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:

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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.

FOIA Complaint From Newark Legislators Puts University Of Delaware In The Hot Seat

Several Newark, Delaware legislators submitted a Freedom of Information Act to the Delaware Attorney General’s office last Spring.  The response to the complaint came out today.

State Representatives Paul Baumbach, John Kowalko, and Ed Osienski, and State Senators Karen Peterson, David Sokola and Bryan Townsend felt the University of Delaware violated FOIA with the posting of an agenda about a change to their bylaws.  The Attorney General’s response opined the Board of Trustees at the University did violate FOIA by not posting a specific resolution they would be voting on in the agenda.  The AG’s office stated even if the public had some knowledge of what could be happening it still falls on a public board to give notice of the proposed action item on an agenda.

As a result of the FOIA complaint, the University Board of Trustees will vote again on the bylaws at their December board meeting.  The AG opinion wants the board to have an open and public discussion surrounding this vote.

I have been hard on Sokola in the past, for what I believe are good reasons.  I wish he would demand the same transparency from charter schools.  Have you ever seen some of their board agendas?  I hardly ever see any action items on them even though they constantly vote on items.

Crazy But Practical Election Day Voter Guide: Goward, Gesty & Gunn

Now that is a 3G network I would like to see tomorrow! Sean Goward for Governor!  Scott Gesty for Congress!  La Mar Gunn for Lieutenant Governor!  I can pretty much guarantee if you pick the droll and predictable John Carney, Lisa Blunt Rochester, and Bethany Hall-Long you will get exactly more of the same.  If Gesty had to lose, I would hope it isn’t with an LBR victory but a Hans Reigle one.  We need change in Delaware, and we need it NOW!  I know, the odds of all this happening are not in my favor, but a guy can dream, right? Yes, two Libertarians for big roles : Delaware Governor and Congress, and a Republican for Lt. Governor!

Watching La Mar Gunn preside over the Delaware Senate would be a lot of fun to watch!  Sometimes watching the Delaware Senate is about as exciting as getting a tooth extracted.  Watching Goward hold everyone accountable would be awesome!  That guy will make Delaware great again!  And watching Gesty in Congress would be incredible!

For the Delaware State Reps and Senators, I believe my dream victories are fairly transparent, but some of these may shock you.  For the House, I want A LOT of new faces but it is important we keep the good ones!  For the Senate, I will be upfront and say I want the Republicans to win the Delaware Senate.  42 years of control on one side is too much.

Kim Williams (19th Rep District) (D)

Sean Matthews (10th Rep District) (D)

John Kowalko (25th Rep District) (D)

Meredith Chapman (8th Senate District) (R)

Sean Lynn (31st Rep District) (D)

Andria Bennett (32nd Rep District) (D)

Jeff Spiegelman (34th Rep District) (R)

James Spadola (1st Senate District) (R)

Denise Bowers (5th Senate District) (D)

Patti Blevins (7th Senate District) (D)

Carl Pace (14th Senate District) (R)

Gerald Hocker (20th Senate District) (R)

Kevin Hensley (9th Rep District) (R)

James DeMartino (14th Rep District) (R)

Barbara Vaughn (20th Rep District) (D)

David McCorquodale (21st Rep District) (Green)

Lanette Edwards (22nd Rep District) (D)

Jimmy Brittingham (39th Rep District) (L)

Edward Osienski (24th Rep District) (D)

Trey Paradee (29th Rep District) (D)

Karen Williams (33rd Rep District) (D)

David Henderson (34th Rep District) (D)

Gary Wolfe (35th Rep District) (D)

Paulette Rappa (37th Rep District) (D)

What is interesting are my picks for the Senate have a lot of Republicans but Democrats in the House.  I’m sure I will be severely disappointed around 10pm tomorrow evening!  But nothing will pale in comparison to the Presidential election.  Cause no matter how you slice it, we are screwed with either one of them.  And remember America: You asked for it!  I don’t think it will be the doom and gloom many are predicting if either of them win, but I have no doubt we can anticipate major issues in America.  And as God is my witness, if Hillary wins and picks a certain Governor for the U.S. Secretary of Education, I will personally make sure every single U.S. Senator hears from me along with legions of witnesses, supporters of a low-jack movement, and anyone I can get to make their voice heard loud and clear.  If you think Arne Duncan or John King suck, you don’t want Jack-Jack as the next Secretary of Education in America.  He smiles when he stabs students and teachers in the back!

Let the countdown begin!

 

Vote For John Kowalko In The 25th Rep District On Election Day!

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No one stood up for parents more than Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko in the 148th General Assembly.  As the prime House sponsor on House Bill 50, the opt out bill, Rep. Kowalko fought for months to ensure that a parent’s fundamental rights to opt their child out of the state assessment was honored.  Furthermore, it would have stopped schools or the state from punishing a child for having a parent opt them out.  Ultimately, the bill overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate but Governor Markell vetoed the bill.  An attempt to override the veto failed when the legislators came back in 2016.

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John Kowalko is the rake at the gates of hell when it comes to standing up to Jack Markell on education.  He is not afraid to go against the establishment when he knows in his heart those choices are not good for kids.  He has always been about looking out for the little guy.  He will not vote yes on the state budget if it means those with the highest needs will do without.  I respect that immensely.  Because of his stances and how he makes noise, he runs into opposition constantly in the General Assembly.  We need more legislators who can be vocal and won’t bow down to leadership.

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Kowalko’s opponent has failed to give me any reason to support him.  If anything, he sounds a lot like John Kowalko but much less experienced.  I have never subscribed to this Delaware Way theory of “getting along to go along.”  I compare it to being a part of the race without realizing you are being dragged by the horse on the way to the finish line.  We don’t need more of that in Dover.  We need more like Kowalko!  Some will call me crazy and believe that John Kowalko is unable to get along with his peers.  I think it is the other way around.  Too many are unwilling to get along with Kowalko because they know he is right and that if they allied themselves with him it wouldn’t be the best for their own personal agendas.  The will of the people in Delaware should be the biggest priority of our General Assembly.  But private interests and political power rule the day.  Until we get more John Kowalkos in the General Assembly, we will continue to play this status quo game.  And that is NOT good for Delaware.

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At the end of the day, Kowalko is about doing what is right. Yes, he utilizes the press every chance he can to get his message out to the people. It is not self-serving. It is so enough people can hear what he is saying to help the people. I endorse John Kowalko for the 25th Rep. District in Newark. I urge citizens in this district to re-elect John Kowalko so we have another voice of reason in the Delaware 149th General Assembly.

 

Christina Legislative Briefing Q&A Transcription: Part 1

Yes, there will be two parts to this.  Part 1 represents about 60% of the question and answer session from the Christina School District Legislative Briefing on the charter school funding issue.  If you haven’t read it yet, you may want to read this post first as it has the presentation Christina Chief Financial Officer Bob Silber gave to legislators and members of the public at the meeting this morning.  It could be difficult to understand everything in these questions until you read that first.

Welcome back to those who left.  Without further ado, here it is:

Monica Moriak (member of Christina’s Citizens Budget Oversight Committee): The district did not mean to exclude something specific? They noticed that in 2014 you were not including the 10 cent Referendum in the financial position report because you did not see that as something you could use for anything and that’s when they noticed that and so that’s when they decided, “Ooo, we need a different number” so Dr. Meece walked away from the charter bill?  Is that when that got separated because you used a different number?

Robert Silber (Christina’s Chief Financial Officer): Yes, for those of you who didn’t ask the question, I’ll repeat. In 2014, the Department of Education recognized that there are, at least for the Christina School District, there are three series of numbers that are used or assigned to our district: 9100 series, 9800 series, and 9900 series. The 9100 series and the 9900 series are dollars that are excluded, the 9800 series are dollars that are included. If I take a look at… well, why don’t I do it this way… our Citizen’s Budget Oversight Committee, about a year or two ago, as the district started having its financial challenges, started asking the district to provide information on a monthly basis, focused on what our local unrestricted expenditures are. So every month, we prepare financial statements that are unique within the state, that also include a breakdown of what we know to be excluded, and what we know to be included. It’s a very simple issue- 9800, included, and everything else, excluded. And last year, as an example, when you look at FY2015’s financial results, not (FY)16’s, but 15’s financial report, and we take a look at what was our total spend of what we consider to be unrestricted local dollars, that number matched to the penny to what the Department of Education calculated on their form what the local cost per student should be. So that was validation, if you will, of the process over the years. The components, as to what goes where, again, I can’t answer. But specifically, there was a question raised, I believe, because one of the goals of the Department of Education is to take the process that they use today and automate it. But if you’re gonna automate something to say I want to include certain numbers and exclude certain numbers, you’re going to want to make sure that everything that is in that included bucket all have a common number that you can pull from. So any appropriation beginning with 98, which is included, anything that begins with something other than 98, would be excluded. That’s what their goal is.

State Rep. John Kowalko: Yes, a couple questions. I appreciate the effort you put into this the effort to explain this. My concern is this- as we’re dealing with a very complex issue, which has a parameter of a coding issue put in place. You have to have an understand the finances of a public schools in Delaware, and it’s very complex, very complicated, with coding issues that are not always as capturing of the actual expenditure as we would like to see happen. But with that being said, in 2014 the DOE asked you to, more or less, justify some things and if it wasn’t justified, they were going to ask you to put a separate code for that mechanism in place. Do I have that right?

Silber: I would probably express it another way. In 2014, every district, three times a year, is required to do a financial position report. I don’t know what triggered their follow-up questions. In 2014, when Christina School District submitted theirs, we showed, without any question, that we had sufficient resources to pass the test. So the question the Dept. of Education had on a response may have been directed towards, or may have been triggered, by the district that may not have been able to reflect that they are in good standing, that I don’t know. All I know is that the question was raised. The question was raised by the Department, “Why are you not listing all of these appropriations? You’re giving me a short list.” And the answer came back, for any reason, from different individuals, ours was “We’re restricted on certain funds.”

Kowalko: I’m going to pass forward now to recent events and the new determinations, that apparently a decision was made August 24th, this stands out, the districts were informed of a meeting with select Superintendents, the key word is select Superintendents, and business managers would not be included. It’s mind-boggling to me that your office, Christina and the other districts I’m sure, would be offering a path forward, they would have done it in a collaborative process. But it seems to me that DOE has no intention of collaborating. When they asked you for a report, a spreadsheet of how you do it, then they make a final determination at the end of that tunnel without having said to you, “We question this or we think this or can you justify that”, to me, that’s almost a ruling, a one-sided rule that is not going to benefit the districts and/or public school systems. I know you don’t have the answer to that. I’ve asked Secretary Godowsky for a timeline and dates of who was at these meetings. I will follow-up, because his answer to me yesterday was very, very shallow. It was “I’m going to send out the report to everybody to explain the process.” This doesn’t ask for an explanation of the process. I know the process. I talked to Bob (Silber) for an hour yesterday. This asks for a timeline of who was involved when the decision-making, from May on to this point in time, and why were they excluding people that have knowledge, that actually put their pencils on paper. I find this to be an almost disgraceful performance by the DOE and I’m not here to pontificate, but I am angry that they tarnished the reputation of a district that has more challenges than any district in this state probably, cause of the special needs, the impoverished of the community. But that’s not to give an excuse here, but you have made remarkable strides and I really, really challenge any Department within this state that would unilaterally decide that they’re going to impose or question something without asking you for an answer. This is a ridiculous way for us to operate on behalf of our children. And I’m tired of it and I intend to follow-up with Secretary Godowsky. If I don’t get an answer for this, and his answer isn’t going to be responsive, I do have another letter prepared that I will release to the press and I’m telling you, it does not look good. I would ask the Chair of the Education Committee, and to think over it, the fact that we don’t get an appropriate answer to where we are today and how this embellishment of no facts or answers has caused a situation of turmoil, an anxiety, that has pitted charter schools against traditional schools for dollars. I’ve asked the Chair to consider that if we don’t get a response to hold hearings on this charge. Between now and then there should be a corrective course by DOE. This is not a one-sided issue. This is not something that you’re on the defense about. This is about due process. There has been no due process in the immediate discussion of this from May till now. No due process.

Kevin Ohlandt (“The Blogger” or “Sneaky Snake Blogger” as one person called me last week): I have two questions. Newark Charter School referenced a meeting with Dr. Andrzejewski that would be taking place in regards to this subject, the local cost per pupil. This is more for Dr. Andrzejewski. Were you aware that this would be coming up, I guess, last March or April?

Dr. Robert Andrzejewski (Acting Superintendent of Christina): I never met with the board of Newark Charter. I met with Greg Meece on the referendum. This issue we talked about has an ongoing history. And that was it. At some point, I offered to meet before the Board President to go through a similar thing.

Ohlandt: Senator Sokola had mentioned, in an email, something about funds going from $700,000 in 2011 to $9.2 million last year or the year before. Do you know what that was about and why he would choose that flashpoint in time to use in this issue?

Silber: I’ll go back to a couple of comments. If you take a look at the composition of the students within the Christina School District, and almost any other district in the state and certainly with charter schools, you’ll see that Christina School District has a significant higher population of students with special needs, not just within special programs but within our district. I can take a look at what has transpired over the five to seven years. There has been a very steady increase in our tuition tax rate as a result of needing to generate those dollars. Some of those programs, as I said, are unique to Christina. But where the Dept. of Education chooses to put those dollars… if it were my call, it would in that tuition fund. But if their putting it into the district specific program bucket, you’re going to see those dollars increase dramatically. I have no knowledge as to what causes them (the DOE) to put something in bucket A versus bucket B. All I can do is suggest that during one of those years, as I took a quick look over the past five years, we had a drop in dollars over on the tuition side. I can tell you, or our board can tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever generated a financial statement for the district that has shown our tuition related expenses were for students with special needs has gone down. If anything, it has consistently gone up. That’s a triggering question of… I don’t know who does the reports. I can’t direct you to go see Bob Silber at the Dept. of Education. That is their report. They should be held accountable and transparent for what’s behind those dollars. I would love to be able to see it to argue it, to challenge what should go to any one bucket if you will, but that’s obviously not a part of the process with the Department.

Bill Doolittle (Special Education Advocate): Did the Department ever provide a full list of the accounting codes they intend to move to 9800 or 98 class and the amounts for each district in those classes?

Silber: For this year?

Doolittle: For their initial intent.

Silber: No. The only thing that has transpired was, as I said at the beginning, there was a request from the Department, “Every business manager go through this list.” And they generated, when they sent that list out, probably, if I had to guess, the top 15 rows were items that they specifically said, “Yup, these are items we already know the answers to. So for Christina, the other 254, you have to tell us one way or the other.” I think one of the important things to recognize is that every organization, it doesn’t matter if it’s a charter school, a traditional public school, or a business entity, or any organization. You have to make decisions around budgets and you have to be able to depend upon systems associated with that. So if there are variations, something that’s going to happen that creates a wild swing, you can’t afford those things to occur. In the public education arena, one of the issues that we tried to bring to the Secretary’s attention, it was the longer you delay the communication around this process or the challenges to the charter schools, the less informed they’re going to be. Every charter school should have been told, by the Department of Education, that for FY2017, this current school year, every one should have been informed that expect your local cost per students for the Christina School District to go down this year. Because the Christina School District had reduced our local unrestricted expenditures by about $9 million dollars last year. The department was aware of it. Did the Department inform the charter community, “Brace yourself, this is coming”? At our board meetings, we clearly articulated our charter bills for last year were predicated upon the prior year. They will not feel the pain we are feeling this year until the following year. Just as when we are successful in an operating referendum, the monies don’t hit until the following year and then the following year after that from a sequencing perspective route how the law recognizes what local costs per student are. I don’t know if that answered your question.

Doolittle: I think the answer is DOE still hasn’t told everybody what they’re doing.

Silber: No, no. They’re given a list and some of the response around some of the detail had to be pulled. So, as an example, in this list that they provided to us initially, they said MCI, minor capital improvements, would be included. Well the language associated with match taxes forever has been bundled with MCI. They were called MCI/Match. And our tax warrants, all districts, up and down the state, are predicated on its match dollars. It includes funds that are match for minor capital, and match for these unique legislative driven programs. It wasn’t until we asked a question that they said, “No, all of those programs that legislators approved and have been included for the past 14-17 years, they’re no longer going to excluded, they’re going to be included.”

(Editor’s note: I know for a fact that any charter school that went through a charter renewal or modification process with the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware DOE in FY2016 was told to expect this.)

Kowalko: A follow-up, on that very statement you just made. They said that, without you having any ability to or chance to retort? They assumed that, presumed that, decided that? Did they say why it shouldn’t be done that way?

Silber: Their answer, not to me but to another business manager, was that they believe they are interpreting the code correctly.

Kowalko: I just want to clarify one thing for Mr. Ohlandt. Correct me if I’m right here, or wrong here. There is not a 98110 that had several hundred thousand dollars in it that now has $9 million in it?

Silber: It’s not that simple. No.

Kowalko: Cause that seemed to be the message…

Silber: Yes.

Kowalko: …that was put out there and resonated. I just wanted you to confirm it. Thank you.

State Rep. Michael Ramone: First off, thank you. This is very helpful. It definitely solidifies and clarifies the perception, at least for us, to be able to speak intelligently to people and say what the heck is going on. You just said the interpretation, interpreting the code correctly, and to me, it seems the biggest issue is not only communication, which I agree with Representative Kowalko, this should have been handled differently with different people at the table. Whatever. It is what it is. I think communication could have been better. I think clarity is an issue, and the word that you use- interpretation- it sounds to me that the interpretation that used to be the interpretation is a different interpretation today. I’m not looking for a comment. It’s my perception of what I’m hearing. So, I guess, to me, a big question, and maybe the dialogue should go to the Chair and the Co-Chair of the Education (Committee), do we need to do anything, in your opinion, as the guy doing the work, as the manager’s opinion to clarify the current law so their isn’t, quote, an “interpretation” maybe one year that would be a different interpretation next year. Or even have new laws added. And I’m not asking you to answer that today, I’m saying that’s a discussion we need to have. But a point of clarity I do need to hear, because I don’t know if I’m interpreting what you wrote or what you said here, but right or wrong, is there an issue or was there an issue with the referendums that were passed in the specific designation of how much tax money, or the referendum was going to be added? Are you suggesting that there is a question of how we’re passing or wording the referendums we are passing or not? Because the way I’m reading that it seems like some of the lack of clarity, or quote “interpretation”, that they have seems to stem from the verbiage as its written in the referendum that was passed or am I interpreting that wrong?

Silber: I would argue that, again I would preface that by saying I didn’t author the document, the document that was put before the community was specific. It said “You will use the money for the following programs. Let me give you a shift for a moment. It didn’t come to pass but you can use this to crystalize the thought. This last year, Brandywine School District, as some of you may know, ran a referendum that failed. That referendum had multiple parts to it. One of the parts of that referendum was, “Will you guys give us additional money so that we can build turf fields?” A very specific request. And if the answer to that question had been yes, that money coming into the Brandywine School District, for the years that they were asking those dollars to follow, could not have been used to pay for teacher salaries or higher administrators. It would have been used for the purpose intended by that referendum, similar to the referendum that we had in 2003. The interpretation that I would get from the actions of the Department of Education, as I’m trying to do today, would suggest that once those dollars came in, that were a very specific purpose for Brandywine, to be used to build a turf field, would then the following year have to come out of their discretionary funds to help support their charters.   And I don’t believe the intent, it is very clear, we’re giving you money to build this, or we’re giving Christina School District opportunities for these programs. There are a number of ways, a number of questions, in our perspective that go around the Christina School District and programs that are unique to the Christina School District. A question could be asked when a parent chooses not to go to the Christina School District and chooses to go to the Red Clay School District through the choice process, are they leaving the programs of the Christina School District they took advantage of, if they leave the Christina School District to go to Kuumba Academy, then yes, they are leaving the programs of the Christina School District. So in one respect, to look at those unique programs and say “they’re unique to the Christina School District,” and the taxpayers agree to that. That’s why it’s restricted to you for these particular purposes. What the Secretary and the Dept. of Education are suggesting is that those dollars that are restricted over here move over here as an unrestricted basis. And what I’m suggesting is that in 2014, when the Department said, “No, they’re restricted,” they made a decision that it couldn’t move over here to unrestricted. I’m not necessarily sure that it’s about wording or it’s about interpretation. I think it’s more around intent. Is the intent to find ways to increase the amount of money flowing to a charter school as opposed to what should? That’s an intent question that my personal perception may not necessarily… Everything I’ve tried to share with you today is a statement of fact.

Ramone: Let me just follow-up, because what I think, I understand what you’re saying. My question is, the monies, the referendum…First of all, referendums are, we have to find a different way to… they’re not working. I think everyone in this room agrees on that. But that’s the beast we’re dealing with. In order to make them more plausible, more acceptable, more digestible, for people to have more clarity on the taxes you’re raising that might pass in the referendum, you started become very creative in the referendum requests, which I actually thought was a good thing. All I’m asking, is in that creativity of making very specific… letting people have a better idea of where the money was going and how it was going… was there a lapse in our legislative body in not clarifying the laws or doing something that makes something more specific, and I don’t mean to say it this way, but then yes, it would take discretion away from the Secretary of Education and whether it’s Joe Schmo today or Peter John tomorrow, but they would have less discretion, it’s clear, it’s a law, we should, is there something that we should be considering or would you all review whether there is something we should be considering to give clarity so you don’t have any subjectivity to these decisions that could be a little chaotic when you tell everybody that one year it’s one way, the next month (meant year) it should be…

Silber: The best way that I can answer your question Representative, is to state the following- The Dept. of Education this year has taken actions that are substantially different than the actions that they’ve taken for any number of years. The laws that are on the books for the past 14-17 years didn’t seem to have that same degree of challenge. Something triggered this year that all of a sudden those individuals that are currently at the Dept. of Education are now saying that something’s wrong. So if there is a question associated with that, again, what was the impetus behind making the change? Is there someone saying, “Okay, here’s a flaw, I’m going to take advantage of it?” Again, I come back to the initial statement. The district does not make these decisions. The district does not define, the State has to define process to prevent me from doing just that.

Part 2 will be up later tonight or tomorrow morning!  Stay tuned!

 

Christina Legislative Briefing Clearly Shows Delaware DOE’s Incompetence With District-Charter Funding Fight

The Christina School District held a Legislative Briefing for Delaware legislators this morning.  The subject: the ongoing district-charter local cost per pupil.  Answers were given in a very effective way by Christina’s Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber.  Legislators in attendance were State Reps. John Kowalko, Earl Jaques, Ed Osienski, Mike Ramone, Kim Williams and Senator Bryan Townsend.  Most of the Christina Board of Education also attended as well as Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski.  Some charter advocates, such as Henry Clampitt who now serves on the Gateway Lab School Board of Directors also attended.

Silber gave specifics on what he believes the Delaware Department of Education is attempting to take out of Christina’s exclusion list from their local funding.  He also gave enlightening information on how the DOE specifically asked district Superintendents not to inform their local boards of the changes until a certain time.  As well, the meeting held at the DOE last week with district Superintendents was for them only.  No business managers were allowed to attend this meeting about education funding.  Which is ironic given that the business managers would have the most insight into these issues.  To me, it shows an unwillingness on the DOE’s part to make this a transparent and collaborative process.

Silber also presented a timeline of events from Christina’s perspective which almost mirrors my own that I posted last week.  Silber did mention that their legal counsel sent a letter to the Delaware DOE on August 26th.  The current status is that charter bills were pulled by Secretary Godowsky.  Silber did say some districts in Southern Delaware paid their charter bills but Christina will not until the funding amounts are correct.

I walked away from this meeting more convinced than ever that this began with Newark Charter School and once the DOE got involved, they took over and went crazy with it with absolutely no justification or ability to succinctly present anything associated with this mess that is in any way legal.  I will have more to say on this later when I transcribe the question and answer question with members of the audience, but in the meantime, feast on the presentation given by Silber.  He hit a grand slam on this and evaporated the DOE’s position on this, in my opinion.

What is always fascinating with meetings like this is who is watching who when certain things are said or questions are asked.

Who Is Mike Nagorski (Molaski)?

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Delaware State Representative John Kowalko has a challenger in the 25th District.  Mike Nagorski did not file in the early July deadline, but he was nominated by the Delaware Republican party last week.  But who is Michael Nagorski?

Information on Nagorski is hard to find.  According to the Newark Post, Nagorski graduated from Charter School of Wilmington in 2004.  According to his Facebook account, he graduated from University of Delaware in 2008.  He is married with a child and one more on the way later this year (congratulations).  But in May of 2014, he won a legal name change, from Molaski to Nagorski.  I’m not sure of the reason for this name change, but it is perfectly legal.  His wife is a registered Democrat.  Which is okay, my wife and I don’t agree on everything.  He lives in the heart of the Newark Charter School populace along with Kowalko.  He has a Master’s Degree from the University of Delaware, and he very recently obtained employment as a Senior Consultant at MHI Global.  The biggest thing I see mentioned of Nagorski (then Molaski) is an article from the News Journal two years ago about his weight loss and a get healthy initiative.  While this is certainly admirable, meeting the Governor at a gym doesn’t make one a State Representative.

In terms of his politics and what he stands for, that is difficult to find online.  In response to the Newark Post article, he wrote on his Support Michael Nagorski Facebook page: “Delaware has tremendous opportunity.  Now is the time to listen and act, not criticize and oppose.”  What does that even mean?  No one should question anything?  I’m pretty sure that both Democrats AND Republicans criticize and oppose.  Does this mean, if elected, Nagorski would never question anything?  I would venture to say John Kowalko was elected five times because of his ability to not only listen and act, but also to criticize and oppose.  It’s called politics!  I think every candidate running for public office in Delaware will agree that Delaware needs to get more employers in the state to increase revenue.  That isn’t a sea change in Delaware politics.  He seems to be against state incentives to attract employers, which I would assume would be corporate tax cuts.  That is something Kowalko has said for years.  He said in the Newark Post article his three main reasons for running are “healthy living, improving education and growing the economy,” but the article did not give any of his ideas in any of these areas.

In another Facebook post where someone called him “the second coming of Reagan“, Nagorski responded that “if I had to choose someone I’m closest to, it’s Castle” While Mike Castle served a long and distinguished career in Delaware and national politics from 1966 to 2010, I don’t see a lot coming out of Nagorski that would give me that impression.  In fact, I don’t see anything coming out of Nagorski that shows anything about why he is running.  No website, no stances on any subject.  Not to be too critical of Nagorski, but trashing your opponent in a newspaper article while not giving any substance or meat to why you are running, aside from an alternate voice and things every Delaware politician says, isn’t going to have me running to push your button on Election Day.

The Newark Post wrote:

“What people see is someone who’s certainly passionate and an advocate,” Nagorski said. “But what they don’t see is someone who is listening to everyone. He’s putting himself out there and not necessarily listening to everyone else.”

I would say being the State Representative for ten years would qualify Kowalko as someone who listens to a great deal of people.

I will fully admit the following things: I support many of Kowalko’s sponsored legislation, I worked with Kowalko on House Bill 50 (the opt out bill), and I have enjoyed many conversations with him about Delaware education.  Is Kowalko boisterous and speaks from the cuff?  Yes he is.  Has he said things with an angry tone in the past?  Yes he has.  Does that disqualify him as a worthy Delaware State Representative?  No, it does not.  In fact, I would go so far as to say this should be a requirement for all Delaware politicians.  We’ve had far too much of the “Delaware Way”.  Far too many closed door meetings deciding the fate of the many with little to no transparency.  If I were sitting in the 29th Representative seat at Legislative Hall, you better believe I would be very vocal about things.

I am sure as time goes on, we will learn more about Mike Nagorski.  But until then, I see someone running just to run.  I would urge all in the 25th District to vote the same as you have since 2006, for John Kowalko.  As someone who is a fervent supporter of transparency, limiting corporate windfalls, stands up for parental rights, is against discrimination of any sort, and doesn’t sell out to the Delaware Way, Kowalko is one of the best State Representatives in the Delaware General Assembly.  Perhaps if we had more John Kowalkos, we wouldn’t see Delaware’s education system in shambles and our fast reducing revenue getting lower by the year.

I would assume, based on his attendance at the Charter School of Wilmington, Nagorski supports school choice.  But does he support the very controversial enrollment practices at both CSW and Newark Charter School?  How does he feel about the Christina School District?  School vouchers?  The Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Opt Out?  Common Core?  Teachers?  Does he think the University of Delaware should be more transparent?  Does he support choice in all political matters?  I know where John Kowalko stands on those issues.  I’ve been to several of the key education conversations in Delaware the past couple of years.  I’ve seen John Kowalko at many of those events.  I don’t recall seeing Mike Nagorski at any of them.

The Real Story About What Happened At The Christina Board Meeting Last Night…

Last night, Christina Board of Education member Elizabeth Paige was elected by her peers to be the next President of the board.  With a 4-3 vote, she took the post over from Harrie Ellen Minnehan.  What happened next was very surreal.  Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski was going through different contract amounts which the board had to take action on.  When one of them came up, I was absolutely shocked and horrified.  It wasn’t even on the agenda.  Their Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, disappeared shortly before this.  I think he knew what was coming.  Everyone was there: Acting Superintendent Robert “Bob A” Andrzejewski, Board members John Young, Fred Polaski, George Evans, Harrie Ellen Minnehan, Shirley Saffer, Elizabeth Paige, and newly elected board member Meg Mason.  There were some people I knew in the audience as well.  I don’t know if I’m supposed to be writing about this, so I will show you…

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Teacher Evaluation, Charter School Audits, & WEIC Extension Pass The General Assembly

It was a wild and crazy night-morning at Legislative Hall in Dover.  I can honestly say I have never bounced back between the Senate and the House as much as I did in the past six hours.  But some of my “must list” legislation passed.  Some with changes and some intact.

House Bill 399 passed but not without some amendments and an odd conversation about teachers and a comment Jack Markell made years ago in the Senate.  Senator Colin Bonini talked about how Governor Markell gave a speech on the Senate floor many years ago and told everyone only 19% of students in Delaware were college and career ready.  But yet our teachers were rated 99% effective.  He couldn’t grasp these facts.  He said he would support the bill.  But then Senator Dave Lawson spoke against the bill and said the system isn’t working.  The bill passed with 19 yes and 2 no votes.  The no votes were from Senators Lawson and Henry.  The amendments added on can be seen here and here.  Apparently, this was the only way it was going to pass.  In looking at the first amendment, they changed a lot and many teachers won’t be happy about those changes.  But this was the compromise reached.  Will Governor Markell sign the bill?  We shall see.  I did speak briefly with Secretary of Education Godowsky and asked him if he thought they were good amendments and he said yes.

After four previous bills, the Kumbaya compromise charter school audit bill, House Bill 435, passed the Senate in the wee hours of the morning.  It hadn’t been on the agenda for the Senate.  I emailed Senator Sokola, and it appeared on there a few minutes later.  It passed soon after.

And the WEIC redistricting plan.  I thought rigor mortis was setting in on this plan, but it rose from the ashes.  A crucial amendment by State Rep. Kim Williams which deleted some of the unnecessary language in Senate Bill #300 seemed to be what is going to keep that train chugging.  This is what happened: WEIC is still alive, and they will plan for another year.  The $7.5 million initially requested in the final recommendations has been appropriated for FY2018.  But I will get to more of that after a message from Tony Allen, the Chair of WEIC:

Delaware General Assembly Affirms the Commission’s Plan
Governor commits the “necessary and sufficient funds” for next year
Commission suspends timeline

Tonight, an older African American woman stopped me on the Senate Floor and said “if you believe in this, you keep fighting on.” We did!

As the 148th Delaware General Assembly legislative session ended, the House and Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 17, an interim affirmation of the Delaware State Board of Education’s approval of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan and Senate Bill 300, which clarifies the funding implications and supports further analysis by the Commission.

In a related action, Governor Markell committed to put no less than $7.5 million in his FY 2018 plan to support the Commission’s plan, specifically to begin to change the 70-year old student funding formula. In a letter to the Wilmington delegation, Markell said, “I am proud to have worked alongside you in these efforts and pleased to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of the funds necessary and sufficient to fund the first year of implementation of the proposals of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, specifically an amendment to the unit count that would carry additional support for low-income students, English Language Learners and students with special needs statewide.”

Earlier this morning, I noted that because the “necessary and sufficient” funding has not yet been provided that we will immediately call on the Commission to suspend the timetable for implementing its plan.

While I am disappointed with several aspects of this legislative season, SJR17 allows the Commission to fight another day. After 62 years of waiting, fight on we will. The Commission is wholly committed to reducing the fragmentation and dysfunction caused by 23 different school systems currently serving Wilmington children, less than 10% of Delaware’s student population. In addition, the Commission will continue to focus attention on the needs of low-income students, English language learners, and other students with special needs in Wilmington and throughout Delaware. That includes meeting the non-instructional needs of these students, engaging empowered parents in school reform, and changing the antiquated funding system for students and schools that has for many years created sustained inequities dating back to well before Brown v Board of Education (1954). I am grateful to the 22 other commissioners, the previous members of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, and the more than 10,000 community members who have been participating in this process.

I urge your continued resolve.

There are some key words in this, especially Markell saying “to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of funds…  That isn’t a guarantee that the next Governor will do the same or that the 149th General Assembly will either.  We don’t know what the state’s financial picture will be a year from now.  But for now, WEIC lives after most thought it was dead and buried.  I find it odd that Allen talks about how 23 different school systems serve Wilmington students but the WEIC plan would only reduce that to 22.  Granted, Christina has a lot of Wilmington students, but that is still a lot students going to other districts or charters.  I will see what this additional year of planning will produce.  But it looks like I am not done writing about WEIC despite what I wrote earlier today.   I talked to Rep. Charles Potter after the vote and he said this isn’t what he wanted, but it keeps WEIC alive and it is about the students.

Senate Bill 93 passed, one of two Autism bills introduced last year.  Senate Bill 92, however, was another victim of funding issues in the state.  An amendment was added to Senate Bill 93 in the House which got rid of the Senate Amendment that had the DOE getting involved.  The Autism community in Delaware felt that was an unwelcome presence.  Good for them!

It was a long second half of the 148th General Assembly.  House Bill 50 had two shots to override the Governor’s veto in the House of Representatives and it failed both times.  But I want to thank Rep. John Kowalko for trying and standing up for parents.  I respect and admire him for doing that.  Had the House ever been able to actually vote on the override, I believe it would have passed.  The fact that they were never able to get to that point shows the will of the Governor influencing certain members of the House in very inappropriate ways.  My other “dream legislation”, House Bill 30, which would have finally given students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade considered to be “basic special education” students, never received a full House vote despite coming out of the House Appropriations Committee weeks ago.  I know Rep. Kim Williams fought hard for that bill.  I still remember when she first told me about it a year and a half ago and I truly felt it was a no-brainer.  For both of those bills, the 149th General Assembly will tell the tale on opt out and special education funding.

I will write more over the next few days about all the bills that passed and those that are now dead.  In the meantime, Happy Fiscal New Year 2017!

Schwartzkofp and Longhurst Ignore House Rules During Kowalko’s HB50 Veto Override Attempt

Audio Of Parliamentary Inquiry, Delaware House, 6/29/16

Tonight, I witnessed the death of a dream.  That our Delaware House of Representatives would finally do the right thing for our children.  Delaware State Representative John Kowalko brought back House Bill 50 tonight, the Delaware opt out bill that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate a year ago.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill less than a month later.  The last time the House considered this bill was for an override of the Governor’s veto on January 14th.  Kowalko received bad information from the House Attorney on how to present a veto override.  He was told he had to have a suspension of rules prior to a vote on the reconsideration.  I can’t speak to the lack of knowledge or the reason this attorney gave bad advice to Kowalko.  I do know House Attorney’s are not employed by the State, but retained from law firms.  But Kowalko found out it was not necessary with carefully vetted research into veto override attempts in Delaware.  He brought up what is known as a Parliamentary Inquiry to the House tonight.  Had he been able to explain how the legal advice given to him by someone who is supposed to know House Rules and Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure in the event a situation is not covered by House Rules, the House would have understood what he was doing.  The Delaware House could have voted on the reconsideration of the Governor’s veto back in January without a suspension of rules.

Instead, what we got was Val Longhurst and Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf turning it into a power play and putting forth a point of order motion.  It was a trap, probably planned ahead of time since Kowalko told the House Attorney he would be requesting the Parliamentary Inquiry.  He had a representative lined up to second the motion for the Parliamentary Inquiry.  As Kowalko brought it up, Longhurst interrupted Kowalko while he was speaking and stated House Bill 50 was not on the agenda.  Kowalko knew this and stated he was talking about a Parliamentary Inquiry.  Schwartzkopf said Kowalko was out of order even requesting a Parliamentary Inquiry, which Kowalko challenged.  Kowalko appealed Schwartzkopf’s point of order.  Val Longhurst seconded it, said “Oh shit” (nice conduct of an elected official during a legislative session) and then retracted her second as the floor of the General Assembly burst into laughter as Schwartzkopf said “Jiminy Christmas” and said the motion was dead.  Gavel went down, case closed.  But is it?  By denying an elected official the ability to request a parliamentary inquiry under the guise of a point of order given while the elected official was speaking which had nothing to do with the matter at hand could be ruled as illegal.

Once again, we have Democrat leadership in the House who don’t know the policies of the floor they are supposed to govern.  They have committed themselves to a lame-duck governor at the expense of our high-stakes tested children.  There are good legislators in Legislative Hall, but the vast majority are in it for themselves and don’t know what they are doing except how to put forth legislation from corporate lobbyists or to further their own careers.

Prior to Kowalko’s motion, the House had just voted on a very emotional budget bill.  It passed, but eight voted no.  Some voted no who have voted before, but State Reps. Stephanie Bolden and Charles Potter voted no due to the lack of funding for the WEIC redistricting plan and the Senate’s refusal to move forward with the legislation.  Even State Rep. Miro, who voted yes on the budget, gave a well-intentioned speech about how the state is not doing well economically and it will be worse next year.  Kowalko objected to the budget after he filed an amendment to take the charter school transportation slush fund out of the budget.  The amendment failed but eight voted yes.  Which fell in line with the budget vote, 31 yes, 8 no, and 2 absent.

I firmly believe our state needs a serious fiscal and ethical investigation by the Federal government into where every single penny of our state funds are going and who is profiting off of shady backroom deals.  They need to start with Governor Jack Markell and work their way down through the House, the Senate, the DOE, vendors, school districts, charter schools, the auditor’s office, the treasurer’s office, the Department of Health and Social Services, and pretty much everywhere anyone gets funds from the State of Delaware.

Our children are used as guinea pigs.  We see it from Sokola, the DOE, Markell, Schwartzkopf, Longhurst, Melanie Smith, McDowell and others.  Godowsky puts on another face constantly.  He tries to save face with the Governor when he knows the stuff they are pedaling out of his building is absolute crap.  None of these people care about kids.  Not a single damn one of them.  I’ve tried to deal with the legislators in Legislative Hall.  I’ve tried to reach out to some of them in good faith.  They don’t respond.  Those that do know who they are and I know you are trying your best, but when the majority is corrupt, the whole building is.  I see many of you get upset when good bills that will truly help the children of Delaware go nowhere.  Our DOE is not a State Agency.  It is a collection of education reformers and lobbyists, selling our children out to the highest bidders.  A great deal of the legislation passed in Delaware for education allows them to do this.

When a State Representative votes against a budget because of the rampant corruption in our state, they are a hero.  They are not unpatriotic.  If patriotism is following orders and never questioning anything and allowing children to suffer while you remain in power Rep. Melanie Smith, then you may want to look at what the patriots who founded this country actually did so you could hold elected office.  You allow a great deal of bills that go through that will only please corporations at the expense of the citizens of Delaware.  Tonight, I was ashamed to say I live in Delaware.  Everything the other legislators said about the budget was from the heart, not quotes from books or a Tedx talks speech.  It is a legislator’s responsibility to pass a good budget, not a bad one.  This was a bad budget.  You can do all the glad-handling and take the applause for getting it passed, but it is still filled with pork.  You know it, and I know it.  We all know it.  We know who this budget truly serves, and it is not in the best interest of children or the citizens of the state who by your own admission deserve more.

For someone who wants what is best for Delaware, why have you, Pete Schwartzkopf, consistently gone with the Governor’s wishes and not the will of the people.  You are the Speaker of the House.  It isn’t your House.  It is ours.  The people of the state.  Until you learn that valuable lesson, you will continue to be called Sneaky Pete all over the state until your time is done.  Because you refuse to find out the answer concerning how the State Representatives would vote on the override of Markell’s veto, you are not a friend to parents in the state of Delaware.

 

A Time For Promises Fulfilled And A Restoration Of Honor: The General Assembly’s True Test This Week

The worst time I ever had blogging was last January.  Once I heard the Governor was rounding up his posse of legislators to vote no on the override of his veto on House Bill 50, I knew it wasn’t going to happen.  There were events that day I didn’t count on, but they happened.  But it is time for State Rep. Mike Ramone to live up to the promise he made to me that day.

To give a quick refresher, the Delaware House and Senate passed House Bill 50 last year, a parent opt out bill honoring their right and preventing schools from giving parents a hard time.  Governor Markell vetoed the bill.  On the third day the General Assembly was back in session this year, State Rep. John Kowalko brought HB50 back.  But first, a suspension of rules had to happen to get it on the agenda for a full House vote.  The majority of the legislators voted no on the suspension of rules.  For whatever reason, many of them didn’t want to vote on overriding the veto.  To make matters worse, many House Republicans introduced new opt out legislation.  One was a House Resolution, which passed, directing Secretary Godowsky to come up with uniform policies for opt out.  This report was due by May 1st.   Another was a bill to remove opt out from any accountability ratings.  The accountability bill was never heard from the House Education Committee.

Secretary Godowsky did honor the resolution.  I’ve heard two different stories with this report.  One was that it was submitted to State Rep. Joe Miro, the sponsor of the resolution.  The other was that it was submitted to State Rep. Earl Jaques, who is also the Chair of the House Education Committee.  That would mean Jaques has been sitting on this for well over a month and a half with no intention of doing anything with it.  Either way, this was never made public.  Miro told me well over a month ago the report was “vanilla”, meaning it didn’t do anything.  I’m not sure what the real story is, but I don’t really care.  Nothing happened with either of the bills the House Republicans introduced.  And now it is time for State Rep. Mike Ramone to keep his word.  On January 14th, when the House refused to suspend the rules, Ramone promised me they would bring back House Bill 50 if nothing happened with the new legislation they introduced that day.  Guess what Ramone?  Nothing happened.  And I don’t want to hear one word about next January.  You made a deal with me and I expect you to honor it.  There were enough people that overheard you say this.  Now only Kowalko can put forth a suspension of rules for it as the bill’s sponsor in the House.  But I expect Ramone and the House Republicans to fully support the suspension of rules and the override of the veto.  House Bill 50 is on the ready list.  But this can happen.  It has to.  It is time.  There is no more House Bill 50 after June 30th.

The Senate can’t vote on an override of a veto on the same day, but I hope if the House does the right thing, the Senate will have it up for a vote the next day.  If not, I fully hope Senator Dave Lawson will request a suspension of rules as the Senate co-sponsor of the bill.  I’ve waited patiently, along with countless other parents, for our General Assembly to do the right thing here.  They unanimously passed a bill in the House that would make the Smarter Balanced an option in teacher evaluations.  This is it General Assembly.  You have three days to do this.  Elections are coming up for a lot of you.  Parents and teachers are a large portion of your voters.  Are you really going to keep disrespecting parents like this?  This is your chance to make up for past mistakes.  It’s up to you.  The only reason the Delaware PTA isn’t pushing this is because they were cut off at the knees by National PTA.  But trust me, the people still want this.  All you have to do is truly listen.

 

Kowalko Talks House Bill 50, Opt Out, & The Will Of The People On Delaware Way With Larry Mendte

Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko appeared on “The Delaware Way” with host Larry Mendte last week to discuss parent opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and  the veto override of House Bill 50 and the bill’s chances.  Citing the bill sits on the House Ready List, Kowalko blamed State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, the Delaware Speaker of the House, for letting the bill just sit there.  Even Mendte said polling in the state suggests the people overwhelmingly want this bill.  Kowalko felt it wasn’t right for the Governor to usurp the will of the people and the General Assembly with his veto.

State Rep. John Kowalko Weighs In On Delaware Taxpayer Money Getting Flushed Down The Toilet

In my article on our Non-Transparent Delaware, State Rep. John Kowalko left a comment that deserved its own post.

As regards the “Commitment (of taxpayer money) To Innovation Act” please read the following:

I certainly have not and will not support any of these corporate tax welfare bills. DuPont/Dow moved the majority of research and other jobs in the agricultural spinoff to Iowa and Delaware taxpayers are left with some extremely costly crumbs (headquarters only) in Wilmington. Let me point out to all that there was and will continue to be opposition to this ravaging of the taxpayers’ wallet and I certainly will do my best to expose my colleagues to the illegitimacy of such policies that offer no return on investment for Delaware taxpayers.

My point is that making a product (Oreos for instance), moving 600 jobs from Chicago to Mexico across the border for dirt cheap wages and rueful working conditions benefits only those multi-billion dollar corporations and their CEOs (see DuPont/Dow $80 million bonuses) while idling thousands of American workers who no longer have spendable income to support the consumer spending that is needed for local businesses to survive. Ross Perot was right about that sucking sound. For example: DuPont $200 million factory built in China (recently opened) employing thousands of Chinese workers manufacturing solar panels for sale back here, or Johnson Controls recently constructed and opened battery manufacturing facility ($150 million) in China for distribution from the Delaware distribution center in Middletown that taxpayers invested millions in infrastructural and road improvements. For example DuPont spinoff headquarters staying in Wilmington while a significant majority of the actual jobs of the agricultural research branch goes to Iowa leaving Delaware with 1700 layoffs of well-paid positions and only a potential for job growth with a price tag of $16 million for Delaware taxpayers. The list goes on and on.

The “Corporate Welfare” policies of this Administration have cost the Delaware taxpayers $250 million during Governor Markell’s term. This irresponsible wasting of the taxpayer dollars has resulted in no discernible return on investment and has stopped absolutely no job losses from these wealthy corporations. Further compounding this administration’s erroneous economic missteps is the recent policy that was passed, despite my and Representative Williams objections, labelled the Delaware Competes Act. This corporate giveaway will cost over $48 million in lost revenue to Delaware with absolutely no appreciable effect to retain or grow jobs. Now the Administration has filed more legislation branded as “The Commitment to Innovation Act” that will further erode necessary revenue that provides basic, necessary services to Delawareans. Neither of these misguided economic policies will reinforce local business growth or stability and will leave a gaping hole in Delaware’s budget that this Administration will attempt to fill on the backs of state employees, seniors and the poorer families in Delaware.

Adding to the insult of these types of corporate giveaways is the actual statistical proof that these types of bribes and irresponsible economic policies have been marked by failure after failure at an unaffordable expense. Read the linked article and please note that $22 million went to JPMorgan which profited to the tune of $24.5 billion last year with “promises” of job growth that would inevitably have occurred without this taxpayer outlay. Note also the proposed $14.16 million to DuPont which totally dismisses the fact that there has been 1700 well-paid jobs recently and irretrievably cut by DuPont in Delaware. And the bulk of its future jobs with the newly created agricultural spinoff (Pioneer) will be lost to Iowa. Consider the $11 million gift to Incyte Corp. with the promise of creating 130 jobs in the future on the heels of the announcement by Incyte that they were laying off 137 Delawareans. The Fisker and Bloom debacles speak for themselves as monuments to irrational and irresponsible wastes of taxpayer dollars. One tenth of that $250 million diverted to supporting locally based businesses for job growth, infrastructural investments and production improvements via tax credits and subsidies would ensure a healthy and robust growth in our local communities and not end up in the pockets of corporate profiteers. Call your legislators and demand that they resist this callous and flawed attempt to redistribute and divert revenues from Delaware families into the coffers of wealthy corporations.

Charters Making Out Like Bandits With Minor Capital Improvements Loophole!

Delaware State Representative John Kowalko requested information on how much Delaware charters are getting in minor capital improvement funding through Governor Markell’s proposed budget.  In the past three fiscal years, Delaware charters were allowed to receive $351,857 total from the state budget.  This year, Markell has an astonishing $1,587,310 allocated for charter school minor capital funding.  This is approximately four and a half times the average yearly amount.  Kowalko is not happy about this and asked to share this letter he wrote his colleagues in the 148th General Assembly.

Dear Colleagues,

Here is the amount of minor cap improvement money spent on Charter School facilities. This is out of a proposed $11 million in the Governor’s budget for MCI allotted for all public schools in Delaware including the many crumbling and outdated buildings in Wilmington and elsewhere.  It should not be necessary to point out to all of you that none of these charter school facilities are owned in whole or part by Delaware taxpayers and every dollar spent goes to enhancing the value of privately owned facilities. Not one penny will come back to the taxpayer if these buildings are sold or abandoned. This is an abuse of taxpayer monies and an abdication of our responsibilities to those taxpayers.

Representative John Kowalko
A voice of reason in an out of control charter friendly General Assembly!
And here are the amount each charter will get.  Of course, this is subject to the approval of the General Assembly when they pass the budget.

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Yeah, I wasn’t too happy when I saw this either.  So aside from this surplus funding which was not part of the original charter school law but got added in to House Bill 165 in 2013, charters also get funds from the charter school performance fund, the charter school transportation slush fund, and many donations from places like the Longwood Foundation, Rodel, and The Welfare Foundation along with others.  When will the madness stop?  Kendall Massett spoke at the House Education Committee meeting last week to speak against House Bill 231, sponsored by State Rep. Sean Matthews.  His bill would require charters to have all teachers as part of the state retirement fund.  Massett spoke against it stating that the original charter school bill allowed charters to have extra flexibility from state bureaucracy.  But apparently when it benefits the charters, they don’t speak out against that…

Redlining The DOE Press Release On Acting Secretary John King’s Visit To Delaware

In God we trust, all others show data.

KingMarkell

Putting a new spin on the words appearing on US Currency, State Rep. Debra Heffernan’s words above shot the smoke and mirrors involving testing, as quoted by Newsworks/WHYY.  My response to Rep. Heffernan: What in God’s name are you even talking about?

On the cusp of the biggest blizzard to hit Delaware in Governor Markell’s 2nd term as Governor, Acting US Secretary of Education John King came to Wilmington yesterday and the biggest topic was tests.  More specifically, standardized tests.  What came out of this visit highlights this insanity inflicted on our children.  Below is the press release with my comments on this in red.   After that, a quote from a State Representative showcases the growing frustration parents, teachers, and legislators are having with this environment.

ACTING U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION HIGHLIGHTS STATE  WORK IN VISIT

Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King praised Delaware as an “inspiring” leader in education during a visit to Wilmington today as part of his Opportunity Across America Tour.

“Inspiring”!  Now that’s a funny word.  I would say complete surrender to everything former Secretary Arne Duncan wanted.  Governor Markell bowed at his feet and left Delaware wide open for corporate invasion in every single one of our schools. 

Following a visit to Kuumba Academy Charter School, King joined Gov. Jack Markell and Delaware Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky for a round table discussion with other education and state leaders about improving assessments and ensuring access to high quality education for all students.

And who were all of these education and state leaders?  In various pictures I see a lot of the usual suspects: Indian River Superintendent Susan Bunting, State Rep. Debra Heffernan, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Board Member Pat Heffernan, US Senator Tom Carper, US Representative John Carney, State Board Executive Director Donna Johnson, Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Lindsay O’Mara, State Senator Greg Lavelle, State Senator David Sokola, State Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and rookie State Representative David Bentz.  With the exception of Bentz, who I haven’t seen enough of to accurately judge him, many of these folks are Markell cheerleaders when it comes to education.  Where was DSEA and Delaware PTA?  We can’t have the people who actually know more about what goes on with these tests than most of these people.  We can’t have them asking King the really important questions.  Instead, we get this “roundtable” hand-picked by Governor Markell.

District and state leaders talked to King about the ongoing work related to a statewide assessment inventory undertaken by the Delaware Department of Education and individual districts. A report from a state task force on the topic is due later this month.

I thought it wasn’t due until June 30th.  Are they now rushing the report before the Smarter Balanced Assessment window opens in March?  And they are having a meeting on February 22nd.  Little confused here DOE!

The leaders discussed how teachers, families, and policymakers need objective measures to determine whether children are learning – before it’s too late to help them.

And I thought I was Dr. Doom… “before it’s too late to help them”…  I think if we get rid of the assessments that will help them and keep more of the garbage like Smarter Balanced than we are throwing them to the wolves.

“Every child matters and we need assessments to measure student academic growth so that none of our kids fall through the cracks,” said Markell, who called for the assessment inventory last year. “But we also know that what determines whether our children get the education they deserve is how much high-quality instructional time they get – access to great teachers, curriculum, and the courses that will prepare them for college and careers.

Far too many of our kids are falling through the cracks because of this testing obsession of yours Governor Markell.  One more year.  That’s what I keep telling myself.  One…more…year… 

“So we need to be smart about our approach, ensuring that we are not giving redundant, ineffective, or unnecessary tests so we can maximize time for our teachers to teach and our students to learn,” Markell said.

In other words, time for more teaching to the Smarter Balanced Assessment!  Play it up for the press Jack, play it up…

King, who noted his department soon will announce federal dollars to support assessment reviews and improvements, praised Delaware for its work. He emphasized the value assessments provide to educators and policymakers in understanding student learning. But he said leaders have a responsibility to ensure assessments are high quality, transparent, take up the right amount of time, and are one of multiple measures used to assess performance.

Of course they will.  It isn’t corporate education reform without federal money pouring into it.  People didn’t buy his beliefs in New York, but the gullible of Delaware are probably hailing him as a hero…

The district leaders discussed how beneficial the inventory process was for them at the local level. With the support of state grants, they reviewed their local and state assessments.

Things are always beneficial when you get free money!  Where did that money go?  Were employees paid more for this review? 

“We don’t want to be conducting assessments that are telling us the same things as other assessments,” Indian River Superintendent Susan Bunting said. “We want to make sure we are getting the most information out of the time we are investing.”

The key word in Bunting’s statement is “investing”.  It always comes back to the money.  She can talk about time, but time is money.  And Bunting is all about the Smarter Balanced Assesssment… and Rodel… and Vision Coalition… and Student Success 2025… 

Colonial School District Superintendent Dusty Blakey said his district found through the review that it could reduce testing time for all students ranging from a one hour reduction for kindergartners to more than 13 hours saved for eighth graders.

This is truly frightening in many aspects, but I’ll let a State Rep’s quote take care of this one…see below… 

“We can put that time back into informed instruction because those assessments remaining are really aligned to instruction,” he said.

Shouldn’t all assessments be aligned to instruction Dusty?  Are you saying the Smarter Balanced Assessment has no benefit for instruction?  What an absolute shock!  Assessments should be based on the instruction already given and should measure what the students retain.  Common Core and Smarter Balanced are a whole different animal.  Common Core forces teachers to teach outside of their comfort zone, all for the glory of the state assessment.  That’s not school, that’s brainwashing and manipulation.

State Rep. John Kowalko issued a statement based on this press release:

Colonial School District Superintendent Dusty Blakey said his district found through the review that it could reduce testing time for all students ranging from a one hour reduction for Kindergartners to more than 13 hours saved for eighth graders”. Please note a one hour “REDUCTION” in testing time for Kindergartners. For God’s sake how many hours of testing have they been torturing these children with and how many will they continue to torture them with for absolutely no purpose?  Additionally a REDUCTION of 13 hours for eighth graders leaving ???? hours of useless testing. All parties from the federal DOE down through Governor Markell and Delaware’s DOE and others should be ashamed of themselves, stop this insanity and apologize to all of the children and parents in Delaware.

Representative John Kowalko

I can’t picture that apology coming anytime soon Rep. Kowalko!

Nichole Dhobo with The Hechinger Report also wrote about King’s visit to Delaware in an excellent article.  My only beef with it was the continued fallacy that House Bill 50 “allowed” parents to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But it showcased King’s absolute lie about district tests compared to federal.

Local tests required by individual states, districts and teachers are more time-consuming, King said, than federally mandated tests that some parents around the country have rallied to “opt out” of taking.

When you put them all together, they are still less time than Smarter Balanced.  Because so much instruction is geared towards Smarter Balanced, as well as the interim assessments, and then the test itself.  We all know why King wants them gone… because they are more important than “Smarter” as the hipsters at the DOE call it.  And if we actually have tests that do help students, we can’t have that.  Look through the mirage Delaware.  See the reality.  As the education reformers gasp their last rigorous breaths, far too many fall for the lies.  Don’t do it…

Top 16 Things We Won’t Hear In Governor Markell’s Last State Of The State Address Today

jack2016

At 2pm, Delaware Governor Jack Markell will give his last State of the State address to the General Assembly.  Judging by his seven press releases over the past few days, it is fairly predictable to guess what he is going to talk about.  But the things he won’t talk about are what I’m more curious about…

These are the things I cannot picture Governor Markell saying: Continue reading “Top 16 Things We Won’t Hear In Governor Markell’s Last State Of The State Address Today”

Delaware PTA, House Bill 50, House Resolution 22, House Bill 243: What Happened Today

Chaos.  There is no other word for it.  The rally went great, we got a good turnout, and there was a lot of media there.  By the time Rep. Kowalko brought the suspension of rules motion to the floor, I had an ominous feeling.  Too many of the reps, who know who I am, were not looking at me.  The suspension of the rules was seconded, and a voice vote was called.  13 yes, 26 no, 1 no vote, and 1 absent.  I can say Rep. Bennett, who was absent, reached out to me a couple weeks ago giving her support for this.  Unfortunately she was not able to attend today.

State Rep. Byron Short gave a long talk about standardized testing and how he wants a valid look at what we are doing with state assessments.  He indicated this last Spring, but he felt he wasn’t heard.  Short was NOT talking about the assessment inventory currently going on, but the state assessment.

State Rep. Debbie Hudson indicated she had brought two bills to be filed regarding opt-out, but they were not filed before today’s session.  She indicated that they had “wasted their time” on House Bill 50.  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf indicated the bills would be filed today.  Rep. Kowalko indicated he wanted House Bill 50 put on the ready list.  This means it would come to a full House vote… if Schwartzkopf puts it on the agenda.  If anyone wants to know what this means, Kilroy got Hudson to introduce legislation in the 147th AND 148th General Assembly.  Both times it went out of the education committee, but Schwartzkopf NEVER put it out for a full House vote.

I made a point to thank as many of the legislators who voted yes on the suspension of rules that I could.  I went up to Rep. Hudson and told her flat-out, “I’ll be sure to tell my son who was physically assaulted nine times after I opted him out that you thought this was a worthless bill.”  She came up to me and Yvonne Johnson, Teri Hodges, and Ashley Sabo and indicated she wanted to show us the new bills.  As we ventured down into the Republican office, I had a bad feeling in my stomach again.  This feeling was soon realized when State Rep. Mike Ramone, with a huge smile, showed me House Resolution #22.

While this certainly looks good, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, a House Resolution in Delaware is not enforceable and it is only passed by one chamber.  So while it looks like the answer, I knew it was not.  Then I was given a copy of the as-yet unnumbered House Bill 243.

HB243

Again, it looks great and it stops the DOE from implementing opt-out penalties against schools on the Delaware School Success Framework, or the school report card.  Fantastic!  NOT!  Here is the fatal flaw.  The DOE already submitted their ESEA waiver at the end of November.  They will most likely get that back in the next few weeks.  That is then tied to Federal Law, ESEA, which does not expire until the end of this year.

So the unenforceable House Resolution and the bill that would get tied up in education committees and protects schools more than parents and students, is not a win at all.  I don’t view either of these as good solutions to House Bill 50.  But the very bizarre nature of today is yet to come.  While all this is going on, there was a corporate tax bill introduced by Valerie Longhurst the other day.  It gets fast-tracked out of the appropriations committee, but it still requires a suspension of rules to get to a vote today.  Now this is a bill, who many legislators told me, would NEVER be introduced by a Democrat.  Longhurst is a Democrat.  Longhurst is very loyal to the Governor, who suggested this last week.  So it is more than obvious this bill is coming from Governor Markell.

As the legislators were in caucus discussing all of this I’m sure, I sat with the PTA and legislators slowly drifted out.  The Republicans two bills were talked about, and originally Reps. Williams and Kowalko were willing to be co-sponsors on it.  However, two other legislators informed us the House Resolution does nothing, and the House Bill does nothing for parents.  It protects the schools.  As well, without support from the Senate, House Resolution #22 is just a piece of paper.  To get something with strong support from both sides that would not require the Governor’s signature and is enforceable would be a concurrent resolution.  Legislative Hall is a funny place.  If you are at the right place, at the right time, you can hear people talking.  There are enough columns and stairs and hallways on the first floor of that building.  I heard folks talking about HB50.  And HB235.  And how the Republicans will get that.  It is more than obvious there was a deal made.  Most likely from Governor Markell himself.

Back to legislative session.  Secretary Godowsky, Susan Haberstroh (from the DOE), Lindsay O’Mara (Markell’s Education Policy Advisor), and State Rep. Earl Jaques are huddled around each other.  To be a fly on that wall!  I made a point to talk to Rep. Charles Potter about House Bill 56, the charter school “freeze” bill where no new applications for charters in Wilmington could be submitted until the state figured out what to do with all this transition.  I advised him of the Wilmington charters that are submitting modifications to increase their enrollment and add grades.  He said he would take a look at that.  House Resolution #22 was introduced and floated around to the legislators.  Rep. Joe Miro is the primary sponsor.  Which told me the House Republicans behind this were still going through with their idea.  Schwartzkopf said House Bill 50 is now on the ready list.  But once again, the ready list can either be a full House vote or the limbo list like Kilroy’s bills.  State Rep. Stephanie Bolden talked about House Joint Resolution #10 which is a bill whereby Delaware officially apologizes for slavery.  I fully support that bill, however the discussion that ensued from some legislators, especially the one who talked about honoring the rights of people and the other who talked about the Bible and scripture, you know, the book that actually does go into parental rights quite a bit, I found it all to be a little hypocritical given their earlier votes.  After that ended (which passed), House Bill 235 came up.  The corporate tax bill.  The suspension of rules was put forth by Longhurst, and seconded by a few voices in the chamber.  Kowalko asked for a roll call.  And it came, numerous yes votes.  Many who VOTED NO ON THE SUSPENSION OF RULES FOR HOUSE BILL 50.  I kept track of all of them and published it right away.  Aside from the one Yearick vote I messed up, they are all here.  As I was getting ready to walk out the door, Rep. Mike Ramone whispered to me about how Kowalko goes on and on and their bills are better.  I whispered back to him, “I don’t trust any of you.”  As I walked out of Legislative Hall today, with House Bill 50 in limbo, crappy bills trying to take its place from Republicans so desperate not to get publicly thrashed over their vote today they would thrown anything to the wall to see if it sticks, a clear indication of who in the Delaware House cares an iota about parents and who doesn’t, and knowing the PTA would support these upcoming bills, I just smiled.

After a nice dinner with my wife and son and a trip to Toys R Us, I came home to a billion Facebook notifications, tons of emails, and knowing I had to write this.  House Resolution #22 passed after I left.  So did House Bill 235.  The Delaware PTA issued a statement on today’s events, which once again, looks good to read…

All Is Not Lost With The Parent Opt-Out- Discussion Still On The Table

It is important to remember that we had 3 primary goals with HB 50:

  1. Protections in place for parents that chose to opt their student(s) out of the state assessment
  2. Alternate academic instruction for students not taking the assessment
  3. A clear and consistent opt out process implemented statewide

Even with all the events that took place today at Legislative Hall, we are still primed to meet those goals, and it is looking like that is going to happen! Interestingly enough, we spoke with enough legislators today to see that they are definitely not supporting the Governor’s agenda and firmly believe that parents and schools should be protected during the opt out process.

As a recap to the events today at Legislative Hall, the House voted against a suspension of House rules on HB 50. While we are disappointed in our legislator’s actions, we do not see this as a loss. After conversations with multiple legislators with regards to their vote, we were informed that if HB 50 and been voted down under a suspension of the House Rules, the bill would have been dead. Given the mood in Legislative Hall today, it is likely that the bill would not have passed. HB 50 has been placed on the House Ready list.

In an unexpected turn of events, the House Republicans informed us of their intent to introduce legislation that would prohibit the state from using participation rates against a school or district. Delaware PTA supports this. The bill has been filed as HB 243. (See Below)

They also introduced a Resolution that prohibits schools and/or districts from penalizing students/parents from opting out. In addition, it requests that the Department of Education develop several options that outline a uniform opt out process. (See Below). Although a Resolution cannot mandate action from the Delaware Department of Education, Representatives Miro and Jaques both confirmed that they had spoken with interim Secretary of Education Dr. Godowsky and that he has committed to following the resolution and developing several options for a statewide process on parent opt out. In addition, our Vice President of Advocacy spoke with Dr. Godowsky to request parent input on the development of these options. We were informed that even though the Secretary cannot be compelled to act under this resolution, he has indicated that he will do so and he has the authority to mandate compliance from the schools/districts.

Everyone should be very proud of the energy that they put into advocating for parent rights, but our work is not done. We have never seen so many parents and teachers come together on a single issue as we have with the Parent Opt Out. We realize that sometimes compromise is necessary to achieve the ultimate goal. Our goal is to ensure that neither schools nor districts can send threatening letters to parents choosing to opt their child out of the assessment. We want to make sure that every district respects a parent’s decision and that they clearly communicate the parent’s options with regards to opting out of the state assessment.  Our message was definitely received. We will continue with our advocacy with the same amount of fervor that you have seen over the last several weeks. We must keep the pressure on, so please keep sending those emails to your representative. We will be reevaluating and disseminating the next steps in our advocacy plan in the coming days and weeks.

Thank you to everyone that has supported parent’s rights and our advocacy efforts.

 Delaware PTA

I truly have to think this one through.  Our legislators could have passed HB50 in the House today.  They could have overridden the veto in their chamber.  They chose not to.  So now we have Republicans, obviously working with Earl Jaques of all people and the DOE and the Secretary of Education, and not telling anyone about this, for weeks (I know this because Mike Ramone told me they have been working on this for a while.  When I said you could have given me a heads up, he said “We couldn’t.”  Makes sense, get the crowd to show up for the rally, stick the knife in parents and students backs, and then try riding in on the cavalry saying “We have something better!”  Nice try.  First off, I don’t trust Dr. Godowsky.  This is the man who said “looks like harsh opt-out penalties won’t rule the day” and then said he is recommending those very same opt-out penalties with no logical justification as to why.  Second of all, he indicated he “has the authority to mandate compliance from the schools/districts”.  If he has this magic wand, why hasn’t it been used already?  Why didn’t Mark Murphy use this all of a sudden too great to be true authority?  Why does it take all of this for them to get it?  And would I ever trust anyone at the DOE to determine opt-out policies for our schools and districts?  Furthermore, the PTA newsletter indicates a request was made to Godowsky to have parents as part of this process.  There is no answer from Godowsky on that very important issue.  Many parents who have opted their children out do not belong to the Delaware PTA and do not believe everything the Delaware PTA believes in.  And the due date for these “policies” is “on or before May 1st”, well into the testing window for Smarter Balanced when most students have already taken it or are finishing up.  Not a lot of protection for parents.  Not a lot to protect students.  Nothing to indicate schools will honor the spirit of this.

So where do we stand with opt-out in Delaware?  Pretty much the exact same place we were a year ago.  So once again Delaware parents, I beseech you to search within your hearts to do the right thing, and make the right choice for your child like I did with mine.  And I pray none of you have to experience what happened as a result of my decision.  As always, I am here to help and guide, and call out any school who gives you a hard time if that is what you wish.

For the citizens of Delaware, I would take a very strong look at my post about the votes today.  I would look at those districts, and if you know anyone who wants to run, tell them to do it.  If they are on the fence, explain how those House reps went against parents.

For the House Reps who voted yes today on the suspension of rules: thank you.  For those who voted no on those rules for HB50 and yes on the rules for HB235, everyone will know.  I will make sure of it, every day if need be.  You betrayed parents today.  We heard you, loud and clear.  And don’t think for one second that your “rescue legislation” means anything.  It is tied to the DOE, Markell, and tainted in legislative blood money.  This is not solely directed towards Republicans, but Democrats as well.  All of you who did this today.  The 13 who voted yes are safe.  Rep. Bennett is safe.  The rest… I have no words…

These are the things revolutions are made of.  This is how America was made.  When the rights of the people are violated, they will demand change.  And it will come.  Nothing stinks more than betrayal.  I told all of you, a vote of no on a suspension of rules is the same as a no vote on the override.  You lost the right to say “I would have voted yes” because you hid behind another vote.  Your motivations and affirmations are gone.  They don’t matter.  You played cards with the devil and now you are on the table.  You are all cowards and weak, all 27 of you.  And trust, that is gone with me and MANY others.

One last thing, for those who mock John Kowalko, I want to make something clear.  Don’t whisper in my ear about him.  Don’t talk about how he shouldn’t be in that chamber.  This is an honorable man.  He has conviction and passion.  He will fight like a dog, but he will do it with honesty.  Compared to what I saw from many of you today, I would take that any day of the year.  House Bill 50 was NOT a waste of time.  It was a simple bill, grounded in what is best for students and parents.  It wasn’t based on what the DOE wanted to do.  It wasn’t based on what was best for the districts and charter schools.  It was about parental rights and students.  I believe you all knew this.  Which makes what you did today so horrible, and morally wrong.

And Jack, don’t think you are slipping away.  As the rumor mill talks about your upcoming job at Alliance for Excellent Education, a corporate education reform company that has more Kool-Aid coming out of each word in its website than I have ever seen before, and the rumor mill talks about a crazy thought about you actually getting a payout to make sure House Bill 50 didn’t go through, be assured I will find out the truth to ALL of that.  You and I aren’t done yet.  You may be fooling people into thinking you are done in a year and you are just winding down, I know you are at your most dangerous now.  I know you fear opt-out more than anything that has ever come before your desk.  We both know what opt-out does.  How it undermines what you and your buddies have planned.  For our children.  I know.  I am not fooled.  Everything you touch is tainted with this plan.  Delaware children are not your children.  And tell your buddies, America’s children are not their children.  You will all be hearing from us VERY soon, you can take that to the bank.

Red Clay Education Association Officially Supporting House Bill 50 Veto Override!!! And More!

While it isn’t the DSEA, the Red Clay Education Association officially voted tonight to support the House Bill 50 Veto Override.  Thank you the members of the RCEA for doing this.  The Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education passed a board policy honoring opt-out a couple months ago, so it looks like Red Clay supports opt-out all over the district.

Mike Matthews, the President of RCEA, just posted this on Facebook:

At tonight’s Representative Council, the Red Clay Education Association took an official position of support for the legislature to override Gov. Jack Markell‘s veto of HB 50, the Parent Opt Out Bill.

The rally the Delaware PTA is sponsoring will be held on Thursday, 1/14, at 1pm on the steps of Legislative Hall in Dover.  All parents and students are encouraged to attend to lend support.  As well, the Delaware PTA petition is still live:

https://www.change.org/p/delaware-state-house-vote-to-override-delaware-hb50-veto

State Rep. John Kowalko will be asking for a suspension of rules when the Delaware House of Representatives meets in legislative session on Thursday.  A suspension of rules, which would prevent House Bill 50 from going back to the House Education Committee led by State Rep. Earl Jaques, would open up House Bill 50 for a vote by the State Representatives.  If the suspension of rules doesn’t go through, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost.  It would be up to Jaques to allow the bill to be heard in the House Education Committee.  It would go through the same process as last Spring if it progresses from there: House Education Committee to Full House Vote to Senate Education Committee to full Senate vote, assuming it passed each step along the way.

This has been a very long journey for many of us supporting this bill, and probably for those who oppose it as well.  While some may question the importance of it, and why it is such a big deal, I would hope those people understand this bill is about student and parent rights.  I have heard someone say it is a waste of “political capital”.  I wouldn’t say that at all.  Every bill in the General Assembly is important to someone.  To myself, there are certainly matters (like the state budget) that take on more public importance than House Bill 50, but this one that hits very close to home for a lot of parents.