In an article on Delaware Public Media concerning the status of the charter school audit bills, State Rep. Earl Jaques spun a web of lies about State Rep. Kim Williams, the sponsor of the bill. He gave a quote to reporter Sarah Mueller stating Rep. Williams never approached him about the bill. But Williams didn’t take it lying down. Nor should she. Continue reading
Leave it to Earl Jaques to start off the 150th General Assembly House Education Committee with a load of crap right from the get-go. At the first House Education Committee meeting next Wednesday, legislators will get to hear the latest corporate education reform malarkey from the Vision Coalition.
Really Earl? That’s the best you can do? What’s next? A presentation the next week from DelawareCAN? The Charter Schools Network? Ugh. Would you let DSEA give a huge presentation to the Education Committee? Or how about a group of opt out parents to explain why the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the worst test ever? Perhaps you could let all the Christina Wilmington teachers get together and let the legislators know about how they feel about the MOU. Or get the Odyssey education association to come in and talk about what is going on with their board. Nope, instead, we get the usual flim-flam from the snake oil Rodelian led band of education bandits.
I have no doubt they will be taking credit for what is to come.
How the hell did I miss this? I broke the news on the House Committee memberships and I totally missed this awesomeness! State Rep. John Kowalko is back on the House Education Committee! To understand how big this is, you have to look at the history of why he was removed in the first place. Continue reading
The Delaware Senate Education Committee just got very interesting. While it is still five members, the composition of the committee includes two rookie Senators. Long-time Chair, Senator David Sokola, is still on the committee as one of three Democrats. Senator Laura Sturgeon will be the Chair while Senator Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman will be the Vice-Chair. The five member group also has Republican Senators Anthony Delcollo and Ernie Lopez.
Gone are Senators Brian Pettyjohn, Bryan Townsend, and Jack Walsh who were on the Senate Education Committee last year.
Having Sturgeon as Chair is big news for Delaware education. She served on the Delaware State Education Association Executive Committee for many years. Lockman as Vice-Chair is also an interesting choice.
As I reported the other day, a rookie Senator has been appointed to the Joint Finance Committee. While I thought it was one person, it is actually Laura Sturgeon who will serve on the JFC.
Many have wondered if David Sokola will make this his last term and resign after 26 years in the State Senate. Sokola is synonymous with the Senate Education Committee so to see him take a step back like this is shocking. While we still have State Rep. Earl Jaques as Chair of the House Education Committee, the powerhouse combo of himself and Sokola as the leaders in education legislation movement is officially over.
The Chair of the Senate Education Committee chooses the agenda for which bills are heard in Committee as well as bringing the bills to the floor for a vote when they are released from Committee. Interesting times indeed!
The most controversial piece of legislation in the Delaware General Assembly will be State Rep. Earl Jaques’ brainfart of an idea to have the State of Delaware take over the Christina School District. Continue reading
The 149th Delaware General Assembly is finished! All bills either passed or didn’t. If it is in black, it passed. If it is in red, it didn’t.
Legislators: If you find any errors, omissions, or want to provide clarification on the status of a bill, please let me know.
Last week, a parent of a student at Odyssey Charter School received a response to an opt out letter she sent the school back in February. The letter said they were unable to offer any discretion in the matter since Delaware doesn’t have any official opt out laws. The school does have discretion. It’s called the parent opted their kid out and Odyssey needs to suck it up and take it on the chin.
The parent is concerned about any punitive action the Wilmington charter could take against her child. I have yet to hear of any punishment issued to a student over a parent opting them out. So this would be the first to my recollection. The powers that be know there is nothing they can do to prevent opt out. They just don’t want any school dipping below that 95% participation rate threshold. Which (sadly) didn’t happen in any school last year. I find it frustrating that so many parents think this test is perfectly okay. It isn’t.
What many parents don’t realize is something schools won’t tell them which is the actual language in federal law. That states schools must administer the state assessment to students. It says nothing about the student actually taking the test. A school is not allowed to deny a student the ability to take the test. That is a far cry from a parent saying they don’t want their kid taking it. And there have been enough U.S. Supreme Court cases involving parental rights in education to justify opt out.
The response from the school to the parent talked about only medical reasons being a valid exemption based on the law. Which is true, but only for the school not to administer the test and NOT have it count against their participation rate. But what Odyssey did was quote the federal law and then add their own part about ESEA (now ESSA) not allowing parents to opt their child out of the state assessment. Which is absolute malarkey because it doesn’t say you can either. It doesn’t even address opt out. In fact, ESSA as it is written actually gives states the ability to come up with their own policies and laws on opt out. But in good old Delaware, we had a chance to honor and codify a parent’s right to opt out but our Governor Markell vetoed the bill when our General Assembly overwhelmingly passed it. And then too many of our chicken little legislators kissed the Markell ring when there was a shot to override that veto.
Currently, another opt out bill is awaiting consideration in the House Education Committee. It was heard in committee last year but shenanigans ensued over the vote so it is still in “pending” status where it will most likely remain until the end of this legislative session on June 30th. I don’t think Governor Carney has ever muttered the words “opt out” since he has been Governor of Delaware.
Nothing helps the opt out movement more than a school giving a parent a rough time or sending the Delaware Department of Education template letter to a parent. Parents, if you want to opt your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just do it. I guarantee you if they give you a rough time or try to punish your kid I will give them holy hell for it. That is my promise to you! And if it is in Capital, Red Clay, or Christina, their boards passed resolutions or policies honoring that parental right so none of the schools in those districts should be even addressing it!
The first battle for HS1 for House Bill #287 was won today as the Delaware House Education Committee released it from committee. This puts the special education legislation on the Ready list for a full House vote.
All were in favor of the release except for State Rep. Deb Heffernan who voted no and State Rep. Stephanie Bolden who abstained. There was a great deal of discussion about the bill and who exactly it represents among Delaware special education students. Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the Delaware Department of Education, attempted to answer these questions to committee members. The diploma with modified standards would apply to a very small population of Delaware students, approximately 1% of them. These are students with severe disabilities that affect their ability to perform relative to their peers.
Currently, these students receive a “certificate of performance”. Which means they are not allowed to check up the Diploma box on job applications. They are unable to have the opportunity to apply for many jobs. For parents of these children, as so aptly put by parent John Young, it is a resignation for their children that is very difficult to accept.
Much of the conversation was about the gap group of special education students between those this would apply to and those who receive a high school diploma. To qualify for this bill, you have to be approved by your IEP team to take the alternative state assessment. But that is only a little over 1% of Delaware students. Our special education numbers hover around 15-16%. Some of those students who do qualify for the Smarter Balanced Assessment have a difficult time passing rigorous high school courses and are unable to graduate. Many legislators wanted to see numbers from the Delaware DOE on this.
One public comment, given by Robert Overmiller, said this bill would be lying to these students. The Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, of which Overmiller is a member, had public comment from member Kathie Cherry. She felt it was important to note that Overmiller’s views on the bill did not reflect the overwhelming majority of the council who are in support of the bill. While I do agree with Overmiller on many education issues, I felt his opposition to this bill was unfair but he is certainly entitled to his opinion.
Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting gave the DOE’s approval of the bill, as did Delaware Autism, the Delaware Association of School Administrators, the Delaware School Boards Association, and parents.
This is an important victory for this bill. It still has a long way to go but I like the track it is going in.
House Bill 269, sponsored by Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, was introduced today and assigned to the House Education Committee. The legislation deals with school choice and offers some substantial changes to how Delaware deals with school choice. This bill is not expected to get a vote tonight and will most likely be looked at in January of 2018. While I have not fully read the bill, I did take a cursory glance and I like a lot of aspects to it.
Sometimes a State Representative surprises me. Today, Delaware State Representative Melanie Smith filed House Bill #10, which would change recess requirements in the State of Delaware for public schools. Bring the play back to schools!
This Act entitles all students from kindergarten through the 8th grade who are enrolled in a Delaware public school to morning and afternoon recess periods and a lunch period that is at least 30 minutes in length. Morning and afternoon break periods must be at least 10 minutes in length each. Under this Act, students are entitled to morning and afternoon breaks and a lunch period only on a full day of school.
Can I get an Amen? Before everyone starts with the “this should be a local decision”, I feel some bills should make every school district be uniform with certain things in education. This is one of them. Let’s get real. This bill would not come about if our districts and charters were doing this already. Many of them are, but not all of them. And not enough. Children need to play, especially during school. I wish those recess requirements were longer, but it is a start. We need to be emulating countries like Finland where recess is just as important as Language Arts or Math. They also have shorter school days there and are considered to be one of the best countries in the world for education.
The Chair of the House Education Committee announced today there will be one more House Education Committee meeting on Tuesday, June 27th and this bill will be heard in that committee. I am very happy to see some sanity coming back to public education. I will take the small steps while they come. Thank you for this bill Rep. Smith! I would like it if you could attend the House Education Committee meetings though!
*Updated with new legislation, votes on the floor, and committee agendas for tomorrow
Confused by all the Education legislation floating around in Delaware? Can’t keep track of it all? Don’t worry, I can’t either sometimes. But I felt it was necessary to reestablish my old tradition of putting it all together. I will update this as the Delaware 149th General Assembly finishes off the first half of this session on June 30th and when they reconvene in January 2018. Below are all 50 of the education bills that have come up in the 149th General Assembly just this year alone. More legislation will come by the time it is all done on June 30th, 2018. Continue reading
It looks like the anti-cursive police are done in Delaware! The Delaware House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill 70 yesterday. The only no was State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman and State Rep. John Kowalko did not vote. State Reps. Kenton, Viola, and Hensley were absent.
When this bill was heard by to the House Education Committee, it was met with opposition by a woman named Kate Gladstone. She spent the next couple of weeks after that trying to convince my readers why cursive is horrible. Any disagreement with her kept it going. I never thought I would see the day when I would see an anti-cursive rant on this blog, but c’est la vie!
Some legislators reached out to me for my thoughts on this bill. Some felt this is a decision best handled by local school boards. I agreed with that, however NONE of them stepped up at all to make this a reality. I do not mind some decisions mandated by the state.
The bill did have an amendment added to it which changes the date of implementation to the 2018-2019 school year if it passes. The bill will go to the Delaware Senate Education Committee.
Here we go again! House Bill 60 is on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, June 14th, at 2:30pm. It is the ONLY bill on the agenda. Most educators should be done with school by then. Parents, teachers, students, and Delaware citizens: I invite you to attend this committee meeting and give public comment on why you feel this bill should pass!
Delaware Governor John Carney has been very quiet on the subject of opt out. When he was a U.S. Congressman, he voted against a part of the reauthorization of the ESEA which would have honored a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment prior to the bill becoming the Every Student Succeeds Act. When the last opt out bill, House Bill 50, overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, former Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill within weeks. An attempted override of that veto led to a lot of shady deal-making between Markell’s office and legislators and the attempt failed.
While opt out has not been a huge topic, it is more important than ever. I feel the bill should also include personalized learning assessments and any “stealth” assessments embedded in digital technology. While these aren’t the norm in Delaware yet, they will be. These mini assessments will replace the once a year test in a competency-based education arena.
Due to an actual “gag order” by National PTA concerning opt out, we will not be able to get support from the Delaware PTA this go-around. So any participation in this committee meeting will have to be a grassroots effort by parents. Please spread the word. If you are unable to attend the meeting, please email the members of the House Education Committee asking for their support of House Bill 60. As well, you can sign this petition on Change.Org which can be found here: Please release House Bill 60 from the House Education Committee
Here are their emails:
One vote last night signifies that it might be. The VERY controversial Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 5 passed the Delaware House last night and goes to Governor Carney for signature. The bill dealt with late-term abortion. Without getting into the whole pro-life/pro-choice argument, I was against this bill at first but did grow to support it. State Rep. Earl Jaques, along with Rep. Gerald Brady, were the sole Democrats in the House who voted no. Jaques claimed it was because the majority of his constituents were against the bill.
No matter what side of the political fence you are on, Roe v. Wade is one of the cornerstones of politics. Pro-choice is about as Democrat as you can get. Could Jaques’ vote indicate he will not run in 2018 for his House seat? I would say yes. In conversations with Earl over the past couple of years, I can sense a feeling of closure. I believe his swan song will be some type of school district consolidation bill which I anticipate will come out in the next three weeks. By voting no on this bill, even though he stated many of his constituents were against the bill, it is a very un-Democrat vote.
This would leave a vacancy for the Chair of the House Education Committee. Could Vice-Chair, State Rep. Kim Williams, fill the void in 2019? It is very early in the guessing games for this stuff. But I would say out of all the State Reps involved in education, she has certainly earned that position.
House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 is on the agenda for the
Sokola Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, June 7th at 3:30pm. State Senator David Sokola has stuffed the agenda with six bills, but in a half-hour time span. Most of the other bills shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows though. The House Education Committee canceled their meeting on Wednesday. Even though most people have their eye on the budget, it is always a good idea to see what else is going on. Between this bill, the Coastal Zone Act reorganization, legal marijuana, death penalty, and Lord knows what else will come up, we need eyes and ears more than ever down at Legislative Hall!
I will say upfront I oppose this bill because of the House Substitute that removes the Christina School District Wilmington students from this. This added language (which was insisted on by Senator Sokola) only serves to benefit one school: Newark Charter School.
To see what is on tap for ALL the committee meetings, this week, please go here: http://legis.delaware.gov/CommitteeMeetings
House Bill 16 will get a vote today. This bill would repeal the estate tax in Delaware. State Rep. John Kowalko issued the following statement last evening concerning this bill:
Today 5/18/17, a bill to repeal the “estate tax”, has been placed on the House Agenda by Speaker Schwartzkopf. It will require a suspension of rules due to notification inadequacies but more importantly it will guarantee less revenue for the state and amounts to a giveaway to the Republicans and the wealthy. This tax garnered $9.3 million in revenue in 2016 and to date there have been no suggestions from leadership of either party or the JFC as to how that revenue loss will be replaced. I have asked this question of all of my Democratic colleagues and have not received one suggestion. This bill should not receive one Democrat vote but it will as deals have been cut to the detriment of Delaware’s taxpayers to ensure passage. This is irresponsible and abhorrent behavior that contradicts true Democratic party principles and ideals and all Democrat legislators should reject this or be held accountable. -Representative John Kowalko
Cursive. Love it or hate it, I support Delaware’s pending legislation to make it mandatory. But at the House Education Committee meeting earlier this month, where the bill was released by the committee, one opponent of the bill was very adamantly against the bill. And she wasn’t even from Delaware. This got my radar up, so I looked into this woman who had such a passion against the bill. What I found shocked even me, and I’ve seen a lot of things writing this blog! Continue reading
It seemed to be an even split between advocates and those who oppose the bill, but State Rep. Andria Bennett’s House Bill was released from committee today with 12 votes. Next stop, the House Ready list. Many of the folks who opposed the bill were in favor of students learning cursive but felt that was a decision best left to the local school board and not a mandate from the state. The Delaware Department of Education opposed the bill for the same reasons, along with the Delaware Association of School Administrators and the Delaware School Boards Association.
Both sides cited research or studies weighing the pros and cons of the bill. I supported it and gave public comment on how my son seemed to like cursive more than regular writing. Another advocate for students with disabilities, Robert Overmiller with the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, also supported the bill because of the beneficial nature for special needs students. A retired teacher supported the bill.
State Rep. Bennett said her idea for this bill came last Christmas when her own daughter was unable to read her grandmother’s cursive writing in a Christmas card. Some advocates said it is important children know how to read original historic documents, such as The Declaration of Independence. One gentleman said he would not hire someone at his company who didn’t know cursive since so many old property deeds and paperwork were written in cursive and they would not be able to understand those documents. One parent stated they were vehemently against the bill and that it shouldn’t matter if kids can read historic documents in cursive because it is all available online. She also said grandmothers are texting and using Instagram more and more these days. State Rep. Joe Miro said with our state budget deficit we should not be mandating curriculum at the state level.
If you are in favor of this bill, please contact your state legislator and let them know! I know I will call my own State Rep, Trey Paradee and ask him to support this bill!
The Delaware General Assembly returns today! It was supposed to happen yesterday, but the impending doom of the snowstorm that didn’t quite live up to its potential postponed the return. Today is Committee day! House Bill 50 WILL be heard in the House Education Committee today. Say what? Didn’t former Governor Jack Markell veto that bill? Continue reading
The 149th General Assembly officially began on January 10th, this past Tuesday. But the first few weeks tend to be slow. Especially when it comes to education. But we already have seven education bills submitted by the Delaware House of Representatives. No Senate education bills have come forth at this point.
The biggest of these is a carryover from the 148th General Assembly, that of funding for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade. State Rep. Kim Williams made a ton of noise about the need for this funding during the last go-around, and she needs to keep making more noise! There should be NO question whatsoever about the need for this bill. NONE! It should not come down to fiscal concerns either. It needs to happen even if they have to cut some slush fund somewhere. House Substitute 1 for House Bill 12 will be a bill I advocate for this year, no doubt about it! I have to say I am disappointed there are NO Delaware Republicans that signed on to the substitute for this bill although Reps. Spiegelman and Briggs-King did sign on for the original House Bill #12. This is on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 18th at 2:30pm.
State Rep. Earl Jaques’ House Joint Resolution #3 would ensure both the House and Senate Education Committees see the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act state plan before it is completed and sent to the United States Dept. of Education. That is a step, but I would prefer the General Assembly has authority to accept or reject the plan before it goes to the US DOE! This is also on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 18th at 2:30pm.
The drop-out age and school attendance came out roaring through the legislative gate! State Rep. Sean Matthews submitted two bills while State Rep. Tim Dukes submitted one. Dukes’ House Bill #17 would increase the drop-out age from 16 to 17. It would also include truancy. Matthews’ House Bill #23 takes it a step further and would require a parent or guardian to agree to a student dropping out if they are over the age of 16. Where this could get a bit sticky is what happens if a student is 18? They are of legal age at that point. Some students with disabilities attend school until the age of 21. Matthews’ House Bill #24 would require a parent conference if a student misses five consecutive days without an excuse. My take on this is if parents don’t know their kids are missing five days of school and just wandering around somewhere, it will be tough to get that parent to come to a conference if they are already so disengaged they don’t know what their kid is doing. All of these bills are meant to discourage dropping out and keeping students in school. I wholeheartedly agree with that. The trick is in the details.
This is another carryover from the 148th. State Rep. Deb Heffernan had this one ready to go on June 30th but I have to believe there simply wasn’t enough time to get to every bill that night/morning. But it is back with House Bill #15 which would make computer science a graduation requirement for high school students. This is also on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 18th at 2:30pm.
It wouldn’t be a General Assembly in the 2010s without some type of librarian legislation from State Rep. Paul Baumbach! House Bill #34 would increase the participants in a very long-sounding scholarship name.