Jack Markell Is The Modern-Day Forrest Gump

According to an article from Cris Barrish over at Newsworks, former Delaware Governor Jack Markell is going on a journey across America!

Markell is going on a bike ride across the USA in an effort to raise funds for a charity.

Markell has no official role with Motivate the First State Group, but by riding across the United States he is “simply offering his help” to get more people “engaging in healthy behavior” to assist charities, spokeswoman Lauren Golt said Thursday.

Out of all the things I predicted for Markell in his life after office, this was the last thing I would have predicted.  I could have sworn he would have gotten involved in something with education.  But I like this better.  He leaves from Astoria, Oregon on June 18th.  I can think of several people he can take with him but some of them will be very busy trying to pass a state budget.  But Markell can pull a Forrest Gump and keep going back and forth, back and forth.  Isn’t State Senator David Sokola big on bicycling?

On April 26th, Markell will give details about his cross-country ride and also something called the “Training With Jack Challenge”.  I have to wonder what the standards for his initiative will be?  Will he accept rigorous standards in the evaluations based on his training?  Will there be standardized tests to measure the worth of the program?

In all seriousness though, it is no secret Jack and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on education.  But I do see this as a worthwhile cause and I wish him safe travels on his journey.

Delaware Senate Education Committee’s MASSIVE Shake-Up

While the Delaware House Education Committee grew, it appears the Senate Education Committee is shrinking.  What used to be eight is now five with new members appearing and longtime members now gone.  It appears to be a boy’s club now! Continue reading “Delaware Senate Education Committee’s MASSIVE Shake-Up”

16 Who Defined 2016: Dr. Steven Godowsky

Dr. Steven Godowsky had quite a year as the Delaware Secretary of Education!  As he sails off to distant shores (across the canal), away from the Townsend Building in Dover, Delaware, let’s look back on 2016.  And stay tuned for the end of this article where I may or may not reveal a VERY BIG secret about Godowsky.

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Continue reading “16 Who Defined 2016: Dr. Steven Godowsky”

Delaware School Choice Application Data For FY2017 By School District

The New Castle County Data Service Center compiled a report on school choice applications by the residing district for the Fiscal Year 2017 school year.  These are applications parents sent out to choice schools for the school year that began this year.  So these applications went out during the school choice calendar from November, 2015-January, 2016.  At least the bulk of them.  These are applications only, not actual acceptances in choice schools.  A student could have applied to five different choice schools so that would count as five different applications.  There are many districts that do not send this information through the system the Data Service Center provides.  Most of them are in Sussex County, including their largest district, Indian River.

While this is missing a lot of information, especially in Southern Delaware, it does give a good indication of which districts have a lot of choice activity going on and where students are applying.  This is very apparent in Christina.

Last week at the Strategic Plan for Specialized Educational Opportunities meeting at the Delaware DOE, Jeff Klein gave a presentation on this report.  Senator David Sokola asked why the applications don’t address low-income or disabilities.  I responded (as a member of the public) that wasn’t a good idea, especially since the Enrollment Preference Task Force (of which Sokola was on) recommended NOT having those items on choice applications.

16 Who Defined 2016: Greg Meece & Newark Charter School

No one seemed to be the center of controversy in Delaware education more than Head of School Greg Meece, the face of Newark Charter School.  Greg Meece had a very busy year behind the scenes of many headlines.  It almost seemed like the ongoing district and charter school war centers around NCS and the Christina School District.  Here, in it’s entirety, is the story of Newark Charter School in 2016.  There are still 27 days left, so I may have to put some updates in before 11:59pm on December 31st!  If you see blue in the article, that is a link to an article I published on NCS or Greg Meece.

Before I get into the whole local funding formula fiasco, we need to look at other events Meece was involved in.  Prior to this year, I really didn’t write about NCS that much.  The school tends to keep things to themselves.  What happens at NCS stays at NCS.  That changed in February.  On February 5th, it was announced NCS would get a “distinguished Title I” designation for their students outstanding scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The only problem?  NCS isn’t really a Title I school.  The reward was based on the district surrounding them which has Title I schools all over the place.

The next day, I posted how a special needs girl was denied an opportunity to participate in NCS’ lottery.  This caused a massive outcry all over the state.  The NCS board, the previous fall, said any child who turned six after a certain date would not be able to participate in the lottery.  For children with developmental or other disabilities who may start school later, this would prevent those families for applying to NCS.  I had people email Greg Meece.  He responded to my email the next day.  and it eventually caused the school to change their mind.  The girl was let into the lottery but she did not win a placement.

A month later, I discovered NCS does not file IRS tax returns because of very vague loopholes from the IRS dating back to 1995.  I sent a tip to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office on this.  As well, I submitted a FOIA to NCS to which they responded very fast.  Nearly ten months later and nothing has come of the tip to the auditor.  I know they were investigating this because I received a call from the state auditor’s office about this.  When I called over the summer to find out that status of the investigation, I never received a confirmation that it was being worked on.

Things stayed relatively quiet until shortly after the school year ended.  Delaware Senator David Sokola nuked a great bill dealing with teacher evaluations in Delaware.  House Bill 399 was meant to undo some of the very damaging practices thrust open teachers from the state.  Sokola got involved with the bill and put an amendment on it.  One of the aspects of the amendment, the addition of parent surveys at the pilot schools, is something  Meece implemented at Newark Charter School.  The ties between Sokola and NCS just kept opening up like a can of worms.

As folks were getting ready for the 4th of July, I thought out loud about NCS, Senator Sokola, and the missing Kathleen Davies.  I wonder if NCS had anything to do with that.  Davies disappearance from the Auditor’s office hit mainstream media with a lot of details missing.  While NCS and Meece were not mentioned in that article, that didn’t rule them out on my suspect list for what happened to Davies.  State Rep. Kim Williams broke the news in comments on Kavips blog about a petty cash audit Davies had been working on that disappeared as well.  I went into a lot of detail and started naming suspects.  A few months later the mystery deepened what the petty cash audit turned into petty cash warning letters but NCS wasn’t involved.

While the Kathleen Davies mystery was simmering, I discovered NCS did away with the age restriction for Kindergarten applicants but they came up with a new policy that students entering Kindergarten could only apply once.  So if a child with developmental or other disabilities did spend another year in pre-school, and the parents applied to NCS before that, they could not apply the next year.  It was the same discriminatory package decorated in different wrapping paper.

After I received detailed breakdowns of every school district and charter’s payment allocations for Fiscal Year 2016, I began to take a closer look at NCS payments.  I found they spent an exorbitant amount on student body activities.  Only one district was higher than them.  This raised my suspicions that something funky was going on which led me to examine the funding for their “cafetorium” addition along with a STEM laboratory.  I didn’t find anything conclusive, but it was very ironic how numbers matched with other things.

By the end of August, as the school year started off nice and quiet, all hell broke loose.  The local funding formula was changing so charter schools would get more from the local districts.  I immediately pegged Greg Meece as the catalyst for this and dumped my feelings about NCS throughout the article.  Less than 24 hours later, Secretary Godowsky changed his mind on the change to the charter payments.  The next day I posed my theories on who was responsible for this at the Delaware DOE and openly asked Meece many questions about NCS.  I never did get a response from him.  I can’t imagine he is my biggest fan.  This led to a resurfacing of Greg Meece’s famous crab bucket analogy.  While all this was going on, Senator Sokola wrote a letter to the News Journal on his latest “discovery” for education.  Speaking of the News Journal, they wrote a very misleading article on the whole thing which prompted me to do even more research.  The President of the Christina board gave me the official news there would be no changes to the formula the next day.  But apparently Meece and NCS Board President had their own thoughts on the matter and wrote their version of events in a letter to NCS parents.  The true shock came the next day when a Senator Sokola email defended NCS and cast blame on Christina but I debunked a lot of his theories.  Then Christina sent a letter to parents.  For a week, NCS parents were coming out to defend their school.  Some of them got very nasty which prompted this response from me.  After a long ten days, I had to recap the whole thing and give some new information about district exclusions.  On September 7th, Christina held an open to the public legislative briefing to explain their side of the story and how the funding works with payments to charters.  I attended the meeting and recorded it.  Transcribing it was a bitch but it gave a ton of key information (which still makes my head hurt when the final outcome of this reached its climax this week).  I’ll have to see if I still have the recording to transcribe Part 2 of this meeting.  I assumed Christina argued their case so well it caused Secretary Godowsky to issue a letter to the legislators calling off the whole thing for this year.  Many assumed nothing would happen on this until the legislators returned in January based on Godowsky’s letter.

In the Spring, the General Assembly finally passed the Kilroy-inspired “All school boards must record” legislation.  For Newark Charter School’s very first audio recording, it was a whopping 16 minutes.  You can’t make this stuff up.  The next week, they won the Blue Ribbon School status from the U.S. DOE for their “outstanding” test scores (smelling a theme here?).  Senator Sokola got the spotlight treatment based on his upcoming General Election contest against Meredith Chapman so I felt obliged to showcase his very sad charter school legacy.  Of course NCS got a nod.

One would think after such a crazy month, NCS would try to stay out of the news.  Not the case.  The school ended September with a student sit-in.  Inspired by the U.S. Congress, students staged a sit-in when a teacher was fired over an incident with a student.  Instead of getting barbecued by the parents, the students jumped in on the comment roasting of this blog.  I actually admired the students for what some called “The Slappening”.  The teacher got her job back a couple of weeks later as Earth started spinning on its axis again.

On October 5th, Delaware found out the charter school response to Secretary Godowsky not moving forward with the change in the charter school payments from Christina.  15 charters filed a lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE.  I got my hands on the actual filing which named all the schools and parties involved.  By this point, everyone knew it was NCS who started this whole thing which they confirmed in another letter to NCS parents.  I soon received the whole timeline for the shenanigans involving Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and Bill Manning.  This prompted me to look at some things that were very peculiar about this lawsuit.

A couple of weeks later, Delaware United made a three-part video series where they interviewed Senator Sokola.  Care to guess what the biggest topic was?  Education and Newark Charter School!

At the end of October, I found out that Newark Charter School was supposed to have an outreach plan to get more sub-groups in their school.  This was a condition of their major modification to start their new high school.  We are still waiting for this.

Last week, the Charter School lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE came back in a big way.  Christina’s board accepted a settlement with a 4-3 vote.  By the end of the week, the settlement leaked out before all the signatures were on paper.  Where did the leak come from?  Governor Markell’s office!

So there you have it: Greg Meece and Newark Charter School.  More controversy than Donald Trump at a rally for Democrats!  More scandalous than… I can’t think of anything…  I sure do hope 2017 is quieter for Newark Charter School.  They lost their isolationism label this year!

Rep Kim Williams Rips Into The Delaware DOE During Public Meeting

The Delaware Dept. of Education held the third meeting of the Strategic Plan for Specialized Education Opportunities in Delaware today.  I can’t even make an abbreviation out of that one.  Do not be confused with the Strategic Plan for Special Education that the DOE is also working on.  In any event, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams was NOT a happy camper.  While she is not a member of this committee, she attended the meeting and had some words to say to the DOE.

Apparently this committee came about as a result of an amendment on House Bill #56, the Wilmington charter school moratorium legislation signed by Governor Markell in 2015.  The Dept. was tasked with reviewing all educational opportunities in the state including charter, district, and vo-tech.  The DOE contracted with Public Consulting Group (PCG) to write up the report which came out last December.  PCG continued to work on the strategic plan and came out with another report in October.  In the October report, PCG made a reference to a District-Charter Collaboration Task Force.  Which is ironic since they didn’t post minutes nor did they come out with a final report.

At one point during the meeting today, Delaware Senator David Sokola mentioned a need for low-income and special education information on school choice applications.  David Blowman from the Delaware DOE allowed me to speak and I mentioned how the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, of which Sokola was a member, voted in the majority that information like that should not be on choice applications.  I mentioned that it was recommendations from the task force but it showed a clear decision to not have those items on choice applications.  Blowman agreed with me and said those items should not be on applications.  This prompted Rep. Williams to speak…

In August, Rep. Williams contacted the DOE about this strategic plan.  She contacted PCG and discussed the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, which met for a year and a half, kept all their minutes, and came out with a mammoth-sized final report which was sent to the DOE and the General Assembly.  She emailed a link to PCG.  Nothing even mentioning the Enrollment Preferences Task Force made it into PCG’s October report.  Williams blasted the DOE for this by stating she failed to understand how this strategic plan is meant to provide opportunities for ALL students.  She was clearly (and understandably) upset the report gave no mention to a task force she devoted a year and a half to.  But the District-Charter Collaboration Task Force, which had severe issues with transparency and no final report.  It was obvious to many in the audience that this oversight was not simply a mistake on PCG’s report.  I know for a fact the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson worked with PCG on their initial report which came out a few days before the final report for the Enrollment Preferences Task Force came out.

Senator Sokola asked Williams why she didn’t introduce legislation based on the recommendations of the task force during the last legislative session.  Williams explained that the legislation wouldn’t have come out until March of this year and everyone was very wrapped up in the WEIC redistricting plan.  Sokola said he can see that.  But Williams did say she will be introducing legislation based on those recommendations when the General Assembly comes back in January.  Williams argued that if she didn’t look at the October report from PCG and she didn’t attend this meeting, the DOE wouldn’t have even thought to mention the work 27 members of the task force worked on for a year and a half into this strategic plan.  There was no clear response from Blowman or Susan Haberstroh (also with the DOE).

Williams mentioned the glaring omission two times.  Eventually, Haberstroh assured the committee and Rep. Williams the Enrollment Preference Task Force report would be a part of the strategic plan.  This was supposed to be the last meeting of this committee but once the subject of enrollment barriers came up it was obvious the committee would need to meet again which all agreed to.

There is something about this committee that seems off.  Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques talked about the Christina School District a few times when talking about surplus school seats.  As well, the subject of empty buildings districts own came up.  I always find it to be odd when Sokola and Jaques, who are in their seats primarily because of voters from the Christina School District, tear into them.  I didn’t trust it when Sokola mentioned having information on choice applications he knew damn well shouldn’t be on there.

When Jeff Klein with the University of Delaware presented a report on choice applications by zip code, he did say there was a section in Maryland.  Sokola mentioned it could be a teacher sending their child to a Delaware school.  Which I assume to be Newark Charter School.  The DOE responded by saying it would be illegal for Delaware to pay for a Maryland student in a Delaware school.  Sokola had a puzzled look on his face…

Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network asked a question similar to one she asked at the meeting a few weeks ago.  She questioned why, as an example, if Woodbridge and Delmar school districts wanted a culinary program but didn’t have enough students to have a program, why they couldn’t push for opening a charter school to serve that need.  Heath Chasanov with Woodbridge explained they do have a program with Delmar that Del Tech coordinates.  I don’t fault Kendall for asking the question, but it would be more financially feasible for the districts to work together to offer programs in coordination as opposed to opening a brand new charter school that may or not fail.  This was echoed by David Blowman.

I did find out, 100%, that there are NO plans for Prestige Academy to merge into EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations.  Massett did explain that all the Wilmington charters are working with Prestige for a smooth transition for the students when the charter closes at the end of the year.

To read the reports PCG came out with in October, please see below.

History Is A Set Of Lies Agreed Upon: The Delaware DOE’s Trojan Horse That Shares Personal Student Data

Napoleon once said, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”  In Delaware, the state has been sharing personal student data in the form of a benign computer program designed on the surface to help students.  This is a program that is so layered in varying shades of legality and loophole in state and federal law no person could ever realistically figure it all out.  Luckily, I am not one of those people.  So what is the Trojan horse inserted into every single school district and charter school in the state?  Hint: it’s NOT the Smarter Balanced Assessment! Continue reading “History Is A Set Of Lies Agreed Upon: The Delaware DOE’s Trojan Horse That Shares Personal Student Data”

So, About Those Attorney Fees For The Charter Lawsuit…

Who is the benefactor to the 15 charter schools suing the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education?  You know, the one where the almighty (or are they?) charter schools want more money?  Led and initiated by Newark Charter School who got fourteen other charters to follow suit.  Literally.  As in a lawsuit.  But they had a little problem they had to take care of first.  The damn attorney fees.

I imagine taking a case like this would involve a lot of prep work and discovery.  Saul Ewing, LLP is the law firm representing the fifteen charter schools in their lawsuit against the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education.  As the named parties are represented by their own counsel, the charters would have to be able to definitively prove their case.  Or at least a perception of their case.  That’s what attorneys do.  Make a jury or judge believe their side of the story, whether it is right or wrong.  It is always about the belief.  But who is paying Saul Ewing for this lawsuit? Continue reading “So, About Those Attorney Fees For The Charter Lawsuit…”

Governor Markell Loses His Voice Tonight. Now Is The Time To Seize The Moment.

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At some point later this evening, Delaware will have a newly elected Governor. No matter who it is, they can’t be worse than Governor Jack Markell. I truly hope I don’t eat those words, but I can’t think of any Delaware politician who has sold out Delaware children to corporations more than Jack. Well, there is one, but I’m really hoping he gets ousted in the 8th Senate District today. If not, I expect some very frosty stares between the two of us come 2017.  But it is also my fervent hope that this particular Senator, no matter what the outcome is today, begins to see deep inside his soul what certain viewpoints on education can have on the state as a whole.  But Jack Markell…

I never gave Delaware politics much thought before 2013. I was just one of those guys who stayed in his own neighborhood and didn’t truly care about the state politics. I couldn’t even tell you who my State Rep was before that year. Or my State Senator. But then things changed in my life and I reached a point where I couldn’t live in my insular little bubble anymore. Circumstances demanded I get involved. When things happen to your child, beyond the point of a parent to control it, something happens. A shifting of thoughts begins and a need for understanding takes over. I may have gone way past the point of sanity most parents do when faced with this reality, but I felt it was my obligation to do all this.   I have regrets, but I also know everyone makes mistakes.  But no one, not even Senator Sokola or Mark Murphy, has ticked me off over education more than Jack Markell.

I quickly learned Jack cares more about corporations and their profits than Delaware students. Sadly, he found a way to combine the two and turned Delaware schools into profit centers for companies that could give two craps about student outcomes. Jack knows this. He knows the only way those companies will continue to flourish is with a steady stream of data and fix-it schemes. I suppose most states have a Jack Markell. How else can we explain the onslaught of Common Core and crappy tests like Smarter Balanced? I also learned Markell and Rodel are two sides of the same coin. They feed off each other, like twin parasites infecting their host.

My worst fear is having to continue beating up on Jack Markell. That would only happen if he were put in a more dangerous position than he is now. I see two potential Cabinet positions he could be placed in if the “nasty woman” wins. I’m hoping a rumor I heard long ago about him taking a Cyber Security position in Israel comes true. I would have loved to sit in a debate with him for a few hours and blown apart his theories and thoughts on education.

The most dangerous thing Jack Markell did with education in Delaware happened before he even became Governor. He did the interview for a man from the Massachusetts Department of Education, in their charter school office. A guy named Dr. Paul Herdman. This set up 12 years of education policy in this state that very closely aligned with what was going on across the country. And those plans aren’t done yet. Both of these men are actually very brilliant. They are strategists of the highest measure. They are futurists who plant seeds that bloom years in the future. I actually find them to be very worthy opponents in that respect. But one half of that equation is coming to an end in this state. And hopefully his replacement will be able to sever that cord.

It will be up to our next Governor to see through all the smoke and mirrors involved with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Whoever our new Governor is, I will attempt to meet with him. I intend to have a very long conversation with him, if he will let me, and let him know what I know. Maybe he already knows it already. Maybe he doesn’t. But I truly don’t want to fight him. I will give him a fresh and clean slate from day one, regardless of whatever policies he may have come out with during his campaign. I will also give every single member of the General Assembly that same respect, regardless of what may have happened pre-January 2017. They can choose to hang on to the past and hold a grudge against me.  I haven’t been easy on many.  But whether they are new or old, it is a new day. This also goes for the Department of Education and the State Board of Education. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to expose what I find out, or file FOIA requests or complaints if something happens. Everything I have fought for will continue. But I won’t do it alone.

There are many who are on my side of things on many issues. There are some who are just now beginning to see the big picture. There are those who can’t see the forest through the trees. There are so many moving parts to education and understanding the full scope of it all takes time and patience. But I refuse to allow any child to be a guinea pig or a pawn for profit. I refuse to let their personal data go out to anyone who makes one penny off it. I refuse to let our Department of Education get away with what they have been doing.

January won’t just see new leaders in politics. We will also have new leadership in the Delaware State Education Association. Knowing what little I know about potential leaders and conversation that has taken place in the last week based on a few of my posts, I firmly believe that change in leadership can’t come quick enough. But we also need changes in the charter school landscape. For far too long, advocates for charters have ignored the elephant in the room. I am not saying it is all of them, but those with the loudest voices tend to get what they want. The funding and equity issues involved are killing us as a state. I personally believe there is enough funding in our state budget as it currently stands to have every child get the resources they need. There is a ton of wasted money being spent. We just have to convince the 149th Delaware General Assembly of this fact despite what will be a tsunami of opposition from districts and charter schools alike. I am leaning towards a weighted funding system more and more but not before we make sure every single district and charter schools is held fully accountable for the funds they already have.

The next six months are going to be very slippery in Delaware. One wrong move could send Delaware education sliding off the cliff. Now will be the time for voices like never before. Opt out was a drop in the bucket. But I don’t see those voices. Not front and center. Parents need to speak up like they never have before. They need to be louder than the state, louder than the administrators, and louder than our legislators. We need to become a force to be reckoned with. We need to organize and band together. We won’t agree on everything, but I think the majority of parents in this state can agree that what we have now is not working. We need to make sure Rodel is reduced to a low decibel noise that doesn’t hold the weight it used to. We need to make sure Delaware education is what we want, not what corporations want. This does not mean increased membership in the Delaware PTA either, but they will play a role. You will be hearing from me on this more in the next few weeks. Eyes will open to things that have happened right underneath all our noses with no one the wiser.

I need you. Our children need you. We are Delaware, not them. We need to finally make sure that is understood. We need to end the discrimination and segregation in this state. We need to end the racism that is underneath it all. We need to end the hate and make peace with the past. It is the only way we can truly move forward. I won’t have all the answers. You won’t. But maybe together, we can figure it out.

My Favorite Delaware Political Ad

I’ve seen a lot of political ads in the past few months, but this is by far my favorite.  I will fully own that I am very biased against Delaware Senator David Sokola.  Just search “Sokola” in the search section on this blog and you will easily find out why.  The quarter-century Senator just needs to go.  Wrap it up.  Cross the finish line.  Say Bon Voyage to Delaware politics.  He had his day and we need fresh blood before more Delaware students, teachers, and schools hemorrhage out.  They say a picture paints a thousand words, but this one does the job with much less.

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I love a good Sokola dig!  I am praying the citizens in the 8th Delaware Senate district make the right decision tomorrow and vote Sokola out and Meredith Chapman in!  Enough is enough.  And don’t buy all the “if the Senate flips Delaware will become a Right To Work state” paranoia I’ve heard from some people.  One, that is NOT going to happen even if the Republicans take over the Senate.  Two, Sokola has done more damage to Delaware education than Governor Jack Markell.  Jack’s only been at this for eight years (twelve if you count his early Rodel-Paul Herdman-Bosom Buddies days).  Dave has been at this for 25 years.  And three, your children and grandchildren will be better for it.

This ad was paid for by the First State First PAC.

John Oliver Nails It On School Segregation!

John Oliver has become the voice of reason when it comes to education.  He says what so many of us are thinking in our head.  I was amazed at his expose on charter schools in August.  We all saw his bit on standardized testing last year.  And now he tackles the ugly topic of school segregation with simplistic ease.  It is almost like he is coming out with campaign ads for reasons not to vote for Delaware Senator David Sokola!

Warning, these may NOT be safe for work!

Sokola Ebola Vs. Right To Work: Which Is The Bigger Danger To Education?

Sunday evening I put up a post about a political ad for Delaware Senator David Sokola.  You would have thought I sent a cannonball into a church picnic with the reaction this post got.  In a nutshell, the Delaware State Education Association did not endorse the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, David Sokola.  He has been the chair of this committee for decades.  This was a very clear statement that DSEA no longer has faith in Senator David Sokola when it comes to education.  But unbeknownst to many, DSEA is also part of a PAC with various other Delaware unions that paid for an advertisement for Sokola’s 8th District Senate campaign.  I wasn’t happy to see this and many others weren’t as well.  I linked Frederika Jenner, the President of DSEA, to this PAC because her name appears on their website.

Before I knew it, teachers who are very supportive of DSEA jumped to their defense.  One of them, Mike Matthews, who used to be President of the Red Clay Educations Association and is currently campaigning for Jenner’s spot next January, wrote a very long comment about why Right To Work is dangerous in the current Delaware political landscape.

Before I get to Matthews’ comment, I want to briefly explain what Right To Work is.  Basically, it would prevent a worker from paying union dues but they would get the union benefits.  This has been implemented in some states but the Delaware General Assembly has thwarted this from happening here.  Delaware Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle has been very supportive of Right To Work in Delaware.  Not every Delaware Republican is 100% behind a complete Right To Work state, much less with DSEA.  Matthews’ comment suggests that Right To Work is a bigger danger than very bad Dave Sokola education policy.

Here’s where I stand on this and, as always, I thank Kevin for providing the forum to discuss!

DSEA did not vote to endorse Sen. Sokola for his re-election campaign. As someone who has consistently received DSEA’s endorsement in years’ past, this is obviously big news. I have had many concerns — and shared them publicly — with Sen. Sokola’s positions on education. I think many others have, as well. And that’s why DSEA chose the route it did during the election season this year.

But — and this really is a big BUT — folks need to realize that we are a union whose main goal is to activate and organize its membership. We have seen union membership in many states decrease dramatically because of nasty Right to Work laws. These laws severely weaken the ability of local unions to do the work they need to do — advocate for members and students.

The threat of Right to Work is very much real here in Delaware. If the Democrats lose just two seats in the Senate, then it’s very likely that Republicans will demand legislation that could repress labor rights in exchange for getting YES votes on the budget. If the Republican Senate REFUSES to pass a budget because they are demanding more restrictions on organized labor, then my guess is the Democrats in the House will cave so they can get a budget passed. That’s the reality of the situation that we’re dealing with.

DSEA’s membership in the Delawareans First PAC is borne out of the need to fight back any effort for Right to Work to land in Delaware. DSEA’s participation in this PAC is very much about ensuring our own survival SO WE CAN continue to advocate for our members, students, and schools.

And there are some very clear differences between the two major-party candidates in the 8th Senate District when it comes to labor rights. Sen. Sokola is vehemently anti-Right to Work. Meredith Chapman has stated her support of the collective bargaining process, but can’t say unequivocally that she would be anti-Right to Work. And, as I’ve said to her, should she get elected and the GOP take the Senate, her ability to negotiate with a newly-emboldened GOP leadership will be severely diminished and she will have to walk lock-step with the caucus on these issues.

So, while many of our members — and myself included — have serious issues with Sen. Sokola’s education positions, we have to realize that we are still a union. And it’s our business to maintain our membership and attempt to stave off any threats to that membership. I am completely able to see both sides here and while Sen. Sokola hasn’t been the best friend on education issues, he’s unwaveringly a friend on the topic of Right to Work. To condemn him from all angles because of his education positions (no matter how large those issues are) would be unfair.

DSEA’s membership in this PAC is voluntary, of course, but in the interest of solidarity, it’s imperative that we union brothers and sisters come together and support candidates who will repel Right to Work — even if it means supporting a candidate we oppose on other issues. Because if Right to Work comes to Delaware — which could happen if the Senate swings GOP — then our ability to be an effective agent for change will be severely dampened. And that could have consequences that hasten all the negative things we know have been coming down the education pike for years that you have thankfully been reporting on with such fervor.

I just think it’s important to realize that I think it’s completely within bounds to have severe disagreements with candidates on certain issues, but to find common ground on others, especially issues that relate to the survival of organizations that I would hope are seen as positive players in the education arena like DSEA.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.

So suppose the Republicans gain control of the Delaware Senate and there is a budget impasse next year (as there seems to be almost every year).  Does that automatically make Delaware a Right To Work state?  We just don’t know.  I can picture a scenario where, if it were that bad, certain concessions could take place.  Last week at the Carney-Bonini debate, the subject of Right To Work zones was brought up.  That would not make the whole state a Right To Work place, but for certain companies.  Auto manufacturing was brought up as an example.  But I personally don’t believe the General Assembly would make DSEA a Right To Work organization.  If they did gain control of the Senate, that would last as long as one General Assembly if they did that.  The General Assembly is always on a cycle of campaigning every two years.  Any legislator who voted for Right To Work would automatically lose any future endorsement from DSEA.  Many do not want to face that prospect in the coming years.  Delaware is a small state and its citizens have more access to their Senators and State Representatives than they do in other states.  A Republican controlled Senate would also have to contend with a Democrat controlled House and, by all indications, Democrat Governor John Carney.  Would the Republicans wait around all summer in an attempt to get Right To Work passed if a budget was held up?  I highly doubt it.  Most legislators are at the point of collapse after an all-night session bridging June 30th to July 1st.

While I will certainly say I do not know how many teacher jobs DSEA has actively protected over the years, I imagine it is quite a bit.  Charter school teachers, which are supported heavily by Delaware Republicans, do not presently have teacher unions.  But I firmly believe Senator Sokola is, at a much greater degree, a bigger threat to Delaware teachers than a potential Right To Work law in Delaware.  He has 25 years of experience showing exactly what he has done to Delaware education and the teaching profession.  And judging by the first draft of Delaware’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t see that situation changing any time soon.

I firmly believe Sokola serves interests much bigger than any Democrat platform.  He serves those who profit immensely off students and teachers.  He represents the corporations who want to reform education so they can make more money.  But more dangerous, is the very real threat of how these changes in education will eventually transform society as a whole.  It is my contention that whether Right To Work happened or not, the teaching profession union members across the country fight for every day will be gone one day.  At the rate where are going, everything will be online instruction and teachers will just be glorified moderators if those classrooms are even in brick and mortar schools.  The more we let outside organizations into our schools, the ability for decisions to be decided at a local level diminishes greatly.  That is what Sokola represents.  He takes the side of a particular charter school in his district and he will do whatever is necessary to make sure they look good at the expense of the district around him.  If he didn’t have the power he currently has as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, that would be one thing.  But that taint in his decision-making policy affects every single public school in the state.

In my eyes, as a parent and a Delaware citizen, David Sokola needs to go.  By any means necessary.  I fully endorse Meredith Chapman for the 8th Senate District.  Even if I was a die-hard Democrat and never voted out of party lines, I would make this one exception.  He is that bad.  Do I trust David Sokola to be anti-Right To Work because he truly believes it would be bad for unions or because he knows if he isn’t he would have a hard time getting re-elected in his district with various unions supporting him?  I would go with the latter.  But there comes a time when you have to weed out the rot.  That time is now.  We have had enough Sokola Ebola in Delaware education.  This is a guy who lied in a debate last week.  How can anyone trust him to do the right thing when he lies when the truth would be far better for him?  That is how desperate he has become.  For the first time in 25 years, he knows he may not enter Legislative Hall as a FOIA-protected legislator.  He is scared.  In a microscopic way, down to the molecular level, I feel bad for him in that respect.  But it stops there.  In politics, you reap what you sow.  And what David Sokola has sown over a quarter of a century is dangerous for every single citizen of Delaware.

As I am writing this, the AFLCIO President, James Maravelias just wrote a comment supporting Matthews’ stance on this issue.  To this I can only reply with the following: by allowing Right To Work in Delaware, the unions believe they will lose all their collective bargaining rights.  As a parent, we didn’t seem to have a choice when Senator Sokola, the corporate education reformer led Delaware DOE, and Governor Markell brought Common Core to Delaware.  When a once a year test became the measurement for all Delaware schools.  When our General Assembly passed laws allowing for more charter schools in the state which drained resources out of many school districts.  When special education took a back-seat to standards.  When teachers spent an exorbitant amount of time on professional development during school days.  When our collective voice said “We don’t want our children to take this test”, the DSEA supported an assessment inventory that ultimately led to no real change.  Even when I begged them not to and that it would weaken the parent voice for opt out legislation.  And it worked.  DSEA sheepishly and almost after the fact supported an override of the Governor’s veto but not without my having a tirade of epic proportions that actually caused me to burn some bridges.  I didn’t see DSEA’s collective bargaining power at play when disaster happened at the hands of David Sokola with their own teacher evaluation bill.  One man was able to turn the wishes of the entire DSEA into his playground and he got what he wanted.

Parents are consistently left out of the equation when it comes to education.  Sure, we get our placards on this committee or that task force, but we don’t have the ability to collectively bargain our way out of things we know are bad for our kids.  The majority of the decisions are made those who represent some type of profession in education or a company that will somehow profit off it.  I’m not saying this to bash unions, but to illustrate a point.  Any union is, on its face, going to have a priority of protecting their membership.  I get that.  Just as a baked bean company would be all about making great baked beans.  But when one guy wants to branch off and make different kind of baked bean products that diminish the entire line, that is a big problem.  Even when the research comes back that fully states: this new product isn’t worth a hill of beans, the one guy makes it happen.  That is Senator Sokola in Delaware.

As a final thought, in June of 2015, a Delaware parent openly questioned and challenged Sokola during a Senate Education Committee meeting on opt out.  When Sokola lost his cool and showed the true David Sokola, he told the parent that if she thought she could do a better job herself to run for office.  While this citizen was not able to run for Sokola’s seat, another citizen rose up to the challenge.  Would she have run if Sokola didn’t make a mockery out of parents over opt out?  We will never know.  But perhaps it planted a seed that could begin to bloom next week.  We may not know what kind of plant will grow next year, but it has to be better than the out of control and choking poison ivy that tarnishes every facet of education Sokola touches.  This is why I can’t personally stomach the thought of Sokola sitting in Legislative Hall in 2017.  And nothing, not even a potential threat of Right To Work, could get me to change my mind on that.  Perhaps Frederika Jenner wasn’t fully supportive of paying for a Sokola political ad as a member of the board of Delawarean’s First PAC.  But attaching her name to it sent ripple effects throughout the state in the past 44 hours.  Delaware education won’t change for the better until David Sokola is gone.

As a parent, my top priority is to make sure my child gets the best education possible.  As a parent, I can clearly see how Sokola policy has affected my child and 133,000 other children in Delaware.  I don’t see how a threat of Right To Work has affected these kids.  Perhaps it could become a future danger, but the Defcon-4 danger to education that is happening right now, in real-time, is David Sokola.  He must go.  I understand Mike Matthews and his perception of a Republican Senate as a danger.  But it is not something that would automatically come to pass.  We have years and years of watching Sokola operate.  I’m not running out telling every Delaware citizen to vote Republican in the Senate.  Nor am I doing that for any election this year.  But I would be remiss as a parent, a father, a husband, a supporter of public education, a supporter of teachers, a supporter of transparency, and a supporter of hope by thinking it is okay to give Sokola any possible edge in this election.  I can’t support the triumvirate of Democrat control in Delaware if it means keeping a guy like David Sokola in power.  I will support DSEA and other unions in a lot of areas, but not on David Sokola.  There is no balance in education as long as he retains his Senate seat.

DSEA May Not Be Endorsing Sokola, But They Sure As Hell Are Paying For One Of His Ads… No Thanks To Their Leader…

The Delaware State Education Association did not endorse Delaware Senator David Sokola this year.  They always have in the past.  But that didn’t stop their President, Frederika Jenner, from helping to pay for his online ads…

sokola-ad

So who is Delawareans First PAC?

delawareansfirstactionpac

 

Yup, this is the same Frederika Jenner.  The President of DSEA.  The same organization Sokola took an axe to with House Bill 399, the teacher evaluation bill.  The same Frederika Jenner that sits on the Rodel-inspired (and funded) Vision Coalition.  I’m sure she will be ticked at me over this but I truly don’t care.  She will be out in January.  Hopefully we will have new and better leadership that won’t surrender Delaware educators to the Rodel time-bomb that is just ticking away until it fully blows up Delaware public education in favor of Charterville.  But that’s right, she just wants to sit at the table with them.  But that’s okay.  Let’s help fund the campaign of the one Delaware legislator who should NOT be re-elected under any circumstances…

Delaware Senator David Sokola Openly Lied To Citizens In His Debate Last Night

Delaware Senator David Sokola openly lied in a debate with his opponent for the 8th Senate District, Republican Meredith Chapman.  WDEL covered the event which included a lot of talk about opt out and districts vs. charters.  When confronted with the question of opt out, WDEL reported the following:

Longtime incumbent state Senator David Sokola does not fully support an opt-out provision.

“If it said opt-out of Smarter Balanced, I’d probably support it,” said Sokola. “But if just said opt-out of the state tests–then I’d have a problem because I think we will be moving to a different assessment within a couple of years anyway.”

As Senator Sokola knows, House Bill 50 in its original incarnation was for all state assessments.  However, prior to the House voting on the bill, State Rep. Sean Matthews added an amendment limiting the legislation to just the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It overwhelmingly passed the House and went to the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Sokola.  When it was released from that committee, it went to the floor for a full Senate vote.  Sokola added an amendment to the bill to include all district assessments.  The amendment passed but Sokola voted no on House Bill 50.  After another Senator put on an amendment which was taken off by the House, it went back to the Senate for a second vote and Sokola voted no a second time.

David Sokola is a flat-out liar.  Some have attempted to sway me into supporting Sokola because of his track record on other issues, but I see him for what he is.  He is no longer fit to represent the people of his district, much less any child in the State of Delaware.  He can’t even own up to his own decisions and be honest about it.  Vote for Meredith Chapman in the 8th Senate District.  A quarter of a century of this liar is far too long…

The 2016 Anti-Endorsements

I see so many endorsements these days based on nothing but vapor.  I thought I would do the opposite.  An anti-endorsement.  Those who I wouldn’t vote for even if they were in my district and they were the only ones running.  These are candidates who have either done some really dumb things or are very clueless about what is going on.  And then there are the elite candidates who think their name is sufficient enough to stay in office.  Sorry, but I see right through you on many issues.  As for my Presidential anti-endorsements, it is a matter of choosing evil either way.  While we can certainly argue all day long about who is more evil, evil is as evil does…

David Sokola, 8th Senate District, incumbent, Democrat: If ever there were someone I would want to disappear from Legislative Hall, it would be Sokola.  It seems like every day I find out more about the damage Sokola has done over the past 25 years.  Enough.  If the 8th Senate District votes this guy in again, they are making a very big mistake.  I will be coming out with something in the next few days that will even cause Newark Charter School parents to rethink any support they may have for him.

Melanie George Smith, 5th Rep District, incumbent, unopposed, Democrat: She is a slippery one, this co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.  Using that kind of pulpit for dubious allocations of state funds is a big no-no in my book.  She has power down at Legislative Hall… too much.  Her recent home purchase in the Newark Charter School 5 mile radius is an transparent as Saran wrap.  I have to wonder what else she has done in the past couple of months in regards to that 5 mile radius…

John Carney, Delaware Governor, Democrat: I’ve heard John is a really nice guy.  He speaks from the heart, but what I worry about is his mind.  In a come from behind primary victory in 2008, Jack Markell beat John Carney.  I believe Carney remembers that very well.  Instead of looking at how bad Markell has been for Delaware over the past eight years, Carney is embracing the Markell mindset and forming the very same allegiances Jack had.  Carney’s “we all have to get along” doesn’t work for me.  It is easy to say that AFTER things have been set in place.  Stacking the deck with certain people and then saying “Let’s get together and talk” is pure politics and that is NOT the change I’m looking for.

Donald Trump, U.S. President, Republican: I lived in New York growing up.  Trump has been around a long time.  I still remember the controversy and shenanigans this guy has pulled going back to the 1980’s.  How he got this far is something I will always wonder about.  He is a bully, pure and simple.  A clown in a suit.  I firmly believe, should he win, he won’t sit long in the Oval Office.  And that will give us a President Mike Pence.  Another corporate education reform lover.  No thanks!

Hillary Clinton, U.S. President, Democrat: When Hillary was running for the New York Senate, an incident happened at Westchester County Airport.  It was covered up.  Someone died.  I wasn’t a big fan of her before that, and I’m not now.  She is the embodiment of all that is wrong with this country.  Corporate interests rule the day for her.  The will of the people will be sapped and broken if she wins.  Not right away.  But it will happen.  She knows damn well exactly what she is doing.  While not as transparent an evil as Donald Trump, it is the snake that is coiled up and hissing behind a rock you have to watch out for.

Colin Bonini, Delaware Governor, Republican: He ran for Governor but every time I hear him talk it sounds like a concession speech to John Carney.  He pretends to hate standardized test scores, but he blasts traditional school districts while thinking charter schools are a worthy replacement.  He forgets that test scores are the apparatus that damages high-need schools in Delaware.  And Colin, slavery apologies don’t change history, but it is a gesture of good faith.  It is not a crutch.

Harris McDowell, 1st Senate District, incumbent: You have long outlived your purpose in Legislative Hall Senator.  I wasn’t a big fan of McDowell before I saw this old post on Delaware Liberal the other night.  He was one of the four flippers on House Bill #334 which made the wretched Smarter Balanced Assessment the law of the land in Delaware.  He also voted no not once, but twice on House Bill 50, the parent opt out bill.  As the Senate co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, it is more than obvious he has used that pulpit for his own purposes.  Shady as shady gets…

Anthony Delcollo, 7th Senate District, candidate, Republican: This candidate did one thing to earn an anti-endorsement.  I attended a fund-raiser for State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Patti Blevins a couple of weeks ago.  Kim Williams will always have my support.  That is a no-brainer.  But Delcollo actually thought it was a good idea to ride around the restaurant where the fundraiser was being held with smears against Blevins on his truck.  This is extremely bad taste and gave me a gross feeling about him.  No thanks…

Pete Schwartzkopf, 14th Rep. District, incumbent, Democrat: A Jack Markell water carrier thick and thin.  It wasn’t just his appalling tactics with his desk-drawer veto of House Bill 50.  It was the disrespect he showed to members of the House.  As Speaker of the House, he has abused that role to further certain interests while using the big chair as a bully pulpit.  But all that pales to his behavior in caucus…  There is a very good reason many in Delaware refer to him as “Sneaky Pete”.

Joe Miro, 22nd Rep. District, incumbent, Republican: The one who brought the VERY WEAK opt out legislation forward when the House could have suspended the rules and overturned Jack Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  Nothing happened with that legislation and it was a way for Miro and other House Republicans make it look like they supported parental rights but instead brought it a crushing defeat that actually made parents feel like legislators don’t care about their rights.

Mike Ramone, 21st Rep. District, incumbent, Republican: See above.  But add to that, his telling me he can’t support the override because of John Kowalko…  not a good thing to tell me at all.  Add in his fervent support of charter school legislation that would have benefited charters for nothing but pleasing the charter crowd.

Bethany Hall-Long, Lieutenant Governor, Democrat: When I saw Hall-Long at the Del. State debate the other night, I saw someone who was pandering to a crowd.  I know, that’s what politicians do in many cases.  But it was thick as mud.  She was overdoing it.  She talks and talks and I don’t know if she truly understand what is coming out.  Her very quick plug for Teach For America the other night, after getting an endorsement from DSEA, spoke volumes.

Lisa Blunt-Rochester, U.S. Congress, Democrat: Her refusal to support parental rights in regards to standardized testing is a big reason I can’t support her.  But her Delaware Way of thinking, where everyone has to hash it out, hasn’t worked for Delaware.  And it is not going to work in Congress.  None of our Delaware reps in Congress have done anything really good for Delaware the past few years.  All of them voted no on an opt out amendment prior to the ESEA reauthorization.  I don’t see her supporting public education the way I would expect her to.  She seems far too connected with the Rodel crowd.  Those connections have been very bad for Delaware education.  While I think it would be great to have a female African-American Delaware Representative in Congress, I don’t think it should be her.

There are a few others who, a year ago, would have easily made this list.  But they earned some points for me in the last year.  It doesn’t mean I’m not watching them like a hawk though.  Some who I easily supported a year ago actually took a turn for the worse but they haven’t completely fallen into the pit.  Their conduct in the 149th General Assembly will tell the tale.  Not every anti-endorsement means I am 100% behind their challenger if they have one.  But my real endorsements are coming soon.

A Little Ditty About The Negan & Lucille Of Public Education: Jack & Dave

neganlucille

Senator Sokola.  You need to get a Governor to try to win an election.  The Negan and Lucille of public education.  I would quote their silly little letter to the News Journal, but it is all rubbish.  Nothing you haven’t heard before.  It appears desperation breeds laziness in these two.  When they can’t come up with anything new, they resort to the same old every single time.  It is a broken record trying to be heard when the record player stopped working years ago.  Yawn…

God help us if David Sokola is re-elected.  Which means Meredith Chapman has to win!  We don’t need Governor Markell’s right-hand man destroying public education for another term.  Markell wouldn’t have been able to get 3/4 of his initiatives through without his Lucille.

This is the second time in the past two months we have been subjected to Sokolaness in the opinion section of the News Journal.  The last time was Sokola taking credit for the Council of State Legislatures big report on public education.  As if education would just stop working unless David Sokola wasn’t involved.  You have seen the videosDSEA did not endorse him.  But he is fine with endorsing a bogus lawsuit against Christina School District.  John Carney has the Sokola blinders on.  He screws over teachers every chance he gets.  He helped Newark Charter School get away with financial invisibility.  He serves on the Joint Finance Committee with this fellow Newark Charter School cheerleader.  He keeps his knife sharp so when he betrays his peers in the General Assembly it has the sharpest cut.  He brought the DSTP and Smarter Balanced Assessment into our schools.  He does not support parental rights.  He has a very bizarre partnership with the 2016 Genghis Khan of teacher evaluations.  When he lost his political prowess last Spring, the Governor had to issue an Executive Order to do the job Sokola couldn’t do.  He rips on blogs while providing the ammunition they hurl at him.  He chickened out on a vote to put the State Board of Education under Sunset Review.

Sadly, Delaware being what it is, his fellow Democrats are forced to support him.  As the Lucille to Jack Markell’s Negan, Sokola smashes Delaware public education constantly.  And then Jack takes all the credit.

Senator David Sokola Does NOT Get Endorsed By Delaware State Education Association

The Delaware State Education Association came out with their 2016 Endorsed Candidate list for the upcoming election in November.  There is a rather large glaring omission: the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, none other than 8th District Senator David Sokola.  I can’t say I’m surprised.  He was not a friend to teachers in the 148th General Assembly.  Or parents.  Or students.  Between House Bill 50 and House Bill 399, opt out to teacher evaluations, Sokola did not make a lot of new friends the past two years.   He was widely seen as the legislative water carrier for Governor Jack Markell.  While he is now trying to distance himself from the Delaware Dept. of Education, his actions the past two years speak otherwise.  This is very big folks!  To be the Chair of an education committee at Legislative Hall and NOT get endorsed by the teachers union speaks volumes.

DSEA’s 2016 Endorsed Candidates for State and Federal Elections

DSEA’s 2016 Endorsed Candidates

Delaware United And “Video Gate”

*Editor’s Note: The Sokola Videos are back up now.  Apparently, Delaware United didn’t announce the videos yet but forgot to put it on private when they uploaded them to Youtube.  And of course the Sneaky Snake Blogger stumbled on them (which is how I find a ton of stuff… shhhhhh!).  I was a bit rough on the rookie political grassroots group.  They are new, and they will make mistakes.  Growing pains of any new organization.  I know I never make mistakes on here (stop laughing).  And I never overreact (seriously, stop laughing).

This morning, I put up a series of videos between Delaware United and Delaware Senator David Sokola.  I found these three videos on Youtube last night.  At the request of one of the parties involved in the videos (not David Sokola), I was asked me to take the post down. I honored the request. I soon found the videos were made private on Youtube.  I felt the interview was excellent and gave voters in the 8th Senate District a good vantage point on David Sokola’s views on education. Many topics were covered: the Charter School vs. Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education lawsuit, the WEIC redistricting plan and what happened in the General Assembly, education funding, Newark Charter School, parent engagement, teacher unions in charter schools, and so on.  But apparently, since Delaware United does not slam candidates, the perception of posting the videos on a blog that is very critical of David Sokola would be seen as the group slamming Sokola.

Delaware United has been around for a few months now. After Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the Presidential Democrat primary, many upper Delaware Bernie supporters created Delaware United. Since their creation, they have reached out to candidates in Delaware at a state and federal level.  While Delaware United claims to not be affiliated with any political party, every single one of their endorsements have been Democrat candidates.  While I agree with some of their choices, I have serious issues with a group that claims to be non-partisan but every single one of their goals and endorsements are Democrat leaning.  The group describes themselves as the following on their Facebook page:

Welcome to Delaware United, a proactive group of Delaware voters and volunteers from various backgrounds, all united to change the course of Delaware local politics.

But what is even odder is their rules for their Facebook page:

Policies and Practices for Delaware United Online Activity

Delaware United·Thursday, September 22, 2016 .

Policies and Practices for Delaware United Online Activity
Updated: September 22, 2016

*All rules are subject to change at the discretion of Delaware United’s Administrators
Rules for Facebook posts for Those Who Like, Visit or Follow Delaware United’s Page

  1. No posting on, commenting on, or tagging/hashtagging Delaware United regarding Presidential Politics. This is a locally-organized group, and we need to come together to change Delaware. That will not happen by subdividing on presidential politics, it will happen by getting involved locally and making a difference in Delaware specific issues.
  2. No posting on, commenting on, or tagging/hashtagging Delaware United in attack posts about any candidates. We are all adults, and you don’t need to pick on anyone or drag anyone down to prove your point. If you want to lift up a candidate and explain reasonably and maturely voice your opinion about any candidate, you are certainly free to do so. However, we do not attack other candidates, we are nonpartisan, we use positive press because we do not need to further propagate the disrespectful division in our political process. This state belongs to all of us, and we need to work together to make a difference.
  3. No attacking each other via posting, commenting, or tagging/hashtagging. When you see something you don’t agree with, there is the option to keep scrolling. Please do not attack other people because they have different opinions on a topic or person. If you can respectfully voice your opposing opinion and wish to open a dialogue GREAT; we encourage that, but please be respectful of each other. Again, we need to work together.
  4. No spam posts or comments. If you are repeatedly posting the same long, drawn out comments it will be removed each time, after which you will first receive a warning message or comment, and then you will be banned from commenting and/or blocked. Open a dialogue, talk to each other, voice your opinions, but no one wants to read the same 1200 word post that you have pasted in every comment for the past week, or see that you are using a page with an engaged audience for your own purpose.
  5. Please try to post comments relevant to the post. We have all seen someone try to post a completely unrelated article or copy paste a comment in every post on a page, but we have also seen comments stray way off topic, despite whether or not the commenters realize this. An open dialogue is great, and it is encouraged, but this is about creating community, so please if you want to talk to someone about an issue privately message them or friend request them, and chat elsewhere. Build friendships, build dialogues, and community; we need to come together in Delaware, and who knows maybe we can create some in person relationships instead of just cyber ones. We aren’t going to block anyone, or delete comments for straying off topic, but rather we are encouraging you to become a community.
  6. Refrain from using certain language to describe our group. Please do not refer to Delaware United directly using all or any part of the following terms: “Democrats”, “Progressive.” “Liberal,” “Watchdog;” We don’t need labels, and not everyone in this group falls under any of these terms, so please be respectful of them. Please keep in mind the nature of our group is one that is all-inclusive, regardless of political party or past voting history, and even those who cannot vote in Delaware are still welcomed and useful volunteers, as long as they believe in our platform.

When a supposed non-partisan group begins telling people HOW TO VOTE, I have serious issues with that.  Any citizen’s right to vote is their choice.  How a person formulates who they want to vote for and why is their own business.  It gives a vibe of “if you don’t agree with us then you can’t be a part of our group.”  By telling people we welcome everyone as long as you believe in our platform, that sends a very mixed message.  But this October 15th post on their Facebook page really pissed me off:

Hey everybody, I just want to share this message of caution when it comes to some of the rhetoric that’s affecting the hardest working candidates in this election cycle.

One thing I have to say, that I forgot to mention in the video, is that we have people fighting for some of the most forward thinking policies in our nation, right here in Delaware, and they need your help to get re-elected to continue fighting that fight. Please consider volunteering and help us help Delaware. We need people to remain in the house and senate that have fought for living wage policies, public option health care, pay equity, campaign finance reform, and all the other issues we care about most. This clean out the house, and burn it down in the process rhetoric is not only dangerous, but it is also detrimental to our goals across the country.

You have to consider what the other option is in the general election, would we be going from a person with one policy position you don’t agree with, to a person with even worse positions? Is that a trade you really want to make? Additionally, please be aware that you can not just vote based on positions on one issue, that is dangerous and short sighted. If you agree with 90% of the candidates policies, but 10% you disagree with, on one side of the ticket, but on the other you disagree with 90% but agree with 10%, is that a trade you really want to make as well? Please vote, but please vote educated.

What percentage of a person’s issues that factor into how they vote is their own business.  There is no formula to this.  It is all an individual decision.  This is just one of the many reasons I can’t wait until this damn election is over.

I never participated in any of Delaware United’s events.  I did share their video series with Sokola’s Republican opponent, Meredith Chapman.  I just realized while linking to that article, the 2nd out of the three videos no longer exists.  For a group that promotes transparency, I am having a very difficult time with their back and forth on what can be said, what views a person is supposed to have, what percentage of their mind should vote for a candidate, deleting of public posts, their very biased endorsements based on their overarching goal of the group, and the very bizarre handling of the Sokola/Chapman contest.  What does it even mean when you post videos with one candidate in a contest but not the other candidate?  I think this group has bitten off more than they can chew.  I have no doubt Delaware Democrats love them to death.  But this is not Delaware United.  This is Delaware Democrats United.  If you want to claim to be a non-partisan group, then stick with the original title.  But their actions suggest something altogether different.  I deplore any type of censorship.  Their very strict rules in regards to what people can or can’t say goes against the most basic foundations of a democracy.  If this is “Delaware United”, then count me out.

I will attempt to recollect to the best of my ability the highlights of the Sokola interviews.  The first video was about Delaware education.  The first question dealt with the charter school lawsuit against the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Sokola said there were inconsistencies with the formula but he laid the blame on the Delaware DOE for what happened.  When asked if he would pick a side in the battle: charters or school districts, Sokola flat-out said his side is “the money follows the kid”.  He made it look like the General Assembly will still attempt to bring all the sides together on this issue and hopes to have many parents attend.  But he said “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” in regards to getting parents involved.  One question dealt with Newark Charter School and the lack of an organized PTA or PTO.  As well, the question also touched on teacher unions in charter schools.  Sokola said he will not write legislation forcing union membership as he believes that is a choice for each teacher to make in filling out a union card and collectively creating a union.  He said the idea of charter schools creating innovative schools was written into the original charter law (which he wrote and took full credit for), but he claimed it is a two-way street and both sides need to come together to collaborate.  He cited Kuumba Charter School having a Singapore Math program and how Brandywine reached out to them and came together.  One Delaware United member said she asked NCS Head of School Greg Meece about this issue to which Meece said something to the effect of throwing out an olive branch and no one took him up on it.  In regards to WEIC, Sokola said it came down to funding.  When told the funding could have been made available, Sokola replied with a nonchalant answer about the original WEAC plan giving certain recommendations but when the WEIC redistricting plan came out it became much more with no clear way of knowing if those recommendations would work in the long run for students.  A suggestion was made to Sokola that if legislation comes up in the Senate Education Committee where parents come to support an issue, that legislation should happen first on the agenda so parents can get back to their families.

When I first heard about Delaware United, a citizen approached me about it.  This person said they were concerned about how the group was forming.  I checked them out.  I liked their Facebook page.  But I made it very clear to this group I would not support all of their endorsements and I felt their censorship regarding certain things flew against what they stood for.  Apparently that advice wasn’t taken seriously.  I am putting up the Sokola interview article again.  I am now seeing the 2nd Sokola video is still up.  Read from that what you will.  This blog will no longer play Ping-Pong over another group’s internal strife.

 

Senator David Sokola On The Charter/Christina Lawsuit, WEIC, Newark Charter School, and Education Funding

Delaware Senator David Sokola is up for re-election. But this isn’t just any normal re-election. He is up for the fight of his life! After a very contentious 148th General Assembly and education issues coming up left and right, Sokola is faced with a very determined opponent. Meredith Chapman is running on the GOP side of the 8th Senate District ticket. Delaware United interviewed Sokola in a three-part interview. One of the interviewees is Elizabeth Paige. While she is not interviewing Sokola in her role as the President of the Christina Board of Education, there is definitely some tension there! These videos, especially the first one, are a must-watch! Thanks to Delaware United for interviewing Sokola!

Live From Legislative Hall: The Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee Meeting

The meeting is about to start.  A facilitator introduced himself.  Didn’t hear his name.  Secretary Godowsky is talking about how the ESSA Adv. Comm. came about (Executive Order #62).  Stakeholder input is important.  Goal is to submit plan by March, 2017.  Thanking everyone for being on the committee.  Secretary Godowsky just told the group Delaware schools grew by 1,100 students this year.  Appo Super Matt Burrows (the chair) is talking now.  Some late members of the committee are forced to sit against the walls cause they don’t have enough chairs to go around the table.

Rollcall: Tony Allen, Atnre Alleyne, Alex Palaono, Matt Burrows, Catherine Hnt, Nancy Labanda, Madeleine Bayard, LaShanda Wooten, Laurissa Schutt, Kim Williams, Nelia Dolan, Stephanie De Witt, David Sokola, Rodman Ward, Eileen DeGregoriis, Wendee Bull, Barbara Rutt, Leolga Wright, Cheryl Carey, Susan Bunting, Deb Stevens, Tammi Croce, Patrick Callahan, Janine Clark, and Genesis Johnson.  Other people in attendance are as follows.  DOE: Michael Watson, Karen Field-Rogers, Secretary Godowsky, Angeline Rivello, DSEA: Kirsten Dwyer.  Caesar Rodney teachers Laurie Howard and Natalie Ganc.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams reacted to a statement from the facilitator.  She wanted clarification on who is writing the ESSA state plan.  The Delaware DOE is.  The Adv. Comm. will give recommendations.  Tony Allen asked about the due dates for the plan.  The facilitator told him there are two due dates, March 31st and July 31st.  Delaware chose March 31st because it takes the US DOE 120 days to approve it and they want to get it going by the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

Alex Nook with the Penn Hill Group is giving a presentation on ESSA.  He is familiar with federal education law.  ESSA gives states more leeway but still has accountability and so forth.  Now he is talking about Title I.  He asked if anyone in the room doesn’t know what Title I is.  No one raised their hand (thank God).  States are still required to set long-term goals for academic achievement.  Unlike No Child Left Behind, 100% of kids don’t have to be proficient.  ESSA gives states flexibility.  What kind of accountability system should we have.  What works for some schools and what do we need to do for struggling schools.  The requirement for turnaround schools but if they want mo money they have to do something for those schools.  English Language learners have more focus in ESSA.  English proficiency for these students is now a requirement in federal education law.  But states determine the timeline for this.  Kim Williams asked if this means we won’t fire principals and teachers in turnaround schools.  Nook said not federally required.  Atnre Alleyne asked what the percentage of Title I funds have to go to struggling schools.  Nook said 7%.  Alleyne asked how much fed money Delaware is getting.  Karen Field-Rogers said she would find out.

Nook said Title II funds are for teachers and professional development.  $2 billion nationally, every school district gets a portion of them.  Congress felt school leaders weren’t getting enough federal dollars so they allowed states to set aside 3% of funds to ensure leaders get prof. development as well.  The rest of the fed money goes to schools and districts for teachers and prof. development.

Another pot of money is Title IV funds.  This is a new program.  They are consolidating this into a Student Supports and Academic Enrichment Grant.  The former funds didn’t work well so this is a larger flexible program.  Money is more for what a school district or charter school needs.  This is figured out at the local level and not through Congress.  Congress hasn’t approved a final amount for this.  Obama Administration, Congress, and the Senate are all floating different numbers.  There is no existing funding mechanism for this.  21st Century Learning Program will continue.  Charter School program will continue: $ for start-ups, help, resources for charters.

Nook is answering questions.  DeGregoriis asked for more info on the charter school funding.  Alleyne asked about highly qualified teachers and state equity plans.  Congress wrote definition, according to Nook, of what a highly qualified teacher was under NCLB.  Congress decided that should not be a requirement of the law.  Now all teachers must meet state certification plans, so whatever Delaware says, that is it.  With the equity plan, a carryover from NCLB, disadvantaged kids can’t be taught by ineffective and inexperienced teachers.  That was the plan for why Obama and Congress created the equity plan.  These plans weren’t in statute before and the next administration will have more say on what happens with that.  Class-size waivers will still be allowed.  That can be done through Title II.  Kim Williams asked about requirements for a teacher to teach in a classroom.  Nook said highly qualified teachers are done but the states handle requirements for this.  LaShonda Wooten said highly qualified teachers have to take a test to be highly qualified.  So before the feds mandated this, now the states do.

Now Nook is talking about the dreaded R word… regulations.  Regulations make sure rules don’t go against the will of Congress for the intent of the law.  US DOE put out regulations for accountability and assessments  (even though many members of Congress are against John King’s massive overreach on this).  These are proposed regulations and the public comment period closed.  The accountability regulations had over 21,000 public comments (one was mine, LOL).  Regulations say states must have tests available in second most commonly spoken language in the state.  Delaware’s plans will hinge on the final form of these regulations so our plans could change.  This is one of the reasons why Delaware wants to submit their plans in March.  Nook is anticipating the final regulatory package in late November/early December.  There will also be an application package put out by US DOE.  Deb Stevens asked if the regulations will be ironed out for the states that submit their plans in early March.  Nook said it will be very difficult for US DOE to adhere to those due dates if the regulations aren’t set in stone.  Nook said he has faith in US Secretary of Education John King to make sure this is done.  Stevens asked about giving states more time for the 17-18 school year if things aren’t set in stone.  Would Delaware get that flexibility?  Nook believes US DOE would be open to that but nothing is written on paper.  He understands you don’t want to risk Title I dollars over this kind of stuff.

Nook said the accountability system has to have five different standards, including English Language learner proficiency.  The fifth category is picked by the states.  Nook said Delaware has an advantage because we already have a multi-level accountability system.  Seven states are “competency-based” pilot states.  Delaware will have to decide what they want to do (hell to the no on Delaware going competency-based- editor’s note).  Nook said the Presidential election will have a huge impact on everything.  Whether it is Trump or Clinton there might be change.  A new Secretary could change due dates from March to April or change regulatory matters.  They may advocate for different funding for programs.

DeGregoriis asked what the benefit is for Delaware submitting their plan early with all these what ifs… Nook said the benefit is being in better shape for budgetary decisions.  It sounds like Delaware wants input.  Secretary Godowsky said the March due date is a goal.  But it could change given all the moving targets.  Godowsky said we are making a good effort.  Kim Williams asked how we are going to get the new Delaware administration’s input as well.  That is her concern with a March due date.  She said we could have a new Secretary of Education.  Godowsky said they WILL have a new Secretary of Education.  He feels if there is a lot of change with the plan, there could be due date changes.

Stevens asked Nook to explain supplement vs. supplant.  He defines it as federal dollars are supposed to supplement and not replace systems.  Federal dollars need to be on top of a state or local set of resources.  There is contention in Congress over this, and a new regulation is out there and public comment is still open until early November.  Congress feels Title I should be a more equalized state and local amount of funding.  The US DOE is moving forward on the regulations to give districts options on how to even out funding.  Stevens explained she understands it could affect local staffing in Title I schools.  Tony Allen asked if this is dollar for dollar or equitable funding.  Nook said the US DOE is giving districts four options to choose from.  (Note to self: look into this one a lot more).

Alleyne asked if this will kick the can down the road more for struggling schools.  Nook said Delaware chose to freeze schools for this year that would have gone under the SIG program like previous years.  Nook is done.  Five minute break.

Break is over.  Karen Field-Rogers is talking about what the DOE has done already.  She is explaining how they had stakeholder consultation groups they meet with on an already continual basis throughout the year.  They have held four community conversations in Dover, Georgetown, Middletown, and Wilmington.  There are two discussion groups: School Success and Reporting AND Student and School Supports.  They have also had a survey open on their website and they have had over 400 submissions already.  The DOE wants a first draft of the plan by the end of this month.  They just announced the new Community Conversations.  There will be gaps in the first draft.  The DOE wants comments.  It is not a complete plan at all.  They also want to have the first draft so the new Governor-elect will be able to provide input.  DOE wants to submit second draft of the plan by the end of the year.  Susan Bunting asked if the public will be able to comment online for the drafts.  DOE is talking to their lawyers about that.  (What? Why?).  There were over 100 nominations for the discussion groups.  They worked w/organizations like DSEA to pick those members.  Only 54 were chosen (27 for each group).  Alleyne asked if the representation on the different groups represented the diversity of the state.  Field-Rogers believes they have.  She said they were very careful about this.  She said in Wilmington they partnered with the Christina Cultural Arts Center and there was a block party afterwards.  Williams asked what the purpose of the Community Conversations were?  Field-Rogers said it is to help guide the DOE with their plan.  All the discussion group minutes are on the DOE website (or on Exceptional Delaware- editor’s note).  The DOE is in the process of “synthesizing” all the responses to the surveys and will be releasing that information soon.

Facilitator is going over piece of paper handed out to everyone.  Asking questions: what is the most important thing that Delaware should accomplish for its schools through its ESSA Plan?  What three areas are you most interested in reviewing?  The five groups are Supporting Excellent Educations for All Students, Challenging Academic Standards and Assessments, Measures of School Success and Public Reporting, School Support and Improvement, and Supporting All Students.  He is giving the group five minutes to fill out the sheet.  Then the group will caucus in four to five groups.  One person in the group will be a facilitator for each group and will report out to the whole group.

Groups are done meeting.  I was chatting with the Laverne and Shirley of Delaware education most of the time.  Atnre Alleyne is talking for his group.  A big focus of his group was educator equity and accountability.  Who is accountable when gaps in the system happen?  What happens when people leave the state and more gaps continue?  Next group, Laurissa Schutt said their group talked about the timing of the group.  As well, they talked about academic supports and how much local discretion there will be.  Wendee Bull is talking for the third group: how to still have the rigor we have now, to make sure districts still have accountability to uphold that rigor.  The facilitator said ESSA doesn’t totally give up federal oversight of accountability but gives more leeway.  It will be determined how much of that flexibility will occur and it will be a balancing act.  Patrick Callihan represented the last group.  He agreed with Atnre.  In order to get there we need a fair and balanced system.  Start to change the stigma of how schools are being guided.  The feds don’t know a lot about what is going on in Delaware.