How the hell did I miss this? I broke the news on the House Committee memberships and I totally missed this awesomeness! State Rep. John Kowalko is back on the House Education Committee! To understand how big this is, you have to look at the history of why he was removed in the first place. Continue reading
As the News Journal reported the other day, the Delaware House and Senate met tonight to choose the leadership for each caucus. This was met with scrutiny by some because this is normally done a week after the election. But both parties want to get the ball rolling early for the 150th General Assembly. Who is in? Continue reading
Jessica Bies with the News Journal wrote an article about State Auditor candidate Kathleen Davies and willfully withheld information provided to her that would have drastically changed her article. There is absolutely no credible reason for Bies to withhold crucial information like that. Continue reading
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
Following the crazy events at tonight’s School District Consolidation Task Force meeting, I emailed Speaker of the House, Pete Schwartzkopf. I wrote about what transpired at the meeting as well as some other concerns. I asked him to remove State Rep. Earl Jaques as Chair of the task force.
Good evening Speaker Schwartzkopf,
I wanted to let you know of some disturbing events that came up during the School District Consolidation Task Force meeting held at Smyrna High School.
As the Chair of the task force, State Rep. Earl Jaques brought up proposals stemming out of the Structures Subcommittee. One of those proposals, according to Rep. Jaques, was a mechanism by which the State Board of Education could used the Charter School Performance Framework for traditional school districts. This proposal went on to say the State Board could then use the results of that framework to decide whether a state takeover of a district was warranted. Another thing would be to force that district to merge with another district.
Multiple members of the regular task force, who attended those Structure subcommittee meetings, were unable to remember any circumstance where that option was even discussed. When asked for clarification on this issue, Rep. Jaques was unable to clearly remember which meeting it was at, jumping from Seaford to Cape Henlopen. He settled on a Cape Henlopen meeting. Upon review of the agendas for that subcommittee, none were held in Cape Henlopen.
The members of the task force were in complete shock over the very discussion of an idea like this. Rep. Jaques did say, when asked, the full task force would be able to vote on each proposal prior to the final report coming out.
As well, Rep. Jaques has commissioned reports for the task force without bringing it to a full task force vote. He has openly, and publicly, admitted to conversations with the Governor about having these reports done.
I believe, along with other task force members, that Rep. Jaques has overstepped the legislative intent of this task force and is holding non-public meetings for proposals that are outside the scope of the task force.
I would like you to look into this, and if warranted, have Rep. Jaques removed as Chair of the Task Force.
I would hope Schwartzkopf at least gives the courtesy of a reply on this matter.
The loooooooong-time State Auditor, Tom Wagner, announced he was retiring last night at the annual Delaware GOP Lincoln Dinner. He couldn’t think of a single Republican to take his place. As many have suggested, the flip-flopper Kathy McGuiness should switch from Democrat to Republican since that is where her heart lies. Which would leave Dennis Williams as the sole filed Democrat. May I present a third option… Continue reading
I’ve seen a ton of hate pointed at State Rep. Andria Bennett since her momentous decision last Thursday night. The whole House Bill 240 personal income tax vote. She didn’t like what it would do to itemized deductions. She heard from her constituents. She did what a State Rep. is supposed to do: represent. Let’s face it, it was a crappy bill in an even crappier situation.
It isn’t the Republicans who are trouncing her. It is her own party. Even some of her own colleagues in the House. That is just wrong. There is someone out there with a fake name called Delaware Way. When I got the friend request, I thought it was Nancy Willing because her blog is called The Delaware Way. But last night I defriended this anonymous troll who is NOT Nancy Willing. This anonymous Facebook personality was bashing Bennett very hard with ugly words that are public. This person told me to get off my high horse. That’s fine, I own that. I’ve been hard on many in Delaware politics at one point or another. But I don’t bring out heavy curse words in my descriptions of elected officials. I learned my lesson from doing that ONCE with DSEA over opt out. And it hurt my reputation for a long time. But I never went after someone personally and out of the realm of their lives as a public figure. That is the key difference.
This is what I know about Rep. Bennett. When the IEP Task Force was created back in 2014, I hounded the legislators to add parents to the task force. I received responses from many that it was a done deal. But Rep. Bennett, along with a few others, got the Delaware Senate to rescind their vote, add an amendment to add parents, and vote again on the concurrent resolution. Last year, when I ran for the Capital School Board, she wrote a letter endorsing me. This year, I watched her fight hard for a cursive bill that passed the House and Senate. She voted against the budget back in 2015 along with five other legislators. They were all branded by their own party as Benedict Arnolds but they all showed courage in the face of kicking the can. That same can blew up all over the state budget this year. She always says hi to me when I see her, unlike some down at Legislative Hall. I am sure if I dug around a bit, there are votes she has cast that I would like and hate. They all have those votes.
I have no doubt in the world she upset a lot of plans last Thursday night. But the reality is simple: House Bill 240 was NEVER going to pass the Delaware Senate. With 10 Republicans out of 21 Senators, on a vote that required a 3/5th vote? It wasn’t going to happen. If anything, Bennett saved the bill from an even bigger defeat. There was NO door opening if it passed the House. It was going to die no matter what.
The General Assembly is messed up. The leadership is horrible. If we don’t have legislators on the Right storming out instead of actually voting, we have certain Dems falling all over each other congratulating themselves on their monumental victory last night. Schwartzkopf is not a good leader. He is a great micro-manager though. One of those bosses who is all over you if you do something he doesn’t like. And he STILL hasn’t returned my email I sent to him a few weeks ago. Bennett would within 24-48 hours, no questions asked. And she isn’t even my State Representative!
Like every legislator, they wear different hats. They have the face they put on in front of the public as an elected official. But then they go home to their families and loved ones and they are just like anyone else. So to trounce Bennett the way I’ve seen, calling her the things I’ve seen, that is despicable. You didn’t like her vote? That’s fine. But don’t take it so personal. She is a human being just like Pete and Val and John and Kim and Danny and Tim and all the rest of them. She has a family and friends. She had her reasons. Get over it!
State Rep. Earl Jaques showed off his “Big Man on Campus” persona in an embarrassing display of supposed power today which he may be wrong about.
Advocates for any opt out bill in Delaware knew there would be opposition. Those of us who have advocated for a bill which codifies and honors a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment knew this going in. However, hanging your hat on a superficial and made-up procedure the way Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques did is shameful and embarrassing. State Rep. John Kowalko, the primary sponsor of the bill, was composed and polished today. There was no back and forth between himself and Jaques as there was two years ago.
House Bill 60 was not released from the House Education Committee. With only eight out of seventeen members voting to release the bill, Jaques declared the bill dead. However, there is a big caveat to his declaration. Although there were 12 members on the floor, the committee is made up of 17 state representatives. Five bills were heard in committee today. For the other four, Jaques indicated he would walk the bill to the members. For the opt out bill, he said he would not release the bill since there was a majority of members on the floor during the vote. State Rep. Sean Lynn called for a parliamentary inquiry on the matter. There is a chance Jaques could be overruled on his refusal to walk the bill for signatures and it could be released. However, Jaques absolute disdain and contempt against this bill is clouding his better judgment. He set the precedent for this by agreeing to walk the other four bills in my opinion.
After the committee adjourned the second time (since Jaques declared the meeting over a first time without asking for or getting a motion to adjourn), I spoke to him in the lobby of Legislative Hall. I said “Earl, you have to walk the bill.” I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t upset. He began yelling at me and said “The bill is not released.” I asked him why he was yelling at me and advised I wasn’t yelling at him. He continued to yell and said “The bill is not released. It’s done. The bill is dead,” as he stormed off.
About fifteen minutes later, I found myself in Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf’s reception area. In the office were Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, Meghan Wallace, and Jaques. The receptionist said there was a wait and I advised I would just send him an email. The email is below.
In terms of the discussion on the bill in committee, it was very much a repeat of 2015. The usual suspects opposed the bill: Delaware DOE, State Board of Education, Delaware Business Roundtable, State Rep. Tim Dukes, a couple of women from Wilmington who were sitting next to DelawareCAN’s Atnre Alleyne, etc. Even the Delaware School Boards Association opposed the bill because they believed it is a local decision and detracts from the issues surrounding testing. There was a lot of discussion around losing federal funds even though it has never happened. The excuse this time was “We don’t know what will happen with Secretary Betsy DeVos.” I love when a State Rep. has something important to say about a bill they oppose after they get a piece of paper from someone in the audience, but I digress. There was talk about how bad Smarter Balanced is, the amount of time wasted on testing, and so forth, but there was far too little about the heart of the bill: the parental right to opt out.
No state has ever lost federal funding over dipping below the 95% participation rate. And I don’t think little old Delaware would be the first. If the feds really put their money where their mouth is, it would have happened in New York or New Jersey years ago. So I don’t care what they say (and no one is actually saying it these days), it is not a good idea to cut federal Title I money from schools with poor kids. Secretary Bunting did say Delaware got feedback on its state ESSA plan last evening and believes the US Dept. of Education will be tougher than she thought, but as a state with a 97% participation rate, I don’t think we are on the Title I money chopping block. Let’s get real here.
To be fair, I don’t ever expect the Delaware DOE and the usual cast of opposers to ever support an opt out bill. It just isn’t going to happen. Expecting it is as likely as convincing the wind to change direction. It isn’t something I’m even upset about anymore, it just is.
My public comment was as simple as the bill: it is a parental right bill. And since there was a question about what districts or charters have given parents a rough time about opting their child out, I named them: Red Clay, Christina, Freire Charter School, and so forth. I even advised Rep. Dukes a constituent in his own district tried to opt their child out two years ago, the only one in that school district. When the school refused, they told the mother he could not opt out. It got so bad the mother was ostracized by members of her community. After, Dukes came up to me and told me he didn’t appreciate me calling him out. He asked me which district, and I told him which one I believed it was. He said “you don’t know?” I said it was two years ago and I talk to a lot of parents. He said next time I better know before I call him out like that. I advised him the parent tried reaching him at the time and he claimed he never heard from the parent.
One public commenter said he wasn’t even there for that bill but felt he had to comment. He said, as someone who makes six figures and works for Fortune 500 companies, he has never looked at a single standardized test score. He said if a college student in an interview told him they opted out of the state assessment, he would give them an internship based solely on that.
Here is the email I sent to Schwartzkopf:
Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf,
Good evening. I attempted to see you in person, but you had a long line in your office about half an hour ago. I advised your receptionist I would email you, which I prefer to do at this point since it is in writing.
As you are no doubt aware, I am very passionate about education. But I have calmed down with my public comments regarding certain legislation. I wish the same could be said of the Chair of the House Education Committee. The behavior I saw from him today regarding House Bill 60 was offensive, both as a citizen of Delaware and as a parent.
I am sure you know about the situation with “walking the bill” after Rep. Jaques set the standard for that with four other bills in the committee today. It was very obvious to all he wanted this bill to die a messy death and he wanted to be the one to do it. That is conjecture on my part, but based on his attitudes and attempts to kill the bill in 2015, I would say that is a fair assessment. But his behavior in the lobby of Legislative Hall was unacceptable. I simply said “Earl, you have to walk the bill.” He began yelling at me, loud enough for many folks nearby to overhear. When I asked him why he was yelling at me and that I wasn’t yelling at him, he continued to yell at me claiming “the bill is dead” and stormed off like a petulant child. While I certainly can’t say I have never shown anger about legislation, I believe a certain decorum is expected out of our elected officials. I don’t agree with Earl’s decision about deciding not to walk the bill, but I have to believe two grown adults can treat each other with respect and discuss the matter like two gentlemen. I wanted to advise you of this issue because of his position as Chair of the House Education Committee. Please consider this a formal complaint against Rep. Jaques. I do believe this is something the House leadership should investigate. I would have accepted a decision on the bill if it was given a fair shake, but I found Rep. Jaques behavior and conduct unbefitting for a Chair of a committee.
As I’m sure you know, I am a firm believer in transparency, so this email will be a part of my article about the opt out bill heard in committee today.
I am getting very sick of the political games in Dover. Very sick. We have the Joint Finance Committee cutting programs left and right, with House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle continuing to bicker over raising taxes or having more cuts. We elect these people to do what is right for Delaware, not to kick the can until the next election. They continue to use the most vulnerable citizens of Delaware in their political football games: the students, those who are sick or rely on state assistance, and those who live in poverty. Enough.
In a Delaware State news article, JFC Co-Chair Melanie Smith brags about needing only $60 million in “soft cuts” while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf says further cuts would be “drastic“. Do these two even talk to each other? They are in the same damn party. Meanwhile, we have Senator Greg Lavelle preaching from his pulpit wanting the state to have even more cuts. But both sides are not giving serious thought to State Rep. John Kowalko’s bills which would raise taxes on the wealthy of Delaware. Hell, they spit in our faces in the House by passing the very ridiculous estate tax appeal last month.
Delaware Republicans, let’s get one thing straight: prevailing wage will NEVER happen as long as the Democrats hold power in the House and Senate. It is a pipe dream. Delaware Democrats, the Republicans will NEVER allow you to raise taxes on the wealthy. Delaware citizens, we are screwed.
I believe they are making these “drastic” cuts in the JFC to cut to the heart of Delaware. By going after the most vulnerable of Delaware citizens, they are hoping the legislators will cave and come up with some sort of short-term compromise to fix the budget. Governor Markell left the station, but not without spending our way to prosperity. But guess what, the bill came in for that spending and we have treated the state wallet like an ATM without any limits.
In Delaware, we have this insane tendency to vote the SAME people into office every election. While there are some very good State Reps and Senators filling the halls in Dover, I fear we have reached a stalemate in Dover. For far too many of our legislators it is about one thing: holding on to power and the next election. The Delaware Way has become a steaming pile of horse manure.
Governor Carney and his office have shown no sign of getting rid of this stink in Delaware. My recent FOIA complaint against Carney’s office over the Family Services Cabinet Council generated a response from his office. Because the Attorney General’s office is still working on the legal opinion for this, all I can say is the response is one of the most insulting things I’ve read in my entire life. It reeks of corruption and deals made behind closed doors. The solution, which is Carney’s way of saying “Don’t mess with me Ohlandt, cause I will do what I want no matter what” screams of the very thing I have grown to expect in Delaware. It evaporates hope and replaces it with a bad taste that no mouthwash could replace. I can’t wait until this legal opinion comes out to the public so they can see firsthand what I am talking about.
Our children, poor, and sick should not be held hostage because these lawmakers think they can do what they want. In the State News article, Matt Bittle discussed the decision by the JFC to hold off on meeting until later in June. Bittle writes:
The move, an atypical one, minimizes public backlash and concern in response to spending reductions and gives the caucuses more time to come to an agreement on tax increases.
I disagree with this. The public backlash is just beginning. I see more discussion about what is going on with the budget this year than I’ve seen in years. The very ugly move by the JFC yesterday on not allowing the cut sheets from yesterday to be released to the media or the public is the shadiest thing I’ve seen in my entire time blogging. In response to cuts already made, I’m sure their phones and emails were lighting up like a Christmas tree. Get over it. It is your job to listen to your constituents, not to stifle their voices. When you play games with people, don’t get upset when they voice their concerns over it. Last I heard, freedom of speech was still a real thing. Last I heard, we elected you to balance the budget, not to keep it from us.
Because of loop holes in state code, there are no-brainer ways to raise revenue in this state that are impossible because of budget allocations. We could raise the gas tax but that would only go towards the transportation fund. How about shifting that in state code so it would go to the general fund? I would support a ten cent raise in the gas tax if it would dig us out of this mess that the General Assembly created in the first place. It is things like that which make it impossible for me to give the General Assembly more than a shrug when this time of year comes around. They need to think outside of their very small boxes and get creative. Because I am sure they will get the same salary, benefits, and pensions. Meanwhile, I know I am going to have to pay more for getting less in Delaware as will every single citizen in this state. Except some of those really rich people who will bully legislators into making sure their shared sacrifice is palatable to their over-stuffed bank accounts.
I believe in Delaware. I believe in the people of Delaware. I don’t believe in our very corrupt state government who throws away their conscience in favor of lobbyists and back-door deals. I don’t care if you are Democrat or Republican. The very second you replace a moral with some incentive, you have failed in your duty as an elected official. That isn’t integrity. It isn’t honesty. It is the Delaware Way.
House Bill 16 will get a vote today. This bill would repeal the estate tax in Delaware. State Rep. John Kowalko issued the following statement last evening concerning this bill:
Today 5/18/17, a bill to repeal the “estate tax”, has been placed on the House Agenda by Speaker Schwartzkopf. It will require a suspension of rules due to notification inadequacies but more importantly it will guarantee less revenue for the state and amounts to a giveaway to the Republicans and the wealthy. This tax garnered $9.3 million in revenue in 2016 and to date there have been no suggestions from leadership of either party or the JFC as to how that revenue loss will be replaced. I have asked this question of all of my Democratic colleagues and have not received one suggestion. This bill should not receive one Democrat vote but it will as deals have been cut to the detriment of Delaware’s taxpayers to ensure passage. This is irresponsible and abhorrent behavior that contradicts true Democratic party principles and ideals and all Democrat legislators should reject this or be held accountable. -Representative John Kowalko
Tonight, I witnessed the death of a dream. That our Delaware House of Representatives would finally do the right thing for our children. Delaware State Representative John Kowalko brought back House Bill 50 tonight, the Delaware opt out bill that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate a year ago. Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill less than a month later. The last time the House considered this bill was for an override of the Governor’s veto on January 14th. Kowalko received bad information from the House Attorney on how to present a veto override. He was told he had to have a suspension of rules prior to a vote on the reconsideration. I can’t speak to the lack of knowledge or the reason this attorney gave bad advice to Kowalko. I do know House Attorney’s are not employed by the State, but retained from law firms. But Kowalko found out it was not necessary with carefully vetted research into veto override attempts in Delaware. He brought up what is known as a Parliamentary Inquiry to the House tonight. Had he been able to explain how the legal advice given to him by someone who is supposed to know House Rules and Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure in the event a situation is not covered by House Rules, the House would have understood what he was doing. The Delaware House could have voted on the reconsideration of the Governor’s veto back in January without a suspension of rules.
Instead, what we got was Val Longhurst and Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf turning it into a power play and putting forth a point of order motion. It was a trap, probably planned ahead of time since Kowalko told the House Attorney he would be requesting the Parliamentary Inquiry. He had a representative lined up to second the motion for the Parliamentary Inquiry. As Kowalko brought it up, Longhurst interrupted Kowalko while he was speaking and stated House Bill 50 was not on the agenda. Kowalko knew this and stated he was talking about a Parliamentary Inquiry. Schwartzkopf said Kowalko was out of order even requesting a Parliamentary Inquiry, which Kowalko challenged. Kowalko appealed Schwartzkopf’s point of order. Val Longhurst seconded it, said “Oh shit” (nice conduct of an elected official during a legislative session) and then retracted her second as the floor of the General Assembly burst into laughter as Schwartzkopf said “Jiminy Christmas” and said the motion was dead. Gavel went down, case closed. But is it? By denying an elected official the ability to request a parliamentary inquiry under the guise of a point of order given while the elected official was speaking which had nothing to do with the matter at hand could be ruled as illegal.
Once again, we have Democrat leadership in the House who don’t know the policies of the floor they are supposed to govern. They have committed themselves to a lame-duck governor at the expense of our high-stakes tested children. There are good legislators in Legislative Hall, but the vast majority are in it for themselves and don’t know what they are doing except how to put forth legislation from corporate lobbyists or to further their own careers.
Prior to Kowalko’s motion, the House had just voted on a very emotional budget bill. It passed, but eight voted no. Some voted no who have voted before, but State Reps. Stephanie Bolden and Charles Potter voted no due to the lack of funding for the WEIC redistricting plan and the Senate’s refusal to move forward with the legislation. Even State Rep. Miro, who voted yes on the budget, gave a well-intentioned speech about how the state is not doing well economically and it will be worse next year. Kowalko objected to the budget after he filed an amendment to take the charter school transportation slush fund out of the budget. The amendment failed but eight voted yes. Which fell in line with the budget vote, 31 yes, 8 no, and 2 absent.
I firmly believe our state needs a serious fiscal and ethical investigation by the Federal government into where every single penny of our state funds are going and who is profiting off of shady backroom deals. They need to start with Governor Jack Markell and work their way down through the House, the Senate, the DOE, vendors, school districts, charter schools, the auditor’s office, the treasurer’s office, the Department of Health and Social Services, and pretty much everywhere anyone gets funds from the State of Delaware.
Our children are used as guinea pigs. We see it from Sokola, the DOE, Markell, Schwartzkopf, Longhurst, Melanie Smith, McDowell and others. Godowsky puts on another face constantly. He tries to save face with the Governor when he knows the stuff they are pedaling out of his building is absolute crap. None of these people care about kids. Not a single damn one of them. I’ve tried to deal with the legislators in Legislative Hall. I’ve tried to reach out to some of them in good faith. They don’t respond. Those that do know who they are and I know you are trying your best, but when the majority is corrupt, the whole building is. I see many of you get upset when good bills that will truly help the children of Delaware go nowhere. Our DOE is not a State Agency. It is a collection of education reformers and lobbyists, selling our children out to the highest bidders. A great deal of the legislation passed in Delaware for education allows them to do this.
When a State Representative votes against a budget because of the rampant corruption in our state, they are a hero. They are not unpatriotic. If patriotism is following orders and never questioning anything and allowing children to suffer while you remain in power Rep. Melanie Smith, then you may want to look at what the patriots who founded this country actually did so you could hold elected office. You allow a great deal of bills that go through that will only please corporations at the expense of the citizens of Delaware. Tonight, I was ashamed to say I live in Delaware. Everything the other legislators said about the budget was from the heart, not quotes from books or a Tedx talks speech. It is a legislator’s responsibility to pass a good budget, not a bad one. This was a bad budget. You can do all the glad-handling and take the applause for getting it passed, but it is still filled with pork. You know it, and I know it. We all know it. We know who this budget truly serves, and it is not in the best interest of children or the citizens of the state who by your own admission deserve more.
For someone who wants what is best for Delaware, why have you, Pete Schwartzkopf, consistently gone with the Governor’s wishes and not the will of the people. You are the Speaker of the House. It isn’t your House. It is ours. The people of the state. Until you learn that valuable lesson, you will continue to be called Sneaky Pete all over the state until your time is done. Because you refuse to find out the answer concerning how the State Representatives would vote on the override of Markell’s veto, you are not a friend to parents in the state of Delaware.
Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko appeared on “The Delaware Way” with host Larry Mendte last week to discuss parent opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the veto override of House Bill 50 and the bill’s chances. Citing the bill sits on the House Ready List, Kowalko blamed State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, the Delaware Speaker of the House, for letting the bill just sit there. Even Mendte said polling in the state suggests the people overwhelmingly want this bill. Kowalko felt it wasn’t right for the Governor to usurp the will of the people and the General Assembly with his veto.
Delaware House Resolution #22 and House Bill #243 are Delaware legislation introduced by several Delaware House Republicans on January 14th this year. That was also the same day the majority of the State Representatives in Delaware voted not to suspend the rules to override the veto on House Bill #50, the opt out legislation that DID pass the House and Senate last year. For newer readers, Delaware passed a perfectly good opt out bill last year, but Governor Markell vetoed the bill in July. Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko brought the bill back on 1/14 in an attempt to have legislators override the veto, but many who supported the bill last year refused to suspend the rules to allow it come up for a vote that day. It is sitting on the House Ready list, but only the Delaware Speaker of the House, State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, can put it on the agenda for a full House vote. I would give the odds of Schwartzkopf putting it on the Ready List at slim to none.
Several House Republicans felt House Bill 50 wouldn’t go anywhere that day, but they still wanted to keep the possibility of opt out alive. House Resolution 22 gives Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky until May 1st to come up with procedures and a process for all schools to follow in regards to opt out. He has not given any indication he would even address this resolution. House Bill 243 would make it so no schools or districts would be held accountable for a parent opting their child out of the state assessment. Which would also override any current federal laws on the issue as the federal law, like the Delaware law, states schools can’t opt kids out. This is parent opt out, not school opt out. It is a good bill, but the likelihood of it even being heard in the House Education Committee is slim to none. At the end of January, State Rep. Earl Jaques rather smugly told me “that legislation isn’t going anywhere“.
We still have parents opting out, and we still have schools trying to bully and intimidate parents into not opting out. Some schools feel it is perfectly okay for a child who is opted out to be in the classroom while others are taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Some schools are telling parents they aren’t allowed to opt out, and some are saying they will lose ALL funding if any student opts out. Why would the House Republicans who sponsored this bill give until May 1st for Godowsky to act on it? Most of the Smarter Balanced testing would have been done by then, or many students would have already “broken the seal” and started the test. Be that as it may, Secretary Godowsky has un upcoming deadline. I’ve already heard from a couple of legislators that Godowsky hasn’t even broached the subject.
Today in April 9th. Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky has 22 days to honor House Resolution #22. Will he do the right thing or is he truly just Governor Markell’s puppet? We will find out on May 1st!
One very interesting tidbit to report: another Delaware Republican State Rep. signed onto the bill and the resolution as a sponsor since it was introduced. State Rep. Tim Dukes signed on as a co-sponsor for both. Last year, Dukes consistently voted no on every iteration of House Bill 50. Prior to the veto override attempt, he was emphatic about voting no again if it came up. However, at the last Assessment Inventory Committee meeting in February, Dukes looked like he was starting to see the light with the Smarter Balanced Assessment. It was refreshing to see. And then when I saw him added on these two bills, I have to admit I smiled!
The Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell are finding the very traps they set to stop the opt-out movement are coming back to bite them in the ass. Irony is an awesome thing sometimes. At the beginning of 2015, the DOE was riding high. They thought they had Christina and Red Clay in their crosshairs, the Smarter Balanced Assessment was coming out, and they were winning. A funny thing happened on the way to their victory lap. Parents. They said no to the almighty DOE and Markell. This set off a litany of announcements from the DOE and Markell.
The Governor announced the Assessment Inventory as opt-out was gaining a lot of traction. He foolishly believed that parents wouldn’t opt-out if they just reduced the amount of tests students take. In April, the DOE and Markell announced University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and Wilmington University were going to accept Smarter Balanced scores in lieu of students taking remedial classes. Meanwhile, the SAT was retooled to align with Common Core. In December, the Governor and Secretary Godowsky announced the SAT would replace Smarter Balanced for high school juniors, which killed the press announcement in April about Smarter Balanced. Yesterday, https://delawarefirststate.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/university-of-de-faculty-senate-will-vote-on-an-admission-requirement-making-sat-scores-optional/ revealed the University of Delaware will be voting on whether or not to make SAT scores a factor in their admission process. Several universities around the USA have already cut the SAT out entirely.
This whole experiment of Governor Markell’s to try to squelch the opt-out movement has been a miserable failure. It was so obvious to myself and others that each move he was making was from a clumsy and defensive posture against parents. In a way, his whole assessment inventory plan helped to set up a national argument against too much testing. As a result of that, Delaware is now postponing their new science and social studies assessments because of the whole assessment inventory. Another example of “be careful what you wish for”. These were the unintended consequences of opt-out. The DOE and Markell looking like fools on the Delaware stage. By switching from the Smarter Balanced to SAT, the “best test Delaware ever made” has now become much less than what Markell professed it to be. And now the SAT, with all the insanity the College Board has gone through switching the test to Smarter Balanced Junior, is redundant as well.
Meanwhile, parents are still opting their kids out of Smarter Balanced and there is nothing anyone can do to stop them. The 148th General Assembly still has a shot at redemption with parents by allowing a vote for the veto override of House Bill 50. Will Schwartzkopf continue to ride the Markell train that is about to derail and fly off a cliff? Or will he do the right thing and put it up for a vote? In the meantime, we can put the pressure on Schwartzkopf by gaining over 20,000 signatures on the Change.org petition: https://www.change.org/p/delaware-speaker-of-the-house-pete-schwartzkopf-put-hb50-on-the-agenda-for-a-full-house-vote-on-the-veto-override
Despite what others have said, House Bill 50, the opt-out legislation in Delaware, is not dead. It isn’t finished. It is merely hiding in Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf’s desk drawer. It is on the ready list, but Schwartzkopf has not put it on the agenda for a full House vote. What is he afraid of? That the House and Senate will pass the veto override? That the lame-duck Governor Markell will be upset if his veto is overturned? We the people demand House Bill 50 gets a full vote for the veto override in the Delaware House and Senate.
I am giving this petition a long time to breathe because the General Assembly doesn’t return until March 8th. I need all your help to make this happen. I need you to share this petition with every single person you know in Delaware. I want Schwartzkopf to see this with no less than 20,000 signatures from Delaware citizens. We have a month to make this happen! Let’s Do It!!!!! To go to the Change.org petition, please click the link:
In their April 27th board minutes, Thomas Edison revealed they have been in communication with the Delaware State Auditor’s office. While it doesn’t go into specifics, there is a lot of discussion about how to reveal contingency items and how to hide them…
“Mr. Christie stated that to Mr. Velasquez point we have a total of $104,250.00, that we’re saying we have spent this on contingency, but we haven’t really. Mr. Blocksom asked if this makes us look bad and how would the auditors look at this. Mrs. Winder stated that our external auditors wouldn’t recognize it, but not quite sure how the State would react.”
As well, the school absolutely kills it in discussion about the Smarter Balanced Assessment which they only refer to as “the test”. Every Delaware Senator needs to read this report before the vote tomorrow.
The Delaware House of Representatives also need to read this and Pete Schwartzkopf needs to get House Bill 186 on the agenda tomorrow, the Senate needs to suspend Senate rules and skip the Senate Education Committee meeting for this bill, and get House Bill 186 passed before midnight June 30th. This is a shining examples of how Delaware charter schools openly flaunt their disdain for state code and regulation in terms of financial matters. They also need to do the same for House Bill 61 and get these charter schools recording all their board minutes and place them on their websites within seven business days. The days of Delaware charters making their own rules are coming to an end. And nothing Kendall Massett and the Delaware Charter Schools Network or all the backers, investors, and “non-profit” foundations do is going to stop this.