What Tom Wagner’s Retirement Means For The State Auditor’s Office

The loooooooong-time State Auditor, Tom Wagner, announced he was retiring last night at the annual Delaware GOP Lincoln Dinner.  He couldn’t think of a single Republican to take his place.  As many have suggested, the flip-flopper Kathy McGuiness should switch from Democrat to Republican since that is where her heart lies.  Which would leave Dennis Williams as the sole filed Democrat.  May I present a third option… Continue reading

Charter School Transportation Slush Fund Still In Budget For Next Year

Unbelievable.  So much for “shared sacrifice”.  Why are Delaware charter schools keeping their Transportation Slush Fund?  Are you kidding me with this?  According to commenter Connie over at Delaware Liberal, it is still in there.

Also- epilogue language- the transportation fund for Charters– STILL THERE!  Also- $7 million for Charters. All this while forcing districts to use the match tax.

And El Som over there said:

Meaning, while JFC gouges public education and flatlines grants-in-aid, charters are held harmless.

I really shouldn’t be surprised.  In these days of financial doom and gloom should I even be shocked that charter schools are not asked to sacrifice their golden goose?  They are essentially allowed to do whatever they want with that money as long as it fits in the box of educational purposes.  Which means they can’t go out and get a foot massage with the money.  One of Senator David Sokola’s biggest arguments about the five mile radius bill being removed but not giving a preference for Christina’s Wilmington students was the cost of transportation to his beloved Newark Charter School.

I am NOT against charter schools.  I am against bullshit like this.  And as long as we have sycophants like Rep. Melanie Smith who wants HER daughter to go to Newark Charter School, she will do the charter school’s bidding.  If that isn’t a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is.  But Governor Carney DOES NOT CARE.  The majority of our legislators DO NOT CARE.  They don’t care if the elderly have less than they have now as long as charters get what they want.  I don’t blame the charter schools themselves.  I blame the policy-makers who do this.  If someone gave me what is essentially free money and I were in the charters’ position, I doubt I would object.

I expect one hell of a battle tomorrow night at Legislative Hall.  Meanwhile, in response to the Republicans resolution to continue funding the state if the budget doesn’t pass, State Rep. Sean Lynn introduced House Bill 290 today with sponsors including Pete Schwartzkopf, Valerie Longhurst, and John Viola.  Kicking the can down the road, Delaware style.

Delaware citizens deserve better than this.  We have known about this huge budget deficit for months.  Why are they waiting until the last minute to get it done?  I am losing faith in the left and the right.  And the budget hasn’t even been released because they are STILL writing it.  If only Sean Goward had been elected Governor…

 

Longhurst Letter Questions Where The Hell Existing After-School Money Is Going

Good old Jack Wells.  Strong in the Force is that one!  When State Rep. Val Longhurst released her final report on the SAIL Task Force, which is basically asking for more education funding for after-school programs, the News Journal took the bait.  But so did Jack Wells, Delaware’s financial Yoda (especially with Red Clay funds).  So much so he wrote a very public letter to Rep. Longhurst.

TO:  House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst;

I support your efforts for more affordable after-school programs and bring together a collection of leading after-school care providers, educators and state agencies.  To be honest I believe many expenditures being charged to education revenue should be the responsibility of other state agencies.

In fiscal year 2016, DID our districts and charter schools expend more per student on EPER athletics, EPER extra curricular activities, and EPER miscellaneous, than on providing additional help to our children to improve their achievement in reading, math and other critical subjects.  I have no doubt very little of the $35 million expended for EPER was expended to provide additional assistance to improve the achievement of our children in reading, math, and other critical subjects.

After reading the recommendations regarding the lack of after school programs being provided to our children,  I cannot help but wonder why no comments where made on the after school programs currently being provided to our children by our districts and charter schools, programs that are funded from local school taxes, I would estimate at a cost of $35 million dollars.

Last year our districts and charter schools expended $19,043,456 to cover the salary cost for Extra Pay for Extra Responsibilities, EPER, when you include pension cost, 22.28% and other employment cost, 18.83% the cost for EPER compensation was $26,872,126.

In addition $2,335,617 was expended for Athletic Equipment and Supplies and $2,510,162 for Student Body Activities, added to these cost, must be custodian overtime, transportation, maintaining facilities, game officials, security, energy, association dues, conference fees, uniforms, etc..

The question which must be answered is, How and where was this $35 million dollars used.  What I do know is that EPER has 3 categories, Athletics, Extra Curricular Activities and Miscellaneous, shown below are compensation cost for each category.  I believe it’s reasonable to believe that almost all of the compensation cost for EPER Athletics, $9,559,540 was used in our 9-12 grade schools, as was the cost of game officials, conference fees, supplies and equipment, maintaining facilities, etc.. 

I also know that last year the principals in Red Clay 9-12 grade schools expended $439.53 per student, while the principals in K-5 expended $173.85 and middle school principals $198.97.  Why the difference? Was it EPER?

Shown below are the salary, pension and Other Employment cost for each category of EPER.

     Salary          Pension            OEC              Total

$6,774,596   $1,509,379   $1,275,565   $9,559,540   Athletics

$5,750,613   $1,281,236   $1,082,840   $8,114,689   Extra Curricular Activities

$6,518,247   $1,452,265   $1,227,385   $9,197,897   Miscellaneous.

Finally I would like to point out that the local salary cost for EPER of $19,043,456 is only exceeded by the local salary cost of our teachers, principals, assistant principals, custodians and salaries general, clearly this is a major local expense that only a very few have any idea of how and where it is being used and how it benefits our children.

Are our K-5 and 6-8 grade students being provided the same amount of local revenue for additional programs as our high schools?  Does the funding of athletics have a higher priority than funding additional help to our children who need help in reading, math, etc.?

I ask that you Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Task Force review how and where EPER expenditures are used and report your findings to the residents when requesting additional revenue.

http://delawarestatenews.net/news/task-force-recommends-expanded-school-programs/?utm_source=Delaware&utm_campaign=12397b98e6-Delaware+State+News+Daily+Enewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1e4f95e41f-12397b98e6-35998

Jack Wells

Epic Fail of the Week: Afterschool Task Force Holds First Meeting In The Morning

For a task force created to discuss issues surrounding the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning, it would stand to reason that many students would participate in an afterschool program because their parents are working.  Logic would dictate that if you were going to have public meetings about such an initiative, they would be held in the evening when working parents could attend.  But not with this task force!  They had their first meeting this morning at 9am.  Today was also the second day of school for most Delaware students.

And who is on this task force?  Obviously not too many working parents who should be the primary stakeholders on a group like this.  Or was that intentional?

SAILTaskForceMembership

Jack Polidori is with the National Education Association, Jim Kelly is with YMCA, Michelle Taylor is with United Way, Richard Heffron is with the Delaware Chamber of Commerce, John Fisher-Klein is from the Newark Day Nursery & Children’s Center, Sheila Bravo is from the Delaware Alliance for Non-Profit Advancement, and Carol Scott is with the University of Delaware.  And we have Rep. Valerie Longhurst and Senator Nicole Poore.  And regular parents?  Nope, not on this task force.  Shut out again!

This was their agenda:

SAILTaskForce

 

Good News

Yesterday, Senator David Sokola laid his righteous judgment on Delaware blogs by stating we don’t talk about the good things happening in education.  While I gave public comment at the meeting when he said this, indicating that was the DOE’s job and I will do my thing, maybe he is right.  So here is some good news!

Senator David Sokola has a very worthy opponent for his Senate seat in the upcoming election and he is scared.  Real scared.

Delaware has great teachers that no test can ever measure.

The students of Delaware are awesome and they are not failures.

The parents of Delaware are watching the General Assembly like never before and are calling them out on their antics.

Governor Markell will be gone after January.

Pete Schwartzkopf and Valerie Longhurst pissed off a ton of parents, teachers, citizens, and even fellow legislators last night.  How is this good news?  It was live and recorded.

Charter schools will have to record their board meetings in a few months and post them on their website.

Everybody now knows the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the worst test Delaware ever made.

Meredith Chapman is running for the 8th Senate District seat.

Precious Little still makes me laugh… a lot.

John King gets grilled by the US House Education and the Workforce Committee on a monthly basis.

God gave me the good fortune to be present at certain times and places to witness and record what happens in Delaware education.

Winter is coming.

Schwartzkofp and Longhurst Ignore House Rules During Kowalko’s HB50 Veto Override Attempt

Audio Of Parliamentary Inquiry, Delaware House, 6/29/16

Tonight, I witnessed the death of a dream.  That our Delaware House of Representatives would finally do the right thing for our children.  Delaware State Representative John Kowalko brought back House Bill 50 tonight, the Delaware opt out bill that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate a year ago.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill less than a month later.  The last time the House considered this bill was for an override of the Governor’s veto on January 14th.  Kowalko received bad information from the House Attorney on how to present a veto override.  He was told he had to have a suspension of rules prior to a vote on the reconsideration.  I can’t speak to the lack of knowledge or the reason this attorney gave bad advice to Kowalko.  I do know House Attorney’s are not employed by the State, but retained from law firms.  But Kowalko found out it was not necessary with carefully vetted research into veto override attempts in Delaware.  He brought up what is known as a Parliamentary Inquiry to the House tonight.  Had he been able to explain how the legal advice given to him by someone who is supposed to know House Rules and Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure in the event a situation is not covered by House Rules, the House would have understood what he was doing.  The Delaware House could have voted on the reconsideration of the Governor’s veto back in January without a suspension of rules.

Instead, what we got was Val Longhurst and Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf turning it into a power play and putting forth a point of order motion.  It was a trap, probably planned ahead of time since Kowalko told the House Attorney he would be requesting the Parliamentary Inquiry.  He had a representative lined up to second the motion for the Parliamentary Inquiry.  As Kowalko brought it up, Longhurst interrupted Kowalko while he was speaking and stated House Bill 50 was not on the agenda.  Kowalko knew this and stated he was talking about a Parliamentary Inquiry.  Schwartzkopf said Kowalko was out of order even requesting a Parliamentary Inquiry, which Kowalko challenged.  Kowalko appealed Schwartzkopf’s point of order.  Val Longhurst seconded it, said “Oh shit” (nice conduct of an elected official during a legislative session) and then retracted her second as the floor of the General Assembly burst into laughter as Schwartzkopf said “Jiminy Christmas” and said the motion was dead.  Gavel went down, case closed.  But is it?  By denying an elected official the ability to request a parliamentary inquiry under the guise of a point of order given while the elected official was speaking which had nothing to do with the matter at hand could be ruled as illegal.

Once again, we have Democrat leadership in the House who don’t know the policies of the floor they are supposed to govern.  They have committed themselves to a lame-duck governor at the expense of our high-stakes tested children.  There are good legislators in Legislative Hall, but the vast majority are in it for themselves and don’t know what they are doing except how to put forth legislation from corporate lobbyists or to further their own careers.

Prior to Kowalko’s motion, the House had just voted on a very emotional budget bill.  It passed, but eight voted no.  Some voted no who have voted before, but State Reps. Stephanie Bolden and Charles Potter voted no due to the lack of funding for the WEIC redistricting plan and the Senate’s refusal to move forward with the legislation.  Even State Rep. Miro, who voted yes on the budget, gave a well-intentioned speech about how the state is not doing well economically and it will be worse next year.  Kowalko objected to the budget after he filed an amendment to take the charter school transportation slush fund out of the budget.  The amendment failed but eight voted yes.  Which fell in line with the budget vote, 31 yes, 8 no, and 2 absent.

I firmly believe our state needs a serious fiscal and ethical investigation by the Federal government into where every single penny of our state funds are going and who is profiting off of shady backroom deals.  They need to start with Governor Jack Markell and work their way down through the House, the Senate, the DOE, vendors, school districts, charter schools, the auditor’s office, the treasurer’s office, the Department of Health and Social Services, and pretty much everywhere anyone gets funds from the State of Delaware.

Our children are used as guinea pigs.  We see it from Sokola, the DOE, Markell, Schwartzkopf, Longhurst, Melanie Smith, McDowell and others.  Godowsky puts on another face constantly.  He tries to save face with the Governor when he knows the stuff they are pedaling out of his building is absolute crap.  None of these people care about kids.  Not a single damn one of them.  I’ve tried to deal with the legislators in Legislative Hall.  I’ve tried to reach out to some of them in good faith.  They don’t respond.  Those that do know who they are and I know you are trying your best, but when the majority is corrupt, the whole building is.  I see many of you get upset when good bills that will truly help the children of Delaware go nowhere.  Our DOE is not a State Agency.  It is a collection of education reformers and lobbyists, selling our children out to the highest bidders.  A great deal of the legislation passed in Delaware for education allows them to do this.

When a State Representative votes against a budget because of the rampant corruption in our state, they are a hero.  They are not unpatriotic.  If patriotism is following orders and never questioning anything and allowing children to suffer while you remain in power Rep. Melanie Smith, then you may want to look at what the patriots who founded this country actually did so you could hold elected office.  You allow a great deal of bills that go through that will only please corporations at the expense of the citizens of Delaware.  Tonight, I was ashamed to say I live in Delaware.  Everything the other legislators said about the budget was from the heart, not quotes from books or a Tedx talks speech.  It is a legislator’s responsibility to pass a good budget, not a bad one.  This was a bad budget.  You can do all the glad-handling and take the applause for getting it passed, but it is still filled with pork.  You know it, and I know it.  We all know it.  We know who this budget truly serves, and it is not in the best interest of children or the citizens of the state who by your own admission deserve more.

For someone who wants what is best for Delaware, why have you, Pete Schwartzkopf, consistently gone with the Governor’s wishes and not the will of the people.  You are the Speaker of the House.  It isn’t your House.  It is ours.  The people of the state.  Until you learn that valuable lesson, you will continue to be called Sneaky Pete all over the state until your time is done.  Because you refuse to find out the answer concerning how the State Representatives would vote on the override of Markell’s veto, you are not a friend to parents in the state of Delaware.

 

After-School SAIL Program Stuck In Harbor

The Delaware SAIL program, the legislation created by Valerie Longhurst is dead in the water, at least for this General Assembly.  As per the latest email from the Delaware House Democrats…

SAIL Program Put on Hold

With the state facing a multi-million-dollar budget shortfall requiring many difficult cuts, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst on Thursday announced she would put on hold her bill to create a new afterschool program providing homework help, enrichment activities and an extended school meal plan.

The program, dubbed the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning (SAIL) Program, was designed to help students become more effective learners and achieve better outcomes both in and outside their classrooms. However, House Bill 240 carried a $7 million price tag. Even with a drafted amendment to make it a pilot program and decrease the cost, Rep. Longhurst said Delaware’s budget crunch necessitated hard decisions.

“I am committed to creating a quality afterschool program that will keep kids engaged, boost attendance and enhance literacy, improving the likelihood that our students will stay in school and earn their diplomas,” said Rep. Longhurst, who sits on the board of directors for the Bear-Glasgow YMCA and Police Athletic League of Delaware.

“However, when I look at the full picture of our budget, I know we cannot afford it this year. It’s hard to ask for money for this program when we simply don’t have the funds for many basic state functions and have to make tough cuts across state government. This was a really difficult decision because I have seen firsthand the need to increase children’s access to quality afterschool programs.”

As part of the move to put a hold on HB 240, Rep. Longhurst also announced her intention to create a task force including afterschool stakeholders that would review afterschool programs in Delaware; how funds are spent; how to target children not currently being served; and how to best close those gaps.

Delaware Youth In Government Interviews Governor Markell

Today, the Delaware Youth in Government, sponsored by the Delaware YMCA, took over Legislative Hall!  One of the representatives, Natalie Walton, interviewed Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

This is kind of funny to watch.  When asked about what the most important thing a Governor needs to do, Markell’s answer is very interesting.  Especially given his education agendas the past seven plus years.  He did give good advice for anyone that wants to get into public office.

And State Reps Kim Williams and Valerie Longhurst got to address the Delaware Youth in Government as well!

Governor Markell Shuts Parents Out Again! SAIL Afterschool Program Has Dangerous Red Flags! Beware!

I just don’t get it.  What is it with this Governor and parents?  House Bill 240, the legislation behind the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning (SAIL) Program was officially released today.  I have several issues with this legislation.  Before I get into that though, I do believe afterschool programs for kids are extremely helpful if done right and in moderation.  But I have grave reservations with this program due to data release, the use of non-profits in this, and the amount of time kids are away from their homes.  I agree that activities students can get involved in after school are very dangerous, especially in our cities.  But this bill seems like it is very rushed.  It is already on the Delaware House Education Committee meeting tomorrow.

First off, as per the below legislation, the whole purpose of this is so students can “meet challenging State academic standards“.  As part of this program, a new council would be developed called The Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Council.  Sure, you would want to have some type of organization for a program like this.  Surely parents would be a part of this, right?  Wrong!  There are NO slots for parents on this council.  But it will have three members of non-profit organizations.  No Delaware PTA representation, no teachers, no special education teachers, no charter school representation, no health providers, no psychologists or psychiatrists, and NO PARENTS!  They want Delaware students and schools that “meet the approved state indication for low socioeconomic status” to be eligible for the SAIL program, but they don’t want ANY parents on this council?  They expect to have children staying afterschool for four to five days a week for three hours and they don’t want parent input?

Since this looks like it will be partly run by non-profits, the idea of a “data share” between teachers and the afterschool coordinators that are NOT employees of the state or the schools is frightening in my opinion.  “A computer based student information system” will be implemented with what?  What safeguards are in place to prevent student data from getting out there more than what it already has?

As a “means to measure the program“, school attendance and grades and at least one (but it can be all) of these factors shall be used: behavior evaluation through school discipline reports, surveys of teachers, standardized test scores, criminal justice records, physical health evaluations, student and parent surveys, class participation, course completion, homework completion, and afterschool program attendance.  That is a huge amount of data that would be put into outside hands, away from the school district and local control.

It seems like Delaware and the feds want children from low socioeconomic backgrounds to essentially became wards of the state for the vast majority of their academic lives.  And the potential data sharing has red flags all over it.  I could easily see Rodel becoming involved in this initiative.  I would NOT want my child’s health or behavioral or any type of information going to them, period.  And who decides who gets the program and who doesn’t?  The Delaware Department of Education.  I cannot support this bill as written.  I’m sure more will come out about it, and I would hope to God our legislators have the good sense to ask all the questions I have and more.

According to the Every Student Succeeds Act, these “21st Century Community Learning Centers” will require 95% of the grant funds will go to the Local Education Authority (districts or charter schools), only 1% can be used for administrative purposes, and the rest can be used for state activities.  If this law is already indicating non-profits must be used, isn’t that already stripping the local school districts of any control over how the program is created?  Yes, there are three Superintendents on the SAIL Council, the DSEA President, and the Secretary of Education (or his designated representative), but that is an extremely small amount of representation for programs that have 95% of the funds going to the districts or charters.  And sorry, I don’t trust the DOE or their ability to disperse these funds with fidelity and honesty.

According to this release  from the National Council of State Legislatures, activities for these programs can include “music and the arts as tools to support student success through the promotion of constructive student engagement, problem solving, and conflict resolution.”  I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that was the purpose of students learning music and art.  I thought it was so they could expand their creativity.  Who writes these things?  It doesn’t sound like anyone who is around children and teenagers too much.  This guidance also states “mental health services” could be used at the learning centers.  The potential for abuse and manipulation in that arena is too frightening for words…

Schools are not parents.  They will never replace parents.  I recognize that students in poverty and neglect suffer immensely without proper parental supports, but this solution is very radical and very dangerous.  Valerie Longhurst may have put this bill together, but this legislation is just a small part of the corporate education reform movement that is taking students away from parental control more and more every single day.  Our children are OUR children, and they don’t belong to you.  I would really like it if they get their grubby hands out of our children’s minds and schools.

To read the full legislation, please read below:

 

Will New Education Legislation Adding $11 Million More To Delaware’s Shrinking Budget “SAIL” Through The General Assembly?

Amidst all the craziness surrounding the SAT/Smarter Balanced Announcement yesterday, this one flew under the radar.  Delaware State Rep. Valerie Longhurst is introducing legislation next week to add $11 million dollar to the Delaware State Budget to fund afterschool programs in Title I schools across Delaware.  Whether this is part of the WEIC funding, Matt Denn’s plans for the foreclosure settlement funds, or new allocations of state funds is not certain.  But with Delaware facing a deficit of unknown amounts for FY2017, we sure are spending a lot of money fast!  From the Delaware House Democrats website:

Lawmakers Plan New Statewide Afterschool Initiative

DELAWARE CITY – Thousands of Delaware students across the state would gain access to new, high-quality afterschool programs providing homework help, enrichment activities and an extended school meal plan under a bill unveiled today at Gunning Bedford Middle School.

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, lead sponsor of the legislation, said the measure is designed to help students become more effective learners and achieve better outcomes both in and outside their classrooms.

“We know that quality afterschool programs keep kids engaged, boost attendance and enhance literacy, improving the likelihood that our students will stay in school and earn their diplomas,” said Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear. “We have a great core of organizations in our communities that have spent years showing us these outcomes, and it’s time for the state and our school districts to step up and bring these proven practices to even more kids throughout Delaware.”

The bill announced today would establish the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Program, dubbed the SAIL Program, to provide grants to high-need schools as identified under federal Title I regulations. To qualify for SAIL grants, schools must offer at least three hours of afterschool programming four to five days each week during the school year for students in kindergarten through 10th grade. With a ratio of one teacher to 10 students, qualifying programs would consist of at least one hour of homework help and one hour of enrichment activities each day, as well as a healthy meal.

The legislation also provides for a direct link between the SAIL Program and school-day learning activities by requiring communication among SAIL staff and teachers via existing computer-based student information systems.

Working partnerships with longstanding afterschool program providers would be encouraged under the legislation, allowing them to expand the reach of their services.

“After school programs have proven to strengthen student performance, particularly their ability to complete daily assignments in a way that truly helps them grasp the subject matter,” said Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle. “Not only do after school programs offer an environment conducive to learning, but they offer a support structure of educators and peers that together can build confidence and self-belief in our students.”

According to a 2014 parent survey conducted by the Afterschool Alliance, more than 26,000 Delaware students participate in afterschool programs. But, the survey also found that a total of 48,000 students would be likely to participate in an afterschool program if one was available.

“Quality after school programs are important for helping kids learn and grow, and for keeping kids away from people and places that might lead them down a bad path,” said Attorney General Matt Denn. “They show kids that people care about them and they help make neighborhoods and communities safer.”

Criminal justice research also supports bolstering afterschool programs. The hours from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. are routinely cited as the most dangerous time of day for youth and crime, representing the peak time when young people are likely to commit crimes or become victims of crime. An estimated 11 million youths in the United States are unsupervised afterschool each day.

“This legislation will provide much needed help to our schools for extra time assistance,” said Colonial School District Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey. “It will allow more students to receive afterschool help or provide time and resources for other activities that support student growth and students success.”

Initial funding for the SAIL Program grant fund is slated to be $10 million, subject to the appropriations process in the House and Senate. The legislation will be filed next week and will be assigned to the House Education Committee.

House Democrats Letter To Governor Markell To Remove Smarter Balanced For 11th Grade

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.

Two Delaware Newspapers Show The Rift In Education And In The House Democrat Caucus

Holy smokes!  Not sure which one I was more surprised to see, the one about Valerie Longhurst or the one about the General Fund Race To The Top 8!

Starting with Longhurst, The News Journal covered a “scathing email” situation Longhurst sent out to a University of Delaware Professor when the U of D employee questioned the General Assembly about raises given to certain employees at Legislative Hall.  The employee, Ms. Fran Fletcher, is well-known in Delaware as a mediator.  I have seen her at the HB90 Enrollment Preference Task Force and found her to be a very reasonable woman.  She is frequently called on by the Delaware Department of Education to mediate IEP meetings when parents and schools cannot agree on IEP issues.  If the allegations surrounding Longhurst’s response to Ms. Fletcher are true, that goes way beyond a constructive response to a constituent.  I would say it was filled with veiled threats to someone who dared question a legislator over a controversial issue.

Meanwhile, The Delaware State News jumped on the eight Race To The Top positions that I wrote about on Monday but they even had a quote from one of the employees who should have been cut but now seems to be working in the Executive Branch.  Shana Young said:

“While it does not have the authority to create new positions, the Department of Education, like all state agencies, has the authority to reclassify vacant positions,” Ms. Young said. “So, in the case of these eight positions, they were reclassified into existing vacancies in the department.”

It seems members of the Delaware Joint Finance Committee were not too happy about this news either based on the article.  I really thought the DOE would be raked over the coals by the General Assembly during their last legislative session.  Perhaps we should gear up for an even bigger fight this year!  But the bigger fight may go down with the House Dems!

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.