Happy 4th Of July, Especially To The Superior Six Of Delaware!

Independence Day.  Celebrated for the day our forefathers said “Enough is enough!  We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.”  When it gets right down to it, it was all about money.  They were taxed like crazy, over the stupidest stuff.  So they wrote a 1776 version of a blog and they all signed it.  It didn’t end the war.  That dragged on for another five years.  But they made their point, and that’s what we celebrate today for.

Last week, six of our leaders said “Enough is enough!” and they went against the tide and made their stand.  Ironically, it wasn’t because they were being taxed too much.  It’s because we weren’t being taxed enough.  Well, not all of us, but those whose wealth keeps increasing while the little guy gets the shaft in numerous other ways.  Today I salute our state representatives who risked all to say no to a budget that was egregious in countless ways.  Paul Baumbach, Andria Viola Bennett, John Kowalko, Sean Lynn, Sean Matthews, and Kim Williams.  Thank you!

Our forefathers built the house that is America, but it needs constant maintenance and upgrades.  That doesn’t come free.  It has always been paid off the backs of our citizens.  Nobody loves it.  I’ve never heard anyone say “I love paying taxes”.  But it is our duty as Americans.  When there is no revenue coming in for one of the rooms in America, we need to take a look at it.  The paint is starting to chip, a screen needs replaced in a window, the floor is stained…but we want to keep the room like that.  The worst part: we know what’s coming next year.  The ceiling has a hole in it, the window is cracking, and the bed is falling apart.  Instead of fixing the smaller problems now, we are adding to them.  We could fix the things that are broken now, and do smaller maintenance to fix the things that will be broken.  Instead we not only move the room around and throw out some old paperwork, we pay for it with funds that were meant for the bathroom!  The bathroom had a leaky pipe years ago, and it was a big mess.  But it was decided to get the funds to fix it and allocate that money for the pipes.  We used some of that money for our room.  Not cool at all.

The pipes wound up being okay, but some of the rooms in the house were under attack from termites, so it was decided funds would go to that.  We knew this had to be done, after all, we were on the cover of a magazine with the title “Termitetown, America”.  We took the steps to help prevent further termite damage with some of the pipe funds, but at the last minute, the big dogs in our room made the moneygrab from the pipe funds, not to pay for the termite invasion, but to pay for posters on the wall in the room.

To add insult to injury, they kept buying nice things for the room, like letting some of the people that live there keep money even after they spent less.  One would think this is okay, they used the funds wisely, why shouldn’t they keep it?  It’s written in the rules of the house, and all of the other rooms have to abide by that rule.  And they got to spend it on whatever they wanted, as long as it was for “house expenses”, which really, can mean anything.  Instead of doing something meaningful with those funds, many of them paid for the problems they created with some neighbors when they wouldn’t treat them nice.

Out of the 41 people who help keep the room in order, nine of them voted no for the way they wanted to pay for it because they knew it was just making a bad situation exponentially worse.  All of them could have made new house rules to make sure the room was not only looking good now, but in the future as well.  But instead they put a little bit of spackle up and left a lot of holes.  The Superior Six represented the part of the left side of the room owners who have a majority over the right.  For them to go against their own side was considered a taboo thing.  But next year, a vote is made to decide who keeps making the rules on both sides, and as the room falls apart, a lot of the voters are going to say “How did this happen?”  And they will be reminded who made it so.

Independence made America what it is.  It made us our own country.  But it takes work, and money.  There shouldn’t be such a wide gap between the haves and have nots, but there is.  The problem in Delaware is we have a Governor who is more concerned with proficiency gaps than budget gaps.  But the steps he’s taken to close those proficiency gaps cost a lot of money, and it is feared those gaps will widen further instead of closing.  And I think that was intentional.  We have a Department of Education built up, with great amounts of money, to create that illusion and continue it.  All for the purpose of giving more funds to keep the charter schools going and create new ones.

As you celebrate your freedom today, and in the next year, remember the price for that.  Know that your security is in jeopardy because the bulk of our legislators didn’t want to act.  And when the wound gets infected, remember that on Election Day 2016 and fix it!

House Bill 50 Update And Other Education Legislation That Passed In The Wee Hours Of The Morning Yesterday

House Bill 50 is waiting.  No action has been taken by Delaware Governor Jack Markell on the parent opt-out legislation.  Matt Albright with the News Journal spoke with Jonathan Dworkin, the spokesman for Governor Markell, and wrote yesterday:

“Markell has not asked for H.B. 50 to be delivered to his desk yet, Dworkin said. Once he receives the bill, he has 10 days to veto it; if he doesn’t, it becomes law with or without his signature.

That means the Legislature would have to wait for a veto override vote until next year unless they call a special session, which is unlikely.”

I checked Delaware state code, and found the following:

“Section 18. Every bill which shall have passed both Houses of the General Assembly shall, before it becomes law, be presented to the Governor;”

The key part concerning this seems to be “presented to the Governor”.  Whose job is it to present a bill to Markell?  The last place House Bill 50 sat in was the Delaware Senate and they passed the bill a week ago today.   I contacted Markell’s office, and they indicated he has ten days to take action on a bill, but when I asked specifically about the bill being “presented”, they did not have an answer but did indicate they would check on that aspect as well as the status of the bill and would get back to me either later today or Monday since their offices are closed tomorrow.

Meanwhile, other education bills passed both the Delaware House and Senate and are also awaiting a signature from Markell.  In no short order:

House Bill 91, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Rep. Sean Matthews, Synopsis: This bill involves the public school immunization program. Currently, the Affidavit of Religious Belief does not expressly alert parents or guardians who file for the religious exemption from the program that the child will be temporarily excluded from school in the event of an epidemic of a vaccine preventable disease. This bill amends the required affidavit so parents or guardians are directly made aware of the possibility of the child’s temporary exclusion from school. The bill also adds that the asserted cause of a medical exemption may be subject to review and approval by the Division of Public Health. Additionally, the bill would require the Division of Public Health to declare an outbreak, rather than the current language of an epidemic throughout the State or a particular definable region thereof.

House Joint Resolution #6 w/House Amendment #1, passed 7/1,  Sponsor: Rep. Earl Jaques, This House Joint Resolution directs the DPAS II Advisory Committee to review and make recommendations to the current educator evaluation system. This Resolution also limits the State Department of Education’s ability to propose changes to certain sections of the Administrative Code.

Senate Bill #61, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, This Act clarifies that school buses are not exempt from the requirement to stop at railroad grade crossings regulated by a traffic-control signal or at railroad grade crossings protected by crossing gates or flashing lights. Section 4163 currently is contrary to best safety practices requiring that school buses stop at these types of crossings to ensure optimal safety for students.
This Act also makes additional changes to § 4163 in keeping with the grammar and style guidelines of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.

Senate Bill #62, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, This Act updates the minimum insurance coverage requirements for school transportation to reflect current industry standards.

Senate Bill #94, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Brian Bushweller, This Act requires the Department to develop a regulation for the identification of a “military-connected youth”. The Act further provides that this identification is not a public record, is protected by the federal Family Educational and Privacy Act and shall not be used for purposes of determining school achievement, growth or performance. The purpose of this identification is to ensure the necessary individuals at the school level are aware of any military connected youth for services and supports.

Senate Concurrent Resolution #29, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Bethany Hall-Long, This concurrent resolution establishes the Behavioral and Mental Health Task Force to examine mental health in the State of Delaware and make recommendations for the improvement of services and the mental healthcare system. *editor’s note: while this is not a direct education bill, many students would benefit from a better mental health care system in the state

Senate Concurrent Resolution #39, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Colin Bonini,  This Concurrent Resolution forms a working group to make a recommendation as to whether or not the Budget Bill should continue to be treated as a simple majority Bill.  *editor’s note: this working group will take a hard look at funding for charter schools, University of Delaware, and Delaware State University.  Since they are considered corporations under state law, and corporations need a 3/4 majority vote for passage, and currently the budget bill only needs a majority vote, this group will examine this legal anomaly.

Senate Joint Resolution #2 w/Senate Amendment #1, passed 7/1, Sponsors: Senator David Sokola and Rep. Earl Jaques, The amount of testing required of our students and educators has grown significantly in recent years. While the General Assembly recognizes the need to administer assessments that provide valid and reliable data about how Delaware’s students are growing academically, it is also committed to maximizing time in the classroom for our educators to teach, and our students to learn.
The Department of Education is already coordinating an inventory of all assessments required at the state, district, and school level. This Joint Resolution requires the Department of Education to report the inventory results, and any assessments that districts or the state propose to eliminate, to the public and to the House and Senate Education Committees of the General Assembly. It also requires the Department to convene a group, consisting of members of the General Assembly and the public, to conduct an in-depth review of the inventory results and make recommendations for consolidation or elimination of assessments. 

Senate Joint Resolution #4, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, While Delaware is deeply committed to preparing every child to reach his or her full potential and succeed in the new economy, the State will not be able to build a world-class education system for its children without modernizing the 70-year-old education funding system. This Joint Resolution establishes the Education Funding Improvement Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of Delaware’s public education funding system and make recommendations to modernize and strengthen the system. The Commission will include stakeholders from across the education system and will submit a report and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly no later than March 31, 2016. 

House Bill #184, passed 6/30, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Heffernan, This bill establishes a mechanism for persons receiving special education services pursuant to an active Individual Education Plan until the age of 21 to receive license to drive.

House Joint Resolution #7, passed 6/30, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, Recognizing (1) that many of our educators are assuming greater levels of responsibility and demonstrating leadership in their classrooms and schools, (2) that our current educator compensation system does not reflect the work we value in our educators or provide them with a meaningful career pathway or ability to earn additional compensation for assuming additional responsibility, and (3) that we must retain and attract great educators to ensure that our students are prepared to compete in an increasingly global economy, this bill re-establishes the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation and Careers in addition to establishing two sub-committees: the Educator Work Group and the Technical Advisory Group. The Committee will continue its work in developing a plan for an alternative compensation structure and career pathway for educators aligned with the parameters set forth in Senate Bill No. 254, including providing educators with a meaningful career pathway, including higher starting salaries and recognition for working with high-needs students, and significant leadership opportunities for career advancement that keeps talented educators in the classroom.   The Committee must submit updated recommendations to the Governor by March 31st, 2016 with sufficient detail for implementing legislation, and will continue to meet thereafter to issue subsequent recommendations for consideration. 

I will be updating the page on this blog entitled “Education Bills in the 148th General Assembly” over the next week and as Markell makes decisions on these as well.  I also intend to go through all the legislation that was passed over and is left in limbo until January 2016.

State Rep. Sean Lynn’s Heartfelt Message To The Citizens of Delaware Over The FY2016 Budget

The Delaware House of Representatives passed the budget bill, but nine state reps voted no.  This budget will cut funding for some of the most vulnerable in our society while also continuing funding from Race To The Top which is no longer around.  I take issue with anyone getting a cut in funding while the DOE is living high off the hog.  I salute the nine who voted no.  Whether the bill passes or not in the Senate, I wanted to share what Rep. Sean Lynn publicly wrote on his legislator Facebook page.  I have to admit, I had my doubts about Rep. Lynn when he was running, but he, as well as Rep. Sean Matthews, have proven to be the brightest stars in this year’s Freshman class of House Representatives.  Without further ado, here is Rep. Lynn’s message to Delaware:

Early this morning, I, together with several other Delaware Legislators, voted “No” on the State Budget. I write this in a moment of solitude, rare in Legislative Hall for the early morning hours of July 1st.

It is 2 a.m., and I am tired. More than anything I want to go home and kiss my sleeping children on the forehead. What should be the highlight of my day will be tinged with disappointment given that, in some ways, their future and that of your children and families here in Delaware has never been more precarious.

Together, we face an estimated $170M (yes MILLION) dollar deficit in FY2017. There is no hope on the horizon for a responsible approach to address this deficit. Tonight our Legislature voted to ignore this crisis, and pass a budget that addresses only the most short sighted of goals.

Our district charged me with the immense responsibility of preserving and ensuring the middle class economy upon which the City of Dover and the State so desperately depend.

I could not, in good conscience, vote for a state budget that so intrinsically failed the middle class constituency that I swore to protect.

The budget that was passed failed to promote a strong economy built from the “middle out”. It failed the most vulnerable Delawareans, and further cemented the income inequality that, historically, has been the bedrock of economic catastrophe. It will invariably lead to the sacrifice of our most precious goals: maintaining the social safety net upon which so many depend, encouraging strong labor unions, maintaining services for our seniors, the expenditure of one time settlement funds hard won on the backs of those who lost their homes as a result of the sale of mortgage backed securities, and other, no less palatable, inequities that your family and mine will suffer in the coming years.

I remain resolute in my dedication to the people of my District and my State, and I remain hopeful that sufficient time exists to repair this failed economic policy.

– Sean

And here was the vote on House Substitute #1 for House Bill #225, which did pass the Senate already.

HS 1 for HB 225 M. Smith Passed

AN ACT MAKING APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE EXPENSE OF THE STATE GOVERNMENT FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 2016; SPECIFYING CERTAIN PROCEDURES, CONDITIONS AND LIMITATIONS FOR THE EXPENDITURE OF SUCH FUNDS; AND AMENDING CERTAIN PERTINENT STATUTORY PROVISIONS.

Date: 07/01/2015 01:18 AM Passed

Vote Type:SM Yes: 30 No: 9 Not Voting: 0 Absent: 2

Barbieri Y J. Johnson Y Peterman A
Baumbach N Q. Johnson Y Potter Y
Bennett N Keeley Y Ramone Y
Bolden A Kenton Y B. Short Y
Brady Y Kowalko N D. Short Y
Briggs King N Longhurst Y M. Smith Y
Carson Y Lynn N Smyk Y
Collins N Matthews N Spiegelman Y
Dukes Y Miro Y Viola Y
Gray Y Mitchell Y K. Williams N
Heffernan Y Mulrooney Y Wilson Y
Hensley Y Osienski Y Yearick N
Hudson Y Outten Y Schwartzkopf Y
Jaques Y Paradee Y

And here is the Senate vote on the budget bill:

Vote Type:SM Yes: 18 No: 3 Not Voting: 0 Absent: 0

Blevins Y Hocker N Peterson Y
Bonini N Lavelle Y Pettyjohn N
Bushweller Y Lawson Y Poore Y
Cloutier Y Lopez Y Richardson Y
Ennis Y Marshall Y Simpson Y
Hall-Long Y McBride Y Sokola Y
Henry Y McDowell Y Townsend Y

House Bill 50’s Wild Ride In The House Passes With New Amendment, Back To The Senate….

After a crazy failure for House Bill 50, the legislation was reconsidered with the originally failed House Amendment #2, which passed the second time around, and then the whole bill passed.  Now it goes back to the Senate.  Trust me, I’m confused, but maybe this will help.  Timeline time:

House Bill 50 timeline:

3/12/15: Introduced by Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson

4/22/15: House Education Committee releases bill from committee, brings it to full House Vote

5/7/15: House Amendment #1 added by Rep. Sean Matthews removing “state assessment” and changing it to just “Smarter Balanced Assessment”, passes House

6/11/15: Senate Education Committee releases bill from committee for full Senate vote

6/17/15: Senator David Sokola adds Senate Amendment #1, changing “Smarter Balanced Assessment” to all “state assessments and district-wide assessments”, passes Senate

6/17/15: Senator Bryan Townsend adds Senate Amendment #2, allowing high school juniors to opt-out of the assessment, passes Senate

6/17/15: Senate passes House Bill 50, but because two amendments were added, it goes back to the House

6/23/15: Rep. Jeff Spiegelman introduces House Amendment #2 which takes away Townsend’s Senate Amendment #2, fails to get enough votes

6/23/15: House Bill 50 fails 2nd House vote, bill is dead

6/23/15: Rep. Spiegelman asks for reconsideration of vote on House Bill 50 under Delaware House of Representatives House Rule #41, House passes motion

6/23/15: House passes House Amendment #2

6/23/15: House passes House Bill 50 again

Now it goes back to the Senate.  Whether it will be heard by next Tuesday or if it extends it until January when the 148th General Assembly is back in session is unknown.  But what I do know is this.  I blame all of this on three people: Rep. Earl Jaques, Senator David Sokola, and Senator Bryan Townsend.  They have played games with this bill and do not care about parents.  And from what I’m hearing Senator Colin Bonini had quite the chuckle after the bill originally failed in the House today.  These are legislators who really don’t care about parents or their rights.  I resisted Spiegelman’s amendment at first cause I just wanted it to pass, but he is absolutely right.  He brought up a point I didn’t think of: what if the junior wants to opt out but the parents don’t want him to?  That would set up some very thorny issues for all involved: student, parent, teacher, school, district, and even the state.  So thank you for your wisdom on this one Rep. Spiegelman!

Our no votes on the 2nd House vote today are as follows: Dukes, Gray, Heffernan, Jaques and Q. Johnson.  Not voting were Barbieri and Bolden.  So all the no votes or absents are the same from the original House vote last month, except for the additions of Gray, Heffernan and Q. Johnson.  What made them flip?

For the 2nd vote on the House Amendment, only Dukes voted no and Barbieri and Bolden didn’t vote.  Three reps had left so there were three absent.

If I were any Delaware parent (I am), I would be absolutely livid at the games being played with this bill.  Shame on Jaques, Sokola and Townsend for not caring enough about parents to even ask them about their bill-killing plans prior to their attempted hijackings.  If I were Townsend, I might want to reconsider that run for Congress.  You ticked off A LOT of voters tonight.

The Key Moments For House Bill 50 Opt-Out Victory In The Delaware House

There were many seminal moments on the road to this important victory for parents in Delaware.  I’ll start at the beginning:

1) Delaware bloggers Kavips and Transparent Christina begin talking about opt-out in the Spring of 2014.  It’s who got me to start thinking about it for Delaware.

2) Matt Lindell and the Capital School Board: a year ago, the Capital school board started the discussion on this, but it was tabled.  Then it came roaring back last fall for a unanimous vote by the Capital Board.

3) The Delaware DOE letters: In early December of 2014, the Delaware DOE began sending school districts a “suggested” letter to give to parents about opt-out should they ask or opt-out.  The confusing Delaware state code regarding this was exposed immediately by yours truly.  It took a while for this to be clarified by the DOE, but once the genie was out of the bottle, it made the DOE look ineffective

4) Delaware State Rep. Kowalko and Senator Lawson introduce House Bill 50 in early February. WDEL radio show host Rick Jensen starts having opt-out advocates on his show.

5) The Delaware PTA holds the first Delaware Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in mid-February.  Wide discussion about bullying tactics by school districts really ticks parents off.  What was meant to be a scare tactic fast turns into a rallying point for Delaware parents. President Terri Hodges announces publicly she is opting her own child out.

6) Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques tells a group of Christina Educator Association teachers House Bill 50 will never pass as Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick attempts to dictate terms about opt-out to parents in that district which does not work out as planned.

7) Delaware PTA holds Kent County Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in early March.  DOE is forced to admit parent opt-out can’t be stopped and the state law only applies to teachers and school staff, not parents.

8) Christina board of Education passes parent opt-out resolution in large measure due to the hard work in preparing the resolution by board member Elizabeth Paige and a fiery speech supporting parent opt-out by board member John Young.

9) Governor Markell announces initiative to reduce assessments for Delaware students while conveniently ignoring the elephant in the room, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This leads to Jaques referring to Smarter Balanced as a “little test”.

10) Governor Jack Markell is forced to talk about opt-out at Howard High School, which leads to remarks by Jaques which fans the opt-out flames even more, especially for special needs parents.  Jaques quickly apologizes.

11) The Delaware News Journal publishes a front-page cover story on opt-out from both sides of the fence.  A cover photo of parent Jackie Kook with her daughter brings it home for many parents.  Parent who never heard the words opt-out start looking into it.

12) In front of an audience of over 1,000 people at the Imagine Delaware forum, teacher and President of the Red Clay Educator Association Mike Matthews announces he supports the opt-out movement.

13) As the Smarter Balanced Assessment begins, parents start opting out by the hundreds in Delaware.  Many schools give parents a rough time, which causes parents to talk to each other and spread the news about opt-out.

14) Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews and Jaques go head to head in a News Journal dual opinion piece on opt-out.  Matthews clearly wins the contest and shows why opt-out is important in regards to Delaware education.

15) Both Red Clay and Christina Educators Association hold joint press conference announcing no confidence vote in Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.

16) Delaware PTA passes resolution officially supporting opt-out and House Bill 50.

17) DSEA (Delaware Educators Association) passes resolution supporting opt-out and House Bill 50, as well as a vote of no confidence in Mark Murphy.

18) Parent Press Conference/Rally at Legislative Hall in early April, though small, draws most Delaware media to it and more media coverage of opt-out.

19) Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams publicly announces she is opting out her own son, a high school junior who, like many Delaware juniors, are forced to take weeks and weeks of testing.

20) Mark Murphy appears on The Delaware Way with Larry Mendte and states “parents aren’t allowed to opt-out students”.

21) Red Clay Consolidated School Board passes parent opt-out resolution with excellent writing by board member Adrianna Bohm.

22) The day before the House Education Committee vote, Governor Markell announces initiative to have Smarter Balanced Scores tie into elimination of remedial classes for four Delaware universities and colleges.  The announcement is critically slammed by legislators, parents and teachers.

23) At the House Education Committee meeting on April 22nd, Kowalko and Jaques battle each other as Kowalko is forced to answer a barrage of questions by Jaques.  Kowalko successfully fends him off.  After discussion from other legislators, public comment from parents shows near overwhelming support for the release of the bill.  Opposition includes organizations well-known to support Governor Markell’s corporate education agendas.  After a vote to have the bill tabled falls apart, the bill is released from the committee in an 8-4 vote ending the over two hour debate.

24) Mark Murphy’s claim of federal funding cuts of $40-$90 million over potential opt-outs and the passage of House Bill 50 is debunked the next day with the release of the US DOE letter which clearly states schools cannot opt students out, and the letter never mentions the words parent opt-out.

25) Last week, organizations such as GACEC and Council for Persons with Disabilities release near identical letter in opposition to House Bill 50 with claims that are quickly debunked.

26) In a hasty and damaging example of executive overreach, Governor Markell announces to radio host Rick Jensen on WDEL he will veto House Bill 50 if it reaches his desk.

27) Parents begin emailing all the legislators of the Delaware House and public support for the bill is clearly seen by the legislators.

28) State Rep. Sean Matthews introduces an amendment to House Bill 50 the day of the House vote which changes the language of the legislation from “the state assessment” to the “Smarter Balanced Assessment”.

All leading to today’s enormous victory in the Delaware House of Representatives, with a 36-3 victory with two reps absent.  At the end of the day, this is about parents using their voice to initiate change.  This could not have been done by one individual at all.  It took a great deal of advocacy, hard work, sweat, social media, and legislators, parents, organizations and ordinary citizens spreading the word and supporting the cause.

What also helped were some obvious tactical blunders by the Delaware DOE, Secretary Murphy, and Governor Markell.  And God bless him, we cannot forget Earl Jaques.  He revealed today House Bill 50 got in the way of his planned legislation to reduce the Smarter Balanced Assessment to only three grades of testing.  Which is a noble gesture, but legislation getting rid of the “little” test would be a much grander statement.

While getting the bill through the House was an undertaking, it remains to be seen how the Delaware Senate will receive the legislation.  Folks are already guessing which Senate members will support the bill.  Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn already announced on Facebook tonight he will vote yes.  Senator Lawson, a co-sponsor of the bill, is a lock.  But the others are a mystery for now.  I can guess and predict, but until they publicly announce their intentions or a vote, we must email them and call them as much as we can.

Mark Murphy’s Authority, Charter Schools, Immunizations, and Suicide Prevention Legislation Introduced in Delaware House of Representatives

When the Delaware 148th General Assembly returns from recess on April 21st, five new education legislation submissions will be on their plate.  These bills cover the authority of the Delaware Secretary of Education (currently Mark Murphy) and Labor Relations, the charter school enrollment radius, charter school applications being approved by the local school board before the Delaware State Board of Education, suicide prevention training for Delaware teachers, and immunization requirements in the event of an epidemic and how this would impact students who do not get immunized based on religious beliefs.  All the legislation introduced can be seen below.  The Mark Murphy Authority bill is sponsored by State Rep. Sean Lynn, the charter bills by State Rep. John Kowalko, the Suicide Prevention bill by State Rep. Valerie Longhurst and Senator Nicole Poore, and the immunizations bill by State Rep. Sean Matthews and Senator Bethany Hall-Long.

Governor Markell Is As Transparent As Saran Wrap With Reaction To Parent Opt Out

“I think this issue of taking a look at the amount of testing across the state makes a lot of sense and you’ll be hearing more from us about that soon” -Delaware Governor Jack Markell

As I called it last week, Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s response to the parent opt out movement in Delaware is to consider issuing an executive order to establish a review committee to look at the amount of state tests kids, but nothing was said in the article with WDDE’s James Dawson about eliminating the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Delaware House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques said he wants a committee going as soon as possible, with potential representative choices of State Representatives Sean Matthews and Stephanie Bolden leading the group.  What Markell and Jaques fail to recognize is they can get rid of all the tests they want, but parents aren’t clamoring for an opt out of anything but the high-stakes Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Jaques took a great deal of heat last week for referring to the Smarter Balanced Assessment as a “little test”.  It has become obvious Jaques is Markell’s latest go-to-legislator on education issues and will fully support his silly corporate education reform schemes in Delaware.

One by one, like dominoes, school districts and school boards are taking support positions for parent opt out.  Capital and Christina have already passed resolutions, Colonial had a brief discussion at their board meeting where the superintendent said he will approve any requests, and Delmar and Red Clay have discussion items on their agendas.  The superintendent of Brandywine, Dr. Mark Holodick, publicly stated he will only approve opt out requests if they fall in line with state regulation.  The charters have been very quiet on the issue, but many charter school parents have sent private messages to me in regards to very strong concerns over opt out and high-stakes testing.

The full WDDE article can be read here:

http://www.wdde.org/74173-governor-mulling-state-testing-review

 

Delaware House Rep Sean Matthews on WDEL!

Please listen to what Delaware State Representative Sean Matthews had to say on WDEL last Thursday.  This was about United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s visit to Delaware.  The day before, Matthews and DE State Rep. John Kowalko wrote a letter to Arne Duncan on his visit.

To see the letter Matthews and Kowalko wrote to Duncan, please go here: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/breaking-news-delaware-state-reps-kowalko-and-matthews-open-letter-to-arne-duncan-for-his-visit-tomorrow/

House Rep Sean Matthews Tackles Tricky Issue Of Immunization Exemption

large_Matthews_0

While many Delawareans are talking about parents opting their child out of the state assessment, rookie Delaware State Representative Sean Matthews is proposing legislation that is very controversial at best…the subject of immunizations.  Under this proposed legislation, any child who is unvaccinated during an outbreak of what is a disease that can be vaccinated would be required to stay home from school during the outbreak.

Details on this potential legislation were released yesterday in the House Democrats weekly newsletter, Legislative Hall Insider.  Matthews is working with Delaware Senator Bethany Hall-Long on the legislation.

Bill Would Add Language to Immunization Opt-out

Lawmakers this week announced a proposal designed to raise awareness of the risks involved with not immunizing school-aged children and to encourage families to have their children vaccinated.

The draft proposal, spearheaded by Rep. Sean Matthews, would amend the state’s religious belief exemption affidavit for the public school immunization program. Currently, Delaware requires all children attending public schools to receive vaccines for certain preventable diseases – such as polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella – while allowing parents exemptions for medical reasons or religious beliefs.

In Delaware, the Division of Public Health reports that 0.8 percent of children are exempted because of religious beliefs, while 0.1 percent are not vaccinated due to medical reasons.

Rep. Matthews’ proposal would amend Delaware’s religious belief exemption affidavit for public school immunizations, incorporating a section that expressly informs parents or guardians of possible outcomes of not vaccinating their children. The affidavit language is spelled out in existing state code and the affidavit itself must be notarized.

The section would spell out that should an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease in an area of the state be declared, any unvaccinated child could be temporarily prohibited from attending a public or charter school to prevent the spread of the disease. In that instance, even if an unvaccinated child doesn’t show symptoms, he or she could be barred from attending school until the declaration is lifted.

Read more about this proposal here.

Breaking News: Delaware State Reps Kowalko and Matthews Open Letter To Arne Duncan for his visit tomorrow

Podcast of WDEL Interview w/Rick Jensen on Parent Opt Out of High-Stakes Testing

I had an awesome time with Rick Jensen today talking about parent opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.   There was so much more I could have said, but I had an hour.  Some folks called in.  John Young from the Christina School Board, Delaware State Rep Sean Matthews and Delaware State Rep John Kowalko.  Rick and I talked about special needs children, the Delaware DOE, Smarter Balanced Assessment, and how it is not illegal to opt your child out in Delaware.  We talked about the “scare tactic” letter the DOE wants districts to give to parents when they opt their kid out and how it is based on state code that does not include parents at all.  I hope to do this again soon!