Delaware Charter Schools Network Removed From District Consolidation Task Force Membership

It was one of those blink and you miss it moments.  In the midst of budget negotiations in the early hours of July 1st, the Delaware House of Representatives voted again on House Concurrent Resolution #39 after Senator Colin Bonini added an amendment in the Senate.  The bill passed the Senate but because the amendment was added, the House had to vote again.

Bonini’s amendment removed charter schools from being a part of any district consolidation discussion.  When the bill came back to the House, State Rep. Kim Williams added another amendment which would remove the Delaware Charter Schools Network from membership on the district consolidation task force.  It was a logical amendment.  If charters didn’t want to be a part of the discussion, why would they want membership?  The amendment barely passed with 21 yes and 20 no.  The sole Republican yes vote came from State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman.  Democrats who voted against it were Earl Jaques, Melanie Smith, Larry Mitchell, Quinton Johnson and Pete Schwartzkopf.  None of those Dem votes really surprise me.  Some who voted yes surprised me, but I have seen similar votes with charter related bills this year so perhaps there could be a shift in thinking on that front.

The Delaware Department of Education is the support agency for this task force.  While no meetings have been scheduled at this point, the final report is due to the General Assembly by January 30th, 2018.  I expect this task force will get going at some point later this summer.

The June 30th Delaware General Assembly Meme Lovefest

I’ll be here all night long folks!

Delaware Senate Passes Blockchain Bill With Unanimous Vote & Things I Heard At Legislative Hall Today

My question is how many of these Senators even know what this bill means.  Do they know what they are opening the door to?  To be fair, all this bill does is allow Blockchain technology into Delaware corporate law.  The word “education” does not even appear in the bill.  Blockchain would allow for secure transactions.  It also allows for secure dataflow.  But who owns that data?  If it is meant for one business or one person, does that business or that person own that data?

What happens when a student’s standardized test data, medical information, discipline record, and attendance become a part of this permanent record?  What happens if that information is wrong?  How do you go about correcting it?  Who puts information in this distributed ledger?  There are so many unanswered questions about this technology.  For businesses and corporations, I get it.  But when it comes to the eventual distribution to ALL people, my red flags go way up.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 69 with 20 yes and 1 not voting (Senator Bryant Richardson).  I’m not sure why he chose not to vote.  There was hardly anyone else during this vote.  A handful of lobbyists and that was about it.  I did see the primary sponsor, Senator Bryan Townsend, leaving Governor Carney’s office shortly before the Senate convened.

There was a flurry of activity at Legislative Hall today.  Pro-lifers and some pro-choicers caused a long line to get in.  I guess nobody told them that arriving at 2pm does nothing because the House doesn’t vote on bills until after they go to Caucus.  Which they are still in since the House isn’t back in session yet.  I went for the SB69 vote and got back home a little while ago.  Many of the pro-lifers left.

I did have some chats down here.  I heard some rumblings about a few things.  One of them being a school district consolidation bill that is floating around.  I haven’t seen it yet.

I did have this conversation:

I just wanted to let you know your analysis is always right.  I read every article you put on your blog.

Yeah, but does HE read it? (pointing to Governor Carney’s office)

He doesn’t read your stuff.  He doesn’t have time for that.  But I know his education policy advisor does.

That is always a comforting thought.  The most powerful political guy in the state doesn’t read my stuff.  How assuring!  I know Jack did.  Jack read everything that had his name on it, good or bad.  This led to a conversation about the time I sang for Jack Markell.  When asked if I was going to make a song for John Carney, I answered my singing days are over.  But you never know…

State Rep. Earl Jaques’ new tax ’em without a referendum bill was officially introduced today.  House Bill 213 was assigned to the House Education Committee.

I heard some people having extreme agita about Senate Bill 50, Senator Harris McDowell’s love fest for Del-Tech.  Which would mimic how vocational school districts are funded for minor and major capital projects.  It would also give Del-Tech’s board the, you guessed it, ability to raise property taxes without a referendum for these projects.  Yes folks, they want us taxpayers to now fund community colleges and their pet projects as well!

State Rep. John Kowalko introduced House Bill #209 which would prevent the abuse of epilogue language in the state budget.  Kowalko’s bill would prevent the “waivers” that occur every single year which go against Delaware state code.  Think of the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund as just one example of this abuse.

I can’t imagine what State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman was thinking when he introduced House Bill #194 which would eliminate the senior tax credit for anyone born after 1967.  I can’t imagine too many Republicans would be on board with this, but they are all Republican sponsors on the bill.  That tax credit was something I was looking forward to.  Thanks for that Jeff!  It still has to pass.  Can’t imagine that happening with all this talk about budget deficits and “shared sacrifice”… insert sarcasm here…

I saw some faces from yesteryear as well.  Always good to chat with people I didn’t think I would see again.  I see on social media that some people I know were there today and I didn’t even see them.  Maybe next time.

That’s it for now folks.  In the coming days I’m going to have to list ALL the Delaware education legislation floating around.  I used to keep track of this stuff daily but it is a lot of work.

State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman’s DOE-State Board House Bill 34 Up For Senate Vote On Tuesday

Has it really been over a year since State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman introduced House Bill 34?  Yes it has!  But the wait could be over because it is up for a full Senate vote on Tuesday, March 15th.  House Bill 34 would make it so any new regulations, rules, or administrative procedures by the State Board of Education or the Delaware Department of Education won’t go into effect at the local school districts or charter schools until the school year has completed.  They do this all the time and change things up in the middle of the school year and it gives the districts and charters very little time to plan.  I’ve liked this bi-partisan bill since it was introduced!

It did get a Senate amendment attached to it along with an already passed House Amendment that clarifies if an emergency comes up or if a change is based on existing law, the wait would not take place.  I would assume that since the Senate put an amendment on it and they pass it on Tuesday, it would kick back to the House of Representatives.  The House passed this bill on June 30th, 2015.

Please email your Delaware Senator to pass this bi-partisan common sense legislation!

Secretary Godowsky Gives Lame Response To Shutting Down Delaware Met

This morning, after hearing even more things going on at Delaware Met, I took a drastic step and emailed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and pleaded with him to close Delaware Met down for good.  I also cc:ed Governor Markell, his education policy advisor Lindsay O’Mara, Attorney General Matt Denn, other leaders at the DOE, and every single legislator in the 148th General Assembly.  His response was very shocking given the nature of the email.  The responses I got from legislators had more meat than what Godowsky had.


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 10, 2015 10:39 AM
To: Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>
Cc: Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>; Nagourney Jennifer <Jennifer.Nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; Denn Matthew <matthew.denn@state.de.us>; Williams Kimberly <kimberly.williams@state.de.us>; Kowalko John <john.kowalko@state.de.us>; Matthews Sean <sean.matthews@state.de.us>; Lynn Sean M <sean.lynn@state.de.us>; Baumbach Paul <paul.baumbach@state.de.us>; Bennett Andria <andria.bennett@state.de.us>; Schwartzkopf Peter <peter.schwartzkopf@state.de.us>; Jaques, Jr Earl <earl.jaques@state.de.us>; Potter, Jr Charles <charles.potter@state.de.us>; Bolden StephanieT <stephaniet.bolden@state.de.us>; Paradee Trey <trey.paradee@state.de.us>; Keeley Helene <helene.keeley@state.de.us>; Brady Gerald <gerald.brady@state.de.us>; Smith Melanie G <melanie.g.smith@state.de.us>; Heffernan Debra <debra.heffernan@state.de.us>; Short Bryon <bryon.short@state.de.us>; Short Daniel <daniel.short@state.de.us>; Johnson Quinton <quinton.johnson@state.de.us>; Johnson JJ <jj.johnson@state.de.us>; Hensley Kevin S <kevin.hensley@state.de.us>; jeff.spiegelman@state.de.us; Hudson Deborah <deborah.hudson@state.de.us>; Mitchell John L <john.l.mitchell@state.de.us>; Longhurst Valerie <valerie.longhurst@state.de.us>; Bentz David <david.bentz@state.de.us>; Mulrooney Michael <michael.mulrooney@state.de.us>; Smyk Steve <steve.smyk@state.de.us>; Ramone Michael <michael.ramone@state.de.us>; Miro Joseph <joseph.miro@state.de.us>; Osienski Edward <edward.osienski@state.de.us>; Viola John <john.viola@state.de.us>; Carson William <william.carson@state.de.us>; Outten Bobby <bobby.outten@state.de.us>; Peterman Jack <harold.peterman@state.de.us>; Sokola David <david.sokola@state.de.us>; Townsend Bryan <bryan.townsend@state.de.us>; Yearick Lyndon D <lyndon.yearick@state.de.us>; Wilson David L <david.l.wilson@state.de.us>; Kenton Harvey <harvey.kenton@state.de.us>; BriggsKing Ruth <ruth.briggsking@state.de.us>; Gray Ronald <ronald.gray@state.de.us>; Dukes Timothy <timothy.dukes@state.de.us>; Collins Richard G <richard.g.collins@state.de.us>; McDowell Harris <harris.mcdowell@state.de.us>; Henry Margaret Rose <margaretrose.henry@state.de.us>; Marshall Robert <robert.marshall@state.de.us>; Lavelle Greg <greg.lavelle@state.de.us>; Cloutier Catherine <catherine.cloutier@state.de.us>; Lopez Ernesto B <ernesto.lopez@state.de.us>; Blevins Patricia <patricia.blevins@state.de.us>; Peterson Karen <karen.peterson@state.de.us>; Hall-Long Bethany <bethany.hall-long@state.de.us>; Poore Nicole <nicole.poore@state.de.us>; Pettyjohn Brian <brian.pettyjohn@state.de.us>; McBride David <david.mcbride@state.de.us>; Ennis Bruce <bruce.ennis@state.de.us>; Lawson Dave <dave.lawson@state.de.us>; Colin J. Bonini <senator-colin@prodigy.net>; Bushweller Brian <brian.bushweller@state.de.us>; Simpson Gary <gary.simpson@state.de.us>; Hocker Gerald <gerald.hocker@state.de.us>; Richardson Bryant L <bryant.richardson@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>
Subject: Delaware Met

Dr. Godowsky,

I know we have been at odds over the whole Delaware School Success Framework, but I implore the Department to act immediately with regards to The Delaware Met.  This place is an obvious danger to students and staff, and the DOE needs to shut it down immediately.  The issues there are getting worse, and the DOE needs to act now.  Not in December at a State Board of Education meeting, and not at the end of the year should their charter be revoked.  I completely understand this is a very delicate situation, but student and staff safety need to come first.  With all the information I have heard, I believe there to be a clear and present danger in that school.

I am calling for others to reach out to you on this as well.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt


Here I am, reaching out in good faith to them, and they know I know what is going on over there.  I would think the words “clear and present danger” would warrant something other than the response I got from Dr. Godowsky.  But no, the typical Delaware response which says “I read your email.  I’m not going to do anything about it Chicken Little, but you should feel lucky I bothered to respond.  That’s more than Mark Murphy ever did.”  Okay, it didn’t really say that, but that’s how it felt.  No, this is what I got:


From: Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>
To:
Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent:
Tuesday, November 10, 2015 1:38 PM
Subject:
RE: Delaware Met

Kevin,

I appreciate the notice. Thank you.

Steve

Steven H. Godowsky

Delaware Department of Education

Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us


Gee, thanks Steve.  No action plan, or even a “We will look into it” or any questions.  Nothing.  And they wonder why I blog about the DOE so much.  Are these people that arrogant and condescending to think they are above the rest of us and aren’t accountable for their actions?  They want to lord it over teachers and schools all the time, but when the time comes for them to answer for themselves they hide behind Governor Markell.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some good people working over there, but when the leadership responds like this, it doesn’t show a concerted effort to communicate better with the public.  It shows a “We are better than you” attitude.  Does he have to wait for Markell’s permission to respond effectively?  Cause we all know Jack was gallivanting around today giving a speech about teacher quality on the taxpayer’s dime without putting it on his public schedule.

Meanwhile, this school needs action taken on it now.  What is going to be the DOE’s spin when things come out?  Something like “we were aware of the situation and took every step necessary to deal with these matters.”  I’m telling everyone right now, when things are revealed about this school, don’t look to the DOE for answers.  Because you will get a response akin to the one I got from Secretary Godowsky today.  You’re going 0-2 on me here Steve.  That is not a good start.  While I appreciate you helping to put Delaware Met on formal review to begin with, that doesn’t solve the immediate problems going on there.  And your betrayal last week with the opt-out penalties is not endearing you to Delaware at all!

If no one will take quick action on this school than something bad is going to happen.  We all know it.  And I’m sure the last thing the DOE wants to do is prove me right.  I am hereby declaring the DOE a Priority State Education Agency.

*I did edit one name in the email.  Poor State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman.  I can never remember the i before e except after c rule with his name.  Both default when I start to put his name in my email address field.  My profuse apologies Rep. Speigelman!

Delaware House Republicans Watch With Glee As Democrats Spar

I get emails from both sides of the aisle in Delaware.  The Democrats and the Republicans.  It is usually about legislation or crucial issues.  Rarely do I see one side taking potshots at the other.  On Friday, I received the House Republicans email which centered on a “cover story” on the email exchange between State Reps John Kowalko and Earl Jaques:

Disappointing Student Test Scores Spark Sniping Between Lawmakers, Public
 
Delaware’s disappointing mathematics and reading scores in the recently released  2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)  sparked a heated exchange between two state legislators and members of the public.
In an e-mail exchange shared with state legislators, bloggers, members of the media, and the education community, State Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, railed against Delaware’s public education policies.
 
The match to the fuse was the NAEP’s 2015 math and reading scores for students in 4th and 8th grades.  The data was last compiled and released two years ago.  
 
Compared to 2013, Delaware’s 4th Grade students saw their math scores drop from 243 to 239; while 8th grade math scores fell from 282 to 280.
 
In 4th Grade reading, Delaware students had an average score of 226 in 2013 and 224 for 2015.  Scores dropped in 8th Grade reading as well, from 266 to 263.
 
Delaware students also fared worse than the 2015 national public school average in three of the four previously cited measures, scoring above the national average only in the area of 4th Grade reading.
 
“Seriously consider the harmful effects foisted on our children by these ‘education reform’ salesmen,” Rep. Kowalko wrote in his e-mail.  “The NAEP test is one of the most widely used, highly respected and … accurate assessments of education results.  If this latest development doesn’t strike a warning chord in any of you that consider themselves as advocates for children and public education than I’m afraid it’s time for an introspective look we all should take.”
State Rep.
Jeff Spiegelman
Rep. Kowalko has been an outspoken critic of the Delaware Department of Education and the direction of education reform efforts in The First State.  House Republicans Jeff Spiegelman, R–Clayton & Lyndon Yearick, R–Camden-Woodside, joined Rep. Kowalko in sponsoring a measure earlier this year (House Bill 50, as amended) that sought to allow parents to exclude their children from the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment as well as any district-level assessment.
 
The Smarter Balanced Assessment is aligned with the contentious Common Core standards in English and mathematics.
 
Despite clearing the House and Senate with large bipartisan majorities, Gov. Jack Markell vetoed the measure citing the potential loss of federal funding and harm to the state’s economic competitiveness.
 
In his e-mail, and an identical post on his Facebook page, Rep. Kowalko criticized the state’s Common Core standards.  “Common Core is not a curriculum, but it is so specific in its standards that it becomes a de-facto curriculum.  Covering those prescribed ‘standards’ forces teachers to teach only those skills.”
 
Rep. Kowalko pointed to the NAEP test scores as reason to question Delaware’s education policies.  “The NAEP is a generalized test given to kids all over the world.  It is a consistent and reliable measure of comparison.  You can’t ‘study’ for it.  So when we look at countries that do well (i.e. Finland/New Zealand) and see that their curriculums are nothing like what we have just adopted/imposed, we should ask: ‘What are we doing?'”
 
House Education Committee Chairman, State Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, took issue with Rep. Kowalko’s use of state e-mail to share his views.  “John, your personal views shouldn’t be part of our e-mail system,” Rep. Jaques stated.  “Your e-mail isn’t based on any facts, but filled with innuendoes and bias against people you dislike.  Please take your postings to the blogs – not on the state email system!!”
 
Numerous people came to Rep. Kowalko’s defense, including WDEL Talk Show Host and Syndicated Columnist Rick Jensen.  
 
“The viewpoints of any State Representative or State Senator on public policy are absolutely permitted (and encouraged) for public dissemination via official email,” Jensen wrote.  “What should outrage every journalist and supporter of the First Amendment is Earl Jacques trying to suppress the comments of a representative who disagrees with him.”
This is going to be a very contentious second half of the 148th General Assembly folks.

House Education Committee Minutes from 3/25/15: TFA, DOE, & Special Education Funding

The 3/25 Delaware House Education Committee meeting was a bit more subdued and calmer than previous ones, but it had a lot of activity going on.  Read the minutes from the meeting which discussed Senate Bill 31 and it’s amendment and the sunset period for Teach For America, House Bill 34 and the Delaware DOE’s timing on enforcing regulations, and House Bill 30 which would give basic special education funding for special needs students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.