Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn responded yesterday to State Reps. Potter, Bolden and Kowalko’s request for a legal opinion on the constitutionality of HS1 for House Bill 85. Denn offered valid legal reasons why he was unable to offer a legal opinion, but that he also agrees with the Enrollment Preferences Task Force recommendations for not having the 5 mile radius to begin with and believes all students within a district should be given preference to choicing into a charter school in the same district.
Yesterday, three Delaware State Representatives sent a letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn. They are asking him for an Attorney General Opinion on HS1 for House Bill 85. Things just got very real with this legislation. If Reps. Potter, Bolden, and Kowalko didn’t do it, I would have suggested it. The five mile radius was bad enough. But then to purposefully select certain students from not being allowed to apply to a charter school in their own school district, that puts a very clear mark on this. It isn’t too late though. Delaware Senator David Sokola can choose to get on the right side of history and change the bill so Newark Charter School does take the Christina Wilmington students. Because anything else, under his prime directive, is outright discrimination and segregation. We all know it.
I will not bend to any political request on this legislation. I will not back away from what I originally published. To me, I could really care less about the politics. I don’t care if you are blue or red or purple. If folks want to put their name on this legislation, go right ahead. But I will not change my stance on this. Even if I admire and respect the hell out of some of you for various reasons and would fight like hell for bills that we do agree on, on this bill I will not budge. It is about doing what is right, for ALL students. Yes, the bill is progress, but not enough. We can agree to disagree on that. But I will not be party to political games and not publishing what I know in my heart to be true. It isn’t personal. It wouldn’t matter who sponsored this bill, I would feel the same way and I would have published the exact same article. Yes, I am aware some of the legislators flipped their vote because of how it would make them look. I am aware there was political fighting going on with this legislation. I was there for the whole thing. I opposed the bill when the House Substitute came in, and I made that very clear at the House Education Committee meeting when the bill was released. It isn’t a Democrat thing and it isn’t a Republican thing. It is a student thing. It is an equity thing. It is the right thing.
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.
We are down to the homestretch on the 148th General Assembly. It is the bottom of the ninth with two outs. The next batter is up. This will be Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s last sphere of influence with Delaware legislation as Governor of the First State. For that, we should all have reason to celebrate. As of July 1st, all eyes will turn towards elections in Delaware and the USA. But there is a bit of unfinished business in Legislative Hall. We will know by about 4am on Friday, July 1st what happened.
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting resolution is ready for a Senate vote. The Executive Committee will clear it for a full vote. But then, it gets very interesting. I reported a few days ago that one Senate Democrat was a no and another was on the fence. Now we can make that three Senate Dems as a no. And the Senate Republicans which gives Senate Joint Resolution #12 a vote of 9 yes and 12 no. But, I’m also hearing from the cracked walls of the basement of Legislative Hall that there might be new legislation kicking the can on this down the road into the 149th General Assembly. Will Red Clay and Christina say “Enough” and get out of the whole thing? Or will we have another year of “will they or won’t they” speculation? In the chance SJR #12 does pass, the question then becomes “what happened to $6 million dollars”? The Senate passed the budget today and WEIC was not in it. I did find out the answer to this. The funds are in reserve but they don’t want to put it in the budget without an affirmative vote on SJR #12. What happens to the $6 million if SJR #12 doesn’t pass? It goes to the Bond Bill. For those who don’t know what the heck a bond bill is, in a nutshell it is a capital improvements bill. Here is an example from FY2013. We should see the FY2017 bond bill in the next 24 hours.
The Basic Special Education Funding for K-3 students, House Bill 30, has not received the full House vote yet. I hope we will see it, and then a rush to the Senate, but I am not optimistic. I did hear today that the Education Funding Improvement Committee may ask for an extension, but then that they may not. We will know if a final report is issued to the General Assembly in the next 27 hours.
House Bill 399, the teacher evaluation bill, has become a very odd bill with a great deal of power. As the story goes, State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola’s tiff is still going on. Today in the House Education Committee, Jaques pulled Sokola’s teacher certification legislation, Senate Bill 199, from the agenda. House Bill 399 is on the Senate Education Committee agenda for tomorrow. Apparently a deal was reached whereby House Bill 399 will get to be heard in the Senate Education Committee and will most likely be released for a full Senate vote. In exchange, Jaques will “walk” Senate Bill 199 for signatures from the House Education Committee members. But then House Bill 399 has to go before the full Senate. Which is a toss-up for how it could go there. I’m hearing different things from different people. Honestly, if anyone is still concerned about defying the will of Governor Markell, I would think twice before using that empty-handed justification. Did you hear that quacking sound? It is the sound of a lame-duck desperately grasping for power in a vacuum.
There is more at stake here than current bills. Election season is coming fast and broken alliances and grudge matches could make things real ugly for the Delaware Democrats. I’m pretty sure if WEIC fails in the Senate, Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Reps. Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and Helene Keeley will have a lot to say about that! They say Wilmington wins elections for state-wide positions in Delaware, but the reality is that Jack Markell would not have become Governor if he didn’t win crucial votes in Kent and Sussex County when he beat John Carney in the primary in 2008.
Speaking of Carney, it looks like he is finally getting around to reaching out to different groups and state agencies in Delaware to firm up support for the Gubernatorial election in November. He still hasn’t officially filed for the 2016 election yet, but he has until July 12 to do so. We also have filings from Republican Lacey Lafferty and Libertarian Sean Goward. Nothing from Republican and current State Senator Colin Bonini. Goward and Lafferty have been the most visible on Facebook. In my mind, you have to work for my vote and get your name out there. I want to know your original ideas, not more of the same-old I hear now. Many Delawareans are in this mindset. If I had to vote today, Carney would not get my vote. The only candidate who has reached out to me and presented many ideas I agree with is Sean Goward. And not just about education either. I would reach out to him and hear what he has to say!
The Congressional race in Delaware is going to amp up big time as well. The News Journal declared Townsend as the “front-runner” a couple of weeks ago, but it is still a long ways off. Townsend has massive support over at Delaware Liberal with some calling him one of Delaware’s best legislators. He does certainly get a plethora of bills passed. But Lisa Blunt-Rochester also has a great deal of support from the African-American community which could change this tale. In terms of signage, I can’t speak for what is popping up in New Castle or Sussex County, but I can say Hans Reigle signs are all over the place in Kent County. And not just roadside ones, but also property signs as well. I have seen Mike Miller and Sean Barney popping up a bit more on the Democrat side. While Townsend may have amassed the biggest war chest thus far, how much of that will be spent on the primary between five candidates? I’m sure some will drop out between now and then. This will be a contest between Townsend and Blunt-Rochester when it comes down to it. Assuming no one else files on the Republican side, Hans Reigle will have an all-clear until the General Election. After the primary, we will see massive competition between Reigle and the Democrat candidate. With a growing feeling of disillusionment with the Democrat party in Delaware, especially in an environment with more in-fighting among themselves, I wouldn’t count Reigle out. Delaware might be a “blue state”, but this year could change things. Look at how much traction Trump has gotten in the past year. I would like to hear more from Scott Gesty as I think he has some very interesting ideas as a Libertarian candidate.
In terms of the State Rep and State Senate races, we may see a mad rush of filings in the next couple weeks. While some are already saying the Republicans don’t have a chance of changing the power structure in Dover, I wouldn’t be too sure. At least in one House of the Delaware General Assembly. People don’t like what is going on. They see a lot of the egregious glad-handling and deals being made in Dover and they don’t like it one bit. This is becoming a more vocal community, especially on social media. I’m going to go ahead and predict many new faces in Dover come January. I think the citizens of Delaware deserve a more balanced legislature. Too much on one side has not been a good thing for the middle-class and lower-income families of the state. I don’t like the assumption that certain people should win office because they are Democrat, or that certain bills will pass because they have Democrat support. I like to hear both sides of the issues, but all too often some voices are drowned out by the high-fives and fist-bumping going on. By the same token, there are some Republicans who need to realize they could be on the cutting line as well come November, or even September. They should stop thinking of this as a frat club. If you want respect, you have to show respect. Especially as an elected official. For those who are about to call me a hypocrite, bloggers don’t count!
Things are going to get very interesting over the next 55 hours and in the next four months. This is Delaware. Anything can happen! The crazy action will take place on Thursday night in the General Assembly. I’m not sure about the Senate yet, but the House begins their legislative session at 7pm.
Oh yeah, what about House Bill 50? And the Autism bills, Senate Bills 92 and 93 with their assorted amendments? To be continued…
We haven’t seen a new Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting bill in a few weeks. This one actually made me laugh. Not only does it re-summarize the last bill but it also guarantees funding (for future General Assemblies to make sure the funding is there) for what WEIC will give Red Clay if the House Joint Resolution passes. How much more legislation does this thing need? And people said opt out took up a lot of time last year! But the key part of this is the clause at the end which talks about “encouraged, but not required”.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that this would eventually give basic special education funding throughout the state to all kids in Kindergarten to 3rd grade. But here is the big question: will the rest of the districts and charters get a curve on the 3rd grade Smarter Balanced Assessment because they don’t have this funding yet? This whole WEIC thing is supposed to about righting wrongs and equity, right? So here we go, once more, setting up inequity to address equity.
What is this whole part about “school districts are encouraged, but not required, to match up to 30 percent of said funding.” Right there you are saying the state will only give about 77% of the funding for these high-needs kids. What if the districts don’t feel so encouraged to provide that funding? Will the state pony up the rest or is it just a “too bad, so sad” kind of situation? And that is in the synopsis. In the actual House Bill 425 legalese part all it says is “recommendations on resources”. There is nothing in the actual law that states this 30% language. And doesn’t this bill ignore the part in the WEIC redistricting plan that states all New Castle County schools would have all this funding in the next few years? That doesn’t sound like one a year. And how do charter schools fit into this funding mechanism? When do they get these extra funds? I like State Rep. Stephanie Bolden, and I think she has a very big heart. But everyone is bending over backwards to get the redistricting plan passed, we now have three pending bills our General Assembly will have to pass in their next six legislative sessions in order for this thing to move forward. This monster keeps growing more limbs! This “once in a lifetime chance” has more stakes in it than a beer tent at Firefly…
At least now we know what this three county thing is that Larry Nagengast mentioned a few weeks ago. But what the hell? You can’t write laws with words like “encouraged but not required”. It gives all of them an in or an out. How can we talk about equity when there is a choice for some to take part and some not to? They are either ALL IN or ALL OUT, no squeezing through the cracks here. And, oh yeah, where is this NEW money coming from? You know, the funding that would go to Indian River and Capital. I didn’t see that in the budget. We have 21 days left until June 30th. Expect fireworks!
In the meantime, I want to put up “encouraged, but not required” in the 2016 Hall of Fame along with “shall vs. may”…
Today, ten Delaware House Democrats signed a letter to Delaware Governor Jack Markell asking him to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors. The letter also mentions Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory task force.
We recognize that, by your order, the Department of Education is in the midst of creating an inventory of standardized tests administered throughout the state. Pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 2, signed into law in July, the department will share its findings with legislators and the public, as well as a special work group that will make recommendations regarding possible elimination of redundant tests. While opinions will differ among stakeholders, we believe there is universal support for eliminating the Smarter Balanced test for juniors in lieu of the SAT.
I fully accept that this is Governor Markell’s order. He came up with the “assessment inventory” idea back in March. It is a red herring though. I firmly believe it will get rid of many assessments that give immediate and crucial feedback for teachers in how best to instruct their students. I also predict it will see an increase in “prep” and “interim” Smarter Balanced Assessments. The move towards personalized learning will allow for the eventual elimination of the nine-hour test (or longer depending on the individual student’s needs). But it will not get rid of the basic flaws in SBAC, nor will it eliminate the time taking the test. Instead it will eventually be in shorter doses but will be just as harmful to students.
There should be universal supporting for eliminating SBAC for ALL grades. I would caution parents not to be fooled by this letter. This is not a direction where the Smarter Balanced Assessment will gradually be removed. It does not address the fundamental and core issues of what is wrong with Smarter Balanced. I fear this is another attempt to sway legislators from voting for the House Bill 50 Veto Override. This does not get rid of the issue of parents opting out except for those who have 11th graders. The SAT is on a downward slope in many states, and now that they are “aligning” it with Common Core, that trend may increase.
Do Not Be Fooled by this Delaware parents! The DOE has been planning this for over a year IN RESPONSE to the opt-out movement. They knew 11th graders would have the highest opt-outs. But it is still implemented in 3rd to 8th grade. The assessment inventory task force is also stocked with many who will align with the Governor’s flawed logic about standardized assessments. It wouldn’t shock me if the DOE already wrote the report on it and they are just waiting on the group to tweak it here and there. I will still fight for the House Bill 50 Veto Override and support parents who choose to exercise their choice to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I have been calling out the “assessment inventory” ruse since the Governor first started talking about it last March.
Apparently there was a Delaware Senate Bill submitted on July 15th that I didn’t know about. I found out because the House has a pre-filing day today so I thought I would check the Senate Side. House Bill 165 would drastically change things with school district referendums. Instead of a district having more than one referendum in a year, all school districts would have their referendum on the 2nd Tuesday of May. This is also the same day when school board elections take place. As for those school board elections, instead of having them at schools, they would take place through the US Mail system. This bill is sponsored by Senator Karen Peterson and State Reps Michael Ramone and Deborah Hudson. Co-sponsors are Senators Brian Bushweller and Margaret Rose-Henry and State Rep. Stephanie Bolden. I assume a lot of this is in reaction to the Red Clay referendum last winter which is also part of a lawsuit. To read the legislation, please see below:
Yesterday, by a vote of 8-6, the Delaware House Education Committee released House Bill 50 which would allow parent opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment to become a part of state law if passed. I have received the exact votes from the members of the committee:
Yes: Kim Williams, Sean Matthews, Edward Osienski, Charles Potter, Michael Ramone, Sean Lynn, Kevin Hensley, and Harvey Kenton
No: Earl Jaques, Deborah Heffernan, Michael Barbieri, and Stephanie Bolden
Absent: Joseph Miro and Timothy Dukes (was at meeting but must have left early)
The following organizations were NOT IN SUPPORT of House Bill 50 and parent opt-out:
Delaware Department of Education, Delaware State Board of Education, Delaware Business Roundtable, Delaware Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, First State Montessori Charter School, One Parent, A special education teacher in Milford School District, four legislators, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick
The following organizations SUPPORT House Bill 50 and parent opt-out:
Delaware PTA, Delaware State Educators Association (DSEA), Delaware Parents & Teachers for Public Education, Several Parents, Several Teachers, eight legislators, Exceptional Delaware, Delaware Parents & Teachers for Public Education
The following school district boards in Delaware have passed resolutions similar to House Bill 50 in the respect they will honor parent opt-out and will not penalize the opted out student: Capital, Christina, Red Clay Consolidated
Our work needs to focus on the entire Delaware House of Representatives and the Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf.
This morning, the New Castle County school districts had a meeting, and some districts were not too happy about not being included on the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC). They are also very upset they were not consulted prior to the recommendations put forth by WEAC.
From Delaware State Representative Paul Baumbach’s Facebook post:
At this meeting, of the New Castle County school districts, in addition to an overview by House Education Chair Earl Jaques and Senate Education Chair David Sokola, there was a heated series of statements and questions regarding the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s work. Frankly, some of the questions (why wasn’t my school board included in the Governor’s task force) simply point to the structural challenges facing public schools in Wilmington–the city is divided amongst FOUR traditional school district, one VoTech district, and slews of individual public charter schools. The frustration vented at this meeting merely confirms the need to act on the Committee’s recommendations.
And from State Rep. Kim Williams Facebook page:
Several legislators attended this morning’s New Castle County Combined Boards of Education meeting. Local school board members, administrators and lawmakers discussed topics such as priority schools, standardized testing and the work of the Wilmington Education Advisory Group.
And from State Rep. Edward Osienski’s Facebook page:
There was a lot of strong discussion this morning at the New Castle County Combined Boards of Education meeting. School board members, administrators and legislators talked about issues affecting education like priority schools, redistricting and standardized testing. These types of conversations are going to be ongoing all session with many different groups.
I would have to guess the upset districts were Christina and Colonial. If Christina board member George Evans was there, which my sources are saying he was, than it is a guarantee words were said!
Other legislators in attendance were State Rep. Stephanie Bolden, Senator David Sokola, and everyone’s favorite State Rep., good old Earl Jaques. (shameless plug: please sign the iPetition to request he be removed from the House Education Committee, here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/we-want-delaware-state-rep-earl-jaques-to-step )
“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:
We knew this was coming, but now it’s official. Next stop, House Education Committee:
|SPONSOR:||Rep. Potter & Sen. Henry|
|Reps. Bolden, Keeley, Kowalko|
|HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES148th GENERAL ASSEMBLY|
|HOUSE BILL NO. 29|
|AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO CHARTER SCHOOLS.|
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:
Section 1. There shall be a moratorium on all new charter schools within the City of Wilmington until June 30, 2017.
|This bill provides for a moratorium on all new charter schools within the City of Wilmington until June 30, 2017.|