Colin Bonini Causes State Budget To Rise & An Update On That Whole Budget Thing

I hope the Delaware General Assembly doesn’t use prevailing wage for the folks that print legislation because Colin Bonini most likely caused them to get VERY busy.  Today, during an extension of their session which should have ended yesterday morning, Senator Colin Bonini added 20 amendments to a bill.  Not sure why he didn’t make it one huge amendment, but I digress.  For each amendment, the legislative aides have to print up each one and give it to each legislator.  Not just in the Senate, but also the House.  And then the archives as well.  That is a hell of a lot of paper!

To put this in perspective, there were so many amendments I couldn’t get them all in one screenshot.  So it is impacting my work as well.  Thanks for that Colin!

I have no doubt Colin knows this is in jest.  If not, Colin, this is in jest.  If you want to read about this bill, please go here.  But there is other news at below.

Meanwhile, the legislators have been at Legislative Hall since 1:oo.  Still no actual budget to vote on.  Seven hours later.  If anything changes, I will do my best to keep you updated.  I will most likely be sleeping.  I was interviewed on Friday by the Delaware State News.  The article showed up yesterday and it was awesome.  The title alone is worth the read!  A Sham-Wow Moment While You Were Sleeping

Updated 8:18pm: WDEL is reporting the Delaware Joint Finance Committee restored the Grant-In Aid funding at 80%.  I am not sure if this means some type of deal for the entire budget is happening.

Updated 8:34pm: Speaking of printers, I’m hearing a new budget is coming off them now and a possible deal was struck.

Updated 8:37pm: Apparently this session is called an “Extraordinary Session” based on the General Assembly website: An Extraordinary Session of the 149th General Assembly has been called by Governor John C. Carney, for Sunday afternoon, the 2nd of July, 2017 at one o’clock.

Updated 8:48pm: It takes hours for a budget to print.  By the Governor’s decress, this “Extraordinary Session” is only for budget purposes.  Which means non-budget legislation is NOT being worked on by the House or Senate.

Updated 9:11pm: It is still coming out of the printer…

Updated 9:16pm: My son is listening to a horrible remix of Twenty-One Pilots “Heavy Dirty Soul”.  I hope that isn’t an omen…

Updated 9:18pm: The budget bill is a House Bill this year.  It rotates every year.  Which means the House will vote on the budget first.  But the bond bill will come from the Senate.

 

Exclusive: A Delaware Legislator Is Not The Hero For Public Education They Appear To Be

I’ve been wrestling with something for a long time now.  I found out something.  Something big.  Usually my first instinct is to get it out there.  But this was BIG, and if I was wrong about it, it could have shot me in the foot.  It concerns a legislator and an election.  But more than that, it concerned friends.  Friends who are very supportive of this particular legislator.  I’ve had wrestling matches in my head before about these kind of things, but usually the need for truth prevails.  This time though, it was different.  Continue reading

Teacher Evaluation, Charter School Audits, & WEIC Extension Pass The General Assembly

It was a wild and crazy night-morning at Legislative Hall in Dover.  I can honestly say I have never bounced back between the Senate and the House as much as I did in the past six hours.  But some of my “must list” legislation passed.  Some with changes and some intact.

House Bill 399 passed but not without some amendments and an odd conversation about teachers and a comment Jack Markell made years ago in the Senate.  Senator Colin Bonini talked about how Governor Markell gave a speech on the Senate floor many years ago and told everyone only 19% of students in Delaware were college and career ready.  But yet our teachers were rated 99% effective.  He couldn’t grasp these facts.  He said he would support the bill.  But then Senator Dave Lawson spoke against the bill and said the system isn’t working.  The bill passed with 19 yes and 2 no votes.  The no votes were from Senators Lawson and Henry.  The amendments added on can be seen here and here.  Apparently, this was the only way it was going to pass.  In looking at the first amendment, they changed a lot and many teachers won’t be happy about those changes.  But this was the compromise reached.  Will Governor Markell sign the bill?  We shall see.  I did speak briefly with Secretary of Education Godowsky and asked him if he thought they were good amendments and he said yes.

After four previous bills, the Kumbaya compromise charter school audit bill, House Bill 435, passed the Senate in the wee hours of the morning.  It hadn’t been on the agenda for the Senate.  I emailed Senator Sokola, and it appeared on there a few minutes later.  It passed soon after.

And the WEIC redistricting plan.  I thought rigor mortis was setting in on this plan, but it rose from the ashes.  A crucial amendment by State Rep. Kim Williams which deleted some of the unnecessary language in Senate Bill #300 seemed to be what is going to keep that train chugging.  This is what happened: WEIC is still alive, and they will plan for another year.  The $7.5 million initially requested in the final recommendations has been appropriated for FY2018.  But I will get to more of that after a message from Tony Allen, the Chair of WEIC:

Delaware General Assembly Affirms the Commission’s Plan
Governor commits the “necessary and sufficient funds” for next year
Commission suspends timeline

Tonight, an older African American woman stopped me on the Senate Floor and said “if you believe in this, you keep fighting on.” We did!

As the 148th Delaware General Assembly legislative session ended, the House and Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 17, an interim affirmation of the Delaware State Board of Education’s approval of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan and Senate Bill 300, which clarifies the funding implications and supports further analysis by the Commission.

In a related action, Governor Markell committed to put no less than $7.5 million in his FY 2018 plan to support the Commission’s plan, specifically to begin to change the 70-year old student funding formula. In a letter to the Wilmington delegation, Markell said, “I am proud to have worked alongside you in these efforts and pleased to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of the funds necessary and sufficient to fund the first year of implementation of the proposals of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, specifically an amendment to the unit count that would carry additional support for low-income students, English Language Learners and students with special needs statewide.”

Earlier this morning, I noted that because the “necessary and sufficient” funding has not yet been provided that we will immediately call on the Commission to suspend the timetable for implementing its plan.

While I am disappointed with several aspects of this legislative season, SJR17 allows the Commission to fight another day. After 62 years of waiting, fight on we will. The Commission is wholly committed to reducing the fragmentation and dysfunction caused by 23 different school systems currently serving Wilmington children, less than 10% of Delaware’s student population. In addition, the Commission will continue to focus attention on the needs of low-income students, English language learners, and other students with special needs in Wilmington and throughout Delaware. That includes meeting the non-instructional needs of these students, engaging empowered parents in school reform, and changing the antiquated funding system for students and schools that has for many years created sustained inequities dating back to well before Brown v Board of Education (1954). I am grateful to the 22 other commissioners, the previous members of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, and the more than 10,000 community members who have been participating in this process.

I urge your continued resolve.

There are some key words in this, especially Markell saying “to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of funds…  That isn’t a guarantee that the next Governor will do the same or that the 149th General Assembly will either.  We don’t know what the state’s financial picture will be a year from now.  But for now, WEIC lives after most thought it was dead and buried.  I find it odd that Allen talks about how 23 different school systems serve Wilmington students but the WEIC plan would only reduce that to 22.  Granted, Christina has a lot of Wilmington students, but that is still a lot students going to other districts or charters.  I will see what this additional year of planning will produce.  But it looks like I am not done writing about WEIC despite what I wrote earlier today.   I talked to Rep. Charles Potter after the vote and he said this isn’t what he wanted, but it keeps WEIC alive and it is about the students.

Senate Bill 93 passed, one of two Autism bills introduced last year.  Senate Bill 92, however, was another victim of funding issues in the state.  An amendment was added to Senate Bill 93 in the House which got rid of the Senate Amendment that had the DOE getting involved.  The Autism community in Delaware felt that was an unwelcome presence.  Good for them!

It was a long second half of the 148th General Assembly.  House Bill 50 had two shots to override the Governor’s veto in the House of Representatives and it failed both times.  But I want to thank Rep. John Kowalko for trying and standing up for parents.  I respect and admire him for doing that.  Had the House ever been able to actually vote on the override, I believe it would have passed.  The fact that they were never able to get to that point shows the will of the Governor influencing certain members of the House in very inappropriate ways.  My other “dream legislation”, House Bill 30, which would have finally given students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade considered to be “basic special education” students, never received a full House vote despite coming out of the House Appropriations Committee weeks ago.  I know Rep. Kim Williams fought hard for that bill.  I still remember when she first told me about it a year and a half ago and I truly felt it was a no-brainer.  For both of those bills, the 149th General Assembly will tell the tale on opt out and special education funding.

I will write more over the next few days about all the bills that passed and those that are now dead.  In the meantime, Happy Fiscal New Year 2017!

Delaware House Education Committee Releases Two Autism Bills But Kills Controversial Amendment

The Delaware House Education Committee released Senate Bills 92 and 93 yesterday at their weekly meeting.  The unanimous release was expected, but an amendment on Senate Bill 93 was taken off by the committee.  If the full House passes Senate Bill 93, it will go back to the Delaware Senate since the amendment previously approved by the Senate was taken off.  Since there is a fiscal note for both bills, they are going to the House Appropriations Committee.  The amendment that was removed by the House Education Committee states the following:

AMEND Senate Bill No. 93 by deleting lines 58 through 60 and substituting in lieu thereof the following:

14) A representative from the Delaware Collaborative for Educational Services (DCES) or, until DCES is created, the Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation at the Delaware Department of Education;

15)  A representative appointed by the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services;

16)  A parent or caregiver of a child or adult with ASD from each  county in Delaware;

17)  An individual with ASD.

FURTHER AMEND Senate Bill No. 93 by inserting the following after line 102:

(t) The Network and the Network Director shall collaborate with the Delaware Collaborative for Education Services (DCES), an entity to be created out of recommendations from the Special Education Strategic Plan, a plan directed by language in the FY15 Budget, Section 307 Epilogue.    The collaboration shall begin after the DCES is formed.  In particular, the Network shall collaborate  with DCES to develop coaching, professional development, and technical assistance in areas where there is overlap with services provided to people with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well low incidence disabilities, including but not limited to visual or hearing impairments, or simultaneous visual and hearing impairments; significant cognitive impairments; or  any impairment for which a small number of personnel with highly specialized skills and knowledge are needed in order for children with that impairment to receive early intervention services or a free appropriate public education. 

 

SYNOPSIS

           This amendment adds a representative from the Delaware Collaborative for Educational Services (DCES) or, until DCES is created, the Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation at the Delaware Department of Education as a voting member of the Interagency Committee on Autism (ICA).  It also adds a new paragraph (t) at the end of the bill containing provisions for the collaboration between the Network and the Network Director and the DCES, after it is created.

Many members of the Delaware Autism community did not like this amendment and felt the Delaware Department of Education was overstepping quite a bit.  I wrote about this a few weeks ago.  Apparently the legislators in the House Education Committee agreed.

State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman’s DOE-State Board House Bill 34 Up For Senate Vote On Tuesday

Has it really been over a year since State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman introduced House Bill 34?  Yes it has!  But the wait could be over because it is up for a full Senate vote on Tuesday, March 15th.  House Bill 34 would make it so any new regulations, rules, or administrative procedures by the State Board of Education or the Delaware Department of Education won’t go into effect at the local school districts or charter schools until the school year has completed.  They do this all the time and change things up in the middle of the school year and it gives the districts and charters very little time to plan.  I’ve liked this bi-partisan bill since it was introduced!

It did get a Senate amendment attached to it along with an already passed House Amendment that clarifies if an emergency comes up or if a change is based on existing law, the wait would not take place.  I would assume that since the Senate put an amendment on it and they pass it on Tuesday, it would kick back to the House of Representatives.  The House passed this bill on June 30th, 2015.

Please email your Delaware Senator to pass this bi-partisan common sense legislation!

Delaware Senator Coons Letter Shows Desire To Continue AYP For USA Schools

Delaware Senator Chris Coons responded to a form I sent him regarding the ESEA reauthorization.  Yesterday, there was quite the hullaballoo about an amendment that would continue the Annual Yearly Progress for American schools which Coons fully supports.  In his letter, which I’m certain went to anyone who wrote to him about the reauthorization, clearly shows he wants what I view to be a destructive process for our students, educators and schools.

I worry about the influences around Senator Coons support for such an amendment.  I worry he is not utilizing all stakeholders surrounding this issue.  The corporate education reform movement is suffering from an infection which exposes the rot within, so they are getting very desperate.  We need our leaders to start to walk away from these disruptive agendas and get back to the heart of education: letting our teachers teach and letting our students learn.

US Senator Chris Coons
July 6, 2015
Mr. Kevin Ohlandt
9 Crosley Ct
Dover, DE 19904-1975
Dear Mr. Ohlandt:
Thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts regarding reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). I appreciate your taking the time to write. I strongly believe that the best ideas for improving our schools and ensuring our children can achieve their dreams come from those on the front lines of our education system: our teachers, parents, students, and community leaders and advocates.
I commend Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee for crafting a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the ESEA. I am committed to working with my colleagues in both political parties to reauthorize the ESEA and support a high-quality education system for Delaware students and teachers. All children in America, no matter where they live or how they learn, deserve an education that allows them to reach their fullest potential. The Every Child Achieves Act and the 29 amendments adopted by the HELP Committee are a promising step towards this goal.
I am pleased that the Every Child Achieves Act provides much needed flexibility and resources to states, maintains dedicated federal investment to school districts that serve high concentrations of low-income students, and expands the criteria that states can use to evaluate school performance. I also commend the Committee’s bipartisan commitment to early education, innovation, STEM education, and reducing the use of excessive and unnecessary standardized tests. While the Every Child Achieves Act is an encouraging first step, there is still more work to be done. I am eager to work with my colleagues to find ways to strengthen this bill through an open amendment process in the Senate. For example, the bill should include stronger accountability provisions that ensure that schools that are persistently failing to demonstrate results for students are not only identified, but also required to take action to improve the outcomes for students and are given the resources they need to do so.
I am committed to ensuring that any legislation to reauthorize the ESEA reflects Delaware’s values and supports our state’s educators, students, and families. I always appreciate hearing from Delawareans about their education priorities and will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind should the Every Child Achieves Act come before the full Senate.
Again, thank you for contacting me. It is an honor to represent Delaware in the United States Senate, and I hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues that matter to you. My website, http://www.coons.senate.gov, can provide additional details about my work in the Senate, including legislation and state projects.
Sincerely,
Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator

House Bill 50’s Wild Ride In The House Passes With New Amendment, Back To The Senate….

After a crazy failure for House Bill 50, the legislation was reconsidered with the originally failed House Amendment #2, which passed the second time around, and then the whole bill passed.  Now it goes back to the Senate.  Trust me, I’m confused, but maybe this will help.  Timeline time:

House Bill 50 timeline:

3/12/15: Introduced by Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson

4/22/15: House Education Committee releases bill from committee, brings it to full House Vote

5/7/15: House Amendment #1 added by Rep. Sean Matthews removing “state assessment” and changing it to just “Smarter Balanced Assessment”, passes House

6/11/15: Senate Education Committee releases bill from committee for full Senate vote

6/17/15: Senator David Sokola adds Senate Amendment #1, changing “Smarter Balanced Assessment” to all “state assessments and district-wide assessments”, passes Senate

6/17/15: Senator Bryan Townsend adds Senate Amendment #2, allowing high school juniors to opt-out of the assessment, passes Senate

6/17/15: Senate passes House Bill 50, but because two amendments were added, it goes back to the House

6/23/15: Rep. Jeff Spiegelman introduces House Amendment #2 which takes away Townsend’s Senate Amendment #2, fails to get enough votes

6/23/15: House Bill 50 fails 2nd House vote, bill is dead

6/23/15: Rep. Spiegelman asks for reconsideration of vote on House Bill 50 under Delaware House of Representatives House Rule #41, House passes motion

6/23/15: House passes House Amendment #2

6/23/15: House passes House Bill 50 again

Now it goes back to the Senate.  Whether it will be heard by next Tuesday or if it extends it until January when the 148th General Assembly is back in session is unknown.  But what I do know is this.  I blame all of this on three people: Rep. Earl Jaques, Senator David Sokola, and Senator Bryan Townsend.  They have played games with this bill and do not care about parents.  And from what I’m hearing Senator Colin Bonini had quite the chuckle after the bill originally failed in the House today.  These are legislators who really don’t care about parents or their rights.  I resisted Spiegelman’s amendment at first cause I just wanted it to pass, but he is absolutely right.  He brought up a point I didn’t think of: what if the junior wants to opt out but the parents don’t want him to?  That would set up some very thorny issues for all involved: student, parent, teacher, school, district, and even the state.  So thank you for your wisdom on this one Rep. Spiegelman!

Our no votes on the 2nd House vote today are as follows: Dukes, Gray, Heffernan, Jaques and Q. Johnson.  Not voting were Barbieri and Bolden.  So all the no votes or absents are the same from the original House vote last month, except for the additions of Gray, Heffernan and Q. Johnson.  What made them flip?

For the 2nd vote on the House Amendment, only Dukes voted no and Barbieri and Bolden didn’t vote.  Three reps had left so there were three absent.

If I were any Delaware parent (I am), I would be absolutely livid at the games being played with this bill.  Shame on Jaques, Sokola and Townsend for not caring enough about parents to even ask them about their bill-killing plans prior to their attempted hijackings.  If I were Townsend, I might want to reconsider that run for Congress.  You ticked off A LOT of voters tonight.

House Bill 50 Is In The House! Tuesday That Is! Email The House!

I am hearing from sources that House Bill 50 will be on the agenda for another vote by the full House.  I say, at this point in time, just vote yes, not matter what amendments are on it.  I had my anger today, but at the end of the day, it’s still the same bill, codifying a parents right to opt-out.  And making it so schools are held accountable for their actions with opt-out and not accountable for the results of opt-out.  At the end of the day, it’s about that.  I’ve talked to many parents today, and we want this.  Let the chips fall where they may, but let’s bring this to Governor Markell’s desk!