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

The Delaware Senate Education Committee just got very interesting.  While it is still five members, the composition of the committee includes two rookie Senators.  Long-time Chair, Senator David Sokola, is still on the committee as one of three Democrats.  Senator Laura Sturgeon will be the Chair while Senator Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman will be the Vice-Chair.  The five member group also has Republican Senators Anthony Delcollo and Ernie Lopez.

Gone are Senators Brian Pettyjohn, Bryan Townsend, and Jack Walsh who were on the Senate Education Committee last year.

Having Sturgeon as Chair is big news for Delaware education.  She served on the Delaware State Education Association Executive Committee for many years.  Lockman as Vice-Chair is also an interesting choice.

As I reported the other day, a rookie Senator has been appointed to the Joint Finance Committee.  While I thought it was one person, it is actually Laura Sturgeon who will serve on the JFC.

Many have wondered if David Sokola will make this his last term and resign after 26 years in the State Senate.  Sokola is synonymous with the Senate Education Committee so to see him take a step back like this is shocking.  While we still have State Rep. Earl Jaques as Chair of the House Education Committee, the powerhouse combo of himself and Sokola as the leaders in education legislation movement is officially over.

The Chair of the Senate Education Committee chooses the agenda for which bills are heard in Committee as well as bringing the bills to the floor for a vote when they are released from Committee.  Interesting times indeed!

Kathy McGuiness: Why The Idea Of Her As State Auditor Is Beyond Frightening

Who is Kathy McGuiness?  Yes, she is running for State Auditor.  But who is she really?  Is she true Blue or is she Red for convenience sake?  Who are her best friends and why would that make it VERY dangerous for her to win this election?  She wants to be a state auditor.  Someone whose job is making sure other state agencies don’t break the rules.  But her alliances and allegiances beg the question and puts her on a very slippery slope.  And I’m not just talking about the slopes in Park City, Utah. Continue reading

Delaware Cursive Bill Goes To Governor Carney For Signature

How about those apples Kate Gladstone?  The Delaware Cursive Bill, House Bill #70, passed the Delaware Senate today with 17 yes and 2 no votes.  Two State Senators were absent.  The no votes were State Senators Gary Simpson and Ernie Lopez.  Now the bill, which would make cursive instruction mandatory in Delaware public schools, will go to the desk of Governor John Carney for signature.

This was a surprisingly controversial bill this session.  A prior attempt at this legislation came out in the 148th General Assembly but failed to get a full vote in the House.  This time, it went all the way through the General Assembly.  It created a good amount of discussion concerning the worthiness of the bill.  Full disclosure, I fully supported this bill.

One of the folks opposed to the bill was a woman named Kate Gladstone.  She made it her mission at the House Education Committee meeting to make sure the bill went nowhere.  Obviously, most of the Delaware legislators were not swayed by her unconvincing arguments.  Perhaps another state will listen to you when they follow Delaware’s lead on this Ms. Gladstone!

I want to thank State Rep. Andria Bennett who saw this bill through as well as State Rep. Deb Hudson who gave it a valiant attempt two years ago!

**UPDATED**Delaware Senators Pettyjohn, Lopez, Lavelle, Simpson and DelCollo Publicly Support Betsy DeVos…Why? Please Withdraw Your Support

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*Please see below for a statement from Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn in regards to this letter.

This morning, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams published a letter from several state legislators around the country supporting Betsy DeVos in her nomination for the United States Secretary of Education.  Senators Anthony DelCollo, Greg Lavelle, Ernie Lopez, Brian Pettyjohn, and Gary Simpson represented the Delaware contingent of these signatures.  I am publicly asking these five Delaware Republican Senators to withdraw their support for Mrs. DeVos.

Last week, DeVos had her Senate Confirmation hearing.  She did not know the difference between growth and proficiency.  She supported guns in schools to prevent grizzly bear attacks.  She stated when she was first nominated that she supported dismantling Common Core, but history with the DeVos Foundation suggests otherwise.  She is a fervent supporter of school vouchers which have the strong potential to further issues of discrimination and segregation in American schools the way they are currently set up in many states.  She supports charter schools which have not shown to be a greater success unless the pull smarter students in through selective enrollment preferences despite the legality of those preferences in many states.  But most disappointing was DeVos inability to understand that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, is a federal law, not a state and local law.

As a father of a student with disabilities, I was appalled when Betsy DeVos said this.  The U.S. Secretary of Education is a person who leads all American students in public education.  The last thing we need is someone who does not understand special education going into the job.  DeVos is a billionaire but her ability to lead education in America is disturbing on many levels.

I have found myself in alignment with many bills that Pettyjohn and Lopez supported.  They stood with parents during the opt out saga.  They did not support the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Which is why I find their support of DeVos puzzling.  Education has become synonymous with standardized testing.  Students with disabilities do the poorest on these tests.  But they are expected to show the most “growth” in state accountability systems.  As a result, in my opinion, special education has become a gigantic mess.  It is now geared more towards the student outcomes on these tests than accommodating the true needs of each individual student.  If DeVos has her way, students with disabilities could be shuffled around different private schools through a very flawed school voucher system.  Private schools are not obligated to follow federal special education law unless they receive federal education funds.  Special education in public schools can be challenging enough, adding private schools to that mix with federal dollars could become a recipe for disaster for a population that is already marginalized to a great extent.

Once again, I urge these five Delaware Republican Senators to withdraw their support for Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education.  Our children deserve better.  Students with disabilities deserve better.  And my son deserves better.

**UPDATED**5:16pm: I spoke with Senator Pettyjohn about this issue shortly after I posted this article.  He echoed the statement he made on Facebook, which said:

Kevin, I agreed to support Betsy DeVos for her nomination to lead the US Department of Education based on my belief that an outsider view of the US DOE is necessary. In previous statements, Ms. DeVos had indicated her disdain for the Department and it’s overburdensome policies and regulations toward states and local districts. I have, for some time, been critical of the federal intrusion into our classrooms, and prior to Ms. DeVos’ confirmation hearings, those were concerns that she had also viewed with a critical eye.

That being said, I do have concerns that have been brought to light since her confirmation hearings; especially concerning her stance on special education. While this is an issue that our United States Senators will be faced with in the coming days, I believe that the letter that was sent, which I agreed to sign before the confirmation hearings took place, will have relatively little impact on the decision that will ultimately be made on Capitol Hill.

That Senate Confirmation hearing took a lot of folks by surprise.  In my eyes, it just proved that vast amounts of wealth does not always equal knowledge.  DeVos will face a vote for her nomination next Tuesday, January 31st.

 

Who Is On The Assessment Inventory Committee?

I reached out to Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques to see who is on the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee.  I received his response yesterday.  This is a very interesting list with a name I never saw before, but I was very familiar with the last name.  We shall see what comes out of this committee.  My guess: a massive reduction in district assessments which will lead to more Smarter Balanced interim assessments.  As well, official legislation getting rid of the Smarter Balanced for high school juniors since the SAT is going to become SBAC Jr. (my nickname for it).

Here are the members of the SJR #2 Assessment Inventory Committee:

Delaware Senator David Sokola

Delaware Senator Nicole Poore

Delaware Senator Ernie Lopez

Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews

Delaware State Rep. Timothy Dukes

Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques

Delaware State Education Association President Frederika Jenner

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Vicki Gehrt (filling the role of President of Chief School Officer’s Association)

Raina Allen (filling the role of “A representative of the civil rights’ community picked by the Governor”)

Equetta Jones (filling the role of “Parent picked by the Governor”, also a teacher in Red Clay Consolidated School District)

This is an interesting group.  With the legislators, it is right down the middle with who voted yes on the opt-out bill, House Bill 50, and  who voted no.  The “yeas” were Senators Poore and Lopez and State Rep.  Matthews.  The “nays” were Senator Sokola and State Reps Jaques and Dukes.  Both Sokola and Jaques are the head of their prospective education committees in the Senate and House.  Jenner is obviously represent the entire DSEA membership.  Gehrt, who also hails from the same district as our current Secretary Godowsky.   I have never personally met Equetta Jones, but I did see her speak at a Red Clay school board meeting last spring and she is very passionate.  The only person I wasn’t familiar with was Raina Allen, but a quick Google search let me know exactly who she was.

Filling roles from the Department of Education are: Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Chief of Staff Shana Young (which will be interesting given what I’m hearing), Tina Shockley, and Susan Haberstroh.  What I don’t see is anyone from the State Board of Education involved, anyone as just a teacher, and only one parent.  This is a very top-heavy group and they will be helping to make crucial decisions about the future of assessment in Delaware.  If this sounds reminiscent of the DOE’s recently defunct Accountability Framework Working Group (but no legislators were on this), where the recommendations of that committee were ignored by Godowsky and the State Board of Education, let’s hope the legislators can keep an eye on what is really important and not make this the usual Jack Markell dog-and-pony show.

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.