In an article on Delaware Public Media concerning the status of the charter school audit bills, State Rep. Earl Jaques spun a web of lies about State Rep. Kim Williams, the sponsor of the bill. He gave a quote to reporter Sarah Mueller stating Rep. Williams never approached him about the bill. But Williams didn’t take it lying down. Nor should she. Continue reading
State Rep. Kim Williams is on a roll today! House Bill #182 would get rid of foreign languages as a requirement for a high school diploma in Delaware.
122. Rules and regulations [Effective Aug. 1, 2019]
(b) The Department shall prescribe rules and regulations:
(3) Governing the issuance of certificates and diplomas for the public schools of the State. Rules and regulations on this subject shall be proposed by the Secretary subject to approval by the State Board of Education and may not require world language credit ;
I don’t have an issue with this. If a student plans on going to college they should certainly take a language. But if they have other plans post high school, why should they take courses that will not do anything to help them in the future? I approve!
The bill’s Senate primes are Nicole Poore and Jack Walsh while the co-sponsors are Reps. K. Johnson, Kowalko and Osienski with Senators Paradee and Sturgeon.
When the Odyssey Charter School debacle that made Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness look like she was in cahoots with her Greek friends on the Odyssey board became public, it was obvious a change needed to happen. State Reps. Kim Williams and John Kowalko introduced a new bill today that would give the General Assembly, the Governor, the state Attorney General, or the Secretary of Education more power to force the Auditor of Accounts Office to do audits for charter schools:
(4)a. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly, may request the Auditor of Accounts conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if 1 of the following applies:
1. The Public Integrity Commission makes an advisory finding under § 5807(c) of Title 29 or final finding under § 5810 of Title 29 that a violation of § 5805 or § 5806 of Title 29 has occurred.
2. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly has evidence of a violation of State law or regulation or the misuse of State money.
b. The Auditor of Accounts shall conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if requested under paragraph (d)(4)a. of this section.
c. The audit the Auditor of Accounts conducts or contracts for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section must comply with generally accepted accounting principles.
d. When an audit is conducted or contracted for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section, the Auditor of Accounts shall file a written report containing the information under § 2909(b) of Title 29 with the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives who shall distribute the report to the members of the General Assembly and the Controller General and Director of the Division of Research.
The bill’s Senate Prime is Jack Walsh, along with co-sponsors including Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Brady, Longhurst, Matthews, Mitchell, Osienski, Smith, and Viola along with Senators Delcollo, Pettyjohn, Poore, Sokola and Wilson. Some of these names are very interesting, including Smith and Sokola who have long been champions for charter schools. But perhaps they are realizing that Delaware can no longer tolerate the financial malfeasance going on at Delaware’s charters.
The next step for this bill will be the House Education Committee. It remains to be seen if Chair of the committee, Rep. Earl Jaques, will let it be heard before June 30th. If not, it would carry over into the second leg of the 150th General Assembly which begins in January, 2020.
On June 5th, McGuiness wrote a long letter to members of the General Assembly about why she is choosing not to have her office begin an investigative audit into Odyssey Charter School. I don’t agree with her reasoning whatsoever and no one has ever done this before in the Auditor’s office when it comes to a charter school audit.
Autism Delaware released a fact sheet today on the debacle involving the Delaware Department of Education, Christina School District, the Office of Management and Budget, and Governor Carney’s office. This should answer many questions folks are having based on the Delaware Public Media article as well as my own last night.
If this is how it was supposed to happen, someone dropped the ball big time. A lot of fingers can be pointed at Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg for failing to notify the district’s Board of Education (which is the governing body for the district and hired him in the first place). As well, Governor Carney’s administration goofed big time by not putting certain funding for training personnel in their FY2020 budget proposal. A lot of this comes down to communication. We live in the 21st Century where communication is instant. This kind of stuff shouldn’t happen!
State Rep. Kim Williams wrote the following on Facebook today:
OMB, Controller’s Office and DOE are setting up a meeting with Christina next week. The schools are not changing anything, they will still report to their current district. Teachers and staff will not be affected by any of this. They need to hire the two specialists and those specialists need to report to someone. They need to hire someone to oversee the specialists and the statewide program. The meeting this week will work all those details out.
Thanks to Autism Delaware for getting some facts out on this matter!
Okay, that wasn’t the headline you ever expected to come out of me on here! There is a distinct reason why this bill bothers me so much. House Bill #48 came out on Thursday and like all the other bills from past legislative sessions, it asks for the full allotment of state funding for students labeled as Basic Special Education in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade in Delaware’s public schools. So what is it about this bill that gives me pause?
It is the fact this is the third time State Rep. Kim Williams has brought this bill forward. It came out four years ago for the first time in the 148th General Assembly. It should have been a no-brainer. It got out of committee but it was never heard on the floor of the House. In the last session, the 149th, it came out but it morphed into a part of the state budget which offered part of the funding for it.
When Governor Carney announced his weighted funding plan a week and a half ago he did not include this in his proposal. While I am all for equitable funding, the basic special education funding should have been utilized years ago when the unit-based funding formula changed during Governor Markell’s first term. The fact we have the same bill in a third legislative session really ticks me off. While I greatly appreciate the partial funding that was granted last year it is appalling to me that the state will not grant the full funding in this area.
If the Delaware DOE can demand students with disabilities reach certain proficiency levels on horrible and flawed state assessments than they damn well better give the full funding these students deserve. These are kids. Kids with issues and disabilities forming that they aren’t ready for. Not that anyone with disabilities is ever ready, but these kids need that rock solid education foundation. And when they aren’t getting the support and services they need they are losing out. With that being said, I know their teachers (most of them) will do whatever they can to reach that child to the best of their ability. They will use what they can when they can. It is not their intention to see any student fail. But they can’t do it alone. They need help.
Delaware is great at talking the talk but there is resistance to walking the walk when it comes to education. Even Carney’s weighted funding attempt is not a permanent thing. It is more of a trial than a commitment. We demand so much out of our students and teachers but consistently fail in giving the funding to achieve this. And then we put it on the districts to come up with those funds. But then our state will pour millions of dollars each year into the Smarter Balanced Assessment. It makes zero sense.
I have nothing but the utmost respect for Kim Williams. The fact she has to continually put this bill out, year after year, is a true picture of what an awesome human being she is. But we need ALL 62 of our legislators not only approving this, but shouting it from the rooftops, up and down the state. Rome wasn’t built in a day, I get that. But to ignore the needs of children who need help the most is an insult that shouldn’t continue. Because all they are doing is creating more problems for these students down the road that wind up costing more money than if they just funded it to begin with.
The 150th Delaware General Assembly MUST approve this bill and lock it permanently into the state budget. It is a moral imperative and the question of if they can afford it shouldn’t even be a part of the conversation. And Governor Carney, for all my critiques and rants against him, needs to reach into his soul and not even question it. And when I say Governor Carney, this includes his most trusted advisors who seem to want to dictate the money flow in Delaware.
John Fluharty. He who suffers from that unique Delaware ailment called sitting in a job and getting paid on the taxpayer dime and doing nothing. For someone who pretends to be a Republican, he sure does like to get involved in Democrat power games. Continue reading
I know I’ve been picking on the News Journal a lot lately, but they deserve it. After their constant defamatory attacks on Kathleen Davies with fabricated reports, I have to ask a legitimate question: How much are they getting paid to go after Davies? It is beyond the point of absurdity. What did they do now? Continue reading
In a letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, State Representatives John Kowalko and Kim Williams are urging Denn to investigate the controversial leak from the Auditor of Accounts office. On August 8th, the News Journal “obtained” a report from AOA regarding a personnel matter with Kathleen Davies. While the validity of the report has yet to be determined, especially since it wasn’t even used in Davies unemployment hearing, the report was leaked from AOA.
The News Journal based an entire article, online and in print, on the report. I find it ironic that a cabal of folks at AOA, who falsely went after Davies over sending a draft copy of an audit to Kim Williams (which was found to be perfectly okay), seem to think it is okay to send out a confidential employee report that very same office may have had the ability to edit themselves. Talk about sheer hypocrisy! Political motivation during an election? You better believe it! Reports have come out of that office where employees would spend their time on political campaigns in the last election. I don’t mind any citizen helping out with elections and all that, but not while you are on the clock for the state!
To read the letter from Rep. Kowalko and Rep. Williams, please see below:
The Delaware News Journal came out with an article today about the ongoing battle between Kathleen Davies and the Office of the Auditor of Accounts. Even though the hearing with the Department of Labor ruled State Auditor Tom Wagner terminated Davies without cause, that only determined unemployment funding for Davies. Now the battle is heating up with the Delaware Merit Employee Review Board (MERB). But the News Journal article is missing or failed to report some vital facts. Continue reading
Sometimes you just have to make some noise. But it turns out I wasn’t the only one. Last evening, before I even began writing my article about Senate Bill #242 needing changes, State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Jack Walsh were already in discussion about placing an amendment on the Pay For Success legislation.
The amendment forms a working group to basically set the parameters for how Pay For Success will work in not only Early Childhood Education but also public education (K-12 schooling). While public education was not directly mentioned in the bill, it left it open. This amendment codifies and puts in writing how this will be moving forward. I am VERY pleased with this outcome and I salute Williams and Walsh for doing this! I don’t tend to get heated up over legislation like I did in my early blogging days. It took me by surprise but I felt it was important and I am very glad that others saw some of my same concerns and acted on it.
The amendment passed the Delaware Senate with 17 yes, 4 absent. Senate Bill #242 passed with 18 yes, 3 absent.
This Amendment requires that specific procedures be established for Pay for Success contracts that involve early childhood education or public education. This Amendment also creates a working group that will make recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget regarding these procedures.
Finally! One of the first things I pushed for on this blog almost four years ago was the funding for students designated as basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade. Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams just put the following on her Facebook page:
I am so thankful that the Joint Finance Committee voted to include funding for K-3 basic special education services in the budget. This funding will support necessary services that will help students close learning gaps and move forward to have bright futures.
This has been a true collaborative effort with my colleagues, especially Rep. Smith and Sen. Nicole Poore, my prime Senate sponsor, and I truly appreciate their leadership. These services will become a reality thanks to the advocacy of Delaware State Education Association, parents throughout the state and the many advocates coming together to support our youngest learners. Our children deserve our best efforts to help them learn and succeed through life.
Amen Kim! As I’ve always said, many kids develop their disabilities in these grades. Even though schools are obligated by Federal law to provide special education no matter what grade they are in, this obstacle to the funding schools would get sometimes led to students not getting the services they deserve. In some cases, schools would deny an IEP creating a toxic relationship with parents. Kim has worked hard for this ever since I met her all those years ago. She is the best education legislator in the state and she will ALWAYS have my support.
We don’t agree 100% of the time, but I will take those rare times any day because what she has done for Delaware education is nothing short of astounding! A big thank you to DSEA, Senator Nicole Poore, Rep. Melanie Smith, Delaware PTA, and all the parents who pushed for this as well!
The Delaware Joint Finance Committee put the funding in the budget today. Of course, the Delaware General Assembly has to approve the budget as a whole by June 30th, but I am confident they will do the right thing with this. Delaware’s projected surplus for FY2019 went up yesterday as the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee added $80 million to the surplus.
Updated, 5:32pm: The amount budgeted for the Basic Special Education for students in K-3 is $2.9 million. As well, $3.6 million went in for Reading Specialists for students in Kindergarten to 4th grade. It also looks like $2 million that was cut in last year’s FY2018 budget will be restored for school transportation.
Delaware Governor John Carney’s office was packed at 1:30pm today when parents, students, school employees, and advocates came to watch him sign HS1 for House Bill #287, the diploma bill.
State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Nicole Poore thanked everyone for all their hard work on the bill. Both were close to crying with joy as they explained how much this bill will mean to this special class of exceptional students. Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting thanked everyone for their contributions to the bill. State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and DSEA Legislative Liason Kristin Dwyer talked about how they approached Williams and Poore about the bill. Woodbridge Special Education Director and Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Group Chair Michele Marinucci said she has waited twenty years for this bill to become law.
But the best part was listening to the students who will benefit from this bill. Hearing the joy in their hearts as they thanked the room for their chance to get a diploma made all the battles with this bill worth it. One of Carney’s aides said there hasn’t been this many people in his office since the budget bill passed last July! Even Carney was very moved about the response to his signing the bill. He even joked that he wants the ability of the Spec Ed Strategic Plan’s Advisory Committee to get along to come to Legislative Hall!
I’ve been to a few bill signings in my day but this was easily the best! Good things do happen in education. I was happy to fight for this bill and report on it as much as I did. No students will work harder than these awesome kids and they deserve it! Today was a great example of the a wrong being fixed for the benefit of all- students, schools, and businesses. Today, I was proud to be a Delawarean and even prouder to see this bill become law.
The bill will allow students with the most extreme disabilities to earn a diploma with modified standards in lieu of a certificate of attendance. This became a huge issue when some of these students would fill out job applications and couldn’t check the box about having a diploma. Many businesses in Delaware lost the chance to hire these hard workers because of that. But more important, it was missed opportunities for these students. Truly a blessed day at Legislative Hall!
HS1 for House Bill #287 unanimously passed in the Delaware Senate today after some rough waters when it was on the House side. Thank you to all the Delaware Senators and House Reps who passed this bill and recognized it’s importance. A huge thank you to State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Nicole Poore for getting this out to begin with. And then thank you to the Special Education Strategic Plan Committee for making this a huge priority to begin with.
This is a landmark bill for students with the most severe disabilities in our schools. Provided Governor Carney signs it, we will no longer have these students get a certificate but an actual diploma. It was an archaic and outdated thing in our public education system. Students with disabilities are just as important as their peers and the bulk of our General Assembly gets it. And it looks like the Delaware business community began to recognize why this is important as well.
The diploma bill for students with severe disabilities is on the agenda for the Delaware House Education Committee today. The bill caused a ruckus of sorts with State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Board of Education member Pat Heffernan, Robert Overmiller, and the Delaware Chamber of Commerce.
House Bill #287 is now HS1 for House Bill #287. The new changes are as follows:
This Substitute Bill makes the following changes to House Bill No. 287: 1. It changes the name of the new diploma to a “Diploma of Alternate Achievement Standards” instead of a “Diploma of Modified Performance Standards.” 2. It adds a requirement that a student must be eligible to take a statewide alternate assessment to receive the new diploma. 3. The Act takes effect in the academic year after enactment.
But the spirit of the original bill is the same.
…provides the opportunity for schools to award students who meet the requirements of their Individualized Education Plans (“IEP”) a high school diploma which recognizes the accomplishment of having attained a level of performance that is modified from the State graduation requirements but aligned with their established goals and performance outcomes.
As much as those who oppose the bill talk about why they hate the bill, I still fail to understand their rationale. This isn’t a business bill, this is a student bill. I think it is very arrogant for big business to dare to intrude on legislation like this. In my opinion, they have done enough “intruding” in public education to the detriment of students, teachers, and schools. Most of our schools, teachers, and parents want this bill to pass. To me, they are your key stakeholders, not the business community.
For Jaques, Heffernan, and Overmiller: two of you have family members with disabilities and one of you serves on the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC). I am unable to fathom your opposition to this bill. You are certainly entitled to your opinion. But, to me, it is not a coincidence that you all opposed opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Which is a grueling task and a flawed test for any student, but especially for students with disabilities. The majority of the GACEC supports the bill.
I anticipate a large crowd for this House Education Committee meeting. It is being held in the Joint Finance Committee room, not the House Chamber. It begins at 3:00pm. If you support this bill, please come out and give public comment.
Other bills on the docket are House Bill #292, relating to services for students with Autism, and House Bill #282, which would allow extra funding for field trips in schools with high concentrations of students with poverty
Last night the Christina Board of Education, in front of a packed house, passed the Memorandum of Understanding between the district, the Delaware Department of Education and Governor John Carney’s office with a 4-2-1 vote. Board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige voted no while member Angela Mitchell abstained. The tense meeting, which lasted over three hours, had Carney sitting in the audience the entire time. While the News Journal, WHYY, and WDEL all came to the meeting, many parts of the meeting were not covered in their articles. Continue reading
Last night, I attended an education meeting that was very different. It was a very odd group of folks getting together in one room to talk about things that affect all Delaware schools. It was a mixture of people who represented two different sides of public education. Continue reading
I’ve seen a lot in Delaware education over the past four years. I’ve seen people say some very brilliant things and I’ve heard very stupid things. I’ve seen the full range of human emotion, from happy to sad, from angry to depressed. But what I heard today made me feel many negative things like never before. How someone could be so blind to reality yet be in such a position of power is beyond my comprehension. Who is this person? Continue reading
It looks like you need special permission to introduce legislation to help students with disabilities. At the Joint House and Senate Education Committee today in Delaware, State Rep. Earl Jaques asked one of the presenters of the special education strategic plan if she checked with the Delaware Chamber Of Commerce first before pushing legislation for special education diplomas. Currently, many students with disabilities with complex and intensive needs get a certificate in lieu of a diploma. Many businesses will not hire these young adults after graduation because they do not have a diploma.
The legislation, which was filed last week by State Rep. Kim Williams, would award these students a diploma based on modified standards. It is not exactly the same as a regular diploma because of those modified standards, but it is still a diploma. That way, these students would be able to check the box on job applications indicating they have a diploma.
During a question and answer session after Michele Marinucci and Bill Doolittle gave the special education strategic plan presentation, State Rep. Earl Jaques (also the Chair of the House Education Committee) asked Marinucci if she consulted with the Delaware Chamber of Commerce and the business community over the proposed legislation. Marinucci indicated she had not. I took severe offense to this question from Jaques. As if legislators need some type of special permission from big business to allow things to get better for people with disabilities. We don’t need permission from the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber should be begging for this type of bill to allow equal access to employment for ALL Delaware citizens. As State Senator Anthony Delcollo pointed out, there exist certain laws already such as the Americans with Disabilities Act that prevents discrimination against disabled citizens.
The entire Delaware certificate system needs to disappear. There are plenty of jobs where former students are more than qualified but this discriminatory certificate prevents them from getting those types of jobs. Our legislators and Governor need to stop bowing down to big business in Delaware and do what is right for ALL the citizens, especially the most vulnerable. While big business lobbyists run rampant throughout Legislative Hall telling legislators how they should vote and which bills they support and which ones they don’t, our legislators are missing the point of making laws. It should be what is best for all the citizens, not just those with the fattest wallets. There are those legislators who understand this, State Rep. Kim Williams being one of them. But far too many listen to those who have the most money.
While Jaques indicated he doesn’t want to see potential problems arise from persons with disabilities just checking a box and not being qualified for those jobs, there is also a thing called an interview process. As well, many job applications do ask an applicant about their qualifications to meet the need for the job. Having a certificate instead of a diploma is an instant barrier that serves to weed out these job applicants from the get-go. I find this practice disgusting and barbaric. For this comment to come from Jaques, who has publicly acknowledged having a grandchild with Autism, I found it particularly disturbing. I’m sure he is trying to get all his ducks in a row and making sure there has been enough stakeholder engagement. And while I do agree the business community should certainly be a part of the discussion in how to best help students with disabilities and improve upon the process, I do not think any group involved in getting common sense legislation through needs permission first. I wonder if Jaques read my article on the current Chair of the Delaware Chamber of Commerce from yesterday. Maybe then he would understand why I am vehemently opposed to any pre-consultation with the damn Chamber over education legislation.
The actual presentation was top-notch. The plan is designed to help students with disabilities and schools to improve special education. While the plan is not set in stone and is a “living document”, I think it is a major step in the right direction. This group did their homework and while I always think there should be more parents not affiliated with any other organization on these things, there is an excellent amount of diversity from all aspects of special education. To see the actual strategic plan and what was discussed today, please go here.
I did see one moment of political maneuvering and it was very blatant in my opinion, but since I am unable to verify that as fact, I will stop right there. I will say it did not involve anyone involved with the Special Education Strategic Plan. But I expect more from that legislator than to ask questions on behalf of the Governor. If the Governor’s circle of advisers want to ask a question, they should just do it themselves. They are more than welcome to do so. By using a legislator to get a point across is just slimy in my opinion. Especially when it really doesn’t have much to do with the actual presentation being discussed and more about a priority of Governor Carney. I will say to this legislator as well as Carney’s guy, the article I posted yesterday with the actual plan embedded into it was posted on the Solutions for Wilmington Schools Facebook page and was read by many.
In another brilliant moment of the Joint committee session, State Senator David Sokola (the Chair of the Senate Education Committee) suggested to Marinucci that they should really take a look at Finland’s special education and what a bang-up job they do recognizing special education needs at an early age. State Rep. Sean Matthews replied to Sokola’s statement that the educational barriers that exist in Delaware, such as charter and choice school enrollment preferences, do not exist in Finland. He indicated Finland is at the top of education in the world because they do not have those barriers and grant equal education to all in Finland. As well, Matthews said you don’t see actions like “counseling out” going on in Finland. That is a practice with certain charter schools where parents are told “we aren’t sure if your child is the right fit here”. While I don’t know how much this goes on now, it has been an allegation thrown at certain charters in Delaware. Many students in the past would wind up back in their traditional school district in the middle of a school year. Many of these were also special education students. Sokola is a firm believer in enrollment preferences, usually those that protect the largest school within his own voting district, Newark Charter School.
In terms of the entire House Education Committee it would have been nice if the Republican House members actually stayed for the entire presentation. About twenty or so minutes in they all walked out. But along those lines, State Rep. Melanie Smith was a no-show as she usually is. No offense to the GOP guys, but if you are on a committee you should stick around for, you know, the actual meetings. It is special education. Not sure what was more important than that. But I digress. On the Senate side, the only missing Education Committee member was Senator Bryan Townsend.
Despite Jaques’ assurance to me yesterday that this meeting would be on the live audio feed on the General Assembly website, it was not. But there were also issues in getting a smart-screen going for the strategic plan presentation so I would chalk that up to technical issues going on. Legislative Hall is a very old building.
State Representative Kim Williams pre-filed legislation today that would do away with emergency certifications for pending special education teachers in The First State. As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, this is no longer allowed in public education. From the bill’s synopsis:
Enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act amended the Individuals with Disability Education Act (“IDEA”) by mandating that special education teachers must have obtained full certification and may not be working under emergency certifications. The Delaware Department of Education must stop issuing emergency certifications in special education in order for the State to continue receiving $36 million in federal IDEA funding for our schools. This Act creates a mechanism that is in compliance with federal requirements to enable educators to obtain a certificate of eligibility in the areas of special education. Educators will be able to meet federal requirements while being enrolled in an approved, alternative routes to certification program. This Act will allow local education agencies to staff special education classrooms while ensuring the educators are receiving high quality training working toward their standard certificate in the appropriate area of special education. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.
Also sponsored by State Senator Nicole Poore, this bill has many co-sponsors by several Democrats but no Republicans. But that shouldn’t matter as this is a federal requirement now. So what does this mean? It means you can’t just be put into a classroom that has students with disabilities with an Individualized Education Program based on an emergency certificate. You have to already be going through some type of program that would allow you to be heading towards full certification. I expect this to pass with no problems.
As well, Williams also pre-filed legislation today concerning special education diplomas with House Bill #287 which I wrote about here. To read the full pending legislation for House Bill #286, please go here.
I am predicting now Kim Williams will have a HUGE year in 2018. Judging by a draft bill she sent into circulation for sponsors yesterday, she is already starting off 2018 on a high note for me! Continue reading