I’ve seen a lot in Delaware education over the past four years. I’ve seen people say some very brilliant things and I’ve heard very stupid things. I’ve seen the full range of human emotion, from happy to sad, from angry to depressed. But what I heard today made me feel many negative things like never before. How someone could be so blind to reality yet be in such a position of power is beyond my comprehension. Who is this person? Continue reading
It looks like you need special permission to introduce legislation to help students with disabilities. At the Joint House and Senate Education Committee today in Delaware, State Rep. Earl Jaques asked one of the presenters of the special education strategic plan if she checked with the Delaware Chamber Of Commerce first before pushing legislation for special education diplomas. Currently, many students with disabilities with complex and intensive needs get a certificate in lieu of a diploma. Many businesses will not hire these young adults after graduation because they do not have a diploma.
The legislation, which was filed last week by State Rep. Kim Williams, would award these students a diploma based on modified standards. It is not exactly the same as a regular diploma because of those modified standards, but it is still a diploma. That way, these students would be able to check the box on job applications indicating they have a diploma.
During a question and answer session after Michele Marinucci and Bill Doolittle gave the special education strategic plan presentation, State Rep. Earl Jaques (also the Chair of the House Education Committee) asked Marinucci if she consulted with the Delaware Chamber of Commerce and the business community over the proposed legislation. Marinucci indicated she had not. I took severe offense to this question from Jaques. As if legislators need some type of special permission from big business to allow things to get better for people with disabilities. We don’t need permission from the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber should be begging for this type of bill to allow equal access to employment for ALL Delaware citizens. As State Senator Anthony Delcollo pointed out, there exist certain laws already such as the Americans with Disabilities Act that prevents discrimination against disabled citizens.
The entire Delaware certificate system needs to disappear. There are plenty of jobs where former students are more than qualified but this discriminatory certificate prevents them from getting those types of jobs. Our legislators and Governor need to stop bowing down to big business in Delaware and do what is right for ALL the citizens, especially the most vulnerable. While big business lobbyists run rampant throughout Legislative Hall telling legislators how they should vote and which bills they support and which ones they don’t, our legislators are missing the point of making laws. It should be what is best for all the citizens, not just those with the fattest wallets. There are those legislators who understand this, State Rep. Kim Williams being one of them. But far too many listen to those who have the most money.
While Jaques indicated he doesn’t want to see potential problems arise from persons with disabilities just checking a box and not being qualified for those jobs, there is also a thing called an interview process. As well, many job applications do ask an applicant about their qualifications to meet the need for the job. Having a certificate instead of a diploma is an instant barrier that serves to weed out these job applicants from the get-go. I find this practice disgusting and barbaric. For this comment to come from Jaques, who has publicly acknowledged having a grandchild with Autism, I found it particularly disturbing. I’m sure he is trying to get all his ducks in a row and making sure there has been enough stakeholder engagement. And while I do agree the business community should certainly be a part of the discussion in how to best help students with disabilities and improve upon the process, I do not think any group involved in getting common sense legislation through needs permission first. I wonder if Jaques read my article on the current Chair of the Delaware Chamber of Commerce from yesterday. Maybe then he would understand why I am vehemently opposed to any pre-consultation with the damn Chamber over education legislation.
The actual presentation was top-notch. The plan is designed to help students with disabilities and schools to improve special education. While the plan is not set in stone and is a “living document”, I think it is a major step in the right direction. This group did their homework and while I always think there should be more parents not affiliated with any other organization on these things, there is an excellent amount of diversity from all aspects of special education. To see the actual strategic plan and what was discussed today, please go here.
I did see one moment of political maneuvering and it was very blatant in my opinion, but since I am unable to verify that as fact, I will stop right there. I will say it did not involve anyone involved with the Special Education Strategic Plan. But I expect more from that legislator than to ask questions on behalf of the Governor. If the Governor’s circle of advisers want to ask a question, they should just do it themselves. They are more than welcome to do so. By using a legislator to get a point across is just slimy in my opinion. Especially when it really doesn’t have much to do with the actual presentation being discussed and more about a priority of Governor Carney. I will say to this legislator as well as Carney’s guy, the article I posted yesterday with the actual plan embedded into it was posted on the Solutions for Wilmington Schools Facebook page and was read by many.
In another brilliant moment of the Joint committee session, State Senator David Sokola (the Chair of the Senate Education Committee) suggested to Marinucci that they should really take a look at Finland’s special education and what a bang-up job they do recognizing special education needs at an early age. State Rep. Sean Matthews replied to Sokola’s statement that the educational barriers that exist in Delaware, such as charter and choice school enrollment preferences, do not exist in Finland. He indicated Finland is at the top of education in the world because they do not have those barriers and grant equal education to all in Finland. As well, Matthews said you don’t see actions like “counseling out” going on in Finland. That is a practice with certain charter schools where parents are told “we aren’t sure if your child is the right fit here”. While I don’t know how much this goes on now, it has been an allegation thrown at certain charters in Delaware. Many students in the past would wind up back in their traditional school district in the middle of a school year. Many of these were also special education students. Sokola is a firm believer in enrollment preferences, usually those that protect the largest school within his own voting district, Newark Charter School.
In terms of the entire House Education Committee it would have been nice if the Republican House members actually stayed for the entire presentation. About twenty or so minutes in they all walked out. But along those lines, State Rep. Melanie Smith was a no-show as she usually is. No offense to the GOP guys, but if you are on a committee you should stick around for, you know, the actual meetings. It is special education. Not sure what was more important than that. But I digress. On the Senate side, the only missing Education Committee member was Senator Bryan Townsend.
Despite Jaques’ assurance to me yesterday that this meeting would be on the live audio feed on the General Assembly website, it was not. But there were also issues in getting a smart-screen going for the strategic plan presentation so I would chalk that up to technical issues going on. Legislative Hall is a very old building.
Dr. Paul Herdman with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware gave a very long oppositional speech to parent opt-out and House Bill 50 the other day at the Senate Education Committee. I’m going to post his full comment, and then I will react to it. I will be posting various public comments over the next two to three days, and I will include the time stamps from my recording of the meeting to show how much time each speaker was allotted.
Paul Herdman, Rodel Foundation of Delaware, 32:49-38:28
So, my name is Paul Herdman, I’m with the Rodel Foundation. I’ve got three kids in Delaware schools. I was a teacher myself for seven years. I’ve worked for two governors in Massachusetts on education policy and I’ve been here for the past eleven years trying to actually bring public and private players together on accommodation around education. And frankly, this is the first time I’ve actually come and spoken in front of this in eleven years. And I oppose HB50. I support the resolution. What I want to try and to do is two things. One, clarify the issue. And then speak to some unintended consequences. So to touch the issue, I think there is a lot of frustration around testing. And I think this has become the focal point for a lot of different issues. You have some folks who just don’t like Common Core, and they are supportive of this because it seems like it’s against Common Core. You have some who see this as truly a parent’s rights issue. That’s true, but I think one of the challenges is that some people are concerned about the Smarter Balanced test itself, but there are some who looking at this as a way to invalidate the test overall. Senator Matthews, who was a sponsor, I mean Representative Matthews, who was a sponsor of the bill in the House, said to the News Journal a couple of different times, one, a teacher, legislator and a member of the House Education committee encouraged all parents to consider exercising their right to opt out of the Smarter Balanced test, and he says further, in a subsequent article, “Kowalko and I are hoping that enough parents are getting out of the Smarter Balanced test, that the data becomes invalid.” (at this point Rep Kowalko interrupts at 34:30)
State Rep. John Kowalko: Excuse me Mr. Chairman, I never made that quote and I never made that statement and I find it unfair that you’re going to quote out of a paper what I said I never said.
Herdman: No, I, Senator…
Kowalko: You said it…
Herdman: Yes, and I’m saying that’s inaccurate.
(little bit of back and forth between Herdman and Kowalko, Senator Sokola steps in, ends at 35:02)
Herdman: Representative Matthews said, I’m just quoting what was in the paper, but, so Representative Matthews, who was a sponsor of this, let’s leave Representative Kowalko out of this issue, Matthews says, that he hopes enough parents are getting out of the test that the data becomes invalid. Now, the concern with that is that what do you do next? Right? So maybe we don’t like this particular test, who’s going to pay for and design the new test? It takes, right, so how would that play out, because it costs millions of dollars to actually design a test, it takes year to actually do the pilot testing, etcetera etcetera, what’s next? And the other piece is maybe you don’t want a test at all in terms of math and reading, but that doesn’t seem to work either. The three unintended consequences that I would just like to point out are 1) virtually every civil rights group in the country and in Delaware have come out to say they oppose opt-out. So you’ve got everybody in the United Negro College Fund (someone in the audience is heard saying “That’s not true.”), You’ve got the NAACP, you’ve got the Urban League, Latin Community Center, have said they do not support opt-out, and the reasons for that are if you make the test invalid for some students, it makes it invalid for all students. And the concern is that, for civil rights groups on particular, they’ve been working a long time to make sure those students are counted, and there have been dark days when kids were encouraged to opt out to raise overall test scores. So they don’t want to return to those days. The second thing that is an unintended consequence is that if the test becomes invalid, that you undermine the trust in the public school system. Now we spend a fill third of our budget on education, that’s over a billion dollars. So the concern is that, that particularly in the business community, that if we do not have a valid test, you’re going to lose trusts amongst them. In particular, there are folks who are concerned that they just may walk away, that they may not have enough confidence in the system, that in terms of passing referendums and things like that, it’s going to become more and more difficult. We don’t have a valid test. Trust in the system is the second piece. The third pieces that I’ll just leave you with is that we get $90 million a year, in federal funds, for Title I students. We get those dollars, with the commitment, that we will show how those kids are doing. These are for low-income kids. Now, the U.S. Department of Education has written letters to say that those dollars could be at risk. And when we are facing a $100 million dollar deficit this year, it’s going to be worse next year, we can’t afford to risk losing any of those dollars going into the next year and there’s no, I guess my concern is that the current bill is more than a parents rights issue. They could have broad implications for our most vulnerable students and could undermine the thing they trust in the public education system if we don’t have a consistent and comparable assessment over time. So that’s my concern, and I do believe that the resolution could be a more thoughtful way to look at all of our tests and how they are used, cause I believe there needs to be some course corrections but I don’t believe House Bill 50 is the right way to go. Thank you.
The first thing I want to say is Dr. Herdman is a very good public speaker in the respect that he can be very persuasive with an audience. I have seem him speak on YouTube, and he masters the use of his hands in luring an audience to effectively listen to him. During this speech, he used the word “Right?” after several of his points, as if to reaffirm his statements to which most people would say “Yes” in their head. I didn’t because I have super powers to render myself immune to that sort of thing, but many people could fall under that spell.
I disagree with most of Dr. Herdman’s comments. I don’t believe trying to link public and private players has provided a good outcome for education in general. It has brought more inequity than not. Dr. Herdman is paid very handsomely to promote the Rodel Foundation’s agendas for education, more than any state, district, or charter employee in Delaware, and by a very wide margin.
The very same civil rights groups Herdman talks about are the same ones that represent vulnerable students the Rodel Foundation of Delaware has helped to put in a position of segregation in Delaware with their constant advocating for more charter schools.
I’ve already gone through the financial funding threats so many times, but for the record, one more time, that’s if the schools opt kids out, not parents. But let’s bring that old chestnut out one more time. In regards to returning to those “dark days”, Rodel’s actions have brought much more of the actions of those days than anything parent opt-out (not school opt-out) could ever do.
I have no qualms with Rep. Matthews quote in the News Journal, which he did say. If a parent is going to go to all the trouble of opting their child out of a three day test, it would stand to reason it is because they don’t like the test. If someone doesn’t like a test, of course they would want it to go away. It is also very logical to assume if enough students are opted out the data the Rodel Foundation and the DOE want so badly would be rendered inert. This isn’t a leap in science, and I fail to understand why Herdman would paint Rep. Matthews as the bad guy here. I guess every side needs a villain, right Paul?
“Virtually every civil rights group in the country…” This is completely false Dr. Herdman, and you know it. 28 national groups wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress in regards to the ESEA reauthorization in January and touched very briefly on the importance of these tests for the minorities, special needs, and low-income children they represent. But in the beginning of April, only 12 remained to voice opposition of parent opt-out. And as Kilroy pointed out so brilliantly, how many of those very same organizations are at the exact same physical address where your office is?
“If the test becomes invalid, you will undermine the trust in the public school system.” If the test becomes invalid, this would validate the complete lack of trust we have in the test-makers, the DOE, and Governor Markell in terms of education. And yes, it would invalidate your 11 years of work in Delaware as well, and that is your biggest fear in my opinion. If Rodel and the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce are so concerned about potential deficits in Delaware, perhaps they could cash in their numerous hedge funds and actually fully support education, not just the ones they support for their own financial benefit.