There Are NO, I Repeat, NO State Employee Salary Cuts In Delaware’s Budget Bill

Blogging is funny sometimes.  You can get things wrong.  When multiple sources tell you the same thing, you assume it is gold.  But for the end of June in Delaware you have to be a bit cautious.  That is my situation right now.  I want to apologize for anyone who had angst over this.  I thought, based on sources, that it was going to happen.  While eating dinner tonight, I was informed there was a 1.45% deduction in state employee salaries, but this was a misread of the appropriations bill.  It is NEVER my intention to put bad information out there.

I’m sitting in the lobby at Legislative Hall to a packed house.  Even the House Republicans are here!  Below is the current appropriations bill, House Bill #275.  I haven’t had time yet to take a deep dive into it yet.  Far too much going on.  I’m running into people I haven’t seen in a while and catching up with the usual suspects.  But I felt it was important, in the face of this budget crisis, to at least get this information out there as soon as possible.

 

The Ugly Truth About The Delaware Budget

Sometimes one person can put it all in perspective in such an easy and common sense way.  Today, that person is Steve Newton.  On Facebook, he posted the below in response to a post I put up.  Things are getting very heated on social media today and tonight it will only get worse.  Everyone is freaking out over this budget, especially state workers.  The article I put up yesterday about a 2% cut for state workers and increases in their insurance premiums is not a definite, but it has been brought up.  Some on social media are saying they never heard this but they also aren’t at Legislative Hall to know for sure.  I heard this from a few sources.  Before I get to the heart of Steve’s post, there was a brief discussion before that about prevailing wage.

Other person: We live in a global society. Monies are transferred all over the place all the time. We cannot expect that money spent by us here will remain here. What we need is for additional money to come back to us. We need to make Delaware some place people will come to spend THEIR money. Or, wait, is the actual problem we are all living in such austere times that no one has any money to spend at all? This nation needs to stop shrugging like Atlas and embrace the progressive core of Democratic Socialism.

Steve Newton: I appreciate that sentiment, but it doesn’t actually answer my question. Much of the work that is done here on school construction is done by companies that hale far from here. We spend a lot of time discussing returns on the investments, and I’ve personally spent time arguing that we shouldn’t be paying out corporate incentives to bring jobs to DE when, even when they employ people, those people often don’t live or work here. There’s an argument to be made on both sides here, but I have not seen it made with numbers. I’m also curious about the calculation of the prevailing wage–I know it’s based from a Federal number, but is it modified to reflect regional variations in cost of living, and–most importantly–is it recalculated on a regular basis according to some reliable metric? In other words, are we paying the same prevailing wage in Delaware that is paid in, say, San Francisco, where the cost of living is five times higher?

One possible answer is to require companies that accept prevailing wage contracts in Delaware to use a specified percentage of local hires for the work. This is (ironically) what rock and country bands do with musicians and road crews in the big concerts.

IF the point of the prevailing wage is to better the lives of the workers, and IF we are investing DE tax money to do that, it makes far more sense to me to have measures in place that insure that at least some of those DE tax dollars are in fact being used to better the lives of DE citizens. Again, there is an argument to be made on both sides, but I want to see the argument made with the numbers actually on the table, and so far I have seen no one–neither GOPers nor Dems–do this.

Other person: If the schools are using non-Delaware companies for construction, it stands to reason that it’s because the State requires it. I’ve not encountered too many times in my 16 years where the State didn’t restrict or flat-out dictate exactly what companies schools could use for what goods or services.

Steve Newton: OK but here’s the deal–you are advocating that as a point of principle towards solidarity with working people we keep the prevailing wage–even though that benefit may not be going to DE families. At the same time, “cost-cutting” measures in health care that the GA has already agreed upon with reduce our family’s salary by $5,000 next year, cause us as a married couple to pay MORE for health insurance than if we got a divorce and bought two separate policies, and they’re mooting a 2% pay cut on top of that. I do have a problem drawing a line in the sand over prevailing wage AFTER they’ve already thrown me and my family to the lions.

Where were the Democrats who are closing ranks over Prevailing Wage when it came to protecting State workers? Our pay and benefits were put on the table before there was even any discussion.

This caused Steve to write a very long reply on the thread:

Here’s the other elephant (pun intended) in the room: the GOP is right on some of this–for the wrong reasons. There remains massive structural fat in the State budget that could be eliminated with political will. Instead of massive increases in prison guards, we could legalize pot AND release all non-violent drug into prison AND eliminate prison sentences for non-violent possession in all drug crimes … thus reducing costs (incarceration 1 year=$37k; treatment 1 year=$9K) for more than 6-8,000 non-violent drug offenders in DE prisons. Reduce the prison population by 6-8,000 and there goes overcrowding and we can look at guard deployment again.

There are whole offices at DE DOE to be either eliminated or consolidated–I could cut 25% or more from that budget with a pen in an afternoon.

We have no compelling need for a Secretary of Homeland Security AND a commandant of the DSP–merge the offices, save millions. While we are at it, hand back coastal enforcement to the Coast Guard and get rid of the DSP Navy; then slash the “grey” budget for DIAC in Dover which has a greater record of violating civil rights than solving crimes.

We’ve had a massive influx from private schools to charters, so isn’t it time to stop paying transportation allowances, drivers’ ed money, and the salaries of school nurses for private schools while we are slowly eliminating funds to transport homeless kids to school? Extend school bus life to at least sixteen years or for as long as the bus meets safety and reliability standards and quit auctioning them off for pennies to private schools (this is how they get their bus fleets).

You want cheap in public education? Unfortunately, you can’t have “cheap,” “choice,” “charter,” and “effective” all at the same time. You want 3-5 school districts in Delaware? Fine–then require ALL charters to be approved by the geographical district, and require them to use consolidated transportation, food service, and data processing assets to qualify for any State money.

There is structural fat aplenty in the State budget, but precious little will to actually grapple with it. Everybody talks about health insurance costs, but take a look at the processing contracts we’ve handed out to Highmark for both Medicaid and Medicare–there are actually local Delaware companies that could do the same job for 30% less–and that money would stay in Delaware and pay wages to DE employees–which Highmark does not.

So everybody please do me a favor and quit pretending that only one side got us into this mess. “Delaware Way” politicians of both parties have been kicking this particular can as hard as they could. Both sides have signed off, again and again, on massive corporate giveaways that haven’t panned out (Fisker, Bloom Energy) or have been nothing more than embarrassing bribes to banks and financial companies.

I’ve already lost this argument. No matter what happens in the next few days or weeks, our politicians have already cut my salary, reduced my benefits, slashed my home mortgage deduction, put my grandson in larger classes, and guaranteed that my roads will continue to be full of potholes, while continuing to transfer huge amounts of public dollars into private hands via a whole variety of corporate dodges no matter who “wins.”

Shaking his head he leaves the room …

As House Republicans Storm Out Of Their Chamber, Delaware Citizens Held Hostage To Party Antics

Last night.  The walkout.  The fury.

I missed it.  I got in my car and drove to Legislative Hall once the Grant-In-Aid bill was introduced and went to committee around 11pm last night.  I arrived at Legislative Hall as the Capital police officer, the same one I see every single time I go there, told me it was over.  He also said “They aren’t happy.”  I went in anyways and got the scoop from Reps. John Kowalko and Andria Bennett. Continue reading “As House Republicans Storm Out Of Their Chamber, Delaware Citizens Held Hostage To Party Antics”

Behind The Scenes Discussion At Legislative Hall Could Result In 2% Pay Cut Or Major Increase In Healthcare Costs For ALL State Employees

*Please go to the end of the article for an update on this developing situation.

While it has not been “officially” confirmed, I am hearing leadership in our state government is talking about giving ALL Delaware state employees a 2% cut in pay for FY2018.  The only exception would be prison guards due to the negotiated agreement with them.  The other possible option is increasing health insurance premiums by 50%.  This is going on behind closed doors folks with ZERO transparency.  None.  It is the day before they are supposed to be passing a budget and it has not been released to the public at all.  There is NO option to get your voice heard.

The House and Senate are taking a break to eat dinner.  They should be back on the floor around 8:30pm.  Longhurst’s House Bill #240 which could gut itemized deductions in Delaware and raise YOUR taxes will get a vote.  From the legislators and folks down there I’ve been talking to, the legislators are in a panic mode with Governor Carney seemingly clueless.  No budget has been written.  This is not good folks.  At all.  I’ve heard the cuts in the budget referred to as a “bloodbath”.  We have school boards able to raise taxes through the match tax scam.  We have charters keeping their transportation slush fund.  We axed the estate tax.  There is ZERO organization here folks.  And I won’t even get into the damn bickering between the Dems and the Republicans.  Grow up.  We don’t care.  Do the right thing for our state!

So this is what you need to do citizens of Delaware: get to Legislative Hall tomorrow night around 5pm and swarm every single legislator you can.  Show up IN PERSON.

Ironically, the “Find Your Legislator” portion of the Delaware General Assembly website appears to be not working.  At least for me.  But you view a full list in the blue links here:

Delaware Senators

Delaware State Representatives

This absolute crap and farce of a state government has been operating in the shadows for far too long.  They know this is going to hurt every single state employee but they want to rush this budget and then head off on Summer vacation.  This is shady and it is happening now.  We have State Reps joking around about last names, taking up time when there could be meaningful conversation that the public can here about all this.  I heard one state rep ask for a bill to be tabled until January because of the public’s need to know more about the budget.  Schwartzkopf shot him down.  I don’t know which rep it was, but we need to hear more of that.

Remember, tomorrow.  Make YOUR voice heard LOUD and CLEAR!

Updated 6/30/17, 1:24pm: David Burris, the Chief of Staff for the Delaware Senate Republicans put a response up on Facebook that there has been zero discussion about pay cuts on their side of the aisle.

Chaos At Legislative Hall In Dover

Legislative Hall was a very odd place this afternoon around 4pm.  Usually the place is bustling on a Wednesday afternoon, but since yesterday’s announcement by party leadership that no “controversial” bills would be heard until the budget is passed, it was eerily quiet.  Of course the lobbyists were milling around, but the tone was very subdued.

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee met today and added $51 million in cuts to education and healthcare for a total of $88 million cuts.  Rumors were swirling that Democrats in the House were turning on their own because they won’t vote for the budget if it includes House Bill 240, State Rep. Val Longhurst’s very weak revenue bill.  Turns out the Democrat leadership sent those legislators to the Principal’s office (aka Governor Carney) over the past couple of days.  Way to turn on your own!  And they even got a few of the Delaware labor organizations (including DSEA) to rattle those legislators cages.

The Republicans introduced a resolution to extend state services for 30 days during July if the budget doesn’t pass.  I saw Mike Jackson who runs the Office of Management and Budget briefly and asked if we had a budget.  His response…  “For now.”  Which doesn’t mean much given no one has voted on it yet.  But the epilogue language is being written.  Grant-in-aid got slashed from $51 million to $8 million so good luck to those non-profits!

Meanwhile, the House voted on House Joint Resolution #6, directing the DOE to come up with regulations surrounding gender identity issues in Delaware schools.  Reps. Dukes and Smyk asked questions about it which basically meant they were opposed to the bills.  As one observer put it, there was definitely some “transhomophobia” in the House chamber.  The bill passed the House.  Expect similar resistance in the Senate.

Two Senators were there today who hadn’t been in the latter part of last week.  Senator Bryan Townsend’s wife had a baby boy last week.  Meanwhile Senator Brian Pettyjohn had some other stuff to straighten out.

I had some good chats with some folks.  Asked some pointed questions to a few so I am hoping to find out some answers on those in the next few days.  One of them has to do with the series of articles I’ve been writing about Smyrna.  It’s kind of putting a delay on Part 6.  I am hoping the answer is positive.

Some of us talking were in agreement the State Board of Education isn’t going anywhere.  The Delaware Dept. of Education will pick up the $213,000 tab for them.  Today the Senate confirmed former Delaware Senator Liane Sorenson as an at-large member of the State Board of Education.  I met her briefly and enjoyed our conversation.  She did confirm she reads Exceptional Delaware so that is always a plus in my book!

The next two days are going to be absolutely crazy down there.  If I’m not there tomorrow, I definitely will be on Friday.  That is an education blogger MUST!  I am hoping to get more of the Smyrna series up tomorrow.  But it depends on that one answer on how I move forward with this.

Oh yeah, the Blockchain legislation, House Bill #226, passed the Delaware Senate.  I anticipate Governor Carney will sign that faster than the Flash.  And so it begins…

I can’t for the life of me figure out why they aren’t moving forward with State Rep. John Kowalko’s franchise tax for companies incorporated in Delaware.  It would raise the fee from $300 to $325.00 and would raise $43 million in revenue.  Sounds like a no-brainer, right?  The last time that happened, there were 500,000 companies incorporated in Delaware when they raised it from $275 to $300.  Opponents feared it would cause companies to leave Delaware.  Now we have around 800,000 companies incorporated in Delaware.  Bills that make common sense should sail through, but we aren’t dealing with common sense in leadership at Legislative Hall these days, so once again, I digress…

It is late June in Dover, Delaware.  62 elected officials will attempt to decide how our state is run.  I trust a handful of them.  Pray for us, rest of the United States of America.  We need your prayers more than ever!

Updated with essential article from Delaware Public Media: http://delawarepublic.org/post/jfc-eliminates-grants-nonprofits-fire-companies-senior-centers-balance-budget

Updated again, 3:29pm, 6/29/2017: This article has been corrected to reflect that there were zero no votes for Liane Sorenson’s confirmation on the State Board of Education.

Rep. Briggs-King Wants To Get Rid Of Delaware Advisory Council on Career and Technical Education

House Bill 261 would remove the Delaware Advisory Council on Career and Technical Education in legislation introduced today by State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King.  In the bill, Briggs-King states over $330,000 was spent on this council in FY 2017.  I say get rid of it.  We have spent far too much money, time, and resources to what amounts to special interest for Delaware Tech.  That’s what this is.  The Pathways to Prosperity initiative launched by former Governor Jack Markell also puts tons of money into Del Tech’s pockets.  I recommend discontinuing this program as well.

Holy Crap! Paul Herdman and I Agree (Mostly) On Something Involving Delaware Education!

The end times are nigh.  I read an opinion piece by Paul Herdman on delawareonline and found myself agreeing with a lot of what the CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware was saying.  No, I don’t have food poisoning.  I haven’t been drugged.  I didn’t slip on a banana peel and pass out.  But Dr. Paul Herdman and I both seem to agree on disagreeing with some of the cuts the Delaware Joint Finance Committee proposed a few weeks ago.  I know, I couldn’t believe it myself!

What Doc Herdman is lamenting are cuts to early childhood education and college access.  I believe every student, if they have the means and even if they can get help, should go to college.  I also think early childhood education is very important.  While the Doc and I disagree on the methods, I have to believe we both want kids to get the best education possible.  While he may think Common Core, Smarter Balanced, Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education are the best ways, I think true instruction in the classroom with teacher-created tests and assessments are the way to go.  I don’t think kids need all this educational technology in the classroom.  I don’t think we need all these leadership training classes.  Leaders should come naturally, not some profit-induced seminar brought on by Education Inc.  The best education leaders are those with advanced knowledge of education through advanced masters degrees and come up through years of teaching.

But any cuts to education aren’t good.  I wish the Doc would go a step further and go after wasteful spending at the Delaware Dept. of Education and all that trickles down to our schools as a result of their continued corporate education reform shenanigans.  I wish he would urge our General Assembly to fully fund our state auditor’s office so they can, you know, actually follow Delaware law and properly audit our school districts each year.  I was really hoping he would recommend our General Assembly (finally) implements basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, especially with his background in special education.  But I’ll take what I can get.

The final week of the 149th Delaware General Assembly’s 2017 session is going to be absolutely crazy.  I’ve told others.  It won’t be over by July 1st.  The gap is just too big and I’ve heard several legislators say “I won’t vote for the budget if (insert this cut or this attempted revenue here).”  I don’t blame them.  But some pain will have to come in this budget.  It is my fervent hope students won’t lose out.  I do support district consolidation in Delaware and while there are those who think it won’t amount to much saving, we won’t know unless we really study it.  It is my contention there would be considerable savings.  I do support shared resources, like Herdman.  Whether it is a traditional, charter, or vo-tech, why wouldn’t we come together as a state to make sure students have all the resources they need?  I don’t think school boards should be given a one-time chance to raise the match tax without a referendum as I truly believe that will hurt school districts when they do need to go out for a referendum.  If districts and charters can actually share, all students would win.  It takes some pride swallowing on both ends.  Get rid of the charter school transportation slush fund or any perks for charters out of the budget.  It only aggravates the us vs. them mentality.  Truth is, there should be no us vs. them.  It should be education for all students.  Get rid of old, antiquated laws that create any type of de facto segregation.

The truth is, the Doc and I probably agree on a lot of things but our differences cast us as polar opposites.  I’m sure he is a good guy, and yes, I think he should be taxed at a higher tax bracket along with the rest of the $150,000 and over club.  This does not mean, by any stretch, I will attempt to get on the Rodel Advisory Council.

No Cuts To Education Funding Rally Draws A Crowd

 

Teachers, parents, and even kids gathered on the East side of Legislative Hall for a No Cuts To Education Funding Rally.  All told, I would estimate there were somewhere in the ballpark of 50-75 participants in the rally.  Speakers included Eugene Young with Network Delaware, income President-elect of DSEA Mike Matthews, Christina PTA representative Mary Schorse, incoming Christina Board of Education Member Eugene Griffith Jr., PACE of Wilmington representative Swiyah Whittington, Christina CBOC member and Blue Delaware writer Brian Stephan, and Senator Bryan Townsend.

All of the speakers do not want any cuts to education funding and favored more state revenue in the form of higher taxes.  They urged folks to get involved in education and speak up.  They said the best way to do that is by letting their legislators know their thoughts on this.  Senator Townsend referred to Delaware’s teachers as “magicians” in that he believes they do great things for Delaware’s students.  Instead of writing about what will surely be covered by the major media in Delaware, I am presenting a photo gallery of the event.  This event leaned toward the Democrat way of thinking as the Republicans tend to favor large cuts as opposed to increasing revenue by increasing taxes.  The only legislator who attended the rally was Senator Townsend.

Wednesday Is Find Revenue Quick Day In The House Revenue & Finance Committee Meeting

Lots of interesting tax bills on the agenda for the Delaware House Revenue & Finance Committee!  Will it be enough to shrink the budget deficit?  As well, the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee is meeting on Monday.  Will the budget deficit go up or down?  What will the Joint Finance Committee do with their plethora of cuts?  This is where it all starts going down.  And where is the budget bill anyway?  With all the suggested cuts and epilogue language?  I’m hearing it is out there but they won’t let anyone in the media have it.

 

Save The Date: June 20th, Rally For Education- No Cuts To Education Funding

When legislators and Delaware Governor Carney proposed massive cuts to public education, the people responded with a loud voice.  As a result, there will be a rally at Legislative Hall on June 20th from 1pm to 3pm, rain or shine.  This event, hosted by Network Delaware, is going to draw a huge crowd.  I know several educators will taking a bus (or two) from New Castle County.  This is YOUR chance to make sure your voice is heard.  If you are tired of bloated classrooms and teacher cuts, I would make sure you are there.  From the press release on the rally:

We need to stand up and show support for Delaware legislators who are resisting cuts to education. We need to unite and show them we’ll have their backs in their fight for educators, students, and school staff as they oppose proposed budget cuts to education funding for FY18.

All are welcome. Come with creative posters! Speakers to be announced. The rally will take place on the East Side Steps of Legislative Hall. Parking is available in the Delaware Public Archives parking lot.

This event is co-sponsored by PACE Network, Delaware PTA and Network Delaware.

If you haven’t filled out our form to have postcards and letters sent to your legislators opposing the budget cuts to education, please do so now! https://goo.gl/UM6cis

I will be there, front and center.  The legislators work for us, we the people, not the other way around.  Bring your kids!  Most educators should be done with school so there are no excuses!  The Delaware 149th General Assembly ends the first half of their legislative session on June 30th/July 1st.  Time IS running out.  It is now or never!

Delaware Republicans Release Anti-Prevailing Wage Legislation, Let The Labor Wars Begin!

Senate Bill 116, introduced today, would require a three-year exemption on prevailing wages for school construction.  It would also require public schools to give a cost study to the Controller General’s Office.

Sponsored by Senator Gary Simpson along with Senator Greg Lavelle and State Reps Danny Short and Deb Hudson.  Co-sponsors include six GOP Senators and six GOP State Reps.

I find it very interesting they chose school construction for this given the audit that came out last week against Sussex Technical School District.  If there is some secret deal or compromise to pass the state budget, this would be the key legislation the Delaware Republicans have been looking for.  Don’t count it out until everyone goes home on July 1st.  Strange things happen the night of June 30th and the early hours of July 1st.  A bill could be dead, and presto, it has a suspension of rules.

I would have to image the unions are already opposing this bill.  Call me crazy, but I would guess they aren’t strong supporters.

Guest Post: Christie Shirey On Our Out Of Touch General Assembly

Christie Shirey, a Laurel, DE citizen, wrote what so many of us are feeling in Delaware these days.  We are tired of our legislators trying to figure things out.  We are tired of budget deficits.  She summed this up in a few paragraphs and really makes me wonder what our General Assembly’s true priorities are these days.  Thank you Christie, and thank you for letting me post what you wrote!  I want to know more about this tunnel!

Can someone explain Delaware voters to me? Summary of the situation: We are facing an over $350 Million budget deficit with our Governor telling us we all will have to share the pain, schools are warning we will have a lot less teachers in the classroom and the elected politicians are talking about increasing every tax you can think of. Meanwhile, the elected Legislature is spending its time on passing late term abortions, assisted suicide and recreational Marijuana.

It has been 4 months since a Correctional Officer was killed in a prison riot without a single charge against anyone. Almost 100 people have died from heroin overdose in just the first half of this year (May I point out that the highway deaths are 35 for this same time period). Someone from the State had to write a check for a very lucrative business deal with one of our local schools and a local businessman after the school pleaded for more taxpayer money. Our Governor and State General Assembly is busy proclaiming Obama Day and joining the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the Paris Alliance while our State Police are finding a drug tunnel in Delaware larger than most of our houses that has a connection to a Mexican drug cartel and $1 million in cash with the drugs.

The part I don’t understand is that I know Delaware will continue to elect these same individuals. They never seem to hold any of them responsible for not fixing any of the problems. Not even the ones that are leaving families fractured and in pain. Why doesn’t any of the Delaware voters ever place blame on the elected official who not only created these problems, but are doing nothing to fix anything?

As JFC Sacrifices The Sick, The Children, and The Poor, General Assembly Leadership Drops The Ball

I am getting very sick of the political games in Dover.  Very sick.  We have the Joint Finance Committee cutting programs left and right, with House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle continuing to bicker over raising taxes or having more cuts.  We elect these people to do what is right for Delaware, not to kick the can until the next election.  They continue to use the most vulnerable citizens of Delaware in their political football games: the students, those who are sick or rely on state assistance, and those who live in poverty.  Enough.

In a Delaware State news article, JFC Co-Chair Melanie Smith brags about needing only $60 million in “soft cuts” while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf says further cuts would be “drastic“.  Do these two even talk to each other?  They are in the same damn party.  Meanwhile, we have Senator Greg Lavelle preaching from his pulpit wanting the state to have even more cuts.  But both sides are not giving serious thought to State Rep. John Kowalko’s bills which would raise taxes on the wealthy of Delaware.  Hell, they spit in our faces in the House by passing the very ridiculous estate tax appeal last month.

Delaware Republicans, let’s get one thing straight: prevailing wage will NEVER happen as long as the Democrats hold power in the House and Senate.  It is a pipe dream.  Delaware Democrats, the Republicans will NEVER allow you to raise taxes on the wealthy.  Delaware citizens, we are screwed.

I believe they are making these “drastic” cuts in the JFC to cut to the heart of Delaware.  By going after the most vulnerable of Delaware citizens, they are hoping the legislators will cave and come up with some sort of short-term compromise to fix the budget.  Governor Markell left the station, but not without spending our way to prosperity.  But guess what, the bill came in for that spending and we have treated the state wallet like an ATM without any limits.

In Delaware, we have this insane tendency to vote the SAME people into office every election.  While there are some very good State Reps and Senators filling the halls in Dover, I fear we have reached a stalemate in Dover.  For far too many of our legislators it is about one thing: holding on to power and the next election.  The Delaware Way has become a steaming pile of horse manure.

Governor Carney and his office have shown no sign of getting rid of this stink in Delaware.  My recent FOIA complaint against Carney’s office over the Family Services Cabinet Council generated a response from his office.  Because the Attorney General’s office is still working on the legal opinion for this, all I can say is the response is one of the most insulting things I’ve read in my entire life.  It reeks of corruption and deals made behind closed doors.  The solution, which is Carney’s way of saying “Don’t mess with me Ohlandt, cause I will do what I want no matter what” screams of the very thing I have grown to expect in Delaware.  It evaporates hope and replaces it with a bad taste that no mouthwash could replace.  I can’t wait until this legal opinion comes out to the public so they can see firsthand what I am talking about.

Our children, poor, and sick should not be held hostage because these lawmakers think they can do what they want.  In the State News article, Matt Bittle discussed the decision by the JFC to hold off on meeting until later in June.  Bittle writes:

The move, an atypical one, minimizes public backlash and concern in response to spending reductions and gives the caucuses more time to come to an agreement on tax increases.

I disagree with this.  The public backlash is just beginning.  I see more discussion about what is going on with the budget this year than I’ve seen in years.  The very ugly move by the JFC yesterday on not allowing the cut sheets from yesterday to be released to the media or the public is the shadiest thing I’ve seen in my entire time blogging.  In response to cuts already made, I’m sure their phones and emails were lighting up like a Christmas tree.  Get over it.  It is your job to listen to your constituents, not to stifle their voices.  When you play games with people, don’t get upset when they voice their concerns over it.  Last I heard, freedom of speech was still a real thing.  Last I heard, we elected you to balance the budget, not to keep it from us.

Because of loop holes in state code, there are no-brainer ways to raise revenue in this state that are impossible because of budget allocations.  We could raise the gas tax but that would only go towards the transportation fund.  How about shifting that in state code so it would go to the general fund?  I would support a ten cent raise in the gas tax if it would dig us out of this mess that the General Assembly created in the first place.  It is things like that which make it impossible for me to give the General Assembly more than a shrug when this time of year comes around.  They need to think outside of their very small boxes and get creative.  Because I am sure they will get the same salary, benefits, and pensions.  Meanwhile, I know I am going to have to pay more for getting less in Delaware as will every single citizen in this state.  Except some of those really rich people who will bully legislators into making sure their shared sacrifice is palatable to their over-stuffed bank accounts.

I believe in Delaware.  I believe in the people of Delaware.  I don’t believe in our very corrupt state government who throws away their conscience in favor of lobbyists and back-door deals.  I don’t care if you are Democrat or Republican.  The very second you replace a moral with some incentive, you have failed in your duty as an elected official.  That isn’t integrity.  It isn’t honesty.  It is the Delaware Way.

 

2017 Stats To Date And What Is Coming

2017 has been an odd year for Exceptional Delaware.  There has been a ton of transition, between a new Governor, a new Delaware Secretary of Education, and very peculiar budget issues plaguing Delaware schools.  But the biggest post by far has been a recent one about a particular charter school in Newark and their 5 mile radius.

Top 17 Posts of 2017 So Far:

  1. Newark Charter School Doesn’t Want Wilmington Black Kids Or Wilmington Special Needs Kids Going To Their Private School
  2. Thom Labarbera, Brandywine Social Studies Teacher, Passes Away
  3. Delaware Racism: It Is Real And It Is Not Going Away
  4. Racial Slurs Appear To Go Unpunished For DE Military Academy While A.I. DuPont Basketball Team Suspended For Rest Of Season
  5. What To Make Of Bad News Betsy’s Letter About ESSA To Chief State School Officers
  6. Silence Is Complicity: Human Sex Trafficking In Delaware and How I-95, Craiglist, Backpage, & Kik Make It Thrive
  7. Delaware Joint Finance Committee Cuts State Board of Education From State Budget, DONE!!!
  8. Wahl v. Brandywine Case Settles! Justice For Joseph & An End To Zero Tolerance In Brandywine!
  9. Jack Markell Under Investigation By Ed Authorities ***DEBUNKED***APRIL FOOL’S DAY***
  10. 77 Teachers On The Chopping Block For Christina School District, Increased Classroom Sizes As Well!
  11. Not A Good Day For Christina
  12. **UPDATED**Christina Public Comment By Board Member Alleges Involvement Of Other Board Members In Hate Emails
  13. Final Delaware 2017 School Board Filings
  14. Exceptional Delaware Endorsements For 2017 School Board Elections
  15. Don’t let your special needs child fall victim to “new” Federal and State voucher/choice policies
  16. Cut The Admins In Districts & Schools? How Many Are There? TONS!
  17. Exceptional Delaware Endorses John Marino For The 10th Senate District

Like I said, this has been an odd year.  Because of so many changes, I’ve found that some folks I allied with on just about everything have shifted somewhat in their line of thinking.  We still agree on a lot of the old stuff (Common Core, Opt Out) but the lines have gotten very blurry in some areas.  I endorsed John Marino in the 10 Senate District Special Election and caught holy hell for it.  Issues involving racism filled up three of the top four articles.  My first foray into Human Sex Trafficking yielded a lot of reads.  The month of May has been the biggest month so far this year.  Between the school board elections, budget cuts, and the infamous HS1 for House Bill 85, over 50,000 people visited the blog this month.  7 out of 17 articles are from May.  An April Fool’s Day joke apparently fooled many people judging by Jack Markell’s place on this list.

Expect the unexpected in the month of June.  I can tell you now a lot of articles will be about the state budget, the effects it will have on Delaware schools, and the shenanigans down at Legislative Hall.  It will culminate on June 30th/July 1st as the legislators try to get it all done so they can have their long 4th of July weekend.

I’ve had more than my usual requests lately for writing about certain things.  I’m actually going to hold off on some of those until July.  The main reason for that is due to the state budget sucking up all the oxygen in the room.  I have a couple articles where people want to talk about new ideas for education but all any school district or charter really cares about now is the budget and what impact it is going to have on them.  If the State Board of Education is truly done, there are going to be a ton of legislation dealing with that.  The most controversial two words between now and the end of June: Epilogue Language.

If you want to help this blog, please go here and if you have the means and are able to help out, I would be forever grateful!  And a huge thank you to those who have chipped in.  I was talking to someone last night about how I am the last of the education bloggers in Delaware (without an agenda).  We were discussing if someone else is going to enter the rat race.  Who will be the next Delaware education blogger that churns stuff out?  Can’t wait to meet you!

 

As Deep Budget Cuts Loom, Will New Tax Bills Save The Day In Delaware?

Fiscal Year 2018 will involve a lot of pain if the Joint Finance Committee’s marked-up state budget continues down the same dark path it is on now.  While some cuts seem like a good idea, others will make children go without desperately needed services.  The State Board of Education is kaput if everything stays the same.  But could new tax bills, which would bring in more revenue to the state, cause some of those cuts to disappear?

In Delaware, the General Assembly needs a 3/5 vote to pass any revenue bills.  In the House, that requires 25 yes votes and in the Senate, 13.  This is where it gets very tricky.  The House has 25 Democrats and 16 Republicans.  The Senate has 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans.  The House could conceivably pass the budget just on their Democrat base, but complications could easily arise.  Some Dems in the House will not favor certain perks in the epilogue language, such as the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund.  There is at least one Democrat, State Rep. John Kowalko, who will not say yes to the budget if that is in there.  The Republicans in both houses want something: prevailing wage.  They have wanted this for years, but this could be the year where they get what they want, or at least make some inroads towards it.

The Joint Finance Committee has to make the cuts until they see more revenue.  Are they going after some of the programs that help people the most?  Not yet.  But today is another day and is expected to be uglier than yesterday.  The JFC does not meet again until Tuesday, June 6th.  I expect a whirlwind of activity at Legislative Hall every single day someone is there between now and July 1st.

In Governor Carney’s proposed budget, the local share of student transportation costs went from 10% to 15%.  Yesterday, the Joint Finance Committee raised that to 20% with the expectation the school districts can recoup those costs from this mythological one-time Match Tax.  Carney proposed the district school boards utilize this option without a referendum.  Let’s be very clear on this: if this happens, do not expect taxpayers to pass referenda any time soon.

No matter how this plays out, John Carney’s vision of shared sacrifice will have winners and losers.  If the uber-wealthy get more perks like the estate tax repeal, it will become very obvious who is pulling the strings behind the curtain at Legislative Hall in Dover.

Guest Post From Eve Buckley On Budget Deficit And Education Cuts In Delaware Schools

Eve Buckley wrote a brilliant post on Facebook today.  With her permission, I wanted to get this out to a wider audience since she hit the nail on the head with what is going on in Delaware public education in the face of disastrous cuts school districts are facing.  Eve, like myself, is a parent in Delaware.  Her children go to Christina schools.  She was also in attendance at Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum at Newark High School last night.

Delaware friends, the take-away from last night’s education forum, for me, was that the state has–as we know–an enormous budgetary crisis and currently no political capacity to raise revenue, since GOP legislators have pledged not to raise taxes. Unless this changes, we will cut everywhere, deeply–and as far as I know, there is no reason to believe this will improve next year. Governor Carney does not have a viable plan to address this huge structural problem. Democratic legislators, many of whom are quite willing to approve property tax reassessment [for the first time in DECADES], need a 3/5 majority vote to pass that and cannot move forward without support from at least two Republican legislators. All of us can write to Gov. Carney about the need to responsibly address the state’s serious budgetary challenges. Everyone should contact their state legislators, but esp. if yours (in House or Senate) is Republican. Tell them how these cuts will impact your children’s educational opportunities; if your child attends Christina district, it is facing a $6 million shortfall for next year due to the reduction in state funds, which translates to a dozen or more staff/teacher cuts at each middle and high school, and presumably some staff cuts from every school. These individuals have already been notified, which is demoralizing for everyone in those communities–as Newark HS students made clear last night.

Note that state-authorized charters (the vast majority of DE’s charters, outside of Red Clay district) are not as severely affected by these cuts, the logic being that Carney proposes giving district boards one-time authorization to make up about two-thirds of his proposed cuts via a “match tax,” which would generate revenue only for district schools. This puts the elected district boards in a quandary: schools need those funds, but by replacing the state shortfall with a board-authorized increase in local taxes, the districts will probably lose any capacity to pass a referendum in the future, as many residents will be infuriated by this extraordinary maneuver. For the moment, this proposed mechanism for recouping district revenue via a one-time match tax (and subjecting ONLY district schools to the corresponding state cuts) means that charter school staff are not being notified of job losses, at least not on the scale that district schools are experiencing. Aside from the seeming unfairness of this, it also means that charter families, generally quite mobilizable to advance their children’s interests, are probably less aware of how severe the state’s education funding crisis is–and only 13 legislative days remain before the state’s budget will be finalized. For me, this is another example of the damage we do to the democratic process by “packaging” public services differently for different members of our communities; we are not all in this together. That is a serious loss, reducing the likelihood that schools and families will get what they need from the state. Democracy is a numbers game, and our numbers are significantly diminished by our fractured public ed. landscape.

As always, Exceptional Delaware wants and solicits for guest posts on education matters.  Thank you!

Who Is My Delaware State Rep & Senator? Which District Do I Live In? A Primer For Delaware Students! #swarmthehall

This article is for ALL Delaware public education students.  This is what you need to do NOW to make a difference for YOUR school.

Last night, I attended an Education Forum at Newark High School.  As members of the audience stated they didn’t know who their legislators even are, State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked me to put up a post on my blog about this in front of the whole audience.  It is my pleasure to do so Paul!

Even though students (unless you are 18 or over) are not registered voters, your voice is important.  I will go so far as to say it is the most important voice in the state.  You can get involved, and I would ask your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, friends, and neighbors to get involved in this year’s budget, especially when it comes to public education.  But first, you have to know who to contact!

The first thing to do is go to the General Assembly website, found here: http://legis.delaware.gov/

The easiest way to find out “Who is My Legislator” is to go that section of their website and put in your address or go on the “Find by Map” option.  I did that using my address, and it came up with this:

Another way to find out what Senator or State Rep covers your district, go to the tabs that say “Senate” or “House”.

I will use the House as an example.  Go to the tab that says “Members & Districts” and click that.  Now I have to sacrifice one of our State Reps as an example, so I chose my own State Rep, Trey Paradee of the 29th Rep. District.

What a big smile for your constituents Trey!  It has other information on the page, but if you want to contact them, it provides their phone number at Legislative Hall or their email address.  You will get a legislative aide or an answering machine when you call them.  An email might shoot you an automatic reply if they aren’t there that day.  Some legislators are brave enough to put their home or cell phone numbers on their contact information.  I would ALWAYS call that phone number first since the likelihood of them getting back to you SHOULD improve.  Another way is to look for them on social media.  Send them a friend request if they offer that option.  I would shoot them a message stating who you are and possibly an issue or topic you would like to discuss with them.

Once you know what they look like, and if you have the time, go down to Legislative Hall and introduce yourself.  Don’t do it while they are in session in their respective chamber though because they can’t really stop that time to talk to you.  Be respectful and courteous.  Ask for THEIR cell number if you don’t have it already.

If you find your legislator isn’t getting back to you, keep at it!  I’m not saying to stalk them, but keep calling, emailing, or texting.  As a professional courtesy, I would give them at least three days to get back to you.

As the General Assembly prepares their version of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, they need to hear from their constituents NOW.  Not later.  Not on June 30th.  NOW!!!!

Here is how it goes for the next five weeks down in Dover.  The General Assembly is on a two-week recess right now and will return on June 6th.  In the meantime, the Joint Finance Committee, which is a group of legislators, are doing what is known as the “budget mark-up”.  They go through Governor Carney’s proposed budget and make changes.  This group needs to hear from you NOW!

I would email ALL of them in one email and tell them what you are looking for.  For those who are against all these cuts in education, some suggested wording could consist of this:

Please remove the cuts to education from the state budget.  It is unfair to balance the state’s budget on the backs of our students.  Schools are already under-resourced and our children need our commitment to their future.  Thank you.

The public can attend the Joint Finance Committee meetings, but seating is limited.  And considering most of you students will be in school, DON’T CUT SCHOOL to come to Dover to go to a JFC meeting.  There will be plenty of time for that when school gets out because the General Assembly continues to meet until June 30th.  If you want to see some real craziness going on, come down (or up) to Dover on June 30th.  The fun usually starts around 6 or 7pm in the evening.  Bills pass on the fly, left and right and they suspend a ton of rules to get bills passed.  You see bodies passing by you like the Flash.  I’ve gone the past two years and didn’t get home until the sun was coming up.  That’s right.  They MUST pass the budget or they don’t get to go home until they do.  They can go home, but their legislative session isn’t over until the State Budget passes.  By State Law, the Governor must either sign or veto (not sign it) the budget once the General Assembly passes it.  If the Governor passes it, the General Assembly has to keep meeting until it passes or they can attempt to override the Governor’s veto.  This year, June 30th falls on a Friday so I have no doubt they will want to get in and get out so they can have their 4th of July weekend last as long as possible.

If students truly want to make a huge difference with this budget, if you don’t want teachers cut and you don’t want your school board to be put in a position where they are forced to raise more taxes without a referendum, your State Rep, Senator and the Joint Finance Committee need to hear from you TODAY!  They may give you a reason why they support this or don’t support that, but make sure YOUR feelings are heard.

If you want to make a HUGE impact, organize a group of your friends and classmates and come down to Legislative Hall in Dover (but don’t cut school to do it).  You are NOT allowed to carry signs into the building, but you can wear t-shirts as long as they don’t have curse words or are inappropriate.  It could say something as simple as “No Education Cuts” or have fun with it and write “Forced Match Tax Without A Referendum Is Horrible” .  I would NOT recommend t-shirts like “John Carney is bad” or “Mike Ramone loves Donald Trump….Eeeew!” (neither of them do, just making a point here).  You can even write legislator letters but make sure you go to their office in Legislative Hall and give it to the receptionist or legislative aide to give to the legislator.  Don’t try to put letters or correspondence on their desk in the House or Senate chamber.  I did that once and it is NOT allowed.  Don’t yell at anyone or interrupt anyone either.  And whatever you do, when the House or Senate is in session, just sit and listen.  You do NOT want that gavel coming down on you by Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long or Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf!

You CAN make a difference this year.  If you want to preserve what you have and not lose out next year, there is nothing wrong with a peaceful protest.  Make sure you get Mom, Dad, or your Guardian’s permission first, but make it something you can tell your grandchildren about one day.  How you told our legislators what your schools need and you helped to make a difference.  Let’s call it “Swarm The Hall”.  Share hashtag #swarmthehall on Twitter and Facebook and let’s make it a thing Delaware students!

As an education blogger, I’ve met most of our State Reps and State Senators.  I want to believe they want to do the right thing for everyone in the state, but sometimes political issues happen.  If you are a dye-in-the-wool Democrat and your State Rep or Senator is a Republican, or vice-versa, don’t get into the whole “us vs. them” mentality.  They will listen to you, but it could cause them to tune out whatever you are saying.  Make it about the issues, not about the politics.  No one wants to hear about the whole Trump/Hillary thing or “Dems Stink” or “Republicans Lie” kind of stuff.  This is about YOU, and YOUR education.  And this isn’t just about school districts, it’s also about charters.  Because if districts have to make cuts and force a match tax on their residents, they will have a hard time getting referenda passed in the future.  Which means less money for charter schools as well.

Below is a list of ALL the Delaware State Reps and Senators.  The Senate has 21 members and the House has 41 members.  Don’t get confused by the district numbers.  I live in State Rep District 29 but State Senate District 15.

If you are a Delaware public school teacher, please share this article with your students and their parents.  It can also be a valuable lesson for current events or helping children become more aware of how the political process in Delaware works.

Updated: Some libraries are holding events called “Postcard Party for Education Funding”.  Details can be found here.  This is a brilliant idea!  Reach out to the sponsors and see if you can get these events in your local libraries if they aren’t in your area!

Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum In Newark Taken Over By Students And Teachers

Delaware’s budget deficit hit a new stage last night when Christina School District students took over State Rep. Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum at Newark High School. As well, Senator David Sokola said the issue with the 5 mile radius bill was about transportation. It was an evening full of dodged questions and skirting around the issues.  It was a night when things were as confusing as Twin Peaks and the Mighty Thor put her hammer down! Continue reading “Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum In Newark Taken Over By Students And Teachers”

Red Clay, Brandywine, & Appoquinimink Go After Christina For The Same Bling The Charters Got In Settlement

Christina School District is about to get screwed again!  But not by the charters this time.  This time it is districts who should be their allies!

Okay, time to let the cat out of the bag.  A month ago, and if you blinked you missed it, the Christina Board of Education discussed and voted no on the Chief Financial Officer of their district negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding between Christina, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Brandywine.  The MOU would have given authority to the CFO of Christina to send those local funds to the three other districts for students that choice to those districts out of Christina.  The board said no.  Look for a special board meeting sometime next week.  From what I’m hearing, now the Superintendents of the districts (all four) want to have the MOU between them.  Welcome to Christina Richard Gregg!

That’s what happens when you open Pandora’s Box like that with that stupid settlement between Christina and the charters.  I’m talking to you four Christina board members who voted FOR the settlement and then voted against rescinding the settlement a week later.  Did I not distinctly hear that it would set a precedent?  That it would come back to bite them in the ass?  I know I said it.  I believe a few others did as well.  Karma truly is a vengeful and mean bitch.

Do I have anything against Brandywine, Appo, or Red Clay for going after these funds?  I don’t know.  The timing sucks.  And how soon until Colonial jumps on the train?  All this happened because, supposedly, according to some commenter named Elizabeth, Jack Markell had some secret deal with Lillian Lowery and Christina when she became Secretary of Education.  The way I’ve heard it, Lowery was involved in a lawsuit when she became Secretary and Captain Jack wanted it all hush-hush so all sorts of crazy crap happened.  I heard that from someone who used to be on the board who hasn’t been too quiet about it over the past year or so.  Funny how stuff gets out in The First State.

So what happens if Christina’s board says no again?  Will the big three (and possibly Colonial) get their feathers in a twist and file a lawsuit against Christina as well?  My gut tells me Christina’s board will be forced to vote yes because of the precedent set in the charter settlement.  So last week, the board announced they will be laying off 44 or so teachers.  Will this cause that number to rise?  And how the hell does their CFO Robert Silber still have a job there?

How much money are we talking?  I don’t think it would be as much as the cha-ching the charters got, but it will leave a mark on their budget.  At this point, anything more is suck city.  Here’s a novel idea… how about going after Jack Markell and Lillian Lowery for their side deals that went on.  Better catch Jack quick before he goes on his Forrest Gump tour of America!  Yeah, like that will ever happen.  Captain Jack seems to have some special immunity shield around him.  It’s a special kind, where you screw things up for eight years and you get to go biking into the Pacific sunset.

Education never gets boring in this state.  But this will not be a joking matter for the teachers and staff in Christina School District.  These are good people who have been the victim of these education funding games for many years now.  Throw in priority schools and the constant labeling and shaming of the district.  I feel bad for all the districts right now.  Students and teachers should not be the sacrificial targets because the adults in charge can’t get their shit together.  Sorry to be so blunt, but I’m really getting sick of it.

Here’s the kicker!  I submitted a FOIA to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office a couple of weeks ago.  This is what I asked for:

Please provide, in PDF format, all reports, letters, guidance, or inspections for any Delaware school district, vocational school district, or charter school generated by the Office of the Auditor of Accounts that is not listed on the Auditor of Accounts website for fiscal years 2014, 2015, and 2016. This would include any of the above listed documents sent to members of the General Assembly, the Delaware Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Controller General, or the Office of Management and Budget that would be considered a public document 29 Del. C. Paragraph 10002(1).

Wanna know what I got?  Bupkis, that’s what!  I got the petty cash letters sent to a handful of charters last year along with the letters about that specific situation sent to various state agencies.  For three fiscal years!

Wanna know what that means?  The Auditor of Accounts office is NOT auditing ANY school district unless it is an investigation based on something submitted on their tip line.  Which means that office is breaking the law.  But the General Assembly won’t give them the funds to do their job as required by Delaware State Law (which the General Assembly does: create laws).  So who do we take to court?  The Auditor of Accounts office or the General Assembly?  Who is tracking where the hell education funds actually go?  NO ONE!  Except myself and Jack Wells it looks like.  But yeah, let’s layoff teachers and make classrooms into sardine cans while people in district offices are making over $100,000 in salary.  Cause that makes a lot of fucking sense!  Let’s keep paying for state testing and all these one-to-on devices so we can just weed out teachers and turn education into a reformer wonderland!  as I said, I’m getting tired of all this nonsense.  And if I were a teacher, I would be too!  If I were a parent (which I am) I would be shouting this from the rooftops: Stop screwing over our schools!  And when I say schools, that primarily means the students and teachers.  That is the heart of it all.

Christina Board of Education Unanimously Passes Resolution Condemning Governor Carney’s Proposed Education Cuts

Last night, the Christina Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution concerning Governor John Carney’s proposed FY2018 budget for Delaware.  The resolution encourages all Delaware legislators in New Castle County to reject Carney’s proposed education cuts.  The FY2018 budget has to get through the Joint Finance Committee and will then go to the149th Delaware General Assembly in the final days of legislative session in late June.

Expect more of this in the days and weeks to come.  The reaction from Delaware teachers, educators, parents, citizens, schools, districts, and school boards is getting louder by the day.  Especially when teachers are getting pink slips.  Last night at a forum about the budget at the Delmar Fire Station, even Carney acknowledged these are bad choices.  I have to think, with all the perks inserted into the epilogue language of the state budget every year, there is room for unnecessary programs in our state to get the chopping block.  If Carney wants our state to be competitive, forcing schools into no-win situations involving less money is not the way to go.  This wasn’t a bad choice, it was a horrible choice.