All Delaware 149th General Assembly Education Legislation Passed, Defeated, Pending, Tabled & Vetoed

There are 13 working days left in the Delaware General Assembly.  The last day is Saturday, June 30th.  There is a ton of pending education legislation for them to work.  Some won’t go anywhere.  These are bills that have been assigned to the House or Senate Education Committee and will never be heard in that committee.  Some will pass.  Others have already passed or been defeated.  Many have been signed by Governor Carney.  If it is full bold, that means it was signed by Carney.  If the bill number is the only thing in bold, it is still pending.  If it is in red that means it was either defeated, tabled, or in one case, vetoed by Carney.  There will be four more education committee days but the Senate Education Committee doesn’t have a meeting scheduled for this Wednesday and only one bill is on the agenda for the House Education Committee this Wednesday.  Legislators: If you find any errors, omissions, or want to provide clarification on the status of a bill, please let me know.  I will update this from now until June 30th as information changes.

Congrats to the Education Legislation Queen, State Rep. Kim Williams,  with 7 signed education bills.  The King designation goes to State Rep. Earl Jaques with 5 signed or passed legislation.

Continue reading “All Delaware 149th General Assembly Education Legislation Passed, Defeated, Pending, Tabled & Vetoed”

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And Then There Were Four… State Board of Education Down Three Members

It appears former State Rep. Liane Sorenson and longstanding State Board member Barbara Rutt have resigned from the Delaware State Board of Education leaving four members left.  Delaware Governor John Carney has not put forth any nominations for any replacements of the vacant positions, including that of former State Board President Dr. Dennis Loftus who resigned last month as well.

A quorum for the State Board of Education is four members.  If any of the existing members do not show up to a State Board of Education meeting the board could take no action on any item at their meetings.  That would mean no regulations, no appeals, nothing.  This is who we are left with:

The Delaware General Assembly has one month left for the 149th General Assembly.  It actually ends on June 29th since the 30th is on a Saturday.  As well, the Delaware Department of Education is on the hunt for an “education associate” to replace former Executive Director Donna Johnson who resigned early last month.  The deadline for that application is June 9th.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting is the Executive Secretary of the State Board of Education but she is not considered a member of the board and has no voting privileges.  This is not good at all for the State Board.

Carney Raises Local Payments To Charters 2% In Budget Request Based On “Inflation”

Delaware Governor John Carney delivered his FY2019 Proposed Budget and it looks like Delaware charter schools will get some extra cash out of the deal if the General Assembly includes this in their final budget they must vote on by June 30th!

Is this even legal?  Does the Governor have the legal authority to arbitrarily raise a percentage amount for local payments from districts to charters based on “inflation”?  Sadly, he does.  It is written in Title 14.

So what do sections 408 and 509 of Title 14 say?

408:

(e) The district of residence shall, except as provided for in subsection (h) of this section, pay to the receiving district the lower local

cost per pupil expenditure of the 2 districts, adjusted by an inflation factor specified annually in the annual appropriations act, such

payment to be made by November 30 of each year.

509:

(d) The Department of Education shall annually calculate the local cost per student expended by each school district for each type of

student for the year immediately preceding based on the formula set forth in subsection (e) of this section, adjusted by a factor necessary

to fund the charter school on a basis reasonably equivalent to the current year local cost per student, which factor shall be established in

the annual Appropriations Act. The Department shall annually certify each local district’s local cost per student expenditure by September

1 of each year.

So does that mean Delaware school districts are getting 2% more based on “inflation”?  Absolutely not.  Everything goes up in price.  So saying “inflation” without any meaning behind it is just another way to give charter schools more money.  I do not blame the charters for this, I blame the power brokers that snuck this in there.  Of course it is absolutely legal because it is in state code.  But that certainly doesn’t make it right or moral.  Add the extra match tax funds charters will get this year and it is obvious charter lobbyists will squeeze as much juice out of the district fruit as they can!  Lest we forget, charters do get state funding.  They don’t live and die based on local student payments.  They get as much state funding (except for capital costs) that traditional school districts do.  They also have the charter school transportation slush fund

Will The General Assembly Pony Up An Additional $18.5 Million For Christina By June 30th?

The latest Memorandum of Understanding concerning Governor John Carney’s plans for Christina has an ask of $18.5 million in additional state funding to implement the plan.  This is, of course, based on approval by the Delaware General Assembly as they hammer out the FY2019 budget over the next six months.

The latest draft of the MOU, authored by Carney’s Education Policy Adviser Jon Sheehan, is a red-lined version.  The new wording in the document is all red-lined.  Keep in mind this is more than the initial ask from the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.  Carney, from all reports I’ve heard, wants this plan to go through more than anything in the world.  How much so?  He will most likely do anything to make it happen.  I’m not sure why he has made this his top priority in education matters.  I think it is a red herring with danger signs written all over it.  I believe he is counting on the Christina Board of Education to vote no on it so he can launch some dastardly punitive action against the district.  I believe it is the same tactic Governor Markell used with WEIC.  Get everyone talking about it knowing full well the General Assembly wasn’t going to approve it.  The key difference between this and that is with WEIC the state already had a budget deficit when faced with that vote.  This time around, Delaware is boasting of a budget surplus.  I believe there are some smoke and mirrors with their numbers and I believe there is some fuzzy math with their formulas.  We shall see.

From a legislator’s point of view, the funding for this is based on Wilmington schools.  As WEIC learned the hard way, giving extra and significant funding to one portion of the state and not the rest is not an easy task.  Like I said the other week, everyone and their mother will be jockeying for their share of the mystical “budget surplus”.  In an election year, incumbents will NOT want to tick off voters in their districts.  I think Carney knows this.  Or he is that stupid.  But I’ll go with the former on this one.  Which is why I think it is a red herring.

The latest draft appears to have concessions granted to the Christina Board from their last discussion.  The Christina Board wanted to change the timeline from the 2018-2019 school year to the 2019-2020 year.  But the wording in the draft suggests Carney wants the Dual Generation Center up and running in 2018.  If that went through, there would definitely be some type of building movement by August of this year.

In the meantime, check out the latest Jon Sheehan penned draft of the MOU which the Christina Board will vote on at their next board meeting on January 16th.  It would have gone to a vote tonight but the meeting was postponed due to inclement weather.

More Information On The Atrocious School Board Member Removal Bill

Aside from State Rep. Paul Baumbach, I have yet to hear from one person in support of this legislation.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  But in the 24 hours or so since I posted this story, I have had many sidebar conversations with Baumbach, as well as many other crucial conversations. Continue reading “More Information On The Atrocious School Board Member Removal Bill”

17 Who Made An Impact In 2017: Yolanda Schlabach

The biggest advocate against human sex trafficking in Delaware had a very busy year!  Yolanda Schlabach, the Greenwood, DE native, made sure key legislation on human sex trafficking in The First State passed in 2017. Continue reading “17 Who Made An Impact In 2017: Yolanda Schlabach”

18 Who Will Make An Impact In 2018: The Women of Delaware

4 out of 21 Delaware State Senators are women.  9 out of 41 Delaware State Representatives are women.  Which gives women a small 21% portion of the Delaware General Assembly.  I am predicting that number will rise in January of 2019 after many women win seats in the upcoming Delaware General Election.  From Laura Sturgeon to Donyale Hall, from Elizabeth Lockman to Krista Griffith and Rachel Blumenfeld, we are seeing fresh new faces running for office.  We even have Kathleen Davies taking on her former boss for the Delaware State Auditor.  Factoring in the shameful season of men getting blacklisted from Hollywood and the media over sexual harassment of women, the time is ripe for a major shift in politics. Continue reading “18 Who Will Make An Impact In 2018: The Women of Delaware”

State Audit Inspection On School District Expenditures For FY2016 Is Ridiculous!

By Delaware state code, we should be seeing this report every single year.  In any event, Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner released the Fiscal Year 2016 report today.  Yes, a year and a half after that fiscal year ended.  And guess what the overall finding was?  We don’t know what districts are spending cause everyone codes their expenses differently in the state financial system.  And this report states the state ALLOWS the districts to do this.  They have discretion.  What a crock of…

In an attempt to categorize spending items as instructional or non-instructional for further analysis, the Office of Auditor of Accounts (AOA) extracted all voucher and PCard expenditures made from State and local funds by each of the 19 school districts.  However, the State’s financial system has over 11,000 active appropriations and over 1,500 active account codes available for use.  As a result, we found inconsistencies in expenditure coding across the 19 school districts that prevented us from performing an in-depth analysis of expenditures.

They named nine areas that are either prohibited by accounting rules or were not used for a functional educational purpose.  Some of these are sports lottery, florists, online games, and table games.  Are you kidding me?  And the report found over $98,000 was used for in-state meals.  I can picture it now, Joe Superintendent says to himself “I feel like going to Friendly’s for lunch today”.  This is absolutely ridiculous.  The inspection found that many of these “inconsistencies” were due to human error.  Uh-huh.  Yes, I get that humans make errors.  But how do you miscode sticky buns?

When it comes to food, it looks like Cape Henlopen and Lake Forest looooove to eat out! The report talks about WaWa purchases. I’m sorry, but since when is fast food or deli considered an in-state food purchase? Do what the rest of us do and pay from your own damn wallet. I don’t pay taxes so you can celebrate Hoagiefest all year long!

But this little bit about Lake Forest…wow!

In December 2015, the Lake Forest School District held a holiday dinner for board members, administrators, and their spouses at The Rookery Golf Club in Milford, Delaware, totaling $1,899.30. (This amount is included in the in-State meal transactions described above in the “Employee Recognition purposes” category since administrators were recognized.) A handwritten note on the invoice stated it was approved at a special board meeting in executive session on October 14, 2015.

Are you friggin’ kidding me? Sounds like higher-ups are feasting on the fatted calf called the Delaware accounting system. And with no oversight whatsoever, this is only scratching the iceberg.

And how in the name of God can you have in-state lodging for any school district in this state? You can drive up and down the state in less than two hours. And it looks like Red Clay was the biggest offender.

Not one look into all the vendors school districts use. Not one peak into the millions of dollars going to vendors who write reports and supply schools with cash-in-the-trash ideas. Not one bit. Disgusting. It’s no wonder none of the school districts want to consolidate. God forbid someone actually get a good hard look into how they spend money!

The best part about all this?  They could have read my blog posts in July and August of 2016 to do this report.  What the hell took them a year and a half to do a report that anyone with an excel file could figure out in three days? It is time for our elected legislators to get the hell off their collective asses and pass some laws indicating school districts and charter schools can NO LONGER use discretion when submitting their expenditures to the state. This is a third of their budget and they are given carte blanche to do pretty much whatever the hell they want. Sure, most of it is most likely legit but when your own state auditor can’t make heads or tails of where well over $1 billion dollars is going, I have some major issues with that. This is unacceptable and it will no longer be tolerated. I don’t care how much time I have to spend at Legislative Hall in 2018 to drum this into their heads. When education loses tons of money each year but we have wine and dine events at the local country club, that is absurd. This is EXACTLY what I wanted to talk to John Carney about after he was elected. But he had to go and blow me off. Big mistake. It’s not like I didn’t warn people this was going on. They just didn’t want to hear it. Carney just wanted to set up his self-destruct mechanisms for Delaware education, just like his predecessor. And as he sets off on his warped plan to charterize Wilmington schools, he could care less about where the money is going.

Delaware legislators: Cut the crap. I don’t want to hear your whining and complaining come next June about the budget and how you are doing everything you can. Change some laws. Make crap accountable and stop kissing asses all over the state. Do your job! The jig is up. I don’t necessarily blame the auditor’s office for all this. They inspect what they are able to. It is our General Assembly that needs to wake the hell up. You have allowed this scenario to happen. You have allowed this “discretion” that makes a Rubik’s Cube in a three-year-old’s hands look easy compared to the hot mess called First State Financials. No more excuses. Pass legislation demanding that every single expenditure be coded in a uniform way among ALL school districts and charter schools. And yes, charter schools should have been included in this report as well. But no way in hell would that happen because this report would have found a lot more “inconsistencies” and we all know it. But the General Assembly as a whole likes to protect and coddle them. Exactly what is wrong with Delaware education. If I sound pissed off, it’s cause I am. And every single taxpayer in this state should be ticked off as well.

To read this obscenity where money is unaccountable and untrackable and uncrackable and takes money away from where it is truly needed, please read below.

Enrollment Count Report for 2017-2018 & Demographic Information For Districts & Charters: The Rise, The Surge, & The Cherry-Picking!

Which districts and charters saw big jumps with student enrollment? Which went down?  What is the state of special education in Delaware?  What key demographic is rising at a fast rate which contributes significantly to the budget woes in our state?  Which charter school, based on their current enrollment, should no longer be considered financially viable and should be shut down?  What is the fastest-growing sub-groups in Delaware?  And which cherry-picking charters continue to not serve certain populations? Continue reading “Enrollment Count Report for 2017-2018 & Demographic Information For Districts & Charters: The Rise, The Surge, & The Cherry-Picking!”

Tonight

There is so much going on tonight.  First up is the first Town Hall meeting (which I filed a FOIA complaint against the Governor’s Office and Christina School District for a violation of the seven day notice) for the Governor Carney let’s screw with Christina School District one more time.  Second is the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting in which they pick up a new board member and tackle the resolution similar to the Christina resolution on sanctuary schools and all that.  Finally, it is the Capital School District Board of Education meeting.  My son goes to school there again so I have a vested interest in what goes on in their district.  I can’t possibly attend all of them.  So which one am I going to?  Who gets the honor? Continue reading “Tonight”

State Rep. Rich Collins Is Not Digging Gender Expression Regulations

It looks like State Rep. Rich Collins is taking aim at proposed regulations dealing with gender discrimination according to the weekly newsletter from the Republican Caucus of the Delaware House of Representatives.  I felt the need to redline this because there are some points I agree with and some I don’t.

State Lawmaker Says Proposed Education Regulations Could Violate Parental Rights, Spark Lawsuits
A proposed anti-discrimination policy and regulations that could soon be applied to Delaware public schools are raising questions and concerns.
I’m sorry, but how often does Rep. Collins take an active role on education issues in the General Assembly?  How much education legislation has he put forth?  I think this has more to do with transgender issues than potential legality of the Governor’s actions.  Cause if Collins wants to poke holes at legality in state code, I can think of a few dozen issues that need the spotlight more than this.
“It opens Pandora’s Box,” said State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro.  “It has the potential to twist schools up in knots.”
A little overdramatic there.
The process began in mid-July with the issuance of a brief memorandum from Gov. John Carney to Sec. of Education Susan Bunting.  In the memo, the governor directed the agency to promulgate regulations providing clear guidance to schools “to prohibit unlawful discrimination in educational programs, and activities for students, on the basis of any legally protected characteristic.”
This is Executive Overreach.  Something Carney does very well.  He has been doing this a lot lately. 
The memo set a deadline of November 1st for the proposed rules to be posted in the Delaware Register of Regulations, a needed step preceding implementation.
If you ask me, any regulation should be based on a bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.  No questions asked. 
Four “community conversations” were held — one in each county, and one in the City of Wilmington — to gather public input.
These community conversations are usually poorly attended.  The results of these meetings are predetermined as usual.
State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, attended the Sussex County event last week.  She said the meetings – which all took place between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. over a period of just ten days – were, perhaps intentionally, inconveniently staged for parents to participate.  “They were held when families are collecting students from school activities, having dinner and assisting with homework,” she said.
I like Rep. Briggs King.  But my question would be when is an opportune time?  When parents are at work?  Is after 8pm better when parents are trying to get kids to bed?  I would say sufficient notice and having schools send out robo-calls paid for by the state would work better.  Or hell, have the state send out robo-calls. 
Rep. Collins noted that the forums appeared to have been deliberately engineered to thwart public criticism, with participants broken into small discussion groups, limiting interaction and open debate.
Welcome to DOE 101 Rep. Collins!  This is how they roll.  I’ve been dealing with this kind of nonsense for years.
He added that an online survey form for public feedback on the proposed policy and regulations posed questions that specifically called for participants to provide three things they liked about each but avoided any such pointed solicitation of negative comments.
Once again, we go back to the predetermined thing.  The Delaware DOE will never put “This sucks” as an option!
The draft regulations include “gender identity or expression” among its protected characteristics. 
Among the more controversial aspects of the proposed rules are the following:
  • All students enrolled in a Delaware public school would be able to self-identify gender or race.  (Rule 7.4)

I watch the show Shameless.  In an episode from last year, a character named Carl wanted to get a DNA test to prove he had African-American ancestry so he could get into a military academy.  The white teenager couldn’t get in but the school did have openings for different minorities for 20% of their population.  Even though he did not have any African-American ancestry, he did find out he was 3% Apache so he got in.  Not sure where I’m going with this, but I thought it was kind of funny.  In these episodes dealing with Carl’s situation, another brother named Ian is dating a transgender.  The writers did a great job of conveying some of the issues transgender people go through.  But I digress. 

  • A student would have the opportunity to participate on the sports team that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.  (6.4)

I really don’t know how to comment on this one.  I have no issues with gender identity whatsoever.  But calling it “assigned sex”?  Is that a legal term?  I don’t know.

  • A student would have the opportunity to participate in the program of instruction dealing with human sexuality that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.  (3.4)

I would think this is appropriate.

  • Regarding physical education programs – goals, objectives and skill development standards could not be designated on the basis of gender.  (5.2)

Why does everything have to be a “standard”?  What happened to the days when kids went to gym to release energy and play basketball or floor hockey? 

  • School districts and charter schools would be required to work with students and families on providing access to locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond to students’ “gender identity or expression.”  (8.1)

What does “work with” mean?  This is a good point.  I’ve seen how schools are “required” to work with parents, but sometimes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

  • Even if a student does not legally change his or her name, he or she can select a “preferred name” based on a “protected characteristic” that school officials would be obligated to use except on official records.  (7.3)

I don’t mind this.  My son’s name is Jacob.  He likes his name.  He doesn’t like to be called “Jake”.  If he wanted to be called “Bob” in school, I would respect that, as long as he is consistent with it and not changing his “preferred name” every other week.

The proposed regulations direct school districts to establish antidiscrimination policies within 90 days of the rules’ implementation or the start of the next academic year, whichever is earlier.  The policies would be required to contain informal and formal complaint procedures.
A procedure isn’t the same thing as reality.  Just gonna throw that one out there.
“The regulations and policy contain no mention of a student’s age, so I question the wisdom of allowing very young students to make some of these decisions,” Rep. Collins said.  “These proposals also seem to undercut parental authority; giving parents less say in some of these processes then I think is appropriate.”
Then and than mean two different things.  Just saying.  But I kind of agree with Rep. Collin’s point here.  A five-year old making these decisions, without parental consent, could be a slippery slope.  A thirteen-year old, who is more aware of their body and their wants… that could be a different thing.
State Reps. Collins and Briggs King say the proposed regulations are invalid, noting that “gender identity or expression” is not a legally protected classification under the Delaware Code covering public education.
Then perhaps Reps. Collins and Briggs King should write legislation which would put it as a legally protected classification.
Delaware’s Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act of 2013 — which forbids discrimination on the basis of gender identity in housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations, and insurance – added new language to seven titles of the state code.  However, those changes were not applied to Title 14, which covers public education.
See above.
“Neither the proposed regulation nor the model policy document, are legitimate because they are not based on any legal authority granted by the General Assembly,” Rep. Collins said.
That’s because Carney wants to circumvent the General Assembly whenever possible.  He is becoming very proficient at that.  But the House Republicans had a Carneypalooza in their newsletter this week with pictures of him all over the place. 
Rep. Briggs King points to language in House Joint Resolution 6 – which is still pending action in the Senate – as further proof.  The measure contains a provision explicitly stating that Delaware’s laws on public education do not “prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.”
Carney likes to flex his gubernatorial muscle.  If he wanted this so bad, he should have done his posturing on June 30th (and July 1st, July 2nd) and gotten the General Assembly to pass a simple Joint Resolution.
Rep. Collins said there has been a rapid push to implement the anti-discrimination regulations, outside the authority of law and escaping the attention of most parents and elected officials.  He said the new rules would produce confusion and likely create additional disputes and lawsuits.
John is all about the rapid push.  Patience is not his strong suit.  The only authority he seems to recognize is his own authority.
In a recent communication to the Department of Education, Rep. Collins urged the agency to delay action to address the growing concerns about the proposals.
How much you want to bet the response will be as empty as Legislative Hall between July and early January?
I am really torn on this one.  Collins offers up some valid points.  The biggest is that Governor Carney once again operated under the guise of Executive Power to do whatever the hell he wants.  He is the most non-transparent Governor in Delaware history.  He is flaunting this power a lot lately.  Much more than Jack Markell did.  It does not bode well for Carney.  I’m sure the DOE, Rodel, and the Delaware Business Roundtable love it though!
I dig into a great deal of education happenings.  I don’t mind any rights of students being clarified.  But there are some parental no-nos in the below draft of the proposed regulations.  I don’t think any educational setting should determine what is best to tell a parent or NOT tell a parent.  Parents have rights when it comes to their children and I can understand the concerns by some parents in feeling those rights are being stripped away.  I don’t see it as a “left-wing liberal snowflake” agenda though.  I see it as an overall concern I have with education policymakers who pretend they want parental engagement but operate behind the scenes and make decisions which ALL parents should know about.  They should also be a part of those conversations and no back-door meetings should take place.
The reason I’m so torn on this issue is because for me it is relatively new.  I’m not in schools enough and I don’t know many transgender folks.  While this isn’t a brand-new issue, it has gotten the spotlight the past few years.  I’m against any kind of discrimination, period.  Equal rights for all.  But many Republicans are against transgender folks, as well as homosexuals, because of what the Bible says.  I’m sure I won’t win any friends here, but the Bible was rewritten in the Council of Nicea some 1,500 years ago.  By a group of men.  It wasn’t rewritten by God.  And while the Bible doesn’t address gender identity or expression, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a big debate in the Council of Nicea.  I’ve heard some say the Bible is “God-breathed”, meaning it is infallible.  But I’ve seen one message in the Bible taken in so many different ways that it seems folks forget the basic message of the good book: love your neighbor.  Be nice.  Be kind.  To me, that is the message I take from the Bible.  Did you learn to forgive others?  Do you give more than you take?  Do you do your best to set an example for your children?  To me, those are the important things.  I believe in the Ten Commandments.  I do my best to obey them.  I don’t covet my neighbor’s wife.  I know the couple next to me are moving out and I haven’t met my other neighbor yet.  I haven’t killed anyone.  And so on.  I will never understand hating someone for what they are or the choices they make.  If they get all the stuff I take from the Bible, I’m pretty sure their passage to Heaven (or whatever afterlife you choose to believe in) is assured.
If Delaware Republicans and Democrats want to make some real headway, how about they band together to get rid of the rot in our state government?  We did a pretty good job on opt out a couple years ago.  Imagine what we could do together if we REALLY got organized?

Seaford Mother Outraged Over Potential Abuse From Seaford Teacher Towards Her Child With Autism

Tonight, Rob Petree with 105.9 wrote an article about a Seaford School District parent who is claiming a teacher took unnecessary physical measures against her child with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum.  The mother explained what happened.  When the student was told he could not go to the office when he became upset over not finding his writing journal, the mother claims the teacher took things a bit too far:

“My son said the teacher went so far as to stand in front of the door and block the door and not let him out. The teacher told him to get back in his seat, and he said ‘no I want to go to the office,’ and the teacher told him ‘no get in your seat or I’m going to put you in your seat,’ and Landon once again said no he wanted to go to the office, so the teacher grabbed him by his arm, picked him up, carried him across the room and slammed him down in his chair. Landon said he then got back up out of his chair and tried to go out the door again and the teacher wouldn’t let him out of the door. So he went over and sat down in the chair at the round table near the door, and the teacher again was telling him to get up and go get back in his seat and Landon refused. The teacher went over to try to grab ahold of Landon and Landon got upset, jumped up out of the chair, and grabbed the back of the chair and slammed the chair into the floor, trying to get around the teacher to get out the door. He said at that point the teacher said ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ and grabbed him up by his arm and physically carried him out of the door of the classroom, banging his forehead into the metal door facing in the process, and Landon said at that point as soon as the teacher sat him down in the hallway he ran straight to the office, and that’s when he called me.”

Even more alarming is the Seaford Middle School Principal’s response to her when she asked to see the video of the incident:

Today, I had a meeting with the Middle School Principal and basically what they told me today was that the teacher said that he asked Landon to leave several times and Landon wouldn’t leave the room, and that Landon was throwing pens, pencils, chairs and desks, and that they seen this on video; however, no one was able to produce any video to me showing my son behaving the way they said he behaved. I honestly, truly believe my son, and I believe this teacher is doing nothing but trying to protect himself and the school the same way. I cleaned my son’s locker out today, and he’s not going back to that school as long as that teacher is there.

This is unacceptable.  I found out today the same thing happened to the parents of the child who was assaulted last week at Caesar Rodney High School.  The district refused to release surveillance footage that captured the incident (and I will have more to say on that whole thing that hasn’t been made public yet).  I tagged tons of our state legislators on my Facebook page with a link to the 105.9 article asking for legislation that would demand schools release video to parents whenever their child is harmed in any possible way.

The district will not respond to any of this.  They will shut up unless they have to fire the teacher.  People ask me why I write so much about bad stuff happening in our schools instead of the good.  Sorry, this kind of crap outrages me.  You can have many great things happening in schools, but this is what folks remember and talk about.  This is a travesty.  Even if this teacher used proper restraint and seclusion practices as dictated by state law, the district should still release the video to the parent.  Instead, they are covering their asses.

A former board member for a district did tell me that video like this is released to the police department.  They will review it and eventually it would be shared with the parent(s).  I explained that the video could help a parent understand what happened.  It could be necessary for them to see it so the parent can seek sufficient medical or counseling treatment for their child.

I wrote an article last year on the Delaware Dept. of Education’s annual Restraint & Seclusion report.  Seaford Middle School had 13 incidents of restraint in the 2015-2016 school year.  Compared to Milford’s middle school which had 1.  In Seaford, they had 38 incidents of restraint affecting 21 students.  But if this situation played out anywhere close to what the mother is claiming, this was no ordinary restraint.  If it went down how she said it did, this teacher should face criminal charges for assault.  Dealing with special education students can be challenging for teachers and parents.  But if you don’t have the proper training required to take action like this, you should do nothing and contact someone who can help.  Sadly, for this student, it will be a day he will never forget.

I don’t care where a video is: cafeteria, classroom, bus, hallway or anywhere on school property.  If a parent asks to see it, you show it to them, no questions asked.  The act of withholding something like that immediately sends red flags up with parents.  Or saying you have it but then you don’t.  You reap what you sow with that kind of logic.  In the case of the Family Educational Records Protection Act (FERPA), that applies to educational records.  If a parent requests records on their child, the school is obligated to produce it.  But is surveillance video considered an educational record?  That will be the argument here.  But I don’t care.  If a kid gets hurt, you do the right thing and show the parent.  Cause it could mean the difference between a parent deciding whether or not to sue the district.

This should NOT happen in our schools.  Tonight, I am very pissed off.  At this.  At Caesar Rodney.  At other districts where I am trying to help parents navigate through special education issues with schools.  So much of what I help parents with are things every school should know by now.  Districts and charters complain all the time about getting sued so much and the “predatory” law firms.  Guess what?  The very act of protecting yourself is usually what gets you sued.  How does that work out for you?

Updated, 9:50pm: A big thank you to special education advocate Devon Hynson for providing a link to what FERPA says about surveillance videos-

Schools are increasingly using security cameras as a tool to monitor and improve student safety. Images of students captured on security videotapes that are maintained by the school’s law enforcement unit are not considered education records under FERPA.  Accordingly, these videotapes may be shared with parents of students whose images are on the video and with outside law enforcement authorities, as appropriate. Schools that do not have a designated law enforcement unit might consider designating an employee to serve as the “law enforcement unit” in order to maintain the security camera and determine the appropriate circumstances in which the school would disclose recorded images.

 

Behind Governor Carney’s Not So Innovative Plan For Christina, Shades Of Markell 2.0 Teacher Killer

Tonight, Delaware Governor John Carney will attend a Christina Board of Education Study Session.  When was the last time a sitting Governor went to a Board of Education meeting, much less a workshop?  That is because Carney has big plans for Christina.  Very big plans.  But don’t fool yourself for one second into thinking any of these plans are Carney’s idea.  For that, you have to look at those who surround him.

Race To The Top.  Common Core.  Delaware Talent Cooperative.  Teach For America.  Partnership Zones.  Priority Schools.  Focus Schools.  DCAS.  Smarter Balanced.  These are all programs offered by the state.  Their impact?  A resounding thud.  Failures.  Every single one of them.  For a state that likes to beat up on the Christina School District as much as it has, their efforts to turn them around have been utter failures.

But now Carney’s not-so-brilliant lightbulb of an idea is to model the schools in Springfield, Massachusetts.  So much that he is visiting them on Friday along with Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and Dorrell Green from the Office of Innovation and Improvement.  And now we know where the “innovation” part comes in.

The schools in Springfield, MA are part of what is known as an “empowerment zone”.  Think priority schools without the federal mandate.  More autonomy for building leaders, shared resources, and the ability to fire teachers better (even with union support).  Just another sad attempt at eroding local control.  To learn more about “empowerment zones”, please read the white paper on this:

In an article in The Boston Globe last Winter from reporter James Vasnis, he writes:

“These zones . . . allow educators to make the changes necessary to provide a better learning environment for our kids,” Baker said during the speech.

By freeing up the schools from the central office bureaucracy and most teacher contract provisions, local and state officials say, the Springfield middle schools are in complete control of their curriculums, staffing, budgeting, and ultimately their own destinies.

The empowerment zone, which is in its second year, has grown to include nine middle schools and next fall will add a long-struggling high school. The effort is overseen by a seven-member governing board jointly appointed by local and state officials. Principals report directly to the board.

So what happens to the local board of education for those schools?  Do they lose their authority over these schools?  If legislators have to put this into state law, and not local taxpayers who fund school districts, this could set up a battle royale in Delaware.  And mark my words, we will see this in the second half of the 149th General Assembly.  What makes an “empowerment zone” a success?  The usual education reform barometer: standardized test scores…

But a turnaround could take years to achieve. Test scores at the zone’s highest-performing middle school are in the bottom 9th percentile statewide, meaning more than 90 percent of other similar schools scored better. The worst-performing school is in the bottom 1st percentile.

The sad part, the local teachers union is actually behind this.

“It’s a sea change,” said Timothy Collins, president of the Springfield Education Association, the local teachers union. “By having a culture of change where the critical mass of people feel they have a voice in what is being done and ownership in the plan, the likelihood of implementing the plan with fidelity goes up dramatically.”

But the roots of this education reform initiative go a bit deeper than all this.  We have to go back to the days of former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his Digital Promise platform.  Springfield, MA is a part of the League of Innovative Schools that likes to think of itself as a forward-thinking process that amounts to nothing more than education technology in a personalized learning environment.  In other words, the teacher killer.  No Delaware school districts are a part of this group, but 86 districts from around the country got suckered into this.  This is the kind of crap the Rodel Foundation loves to foist upon Delaware.

In an article from the Progressive Policy Institute, they write:

While teachers cannot be dismissed at will, principals do receive support to help underperforming teachers improve where possible and to remove them where necessary. And there are real consequences – for principals and teachers alike – for school failure.

I have serious issues with any teacher union getting behind this ass-backwards corporate education reform double-speak.  Especially when it is based on test scores.  I have bigger issues with Governor Carney getting the smoke and mirrors advice that I have no doubt he believes will save the Wilmington schools here in Delaware.  I knew something was up.  Whenever a Governor starts sniffing around Christina, expect an unmitigated failure about to be thrust upon them.  Perhaps, like former Governor Jack Markell, Carney truly believes that saving Christina will be the high mark of his tenure as Governor.  It didn’t work for Markell.  It backfired on him.  And when the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission became the result of that, Markell and Carney gave it a drop-kick based on “funding issues”.

I was hoping Carney was better than this.  I was hoping Secretary Bunting was better than this.  But when you surround yourself up to the highest level with those who come from the corporate education reform world, it isn’t surprising in the least.  Carney did just that in the form of Jon Sheehan, his education policy advisor.  Markell had his inner circle from this world as well with Rebecca Taber and Lindsay O’Mara (now with the U.S. DOE).

The “Innovation Zones” came from a guy named Chris Gabrieli who ran (unsuccessfully) for Massachusetts Governor.  But an elected Governor in the form of John Carney thinks he can ride in and save the day with an untested and so far unsuccessful brainfart of an idea.  What Christina needs is for The State of Delaware to stop interfering so much and actually let the district do what it needs to do.  All other state-born ideas have failed.  What makes Carney think this one will work?  Because he is being told it will.  He runs the risk of becoming Markell 2.0 with this.  But of course, no one who makes these kind of decisions will actually listen to the blogger.  Or those who know it will fail.  Because it is coming from the Governor, and what the Governor wants the Governor gets.  Executive power at its absolute worst, because it affects kids most of all.

I have no doubt I will be writing more about this.  And I fully expect blowback on this article.  Especially from those who regurgitate the very worst from the corporate education reform world here in Delaware.  They know who they are.  Sharpen your knives.  I’m ready.

Bunting Bunts On Match Tax Boon For Delaware Charter Schools

At the Christina School District Board of Education meeting two weeks ago, Chief Financial Officer Robert Silber gave insight to a very interesting meeting at the Delaware Department of Education concerning the recent decision to give Delaware charter schools a portion of match tax funds through the local funding formula.  Silber’s description of Delaware Secretary Education Dr. Susan Bunting’s reaction during this meeting was surprising.

The memo that they also sent to districts said that due to the uncertainties associated with the budget, we’re holding off on a determination of match dollars until legislators made a determination around how the proposed reductions were going to occur.  They didn’t want, as they expressed it to us, they didn’t want to make a decision in advance that may have been different based upon the budget (state) for this year since there were a lot of talk legislatively around match tax.  The Department then came out with a position statement that said they believe match taxes are operating expenses and as an operating expense should be included.  District business managers then turned as a group and said to the Department, as part of the process, that we would like to have a meeting to discuss that.  That meeting occurred last Thursday (August 3rd) and I would say that the Secretary and a member of her staff were there, listening.  But there was no decision rendered at that meeting and we have not seen anything since that point in time to know whether or not they listened to our concerns.  One of the concerns that we expressed, and is probably the easiest one for me to grasp around, is that when you take a look at the various match components that exist, one of those matches is for reading resources.  Reading resource teachers are, by the definition of the dollars enabling legislation to begin with, was very specifically targeted to elementary schools.  So we posed the question to the Secretary, once these dollars go into the formula, those same dollars are going to a high school.  It doesn’t make logical sense and we asked that be considered.  She’s considering it.

Come on Dr. Bunting!  As someone who comes from a traditional school district, you know how this stuff works.  Charters lobby for more money, whether it is justified or not.  Just because they want it doesn’t mean it is right.  I get that everyone wants a piece of the funding pie but sometimes the taste isn’t so palatable.  Don’t give in to this Bunting!  We live in a state where charters are able to keep their excess transportation funds.  It is VERY hypocritical for the Department of Education to give in to the charters while that anomaly exists.  We need a Secretary who will stand up to these freakish money requests from the charters and do what is right!  We need a home run here, not a bunt!

In Defense Of Andria Bennett

I’ve seen a ton of hate pointed at State Rep. Andria Bennett since her momentous decision last Thursday night.  The whole House Bill 240 personal income tax vote.  She didn’t like what it would do to itemized deductions.  She heard from her constituents.  She did what a State Rep. is supposed to do: represent.  Let’s face it, it was a crappy bill in an even crappier situation.

It isn’t the Republicans who are trouncing her.  It is her own party.   Even some of her own colleagues in the House.  That is just wrong.  There is someone out there with a fake name called Delaware Way.  When I got the friend request, I thought it was Nancy Willing because her blog is called The Delaware Way.   But last night I defriended this anonymous troll who is NOT Nancy Willing.  This anonymous Facebook personality was bashing Bennett very hard with ugly words that are public.  This person told me to get off my high horse.  That’s fine, I own that.  I’ve been hard on many in Delaware politics at one point or another.  But I don’t bring out heavy curse words in my descriptions of elected officials.  I learned my lesson from doing that ONCE with DSEA over opt out.  And it hurt my reputation for a long time.  But I never went after someone personally and out of the realm of their lives as a public figure.  That is the key difference.

This is what I know about Rep. Bennett.  When the IEP Task Force was created back in 2014, I hounded the legislators to add parents to the task force.  I received responses from many that it was a done deal.  But Rep. Bennett, along with a few others, got the Delaware Senate to rescind their vote, add an amendment to add parents, and vote again on the concurrent resolution.  Last year, when I ran for the Capital School Board, she wrote a letter endorsing me.  This year, I watched her fight hard for a cursive bill that passed the House and Senate.  She voted against the budget back in 2015 along with five other legislators.  They were all branded by their own party as Benedict Arnolds but they all showed courage in the face of kicking the can.  That same can blew up all over the state budget this year.  She always says hi to me when I see her, unlike some down at Legislative Hall.  I am sure if I dug around a bit, there are votes she has cast that I would like and hate.  They all have those votes.

I have no doubt in the world she upset a lot of plans last Thursday night.  But the reality is simple: House Bill 240 was NEVER going to pass the Delaware Senate.  With 10 Republicans out of 21 Senators, on a vote that required a 3/5th vote?  It wasn’t going to happen.  If anything, Bennett saved the bill from an even bigger defeat.  There was NO door opening if it passed the House.  It was going to die no matter what.

The General Assembly is messed up.  The leadership is horrible.  If we don’t have legislators on the Right storming out instead of actually voting, we have certain Dems falling all over each other congratulating themselves on their monumental victory last night.  Schwartzkopf is not a good leader.  He is a great micro-manager though.  One of those bosses who is all over you if you do something he doesn’t like.  And he STILL hasn’t returned my email I sent to him a few weeks ago.  Bennett would within 24-48 hours, no questions asked.  And she isn’t even my State Representative!

Like every legislator, they wear different hats.  They have the face they put on in front of the public as an elected official.  But then they go home to their families and loved ones and they are just like anyone else.  So to trounce Bennett the way I’ve seen, calling her the things I’ve seen, that is despicable.  You didn’t like her vote?  That’s fine.  But don’t take it so personal.  She is a human being just like Pete and Val and John and Kim and Danny and Tim and all the rest of them.  She has a family and friends.  She had her reasons.  Get over it!

Happy Fiscal Year 2018 In Delaware… Or Are We Still FY2017?

Can anyone tell me what fiscal year it is?  Are we still FY2017 here in Delaware?  Because our legislators got a 72 hour extension to pass a budget.  Having seen the action last night/this morning, it seems like insurmountable odds.  But compromise they must.  Or they ALL face the wrath of Delaware citizens.  Especially if the state winds up closing like New Jersey did today.

The mood was VERY somber over there yesterday.  I spent more time in the House than the Senate, but even that was minimal.  Most of the evening both parties were in Caucus chewing the fat about the budget.  Governor Carney stayed in his office for the most part.  I did see him grabbing a smoothie in front of Legislative Hall.  But if we want to talk about waste, how about not leaving about 30 boxes of uneaten pizza in the meeting room next to the House chamber!  I did snag a couple of pieces.  I didn’t wait in the HUGE line for ice cream though.  What else do lobbyists and legislators have to do while their leaders are

So the legislators have to come in tomorrow, on a Sunday.  And I will predict Monday as well.  On social media, the blame game is getting tossed around on both sides.  Lots of folks want to throw darts at Andria Bennett for voting no on the personal income tax bill but everyone knows it doesn’t matter because it was NEVER going to pass in the Senate.  I understand her intent and respect her for that.  But with ten Republicans in the Senate that baby wasn’t going anywhere!

Saw tons of people there.  Had lots of good conversations.  Lots of laughs and joking around.  But for the most part, it was an endless night of waiting.  And hearing the bell to get the legislators back in their chambers.  An endless ring.  It almost drove one of my friends insane.  She wasn’t used to it.  You become numb to it after a while.  Ding.  Ding.  Ding.  Anyone who has spent even a bit of time there knows exactly what I’m talking about.

I won’t be heading over there while they hash all this out.  It is anyone’s guess what happens next.  I heard many times, from many people “I think they got a deal”, but until it is written down and voted on it means squat.  So while the rest of the state waits in breathless anticipation of when we are going to get a budget, I’m going to kick back and relax.  Watch the sunset, take walks, have some fun, and just breathe.  I’m still blogging, just not spending more time than I have to watching elected officials figure it out.

The June 30th Delaware General Assembly Meme Lovefest

I’ll be here all night long folks!

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.

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.