Sokola Out As Chair Of Senate Education Committee, Sturgeon Will Be Chair

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!

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Live From Delaware Joint Finance Committee: Delaware DOE Hearing!

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee is hearing from the Delaware Department of Education for their FY2019 budget at this very moment! Continue reading

If The General Assembly Votes For This Budget, Carney’s Biggest Sacrifice Will Be Teachers

Shared Sacrifice.  I’ve grown to loathe that horrible term the past few months.  It is just as bad as “Human Capital” or “Smarter Balanced”.  From what I’m hearing, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee voted today to get rid of Governor Carney’s horrible “match tax without a referendum” idea.  The bad news: they cut the education sustainment fund $11 million dollars.  Which means all those Reduction In Force notices that went out in May?  Many may have to be enforced.  Teachers are going to lose their jobs here folks.  In districts where classrooms are already bloated.

For all of Governor Carney and the General Assembly’s talk about improving Delaware education, this is the WRONG way to go.  Good job Carney and JFC!  I  hope you wrestle with those demons tonight.

Thanks to Matt Albright at the News Journal for getting this picture up on Twitter today:

Chaos At Legislative Hall In Dover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Delaware State Board Of Education May Survive After All…

Last month, I reported the Delaware State Board of Education was done.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee took their funding away from them.  Many assumed they were toast.  We were wrong.  It appears the Delaware Department of Education will pick up the tab.  So there will be more State Board of Education meetings in the future.  And there is big news on that front as well.  Starting in July, their meetings will begin at 5pm.  Which means, you know, teachers and educators and working parents can actually go to these meetings.  As well, they will have public comment before each action item (except those which have a formal public comment period, such as charter school stuff and regulations).  Unless the Joint Finance Committee or the legislators deny the funding to DOE to do this.

So what happened?  The changes to Delaware Title 14 would be monstrous.  They would have to change up a lot of things.  While some thought things could change in the epilogue language of the state budget (which I oppose in and of itself), it is not an option.  New laws would have to come out granting the authority to the Delaware DOE.  While those could happen, it would be a headache and a half to get them in play between now and June 30th.

There was talk during the Joint Sunset Review meetings about the State Board taking on one or two new members.  With that being said, and probably because of all the confusion surrounding if they should even exist, Delaware Governor John Carney never nominated anyone to take Jorge Melendez’ place on the board.  So there could be changes to the membership.  I am hoping for some folks with more resistance to the Rodel way of thinking.  I haven’t heard anything about Donna Johnson going anywhere.  The Executive Director role is chosen by the State Board of Education President which is currently Dr. Teri Quinn Gray.  She was appointed by former Governor Jack Markell.

The State Board of Education is still under Sunset Review by that legislative committee.  Prior to the announcement about their funding, the committee agreed to hold them over until next year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Day Transparency Truly Died In Delaware

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee told a packed room they would not be releasing lists of budget cuts to the media or the public today.  This is truly disheartening.  Does this mean we can only rely on what is said verbally at their meetings?  Yes, I published a full list of the cuts up until yesterday.  But I assumed that information is public and never questioned once that it shouldn’t be.  I guess the Delaware Joint Finance Committee doesn’t want the public weighing in on all their cuts.  James Dawson with Delaware Public Media released the following tweet today in response to this:

As well, the JFC decided it won’t meet again this week to give the General Assembly time to come up with some revenue raising legislation.  To date, the JFC has cut $80 million from the budget with about $140 million left to go.  To say the situation is becoming serious would be an understatement.  Once again, Dawson released a tweet about this:

I attended probably the last third of the meeting today.  Since no sheets were released, I have nothing new to report.  I will rely on the mainstream media for that as they were in attendance the whole time.

When Governor Markell was Governor of Delaware, I complained about the lack of transparency constantly.  It doesn’t look like our JFC and Governor Carney’s office learned the lessons from the prior administration.  The people of Delaware deserve better than this.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earl Jaques Threw A Doozy Out There On Friday. Does It Have Legs?

Last Friday, Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques responded to a post I put up on Facebook concerning the Delaware State Auditor’s office.  One of his replies was news to me as well as everyone else I asked about this reveal. Continue reading

***UPDATED***Delaware Approves $20.7 Million So Markell & Sokola Can Have Safe Bike Rides But Ignore Special Education Funding Bill?

markellcyclingThis is the heart of what is wrong with Delaware.  In an article by Bike Delaware, the group brags about how the General Assembly approved $20.7 million for bike trail improvements in Delaware.  Meanwhile, students considered to be basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, go for a sixth year without special education funding from the state.  Pork indeed!  Now before bicycling enthusiasts come at me, I fully support bicycle safety and awareness.  While I don’t ride a bicycle these days, I think it is important for further safety for the sport.  But not at the expense of children in public schools!  And we can say this is part of the capital budget, not the operating budget.  But money shifts around ALL the time at Legislative Hall.

We are especially grateful for the leadership of State Senator Dave Sokola, the co-chair of the committee that wrote the capital budget, and Governor Jack Markell. It’s not a coincidence that Senator Sokola biked to work yesterday (about 60 miles) and Governor Markell biked to work today (also about 60 miles).

I have no doubt it isn’t a coincidence!  And by mentioning how Sokola is the co-chair of the committee that writes the capital budget, you might as well throw out the words “conflict of interest”.  Are we really saying, as a state, that despite all the arguments about education funding and how we will “commit to doing better next year” that our General Assembly approved $20.7 million in taxpayer funds for what amounts to a select special interest for a hobby?  But the legislators who question this kind of nonsense are considered “unpatriotic” by people like State Rep. Melanie Smith…

This is a disgrace.  How much longer will high-needs students continue to go without while fat-cats like Senator David Sokola and Governor Jack Markell can bike to Legislative Hall?  While I was not always supportive of the WEIC plan, I think that was much more worthy than bike trails.  We have schools that desperately need restoration and improvements, but paths for cyclists are more important?  What the hell is wrong with this state and when will our legislators finally step up and say no as a collective body to this insanity?  We have homeless people, increasing violence in our cities, and jobs that don’t pay as much as they used to.  We have police that aren’t getting the funds they need to effectively do their jobs.  But this is okay?

House Bill 30 would have guaranteed funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade with the designation of basic special education.  Based on a unit-count system, these children get no state funding in these grades.  It is one of the most transparent and visible flaws in Delaware education funding.  But I suppose it is okay to ignore the needs of the most vulnerable of children so people like Jack Markell and David Sokola, whose very agendas and laws have further demeaned these children multiple times, can get more out of their bicycle hobby.  What a joke!

What kind of Governor bikes sixty miles to work?  What if something happens to him?  Is that in the best interest of the state to have your Governor biking to work on a hot day?  Do his bodyguards have to bike with him?  Do they get extra duty hazard pay for that?  Since we don’t have a Lieutenant Governor and something happened to Jack while bike-riding, who steps up then? Schwartzkopf?  Good lord!

I can think of many different ways we could have allocated these funds in a “tough budget year”.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee and the folks on the Bond Committee need to open their eyes and see what they are doing to this state.  Meanwhile, cyclists across the state rejoice!  While students suffer…

Updated, 7/5/16, 2:35pm: On Bike Delaware’s Facebook page, the group responded to comments made on there about this article with the following:

80% of this money comes from the federal government for transportation system (capital) investments. The federal government does not permit this money to be spent on schools (or anything not related to transportation). It’s deeply unfair to criticize Governor Markell and Senator Sokola for failing to spend these federal transportation dollars on schools. Neither Governor Markell or Senator Sokola have any authority to re-program this money this way. (They can spend it on walking and cycling projects rather than new roads but they can’t spend it on schools or libraries or hospitals or anything not related to transportation.)

To which I responded:

Be that as it may, it is just more pork. Even more distressing this comes at a federal level when IDEA Special Education funding at a federal level is at 37.5% of what it should be when the law was reauthorized in 2004. While that has absolutely nothing to do with Bike Delaware, it is symptomatic of a disease in our country where those who already have so much more than others get more while those who don’t have those luxuries lose out. I’m pretty sure an argument could be made somewhere that Delaware’s transportation grants from the Feds could be used to get rid of the Neighborhood Schools Act which has further segregated our schools, especially in Wilmington. Funding is twisted all the time in our state, this should not be an exception. Once again, though, I do want to reiterate this is not a slam against those who enjoy biking, but rather what I consider to be a misuse of funds during a time when others desperately need funding for more apparent reasons.  With your permission, may I update my article with your comment?

And their response:

Please do. To repeat, it’s not within either Governor Markell’s or Senator Sokola’s discretion to spend these federal transportation dollars on anything other than transportation projects. All they have done is take about ~5% of those FY17 dollars and dedicated them for improving the state for people walking and cycling. And, given that Delaware is the deadliest state in America for pedestrians, it’s not out-of-line for the state to be making improvements that make it safer for people to walk and bicycle. Not to mention, that 2/3rds of Delawareans are overweight or obese and making it safe for people to be more physically active is a critical public health priority. And, if you are an environmentalist, every bike trip that replaces a car trip means less air pollution….These are urgent public policy priorities that have absolutely nothing to do with anybody’s “hobby.”

I appreciate Bike Delaware’s response, but like I said, this is a matter of what side you agree on.  Regardless of where the funds generate from, we live in a country where those who have the luxury and time to bike over bridges along the C&D Canal in Delaware have that ability.  But I fail to see how these bike trails, while I’m sure are utilized by some who are less fortunate, will solve obesity problems and pedestrian deaths.  In my opinion, I think pet projects like this are pushed by people like Markell and Sokola so they can enjoy them, not the people who probably aren’t even aware things like this exist because they are too busy looking for work, or already work several jobs, just to put food on the table.  And it goes all the way up to a federal level and funds are locked in for specific purposes like this so they can only be used for pet projects by legislators and Governors.

*the above picture is from DelDOT

Delaware JFC Cuts Charter School Performance Fund, SAIL, Career Pathways, Teacher Pay Raises, & More From Budget

BudgetCutsRodel

While this isn’t my dream list of cuts, and some things are still in there, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee sure did swing the axe on tons of programs from Governor Markell’s budget!  Gone is the after-school SAIL funding ($1 million), the always controversial charter school performance fund ($500,000), career pathways programs ($250,000), more internet bandwidth for schools ($3 million), a technology block grant ($1 million), and SEED scholarship expansion ($500,000).

The VERY controversial early learning budget of $11 million got cut to $9 million.  Teachers will not be happy about this: they lost their raises which had $3 million allocated.  Even the big three: University of Delaware, Delaware State University and Delaware Technical Community College got a 1% slash in their operating budgets.

Governor Markell is on the way out and the Joint Finance Committee sent a strong message to Delawareans today: we are not going to allow all this rampant spending in education to continue for programs that have no intrinsic value to the true success of students.  It’s almost like they read all the crap in the Every Student Succeeds Act and said “Not for Delaware”!   I’m sure Rodel is pissed about a lot of these cuts, but it’s about time we got their stink out of Legislative Hall.  Eight years is enough!

They can cut some more stuff: the charter school transportation slush fund (which can add up to about $2 million a year), all these insane contracts the DOE has with the take the money and run education companies (they could probably save the deficit by taking an axe to that stuff), and perhaps some more to the early learning program (or hell, give it all to the basic special education funding for Kindergarten to 3rd grade students with disabilities).  Not mentioned in today’s round of budget cuts are any funds associated with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan.  But the General Assembly has to pass the legislation first!

The JFC meets tomorrow, so there could be more.  I’m sure the lobbyists are chomping at the bit to meet with every single legislator they can between now and June 30th, the last day of the 148th General Assembly.

 

Delaware JFC Approves Use Of Bank Settlement Funds For After-School SAIL Program, The Family Breakdown Begins…

With a 5-4 vote, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee came to an agreement on how to use the $28 million remaining from the mortgage settlement funds. According to Matthew Albright with the News Journal, $8.1 million of the funds will be used towards educational programs including the following:

$4 million for after-school homework help in high-poverty schools

$4 million for funding to provide remediation for students who get behind in the early grades

$100,000 to Junior Achievement for school programming for at-risk youth

I have to give credit to State Rep. Joe Miro for being the voice of common sense.

If anyone really thinks the SAIL program is going to be temporary, think again.  This is part of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  And it all fits in with the dark future of education.  More government control of children is taking place before our very eyes.  I agree some kids need direction because the quality of their home life is not good.  However, this plan has the capability of morphing into something permanent.  Kids are in school long enough during the regular day.  And we want to extend that?

 

 

Interesting House Education Committee Meeting Today With Wellness Centers And University of Delaware

The Delaware House Education Committee held their first meeting today after the long Joint Finance Committee break.  On the agenda was one bill, House Bill 234, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams.  As well, the University of Delaware gave a presentation on their overall enrollment trends.

House Bill 234 concerns wellness centers in three traditional school district high schools: Appoquinimink High School, St. George’s Technical High School, and Conrad Schools of Science.  These three are the last remaining high schools in the state (not including charters) which have no wellness center.  A wellness center is not just a school nurse.  They also provide counseling services as well.  The bill was unanimously released from committee.  Several folks gave public comment in support of the bill: Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, President of DSEA Frederika Jenner, and a representative from Red Clay.  Rep. Williams read a letter she received from a high school student.  The young man was going through a depression and he credited the wellness center at his high school for getting him through this very troubled time.

There was some debate about which schools would get a wellness center first if the bill passes.  Rep. Williams felt it should be the oldest school first, but State Rep. Charles Potter felt it should be needs-based.  Rep. Williams indicated the JFC would determine this in the budget as the bill calls for each of the schools receiving the wellness centers at one per year for the next three fiscal years.

Dr. Nancy Targett, the Acting President of the University of Delaware gave a long presentation on enrollment trends and a general overview of the university.  She showed many slides about minority enrollment, retention rates, and graduation rates.  Afterwards, during a question and answer with the members of the House Education Committee, things got a bit more tense.  State Rep. Charles Potter was very concerned about minorities being placed in the Associate program at the University of Delaware.  This program is for students who need more help when they enter college.  When asked about what may be holding these students back by Rep. Williams, Dr. Targett was unable to give a clear answer but did promise the committee she would get more information.  Many civil rights advocates feel the University of Delaware under-enrolls African-Americans.  Dr. Targett did say this is her number one priority and many universities across the country are dealing with these issues.

Dr. Targett felt the recent announcement about the pilot program concerning SAT scores not counting towards admission credentials could allow for more minorities to be accepted at University of Delaware.  She said the University understands not all students do well on tests like that and a student could just have a bad day.  They want to focus more on students’ actual Grade Point Average and other activities.

After the meeting adjourned, I asked Dr. Targett about an omission in her presentation: students with disabilities.  She said she didn’t know the numbers offhand but gave me her email address so she can find out.  Which I will certainly take her up on!

Delaware Joint Finance Committee’s Take On The Delaware DOE Budget

Okay, maybe the last article wasn’t as top-secret as I thought, but I’m willing to bet this one is!  This was sent to me anonymously today.  Apparently it was sent out to the legislators in the House of Representatives from State Rep. Melanie Smith who is also the Chair of the Joint Finance Committee.  It is the Delaware Joint Finance Committee’s take on the Delaware DOE’s state budget hearing that took place last Wednesday, February 17th.

Department of Education

Under the recommended school district operations budget, the budget request included reallocating money from the General Contingency (not new money) as well as additional funding (new money in this year’s budget) to cover actual unit growth for the 15/16 school year.  The budgeted unit growth was 110 while the actual unit growth is 188.  When questioned about the difference in the budgeted amount versus the actual amount, Secretary Godowsky explained that the increase was not due to an unprecedented influx of students, but rather an increase in the number of students being identified as having special needs.  Out of the 1,075 new students, 848 were identified as having special needs, dictating a higher than expected unit count.  The number also includes special needs students who are not new to the public school system, but entered 4th grade and began receiving more comprehensive special education.  Secretary Godowsky told the committee that the Department had hired UD to do a study on this recent trend so that they can better understand whether this pattern is the “new normal.”

The committee deferred discussion of the $6M in the Governor’s recommended budget for the WEIC plan until after learning the result of Thursday’s State Board of Education meeting.

$4M was requested in the Governor’s recommended budget to support the Teacher Compensation committee’s recommendations to increase entry level salaries for teachers, a pilot for teacher-leader roles, and to provide stipends for educators who attain National Board Teaching Certification.  It was noted that the committee’s recommendations are not final yet and that the changes are contingent upon legislation being enacted.

The committee also heard a presentation from Susan Perry-Manning, the Director of the Office of Early Learning within DOE.  The presentation advocated for the $11.335M in the Governor’s recommended budget to replace the expiring federal Early Learning Challenge Grant with state general fund dollars.  Most of the funds would go towards purchase of care reimbursements.  Director Perry-Manning noted that the amount requested from the state is significantly less than the federal grant amount.

Shocking Find: Delaware DOE Reorganization Memo

After their first budget hearing with the Joint Finance Committee, the Delaware Department of Education knew it had to make some changes.  To that effect, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky crafted a memo to the Department employees.  I was able to get my hands on this over two-month old memo that has been shrouded in secrecy until today!  This isn’t something you can just find on the DOE website.  It doesn’t exist there.  It doesn’t exist anywhere on the internet.  Until now…

Since this memo came out, more DOE employees have left the organization.  Just this month, three major employees left the Department.  Atnre Alleyne, formerly with the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit left. Michelle Whelan from the Charter School Office got a job over at the Attorney General’s Office.  And Brian Curtis, once with the Accountability area and most recently with the TLEU, attained a position as the Principal at Kirk Middle School in the Christina School District.  These are three long-time DOE employees, there since Race To The Top.  Out of the three, Whelan’s position is the only one that will be replaced.

I could tell you how I got my hands on this document.  But then I would have to…

 

Special Education Front & Center In Budget Talks With DOE

DelawareJFC

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee grilled Secretary Godowsky yesterday about the dramatic rise in special education numbers this year.  The News Journal, Delaware Public Media and Delaware State News covered the hearing with very different takes on the events of the day.  All of them cited the increase this year of 848 students classified as special education.

Delaware State News provided the quote of the year from Senator Harris McDowell:

A large portion of the dialogue centered on enrollment figures, with committee members questioning the discrepancy between predicted and actual growth and the JFC chairman referring to the funding formula as “‘Harry Potter’ calculus.”

Both legislators and DOE officials seem to be perplexed at the rapid rise in special education students and don’t know how to figure this out.

“We’ve really been in the position of, is this a bubble, is this a one-time or two-time increase in special education enrollment that’s driving that growth?” said department finance director Kim Wheatley.

The News Journal had a different take on the matter:

Department officials and several lawmakers said much of that increase was likely due to the state’s recent efforts to better screen students to catch disabilities and learning differences. Godowsky said the department was working with the University of Delaware to study the state’s population and see if the increase could be a long-term trend.

But Delaware Public Media offered more insight into Godowsky’s thoughts on the issue:

“It’s the unknown factor of students identified as ‘exceptional’ and are eligible for special education services. So that’s the variable that we haven’t really been able to tap exactly,” Godowsky said.

But the shell shock award of the day definitely goes to Delaware Public Media:

Many parents of kids with learning differences choose to move to Delaware because of the state’s quality special education, Dr. Godowsky said.

Are you kidding me?  Really?  Quality special education.  That is a complete lie.  When I talk about special education with people from different states they laugh and tell me how horrible Delaware is in comparison to other states.  For a state listed as needing intervention three out of the past five years this is a complete joke.  This is not a knock against our teachers, but a complete slam on the DOE who seems to think special education’s sole purpose is to bring up test scores.  Meanwhile, our bloated classrooms, some with well over 30 students and one teacher in some districts are suffering immensely.  If Delaware had quality special education this blog would not exist.

I’ve told people for going on two years now that special education numbers are too low in Delaware.  Many of the increases this year are coming from the charter sector of Delaware public education.  Now that accountability is really kicking in I’m not surprised the charters are waking up to this fact.  Now that their schools are on the line just as much as traditional school districts are, their excuses with low special education numbers just don’t cut it any more.  While this is not all charters, there are certain ones who have insanely small special education populations that do not match any realistic demographics in the state.  The vo-techs aren’t much better in some respects.  There could be other factors at play here as well.

We all know Delaware has some major pollution issues.  There have been concerns about chemical waste and toxins for years.  Delaware Senator Greg Lavelle wants Delaware’s water tested to make sure we aren’t having issues like the crisis in Flint, Michigan.  My son has Tourette Syndrome and it is a mystery about how children develop the disability.  The disability is not present in any of his relatives on both sides, nor was it in past generations.  I have questioned the origin of my son’s disability.

In 2006, a company called Reichhold in Cheswold had a chemical leak.  A railroad car released a chemical called styrene which is used in plastics.  The smell of the chemical was felt up to five miles away from the now closed plant.  My house is a little over a mile away from the now closed chemical plant.  My wife and son were home on that summer day, with all the windows open.  He was two when this happened.  Twenty people went to the hospital.  Route 1 closed down in that area for most of the day.  Everyone within the five-mile radius of the plant was told to stay indoors.  In my neighborhood, every single child I knew that was home that day has some type of disability that was not present before the leak.  I actually contacted Erin Brokovich about this a few years ago but I never received a response from her.  I don’t think it is a coincidence events like this occur and we see a rise in children with disabilities.  While Delaware didn’t see an immediate health danger to citizens in the area, we don’t know what long-term effects these unstable chemicals can do to developing minds in children.

Yesterday, State Rep. Kim Williams attended the JFC hearing with the DOE and after hearing the special education numbers, she tweeted an astonishing figure that none of the major media covered:

That is a lot of unfunded special education!  3rd grade is also the first year students take the Smarter Balanced Assessment folks.  I wrote in great detail about the 2015-2016 September 30th enrollment numbers back in November.  Delaware charter schools special education numbers rose nearly 15% on average while traditional school districts rose 4.4%.  At that time, 2,467 students in Delaware who have IEPs received no additional funding for the simple fact they are considered basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  This is a travesty.  William’s House Bill 30 would take care of this issue but nobody seems eager to make sure it passes aside from a handful of legislators.  Meanwhile, Governor Markell wants to boost early education by over $11 million dollars.  While funds would go to daycare centers, the discussion at the JFC hearing also talked about funds going to “coaches” to train the daycare center providers.  How much of that money will go towards these “coaches” and who are they?  The DOE and Governor Markell stress the need for this and the General Assembly seems to be accepting everything involved with it at face value.  I fear this is just another money grab by companies wanting to profit off children and an all-too-willing DOE and Governor who put money before children in their priorities.

When is our General Assembly going to stop blindly believing all the DOE and Markell have to say about how to “fix” education?  While Godowsky has certainly made some good staff changes at the DOE, it is merely window dressing to the true problems with the DOE and State Board of Education.  Those who suffer the most are the nearly 20,000 special education students in Delaware who do not have the funding, resources, and support they so desperately need.  But we have no problem sending millions upon millions of dollars to outside companies who come up with their mythical reports and their ridiculous high-stakes tests which tell us nothing we don’t already know.

Delaware’s Moral Imperative: My Email To The JFC, DOE, State Board, WEIC, & Governor Markell

SpecialEducation

Today, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee is meeting with the Delaware Department of Education to discuss proposed changes in the DOE’s budget for Fiscal Year 2017.  This hearing will allow the DOE to answer questions about the funding increases they are requesting.  One of the hot issues is the $6 million allocated in Governor Markell’s budget for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan for the students of Wilmington.  I had very strong thoughts about this last weekend and a response from a member of WEIC prompted another article on the matter.

At the heart of this is the basic special education funding for Delaware students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Currently, students in Delaware do not receive any additional funding if they qualify as basic special education in K-3.  Within a month of starting this blog, I wrote about this eye of the hurricane in Delaware special education and broke down the categories for the funding for these services:

Basic Special Education units are determined by eligibility of special education for students in grades 4-12 and they must not be considered intensive or complex. Students in this group receive one unit for every 8.4 students.

Intensive units are based on a need of a moderate level of instruction. This can be for any student with an IEP from Pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade. As well, there must be supports for health, behavior or personal issues. The student must have an adult facilitating these supports with a ratio of 1:3 to 1:8 for most of their education. The student must be in the mid-range for use of assistive technology and also need support in the areas of a school nurse, an interpreter, an occupational therapist, or other health services. These students would also qualify for extended year services (ESY), and may have to utilize services outside of the school such as homebound instruction or hospital services. On their IEP, these students may have accommodations outside the norm, which should include adaptations to curriculum to best support their needs. Schools here get one unit for every 6 students.

Complex Special Education units are determined by severe situations that require a student to adult ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. Most autistic children should fall into this category. They must receive a high level of instructional, behavioral, personal and health supports. Assistive technology needs to be utilized at an increased level for these students. ESY is a must, as well as a high level of homebound instruction or hospital services, interpreters, occupational therapists, or services from the school nurse. Unit funding is provided as one unit for every 2.6 students.

Today, I emailed all the members of the Delaware Joint Finance Committee, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Maryann Mieczkowski (the director of the Exceptional Children’s Resources Group at the DOE), Delaware Controller General Michael Morton, Elizabeth Lewis (oversees education funding with the Delaware Office of Management and Budget), State Rep. Kim Williams (the sponsor of House Bill 30 which would give this funding), State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Executive Director of the State Board Donna Johnson, and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s core leadership team: Dr. Tony Allen, Dr. Dan Rich, Kenny Rivera, and Elizabeth Lockman. I addressed the need for basic special education funding for ALL Delaware students in K-3:

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Smith Melanie G (LegHall) <melanie.g.smith@state.de.us>; McDowell Harris (LegHall) <harris.mcdowell@state.de.us>; Bushweller Brian <brian.bushweller@state.de.us>; Ennis Bruce <bruce.ennis@state.de.us>; Peterson Karen (LegHall) <karen.peterson@state.de.us>; Cloutier Catherine <catherine.cloutier@state.de.us>; Lawson Dave (LegHall) <dave.lawson@state.de.us>; Carson William (LegHall) <william.carson@state.de.us>; Heffernan Debra (LegHall) <debra.heffernan@state.de.us>; Johnson JJ <jj.johnson@state.de.us>; Miro Joseph <joseph.miro@state.de.us>; Kenton Harvey (LegHall) <harvey.kenton@state.de.us>; “jack.markell@state.de.us” <jack.markell@state.de.us>; “michael.morton@state.de.us” <michael.morton@state.de.us>; “elizabeth.lewis@state.de.us” <elizabeth.lewis@state.de.us>; Williams Kimberly (LegHall) <kimberly.williams@state.de.us>; Tony Allen <tony.allen@bankofamerica.com>; Daniel Rich <drich@udel.edu>; Kenny Rivera <kenneth.rivera@redclay.k12.de.us>; Elizabeth Lockman <tizlock@gmail.com>; Godowsky Steven (K12) <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Mieczkowski MaryAnn <maryann.mieczkowski@doe.k12.de.us>; Johnson Donna R. <donna.johnson@doe.k12.de.us>; Gray Teri <teri.gray@sbe.k12.de.us>
Sent:
Wednesday, February 17, 2016 11:20 AM
Subject:
Basic Special Education Funding for Kindergarten to 3rd Grade students in Delaware

Good morning all,

Some of you may know me, but for those who don’t, I am a concerned parent of a special needs child in Delaware.  He was denied an Individualized Education Program in 3rd grade at a Delaware charter school even though he fully qualified for it. 

As a result of this event, I set out to look into Delaware education and all facets surrounding it, which led to the creation of my blog, Exceptional Delaware.  One of the first things I discovered was that students who qualify for basic special education do not receive funding for this in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Students in 4th to 12th grade do.  As a result of this, many students in these grades are denied IEPs all over our state.  Many times this results in special education lawsuits filed against school districts and charter schools.  I firmly believe this also sets up these children with disabilities for failure.  By not getting the funding they are entitled to at a state level, this results in the local education agency bearing the brunt of these costs.  The federal IDEA funding has never been at the level that it was originally intended for. 

There are current plans in the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan for Wilmington students to grant Red Clay Consolidated School District the basic special education funds for students in K-3 in FY 2017.  This would also include the current Christina students enrolled in Wilmington schools should the redistricting plan pass the State Board of Education and the 148th General Assembly.  In FY2018, this funding would be provided to the entire Christina School District, and in FY2019 to Colonial, Brandywine, and the Wilmington charter schools.  While the plan doesn’t specifically give a timeframe for the rest of the state, the commission does urge our state to provide these funds as soon as possible for all of Delaware.

I have grave issues with this as all students in this category should be entitled to these funds.  While I am vehemently against the use of standardized test scores to determine school accountability levels, by the very nature of these plans it would set up some schools to do better than others in Delaware.  In the Delaware Department of Education’s goals submitted to the US Department of Education for their ESEA Flexibility waiver, the DOE had growth goals for Delaware.  For students with disabilities, they want them to go from 19% proficiency from FY 2015 to 59% proficiency in FY 2021.  By giving certain schools and districts this funding, it sets up a disproportionate funding mechanism that benefits some over others.

There are other concerns with this as well.  If a 1st grade student should happen to transfer from Red Clay to Indian River, would that basic special education funding follow them? 

As a parent of a special needs child, I find this lack of funding for students who are at the foundation of their education experience to be highly disturbing.  The current budget plans call for a huge influx of funding for early education, in the hopes of preventing rising costs for special education.  What I find to be not included in this conversation is the fact that disabilities in children are neurological.  I’m not saying they can’t be accommodated for a better educational outcome, but why would we give all this money to early education centers and then leave these students out to dry when they are brought into elementary school?  It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.  While I certainly appreciate the needs of Wilmington students, I feel it is funding that should be available for all students in Delaware.  Special education is a federal mandate if a student qualifies.  By not providing the necessary state funding, we are failing these children.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of districts not providing services, even with an approved IEP.  While no school or district will ever come out and say it, it is because of a lack of funding in most cases. 

For any student who has gone through special education in Delaware at this age, the results are very cumbersome and painful for the student and their parents or guardians.  Parents are forced to fight a system where, in many cases, they are branded as a difficulty.  Students are disciplined based on behaviors that are neurologically based, and because they don’t have an IEP, it results in severe problems for the student as they grow.  Many students who are denied IEPs and don’t receive these services can and do fall into the complex and intensive special education categories later on because these services were not provided at an earlier age.  This happened with my own child.

I urge the Joint Finance Committee to provide the basic special education funding for ALL K-3 students in Delaware.  This isn’t really an option, but a basic civil rights issue that separates Delaware from many other states.  It is their federal right to receive a “Free Appropriate Public Education”.  By forcing districts and charters to sign an IEP indicating they will make sure the district has adequate funding to provide special education services is not proportionate to the state funding provided for students in all grades.  As well, by providing this funding for some but not all, it could certainly put the state into a precarious legal position should parents collectively band together to address this issue.

Currently, House Bill 30, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams is in the Appropriations Committee of the General Assembly where it has been since March 26th of last year.  I would urge the JFC to allow the funding for this legislation to be provided in the Delaware FY 2017 budget so these children can get the services Delaware has a moral imperative to provide.

If anyone has any questions or concerns surround this issue, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

I sent this out a couple of hours ago and have not received a response from anyone.  Which is fine, but I sincerely hope it will be brought up in their discussions today with the Department of Education.  If it is, I am fairly certain the DOE will bring up what is known as Response to Intervention (RTI) and how this is a very useful tool for schools to identify students who may qualify for special education services.  This is one of the biggest fallacies in American education and does not cover many areas that could qualify a child for special education.  It is a failed experiment that, at best, causes delays of several years before a child can get an IEP and the full special education services they need.  Special education calls for the least restrictive environment.  Why would the State of Delaware restrict the funding these children need to receive FAPE and the least restrictive environment?  This is our moral imperative in Delaware.

 
 

Joint Finance Committee To Do A Top-Down Look At DOE Organization & Salaries This Morning

The Joint Finance Committee of the Delaware 148th General Assembly is meeting today for their Winter Meeting.

Orientation on the Department of Education Compensation System and Organizational Structure • Programmatic review of the Department of Education’s operating budget • Presentation by Secretary Godowsky on DOE employees/titles/salaries/duties and measures of employee effectiveness. The Joint Finance Committee may hold an executive session closed to the public for the purpose of discussing personnel matters in which the names, competency, and abilities of individual employees are discussed under 29 Del. C. § 10004(b)(9).

While meetings like this are not unusual each year, this one will have added weight to it this year due to events that have occurred in the past few months.

The Race To The Top employee positions that were supposed to be eliminated when the program expired remain at the DOE.  Another section of the state budget for the DOE was carved out for these eight positions.  When State Rep. John Kowalko found out about this he was furious, as were many other state legislators.

This is Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky’s first presentation of this sort to the Joint Finance Committee.  Last week he presented the DOE’s proposed budget where he asked for an increase of $87 million dollars.  The Joint Finance Committee will assuredly have many probing questions about the DOE’s intent and purpose for those funds.

Secretary Godowsky was confirmed by the Delaware Senate in October.  The week before he assured Delawareans that “harsh opt-out penalties” wouldn’t rule the day on the state’s new school accountability system.  He reversed that decision in record time ticking off many legislators, parents, teachers, administrators, and citizens in the process.

Following in Mark Murphy’s footsteps has to be a daunting task, but Godowsky’s continued proclamations of communicating better and improving the perception of the DOE has been built on empty promises thus far.  In a recent poll conducted by this blog, almost 35% viewed Godowsky’s first 60 days as okay.  Over 53% did not approve of his actions in his first 60 days.  Only 11% saw him doing a great job. While this is not an accurate assessment of Godowsky due to the nature of the readers on this blog, it does give an indication of overall dissatisfaction in his abilities as Secretary of Education.