The Key Moments For House Bill 50 Opt-Out Victory In The Delaware House

There were many seminal moments on the road to this important victory for parents in Delaware.  I’ll start at the beginning:

1) Delaware bloggers Kavips and Transparent Christina begin talking about opt-out in the Spring of 2014.  It’s who got me to start thinking about it for Delaware.

2) Matt Lindell and the Capital School Board: a year ago, the Capital school board started the discussion on this, but it was tabled.  Then it came roaring back last fall for a unanimous vote by the Capital Board.

3) The Delaware DOE letters: In early December of 2014, the Delaware DOE began sending school districts a “suggested” letter to give to parents about opt-out should they ask or opt-out.  The confusing Delaware state code regarding this was exposed immediately by yours truly.  It took a while for this to be clarified by the DOE, but once the genie was out of the bottle, it made the DOE look ineffective

4) Delaware State Rep. Kowalko and Senator Lawson introduce House Bill 50 in early February. WDEL radio show host Rick Jensen starts having opt-out advocates on his show.

5) The Delaware PTA holds the first Delaware Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in mid-February.  Wide discussion about bullying tactics by school districts really ticks parents off.  What was meant to be a scare tactic fast turns into a rallying point for Delaware parents. President Terri Hodges announces publicly she is opting her own child out.

6) Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques tells a group of Christina Educator Association teachers House Bill 50 will never pass as Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick attempts to dictate terms about opt-out to parents in that district which does not work out as planned.

7) Delaware PTA holds Kent County Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in early March.  DOE is forced to admit parent opt-out can’t be stopped and the state law only applies to teachers and school staff, not parents.

8) Christina board of Education passes parent opt-out resolution in large measure due to the hard work in preparing the resolution by board member Elizabeth Paige and a fiery speech supporting parent opt-out by board member John Young.

9) Governor Markell announces initiative to reduce assessments for Delaware students while conveniently ignoring the elephant in the room, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This leads to Jaques referring to Smarter Balanced as a “little test”.

10) Governor Jack Markell is forced to talk about opt-out at Howard High School, which leads to remarks by Jaques which fans the opt-out flames even more, especially for special needs parents.  Jaques quickly apologizes.

11) The Delaware News Journal publishes a front-page cover story on opt-out from both sides of the fence.  A cover photo of parent Jackie Kook with her daughter brings it home for many parents.  Parent who never heard the words opt-out start looking into it.

12) In front of an audience of over 1,000 people at the Imagine Delaware forum, teacher and President of the Red Clay Educator Association Mike Matthews announces he supports the opt-out movement.

13) As the Smarter Balanced Assessment begins, parents start opting out by the hundreds in Delaware.  Many schools give parents a rough time, which causes parents to talk to each other and spread the news about opt-out.

14) Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews and Jaques go head to head in a News Journal dual opinion piece on opt-out.  Matthews clearly wins the contest and shows why opt-out is important in regards to Delaware education.

15) Both Red Clay and Christina Educators Association hold joint press conference announcing no confidence vote in Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.

16) Delaware PTA passes resolution officially supporting opt-out and House Bill 50.

17) DSEA (Delaware Educators Association) passes resolution supporting opt-out and House Bill 50, as well as a vote of no confidence in Mark Murphy.

18) Parent Press Conference/Rally at Legislative Hall in early April, though small, draws most Delaware media to it and more media coverage of opt-out.

19) Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams publicly announces she is opting out her own son, a high school junior who, like many Delaware juniors, are forced to take weeks and weeks of testing.

20) Mark Murphy appears on The Delaware Way with Larry Mendte and states “parents aren’t allowed to opt-out students”.

21) Red Clay Consolidated School Board passes parent opt-out resolution with excellent writing by board member Adrianna Bohm.

22) The day before the House Education Committee vote, Governor Markell announces initiative to have Smarter Balanced Scores tie into elimination of remedial classes for four Delaware universities and colleges.  The announcement is critically slammed by legislators, parents and teachers.

23) At the House Education Committee meeting on April 22nd, Kowalko and Jaques battle each other as Kowalko is forced to answer a barrage of questions by Jaques.  Kowalko successfully fends him off.  After discussion from other legislators, public comment from parents shows near overwhelming support for the release of the bill.  Opposition includes organizations well-known to support Governor Markell’s corporate education agendas.  After a vote to have the bill tabled falls apart, the bill is released from the committee in an 8-4 vote ending the over two hour debate.

24) Mark Murphy’s claim of federal funding cuts of $40-$90 million over potential opt-outs and the passage of House Bill 50 is debunked the next day with the release of the US DOE letter which clearly states schools cannot opt students out, and the letter never mentions the words parent opt-out.

25) Last week, organizations such as GACEC and Council for Persons with Disabilities release near identical letter in opposition to House Bill 50 with claims that are quickly debunked.

26) In a hasty and damaging example of executive overreach, Governor Markell announces to radio host Rick Jensen on WDEL he will veto House Bill 50 if it reaches his desk.

27) Parents begin emailing all the legislators of the Delaware House and public support for the bill is clearly seen by the legislators.

28) State Rep. Sean Matthews introduces an amendment to House Bill 50 the day of the House vote which changes the language of the legislation from “the state assessment” to the “Smarter Balanced Assessment”.

All leading to today’s enormous victory in the Delaware House of Representatives, with a 36-3 victory with two reps absent.  At the end of the day, this is about parents using their voice to initiate change.  This could not have been done by one individual at all.  It took a great deal of advocacy, hard work, sweat, social media, and legislators, parents, organizations and ordinary citizens spreading the word and supporting the cause.

What also helped were some obvious tactical blunders by the Delaware DOE, Secretary Murphy, and Governor Markell.  And God bless him, we cannot forget Earl Jaques.  He revealed today House Bill 50 got in the way of his planned legislation to reduce the Smarter Balanced Assessment to only three grades of testing.  Which is a noble gesture, but legislation getting rid of the “little” test would be a much grander statement.

While getting the bill through the House was an undertaking, it remains to be seen how the Delaware Senate will receive the legislation.  Folks are already guessing which Senate members will support the bill.  Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn already announced on Facebook tonight he will vote yes.  Senator Lawson, a co-sponsor of the bill, is a lock.  But the others are a mystery for now.  I can guess and predict, but until they publicly announce their intentions or a vote, we must email them and call them as much as we can.

Is Rep. Earl Jaques speaking for The People or Markell and DOE saying Parent Opt-Out Bill won’t pass?

At the Christina Educators Association meeting tonight, State Rep. and Chair of the House Education Committee in Delaware Earl Jaques told members that House Bill 50, the parent opt out bill, will not pass.  My question to Jaques is this: how would you know this information when it hasn’t even been discussed in the House Education Committee?  You are one of forty-one members in the Delaware General Assembly House of Representatives.

Here is my public challenge to you Rep. Jaques: If you are against this bill then you need to publicly explain to every single Delaware parent exactly why you are against it.  It sounds to me like you have already made up your mind without any thought put behind it.  This is exactly what we have seen from Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE for the past six years.  Plowing ahead without any parent or educator input whatsoever is not a strategy, it is a problem.  Now that the problems are getting a public face, then you need to defend your side of the argument.  You were elected by the people of Delaware to serve the people of Delaware.  Not Governor Markell or the Delaware DOE.  I look forward to your response.

Christina Board Meeting Live Twitter Feed: Priority School Plans & CEA!

Thanks to my friend Jackie for the Twitter feeds.  Where’s Matthews?  In any event:

And there’s the missing man.  I thought he went to all school board meetings in Delaware…slacker…

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Will Markell Break the CEA Union? Priority Schools Showdown & The Unseen Force Waiting In The Wings

The Christina Board of Education may have approved the Memorandum of Understanding for the three priority schools within their district, but the Christina Educators Association (CEA) is a different story.  To date, they have not approved the MOU.  Tonight, the Christina Board will look at the plans for the three schools, but if the CEA doesn’t approve either than this will put Delaware Governor Jack Markell in a position of breaking up a teacher’s union in order to implement the priority schools for Christina.

This is a no win situation for both Christina School District, the teachers, the students, and the CEA.  Markell doesn’t seem to care because he has two years left in office, can’t be re-elected as Governor, and will move on to greener pastures when his time is done.  The DOE would like nothing more than to put an end to teacher’s unions so they can continue to push their pro corporate education reform agendas.  It is my belief this is what they have wanted all along.  This is the Achilles Heel they found and are doing their best to utilize this advantage.

Add in the Wilmington Education Committee’s reform education in Wilmington plan, which is led by one of the most pro-charter school individuals in the state, and this is a recipe for disaster.  One item that hasn’t even come up in any of these conversations is the voice that will soon roar.  The parent opt out moment will be the talk of the state in coming weeks, and this is the situation the DOE has desperately been trying to avoid for months now.  The legality behind parent opt out is being questioned at very high levels at this very moment.  Everything Markell, the DOE, and the Wilmington Education Committee are doing rests on one test.  This is not what education should be about.  Our children are more than test scores. Our schools are more than test scores.  And Delaware should be more than test scores.

Christina Educators Association Priority Schools Press Conference 1/7/15

Christina School District Board Meeting Tonight & Christina Educators Association Press Conference

All parents and students who go to the Priority Schools in the Christina School District in Delaware need to go to the Christina Educators Association (CEA) at 6:30pm and the Christina Board meeting at 7:00pm.  This will be at Sarah Pyle Academy at 501 Lombard St in Wilmington.

This will most likely be a board meeting like no other.  Delaware Parents & Teachers For Public Education may be making an announcement as well.  Below is the agenda for the Board meeting and the press release from the CEA on the press conference.  In the meantime, please sign the iPetition to voice your support against the priority school initiative (agenda).

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/lets-make-priority-schools-a-real-priority-2

CEA ‘Priority Schools” Press Conference
1/7/2015, 6:30 PM – 7:00 PM

Location: Sarah Pyle Academy
501 N. Lombard Street
Wilmington, DE 19801

The Christina Education Association (CEA) will hold a press conference on Wednesday, January 7th to discuss its progress in working with the Christina School District on an alternative to the Delaware Department of Education’s proposed “Priority Schools” plan. The press conference will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Sarah Pyle Academy, prior to the scheduled Christina Board of Education Meeting on January 7 at 7:00 p.m.
Mike Kempski, President of CEA, and educators from each of the schools will be available to answer questions immediately after delivering their remarks. Mr. Kempski feels the changes already underway at Stubbs Elementary, Bancroft Elementary, and Bayard Middle School have established a clear path towards future success.
 “The educators in Bancroft, Bayard, and Stubbs are committed to their students, who are making great strides, and are willing to get even better,” said Kempski. “The results of the University of Delaware’s Comprehensive Success Review clearly support our position.”

Delaware DOE Extends Timeline For Priority Schools Deadline To Christina School District

The new tentative deadline for the Christina School District to submit their revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the three Priority Schools within their district is now January 23rd.  There is a catch here though.  Christina must submit the draft to date by January 9th, and the deadline will be extended if the DOE feels the draft is “substantially approvable”.  The Christina school board will have a meeting on Tuesday, January 20th to have a final vote on the MOU and their priority school plans and they must submit this by the next day, January 21st.  As well, the Delaware DOE will be giving their final comments on Friday, January 16th.

The Christina School Board will be having a meeting on January 7th to work on the priority schools plan some more at 7:00pm.  As well, the Christina Educators Association will be holding a press conference prior to the meeting at 6:30pm.

Other big meetings in January include the Delaware State Board of Education  meeting on January 15th.  This meeting could have a final decision on the fate of Family Foundations Academy in light of years of financial mismanagement and personal use of state funds, as highlighted this week in the well over 200 pages released by the Delaware DOE from the auditing firm of Auphsite Consulting.  The Delaware 148th Assembly begins their legislative year on January 13th, and there just may be some education fireworks that launch very quickly in the form of potential legislation submitted.

For those who haven’t signed the iPetition declaring their position against the priority schools initiative, please go to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/lets-make-priority-schools-a-real-priority-2