attempt at amending the bill will fail.  But the truest failure is how Delaware looks to the entire country with this one bill.

Updated, 6:52pm: I want to add one thing.  My thoughts on this bill are not a knock on all Delaware charter schools.  There are many charter schools in Wilmington who would be more than happy to take the students Newark Charter School doesn’t want.  And they do.  My main issues with charter schools in Delaware have been the very inequity I am writing about here.

 

 

 

Kowalko Amendment Would Remove Newark Charter School Boon In House Bill 85

The saga of the 5-mile radius legislation beats on in Delaware!  Today, State Rep. John Kowalko introduced an amendment to the bill which would remove the language concerning the Wilmington students in the Christina School District not a part of the enrollment preference for charter schools within the non-Wilmington portion of the district.

Yesterday, at the House Education Committee meeting, legislators and speakers alike shared concerns with that portion of the bill.  House Substitute 1 for House Bill #85 would remove any 5-mile radius enrollment preferences in Delaware charter schools.  At present, only two charters have the 5-mile radius, Newark Charter School and First State Montessori Academy.  But Newark Charter School exists in a district where the Wilmington part of their district is not land-locked and is actually an island in the middle of the city.  One State Representative, Joe Miro, said he will not vote yes for the bill if it has the amendment on it.

Enrollment Preferences Bill Released From Committee But Newark Charter School Exclusion Remains Controversial

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 was released from the Delaware House Education Committee today.  There are very serious concerns due to a “compromise” brought forth by the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  The bone of contention surrounds the Christina School District and Newark Charter School.  Since a portion of Christina exists in Wilmington, those students would not be considered in the enrollment preference which includes all students in a choice school’s district.  The line of thinking appears to be the district section of Wilmington is not connected to the rest of the district.  However, those who oppose this section of the bill feel it is a barrier for Wilmington students who are part of the Christina School District.

Today, State Rep. John Kowalko is bringing forth an amendment but no one on the committee knew specifically what the amendment was.  State Rep. Kim Williams, the primary sponsor of the bill, stated she assumes it would be to remove lines 7-9 of the bill which would give Newark Charter School their Wilmington exclusion.  Williams said she would not support the amendment because she gave her word to Senator David Sokola.  This, apparently, was an addition to the bill from Senator Sokola which caused the House Substitute bill from the original House Bill 85.  State Rep. Joe Miro said he would not support the bill if the amendment passed.

State Rep. Sean Matthews said he is in support of the bill but does not feel the bill serves all students in the Christina School District.  He felt the bill does not allow for Wilmington students to go to Newark Charter School and the exclusion for NCS was put in so it can pass the Delaware Senate.

If Newark Charter School is so good, they should take all students. -State Rep. Sean Matthews

State Rep. Deb Heffernan agreed with Matthews.  The bill was released with 11 votes in favor of the bill.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the Delaware Department of Education is taking a neutral stance on the bill.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, said former State Board member R.L. Hughes was on the Enrollment Preferences Task Force and voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius. Kristin Dwyer, the Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing,  said she is happy the conversation is opened with this bill but DSEA does not feel the bill goes far enough.  DSEA feels the 5-mile radius should be completely removed.

My concerns with this bill are the very nature of Newark Charter School to begin with.  Even with their 5-mile radius, their student populations do not reflect that of the Greater Newark area.  This is the public comment I gave to the committee and my idea for a potential amendment.

While I am very happy to see this bill, I have concerns around Newark Charter School. When the charter school had their major modification approved to build their high school, they were instructed with formulating a plan to allow for more diversity in their district.  I have yet to see that materialize, even within their current 5 mile radius.  While their special education numbers have increased, they are still woefully under what the state average is, much less the Christina School District.  In the school profile for this school year, African-Americans represent 10.7% of their student population compared to 39.4% of Christina.  While factoring in the African-American population of the Wilmington contingent of Christina student population, the greater Newark area has a much higher population of African-Americans compared to NCS.  I would recommend an amendment be placed on this bill for a weighted lottery for charter schools, magnets, and any choice school where the demographics are disproportionately lower than that of the surrounding district to allow populations that do not seem to be getting access to certain charter school even footing and representation within those schools.  Enrollment preferences are meant to allow the most disadvantaged students into choice schools, not to keep them out. Thank you.

The bill, if passed, would take place immediately.  However, it would not be able to kick in until the 2018-2019 school year since the school choice calendar for the 2017-2018 school year closed in January.  During the House Bill 90 Enrollment Preferences Task Force, the majority of the members voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius as an enrollment preference for choice schools.  Williams said she does not necessarily agree with the Newark Charter School exclusion, but felt compromise was necessary.  If the bill didn’t move forward, she would not be able to help any students.

Once Kowalko’s amendment is public, I will add it to this article.

It’s Baaaaaaack… Opt Out Redux! Kowalko Files New Opt Out Legislation In Delaware

On Thursday, we will see new opt out legislation from State Rep. John Kowalko.  It will be very similar to House Bill 50 but it will have a different number.  I thought they would retire that number after the last go-around with opt out.  Will House Bill #60something have a shot with Markell gone if the General Assembly passes it?  Would Governor Carney sign it?  Are parents still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  It doesn’t begin again until March so if parents are thinking about it, we won’t hear much noise until February.  I still fervently support opt out as a parental choice and feel there should be legislation to codify that right.  I already have a few ideas for a potential amendment but I’m holding that one very close to see how the response to the bill goes.

I will support this bill in its entirety.  I will write about it and campaign for its passage.  I don’t know if I will be as heavily involved in it as I was two years ago.  But most of the legwork has already happened.  House Bill 50 brought opt out into daily language in the First State.  Markell fighting it most likely caused opt out numbers to increase.  Some have (I believe correctly) surmised that ed reformers wanted opt out at some levels.  Plans have been afoot to create stealth tests in a personalized learning environment.  These would most likely be in the form of end-of-unit tests but it would still be the state assessment, just taken throughout the year.  That could be a tough nut to crack.  But all nuts have some crackability.  You just have to find the right tool.

Governor Markell Gives Two Big Middle Fingers To Legislators With Latest Executive Order

Delaware Governor Jack Markell sure was a busy guy yesterday.  In the morning he was pimping the Rodelian Teacher Leader Project.   But then he decided to defy the Delaware Senate and signed Executive Order #61.  What did Jack do this time?

A couple of months ago, Markell’s Chief Ass-Kisser, Delaware Senator David Sokola, tried to get a bill going that would create a permanent steering committee for the Pathways to Prosperity program in Delaware schools.  The bill made it out of committee, but never made it to the Senate floor in June.  From what I hear, it wouldn’t have passed.  It was not considered a priority and legislators weren’t fully sold on this idea.

So what does Jack do?  He goes and says “screw you Delaware Senate.  If you won’t do my bidding, I’ll just make it happen!”  He did that yesterday with Executive Order #61.  But not only did he give two very big screw yous to the Delaware Senate, but also disability advocates and Delaware parents (again).  Because even though Senate Bill 277 didn’t make it to the Senate floor, an amendment was added which would have had two other members on this steering committee:

This amendment adds two members to the Pathways steering committee, one member from a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities and one member of the public who is a parent of a Delaware public school student.

I was at the Senate Education Committee meeting when this bill was discussed.  I was the one who questioned why there were no parents on this steering committee.  Sokola pretended it was a mistake parents weren’t on the steering committee with his obviously fake “Oh my gosh” face.  As well, the Chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens noted there was no one representing students with disabilities on it.  Thus, the amendment.

Look at the test of Jack’s “I can out-trump Trump” Executive Order and then compare it to the original language in Senate Bill 277:

Text of Executive Order 61

TO: HEADS OF ALL STATE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

RE: ESTABLISHING A DELAWARE PATHWAYS STEERING COMMITTEE

WHEREAS, in 2015, Governor Markell established the Delaware Promise, a commitment that the state will combine education and workforce efforts to provide opportunities for our students as they prepare to enter and advance in a career;

WHEREAS, Governor Markell’s administration has established “Delaware Pathways”, a collaborative workforce development partnership which will create a fluid relationship between our public education system, post-secondary education, non-profit, and employer communities to ensure that the pathway to college and a well-paying job is accessible for every Delawarean, and to help the state fulfill the “Delaware Promise” of ensuring that 65% of our workforce earns a college degree or professional certificate by 2025, and that all of our students graduate high school;

WHEREAS, a Steering Committee is necessary to ensure that the program’s long term sustainability and adaptation proceeds in a manner that aligns its offerings to the needs of the workforce and to the students and parents who participate, along with ensuring that the budgetary priorities of the program are identified and outlined in a transparent and collaborative manner;

WHEREAS, we must work to continue to expand access to these programs in order to provide Delaware students with the opportunity to earn an industry-recognized credential, early college credit, and relevant work experience in high-demand fields in our state and regional economies.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JACK A. MARKELL, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Delaware, do hereby declare and order the following:

1. The Delaware Pathways Steering Committee (“Steering Committee”) is hereby established to set the strategic direction of the Delaware Pathways work and provide recommendations for future development and growth of the program, and ensure that program offerings are properly aligned with current and expected employer demand.

2. The Steering Committee shall consist of 14 members as follows:
a. The Secretary of the Department of Education.
b. The Secretary of the Department of Labor.
c. The Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services.
d. The Director of Economic Development Office.
e. Chair of the Delaware Workforce Development Board.
f. The President of the Delaware State Board of Education.
g. The President of Delaware Technical Community College.
h. One superintendent of a public school district appointed by the Governor.
i. One superintendent of a vocational technical school district appointed by the Governor.
j. Two business representatives appointed by the Governor.
k. Three members of community or non-profit organizations appointed by the Governor.

3. Members serving by virtue of position may appoint, in writing and in advance of a particular scheduled meeting or on a permanent basis, a designee to serve in their stead and at their pleasure. Members appointed by the Governor shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.

4. The Steering Committee shall, at least annually, and no later than January 15th of each calendar year perform at least the following:
a. Advise the Governor on the priorities, policy issues, and specific plans for the ongoing implementation of Delaware Pathways.
b. Review the policies of existing statewide programs and funding streams to make recommendations and take actions that align education, higher education, and workforce development programs in the state.
c. Provide guidance and leadership to agency staff involved in implementing this work for the development, expansion, and improvement of Delaware Pathways.
d. Set and track annual goals for Delaware Pathways.
e. Assist in convening stakeholders and increasing participation in Delaware Pathways programs throughout the state.

5. The Governor shall designate from the members one Chairperson of the Steering Committee. The chairperson will be appointed biennially.

6. Members appointed to the Steering Committee shall serve renewable terms of 2 years, except in the case of public employees who are not school district superintendents and who are continuing in the same designated position, and in the case of initial appointment terms, which shall be either one or two years.

7. The initial appointment terms of non-public employees and school district superintendents shall be either one or two years, such that three of the appointed non-public or school district superintendents shall serve a one year term, and the other four shall serve a two year term. The terms of each individual appointment shall be at the discretion of the Governor, but after the initial term is served the position shall be for a renewable term of 2 years.

8. The Steering Committee shall meet at the call of the Chairperson, but not less than semiannually.

9. Any vacancy occurring in the appointed membership must be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.

10. Administrative support shall be provided by the Department of Education.

11. Nothing in this Order is to be construed to create a private right of action to enforce its terms.

This Executive Order shall take effect immediately.

Now, if I were a betting man, Markell is doing a few things here.  One, he is laughing at the Delaware Senate.  Two, he is setting things up for John Carney who is a big Pathways cheerleader.  Three, he is fulfilling his Rodel promise (as well as whatever promise Rodel made to the Lumina Foundation).  Four, he is padding up his own resume for his post-Governor job.  And Five, he is fulfilling the “Dear Hillary” letter by setting Delaware up as a pilot state for the Pathways portion of this agenda.  I underestimated Markell.  I really thought he would start to quiet down in his final days.  He is busier than ever.  He is also a backstabbing and conniving jackass.

As for you Mr. John “I don’t respond to you little blogger” Carney, I have a feeling I’m going to have to start looking into you.  A lot.  I don’t think you are who you appear to be…  You are running out of time to prove me wrong…  It’s going to be a loooooooooong four years if this continues…

House Bill 399 Senate Transcript Part 1: Sokola Gets His Pinocchio On

Senator David Sokola did not present the entire truth to the Delaware Senate last night when he gave his introductory remarks to House Bill 399 and introduced an amendment to the bill.  I immediately saw what he was doing and it worked because the amendment which completely changed the original bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate.  I find this legislative process, with no one able to rebut or correct Sokola’s statements a serious flaw in our law-making process.

His remarks concerned the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee, forged out of legislation last year.  The group met last fall and this winter to come up with new recommendations in the DPAS-II evaluation system for Delaware teachers.  The group had many recommendations, but the sticking point with the Delaware Department of Education was an administrator not having the final say for which assessment to use in the Component V of DPAS-II.  They didn’t feel as though teachers and an administrator should have an adult conversation and be able to mutually agree on this.  I wrote extensively about what happened during the last few sub-committee meetings and it completely contradicts the version Sokola gave his peers in the Delaware Senate.  As well, in reaction to comments given by ex-Delaware DOE employee Atnre Alleyne at the Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, one of the chairs of the sub-committee gave her version of other events transpiring out of those meetings.  In return, Atnre had many things to say about House Bill 399 in the past week.  He was absolutely right on one point:

But if anyone is paying attention, this is the week when powerful interest groups take the unsuspecting masses to school. It is the last week of Delaware’s legislative session and while most are ruminating on 4th of July plans, pressure groups are seeing their bills breeze by on their way to becoming law.

What he fails to distinguish is how he himself represents several public interest groups which I have referred to numerous times as corporate education reform.  Stacked to the brim with flawed research and reports, they manipulate the masses into thinking teachers are bad and the unions will make sure they stay in schools no matter how bad they are.  I may have had issues with the Delaware State Education Association over opt out last winter (to which I admittedly overreacted), but I think most can agree that if a teacher is really bad, they most likely aren’t going to be around for too long.  Is there such a thing as a perfect teacher?  Probably not.  We are, after all, only human.  No one is perfect.  But I will stress, once again, that anything using a monstrosity like the Smarter Balanced Assessment as an indicator of a student or a teacher’s performance is the high point of insanity.  But Senator David Sokola doesn’t seem to care about that aspect, as indicated by the below remarks he gave the Delaware Senate last night:

Sokola: Thank you Madam President. I’m going to talk very briefly about House Bill 399 before going to the amendment.  It was, the process of the DPAS II Advisory Committee was to, uhm, set up, uh, in the past from House Joint Resolution #6.  And we had various stakeholders who, uhm, met quite a few times, as well as a sub-committee, uh, to this group to look at the evaluation of, uhm, teachers.  Uhm, that, uhm, process got a little discombobulated towards the end of the process, and uhm, there were a number of versions of a bill drafter over a period of a few weeks.  And I was not satisfied at, at that.  Various groups were continuing to meet, and discuss, to try to come to a consensus on the issues. So, uh, with that in mind I would like to ask that Senate Amendment #1 to House Bill #399 be read and brought to the Senate.

Senator Patti Blevins: Senate Amendment #1 is before the Senate. Senator Sokola…

Sokola: Thank you Madam President. This amendment actually does a few things.  The one that it does is it does give the administrator final say on components, the components of the teacher evaluation process.  Dr. Susan Bunting (Superintendent of Indian River School District and Chair of the DPAS-II Advisory Committee) had, uh, sent a letter to the education committee for the last meeting.  That was very important.  It turned out a number of the proponents in the bill as it was indicated that they thought, uhm, uh, that was the intent of the bill anyhow.  I made a suggestion that we make that very clear in the amendment.  This amendment does clarify that the administrator does maintain the final say or discretion to determine whether the state standardized assessment should be used as part of the educator’s evaluation.  It also clarifies proposed changes to DPAS-II evaluation system as recommended, uhm, intended to be piloted in three education institutions over a work period of two years.  It has an input, information and deletes section 7 of the bill in its entirety.  Are there, uhm, any questions?  I’ll attempt to answer them.  Otherwise I’d like to ask for a roll call on Senate Amendment 1.

Roll call on Senate Amendment #1: 18 yes, 2 no, 1 absent

Sokola makes it sound like the consensus issues were within the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee.  They were not.  It was between the group’s recommendation and outside groups, like PACE, which was meeting with Alleyne and former Teacher Leader and Effectiveness Unit Chief Chris Ruszkowski in the weeks prior to their engagement with the committee.  To say Alleyne had a bias would be an understatement.  He and Ruszkowski were the two main guys at the DOE for the DPAS-II having Component V in it to begin with.

What Sokola never mentioned in his remarks and with little time for every Senator on the floor to read the full and lengthy amendment while discussion was also going on about the amendment, was a brand-new insertion into the legislation.  This insertion was to include student and parent surveys in the pilot program.  This drew the ire of teachers all across the state today if social media is any indication.  This idea came from Atnre Alleyne in his many comments and blog posts about this bill.  But Sokola took all the credit for it on Mike Matthews Facebook page today:

MikeFBa

MikeFBb

MikeFBc

MikeFBd

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To be continued in Part 2 dealing with a 2nd amendment, heartburn, and more!

 

Legislation Heading Into July 1st

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!

 

 

Hey Jack, Why Are You Deleting Tweets?

Delaware Governor Jack Markell was caught red-handed deleting a tweet!  On Friday, at 4:29 pm, Markell put up a tweet from a conference in Washington D.C. sponsored by a group called Select USA.  Delaware had a booth there.  Two seconds after he posted the tweet, he deleted it.  Apparently there is a group called the Sunlight Foundation that monitors when politicians delete tweets.  They put it up on their website.  When you click on the link in Markell’s tweet, nothing comes up.  So even a website link appears to have been deleted as well.  But I looked to find out what @DelawareGlobal is.  They are actually called Global Delaware.  Global Delaware is a part of our state government.  They are located in the Carvel building in Wilmington at 820 N. French St.

But just cause Jack retweeted a tweet from Global Delaware, does that mean he was even at this thing?

Yeah, he was there!  This conference was so big, even the President went!

So why would a Governor attend a conference with a state organization and delete the tweet about it?  What’s the big secret here Jack?  Global Delaware promotes financial investment in Delaware from other countries.  On their website blog, you can see posts about The Delaware Blockchain Initiative, the Whitehouse Business Council, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Global Cities Initiative, among others.  I don’t usually get too involved in economic events with the State of Delaware, but when the Governor closes the blinds on letting the sunshine in, I have to write about it.  Especially when it involves education!  Wait a minute, how does foreign investment play into Delaware education?

For years, we have been told by the Governor that we have to fix education to fix the economy.  Because our economy is so bad and our students aren’t college and career ready.  But yet, even Select USA states on their website that the USA is the number one country in the world for foreign investment:

The United States is the largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world because companies recognize the United States as an innovative and stable market, as well as the world’s largest economy. As global investment continues to evolve, SelectUSA showcases the advantages of the U.S. market to an increasingly diverse range of investors.

So if our education system is soooo bad, and other countries are soooo far ahead of us, why would they bother to invest in the good old USA?  Perhaps the farce that our public education system is horrible is just that, a carefully designed illusion driving the corporate education reform agenda.  In Delaware, this is highlighted by Markell’s best buddies at the Delaware DOE and the Rodel Foundation.

As a reader, you are probably very confused by now.  Still not getting the education connection yet?  By bringing all these foreign companies to Delaware, the state will have lots of new jobs.  That’s good, right?  Not if it deters students from going on to a four-year college.  This is the plan: get students to do the “Pathways to Prosperity” thing, get certificates in high school, do apprenticeships, perhaps attend a two-year community college like Del-Tech (which the Governor has been talking about a lot in 2016).  That way, when these foreign companies come to Delaware, the students are ready to start their jobs.  These jobs that are most likely lower-paying jobs than they could get if they did attend a four-year college.  Cause that option, in the future, will be reserved for the more advantaged students.  The ones who aren’t low-income or poverty, don’t have disabilities, and so forth.

Now how on earth could a Governor get the public to buy this hook, line, and sinker?  By constantly talking about how we need to “fix” education and incessantly chatting about his Pathways to Prosperity.  Ironically, Senate Bill 277 which would create a permanent steering committee for Pathways to Prosperity, has been on the Senate agenda for a full vote twice, yesterday and last Thursday, but the Senate has not voted on it.  An amendment was added to the bill to include a Delaware parent as well as “one member from a non-profit corporation that advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities“.  How much do you want to bet that advocate will have ties to the Rodel Foundation?  Any takers?  Is the General Assembly less than enthralled with this Markell push?

But he doesn’t just want Delaware students to be a part of this global initiative, he even wants Delawareans to invest in it!  There is already pending legislation to lure the citizens of Delaware into taking part in start-up companies in the state.  All those tax credit bills that swept through the General Assembly so fast?  A boon to companies coming to Delaware!  Why do you think so many companies invest in Delaware?  Cause of the tax breaks.  But when it comes to giving relief to the taxpaying citizens of the state?  Forget about it!  When it comes to ending the corporate workforce education reform agendas that changed public education without any concern for what it does to students and their future?  Forget about it!  For Markell, it is all about bottom line, the almighty dollar.

We will know exactly what kind of man Jack Markell is when House Bill 399 comes to his desk.  Assuming Sokola allows it on the Senate Education Committee agenda in the next week.  If the Governor vetoes the bill, we will know once and for all that he does not care about students, parents, or teachers.  He already proved this last summer when he vetoed House Bill 50, the opt out bill, showing he doesn’t care one iota for parental rights.  For Markell, it is all about “the best test Delaware ever made”, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He can’t permit any legislation that would somehow diminish the test.  Because the Smarter Balanced Assessment, whether it is given once a year or eventually segmented into smaller chunks through end of unit personalized learning assessments, is the key to everything.  All the data and tracking will lead to students being tracked into certain career paths based on their scores on SBAC.  Which is the direct link between education and this deleted tweet.  Markell posts about these kind of things all the time, so I am not sure why he would delete a tweet based on a conference that nobody in their right mind would write about as much as I am today.  But he did.  Did he not want people to know he was there?  Did he not put it on his travel itinerary?

Of course, all of this plays directly into the “future guide” that was so carefully written… 24 years ago…

House Bill 399 Passes Delaware House of Representatives With Unanimous Vote

As expected, House Bill 399 passed the Delaware House of Representatives with a unanimous vote of 39 yes and two absent.  An amendment was added to the bill to take out some redundant language for an administrator’s role in terms of the teacher evaluations.  The amendment passed on a voice vote.

Jaques told his peers in the House that he serves on the DPAS-II Advisory Committee as the Chair of the House Education Committee.  He indicated that DPAS fails in surveys constantly.  He said this bill would allow for all five components to be weighted equally in 2017-2018.  The bill said a single test would not be an indicator of a teacher’s performance.  There would be a pilot program for the legislation.

 

WEIC Redistricting Bill Tabled in House Education Committee To Add Proposed Amendments

At the House Education Committee meeting today in Delaware, House Joint Resolution #12 which would have allowed the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan to move forward, was tabled.  State Rep. Charles Potter, in his introductory statements, recommended the bill be tabled to add amendments which would otherwise have caused the plan to die in the House Education Committee.  While no amendments have been added to the legislation as of yet, it is most likely in regards to the issue of property assessments.  One of the recommendations of the redistricting plan is to allow the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education to incrementally raise property taxes without a referendum.  Many House Republicans oppose this.  Once the amendment is added I will certainly put it up.

Several supporters of the bill gave public comment to urge the General Assembly to move forward.  A few opposed the legislation based on inequality for students throughout the state.  Many members of the House Education Committee were either not present or skipped the meeting entirely.

While some spoke about how this will provide extra funding for students with disabilities, there is no mention of this in Governor Markell’s proposed budget.  I advised I support the bill if that funding is restored AND State Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 30 is approved to provide this essential funding for ALL students with disabilities in basic special education in grades Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

State Rep. Helene Keeley gave a very powerful speech before the committee voted about the situation with students in Wilmington and how the drug epidemic has ravaged the city.  The committee will meet next week to discuss HJR #12 with the soon to be added amendment.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Ammendment Approval Letters

The below two documents are approval letters from the US Department of Education for budgeted amendments of the Memorandum of Understanding with  the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  Money just keeps flowing into this endeavor!

The Delaware Charter School Tranportation Slush Fund Fully Revealed In State Code & Epilogue Language

Delaware State Code allows for charter schools in the state to keep any excess transportation costs for “educational purposes”.  No clarification is given for what those educational purposes are or what sections of the school budget they need to be allocated to.  As a result, Delaware charters have “kept” an estimated $1.35 million dollars, a luxury traditional public school districts do not have.  Certain commenters over on Kilroy’s Delaware claim this isn’t true, and even went so far as to post the full Title 14 Delaware code § 508 of the state code, which doesn’t indicate the slush fund.

“ § 508 Responsibility for student transportation.

The charter school may request to have the school district where the charter school is located transport students residing in that district to and from the charter school on the same basis offered to other students attending schools operated by the district, or to receive from the State a payment equal to 70% of the average cost per student of transportation within the vocational district in which the charter school is located and become responsible for the transportation of those students to and from the charter school. In the case of students not residing in the district where the charter school is located, the parents of such students shall be responsible for transporting the child without reimbursement to and from a point on a regular bus route of the charter school. In lieu of the payment from the State specified above, if a charter school utilizes a contractor for student transportation the charter school shall publicly bid the routes, and the State shall reimburse the charter school for the actual bid costs only if lower than the payment specified above. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a student at a charter school shall receive such transportation assistance as is made available to students pursuant to a public school choice program established by this Code provided that such student otherwise meets the eligibility requirements for such assistance. In the event a charter school chooses to transport students itself, it shall do so in accordance with all public school transportation safety regulations. Local school districts and charter schools shall cooperate to ensure that the implementation of this chapter does not result in inefficient use of state appropriations for public school transportation and the State Board shall exercise its authority to approve bus routes so as to avoid such waste.”

However, what the rocket scientist over on Kilroy’s Delaware failed to do, most likely deliberately as to show people he is right and everyone else arguing against him is wrong, is put in the part from the Fiscal budget which clearly indicates, in Section 347 of House Bill 225.  Even more hysterical, this commenter damn well knows about this, but blogger honor demands I not out the clown.

Section 347. (a) Notwithstanding 14 Del. C. § 508 or any regulation to the contrary, a charter school may negotiate a contract (multi-year, if desired) for contractor payment for school transportation up to the maximum rate specified which is currently 70 percent of the average cost per student of transportation within the vocational district in which the charter school is located or the charter school may publicly bid the transportation routes.  If the actual negotiated or bid costs are lower then the maximum rate specified above, the charter school may keep the difference for educational purposes.  If the charter school includes a fuel adjustment contract provision, the charter school shall be responsible for increased payments to the contractor or it may keep funds taken back from the contractor.

I wrote an article on this back in January, which clearly showed exactly how much each of the following charter schools were able to keep in FY14 based on this transportation slush fund buried at the near end of the state budget:

Academy of Dover: $56,788

Campus Community: $148,578

Charter School of Wilmington: $63,755

DE Academy of Public Safety & Security: $13,894

DE College Prep Academy: $17,750

DE Military Academy: $21,877

East Side Charter: $31,451

Family Foundations: $384,769

Kuumba Academy: $64,352

Las Americas Aspiras: $103,958

MOT Charter School: $23,126

Moyer Academy: $22,596

Newark Charter: $227,827

Odyssey: $150,607

Reach Academy: $25,647

Providence Creek Academy and Sussex Academy use their own buses, Thomas Edison broke even, Positive Outcomes uses Caesar Rodney School District buses, and Gateway and Prestige Academy each lost over $20,000 on this deal.

So collectively these 15 charters made $1,357,002.00, for average of $90,466.80 a school.  The amounts for Odyssey, Newark Charter School, Family Foundations, Campus Community and Las Americas Aspiras are all well over $100,000.  With no mandated allocation of funds except for the very vague “educational purposes” and no oversight of how they use these funds, who knows where they are going.  In the case of Family Foundations Academy, where the two school leaders embezzled over $90,000 in personal spending, and Academy of Dover where one principal spent over $127,000 in personal purchases, how is it even possible to trust how the schools are spending these funds.  Where is the accountability for these funds?

One Delaware legislator has said enough is enough, and he is requesting lawmakers to make an amendment to get rid of this:

Dear all,

Note HB225—- page 231, Section 347 lines 25-26. This is the language that is consistently inserted over the last 6-7 budgets that conflicts with the Title 14 section 508 mandate to return unused (for transportation) taxpayer money by Charter Schools. The amendment I am filing removes this onerous disregard for taxpayer money from the budget and I hope each and every one of you will support it to restore accountability and specificity of allocation to our spending of those taxpayer dollars. It is our responsibility to ensure that this practice ceases.

Respectfully

John Kowalko

I’m sure the rowdy bunch over at Kilroy’s will say I am doing my master’s bidding since they seem to think Kowalko owns me, which is so far removed from the truth it’s not even funny.  There are numerous issues I disagree with Kowalko on, but when it comes to education we align.

As Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 (charter school post-audit with the State Auditor) is supposed to get a vote on Tuesday  June 30th, and hopefully Rep. Debbie Hudson’s House Bill 61 (mandatory school board recordings) is put to a vote, and rules are suspended for each, along with Kowalko’s proposed amendment to the budget, we can start to see some legislative oversight and transparency over Delaware charter schools.  It all depends on how quick the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Kendall Massett can get their people down to Legislative Hall on Tuesday…

 

Exclusive: Senator Sokola’s Proposed House Bill 50 Amendment

I spoke with Senator Sokola this evening, and he informed me exactly what his amendment to House Bill 5o, the parent opt-out of the Smarter Balanced assessment legislation, would entail.  It would include any state assessment and any district-wide assessment.  It would also change some of the timeframes involved in notifying parents.  He did say a Delaware Senate attorney will be looking it over and he hopes to have it in circulation tomorrow.

Originally, House Bill 50 included any state assessment.  When the House voted on the bill on May 22nd, it was changed to just the Smarter Balanced assessment in an amendment introduced by State Rep. Sean Matthews.  If passed, this amendment would change the bill for a third time.

Sokola is a firm believer in standardized assessments and believes in international benchmark standards for education.  He referenced Singapore, China, Finland and Quebec in Canada as areas around the world who perform the best in education.  He believes teachers should be great, and there are schools in Delaware who are getting it right and the rest of the schools should be copying what they are doing.

He stated that usually there is a limited public comment time during the Senate Education Committee, but last week he allowed additional comment time to the parents of Autism children for Senate Bills 92 and 93, and since House Bill 50 was not heard on last week’s agenda, he wanted to extend the courtesy this week.

What remains to be seen is the actual amendment and the exact wording of it.  We shall know more later today…

House Bill 50 Has NOT Been Released Out Of Committee…Yet, But A New Problem Emerges… **UPDATED**

Because most of the Senators in the Education Committee were not present during the actual meeting, the bill has to be circulated to each one of them.  According to Senator David Sokola, he expects this to happen tomorrow.  It is also expected, not that I’ve heard this from Sokola, that House Bill 50 will be released from committee.  With that being said, a new wrinkle has come up.  Apparently, and this is coming straight from Sokola, he is considering adding an amendment to the bill.  What would happen with that is the Senate would vote on the amendment, which would kick the bill back to the House if the Senate passes it.  If the House passes the amended legislation, it would then go to Governor Markell’s desk.  At this point, he could do one of three things: sign the bill, veto the bill, or do nothing and in 12 days it would become law.  If the House passed the amended vote by June 30th, Markell would have 12 days to make his decision.

The parent opt-out bill saga never ends.  And this has just been confirmed by Yvonne Johnson with the Delaware PTA: the amendment would allow opt-out of district-wide assessments.

Delaware Senate Bill 33, The IEP Task Force Bill, Clears the Senate With 19-1 Vote

A week ago, the IEP Task Force Bill was left on the table after proposed changes on charter schools in the bill caused a firestorm of controversy on the Delaware Senate floor.  Now, the bill has passed the Delaware Senate and will go to the House Education Committee.  With all the hoopla about the charter school changes, the bill is essentially the same as its original format, with the following overview of Senate Amendment #3:

This Amendment makes a number of changes to better implement the recommendations of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Improvement Task Force. It adds new emphasis to the law requiring that notices to parents must be in writing. It clarifies that charter schools and school districts have similar obligations in educating students with disabilities and that charter schools have an ongoing obligation to have a designated staff person trained in the legal requirements of educating students with disabilities. It provides clearer protections to those advocating for students with disabilities by adding the protections existing under Delaware’s whistleblower laws. Finally, it adds a specific task force recommendation that progress on transition-related goals be regularly reported.

The sole nay vote rests on the shoulders of Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson, of Milford.  While I don’t think this will cure-all of the special education woes in Delaware, I think it’s definitely a good start.  But what is happening with extending the task force?  Matt Denn, the Chair of the task force, has seamlessly transitioned from Lieutenant Governor to Attorney General.  While his new role is certainly larger and more challenging, perhaps he could nominate a new chair and get this ball rolling again.  The momentum and attention are there!

To take a look at ALL the education bills and resolutions in the Delaware 148th General Assembly, please go here: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/delaware-education-bills-148th-general-assembly/