Governor Markell Issues Executive Order To Create Delaware Open Data Portal

MarkellTransparency

Yesterday, Delaware Governor Jack Markell issued Executive Order #57 to make state data more transparent and available to the public.  The Delaware Open Data Council, consisting of the Secretaries of the Delaware’s State Agencies, will make recommendations for what kind of data will be available on this new portal available to the public.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, or his representative, will serve on this council.  These are the kinds of documents I would like to see on this Open Data Portal:

  1. All Delaware Department of Education vendors, contracts, change orders, and funds sent to the vendor.  This would include any and all companies the DOE sends funds to that may not necessarily have a contract, such as The Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  All testing contracts should definitely be on this Open Data Portal.
  2. All documents, including emails, sent to or received from the United States Department of Education.  This would include any ESEA documents.
  3. Any document pertaining to the outflow of student data to any State agency or outside company.
  4. All district and charter school bullying and discipline reports, regardless of the controversial n#.
  5. All DOE and State Board of Education documents, including appendices, going back to the creation of the Department of Education.
  6. Any and all emails, meetings, and documents coming to or from the Delaware Governor’s office in regards to education.

I’m sure I can think of more, but this is just a start.

A few months ago, Delaware came in 49th place in a ranking of Open Government and the ability of states to be transparent.  Markell himself got quite a bit of heat after the disclosure of his private email, the infamous Alan Jackson account.  Delaware citizens should not have to submit FOIAs at their own time and expense to get information that should be readily available to the public.

I also think the General Assembly should have representation on the Open Data Council.  While the House Education Committee is very good about posting minutes of their meetings, the Senate Education Committee doesn’t do it at all.  The public has a right to see this information.

To read Markell’s Executive Order, please see below.

Opt-Out Haters Of Delaware: Who is Senator David Sokola And How Has He Damaged Public Education For A Quarter Of A Century?

Delaware Senator David Sokola certainly had his moments with parents this legislative session, myself included.  After a tumultuous four and a half months in the General Assembly, House Bill 50 eventually passed.  Yesterday, Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill to the amazement and anger of, well, Delaware.  But the fallout from that one bill may echo into the second part of the 148th General Assembly as a potential veto override could take place as early as January, or barring some miracle where the General Assembly agrees to come back in special session between now and then.  While State Rep. Earl Jaques was certainly the biggest obstacle in the House of Representatives, Senator Sokola was clearly the largest obstacle of the bill as a whole.

I wondered why a State Senator who is the chair of the Senate Education Committee would oppose legislation that would codify the rights of parents to opt their child out of harmful testing.  I did some research on Sokola, and found his legislator history is filled with controversial education bills.  Over the last twenty-five years, he has served as a State Senator in the First State.

In 1995, Sokola was instrumental in getting the original charter school bill, Senate Bill 200, passed.  When Newark Charter School opened, Sokola was a board member and helped create the school.  According to Kilroy’s Delaware, Senator Sokola sponsored legislation in 2002 that repealed the law surrounding the impact of new charters on other schools in the area.  This led to Kilroy blasting the Senator in 2013 when he wrote a letter of recommendation for the never-opened Pike Creek Charter School, which was within his own district.  Last year though, legislation sponsored by Sokola brought this law back into place with Senate Bill 209.

In another article, Kilroy slammed Sokola for creating the DSTP in Delaware.  The DSTP was the state standardized assessment prior to DCAS, and was widely considered to be just as damaging as the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

“Many forget or might not know Senator Sokola is the godfather of DSTP the former standardized student test that was flawed from day(one)! Remember those 3-tiered diplomas grading student(s) based on one test like sides of beef in the supermarket.”

In fact, Sokola was opposed to DCAS and wanted another kind of standardized assessment in Delaware, but he was not granted his wish, and Delaware received the kinder and friendlier DCAS.  But last year, Sokola was the Senate sponsor for the very controversial House Bill 334, which brought the Smarter Balanced Assessment into Delaware State Code.  It would stand to reason he would oppose a measure whereby the state recognized and honored a parent’s right to opt out of a state assessment he sponsored legislation for.

In 2013, Sokola co-sponsored a bill to update the original Senate Bill 200 charter school law.  This one brought out a lot of fighting in Delaware and helped set up some of the current animosity against the Delaware Charter School Network.  House Bill 165 went through more amendments that were defeated or stricken than any bill in recent memory.  It set up the whole transportation slush fund and the annual charter school performance award.  The bill went through in a little less than a month with local school districts even more afraid of the impact a slew of charter schools would have on their enrollment and funding.  Side deals occurred like crazy, and the blogger Kavips gave a list of the reasons why House Bill 165 was a very bad bill.

Another Sokola sponsored legislation caused the current wave of teacher resentment against the DOE with Senate Bill 51.  This very controversial bill created the harsher evaluations currently used against Delaware educators.  While the educators have received a two-year pass from the Smarter Balanced Assessment impacting their evaluations, there is plenty in this bill that ticked teachers off.  And John Young with Transparent Christina warned citizens of Delaware:

“So, we have a group of legislators who have signed on, including my own Senator. But why? Well, I can only guess because it sounds so good and intuitive and simple and pure. All of which, when you are talking education should make your spine crawl.”

His latest offering to Delaware, signed by Markell yesterday, is Senate Joint Resolution #2.  Like most Sokola offerings, this bill looks really great on the surface, but it is injected with a poison.  SJR #2 is a convening of a group to look at district and state assessments and pick out which ones are good and which ones are bad.  Kids are over-tested, sure.  But this bill all but guarantees the further implementation of Common Core as assessments will be picked that are aligned with the state standards.  This will give districts less autonomy in figuring out what struggles students are having and how they can help them.  SJR #2 is filled with controversy.  Shana Young with the DOE sent out an email in early May fully stating this bill was designed to be a counter to the parent opt-out bill, House Bill 50.  When I submitted a FOIA for this email, the DOE claimed it never existed even though I have seen it with my own two eyes.

During the Senate Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50, Sokola graciously allowed the opponents of House Bill 50 all the time they wanted for public comment, but stopped the supporters short and towards the end would interrupt them.  He then introduced an amendment to House Bill 50 when it came up for a Senate vote all but guaranteeing it would kick the bill back to the House of Representatives for another vote.  It did just that, and another amendment put on the bill by Senator Bryan Towsend almost killed the bill, but common sense prevailed and Townsend’s amendment was shot down after a 2nd vote.

I am sure Sokola is presently making the rounds about an override of House Bill 50.  It would need a 3/5ths vote in both houses to pass, and I have no doubt Sokola and his counterpart but not so smart buddy in the House Earl Jaques are making the calls as I write this.

A pattern begins to form with Senator Sokola’s greatest hits.  Rigorous testing, more charter schools and autonomy for them that they clearly don’t deserve, and what many view as unfair accountability for teachers.  Sokola has gone on record as recently as last month in saying we need to compete with other countries with standardized assessments, but he seems to forget that was the argument two years ago for Common Core.  It is very hard for me to trust any legislation introduced by Senator David Sokola when it comes to education, cause something always seems to come back to bite public schools and educators in the ass, with the exception of his beloved charter schools.   He has used his position and created multiple conflicts of interest but the Delaware Senate looks the other way.  Just like the Delaware Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education seem to want.  In a sense, Sokola could be directly blamed for the current status of segregation in Wilmington with his original charter school legislation and his demands for rigorous standardized testing that has done more damage to schools than anything Governor Markell could ever hope to do.  He will pretend to stand up for black students, but his actions speak otherwise.

Senator Sokola is up for re-election in 2016.  Will he run again, or does he possibly have something else lined up now that he has retired from DuPont?  Rumors circulate, but at this time they are just that.  Will he fade into oblivion or end up running some huge charter management company in Wilmington?  Or will someone finally hold this man accountable for his actions?

Delaware Education Legislation That Should Have Passed In The 148th General Assembly

I wrote earlier today about education legislation that passed the other day and went to Governor Markell for signature, veto, or no action.  To date, Governor Markell has never vetoed any education bill that has come before him.  But some legislation never gets there.  The following are bills that had tremendous merit, but for various reasons either never got heard in committee, were never voted on, never went to the other side (House or Senate), or were stricken.  Others are bills I’m going to label as very controversial and have danger flags all over them.  I’m not going to list them all, but the most important ones.

House Bill #28 Status: House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: Absent an agreement with the school district, charter schools are currently able to retain any funding received for the fiscal year for a student who transfers mid-year from the charter school to a school district. This bill mandates that, if a student transfers from a charter school to a school district after September 30th, such funds will be prorated between the charter school and the school district where the student is then enrolled.  

What Happened: This is the first of the many Kim Williams education bills she introduced this year.  While she has quite a few on this list, a lot of her bills passed.  She really took off, right from the very beginning of this year’s session, to get education bills out there to correct a lot of the injustices set up in the budget and with the way the DOE runs things.  Unfortunately, with the heavy-handed pro-education reform Governor Markell and his minions at the DOE, along with Rep. Earl Jaques as head of the education committee, bills like this are hard to be heard along with the stiff lobbying from the Delaware Charter Schools Network.

Prediction: State Auditor reports come out showing more charter financial mismanagement, the state desperately looking for any available funds for the budget, and Jaques either stripped of chairmanship power on the education committee or knocked down a peg or two from Schwartzkopf in the coming days of elections, and this one will pass.  The charter party in Delaware is going to get crashed, and it will change the entire landscape they are used to living in.  It wouldn’t shock me if amendment were added stripping charters from their transportation slush fund where they get to keep their excess funds from their transportation budget.  It will get strong opposition from the Republicans, but even some of them will realize the public will remember that come vote time!

House Bill #30 Status: sent to Appropriations Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.

What Happened: The budget.  This bill has a $7.5 million fiscal note.  The sad part is these students should have always been provided this funding from the get-go.  Unfortunately, this bill will be one of those that will rise or fall based on the budget next year.

Prediction: The IEP Task Force will reconvene, and in conjunction with House Bill 117, the Wilmington redistricting push, and the Senate Resolution group looking at funding, as well as IMMENSE pressure from this blog, it could pass.  Special education is about to become a huge topic in Delaware, bigger than at any time before.  Trust me on this!

House Bill #34 Status: sent to Senate Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, synopsis: This bill will allow a local school district board to delay new or changed rules, regulations, or administrative procedures from becoming effective during a school year once the school year has started. This will allow the rules, regulations, and procedures to be consistent for the whole school year.

What Happened: this bill, which I loved when it was introduced back in January, just passed the House on the last day of session.  It is a good solid bill which will prevent the DOE from sneaking in regulations during the summer forcing schools to submit to them without any guidance or support once they come back in August.

Prediction: It will pass the Senate, but not right away.  Spiegelman, as a young Republican in the House, wants to show some muscle.  In the Democrat controlled House and Senate, this can be dangerous.  They will not give him what he wants all the time, but they will give him lots of carrots.

House Bill #52 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: Under current educational standards, cursive writing is no longer required to be taught to our students, and many schools have abandoned teaching it to their students. As cursive writing is still an imperative skill in many professions, this bill will make the teaching of cursive writing a requirement for all public schools in Delaware.

What happened: not a lot.  It was released from the education committee.  It had so-so public support, but not a lot.  Both sides had pros and cons on the issue.

Prediction: If the House has a really slow day and Schwartzkopf is in a good mood, it might get to a vote.  I wouldn’t bet on it though.

House Bill #61 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes.
Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites.
The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.

What Happened: Pete Schwartzkopf.  I’m guessing the Speaker of the House really hate this bill, cause this is the third year in a row it came out of committee and sat on the ready list.  Also known as the Kilroy’s bill, the charters have fought against it by crying over the “expenses”, but it really isn’t an expensive venture.

Prediction: This will depend on charter school behavior between now and next year.  If the State Auditor finds more bad financial behavior, this could cause Schwartzokpf to finally put it to a vote.  I think it will pass with strong Democrat support, but like House Bill 186, the Republicans will shoot it down because of their strange obsession with charters.  It will pass under this circumstance.  And we can’t forget the Kilroy effect on this bill.  He is very pissed about the treatment of this bill.  He could drum up a lot of public support for this bill, and I will be happy to help him.

House Bill #107 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill articulates the principle that local school districts and school boards should have the authority to select their own leaders and staff from a pool of qualified applicants. These are decisions best left at the local level rather than imposed by a central authority.

What happened: This bill was a reaction to the DOE and Markell’s priority schools initiative, where six schools were told by the DOE they will get new leaders because of their bad standardized test scores.  The whole priority school controversy died down quick after the WEAC recommendations, but they are still out there.  Red Clay negotiated against the new leaders and won.  Christina is up in the air due to the whole redistricting legislation, Senate Bill #122.

Prediction: This won’t go anywhere, unless the DOE pulls a priority schools sneak attack in the fall causing the dormant issue to rise again.  Then this bill has a fighting change.

House Bill #108 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill requires that the General Assembly approve any ESEA Flexibility waiver prior to its submission to the U.S. Department of Education.

What happened: Too many bills like this, designed to give the General Assembly more control over the out of control DOE.  With the House Education Committee led by the very-friendly-with-DOE-and-probably-too-much Rep. Earl Jaques, it was never put on the agenda.

Prediction: It will depend on Jaques retaining his chair on the committee.  With numerous issues over House Bill 50 and House Bill 186, it would not shock me if Jaques had a conversation with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf.  This will also depend on DOE behavior regarding their current ESEA waiver application and next year’s as well.  Another curve ball could come in the form of ESEA reauthorization at a Federal level which would render this bill meaningless if waivers are done away with.

House Bill #117 Status: assigned to House Appropriations committee,  Sponsor: Rep. Deb Heffernan, synopsis: This Act will create a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income according to the Department of Education. This funding source will be in addition to the normal enrollment based funding provided to school districts and charter schools. The low-income unit will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12 where the funding can be used for such purposes as providing additional teachers and paraprofessionals for classroom instruction; additional counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and intervention specialists; Response to Intervention Services; and before and after school programs providing homework assistance, and for support for English language learners. To ensure the low-income resources reach the schools where they are most needed, this Act requires that at least 98% of the units be directed towards the schools that generate the funding unless otherwise waived by a local board of education during a public meeting. 

What Happened: The budget.  Another bill with a fiscal note during very tight budget negotiations.  With the already passed Senate Resolution to look at funding in schools, and the strong push from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, this bill will be on a fast track in 2016.

Prediction: How much money will we have?  They are already projecting a $160 million deficit in Delaware next year.  Unless revenue starts pouring in, this bill could die on the fiscal vine.

House Bill #161 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE ESTABLISHING THE PARENT EMPOWERMENT EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT ACT.

What happened: This one was dead on arrival.  The whole idea of vouchers, which is exactly what these are, is a Republican idea.  In Dover, the Democrats rule and have for many years.  Democrats, the DSEA, and even Governor Markell are dead set against any type of voucher plan.

Prediction: if this even makes it to the House Education Committee, it will be shot down very fast.  And with states like Nevada ruling voucher programs unconstitutional, and Colorado giving a state ruling against them, any potential support for vouchers will quickly fade.  With the upcoming election year, the very thought of vouchers will be brought up by many Republicans, but it is a toxic subject opposed by many.  If you want to see how a voucher system can bring an entire country’s education system to it’s knees, just look at Sweden.

House Bill 173 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsors: Rep. Richard Collins and Senator Greg Lavelle, synopsis: The Department of Education often implements policies and educational requirements based upon directives issued by the United States Department of Education. This Bill will require that any directive received by the Department of Education from the Federal Government be automatically disclosed on the Department of Education website without the necessity for making a Freedom of Information Request. 

What Happened: Nothing.  It was introduced on 6/10/15, late in the session, by two Republicans.  However, given the shenanigans with the DOE and the many issues legislators conveyed with the DOE this year, this should have been a no-brainer.

Prediction: Up in the air.  There are other bills like this, demanding more transparency and stringent rules for the DOE and State Board.  Can all of them get passed?  It will really depend on how the DOE, Secretary Murphy, and the State Board “play” in the next year.  But this would lend transparency to the DOE, and I can see them wanting this to give the illusion…

House Bill 186 Status: Passed by House of Representatives, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis of bill: Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.

What happened: In four words, Delaware Charter Schools Network.  They openly lobbied against the bill, even setting up an email your legislator campaign on their website which several charter schools reached out to parents about.  Meanwhile, charter schools from Dover to Wilmington had allegations and reports coming out regarding financial abuse by school leaders.  This bill rolled the previous Williams sponsored House Bills #53 and 154 into one.

Prediction: more reports will come out from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office regarding other charter schools under investigation.  DCSN will lobby even harder, but transparency and financial controls will rule the day. Once again, the charter party is coming to an end in 2016. Remember this.  I’m not saying they will disappear, far from it.  But they will be held to higher financial and organizational standards.

Senate Bill #72 Status: on ready list for Senate, Sponsor: Senator Bryan Townsend, synopsis: This bill increases the teaching and administrative experience qualifications for the Secretary of Education from 5 years to 10 years. The Bill also clarifies that at least 6 years must be of teaching experience and at least 2 years must be of administrative experience. 

What Happened: This bill came out around the same time the Delaware State Educators Association and their local organizations in Christina and Red Clay publicly denounced Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with their vote of no confidence.  It immediately became a must-read article for newspapers and bloggers.  Shortly thereafter, the Delaware Association of School Administrators issued the same decree.

Prediction: This one is tough.  While there is certainly not a lot of love for Murphy in Legislative Hall (and in much of Delaware), he does have some things going for him.  This past Monday it was announced he was joining the board of the Council for Chief State School Officers.  This give him even more federal protection under US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s gaze.  Rep. Earl Jaques is the DOE’s House boy, so he may not put it on the agenda for the education committee.  As well, he is the perfect patsy for Governor Markell who runs the show.  Murphy does not bend for anyone if it contradicts one of Markell’s education policies.  While I think this is the funniest bill out there, it could set up an even worse situation if it passes.  Imagine a Secretary with the same  mindset as Murphy but more qualified.  Someone with charisma and public appeal.  That could be more dangerous than Murphy could ever be.  Unless Murphy does something colossally stupid over the next year, he isn’t going anywhere.  No matter what passes, Markell will never sign this bill.

Senate Bills #92 & 93 Status: on ready list for Senate vote, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose-Henry, synopsis for SB92: Delaware Code Title 14§1332 addresses the Program for Children with Autism and its “Special Staff.” Enacted nearly three decades ago, these regulations established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. In addition, the code designates a Statewide Director who primarily has provided direction, training, and technical assistance within the DAP. However, current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education and parents’ desire to have their children educated within their local communities, seem to be incongruent with this older model of service delivery. In addition, the magnitude of the increase in students identified with ASD has clearly created difficulty for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services/support that once was offered.
Therefore, the recommended code changes also revise the concept of DAP toward a system in which the Statewide Director would work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. This recommendation reconstitutes the regulations to neutralize the distinction between DAP approved programs and other in-district options, thereby, allowing and providing adequate resources to serve on behalf of all student with ASD in Delaware. The number of technical/ training experts has been identified as one expert per 100 students statewide. It is suggested that the fiscal mechanism to support these changes should be through mandated district participation that is congruent with the current needs based funding system in Delaware. Lastly, the current mandatory committee structure is enhanced to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review board.
These changes include articulation of the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director for Students with ASD; the addition of a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions); and the further clarification / additions to the committee structure for family input, monitoring, and protections under human rights. This recommendation recognizes and supports the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes essentially expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students within them.
, synopsis for SB93: This bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism.  Among other things, the Interagency Committee on Autism is charged with a) utilizing evidence-based practices and programs to improve outcomes for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in Delaware by sharing information, initiatives, data and communications among both public and private agencies providing services and supports for individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in the State of Delaware; and b) implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2013 Delaware Strategic Plan entitled “Blueprint for Collective Action: Final Report of the Delaware Strategic Plan to Improve Services and Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism is to provide a resource for training and technical assistance for Delaware state agencies, organizations and other private entities operating in the State of Delaware that provide services and support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The Network is to support the operations of the Interagency Committee on Autism through the maintenance of the website, maintenance of reports created by the Interagency Committee on Autism and maintenance of meeting minutes, as well as other support as needed by the Interagency Committee on Autism.

What Happened: The budget.  This is one of those crucial bills dealing with a fast-rising population of children and adults with Autism.  This bill will cost a lot of money.   With the budget issues at the end of the session, there was no way this was going to get to a vote.

Prediction: If you thought the opt-out parents were vocal, the General Assembly may want to prepare for these parents.  The Delaware Autism Program is running out of money.  States are obligated under Federal law to provide services.  Cuts will have to be made in the budget to make room for this.  Taxes will increase after the 148th General Assembly closes shop, this is a given.  These bills have to pass.  This is one of the biggest health issues of the future, and if we don’t get control over it now, it will jeopardize thousands and thousands of children and adults with Autism.  If you think we spend a lot of money on residential treatment centers now, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the future. Anyone who votes no on this bill will instantly be seen as the state pariah and will be voted out of office. This bill will pass, but the cost will be enormous, and sacrifices will need to be made.

Senate Bill #137 Status: on Senate ready list, Sponsore: Senator Harris McDowell, synopsis: Delaware’s Community College System plays a critical role in the State’s economy by providing workforce development and transfer education that connects Delawareans with good paying jobs within the State and region. This Act gives the College’s Board of Trustees the authority to issue bonds to finance the cost of major and minor capital improvements, deferred maintenance, and the acquisition of related equipment and educational technology associated therewith and establishes the Community College Infrastructure Fund to pay the principal and interest on such bonds. This Act adopts the county vo-tech structure to finance the Fund by authorizing the College’s Board of Trustees to collect a local property tax subject to a cap.

What Happened: it didn’t get heard by the Senate Education Committee until the last week of committee meetings.  Too many other bills demanding to get a vote, got lost in the shuffle.

Prediction: this is one of those what I like to call “sneaky bills” where it gets passed, and all of a sudden citizens start wondering “Why did my taxes go up and I’m paying for community colleges?”  If this passed by June 30th, it wouldn’t have survived the House.  But in 2016, anything can happen with the budget.  This could either get a lot of support or it will die quickly.

Senate Bill #161 Status: Senate Education Committee, sponsor: Senator Gerald Hocker, synopsis: This Act requires public schools to begin their school year after Labor Day. There have been many economic impact reports done that show a positive impact from starting public schools after Labor Day. A report by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association estimates that $369 million would be lost if schools were not required to start after Labor Day. This includes $104 million in wages and $21 million in state and local taxes. Maryland is considering similar legislation. A study of Maryland found that pushing the start of school back would generate $74.3 million in economic activity and $7.7 million in new state and local tax revenue.

What Happened: Introduced on the second to last day of the session, this bill was destined to go nowhere by June 30th.

Prediction: This is another one of those downstate bills that aren’t popular in Newcastle and Kent.  This one goes nowhere.  Even if it saved the state money, the effect wouldn’t be seen to balance the budget by 6/30/16.

A lot of these bills will depend on the budget.  This is the reality.

Smyrna Parent Pulled Kid Out Of Public School Over Smarter Balanced Assessment

One of the more disturbing parts of the Senate Education testimony was when a citizen gave testimony on behalf of her friend.  What happened to her friend’s son was inexcusable and is just one more reason why House Bill 50 needs to become law!  Lorraine Gloede spoke at this meeting, and I can vouch for her friend as I have met him a few times now.  Keep in mind when reading this that Gloede was only the second public comment.  Her commentary ran from 29:06-30:21 on my recorder.

Uhm, (Sokola interrupts: “We’re trying to keep comments short, but, but, if you have something different to say, please…”) I’d just like to ask Mr. Murphy how he will know, with the Smarter Balanced Assessment, how the child is making progress, where improvement is needed.  Because from my understanding, all that is received is a score, that teachers don’t have access to the test itself and the answers.  But I am here, there was a gentleman sitting next to me, and he just asked me if I could relay what he was going to say.  He lives in Smyrna.  His next-door neighbor’s child opted out.  And they put him into a room where he had nothing to do.  It was just like detention.  And so he opted out even more.  He took his child out of school and is homeschooled now.  So I think that part of the reason for this bill is to show that there will be no repercussions, that everyone will understand that, which apparently is not the case now.  That’s all.

Numerous Parents, Delaware PTA, and DSEA Support Parent Opt-Out…Will The Senate?

Opt-Out.  It’s here, it’s real, and it may soon become law in Delaware.  What started out as a resolution in DSEA last year has morphed into one of the hottest topics during this legislative session.  We all know the House of Representatives voted 36-3 to pass a bill designed to codify parental rights to opt out.  Will the Delaware Senate show similar gusto in the face of harsh opposition?

We will find out, but not the full effect, on Wednesday at the Senate Education Committee meeting.  Sources are telling me House Bill 50 will be heard first in the committee.  With numerous schools already done for the summer around the state, I expect a hearty crowd.

Meanwhile, the House will be voting in full for quite a few education bills on Tuesday.  House Bill 82 w/Amendment #1 is about the Secretary of Education and his ability to rule on collective bargaining while giving authority to the Public Employment Relations Board.  House Bill 146 is in regards to teacher educator license fees.  And House Bill 148 would create the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.  Across the hall in the Senate, they will vote for SS1 for Senate Bill 79, which would create a task force to go over education data and privacy around it.

Meanwhile, House Bill 61 sits on the ready list, as it has the past three years.  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf needs to get this bill to a full vote.  Maybe he isn’t aware how much the people do want a bill like this.  Perhaps it’s time to make him aware of that…

House Bill 50 Opted Out Of Senate Education Committee Today

Delaware House Bill 50, the parent opt-out legislation, is not on the agenda for the Delaware Senate Education Committee today.  I can think of several reasons for this.  First, it may be too soon.  While this is an important bill for parents, there are well over 200 proposed bills floating around at Legislative Hall.  Second, while six days may seem like a long time to wait for opt-out advocates, it is a relatively short time for the General Assembly.  While we all want HB50 to speed through, a moment of calm may be needed for the Delaware Senate.  A third possibility is it WILL be heard today, but Senate Education Committee Chair Senator David Sokola doesn’t want all the hype coming with the meeting.

There is only one bill on the agenda, Senate Bill 79.  Could Sokola be keeping HB50 off the agenda that is “subject to change”?  We shall find out at 3:00pm today when the Senate Education Committee convenes in the Senate Hearing Room, Room 248 on the East Side of Legislative Hall.

Delaware Senate Contact Information

As promised, here is how to get in contact with Delaware Senators to ask for their support with House Bill 50.  I would get started on this as soon as possible, and keep doing it until you can convince them why a yes vote is the only sane option!  Please let me know what their responses are.  If they say they will vote yes, ask them if you can make that public!

keep-calm-the-delaware-senate-loves-parents-too

Here is the master email list if you want to send it all in one fell swoop, just copy and paste:

Harris.McDowell@state.de.us MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us  robert.marshall@state.de.us greg.lavelle@state.de.us catherine.cloutier@state.de.us  Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us David.Sokola@state.de.us Karen.Peterson@state.de.us bethany.hall-long@state.de.us  Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us Nicole.Poore@state.de.us David.McBride@state.de.us bruce.ennis@state.de.us Dave.Lawson@state.de.us senator-colin@prodigy.net brian.bushweller@state.de.us gsimpson@udel.edu   Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us  Gerald.Hocker@state.de.us Bryant.Richardson@state.de.us

District 1: Harris B. McDowell III, email: Harris.McDowell@state.de.us Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HarrisB.McDowellIII?fref=ts 

District 2: Margaret Rose Henry, email: MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Margaret-Rose-Henry/255853794466086 https://twitter.com/MargaretRHenry

District 3: Robert I. Marshall, email: robert.marshall@state.de.us

District 4: Gregory F. Lavelle, email: greg.lavelle@state.de.us https://www.facebook.com/GregLavelle302?fref=ts   https://twitter.com/Greg_Lavelle

District 5: Catherine Cloutier, email: catherine.cloutier@state.de.us  https://www.facebook.com/SenatorCathyCloutier?fref=ts

District 6: Ernesto B. Lopez, email: Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us https://www.facebook.com/LopezErnie?fref=ts

District 7: Patricia M. Blevins, email: Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us

District 8: David P. Sokola, email: David.Sokola@state.de.us

District 9: Karen E. Peterson, email: Karen.Peterson@state.de.us

District 10: Bethany A. Hall-Long, email: bethany.hall-long@state.de.us  https://twitter.com/bethanyhalllong

District 11: Bryan Townsend, email: Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us https://www.facebook.com/BryanTownsendDE?fref=ts https://twitter.com/BryanTownsendDE

District 12: Nicole Poore, email: Nicole.Poore@state.de.us https://www.facebook.com/NicolePooreSenate?fref=ts https://twitter.com/NicolePoore12

District 13: David B. McBride, email: David.McBride@state.de.us

District 14: Bruce C. Ennis, email: bruce.ennis@state.de.us

District 15: David G. Lawson, email: Dave.Lawson@state.de.us

District 16: Colin R.J. Bonini, email: senator-colin@prodigy.net  https://www.facebook.com/colinbonini?fref=ts https://twitter.com/ColinBonini

District 17: Brian J. Bushweller, email: brian.bushweller@state.de.us

District 18: F. Gary Simpson, email: gsimpson@udel.edu https://www.facebook.com/senatorsimpson?fref=ts

District 19: Brian Pettyjohn, email: Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us  https://www.facebook.com/BrianGPettyjohn?fref=ts https://twitter.com/BrianPettyjohn

District 20: Gerald W. Hocker, email: Gerald.Hocker@state.de.us

District 21: Bryant L. Richardson, email:Bryant.Richardson@state.de.us

Hello Delaware Senate, Meet Delaware Parents! You’ll Be Hearing From Us A LOT!!!!

Delaware Senate Education Commitee.  Next stop on the opt-out House Bill 50 train.  Opt-out parents and supporters, this is your mission if you choose to accept it:

Chair: Senator David Sokola

Bethany Hall-Long

Margaret Rose-Henry

Ernie Lopez

Robert Marshall

Brian Pettyjohn

Nicole Poore

Bryan Townsend

Hall-Long
Henry
Lopez
Marshall
Pettyjohn
Poore
Townsend

I’ll have their emails up shortly.

Save The Date: Parent Rally 2-April 22nd, House Education Committee Meeting

The 2nd Parent Rally regarding opt out will be on April 22nd, at the House Education Committee.   On the agenda for this meeting is House Bill 50, the Parent Opt Out bill.  Please come and show your support.  Listed below is the House Education Committee members and the Senate Education Committee members.  After that is the email addresses for everyone in the General Assembly.   Email them all with your support!
Chairman: Jaques
Vice-Chairman: K. Williams

Members: Barbieri
Bolden
Dukes
Heffernan
Hensley
Kenton
Lynn
Matthews
Miro
Osienski
Potter
Ramone
Chairman: Sokola
Vice-Chairman:

Members: Hall-Long
Henry
Lopez
Marshall
Pettyjohn
Poore
Townsend

Delaware Senators:

District 1: Harris B. McDowell III, email: Harris.McDowell@state.de.us
District 2: Margaret Rose Henry, email: MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us
District 3: Robert I. Marshal, email: robert.marshall@state.de.us
District 4: Gregory F. Lavelle, email: greg.lavelle@state.de.us
District 5: Catherine Cloutier, email: catherine.cloutier@state.de.us
District 6: Ernesto B. Lopez, email: Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us
District 7: Patricia M. Blevins, email: Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us
District 8: David P. Sokola, email: David.Sokola@state.de.us
District 9: Karen E. Peterson, email: Karen.Peterson@state.de.us
District 10: Bethany A. Hall-Long, email: bethany.hall-long@state.de.us
District 11: Bryan Townsend, email: Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us
District 12: Nicole Poore, email: Nicole.Poore@state.de.us
District 13: David B. McBride, email: David.McBride@state.de.us
District 14: Bruce C. Ennis, email: bruce.ennis@state.de.us
District 15: David G. Lawson, email: Dave.Lawson@state.de.us
District 16: Colin R.J. Bonini, email: senator-colin@prodigy.net
District 17: Brian J. Bushweller, email: brian.bushweller@state.de.us
District 18: F. Gary Simpson, email: gsimpson@udel.edu
District 19: Brian Pettyjohn, email: Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us
District 20: Gerald W. Hocker, email: Gerald.Hocker@state.de.us
District 21: Bryant L. Richardson, email:Bryant.Richardson@state.de.us

House Representatives
District 1: Charles Potter Jr., email: Charles.Potter@state.de.us
District 2: Stephanie T. Bolden, email: StephanieT.Bolden@state.de.us
District 3: Helene M. Keeley, email: helene.keeley@state.de.us
District 4: Gerald L. Brady, email: gerald.brady@state.de.us
District 5: Melanie George Smith, email: melanie.g.smith@state.de.us
District 6: Debra J. Heffernan, email: debra.heffernan@state.de.us
District 7: Bryon H. Short, email: Bryon.Short@state.de.us
District 8: S. Quinton Johnson, email: Quinton.Johnson@state.de.us
District 9: Kevin S. Hensley, email: Kevin.Hensley@state.de.us
District 10: Sean Matthews, email: sean.matthews@state.de.us
District 11: Jeffrey N. Speigelman, email: jeff.speigelman@state.de.us
District 12: Deborah Hudson, email: Deborah.Hudson@state.de.us
District 13: John L. Mitchell, Jr., email: john.l.mitchell@state.de.us
District 14: Peter C. Schwartzkopf, email: Peter.Schwartzkopf@state.de.us
District 15: Valerie Longhurst, email: Valerie.Longhurst@state.de.us
District 16: James Johnson, email: jj.johnson@state.de.us
District 17: Michael P. Mulrooney, email: Michael.Mulrooney@state.de.us
District 18: Michael A. Barbieri, email: michael.barbieri@state.de.us
District 19: Kimberly Williams, email: kimberly.williams@state.de.us
District 20: Stephen T. Smyk, email: Steve.Smyk@state.de.us
District 21: Michael Ramone, email: Michael.Ramone@state.de.us
District 22: Joseph E. Miro, email: joseph.miro@state.de.us
District 23: Paul S. Baumbach, email: paul.baumbach@state.de.us
District 24: Edward S. Osienski, email: Edward.Osienski@state.de.us
District 25: John A. Kowalko Jr., email: john.kowalko@state.de.us
District 26: John J. Viola, email: John.Viola@state.de.us
District 27: Earl G. Jacques Jr., email: Earl.Jacques@state.de.us
District 28: William J. Carson, email: william.carson@state.de.us
District 29: W. Charles “Trey” Paradee III, email: trey.paradee@state.de.us
District 30: William R. “Bobby” Outten, email: bobby.outten@state.de.us
District 31: Sean M. Lynn, email: Sean.Lynn@state.de.us
District 32: Andria L. Bennett, email: andria.bennett@state.de.us
District 33: Harold J. Peterman, email: jack.peterman@state.de.us
District 34: Lyndon D. Yearick, email: Lyndon.Yearick@state.de.us
District 35: David L. Wilson, email: David.L.Wilson@state.de.us
District 36: Harvey R. Kenton, email: Harvey.Kenton@state.de.us
District 37: Ruth Briggs King, email: Ruth.BriggsKing@state.de.us
District 38: Ronald E. Gray, email: Ronald.Gray@state.de.us
District 39: Daniel B. Short, email: Daniel.Short@state.de.us
District 40: Timothy D. Dukes, email: Timothy.Dukes@state.de.us
District 41: Richard G. Collins, email: Richard.G.Collins@state.de.us

IEP Task Force Bill Tabled Due To Delaware Charter Schools Network Interference

Senate Bill 33, sponsored by Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore, was tabled today in the Delaware Senate.  This legislation came about due to the hard work of 24 individuals on the IEP Task Force.  How does a bill, which passed through the Senate Education Committee, become LOT (left on table) when it is presented to the Senate?  Two words: Kendall Massett.  The director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network herself.

After the bill went through the Senate Education Committee with no unfavorable votes, with an amendment to clear up some of the language, Massett got involved and demanded the amendment to the bill be put in Title 31, which is the part of Delaware code covering welfare.  Why she was insistent on this being put there I can’t fathom because an IEP is an education issue which would belong in Title 14.  Unfortunately with the new General Assembly website, amendments to bills can’t be read.

Apparently, she didn’t like the fact that charter schools would be required to have one employee from each charter school getting specialized training from the Delaware Department of Education on the legal rules for Individualized Education Programs as well as access to resources available in helping students with disabilities.  Having attended every single one of the IEP Task Force meetings, I can say the subject of charter schools came up more than once.  I am not saying ALL charter schools, but many don’t have a clue in how to handle special education.  Many children have been denied IEPs at Delaware charters, “counseled out”, or denied entrance to charters because parents were told by charter school officials they don’t have the “resources” to help those children.

Any time this charter lobbyist gets her hooks into legislators, bills get screwed up in the General Assembly.  I would think the charters would want the extra assistance instead of paying out extra costs to special education attorneys and education funds for students.  But no, they want traditional schools to have this caveat as well.  Here’s a news flash Kendall: traditional schools can’t counsel students out and they can’t say “we can’t take your child”.  So if you don’t like the charters getting some heat, tell all your charters to do their job!

Do you want to take a wild guess why the task force didn’t include any charter school representatives?  Maybe it’s because the Delaware DOE picked the task force with approval from the legislators involved and knew who would be able to give expert advice on special education in Delaware schools.  When the DOE doesn’t think charters can give experts on a task force, you know something has to be seriously wrong.  If it was such a concern of yours during the task force, how come you didn’t show up to any meetings Kendall?  And now you want to stick your nose into a special education bill that is meant to help these disadvantaged students?  Just because your beloved charters got called out on actions they have themselves brought upon themselves for years?

Delaware legislators: this charter lobbyist is wielding WAY too much influence on your decisions for the good of ALL Delaware children.  The charter problem in this state is getting worse by the day, and many of you will do nothing but defend these schools and the money behind them.  You have allowed them to operate under very little scrutiny and when they are caught, you grow silent.  I am not saying ALL charters or ALL legislators.  But we all know who they are and far too many of you could care less.  As long as you keep the Governor happy you are content with segregation, discrimination and denial of services.  And while all this is going on, traditional schools are losing funding and resources while the DOE pumps money into companies that provide all these corporate education reform “services” and then turn around and fund other companies for more charters.  Wake up!  It’s seconds before midnight and you are still operating under the belief that charters are the next great thing.

Senators Brian Bushweller and Greg Lavelle must have received a mouthful from Kendall on this because they were the ones who initiated the discussion today that got this bill tabled.  In a Delawareonline article today, Bushweller stated the fact that charters weren’t represented on the task force was “very disappointing”.  And Lavelle, don’t even get me started.  He said he wasn’t aware of the amendment on the bill, but his wife was on the IEP Task Force.  This bill was introduced in January.  The IEP Task Force ran from September to December.  Did Bushweller or Lavelle, both of which voted yes for Senate Concurrent Resolution #63 in the 147th General Assembly which created the task force, even bother to read the recommendations or listen to the digital audio recordings from the task force?

It is a shameful day in Delaware when legislation that can and will help special needs students is tabled because the charter lobbyist decided she didn’t like some wording.  Shame on those who sided with her during discussion of this important bill.  Once again, everything has to be about the charters in Delaware.  Enough.

To read about Delawareonline’s take on this, which included NO mention whatsoever of the sneaky, crafty maneuvering of Kendall Massett, please go to:

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/firststatepolitics/2015/03/24/debate-delayed-disabilities-legislation/70401932/

Delaware Senate Bill 33 To Implement Findings of IEP Task Force

Senator Nicole Poore submitted legislation yesterday to turn the recommendations of the IEP Task Force into law.  House Bill 33 is now in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.  I think the most important change will be from paragraph 3131, section d.

148th General Assembly
Senate Bill # 33
Primary Sponsor: Poore Additional Sponsor(s):    & Sen. Lawson & Rep. Heffernan & Rep. Miro & Rep. Hudson
CoSponsors: Sens. Blevins, Hall-Long, Hocker, Lavelle, Sokola, Townsend; Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Hensley, Jaques, Q. Johnson, Kenton, Mulrooney, Paradee, Ramone, M. Smith, Viola, K. Williams, Wilson
Introduced on : 01/29/2015
Long Title: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION AND THE INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM.
Synopsis of Orginal Bill:
(without Amendments)
 
Current Status: Senate Education Committee   On   01/29/2015
Full text of Legislation:
(in HTML format)
Legis.html Email this Bill to a friend
Full text of Legislation:
(in MS Word format)
Legis.Docx   (Microsoft Word is required to view this document.)
Fiscal Notes/Fee Impact: Not Required

Actions History:

Jan 29, 2015 – Assigned to Education Committee in Senate