Did My Predictions Come True For The 16 To Watch In 2016?

In December of 2015, I posted 16 articles about who would make an impact on 2016.  Did they truly have an impact and did they fizzle out?  Many of them did have a huge impact, some fizzled out, and some didn’t do as much as I thought they might.  You be the judge!

State Rep. David Bentz: Bentz had a relatively low-key rookie year in the Delaware House.  He did get a bill passed and signed that bans the sale of Dextromethorphan to those under the age of 18.  He did sit on many committees including Health & Human Services and Education.  I expect Bentz will begin to rise in 2017 after running unopposed for his seat earlier this month.  He did vote in support of the suspension of rules on the override of the House Bill 50 veto which won him some fast points in my book.

Henry Clampitt: Clampitt became very quiet about halfway through the year.  He did help out the Delaware Charter Schools Network with some key legislation surrounding charter school audits.  Over the summer he joined the board of Gateway Lab School.  I am still predicting he will make a run for Red Clay’s board next year!  Clampitt curtailed some of his online activity as well this year.  Clampitt can usually be found at the occasional Red Clay board meeting cavorting with some of his friends.

Dr. Robert Andrzejewski: The Acting Superintendent of Christina had a huge year!  And not all of it was good.  He did help the cash-poor district in winning their referendum but that only introduced other problems.  The fifteen charter schools that feed off of Christina students complained they weren’t getting enough money from Christina.  After it became public and legislators were swarmed with complaints from parents and citizens, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky backed off the changes that would have given more to the charters.  In October, the charters filed a lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE.  Now news comes of a possible settlement.  Bob A also had to contend with mold issues at Pulaski Elementary School and soon reports came in of other schools having mold issues as well.  He set up an “Academy” at Christiana High School with very poor communication and transparency which led to all sorts of controversy.  Bob A also introduced many “cash in the trash” contracts for vendors which the Christina board approved nearly every single time.  Rumors continue to swirl about the potential of Bob A getting the Secretary of Education role under John Carney.  It could happen which would make a lot of Bob A’s activities make an odd sort of sense.  Fattening up his resume or being Bob A?  Time will tell.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell: Jack always makes an impact.  Whenever I see that smiling face, I know he is up to something.  He successfully influenced enough Delaware House reps to vote no on a suspension of rules to override his veto of House Bill 50.  But then many of those same legislators voted yes on a suspension of rules for a corporate tax bill.  This rightfully earned Markell the wrath of many parents in Delaware.  In fact, many of us beat the hell out of him over opt out on his own Facebook page before the vote.  Instead of going up to Howard High School and dealing with the death of Amy Joyner Francis, Markell issued a brief statement and merrily went on his Common Core tour at Delaware schools.  He pimped the Delaware Pathways to Prosperity program every single chance he could.  He spoke at a conference on Blockchain technology and announced Delaware would get legislation going so Blockchain firms could incorporate in Delaware.  He created the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee while issuing another executive order to create a Pathways Steering Committee that had its first meeting with no public notice.  The “Education” Governor won some fancy-schmancy award from the National Association of State Boards of Education.  Despite rumors, Markell firmly stated he was never a consideration for a Cabinet post in a Hillary Clinton administration (easy to say after the shocking upset when Donald Trump won the presidency).  He continued to appear at press conferences and letters to the editor promoting corporate education reform which pretty much landed with a resounding thud in the minds of Delawareans.  As Jack enters his final days as Delaware Governor, I don’t think history will be very kind to his legacy of putting corporations over people.  But I will ask one boon of Jack Markell before he leaves his post: a chance to meet with him, do an interview, and get his side of the story on Delaware education.  What do you say Jack?  One for the road?

Delaware Governor John Carney: Unless you’ve been living in a hole the past few weeks, John Carney won the Governor’s seat by a landslide.  Everyone is waiting with bated breath to see who Carney picks for his administration.  He has been very quiet (as he was during the election) about what he is going to do.  He came out with platforms on various subjects, but they were somewhat vague.  As of today, he has only announced two members of his administration.  This blogger has reached out to Carney many times with zero success, as recently as yesterday.  I don’t want Carney and I to be at odds with each other.  We will assuredly disagree on many things, but if he isn’t willing to sit down with me then I fear this will be the case.  In education, Carney will have his hands full between whomever he picks for his next Secretary, education funding, ESSA implementation, and a budget deficit which will force the state to begin cutting items from the state budget.  I expect Carney will be more low-key on many issues facing Delaware, but he should not be underestimated at all.

Delaware Senator David McBride: McBride was relatively low-key this year, but he did become the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate when Senator Patti Blevins suffered a shocking loss earlier this month to Anthony Delcollo.  But this title will not have as much importance since Delaware has a Lieutenant Governor again in the form of Bethany Hall-Long who will preside over the Delaware Senate.

Tony Allen: Allen was all over the place in 2016.  State Board of Education meetings, ESSA Advisory Committees, Legislative Hall, and forums kept the Bank of America executive very busy.  Allen stood his ground with the Delaware State Board of Education when they kept trying to change the redistricting language.  When the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting bill failed to pass the Delaware General Assembly, Allen did save the plan by extending the timeline.  It remains to be seen what Carney will do with the plan, especially given that deficit I told you about.  Allen is serving on the transition team for Governor Carney.  Earlier this month, Allen predicted another segregation lawsuit against the state based on Delaware schools, especially those in Wilmington.  Allen did admit one of WEIC’s weaknesses was not including Kent and Sussex County representatives on the plan.

Ashley Sabo: The Red Clay mom of a special needs child had a very busy year.  While she continued to fight for inclusion in Red Clay, she also held the district accountable for the lack of communication surrounding the plan.  Sabo also adopted a foster child and became a Court Appointed Special Advocate as well as becoming the Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Orphan Care Coalition.  I am very optimistic about Sabo’s future in Delaware and I see her as a rising young star who will become a very important voice for not only students with disabilities and foster children, but all citizens of The First State.

The Delaware Bloggers: It was an interesting year.  Three longtime Delaware bloggers closed up shop this year: Transparent Christina, Kavips, and the Delaware Grapevine.  The first two dealt with many education issues.  For Transparent Christina, the beginning of the end came when the author of that blog discovered Facebook and all the fun he could have on there.  Kavips ended his blog earlier this month capping off a ten-year run of what he viewed as “The Progressive Era” of Delaware politics.  I suspect we haven’t heard the last of the enigmatic one and he will pop up somewhere once he/she gets his/her groove back once Donald Trump is inaugurated.  Kilroy’s Delaware slowed down this year but that had more to do with fixing up his house at the beach than a lack of interest.  Delaware Liberal provided a healthy dose of election news and dealt with the epic defeat of Hillary Clinton and bemoaned to rise of Donald Trump.  A new blog by ex-Delaware DOE employee Atnre Alleyne called The Urgency of Now stirred up tons of controversy this year as teachers were blasted constantly on his blog.  Another longtime blog, The Colossus of Rhodey, also ended.  As for this blogger, now almost halfway through his third year, who knows what the future will bring.  One sure thing is that change is inevitable but things stay the same in too many of the wrong places.

The Parents of Delaware Students: The parents of Delaware received a fatal blow when the Delaware House refused to suspend the rules to allow for an override of Markell’s House Bill 50 veto.  The Delaware PTA received a hush order on opt-out from their National headquarters.  Parents still opted their kids out, but it was comparable to 2015.  The Delaware DOE has attempted to corral parents into their Every Student Succeeds Act Community Conversations, but I really hoped more parents would attend to lend their voices in opposition to the DOE’s crazy plans.  Many parents attended referenda this year as Christina, Brandywine, and Cape Henlopen referendums passed.  Not enough Indian River parents supported their referendum when it failed to pass last week.  By and large, Delaware parents continue to get the shaft in education policy.  I predict the voice of parents will rise in 2017 to unheard of levels.  With national and state politics the way they are now, many parents will be pitched against each other with various events.  One appointment of U.S. Secretary of Education for Betsy DeVos has already renewed a lot of debate about school choice, charter schools, and school vouchers.  These arguments will heat up in 2017.  Many parents of students with disabilities (as well as advocates) successfully thwarted an attempt at a very bad special education strategic plan at the Delaware DOE.  Parents of special needs children are quickly learning that banding together in unison across various groups is more important than debating their differences.  So much so that a two-day planning session for a new special education strategic plan will take place on December 8th and 9th.

Karen Field Rogers: While the first half of the year started very slow for the promotion of Field Rogers as the new Delaware Deputy Secretary of Education, she certainly made her mark in the second half as the Delaware DOE spokesperson at many ESSA meetings.  The jury is still out on what Delaware’s ESSA plan will be.  I can picture her still working at the Townsend Building under Governor John Carney.  She is not really a subject of controversy down there.

Delaware Senator Colin Bonini: Bonini lost his bid for Delaware Governor as many predicted.  But he did not do himself any favors by publicly announcing he would lose and continuing to call Carney his friend.  Even if you think you are going to lose, you don’t make a spectacle of it.  But he did answer a very long survey I gave all the candidates for Governor.  Only Carney failed to respond to the survey, and I unintentionally left out Green Party candidate Andrew Groff.  Bonini will still be in the Delaware Senate doing his thing, unless he gets a new job in the Carney administration.  Whatever happened with Bonini’s recommendation for a Civil Rights Committee in the Delaware Senate?

Harrie Ellen Minnehan: She started the year as the Christina Board of Education President, but lost her gavel over the summer to the re-elected Elizabeth Paige.  Minnehan overtly supported Paige’s opponent in the spring school board election.  When board member David Resler announced he would not run again, Meg Mason won the election.  Mason voted for Paige’s appointment as board president.  The Christina board seems to still be at odds over many things but they will have to get it together soon for the sake of the district.  I miss the fiery board that stood in unison against the Priority Schools debacle in the fall of 2015.  Nothing against Minnehan, but the board lost a bit of that during her Presidency.  Paige brings that temperament back to the board and they (along with every other board in the state) need to start speaking up now to fight for what is theirs.  I must say, my favorite “HEM” moment in 2016 was when Minnehan blasted State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray during a WEIC meeting in Wilmington.  I have no doubt her words were bubbling under the surface for a long time, going back to her days as the President of the Pencader charter school board.

The Delaware Met Kids: After causing a lot of concern in the fall of 2015, the students at Delaware Met said goodbye to the not even five-month old charter school in mid-January.  The students went to various school districts and charter schools.  But not until they caused enough chaos at the school to get an extra couple of days off.

The Seans: Sean Lynn gave a very stirring speech when the death penalty repeal bill hit the floor of the Delaware House.  Ultimately, the House voted against the repeal, but federal rulings rendered the point moot for Delaware executions.  Lynn was instrumental in crafting legislation for the WEIC redistricting bills, but the controversial redistricting effort did not pass the General Assembly.  He did get several bills through dealing with courts and animal fighting.  After a landmark first year in the House where six bills became law, Sean Matthews did not have any legislation signed by Governor Markell this year.  But this didn’t stop Matthews from using his voice in support or opposition to many bills.  Both Sean Lynn and Sean Matthews won their seats back for a 2nd term in the General Election after facing opposition.  This will give them more of an entrenched status in the House.  Both had a relatively quiet year, but I expect they will be re-energized and ready to go in January!

Braeden Mannering: The kid who melted Delaware hearts the past few years continued his 3B: Brae’s Brown Bags movement with growing success.  In January, Braeden was invited to and attended President Obama’s State of the Union address.  Later in the year, he was one of the speakers at a TedX conference in Wilmington.  Braeden’s future is bright!

I will be doing this for 2017 beginning in December with those I think will make an impact in 2017.  Some will be names seen on this list but others will be new faces.

 

Live From The Delaware House Education Committee

First up, House Bill 161, the Parent Empowerment Savings Account.  State Rep. Deb Hudson is talking about the bill.  She said it would not be a tidal wave of students that would be able to participate in the program.  She said there are only 12 students eligible for the program in Delaware right now.  She said the funds would be put on a debit card for parents to choose for whatever education program they wanted for their exceptional child.  She said the parents would almost become like a contractor in the state.  There are restrictions on what the parent could use the debit card for.  WaWa is out, Hudson said.

State Rep. and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques asked if there is a fiscal note for the bill.  Hudson said no.  She is explaining the money follows the child.  Jaques is saying it could be very labor-intensive for school districts.  These funds would only be used from state funds.  The local share of funding would stay in the district according to Hudson.  She wants the child’s name to stay in the district.  State Rep. Sean Matthews asked if this includes all children.  She said that was deleted and the description is included in the amendment.  Matthews said it seems like this bill would be in conflict with the State Constitution if funds were used in a religious school.  Hudson said it could also be used for tutoring and not just a religious school.  She said this would stand up in a court of law like it did in Arizona.  She didn’t want to write a bill that would wind up in the courts.  Matthews is asking if ALEC was the initiator of the legislation.  She said no, it was the Goldwater Institute.

State Controller Mike Jackson said the fiscal note is indeterminate based on the small amount of students.  He said the impact would be there since much of the state funding goes towards enrollment and affects teacher salaries.  She said the districts get to keep the local funding so it evens out.  State Rep. Kim Williams asked about the debit card policy with a pre-determined amount of money.  She said it isn’t a Visa card.  It would be put out by the State Treasurer’s office.  It wouldn’t be able to be used at a WaWa according to Hudson since it is illegal.  She said there would be accountability behind it.  Williams said nothing could stop someone from using the debit card at WaWa.  A gentleman with the Goldwater Institute said there are merchant codes on the card that would prevent the user from using the card for non-educational purposes.  The card would be rejected if it didn’t match the merchant codes.  Williams said the State is already obligated to pay for speech therapists for all students up to age 5.  She said this could overlap and would cause problems.  Hudson said it is neutral and would be paid from either source.  Williams stressed the state already pays for it so why would they make parents pay for it?  Williams asked how additional resources would be given to families if funds can be sent to college savings plan.  Hudson said she hasn’t read the synopsis lately and she is more focused on K-12 students.  The Goldwater Institute gentleman said parents spend the funds based on the resources and additional services needed for each child.  Williams asked if a parent could put all the money into a college plan.  Hudson said if she were leaving it up to the Delaware Dept. of Education, they would weigh in on the decision.

State Rep. Kevin Hensley said the education of students with disabilities is near and dear to him.  He said IDEA is administered by the school districts.  He asked how IDEA would be able to factor into this if a student goes to a private school.  The Goldwater man said a student would have to already be on an IEP to be able to qualify for the program.  Then Hensley asked about the IEP team.  Would the IEP team come to an outside school if a parent uses this program.  He said in Arizona some parents went back to the district and others did not.  He also said there are private providers that can develop the IEPs in Arizona as well.  Jaques said private schools don’t have to follow IDEA or even grant IEPs.  Goldwater man said the private provider could develop the IEP.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan said IDEA provides Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is provided for any student w/a disability up to age 21.  She said if FAPE cannot be provided for a student a parent has a legal right to file for due process to have school district fund private education if funds cannot be met at a public school.  She said this bill is a voucher system to fund private schools because their enrollment is down 35% in Delaware.  She is in opposition to the bill.  Hudson said she doesn’t care where the child goes to school.  She just wants parents to have a choice on where they send their school in order to meet the needs of the child.  She said this is not a voucher system but a savings account.  Hudson said she does not agree with the voucher system herself.  Heffernan stressed the part about FAPE and that a parent would sue the charter school or district to be able to get FAPE for their child.  She said this bill is, her fear, that it will become a voucher system.

Jaques asked about the several mentions of the Delaware DOE in the bill and if she coordinated with them.  She said she didn’t and believes they are capable of handling it.  Hudson said the DOE would get 3% of the savings account funds for administrative purposes.  Jaques said in addition to the student not getting the local funding, now they are getting even less.  Williams said the State Treasurer would also get a percentage of funds.  Hudson said they would get 3% as well.  Williams said we have a system in place where these students get additional funds for their IEPs based on the need.  Hudson said it would be determined based on the existing IEP.  Williams asked who is going to determine that funding.  She said a student could already be in a private school.  Hudson said the DOE would determine that.  Hudson said she doesn’t visualize a student already in a private school being able to use these funds.  Williams said she appreciates the intent of the bill but she is very confused.  Hudson stressed the DOE is capable of handling this.  If she never met with the DOE how in the world would she be able to determine that?  She said the DOE is able to meet the needs of all children.  Williams expressed disappointment that collaboration with the DOE didn’t occur.  Hudson said she doesn’t mean to give a Smart Alec answer but we institute policy all the time as legislators and then work out the details later.  Williams said it is her job to understand the bill and to make sure all the resources are in place.

State Rep. Harvey Kenton asked how many teachers would lose their jobs because of this bill.  He said he has family that are teachers and he thinks this is a step to destroy public education.  He stressed it is federal and state mandated but he can’t support it.  He said all 19 school districts have contacted him and none are in favor of the bill.  Matthews said the definition of participating schools is non-governmental school and he is looking at the allowable expenses for the bill.  He asked what it means about “allowable curriculum”.  He said he never heard of anyone having to buy a curriculum.  She said that is more for homeschool students where parents sometimes have to buy a curriculum.  Goldwater man said all those expenses don’t have to be bought once a year.  Heffernan asked if any other state agencies would be involved in this private school initiative.  She said the state and the school districts have the obligation to provide FAPE.  She said the DOE can’t get the private school to do anything.  Who would the parents sue if a student doesn’t get FAPE at the private school?  Would the public school still get sued if they can’t get the private school to do anything?  Hudson said the DOE would have to approve the curriculum.  Hudson said the DOE would be able to oversee the curriculum at the private school and if it changed they could let the private school know.  She fails to realize how public education versus private schools work.  Matthews asked if the DOE is currently able to tell private schools what to do?  Hudson said no.  Matthews said this would expand the DOE’s authority and they don’t have this authority.  Matthews asked if the DOE could deny which school a student with disabilities goes to?  He looked at several DOE employees who said no.  Goldwater man said the object of the language here is to protect the private school autonomy so the DOE can’t change it.  Goldwater man said there are a lot of possibilities.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked what the Blaine Amendment is.  Goldwater man said there are 37-38 states that have language in their constitutions that allow for these programs.  Baumbach said the law in Delaware’s constitution would not allow for this bill to be used since we would be breaking the law.  Baumbach said:

The State Constitution forbids this legislation so I would recommend the committee not release this bill.

Secretary of Education Godowsky said he would be willing to work with Hudson on the bill but he can’t commit to the resources needed for the bill.  Bill Doolittle gave public comment said protections under IDEA are safeguards for our children.  He said giving up those safeguards is something that shouldn’t be done.  He said if it isn’t choice for everybody, it isn’t choice.  He said most parents cannot afford a private school placement even after this savings plan.  He said it is not equitable for low-income families.  Sandra Spence with the League of Women Voters opposes the bill and said the bill would take more money out of public education.  John Marinucci with the DE School Boards Association echoed the previous sentiment and said they don’t support taking more money out of education especially to pay administrative fees.  He said they oppose this being tied to a blurring of state and religious schools.  He mentioned equalization funds which would affect the fiscal note of the bill.

Mary O’Connell, a teacher at Concord High School, talked about her own son with a disability.  She said her son was supported by the Bush School but wasn’t at Carrcroft.  She said they were denied the services he needed.  Her son’s anxiety level was so high and their psychologist recommended he be removed from the school.  He wound up in a regular class with 26 students.  Whenever his teacher was out the substitute would call and she would have to pick him up.  He is now at the College School and she has never had to pick him up.  She stated he is thriving at the school now.  She said she is not a strong supporter of inclusion programs.  She said public schools cannot always help these students.  She is here to support the needs of the students.  A young girl who attended a public school but now attends a private school said she doesn’t think she could read at the level she reads at now if she had to go to public school.  She gets nervous about testing and public speaking.  She attends the College School.  Another student who also attends the College School, a bit older than the previous student, said she has dyslexia.  She said she learns better in small classrooms.  She just started there in January.  A public commenter named Laurie Smith said her children attended the Northstar school.  She begged for help and she didn’t get it.  The mother was very upset.  She didn’t qualify for occupational therapy and had to pay out of her pocket.  She said the speech therapy her child gets is better than what the public school system is able to give.  She said that is where she needs to be able to pay for these services.  She said many parents are paying out of pocket for services for their disabled children.  She saved money for college for her daughter but she has spent all those funds already.  Her daughter is going into 5th grade and she doesn’t know how they can afford the expenses.  Another commenter said she has children in the Pilot School who are thriving.  She said the small classroom sizes allow for a better environment for her children.  She is in favor of this bill.   Martha Henley, another commenter, said she is in support of the bill.  She hears the concern of private vs. public schools.  She said she started out in private schools and that school was not able to meet the needs.  She is talking about the costs involved and how students sometimes have to go to more than four years of college.  A gentleman who gave public comment said his son doesn’t fit into any category and that the category of FAPE just doesn’t work in public education.  A little boy came up to the podium who said “I’m scared”.  His mother said her son is autistic and that he attended the Brandywine School District.  The teacher said it was not the right place for her child.  She had to get an evaluation out of pocket and had to use all their savings.  She said this is about the parents and working with the teachers and all the counselors.  Her son goes to Centreville now and they are able to accommodate his needs and has a very small class.  She said there about 20 kids in Delaware that are intelligent and high-functioning that fit into this category.  Another parent said her child’s learning differences are very rare and she is the mom that is always there and is pushing the school to get the services her child needs.  She supports this bill and she knows he will do better in a small classroom.  She needs to be able to help him and he needs a chance.  Cathy Morris said she is in favor of the bill.  Her grandson has multiple learning disabilities, a numbers type of dyslexia, attention-deficit, and other disabilities.  When he was in public school they were told he chose not to learn.  He is now at the College School and repeated 4th grade and has made tremendous strides.  He had to get out of the mindset where he felt like he was failing.  She wants other parents to be able to have the choice.  She wants to transfer him into a vocational school but also have options to have supplemental vocational training or services.  Martha Durham with Garnett Valley PTA said she had to move to Garnett Valley to get the services her son married.  She spent her whole life in Delaware.  Her son has multiple diagnoses.  Her son was put into public school and started having suicidal thoughts in weeks.  She said Delaware has great schools but there are some kids who just can’t make it.  Her son is important to her.

Kevin Carson with Delaware Association of School Administrators and also on behalf of the Delaware State Education Association said the funding mechanisms already in place cause both to stand opposed to the bill.

Jaques put forth a motion to table the bill.  8 in favor.  The bill is tabled.  Hudson said she wants to continue working on this bill and said it shouldn’t be about well-to-do parents being able to get these kinds of services.

Unfortunately, I had to leave at this point.  The meeting didn’t even start until 3:30 or so.  I will update or write another article when I find out what happened with the other four bills on the agenda.  But I will say this.  What I witnessed at this meeting broke my heart.  I saw many desperate parents, some spending their entire savings to get their children special education services they should be entitled to by law, speak from the heart today.  Whether I agree with the bill or not, it is more painfully obvious than ever that Delaware is not doing the right thing for special needs children.  Something has to change…

 

 

House Democrats Letter To Governor Markell To Remove Smarter Balanced For 11th Grade

Today, ten Delaware House Democrats signed a letter to Delaware Governor Jack Markell asking him to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  The letter also mentions Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory task force.

We recognize that, by your order, the Department of Education is in the midst of creating an inventory of standardized tests administered throughout the state. Pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 2, signed into law in July, the department will share its findings with legislators and the public, as well as a special work group that will make recommendations regarding possible elimination of redundant tests. While opinions will differ among stakeholders, we believe there is universal support for eliminating the Smarter Balanced test for juniors in lieu of the SAT.

I fully accept that this is Governor Markell’s order.  He came up with the “assessment inventory” idea back in March.  It is a red herring though.  I firmly believe it will get rid of many assessments that give immediate and crucial feedback for teachers in how best to instruct their students.  I also predict it will see an increase in “prep” and “interim” Smarter Balanced Assessments.  The move towards personalized learning will allow for the eventual elimination of the nine-hour test (or longer depending on the individual student’s needs).  But it will not get rid of the basic flaws in SBAC, nor will it eliminate the time taking the test.  Instead it will eventually be in shorter doses but will be just as harmful to students.

There should be universal supporting for eliminating SBAC for ALL grades.  I would caution parents not to be fooled by this letter.  This is not a direction where the Smarter Balanced Assessment will gradually be removed.  It does not address the fundamental and core issues of what is wrong with Smarter Balanced.  I fear this is another attempt to sway legislators from voting for the House Bill 50 Veto Override.  This does not get rid of the issue of parents opting out except for those who have 11th graders.  The SAT is on a downward slope in many states, and now that they are “aligning” it with Common Core, that trend may increase.

Do Not Be Fooled by this Delaware parents!  The DOE has been planning this for over a year IN RESPONSE to the opt-out movement.  They knew 11th graders would have the highest opt-outs.  But it is still implemented in 3rd to 8th grade.  The assessment inventory task force is also stocked with many who will align with the Governor’s flawed logic about standardized assessments.  It wouldn’t shock me if the DOE already wrote the report on it and they are just waiting on the group to tweak it here and there.  I will still fight for the House Bill 50 Veto Override and support parents who choose to exercise their choice to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I have been calling out the “assessment inventory” ruse since the Governor first started talking about it last March.

16 To Watch In 2016: State Rep. David Bentz

Back in September, Democrat David Bentz won in a special election that determined who would take over from the resigning State Rep. Michael Barbieri.  Both candidates ran a clean campaign.  Since he won the election to serve the 18th district of Delaware, Bentz won some plum assignments with the various House committees in the 148th General Assembly.  He will be serving on the Education, Energy, Labor and Natural Resources.  But a big surprise was his assignment as Vice-Chair of the Health and Human Services Committees.  Barbieri served as the Chair of that committee, a role which State Rep. Deb Heffernan will take on.

I am very curious how Bentz will do in the General Assembly.  As a former legislative aide to Barbieri, I’m sure he gained a great deal of insight on the legislative process.  What kind of legislation will he introduce?  How will his votes land in the Education Committee?  If the General Assembly attempts to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, what vote will Bentz cast?  He will definitely be a legislator to watch in the 2nd half of the 148th General Assembly.

In looking at various issues he has written about, I think we can expect to see some definite education, criminal justice, student loan defaults and issues with the homeless in Bentz’s future.  As the only “rookie” legislator introduced this term, I expect a learning curve but I think Bentz will rise to the challenge.  The most important thing for him to do will be to emerge out of Barbieri’s shadow.  He will need to become his own legislator.  Which means I certainly hope he won’t follow in Barbieri’s footsteps on House Bill 50!  I look forward to seeing what the “rookie” does during his first, albeit shortened, term.

David Bentz Beats Eileen O’Shaunessy-Coleman In 18th District State Representative Special Election

In a special election today, former legislative aide David Bentz won the vacant slot left by former State Rep. Mike Barbieri when he resigned at the end of July.  While the count is not official yet, it looks like Bentz beat his opponent by a 56.7% of the vote.  This gives House Democrats continued control of the coveted 3/5ths of the House majority, which is the amount needed to pass certain bills like tax increases.*

I contacted both of the candidates for their stance on education in Delaware, but nothing came of it.  It will be interesting to see if Bentz sticks to his campaign promises in supporting the override of Governor Markell’s House Bill 50 veto.  Parents who advocate for opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment are growing by the day, and they want this to happen.

O’Shaunessy-Coleman ran a good campaign, and for a while there today she was tracking ahead in the polls.  She is a special education advocate, so I wouldn’t have minded seeing her win the slot.  I am confident we haven’t heard the last from her.  Part of me is torn on this.  I liked both the candidates, but I’m not sure the House Dems having that much control is a good thing. It doesn’t allow for a great deal of balance in Delaware.  I’m sure this will anger many of my Democrat friends, but with the way certain legislators have been behaving the past few months, a balance is very much needed to counter certain egos.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am in the middle.  I follow the dictates of what I believe and my own conscience when it comes to politics.  Both sides have valid issues, and both have some things I am fundamentally against.  I don’t choose to get into non-education matters too often, but that may change in the future as I am learning there is a lot of politics that goes along with education, especially in Delaware.

But for now congrats to State Rep. David Bentz.  As I wrote on his Facebook page, he will assuredly be hearing from me quite a bit, and I reminded him to stay true to his constituents.

*This article has been updated as of 9/14/15 to reflect that the 3/5 majority is needed for tax increases, NOT state budget approval.