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

I am getting very sick of the political games in Dover.  Very sick.  We have the Joint Finance Committee cutting programs left and right, with House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle continuing to bicker over raising taxes or having more cuts.  We elect these people to do what is right for Delaware, not to kick the can until the next election.  They continue to use the most vulnerable citizens of Delaware in their political football games: the students, those who are sick or rely on state assistance, and those who live in poverty.  Enough.

In a Delaware State news article, JFC Co-Chair Melanie Smith brags about needing only $60 million in “soft cuts” while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf says further cuts would be “drastic“.  Do these two even talk to each other?  They are in the same damn party.  Meanwhile, we have Senator Greg Lavelle preaching from his pulpit wanting the state to have even more cuts.  But both sides are not giving serious thought to State Rep. John Kowalko’s bills which would raise taxes on the wealthy of Delaware.  Hell, they spit in our faces in the House by passing the very ridiculous estate tax appeal last month.

Delaware Republicans, let’s get one thing straight: prevailing wage will NEVER happen as long as the Democrats hold power in the House and Senate.  It is a pipe dream.  Delaware Democrats, the Republicans will NEVER allow you to raise taxes on the wealthy.  Delaware citizens, we are screwed.

I believe they are making these “drastic” cuts in the JFC to cut to the heart of Delaware.  By going after the most vulnerable of Delaware citizens, they are hoping the legislators will cave and come up with some sort of short-term compromise to fix the budget.  Governor Markell left the station, but not without spending our way to prosperity.  But guess what, the bill came in for that spending and we have treated the state wallet like an ATM without any limits.

In Delaware, we have this insane tendency to vote the SAME people into office every election.  While there are some very good State Reps and Senators filling the halls in Dover, I fear we have reached a stalemate in Dover.  For far too many of our legislators it is about one thing: holding on to power and the next election.  The Delaware Way has become a steaming pile of horse manure.

Governor Carney and his office have shown no sign of getting rid of this stink in Delaware.  My recent FOIA complaint against Carney’s office over the Family Services Cabinet Council generated a response from his office.  Because the Attorney General’s office is still working on the legal opinion for this, all I can say is the response is one of the most insulting things I’ve read in my entire life.  It reeks of corruption and deals made behind closed doors.  The solution, which is Carney’s way of saying “Don’t mess with me Ohlandt, cause I will do what I want no matter what” screams of the very thing I have grown to expect in Delaware.  It evaporates hope and replaces it with a bad taste that no mouthwash could replace.  I can’t wait until this legal opinion comes out to the public so they can see firsthand what I am talking about.

Our children, poor, and sick should not be held hostage because these lawmakers think they can do what they want.  In the State News article, Matt Bittle discussed the decision by the JFC to hold off on meeting until later in June.  Bittle writes:

The move, an atypical one, minimizes public backlash and concern in response to spending reductions and gives the caucuses more time to come to an agreement on tax increases.

I disagree with this.  The public backlash is just beginning.  I see more discussion about what is going on with the budget this year than I’ve seen in years.  The very ugly move by the JFC yesterday on not allowing the cut sheets from yesterday to be released to the media or the public is the shadiest thing I’ve seen in my entire time blogging.  In response to cuts already made, I’m sure their phones and emails were lighting up like a Christmas tree.  Get over it.  It is your job to listen to your constituents, not to stifle their voices.  When you play games with people, don’t get upset when they voice their concerns over it.  Last I heard, freedom of speech was still a real thing.  Last I heard, we elected you to balance the budget, not to keep it from us.

Because of loop holes in state code, there are no-brainer ways to raise revenue in this state that are impossible because of budget allocations.  We could raise the gas tax but that would only go towards the transportation fund.  How about shifting that in state code so it would go to the general fund?  I would support a ten cent raise in the gas tax if it would dig us out of this mess that the General Assembly created in the first place.  It is things like that which make it impossible for me to give the General Assembly more than a shrug when this time of year comes around.  They need to think outside of their very small boxes and get creative.  Because I am sure they will get the same salary, benefits, and pensions.  Meanwhile, I know I am going to have to pay more for getting less in Delaware as will every single citizen in this state.  Except some of those really rich people who will bully legislators into making sure their shared sacrifice is palatable to their over-stuffed bank accounts.

I believe in Delaware.  I believe in the people of Delaware.  I don’t believe in our very corrupt state government who throws away their conscience in favor of lobbyists and back-door deals.  I don’t care if you are Democrat or Republican.  The very second you replace a moral with some incentive, you have failed in your duty as an elected official.  That isn’t integrity.  It isn’t honesty.  It is the Delaware Way.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Rep. John Kowalko

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bryon Short (D)

Paul Baumbach (D)

David Bentz (D)

Gerald Brady (D)

William Carson (D)

Rich Collins (R)

Danny Short (R)

Tim Dukes (R)

Ronald Gray (R)

Kevin Hensley (R)

Deb Hudson (R)

Earl Jaques (D)

Quinton Johnson (D)

Harvey Kenton (R)

Ed Osienski (D)

William Outten (R)

Trey Paradee (D)

Charles Postles (R)

Melanie Smith (D)

Joe Miro (R)

Mike Ramone (R)

Steven Smyk (R)

Jeff Spiegelman (R)

John Viola (D)

Kim Williams (D)

David Wilson (R)

Lyndon Yearick (R)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

House Bill 16 will get a vote today.  This bill would repeal the estate tax in Delaware.  State Rep. John Kowalko issued the following statement last evening concerning this bill:

Today 5/18/17, a bill to repeal the “estate tax”, has been placed on the House Agenda by Speaker Schwartzkopf. It will require a suspension of rules due to notification inadequacies but more importantly it will guarantee less revenue for the state and amounts to a giveaway to the Republicans and the wealthy. This tax garnered $9.3 million in revenue in 2016 and to date there have been no suggestions from leadership of either party or the JFC as to how that revenue loss will be replaced. I have asked this question of all of my Democratic colleagues and have not received one suggestion. This bill should not receive one Democrat vote but it will as deals have been cut to the detriment of Delaware’s taxpayers to ensure passage. This is irresponsible and abhorrent behavior that contradicts true Democratic party principles and ideals and all Democrat legislators should reject this or be held accountable. -Representative John Kowalko
I fully expect Kowalko to make his voice heard when he opposes this bill.  I’m not sure what the notification inadequacies are.  The bill came out of committee on 5/3/17 and is on the ready list.  Perhaps it is the timing of when it was put on the ready list.
Delaware Liberal is reporting the deals are flying left and right down in Dover.  This isn’t a new phenomenon.  It happens ALL the time.  It is how politics works (or doesn’t work in many cases, but I digress).  Del Lib believes Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf is letting this bill up for a vote if the House Republicans will at least do a roll call on House Bill 175, which would raise corporate taxes.  Expect more of this in the next 43 days folks!  And watch for the sneaky-snake charter lobbyists getting their hooks into the Joint Finance Committee and the Bond Committee.
Speaking of Legislative Hall, State Rep. Mike Ramone smacked me in the face with a folder yesterday!  I was at the House Education Committee meeting talking with one of the Superintendents.  Ramone came over and the Super asked him an education question.  Ramone didn’t know the answer so he asked me.  I told him “I’m just a blogger, find out for yourself!”  Ramone took his House Education Committee folder and smacked me in the face with it.  It didn’t hurt.  He laughed.  I told him I was going to blog about it and I am a man of my word!  Just a playful moment down in Dover folks, no scandal here.  He usually gives me a lollipop, not a physical assault!
Full details of House Bill 16 can be found here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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hb60pt1

hb60pt2

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

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

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

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!

johnkowalko

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.