News Journal’s Touchy “Feeley” Fails To Spin Their Own Spin And Loses Credibility With Their Double Down

I know I’ve been picking on the News Journal a lot lately, but they deserve it.  After their constant defamatory attacks on Kathleen Davies with fabricated reports, I have to ask a legitimate question: How much are they getting paid to go after Davies?  It is beyond the point of absurdity.  What did they do now? Continue reading

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State Reps Kowalko and Williams Petition Attorney General Matt Denn To Investigate Leak From Auditor Of Accounts Office

In a letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, State Representatives John Kowalko and Kim Williams are urging Denn to investigate the controversial leak from the Auditor of Accounts office.  On August 8th, the News Journal “obtained” a report from AOA regarding a personnel matter with Kathleen Davies.  While the validity of the report has yet to be determined, especially since it wasn’t even used in Davies unemployment hearing, the report was leaked from AOA.

The News Journal based an entire article, online and in print, on the report.  I find it ironic that a cabal of folks at AOA, who falsely went after Davies over sending a draft copy of an audit to Kim Williams (which was found to be perfectly okay), seem to think it is okay to send out a confidential employee report that very same office may have had the ability to edit themselves.  Talk about sheer hypocrisy!  Political motivation during an election?  You better believe it!  Reports have come out of that office where employees would spend their time on political campaigns in the last election.  I don’t mind any citizen helping out with elections and all that, but not while you are on the clock for the state!

To read the letter from Rep. Kowalko and Rep. Williams, please see below:

 

JFC Snuck In A Permanent Charter School Transportation Slush Fund Racket Into Budget Bill

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee did the unthinkable.  Every year since 2010, the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund has been a part of the epilogue language in the budget bill.  This is where Delaware charter schools get to keep whatever they don’t spend in their budgeted transportation amount.  As an example, if M. Smith Charter School budgets $200,000 for transportation and they only spend $150,000, they get to keep the rest of that money the state gave them.  School districts aren’t allowed to do this.

But now the JFC actually wrote a bill into the Epilogue Language of the FY2019 budget bill, Senate Bill 235.  In past years, it was just part of the budget bill but now they are inserting what should be a separate bill into the budget bill.  In other words, if you don’t vote yes for the budget bill, you are a traitor to all Delawareans.  So pass our charter school boon or risk being lambasted by the Democrat leadership.  This is what they are actually seeking to amend in the budget bill:

  1. b) Notwithstanding subsection a), a charter school may negotiate a contract (multi-year, if desired) for contractor payment for school transportation up to the maximum rate of 70% or the charter school may publicly bid the transportation routes. If the actual negotiated or bid costs are lower than the maximum rate, the charter school may keep the difference to provide services to low-income and/or English-Language Learners. If the charter school includes a fuel adjustment contract provision, the charter school shall be responsible for increased payments to the contractor or it may keep funds taken back from the contractor.

Anyone who follows end of June politics in Delaware knows that State Rep. John Kowalko fights this every single year.  This year is no exception but he is even more offended about them actually putting a bill in a bill.  He has his amendment ready to go:

AMEND Senate Bill No. 235 on page 233 by deleting “If the actual negotiated or bid costs are lower than the maximum rate, the charter school may keep the difference to provide services to low-income and/or English-Language Learners.

SYNOPSIS

This amendment to the budget bill removes a proposed addition to the Delaware Code contained in the epilogue language that would permanently allow charter schools to “keep the difference” for transportation funding that is not used to fund transportation costs.

The proposed addition to the Delaware Code would contradict the requirement in 14 Del. C. § 508(a) that the State reimburse charter schools only for actual transportation costs, which is also required for all other public schools pursuant to the Delaware Administrative Code.

Will the Delaware General Assembly finally stop this nonsense?  Who is pushing this besides the Delaware Charter Schools Network?  Could it be a departing co-chair of the Delaware JFC who pretty much had to resign so she could get her kid into Newark Charter School despite the improbability of getting in through their lottery and the HUGE waiting list?

As Christina Passes MOU, Carney Wants Charter Students To Come Back To Christina

Last night the Christina Board of Education, in front of a packed house, passed the Memorandum of Understanding between the district, the Delaware Department of Education and Governor John Carney’s office with a 4-2-1 vote.  Board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige voted no while member Angela Mitchell abstained.  The tense meeting, which lasted over three hours, had Carney sitting in the audience the entire time.  While the News Journal, WHYY, and WDEL all came to the meeting, many parts of the meeting were not covered in their articles. Continue reading

Kowalko Openly Challenges Baumbach & Sokola On School Board Member Removal Bill

Delaware State Representative John Kowalko sent a letter to State Rep. Paul Baumbach and State Senator David Sokola about the in-circulation school board member removal bill.  He asked some specific questions regarding the origin of this legislation.  I would love to see a response from both of them on this.  You may have seen part of this in my initial article on this, but Kowalko goes into more detail.  As well, Nancy Willing of The Delaware Way blog pointed out something that didn’t catch my eye until she wrote it:

Note the time Baumbach’s aide floated the bill for co-sponsorship is minutes after reporter Jessica Bies published her story on Christina’s likely rejection this morning of Carney’s most recent MOU draft.

Less than a month until the legislators come back in session…

Dear colleagues,

I sent the following inquiry to Representative Baumbach and Senator Sokola. I received a response from Representative Baumbach that he would not discuss the motives nor intentions of this proposed legislation so I am forwarding the same missive (and attachment) to all members of the Delaware General Assembly. It follows and is attached.

I suspect that this proposed legislation, being circulated for signatures by Representative Baumbach and Senator Sokola, may impose a constitutionally challenged contradiction to decisions made by the voters of Delaware. To suggest that an Executive branch (Governor appointed and unelected) board should have the authority to overturn the decision of the voting public disregards both separation of powers and constitutional rights of those elected. If either of the two sponsors or the promoters of such a piece of legislation have a problem with individual board members (as seems to be the case here) then they should come up with a lawful process attended to by lawful entities. This is the type of overreach that causes the public to doubt the sincerity and legitimacy of the laws we create and pass. I hope the sponsors of this proposed legislation will quickly withdraw this legislation.

I would also ask the sponsors of this legislation to explain to me and my fellow legislators what has provoked them to solicit sponsors to support such draconian action. Perhaps Rep. Baumbach or Senator Sokola can give us examples of purported or actual wrongdoing by former or current board members. I would also suggest that the sponsors divulge who solicited such legislation/authority. That might allay suspicions that this is simply an effort to coerce and silence board members, specifically board members who have criticized some of this Administration’s plans. I respectfully await a reply from the sponsors before I will consider adding my name and suggest that all my colleagues do the same.

Respectfully,

Representative John Kowalko

I guess nobody puts Baumbach in a corner!  Meanwhile it looks like Senator Bryan Townsend is all “I have a six month old baby.  I’m staying out of this one!”

State Rep. Paul Baumbach Asking For Ouster With Pending Legislation Allowing State Board of Education To Remove Local School District Board Members

I’ve seen some insane legislation in my day.  This one takes the cake.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach has put forth legislation which would give the State Board of Education the power to remove a sitting school district board member.  Way to take the local out of local control and hand it over to the state there Paul!  Are you kidding me?  I wish this was some horrible joke, but it isn’t.  How would Baumbach feel if some board could take away HIS power?  This guy is begging to be primaried and removed from office.  You can’t even make this stuff up! Continue reading

Kowalko Picks Apart Carney’s Not So Legal Christina-Wilmington Plan

Last night, the Christina Board of Education voted 5-2 to push back Delaware Governor John Carney’s consolidation plan for Christina’s Wilmington students until the 2019-2020 school year. They felt the initiative would need more time. The no votes belonged to board members George Evans and Fred Polaski. State Rep. John Kowalko gave public comment concerning the plan. To say he was not in favor would be an understatement. Kowalko brought up many good points which the Governor and the Delaware DOE ought to consider.

I and 9 other legislators attended a meeting called by Governor Carney less than a week ago purportedly to discuss the proposed Wilmington school reform plan and MOU proposal. Since we weren’t given copies of the MOU and it doesn’t seem to be available any longer at the link the Administration provided I cannot offer or challenge some of the specifics. At this meeting the Governor suggested that the MOU draft submitted by DOE would be changed and this board is not bound by it and should draft its own MOU proposal. The deadlines for Board action that the Governor and DOE appear to be imposing are substantively unrealistic and impractical for such a complex consideration with so many unanswerable questions.

Having examined some of the initial proposal and the details and expectations it held has led me to conclude that this is not a well thought out plan, that raises more questions and challenges then it has answers for.

I distributed some of my points of concern to the Governor and DOE and have copies for you that I will distribute. Due to time constraints I will try to focus on only a few of my concerns that I hope you will consider at this time.

I find it particularly harmful and hurtful to the “Southbridge” community, families and children to propose closing Elbert Palmer, one of the true neighborhood schools in walking distance and accessible to this Wilmington community. I hope that this Board’s counter-proposal would support closing that tired old monolith known as Bancroft and refurbish Palmer, Pulaski and Bayard to use for the suggested K-8 reconfiguration.

I also implore this Board to pay heed to the massive costs (which the Governor personally refused to speculate on) in refurbishing or renovating in order to make these consolidations. You should be acutely aware that any promise of funding cannot be guaranteed. In fact I would urge you to recall this Administration’s recently passed budget with concurrence of this current General Assembly cut traditional public school revenues by more than $36 million. Restoring that $36 million in cuts and adding even a small percentage of the proposed renovation costs would be much more beneficial and effective for Wilmington students if allocated to create smaller classroom ratios and hire reading and math specialists.

As I’ve looked at this reform proposal and its details and drawing upon my 11 years of experience as a legislator I am forced to conclude that this is a no-win situation for Christina, this Board and the children of Wilmington. Its predisposition to fail will be used to scapegoat the district and further stifle opportunities for Wilmington students and their families.

Finally I would suggest that this Board consider that traditional public school funding has received reduced funding since 2009 now totaling over $65 million per year. Ask the DOE and Governor:

Who is going to pay for the renovations?

Who is paying for longer school days and school years?

Who is paying for vacation academies?

Who is paying for after-school programs?

And why aren’t Reading Specialists and funding for them part of this plan?

At this point, Kowalko had several questions for Governor Carney as well:

1) If CSD does not approve MOU, more money will be taken from the District further harming prospects of Wilmington students and families. (“If it rejects the plan and fails to come up with an acceptable alternative, the agreement would be terminated immediately, resulting in the loss of any additional financial support for the district”).
2) Bayard/Bancroft are not appropriate buildings for little children even if renovated. Bancroft too old to make usable with renovations.
3) Trauma Training not necessarily (research?) effective but investing/funding 1 to 15 class size ratios would effectively improve the learning environment and outcomes.
4) Palmer became the first equity lawsuit in Delaware when Christina District (at Lowery’s behest) tried to close it 10 years ago.
5) Leaves no “Neighborhood Schools” for city children and in fact may violate the “Neighborhood Schools Legislation”.
6) Bancroft is far away from Palmer and Southbridge children who now walk would be unable to continue that practice.
7) Distinguish more specifically between renovate, refurbish and reconfiguration.
8) Why don’t we do things like “successful” districts? The most successful programs such as in New York and Massachusetts fund “reading specialists” and lower class ratios.
9) When the plan refers to “potentially” establishing “early childhood education” and “centers for students and families learning English” at a vacated Palmer are the planners aware that there are no ESL students at Palmer?
10) Have you considered neighborhood “gangs” being integrated from across Wilmington into the same building?
11) The suggested “Co-leadership” model re: principals and assistant principals belies the reality that these two jobs have never had the same duties and have always had designated responsibilities and functions.
12) “Loan forgiveness stipend” to young and “inexperienced” teachers does not reflect any benefit to already established teachers who have devoted their careers to inner-city education and “Who” is paying for these loans?
13) “Who” is paying for “longer school days/year”?
14) “Who is paying for “vacation academies”?
15) “Who is paying for “after-school programing”?
16) Why aren’t reading specialists part of this plan and therefore WHO IS PAYING FOR “READING SPECIALISTS” SO THAT CHILDREN ACTUALLY LEARN TO READ?

These are all valid questions that deserve answers. One of my biggest questions is why the Delaware Department of Education did not include this in their presentation to the Office of Management and Budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget a couple of weeks ago. Where is all this money coming from? The Christina Board of Education will vote on the plan again next Tuesday at their monthly board meeting. Revisions will supposedly go back and forth until February of 2018 which is Governor Carney’s deadline for the decision.

Top Ten Reasons Not To Trust Delaware Governor John Carney

Delaware Governor John Carney hasn’t even been in his job a year and already he has managed to irk me more than former Governor Jack Markell.  Why?  Many reasons. Continue reading

Kowalko Gives Markell The Knockout Punch Over NY Times Op/Ed Piece

Former Delaware Governor Jack Markell wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times this week called “Let’s Stop Government Giveaways To Corporations”.  In it, he urged states not to get sucked into giving away the farm for huge corporations.  Something, even Markell noted, he did himself during his tenure as Delaware Governor from 2009-2017.  I found the irony behind Markell’s piece astounding as I felt he sold Delaware public education students down the river with his insane Race To The Top and Common Core antics.  State Rep. John Kowalko takes it a step further n an open letter to Markell.  Some of Markell’s many corporate giveaways in Delaware still haunt us to this day.

AN OPEN LETTER TO FORMER GOVERNOR MARKELL

Dear Jack,

I’ve just finished reading your N.Y. Times op-ed and I feel it’s my obligation to Delaware’s taxpayers to respond. I’d like to think that your most recent missive has merely added to my disappointment in you but I think I’ve already passed the minimum expectations level in regard to your performance and legacy. I will try to be objective in my analysis and critique.

First, I find it unbecoming for you to use “revisionist history” as a crutch to support your crippling economic decisions. That pejorative explanation has become the trademark of Trumpism and the Republican Conservative ideologues and should be an embarrassing reference for any legitimate public servant who wears a “D” after his title. I’d suggest that you cease evading responsibilities, casting blame and rewriting reality or remove that “D”.

Your statement that “I was as guilty as any elected official at playing this game” fails to adequately express the reality that you were much more “guilty” then other Delaware elected officials. You blithely dismiss the seriousness of this ongoing “economic/corporate welfare” threat by writing “And I don’t blame public officials, either, for their efforts to attract businesses with enticements, since they otherwise would risk losing out on new jobs, the transfer of old ones elsewhere and the bad publicity that could come with abandoning efforts to entice or retain companies”. That attitude and admission would be better relegated to a confessional for your personal “mea culpa” and forgiveness ask.

In your article some of the revisions you make to your economic tenure as Governor are merely omissions, others are misrepresentative of reality and others seem to be deliberate distortions. So I will attempt to briefly summarize what you’ve conveniently forgotten. During your 8 years as Chief Executive your DEDO/Strategic Fund doled out over $250 million (in grants and subsidies) in taxpayer money. Approximately 37% of the recipients were huge fortune 400 companies. This number does not include the more than $80 million in lost corporate revenue from your hastily contrived “Delaware Competes Act” (House Bill 235 quickly ushered through the Delaware General Assembly during the first few weeks of 2016 session) along with the “Commitment to Innovation Act” (SB 200). You mention the failed Fisker debacle but choose to ignore/deny your other expensive yet failed economic enterprise the “Bloom” subsidy. Not only has the cash grant/subsidy failed to produce the promised jobs but you’ve ensured that 300,000 individual and commercial Delmarva ratepayers would be burdened with an additional 20 years of subsidies to a private speculator/entrepreneur at a cost of $12-$15 million per year. Your remarkably optimistic speculation that the two of three Dow/DuPont spinoffs was a victory belies the reality that a preponderance of the research jobs are gone and Delaware is left with a comparative handful of jobs at the two headquarters. This type of Pyrrhic victory should not be heralded as the sign of an economic boon to Delaware. You also failed to mention the layoffs of 1700 (six-figure) DuPont researchers especially in light of your Secretary of Finance Tom Cook’s testimony on the House floor in response to my query that those jobs are gone and not coming back despite the Competes/Innovates corporate tax cuts and the 13 million cash giveaways that Ed Breen publicly said would not affect DuPont’s plans for job cuts. To paraphrase Mr. Breen’s remarks in the News Journal article “that money won’t make a difference in our plans but I’m not going to turn it down”. And lest we forget Jack, $10 million to JP Morgan (declared $24 billion in profit the year before), $2.5 million to Sallie Mae ($71 million profit 2nd qtr. 2017), $70 million infrastructure improvements to the Astra Zeneca campus (dramatically improving the value of their property now being sold) housing an ever dwindling workforce.

I do agree with your sentiments expressed as such but it would be better for taxpayers if these kinds of cash incentives could be invested instead in such things as schools and infrastructure”. Maybe that will happen under your successor’s tutelage via the newly minted taxpayer giveaway mechanism named the “Delaware Prosperity Partnership”. Perhaps that corporate dominated cabal will accept applications for funding to restore the $27 million in cuts to education you made in 2009 that have continued to date (under the guise of flexible spending block grants) or the additional $31 million in cuts to public education in this year’s budget or maybe some of those poor and elderly former pharmaceutical assistance recipients could make their anguished cries heard.

Wow! Kowalko nailed it!  Jack Markell, you had your time as leader of Delaware.  I know you like to pontificate over your imagined “success” as Delaware Governor but far too many of us see past your hypocrisy.  And for the most recent news on the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the following happened this week with that:

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Friday announced that John Riley, a former state Director of Business Development, will serve as interim CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership – the newly-established public-private partnership that will lead the state’s economic development efforts.

In the position, Riley will help launch operations, develop a strategic plan for the new nonprofit, and conduct a search for a permanent chief executive.

“John is well-known and respected across our state, and has significant experience in economic development,” said Governor Carney, who will serve as co-chair of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board. “I’m pleased he has agreed to help us launch the partnership. We are committed to changing the way we do business, fostering innovation, and growing our economy. I’m confident John will help position the partnership to succeed.”

“Establishment of this entity was a critical step to enhance the state’s ability to attract, grow and retain companies; to build a stronger entrepreneurial culture and to support private employers in identifying, recruiting and developing talent,” said Rod Ward, President of CSC and co-chair of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board. “As Interim CEO, John will work with the board on the recruitment of a permanent CEO and development of a strategic plan for Delaware.”

“Thank you to Governor Carney and the entire board of the partnership for this opportunity,” said John Riley. “Delaware has great assets – a talented workforce, a strategic location along I-95, responsive leadership, and great communities up and down our state. I look forward to doing everything I can to attract investment and additional good-paying jobs to our state, and setting up this new partnership to succeed in helping grow our economy.”

Riley served as Director of Business Development under then-Governor Thomas R. Carper. He retired from Ashland where he was Director of Government Relations and previously served as Director of Public Affairs for Hercules Incorporated. Riley has continued to be active in economic development and assisted Governor Jack Markell’s Administration with Delaware’s strategy in responding to the DuPont-Dow merger.

Members of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board approved the hiring of Riley at an organizational meeting this week.

Governor Carney, who took office in January, has made it a top priority to restructure Delaware’s economic development efforts, and strategically partnering with the private sector on economic growth was a key recommendation of the Governor’s Action Plan for Delaware. Last month, Governor Carney signed House Bill 226, creating the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and a new division within the Department of State to support small business growth.

The Delaware Prosperity Partnership will be run day-to-day by the chief executive officer and a full-time staff. The nonprofit will lead business marketing efforts for the state, with a focus on attracting early-stage and technology-focused businesses, recruitment of large employers, and expansion of international business opportunities for Delaware companies. Its leaders also will work with employers and Delaware educators to fill key talent gaps in the state. The state will jointly fund the partnership’s operations with private business.

 

Kowalko Blasts Carney, Bunting, & Several Christina Legislators

Last Thursday, Delaware Governor John Carney held yet another secret meeting.  This one was with Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and several legislators whose districts are a part of the Christina School District.  Those legislators were Senators David Sokola and Bryan Townsend and Reps Earl Jaques, Ed Osienski, Joe Miro, Mike Ramone, Melanie Smith, and John Kowalko.  The subject: those damn test scores for Christina!

Carney was pulling the usual “why are Christina’s reading and math scores so low?”  If I were a déjà vu kind of guy, I would say it is the same record spun by Governor Markell and former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  Sokola talked about capacity and too much of it in Christina.  Ramone talked about how the state has closed failing charter schools and why not public schools.  Jaques talked about how we need to fill schools with psychiatrists and psychologists while not realizing budget cuts have affected the ability to properly staff schools with educators and resources before we even need to get to that point.  Miro talked about… who knows!  But Kowalko talked about the funding cuts that have already happened that is causing the suffering of poverty students in Christina.  He suggested Christina consolidates two of their high schools and actually build a Wilmington high school for Wilmington students so they aren’t bussed all over Christina School District.

Governor Carney is proving to be more of a Jack Markell wannabe than I ever thought he could be.  I agree with Kowalko.  When Markell cut the reading specialists Governor Ruth Ann Minner created years ago, the problems in Christina got bigger.  When Markell began his dance with corporations to “fix” education it got worse.  Now we’ve had three years of Smarter Balanced and, as predicted, the scores suck.  They suck bad.  No one in power ever stops to think the test is the problem.  No, we must get new leaders in our schools.  We have to fix poverty in the schools.  How about creating real jobs, for real people?  Not these new start-up tech companies Carney gets excited about.  Cause they aren’t going to fix poverty.  They are only going to further the divide between the haves and the have nots.

Kowalko told me the only legislator who made any sense was Senator Townsend.  The rest, he felt, were playing the same skipped record on Delaware education particularly in Christina.  And Secretary Bunting… I don’t know where your head is at these days.  You’ve been drinking far too much of the Rodel Kool-Aid lately.  Taking money away from districts (see recent articles about match tax) and just giving it away to the charters is not a solution.  For someone who came from a large district with financial issues, you sure do seem to be forgetting what is truly needed in education.  Who is advising these people?  How many other secret meetings are going on?  Thank God we have legislators like Kowalko who value transparency above all else.

Rep. Melanie Smith is one of the true catalysts, along with other charter-loving legislators, who don’t care about Christina.  They care about the charters they want their kids and grandchildren to go to.  And a few of them who have relatives that teach at charter schools.  The jig is up.  You aren’t fooling any of us with your grand posturing and false bravado.  Smith, Jaques, Sokola, Ramone, Miro… enough already.  The charter lobbyists don’t need to shove anything up your ass.  You do it gladly all on your own.

We have a Secretary and Governor who allow situations like the train wreck that is Providence Creek Academy’s administration and the continuing de facto segregation factory called Newark Charter School.  You want to put your money where your mouths are?  Don’t let the charters bitch for one iota of a second about match tax and all their other funding whining when they get to keep their damn transportation slush fund.  It is a disgrace.  Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter.  Most of you support it as evidenced by your budget vote every single damn year.  The ones that say no to that… those are the ones I respect down at Legislative Hall.  The rest of you are phoneys pretending to be lawmakers.  Allowing charters to suck at the public teat while cutting funds from districts.  And Bunting… perhaps the biggest traitor of them all allowing this to continue.  I thought coming from a district you were going to be the watcher on the wall against this crap.  But you have proven to be just like the other Governor mouthpieces for education.

As JFC Sacrifices The Sick, The Children, and The Poor, General Assembly Leadership Drops The Ball

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.

 

Exclusive: Pending Legislation Would Give Delaware School Boards MORE Authority To Raise Taxes Without Referendum

A bill is circulating among Delaware legislators that would give school boards more power with raising taxes.  In my view, this is just another way to shift state funding to local school boards.  The bill hasn’t even been given a number yet and it is important to know it is only in circulation, which means State Rep Earl Jaques is looking for sponsors.  I heard, through that infamous Delaware grapevine, that Senator David Sokola is on board.  Funny how Sokola didn’t mention this at all at the Education Forum the other night.  The pending bill is dated 5/11/2017 and given that Sokola is the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, he would definitely know about this.

I said it yesterday, and I’ll say it again: watch out for stealth legislation coming out between now and June 30th that will most likely tick a lot of people off.  The Delaware Education Hunger Games just went up to a new unbelievable level!

Updated, 2:52pm: State Rep. John Kowalko just released the following statement about this bill in circulation:

In one of the most blatant attempts to shift the blame and the costs for the irresponsible and destructive $37 million cuts to public education, Senator Sokola and Representative Jaques, chairs of the Senate and House Education committees, are circulating legislation that purports to enable local school boards to fund rather than cut a number of necessary programs. The elimination of these programs, due to the proposed funding cuts, will spell disaster for the children, educators and public school districts. This bill is a blatant attempt to shirk the Legislature’s responsibility to adequately fund public education and seek the necessary revenue to do so. The taxpayers should not overlook the additional fact that the proposed $37 million in cuts will not include $6 million that is left to the charter schools to fund these same programs. The prime sponsors of this proposed legislation, who have been less than aggressive supporters of equal treatment and funding between charter schools and traditional schools, instead seem to feel that the public will find tax increases imposed by a volunteer (unpaid) board of elected citizens as palatable. I imagine that another benefit will be to disguise and hide the fact that the General Assembly is abdicating its responsibility and authority to raise revenue for public services not to mention that any school board choosing to use such authority would probably doom the chances of success for any future referendums, regardless of their legitimacy. 

Rep. John Kowalko

Matt Denn Letter Rips NCS 5 Mile Radius and HS1 For House Bill 85 But Is Unable To Offer Official Legal Opinion

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn responded yesterday to State Reps. Potter, Bolden and Kowalko’s request for a legal opinion on the constitutionality of HS1 for House Bill 85.  Denn offered valid legal reasons why he was unable to offer a legal opinion, but that he also agrees with the Enrollment Preferences Task Force recommendations for not having the 5 mile radius to begin with and believes all students within a district should be given preference to choicing into a charter school in the same district.

Guest Post: Kim Williams Is The Good Guy Here. The Process…Not So Much.

Christina School District Board of Education member John Young asked if he could submit a guest post regarding the current Newark Charter School/5 Mile Radius/HS1 for House Bill #85 skirmish.  Young is writing this as a citizen and is not speaking for the Christina Board of Education.

There has been a ton of conjecture flying around about multiple legislators and their motives this past week centered around HB85 and its spawn: HS1 for HB85. The original bill sponsored by Reps. Williams, Kowalko, and Sen. Sokola et. al. The substitute only by Rep. Williams and Sen. Sokola, et.al. There has been extreme reaction to this bill here in Delaware with lots of people taking stark, sharp positions. Here’s the reality: 22 years of fighting against the wrongheaded approach with direct assaults has been essentially 100% ineffective.  Rep. Kim Williams has cobbled together a band of legislators willing to make a small inroad against the charter cabal, led by Senator David Sokola and his charter loving elitists. Would I, if asked, want to work with Senator David Sokola on education knowing his penchant for attacking traditional public education with a track record replete with defense of de facto segregation? Nope. I wouldn’t. I’ve heard too may stories of Senator Sokola treating colleagues poorly when his pet programs are threatened.

That said, Rep. Kim Williams is a different breed. Unlike many of her colleagues, she puts students first. Is this bill perfect? Heck no!  Who would be the first person to agree with that statement? Rep. Kim Williams! I suspect Rep. Williams has worked super hard to get multiple legislators to support HS1 for HB85, not based on their understanding of how this bill impacts kids, but based on their trust and respect for her. That’s how it works in Dover. That’s not an endorsement of how it ought to be, just an acknowledgement of how it is.  With that said, I think some of the rhetoric on this bill may jeopardize future successes on other bills if we’re not careful with our over-demonizing. Am I happy that an AG ruling is being sought? Sure.  Other than Rep. John Kowalko on that request, are those seeking the ruling leaders on education like Rep. Williams? Not even close.  We need to remember that.

I do not envy Rep. Williams position, but I admire her willingness to work within her own party to bridge the divides that SHOULD NOT EVEN EXIST, but because they do they must be confronted in a different way than if Mr. Sokola was in the party he acts like he belongs to on education, the GOP.

Rep. Kim Williams is not the problem here folks, she’s the solution. Keep up the good work. To those that joined her on this vote: I understand and I thank you.​
I agree with John and accept that my original post on this painted Kim and other legislators in a certain light based on their vote.  In hindsight, they tried to make the best of the situation.  Senator Sokola IS the problem here folks.  Always has been.  This was one of the main reasons I wanted Meredith Chapman to beat him last year in the election and she came damn close!  This, my friends, is the result.  I’ve talked to Dave Sokola since, and I advised him I would be gentler on him.  But this bill reeks of favoritism with the “Sokola language”.  And the fact he even attempted to hold the bill hostage unless it had his wording as part of it shows the worst of Delaware politics.
Shameless plug: Exceptional Delaware always accepts guest posts as long as they make a modicum of sense!

Potter, Bolden, & Kowalko Seek Legal Opinion From Attorney General Matt Denn For HS1 For House Bill #85

Yesterday, three Delaware State Representatives sent a letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn.  They are asking him for an Attorney General Opinion on HS1 for House Bill 85.  Things just got very real with this legislation.  If Reps. Potter, Bolden, and Kowalko didn’t do it, I would have suggested it.  The five mile radius was bad enough.  But then to purposefully select certain students from not being allowed to apply to a charter school in their own school district, that puts a very clear mark on this.  It isn’t too late though.  Delaware Senator David Sokola can choose to get on the right side of history and change the bill so Newark Charter School does take the Christina Wilmington students.  Because anything else, under his prime directive, is outright discrimination and segregation.  We all know it.

I will not bend to any political request on this legislation.  I will not back away from what I originally published.  To me, I could really care less about the politics.  I don’t care if you are blue or red or purple.  If folks want to put their name on this legislation, go right ahead.  But I will not change my stance on this.  Even if I admire and respect the hell out of some of you for various reasons and would fight like hell for bills that we do agree on, on this bill I will not budge.  It is about doing what is right, for ALL students.  Yes, the bill is progress, but not enough.  We can agree to disagree on that.  But I will not be party to political games and not publishing what I know in my heart to be true. It isn’t personal.  It wouldn’t matter who sponsored this bill, I would feel the same way and I would have published the exact same article.  Yes, I am aware some of the legislators flipped their vote because of how it would make them look.  I am aware there was political fighting going on with this legislation.  I was there for the whole thing.  I opposed the bill when the House Substitute came in, and I made that very clear at the House Education Committee meeting when the bill was released.  It isn’t a Democrat thing and it isn’t a Republican thing.  It is a student thing.  It is an equity thing.  It is the right thing.

Newark Charter School Doesn’t Want Wilmington Black Kids Or Wilmington Special Needs Kids Going To Their Private School

Earlier this afternoon, State Rep. Rich Collins led the Delaware House of Representatives in prayer and asked them, no matter what, to put children first in their mind when they are voting on legislation.  Two and a half hours later, Collins along with 26 other state reps both Republican and Democrat, voted to keep Newark Charter School first.

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 passed the House today with 27 yes, 13 no, and 1 absent.  The bill removes the 5 mile radius enrollment preference for Delaware charter schools with one exception.  Since Christina School District has a portion of their district in Wilmington, that is not landlocked with the rest of the district, those Wilmington children will not be allowed to choice to Newark Charter School.  Even though the Wilmington students from Red Clay and Colonial can choice to other charter schools, those Christina Wilmington students can’t choice to that one school.  They can still choice to other charters within the district or even outside of the district, but not NCS.

The bill still has to go through the Senate.  By primary sponsor State Rep. Kim Williams’ own admission, if the bill did not have that provision it wouldn’t have moved forward in the Senate.  The Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Senator David Sokola, used to be on the board of Newark Charter School.  It isn’t really a state secret that State Rep. Melanie Smith bought a house in that area so her child can go to Newark Charter School.  Why does it always come back to Newark Charter School?

State Rep. John Kowalko put an amendment on the bill that would have removed that provision, but it failed to pass the House.  25 state reps voted no on the amendment.

I know State Rep. Kim Williams very well.  I know her intent with this bill was to get a start on changing this process.  It is better than what we had before.  But it really isn’t.  Yes, there will be a greater number of Christina School District students who will have the option of choicing into Newark Charter School.  That is true, provided the bill passes and gets signed by Governor Carney.  But it also sends a clear statement about Delaware as a state: we will allow de facto segregation.  Any time we are disallowing students from having a free and appropriate public education, we are not moving forward as a state, we are moving horribly backwards.

State Reps Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and J.J. Johnson, all African-American, voiced strong opposition to the bill for the same things I am writing.  Bolden said it best.  What does it say about Delaware as a state when legislation like this comes up?  She couldn’t say this, so I will.  It shows what a discriminatory state we are to the rest of the country.  It says city kids aren’t good enough for a charter in the suburbs.  It says we vote in legislators who would rather keep one charter school from opening up to ALL students than making Delaware, the first state to sign the U.S. Constitution, a fair and equitable state for all children.

Let’s be honest here, the only reason for this legislation in the first place is because of Newark Charter School.  Taking what could be a good portion of their student population out of the picture in the coming years defeats the whole intent of the bill in the first place.

Which State Reps voted to keep de facto segregation going in Delaware today?

Bryon Short (D)

Paul Baumbach (D)

David Bentz (D)

Gerald Brady (D)

William Carson (D)

Rich Collins (R)

Danny Short (R)

Tim Dukes (R)

Ronald Gray (R)

Kevin Hensley (R)

Deb Hudson (R)

Earl Jaques (D)

Quinton Johnson (D)

Harvey Kenton (R)

Ed Osienski (D)

William Outten (R)

Trey Paradee (D)

Charles Postles (R)

Melanie Smith (D)

Joe Miro (R)

Mike Ramone (R)

Steven Smyk (R)

Jeff Spiegelman (R)

John Viola (D)

Kim Williams (D)

David Wilson (R)

Lyndon Yearick (R)

Only one Republican voted no on the bill, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King.  I find it ironic that many of the Dems who have part of their district in the 5 mile radius for Newark Charter School voted yes.  A couple of the no votes surprised me, but I will take it.  For those who aren’t familiar with what our state legislators look like, there are no black Republicans in the Delaware House or Senate.  All of the above legislators are white.

No offense to Kim Williams, and I get her intent behind this bill, but I can’t support this bill.  I vehemently oppose it.  Any legislation that restricts a child from doing anything will never be a bill I can get behind.  Any bill that gives Delaware an ugly stain on our perception is one I can not support.  This is not progress.  This is very sad.

We need elected officials in our state who won’t follow the whims of Newark Charter School.  We need legislators who will look out for ALL students.  We need lawmakers who won’t bow to the Delaware Charter Schools Network and do what is right.  We need legislators who realize collaboration when it comes to education is NOT always a good thing.  Today was no victory by any means.  It was a horrible step backwards in Delaware.  We might as well paint a sign on Newark Charter School that says Wilmington students not allowed.  The original five mile radius for NCS was bad enough, but this… this is blatant discrimination by a public school that gets funding from taxpayers around the state.

Newark Charter School is one of the best schools in Delaware.  It is because of laws like this that have allowed them to cherry-pick their students and take advantage of the law so they give a façade of excellence.  If they truly let in any student, they would be no better or worse than the schools around them.  But they would be equal.  I would never let my child go to a school like that.  What kind of lesson would that teach him?  If he were picked in their lottery, I would tell him he won because so many kids could not.  If I lived in Wilmington, would I really want my child going to a school that practiced discrimination and segregation for over 15 years?

I would tell you to voice your opposition to the Delaware Senate on this bill.  But it really doesn’t matter.  If it passes as is, it is the same story.  If it fails, Newark Charter School still has their 5 mile radius and still keeps kids from the Christina School District out of their prestigious public school.  Any attempt at amending the bill will fail.  But the truest failure is how Delaware looks to the entire country with this one bill.

Updated, 6:52pm: I want to add one thing.  My thoughts on this bill are not a knock on all Delaware charter schools.  There are many charter schools in Wilmington who would be more than happy to take the students Newark Charter School doesn’t want.  And they do.  My main issues with charter schools in Delaware have been the very inequity I am writing about here.

 

 

 

Will The Delaware House Repeal The Estate Tax Today? And Which State Rep Had A “Folder” Incident Yesterday?

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
I fully expect Kowalko to make his voice heard when he opposes this bill.  I’m not sure what the notification inadequacies are.  The bill came out of committee on 5/3/17 and is on the ready list.  Perhaps it is the timing of when it was put on the ready list.
Delaware Liberal is reporting the deals are flying left and right down in Dover.  This isn’t a new phenomenon.  It happens ALL the time.  It is how politics works (or doesn’t work in many cases, but I digress).  Del Lib believes Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf is letting this bill up for a vote if the House Republicans will at least do a roll call on House Bill 175, which would raise corporate taxes.  Expect more of this in the next 43 days folks!  And watch for the sneaky-snake charter lobbyists getting their hooks into the Joint Finance Committee and the Bond Committee.
Speaking of Legislative Hall, State Rep. Mike Ramone smacked me in the face with a folder yesterday!  I was at the House Education Committee meeting talking with one of the Superintendents.  Ramone came over and the Super asked him an education question.  Ramone didn’t know the answer so he asked me.  I told him “I’m just a blogger, find out for yourself!”  Ramone took his House Education Committee folder and smacked me in the face with it.  It didn’t hurt.  He laughed.  I told him I was going to blog about it and I am a man of my word!  Just a playful moment down in Dover folks, no scandal here.  He usually gives me a lollipop, not a physical assault!
Full details of House Bill 16 can be found here.

Kowalko Amendment Would Remove Newark Charter School Boon In House Bill 85

The saga of the 5-mile radius legislation beats on in Delaware!  Today, State Rep. John Kowalko introduced an amendment to the bill which would remove the language concerning the Wilmington students in the Christina School District not a part of the enrollment preference for charter schools within the non-Wilmington portion of the district.

Yesterday, at the House Education Committee meeting, legislators and speakers alike shared concerns with that portion of the bill.  House Substitute 1 for House Bill #85 would remove any 5-mile radius enrollment preferences in Delaware charter schools.  At present, only two charters have the 5-mile radius, Newark Charter School and First State Montessori Academy.  But Newark Charter School exists in a district where the Wilmington part of their district is not land-locked and is actually an island in the middle of the city.  One State Representative, Joe Miro, said he will not vote yes for the bill if it has the amendment on it.

Here Comes House Bill 60, Let The Fun Begin Again But Don’t Opt Out Of Opting Out!

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It is now official!  House Bill 60, filed today, would do what House Bill 50 did in the Delaware 148th General Assembly.  Time to rally the troops again and get the show on the road!  While on its face, folks could expect business as usual, things could change and very fast.  Word on the street is already forming about something happening very soon which could turn this bill into the biggest bill of the legislative season.  I would pay VERY close attention to what happens with this bill.  Sponsored by State Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson.  Additional sponsors include State Reps. Kim Williams, Paul Baumbach, Deb Hudson, Helene Keeley, Sean Lynn, Trey Paradee, Jeff Spiegelman, and David Wilson, and Senators Margaret Rose-Henry and Gerald Hocker.  We have six House Dems, three Republican House reps, one Senate Dem and two Senate Republicans.  Let the fireworks begin (again)!

I am pretty sure it goes without saying, email your State Rep and Senator NOW in support of this bill.  Also give State Rep. Earl Jaques a holler asking him to put this on the agenda for the next House Education Committee meeting when they get back after their JFC hearing break at the end of February.

*Sorry for the technical snafu with Scribd.  Not sure why I didn’t pick up the pdf.  Here is the actual bill:

hb60

hb60pt1

hb60pt2

It’s Baaaaaaack… Opt Out Redux! Kowalko Files New Opt Out Legislation In Delaware

On Thursday, we will see new opt out legislation from State Rep. John Kowalko.  It will be very similar to House Bill 50 but it will have a different number.  I thought they would retire that number after the last go-around with opt out.  Will House Bill #60something have a shot with Markell gone if the General Assembly passes it?  Would Governor Carney sign it?  Are parents still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  It doesn’t begin again until March so if parents are thinking about it, we won’t hear much noise until February.  I still fervently support opt out as a parental choice and feel there should be legislation to codify that right.  I already have a few ideas for a potential amendment but I’m holding that one very close to see how the response to the bill goes.

I will support this bill in its entirety.  I will write about it and campaign for its passage.  I don’t know if I will be as heavily involved in it as I was two years ago.  But most of the legwork has already happened.  House Bill 50 brought opt out into daily language in the First State.  Markell fighting it most likely caused opt out numbers to increase.  Some have (I believe correctly) surmised that ed reformers wanted opt out at some levels.  Plans have been afoot to create stealth tests in a personalized learning environment.  These would most likely be in the form of end-of-unit tests but it would still be the state assessment, just taken throughout the year.  That could be a tough nut to crack.  But all nuts have some crackability.  You just have to find the right tool.