Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Meeting Tonight At Legislative Hall

Thanks for State Rep. Kim Williams for getting the word out on this.  Yes, this task force is meeting tonight.  At Legislative Hall in the House Hearing Room on the 2nd floor.  From 6:30 to 8:00pm.  Come, give public comment.

I don’t know who the members are except for the following State Reps and Senators: State Reps. Earl Jaques and Joe Miro and Senator David Sokola and Brian Pettyjohn.  I’m guessing since Dave is biking somewhere in Illinois or Ohio at this point, he won’t be there.  That is an interesting group right there.  I’m assuming Earl is the Chair of this cabal since he is the one funning the meeting.  Come, or be square!  We know the Delaware Charter Schools Network won’t have a membership because of Rep. Williams last minute amendment on the bill.

Seriously, whose idea was it to have meetings in the middle of the Summer?  The Dept. of Education is the coordinator.  So I just answered my own question, duh!  Sorry for the late notice folks, but I literally just found out about this myself!

Dave Sokola & Greg Meece Played All Of Us And They Are Laughing Behind Your Back!

Suckers!  Governor Carney vetoed the 5 mile radius bill.  Big deal.  We all knew he didn’t really have a choice.  But don’t think for one second Senator David Sokola and Newark Charter School Head of School Greg Meece didn’t plan all of this the second the bill went into circulation.  Did any of you think for one second Meece would give up his beloved 5-mile radius for NCS?  Come on!  This is Delaware Politics 101 folks!

This was never about Wilmington students.  This was ALWAYS about Newark Charter School.  They do NOT want anyone outside of their 5-mile radius crossing that line.  Sokola knew the bill had legs so he found the perfect amendment to kill it: exclude the Wilmington portion of Christina.  It would get all the civil rights activists going off and it worked like a charm.  Lest we forget, this is the same State Senator who messed around with the opt out bill every single chance he could.  How many of us were there when he scheduled many bills during a Senate Education Committee meeting and the opt out bill, House Bill 50, was delayed for a week?  Remember the whole “Assessment Inventory Task Force” crap?  That was him.  Remember the charter school audit bill which was fantastic under State Rep. Kim Williams’ original incarnation until he got his charter-dirty hands on it.  And what about House Bill 399, the bill that would have given teachers a choice of using the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other tests for their evaluations?  He put so much crap in his amendment and watered it down to nothing.  This is classic Sokola.

Don’t believe for one second that NCS had issues with transportation logistics.  They didn’t want the 5-mile radius to go away.  Period.  That’s all this was ever about.  I have no doubt Sokola was cheering me on when I wrote about how his version of House Bill 85 would result in a massive lawsuit against the state.  This is what he does.  He turns gold into poison ivy.  But all the clowns up in Newark keep voting him back in over and over again.

As for Meece, he is never going to change.  He loves the fact that HIS school is the “best” in the state.  He loves the fact it’s the biggest as well.  And he has stacked the deck with the sibling enrollment preference.  That way all his favorite families can keep bringing their kids there.  He might throw a prize our way by taking in some special education kids.  Make it look like he is trying.  But he isn’t.  He’s just playing the game.  And with Sokola by his side, he always wins.

Everyone on social media is talking about Carney and Wilmington.  How Carney did or didn’t help Wilmington kids with his veto.  Do you really believe Carney didn’t know what Sokola and Meece were up to the entire time?  See the game for what it is folks.  It isn’t about change.  It’s about the status quo.

Lucky for Sokola, he got to go on a cross-country bike ride with former Governor and good buddy Jack Markell.  They are somewhere in middle America right now, sweating their hineys off in spandex.  I have no doubt Meece is thinking “Yes, we win again!” while wondering if he should go for a threepeat on Blue Ribbon status so he can brag that they are 1 in 5 trillion schools who ever got the hat trick.  They played all of us for suckers, again.  And they will do it again.  As long as Sokola has his little amendment followers and enough whine to go with his charter cheese, this scene will play out again.  And again.  And again.  I don’t have a doubt in my mind that Meece and Sokola ever worried about this bill at all.  Gravy!

 

District Consolidation Task Force Bill Kicked Back To Delaware House, Bonini Amendment Takes Charters Back Out Again

House Concurrent Resolution passed the Delaware Senate a short time ago with amendment by Delaware Senator to take charter schools out of the district consolidation task force’s discussion.  A prior amendment in the House from State Rep. Earl Jaques included charter schools in the task force discussion.  Oddly enough, Senator Bonini’s amendment didn’t remove a representative from the Delaware Charter Schools Network from the task force.

Senator David Sokola said this bill did not have to be heard in committee but felt it was an important enough topic to have that voice.

Senator Bryan Townsend expressed hope that charters would be a part of the task force’s review.  He said the intent of the legislation is a coordinated school system.  He recognized Delaware’s unique education system and understood the ideological discussion of Senator Colin Bonini but still felt all Delaware public schools should be part of that system.

Senator Bonini’s amendment passed with 12 yes, 8 no, and 1 absent.  For the concurrent resolution, it passed with 17 yes, 3 no, and 1 absent.  I imagine it will come back to the House tonight.

Senator Townsend’s Senate Concurrent Resolution #39, requesting an advisory opinion from the Justices of the Delaware Supreme Court on the efficiency of Delaware’s public school system, was defeated in the Delaware Senate with 9 yes, 10 no, 1 not voting, and 1 absent.  House Bill #142, dealing with training for School Resource Officers in situations dealing with students with disabilities, passed the Senate with 20 yes and 1 no.  The Kim Williams sponsored bill goes to Governor Carney for signature.

Guest Post: Jennifer Cinelli-Miller On School Resource Officer Training

Yesterday, Delaware’s House Bill #142 was heard in the Senate Education Committee.  This bill deals with training for school resource officers in relation to students with disabilities.  This is a great bill!  It passed the House and is now on the Senate Ready List for a full Senate vote.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams worked extensively with Milford parent Jennifer Cinelli-Miller to get this bill going.  With Jennifer’s permission, I present her public comment to the Senate Education Committee:

Good afternoon Gentlemen,

Thank you for allowing me to be here today to speak on behalf of this piece of legislation. My concern with officers being placed in our schools began in 2013, when the Milford School District, in response to the horrific events at Sandy Hook, hired School Resource Officers (SROs) for our elementary schools, including Morris Early Childhood Center. When I began my research, many issues surrounding the use of uniformed, armed officers at the elementary level became apparent.  Most of these issues concerned students with special needs.

The research also showed that SROs were not being provided with appropriate training in regards to behaviors, exhibited by children with special needs which are a manifestation of their disability. These behaviors can be viewed, by the untrained eye, as behaviors that reach a level that requires law enforcement intervention.  My biggest fear was that my daughter, whose Autism causes her to have very serious meltdowns, would be mistaken as a public safety risk and arrested, placed in handcuffs or worse could end up dead.

I took my research to then Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and R.L. Hughes – who was at Homeland Security at the time and was working with the school districts to identify improvements to security measures in their buildings. None of the recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security included adding officers. 

The very first year with SROs in the schools in Milford brought about an incident which was by all accounts the “Perfect Storm” and ended with a child being committed to Rockford Center; strictly because he has Autism. There is nothing in this situation that the officers did that was inappropriate. There was a major breakdown in communication on the school’s part which led the SROs to be called for assistance instead of educators.

I had the honor of meeting with Rep. Williams after this incident and we set out to try to ensure that, at least in Delaware, SROs would be trained with a basic knowledge and understanding of children with disabilities. The family impacted by this incident wanted to ensure that it would never happen to another child.

This legislation will provide SROs with training and a basic knowledge of how the behaviors they may see in the schools are a manifestation of children’s disabilities and should be addressed by the educators in the schools.

I want to thank the many of those statewide that have assisted with this process. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet and work with so many of our wonderful officers from the Delaware State Police (DSP) and it was a relief to hear that they had just as much concern about SROs being utilized in situations that were meant for educators. I would also like to thank Brian Moore from Red Clay’s Public Safety Department, the Delaware Department of Education (DOE), specifically the Exceptional Children Resources group. Wendy Strauss and Sybil White from the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens as well as Dafne Carnright from Autism Delaware and Bill Doolittle, a parent advocate who has been an instrumental part every step of the way.

So, after all of our hard work, I am here today to ask for your vote on this bill which has the support of DSP, the DOE and so many parents of children with disabilities.

Thank you,

Jennifer Cinelli-Miller, Parent Advocate

Milford, DE

ALL The Delaware Education Legislation In The General Assembly: Signed, Passed, Pending, & Tabled

*Updated with new legislation, votes on the floor, and committee agendas for tomorrow

Confused by all the Education legislation floating around in Delaware?  Can’t keep track of it all?  Don’t worry, I can’t either sometimes.  But I felt it was necessary to reestablish my old tradition of putting it all together.  I will update this as the Delaware 149th General Assembly finishes off the first half of this session on June 30th and when they reconvene in January 2018.  Below are all 50 of the education bills that have come up in the 149th General Assembly just this year alone.  More legislation will come by the time it is all done on June 30th, 2018. Continue reading “ALL The Delaware Education Legislation In The General Assembly: Signed, Passed, Pending, & Tabled”

Some Big Education Bills Up For A Vote Today In The Delaware General Assembly

Cursive.  Educator Licensure.  Child Abuse Training.  Bullying.  Gang Detection.  Public School Enrollment for children in custody of DSCYF.  These are the biggest education bills up for a vote today in the Delaware House of Representatives and the Senate.  Two will go to the House and two to the Senate if they pass.  What are these bills?

House Bill #70:

This is State Rep. Andria Bennett’s cursive bill.  It was released from the House Education Committee in April.  It would make cursive instruction mandatory in all Delaware public schools.  It has many in support of the bill, but quite a few are opposed to it as well.

Under current educational standards, students are no longer required to be taught cursive writing and many schools have abandoned teaching cursive writing to students. As cursive writing is still an imperative skill in many professions, this bill makes teaching cursive writing a requirement for all public schools in Delaware.     

VIEW HB70

House Substitute 1 for House Bill #143:

State Rep. Kim Williams’ HS1 for HB #143 deals with teacher licensure and the Praxis exam.

This Act removes the provisional license and re-establishes a 3 tiered licensure system. An initial license provides for two years for the initial licensee to obtain a passing score on an approved performance assessment. This Act provides for reciprocity for a state-created and approved performance assessment from another state or jurisdiction to meet the performance assessment requirement. This Act also eliminates the general knowledge exam for licensure which will result in a savings to the candidate of a range of $100 to $150. Additionally, this Act provides for a reimbursement of no less than $100 to a license holder who meets the performance assessment requirement and becomes employed in a Delaware public school. The Department will be responsible for training local district and school staff on the performance assessment. Additionally, the Department of Education leadership, including the Secretary of Education will be trained on the performance assessment. For enactment, any individual provided an initial license prior to the enactment date will not be subject to the requirement of obtaining a passing score on a performance assessment. Additionally, any individual provided a provisional license prior to the enactment date will be reissued an initial license and the 2 year requirement for meeting the performance assessment will become effective commencing on the new issue date. The remainder of the bill makes conforming changes to cross-references and license designations.

VIEW HS1 FOR HB143

Senate Bill #87:

Senator Margaret Rose Henry’s bill deals with children in the custody of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families.  The Every Student Succeeds Act has certain provisions dealing with these students and this legislation would bring Delaware in synch with that requirement under the McKinney-Vento Act.

This Act updates the school stability law for children in the custody of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF) following passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESSA requires Delaware to eliminate the provision “awaiting foster care placement” under § 202(c), Title 14 in accordance with the federal McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act by December 10, 2017, and instead create a distinct provision regarding school stability for children in the custody of DSCYF. [42 U.S.C. §§ 11431 to 11435; ESEA section 1111(g)(1)(E)(i)-(iii)), 20 U.S.C. §6311(g)(1)(E)]. This Act clarifies that children in the custody of DSCYF remain entitled to attend their school of origin if it is in their best interests to do so, or are eligible for immediate enrollment in a new school. Sections 1, 2, and 3 of this Act take effect on the effective date of final regulations published in the Register of Regulations and promulgated under authority granted by § 202A(d) of Title 14, which is created by Section 2 of this Act.   

View SB #87

Senate Bill #102:                  

Another Senator Henry bill.  This bill is similar to last year’s Senate Bill dealing with bullying and child abuse training for educators.  This has A LOT of provisions in it.  It was heard in the Senate Education Committee meeting yesterday.  The Delaware DOE, DOJ, and the Office of the Child Advocate worked on this one for a long time.

This Act consolidates Delaware law related to child abuse and child sexual abuse training and detection, suicide prevention, bullying, criminal youth gang detection, and teen dating violence and sexual assault into one subchapter of Chapter 41, Title 14 of the Delaware Code and develops a non-academic training program that coordinates the trainings school district and charter school employees are required to receive. In addition to streamlining non-academic trainings, this Act provides school districts and charter schools with flexibility to meet current and future non-academic training needs of school district and charter school employees, students, and parents. This Act applies to all public schools, including charter schools and vocational technical schools. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual, ensure consistency within the new subchapter, and make references throughout the Code consistent based changes to certain Code designations made by this Act.                    

View SB #102

House Agenda for 6/8/2017

Senate Agenda for 6/8/2017

Is This The Last Term For State Rep. Earl Jaques?

One vote last night signifies that it might be.  The VERY controversial Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 5 passed the Delaware House last night and goes to Governor Carney for signature.  The bill dealt with late-term abortion.  Without getting into the whole pro-life/pro-choice argument, I was against this bill at first but did grow to support it.  State Rep. Earl Jaques, along with Rep. Gerald Brady, were the sole Democrats in the House who voted no.  Jaques claimed it was because the majority of his constituents were against the bill.

No matter what side of the political fence you are on, Roe v. Wade is one of the cornerstones of politics.  Pro-choice is about as Democrat as you can get.  Could Jaques’ vote indicate he will not run in 2018 for his House seat?  I would say yes.  In conversations with Earl over the past couple of years, I can sense a feeling of closure.  I believe his swan song will be some type of school district consolidation bill which I anticipate will come out in the next three weeks.  By voting no on this bill, even though he stated many of his constituents were against the bill, it is a very un-Democrat vote.

This would leave a vacancy for the Chair of the House Education Committee.  Could Vice-Chair, State Rep. Kim Williams, fill the void in 2019?  It is very early in the guessing games for this stuff.  But I would say out of all the State Reps involved in education, she has certainly earned that position.

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!

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.

 

 

 

Delaware Parents Of Students With Disabilities: Your Immediate Input Is Essential!!!!!

The Delaware Department of Education released (finally) the Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan.  It will be available for public comment until June 5th.  I strongly encourage all parents of special needs children in Delaware to very carefully go through every single line of this plan.  I will be doing the same on this blog from now until then and I will be putting my breakdown into public comment form for the plan as well.  I do want to thank the very hard work of the Special Education Strategic Planning Group who spent many hours and days, volunteer I may add, to work on this plan.  The group consisted of 24 Delawareans, a moderator, and various employees of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  As well, former Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky as well as current Secretary, Dr. Susan Bunting, provided support for the plan.  I would especially like to thank State Rep. Kim Williams and Dr. Michele Marinucci, the Special Education Coordinator for the Woodbridge School District, for getting this large group of people together during a time when it could have been completely different (and not to the benefit of students with disabilities).

At first glance, I see both positive and negative things in the plan.  It isn’t going to please everyone.  But it is a start and more than we had before.  This isn’t a time to throw stones, but it is a time to let your thoughts be known.  Public comment for this plan is as follows, as per the Delaware DOE:

Public comment for this document can be sent to matthew.korobkin@doe.k12.de.us. Public comments can also be mailed to: 
Matthew Korobkin 
Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation 
Delaware Department of Education 
401 Federal Street Suite 2 
Dover, Delaware 19901 

 

Action Alert! Support Special Education Services In Delaware! JFC Needs To Hear From YOU!

For decades, special education has been the law of the land in Delaware and the United States.  In Delaware, our state funds special education services for all students except basic services for those in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  This is when children developing disabilities need those services the most.  Our state relies on a program called Response to Intervention which can not cure a disability.  Special education can’t either, but it give those children the individual resources and goals to help them succeed in education.  It is an absolute travesty that our state does not fund these students.

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee submits the final budget to the House and Senate for a vote in the final days of June.  This funding MUST be included in that final budget.  For far too long, students have either been denied special education services or local school districts have to make up the difference with what the state won’t provide.  We have a state that talks the talk about equity but when it is time to walk the walk, we still have this.

Please join the letter-writing campaign to our JFC to ensure students with disabilities get their fair shake.  Please follow the link below and make this happen!  This is not the same campaign from March where letters were sent to Governor Carney.  This is for the Joint Finance Committee!  A big huge thank you to Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams for her fierce advocacy on this issue!  If you are a parent, student, teacher, educator, administrator, state employee, or citizen of this state, we all recognize this is a tight budget this year.  But we must make this happen to make sure the students with the most needs are given a fair shot!

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/support-special-education-services-in-delaware?clear_id=true

Governor Carney’s Letter About Basic Special Education Funding For K-3 Is Wishy Washy At Best

I received a letter from Governor Carney in my email today.  So did over 900 other Delaware citizens.  Two months ago, a push was made to send letters to Governor Carney concerning House Substitute 1 for House Bill 12.  This is the pending legislation which would provide Basic Special Education Funding for students with disabilities in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  The state provides extra special education funding for all other students with disabilities who have an IEP, so why not these students who are just getting their start in elementary education?

For years, I have been advocating for this funding.  So has Rep. Kim Williams.  This is the second go-around with this legislation.  House Bill 30, from the 148th General Assembly, sat around in the Appropriations Committee from early 2015 until June 30th, 2016 and died.  I have yet to meet anyone who thinks this bill is a bad idea.  I understand we have a deficit Governor Carney, but the purpose of state funding should have a top priority of those who need it the most.  These students fit that criteria.  Response to Intervention does not take care of these students’ needs, nor as it designed to.  Please don’t perpetuate this myth.  You did not include it in your proposed budget and I am calling foul on that oversight.  I pray our elected officials in the General Assembly have the common sense to put children first when they approve the budget for Fiscal Year 2018.  They are the future of Delaware.

The letter was dated March 7th, 2017, but I just received it today.  I won’t bicker about that, but it is noteworthy.  What I will mention is Governor Carney’s refusal to commit to this funding.  I just don’t get it.  It is a no-brainer and everyone knows it.  Who is lobbying against this bill behind the scenes?

Homeowners Set To Get Screwed With Governor Carney’s “Shared Sacrifice”

Yesterday, the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee (DEFAC) projected Delaware’s budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2018 to be $395 million dollars.  This is up ten million from the last time the committee met.  Tonight, the Christina Board of Education will discuss the impact on taxpayers.  Governor Carney is suggesting school boards raise what is known as the match tax (the portion the state matches certain funding) by having the district school boards levy the tax without a referendum.

Christina’s Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, created an impact budget for how this increase would hit taxpayers.  In the below example, a home that just sold for $224,000 would see their property taxes raised $46.50 with the match tax scenario.  Keep in mind, this is based on the property assessment value of $63,700, which is almost a quarter of the home’s actual value based on the sale price.

This is not the only sting homeowners, as well as all Delaware citizens, will feel starting July 1st.  State taxes, collected from paychecks, will go up for most.  State employees will see higher insurance rates.  Salary raises for state employees will most likely disappear.  Services will be cut.  It is all rather bleak.  Our General Assembly has utilized every single benefit to state funding, such as the proceeds from the tobacco lawsuit, without realizing those perks were eventually going to disappear.  State revenue does not match state expenses.  Companies, such as DuPont and soon Barclays, left Delaware for the most part, causing a severe lack of revenue and jobs.  Delaware has, and will continue to, spend more than it makes.

With the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, there was a request to raise property assessment values.  While Delaware’s assessment values are still far lower than most states, it also created an influx of senior citizens moving to The First State because of that.  But the ability of school boards to raise property taxes, already through the special education tuition tax and soon the match tax, could have a negative impact on the desire of the elderly to move to Delaware or even stay here.

Meanwhile, there has been no action on the Governor’s part to institute the basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  State Rep. Kim Williams introduced two bills in the last two General Assemblies to take care of this but neither bill has moved forward due to the state funding issues.  Oblivious to all the future costs by not having this essential funding in place, our state continues to bumble through special education with this very real omission to the foundation of special education students who are just beginning to manifest their disabilities.  The projected amount to fund what should have always been there is a little bit less than $13 million a year.  By not providing that funding, the state relies on the school districts or charter schools to pay for these services.  Either way, it has a negative effect.  If the school does provide those services, it results in more of a drain on local funding.  If the school doesn’t, they are not only breaking special education law if the child qualifies for an Individualized Education Program, but they are also looking at higher costs for that student in the future by not providing that foundation.  So that $13 million a year mushrooms to much higher costs for these students down the road.

Just this morning, State Rep. Earl Jaques announced a new bill on Facebook creating a fund in the Delaware Dept. of Education budget for an Educational Support Professional of the Year award.  Delaware has 16 school districts, 3 vocational districts, and over 20 charter schools.  This bill would allow each district (20, which includes one award for all the charters) to give their winner an extra $1000.00.  The overall winner would get $1,500.00.  While $21,500 in the DOE budget doesn’t amount to much, it is symptomatic of the mindset of far too many of our legislators.  Instead of finding solutions, too many of them find ways to spend even more money.  If our state was swimming in money, I would be okay with this bill.  But not now.

Delaware’s legislature is going to have their hands full when they return from Spring Break next Tuesday.  This budget deficit is not the result of a national recession like what we faced in 2009.  This is Delaware created.  We spent our way out of the recession and now we are paying the piper.  Governor Carney looks like a deer running towards headlights with his reactions to this ever-increasing budget deficit.  I predict he will have a very tough time getting re-elected in 2020 if this trend continues.

Please Send The Letter To Governor Carney To Give Basic Special Education Funding To Students In Kindergarten to 3rd Grade

I can’t believe we have to beg for this.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams organized a letter-writing campaign for House Bill 12 which would provide basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  So far, 729 letters have been sent to Delaware Governor John Carney.  Williams’ goal is 1,000.  My goal?  10,000.

It is utterly ridiculous that these students do not get special education funding at the onset of their educational foundation.  All this obscene lack of funding does is set up failure.  This is the cardinal sin in education: failure equals more money for corporations to come in and “fix” education.  It also helps with future lawsuits and students getting behind the 8-ball from the very beginning.  It is stupid and immoral.  Yes, Delaware has a $385 million dollar deficit.  We get it Governor Carney.  But you need to make this happen.  We hear the talk about students becoming college and career ready.  How about making these students with disabilities elementary school ready?  I see all this money getting dumped into early childhood education, which I am sure is needed.  But you can’t pump them up and pull the football away when they get into elementary school.  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose for nearly 20% of Delaware students?

Thank you to all who have signed this letter which can be found here.  If you haven’t signed it yet, let’s make Governor Carney’s office very busy today!

House Bill 50 To Be Heard In House Education Committee Today…. Say What?

The Delaware General Assembly returns today!  It was supposed to happen yesterday, but the impending doom of the snowstorm that didn’t quite live up to its potential postponed the return.  Today is Committee day!  House Bill 50 WILL be heard in the House Education Committee today.  Say what?  Didn’t former Governor Jack Markell veto that bill? Continue reading “House Bill 50 To Be Heard In House Education Committee Today…. Say What?”

New 149th General Assembly Education Legislation Deals With Special Education, ESSA & Attendance

The 149th General Assembly officially began on January 10th, this past Tuesday.  But the first few weeks tend to be slow.  Especially when it comes to education.  But we already have seven education bills submitted by the Delaware House of Representatives.  No Senate education bills have come forth at this point.

The biggest of these is a carryover from the 148th General Assembly, that of funding for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  State Rep. Kim Williams made a ton of noise about the need for this funding during the last go-around, and she needs to keep making more noise!  There should be NO question whatsoever about the need for this bill.  NONE!  It should not come down to fiscal concerns either.  It needs to happen even if they have to cut some slush fund somewhere.  House Substitute 1 for House Bill 12 will be a bill I advocate for this year, no doubt about it!  I have to say I am disappointed there are NO Delaware Republicans that signed on to the substitute for this bill although Reps. Spiegelman and Briggs-King did sign on for the original House Bill #12.  This is on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 18th at 2:30pm.

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State Rep. Earl Jaques’ House Joint Resolution #3 would ensure both the House and Senate Education Committees see the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act state plan before it is completed and sent to the United States Dept. of Education.  That is a step, but I would prefer the General Assembly has authority to accept or reject the plan before it goes to the US DOE!  This is also on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 18th at 2:30pm.

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The drop-out age and school attendance came out roaring through the legislative gate!  State Rep. Sean Matthews submitted two bills while State Rep. Tim Dukes submitted one.  Dukes’ House Bill #17 would increase the drop-out age from 16 to 17.  It would also include truancy.  Matthews’ House Bill #23 takes it a step further and would require a parent or guardian to agree to a student dropping out if they are over the age of 16.  Where this could get a bit sticky is what happens if a student is 18?  They are of legal age at that point.  Some students with disabilities attend school until the age of 21.  Matthews’ House Bill #24 would require a parent conference if a student misses five consecutive days without an excuse.  My take on this is if parents don’t know their kids are missing five days of school and just wandering around somewhere, it will be tough to get that parent to come to a conference if they are already so disengaged they don’t know what their kid is doing.  All of these bills are meant to discourage dropping out and keeping students in school.  I wholeheartedly agree with that.  The trick is in the details.

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This is another carryover from the 148th.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan had this one ready to go on June 30th but I have to believe there simply wasn’t enough time to get to every bill that night/morning.  But it is back with House Bill #15 which would make computer science a graduation requirement for high school students.  This is also on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 18th at 2:30pm.

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It wouldn’t be a General Assembly in the 2010s without some type of librarian legislation from State Rep. Paul Baumbach!  House Bill #34 would increase the participants in a very long-sounding scholarship name.

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Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan Nears Completion

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After some starts and stops, the Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan is almost finished.  The plan has been underway since 2014 when Governor Jack Markell inserted the creation of the strategic plan in the FY2015 epilogue language of the state budget.  Matthew Korobkin, the Special Education Officer through the Secretary of Education’s office at the Delaware Dept. of Education, will give a status update on the plan to the State Board of Education at their meeting on January 19th.  This is not to be confused with the State of Delaware Strategic Plan for Specialized Education Opportunities.

Last fall, the Special Education Strategic Plan was retooled after disability advocates viewed an initial draft.  As a result of that, along with a very big push from State Rep. Kim Williams, a Facilitated Workgroup came into formation to fine tune the plan and make sure all voices were heard.  In mid-December, the newly created group had a public two-day retreat to decide what should be in the plan.  From there, sub-groups worked on different parts of the plan.  It is expected to be released for public comment at some point in February, shortly after the State Board of Education meeting next week.  From there, at some point in March, a presentation will be given to the State of Delaware Oversight Group for the Special Education Strategic Plan which includes members of the Delaware Interagency Resource Committee, a representative from Governor Carney’s office, and the Chairs of the Senate and House Joint Finance Committee.

The stakeholder workgroup has seven goals for development of the strategic plan which include the following: Students, Parents & Families, Community, Staff/Partners, Resources, Policies & Regulations, and Delivery/Structure/Systems.  Like most Strategic Plans, this one will be not be set in stone and will be considered a fluid document whereby changes and tweaks can be added as needed.  But every plan needs a foundation and what we will soon see are the building blocks for this plan.  Things can happen which could substantially change the plan including the Delaware state budget and the upcoming ruling on the United States Supreme Court special education case of Endrew v. Douglas County School District.

Various groups and committees revolving around special education have occurred in Delaware over the past decade, but this is the first time I have seen such a huge mix of school districts, parents, and advocacy groups.  The last group to form policy around special education was the IEP Task Force from 2014 which led to a large number of changes to state law and regulations.  No education plan will ever please everyone and there will be parts people love and some others disapprove of.  If there is one thing I have learned in education, it is constantly evolving and nothing will ever be perfect.  But I would encourage any and all persons who care about special education to give this plan a very careful read when it comes out and let your thoughts be known with a goal of improving education for special needs kids.

The members of the Facilitated Workgroup consist of the following:

Michele Marinucci, Woodbridge School District

Daphne Cartright, Autism Delaware

Edward Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School

Katheryn Herel, PIC of Delaware

Jon Cooper, Colonial School District

Kendall Massett, Delaware Charter Schools Network

State Representative Kim Williams, Legislator

Kristin Dwyer, DSEA

Kristin Pidgeon, Down Syndrome Association

Lisa Lawson, Brandywine School District

Mary Ann Mieczkowski, Delaware Dept. of Education

Elisha Jenkins, Division for the Visually Impaired

Bill Doolittle, Parent Advocate

Sarah Celestin, Red Clay Consolidated School District

Vincent Winterling, Delaware Autism Program

Wendy Strauss, Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens

Annalisa Ekbladh, University of Delaware Center for Disability Studies

John Marinucci, Delaware School Boards Association

Sonya Lawrence, Parent Advocate

Teresa Avery, Autism Delaware

Laurie Kettle-Rivera, Delaware School for the Deaf

Mark Campano, Delaware Statewide Programs

Josette McCullough, Appoquinimink School District

Mondaria Batchelor, Woodbridge School District

*above photo courtesy of State Rep. Kim Williams, photographed by yours truly at the 12/9 retreat

 

New Faces In The Delaware House Education Committee

The Delaware 149th General Assembly goes back into session next Tuesday, January 10th.  The Delaware House of Representatives leadership picked the members for their committees.  Some surprising changes are going on with the House Education Committee. Continue reading “New Faces In The Delaware House Education Committee”

Rep Kim Williams Rips Into The Delaware DOE During Public Meeting

The Delaware Dept. of Education held the third meeting of the Strategic Plan for Specialized Education Opportunities in Delaware today.  I can’t even make an abbreviation out of that one.  Do not be confused with the Strategic Plan for Special Education that the DOE is also working on.  In any event, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams was NOT a happy camper.  While she is not a member of this committee, she attended the meeting and had some words to say to the DOE.

Apparently this committee came about as a result of an amendment on House Bill #56, the Wilmington charter school moratorium legislation signed by Governor Markell in 2015.  The Dept. was tasked with reviewing all educational opportunities in the state including charter, district, and vo-tech.  The DOE contracted with Public Consulting Group (PCG) to write up the report which came out last December.  PCG continued to work on the strategic plan and came out with another report in October.  In the October report, PCG made a reference to a District-Charter Collaboration Task Force.  Which is ironic since they didn’t post minutes nor did they come out with a final report.

At one point during the meeting today, Delaware Senator David Sokola mentioned a need for low-income and special education information on school choice applications.  David Blowman from the Delaware DOE allowed me to speak and I mentioned how the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, of which Sokola was a member, voted in the majority that information like that should not be on choice applications.  I mentioned that it was recommendations from the task force but it showed a clear decision to not have those items on choice applications.  Blowman agreed with me and said those items should not be on applications.  This prompted Rep. Williams to speak…

In August, Rep. Williams contacted the DOE about this strategic plan.  She contacted PCG and discussed the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, which met for a year and a half, kept all their minutes, and came out with a mammoth-sized final report which was sent to the DOE and the General Assembly.  She emailed a link to PCG.  Nothing even mentioning the Enrollment Preferences Task Force made it into PCG’s October report.  Williams blasted the DOE for this by stating she failed to understand how this strategic plan is meant to provide opportunities for ALL students.  She was clearly (and understandably) upset the report gave no mention to a task force she devoted a year and a half to.  But the District-Charter Collaboration Task Force, which had severe issues with transparency and no final report.  It was obvious to many in the audience that this oversight was not simply a mistake on PCG’s report.  I know for a fact the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson worked with PCG on their initial report which came out a few days before the final report for the Enrollment Preferences Task Force came out.

Senator Sokola asked Williams why she didn’t introduce legislation based on the recommendations of the task force during the last legislative session.  Williams explained that the legislation wouldn’t have come out until March of this year and everyone was very wrapped up in the WEIC redistricting plan.  Sokola said he can see that.  But Williams did say she will be introducing legislation based on those recommendations when the General Assembly comes back in January.  Williams argued that if she didn’t look at the October report from PCG and she didn’t attend this meeting, the DOE wouldn’t have even thought to mention the work 27 members of the task force worked on for a year and a half into this strategic plan.  There was no clear response from Blowman or Susan Haberstroh (also with the DOE).

Williams mentioned the glaring omission two times.  Eventually, Haberstroh assured the committee and Rep. Williams the Enrollment Preference Task Force report would be a part of the strategic plan.  This was supposed to be the last meeting of this committee but once the subject of enrollment barriers came up it was obvious the committee would need to meet again which all agreed to.

There is something about this committee that seems off.  Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques talked about the Christina School District a few times when talking about surplus school seats.  As well, the subject of empty buildings districts own came up.  I always find it to be odd when Sokola and Jaques, who are in their seats primarily because of voters from the Christina School District, tear into them.  I didn’t trust it when Sokola mentioned having information on choice applications he knew damn well shouldn’t be on there.

When Jeff Klein with the University of Delaware presented a report on choice applications by zip code, he did say there was a section in Maryland.  Sokola mentioned it could be a teacher sending their child to a Delaware school.  Which I assume to be Newark Charter School.  The DOE responded by saying it would be illegal for Delaware to pay for a Maryland student in a Delaware school.  Sokola had a puzzled look on his face…

Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network asked a question similar to one she asked at the meeting a few weeks ago.  She questioned why, as an example, if Woodbridge and Delmar school districts wanted a culinary program but didn’t have enough students to have a program, why they couldn’t push for opening a charter school to serve that need.  Heath Chasanov with Woodbridge explained they do have a program with Delmar that Del Tech coordinates.  I don’t fault Kendall for asking the question, but it would be more financially feasible for the districts to work together to offer programs in coordination as opposed to opening a brand new charter school that may or not fail.  This was echoed by David Blowman.

I did find out, 100%, that there are NO plans for Prestige Academy to merge into EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations.  Massett did explain that all the Wilmington charters are working with Prestige for a smooth transition for the students when the charter closes at the end of the year.

To read the reports PCG came out with in October, please see below.

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!