FOIA Complaint From Newark Legislators Puts University Of Delaware In The Hot Seat

Several Newark, Delaware legislators submitted a Freedom of Information Act to the Delaware Attorney General’s office last Spring.  The response to the complaint came out today.

State Representatives Paul Baumbach, John Kowalko, and Ed Osienski, and State Senators Karen Peterson, David Sokola and Bryan Townsend felt the University of Delaware violated FOIA with the posting of an agenda about a change to their bylaws.  The Attorney General’s response opined the Board of Trustees at the University did violate FOIA by not posting a specific resolution they would be voting on in the agenda.  The AG’s office stated even if the public had some knowledge of what could be happening it still falls on a public board to give notice of the proposed action item on an agenda.

As a result of the FOIA complaint, the University Board of Trustees will vote again on the bylaws at their December board meeting.  The AG opinion wants the board to have an open and public discussion surrounding this vote.

I have been hard on Sokola in the past, for what I believe are good reasons.  I wish he would demand the same transparency from charter schools.  Have you ever seen some of their board agendas?  I hardly ever see any action items on them even though they constantly vote on items.

Teacher Evaluation, Charter School Audits, & WEIC Extension Pass The General Assembly

It was a wild and crazy night-morning at Legislative Hall in Dover.  I can honestly say I have never bounced back between the Senate and the House as much as I did in the past six hours.  But some of my “must list” legislation passed.  Some with changes and some intact.

House Bill 399 passed but not without some amendments and an odd conversation about teachers and a comment Jack Markell made years ago in the Senate.  Senator Colin Bonini talked about how Governor Markell gave a speech on the Senate floor many years ago and told everyone only 19% of students in Delaware were college and career ready.  But yet our teachers were rated 99% effective.  He couldn’t grasp these facts.  He said he would support the bill.  But then Senator Dave Lawson spoke against the bill and said the system isn’t working.  The bill passed with 19 yes and 2 no votes.  The no votes were from Senators Lawson and Henry.  The amendments added on can be seen here and here.  Apparently, this was the only way it was going to pass.  In looking at the first amendment, they changed a lot and many teachers won’t be happy about those changes.  But this was the compromise reached.  Will Governor Markell sign the bill?  We shall see.  I did speak briefly with Secretary of Education Godowsky and asked him if he thought they were good amendments and he said yes.

After four previous bills, the Kumbaya compromise charter school audit bill, House Bill 435, passed the Senate in the wee hours of the morning.  It hadn’t been on the agenda for the Senate.  I emailed Senator Sokola, and it appeared on there a few minutes later.  It passed soon after.

And the WEIC redistricting plan.  I thought rigor mortis was setting in on this plan, but it rose from the ashes.  A crucial amendment by State Rep. Kim Williams which deleted some of the unnecessary language in Senate Bill #300 seemed to be what is going to keep that train chugging.  This is what happened: WEIC is still alive, and they will plan for another year.  The $7.5 million initially requested in the final recommendations has been appropriated for FY2018.  But I will get to more of that after a message from Tony Allen, the Chair of WEIC:

Delaware General Assembly Affirms the Commission’s Plan
Governor commits the “necessary and sufficient funds” for next year
Commission suspends timeline

Tonight, an older African American woman stopped me on the Senate Floor and said “if you believe in this, you keep fighting on.” We did!

As the 148th Delaware General Assembly legislative session ended, the House and Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 17, an interim affirmation of the Delaware State Board of Education’s approval of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan and Senate Bill 300, which clarifies the funding implications and supports further analysis by the Commission.

In a related action, Governor Markell committed to put no less than $7.5 million in his FY 2018 plan to support the Commission’s plan, specifically to begin to change the 70-year old student funding formula. In a letter to the Wilmington delegation, Markell said, “I am proud to have worked alongside you in these efforts and pleased to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of the funds necessary and sufficient to fund the first year of implementation of the proposals of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, specifically an amendment to the unit count that would carry additional support for low-income students, English Language Learners and students with special needs statewide.”

Earlier this morning, I noted that because the “necessary and sufficient” funding has not yet been provided that we will immediately call on the Commission to suspend the timetable for implementing its plan.

While I am disappointed with several aspects of this legislative season, SJR17 allows the Commission to fight another day. After 62 years of waiting, fight on we will. The Commission is wholly committed to reducing the fragmentation and dysfunction caused by 23 different school systems currently serving Wilmington children, less than 10% of Delaware’s student population. In addition, the Commission will continue to focus attention on the needs of low-income students, English language learners, and other students with special needs in Wilmington and throughout Delaware. That includes meeting the non-instructional needs of these students, engaging empowered parents in school reform, and changing the antiquated funding system for students and schools that has for many years created sustained inequities dating back to well before Brown v Board of Education (1954). I am grateful to the 22 other commissioners, the previous members of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, and the more than 10,000 community members who have been participating in this process.

I urge your continued resolve.

There are some key words in this, especially Markell saying “to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of funds…  That isn’t a guarantee that the next Governor will do the same or that the 149th General Assembly will either.  We don’t know what the state’s financial picture will be a year from now.  But for now, WEIC lives after most thought it was dead and buried.  I find it odd that Allen talks about how 23 different school systems serve Wilmington students but the WEIC plan would only reduce that to 22.  Granted, Christina has a lot of Wilmington students, but that is still a lot students going to other districts or charters.  I will see what this additional year of planning will produce.  But it looks like I am not done writing about WEIC despite what I wrote earlier today.   I talked to Rep. Charles Potter after the vote and he said this isn’t what he wanted, but it keeps WEIC alive and it is about the students.

Senate Bill 93 passed, one of two Autism bills introduced last year.  Senate Bill 92, however, was another victim of funding issues in the state.  An amendment was added to Senate Bill 93 in the House which got rid of the Senate Amendment that had the DOE getting involved.  The Autism community in Delaware felt that was an unwelcome presence.  Good for them!

It was a long second half of the 148th General Assembly.  House Bill 50 had two shots to override the Governor’s veto in the House of Representatives and it failed both times.  But I want to thank Rep. John Kowalko for trying and standing up for parents.  I respect and admire him for doing that.  Had the House ever been able to actually vote on the override, I believe it would have passed.  The fact that they were never able to get to that point shows the will of the Governor influencing certain members of the House in very inappropriate ways.  My other “dream legislation”, House Bill 30, which would have finally given students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade considered to be “basic special education” students, never received a full House vote despite coming out of the House Appropriations Committee weeks ago.  I know Rep. Kim Williams fought hard for that bill.  I still remember when she first told me about it a year and a half ago and I truly felt it was a no-brainer.  For both of those bills, the 149th General Assembly will tell the tale on opt out and special education funding.

I will write more over the next few days about all the bills that passed and those that are now dead.  In the meantime, Happy Fiscal New Year 2017!

The Next 55 Hours Will Determine WEIC, HB399, HB30, The Budget, The Bond Bill, & Possibly The Election Season

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…

New Delaware Charter School Audit Bill Unanimously Passes In The House!!!!!!

House Bill 435 passed the Delaware House of Representatives today with not a single no vote.  This is in sharp contrast to last year when the majority of the House Republicans voted no on the former charter audit bill, House Bill 186.  With 39 yes votes and two absent, HB 435 will now head to the Senate.  Whether it is placed in the Senate Education Committee or the Senate Executive Committee remains to be seen.  Since the Senate Education Committee won’t be meeting again between now and the end of the 148th General Assembly on June 30th, a suspension of rules would have to be used for a full Senate vote if it is placed in that committee.  I reported earlier today the WEIC bills passed by the House were sent to the Senate Executive Committee instead of the Senate Education Committee for this very reason.

Congrats to State Rep Kim Williams and State Senator David Sokola for coming together and working on this new bill!

Markell Gives Chapman Her Entrance Into The Delaware Senate As He Pits Sokola Against Jaques

So much for sticking up for your own party Jack Markell!  Delaware Governor Jack Markell not only found a way to kiss the rings of his Ponzi education reformer buddies, but also caused a rift between State Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques, made sure Meredith Chapman will become the next Senator of the 8th District, continued his favorite hobby of screwing over Delaware teachers, and proved he is the worst education Governor in Delaware history.  Congrats Jack! You have cemented your legacy with this bonehead move!

So what did Jack do now? Continue reading

Sokola Puts Forth Legislation To Continue The “Dear Hillary” Agenda

I knew there would be some very big education legislation coming up in the final weeks of Delaware’s legislative session.  And here we go!  Senator David Sokola introduced Senate Bill 277 today which deals with the Pathways to Prosperity program.  This legislation would make it a permanent fixture in our schools, would create a permanent steering committee, and create a Pathways to Prosperity leadership team.  Once again, parents have been shut out of being on this committee.  I guess our voices no longer mean anything, right Dave?  God forbid a parent might just have something important to lend.  I’ll bet it isn’t even an afterthought when he writes these bills.

I don’t have anything against programs designed to help future graduates obtain jobs should they not pursue a higher education.  But to actively promote this option in high school will cause long-term damage to the economic advantages we have as a state and a country.  I believe that is what people like Governor Markell and Sokola want.  I refer to the “Dear Hillary” letter written by the architect of Common Core, Marc Tucker, to Hillary Clinton shortly after Bill Clinton became President.  It is the blueprint for all that has gone down in education since.  For those who wonder why I will not vote for Hillary, there is far too much proof she not only backs this agenda but is also a proud supporter.  I see the same circle of vultures circling Hillary’s wagon waiting for their big chance.  So much legislation, plans, and task forces assume Hillary will be the next President and the timetable on so much of this stuff is written with a President Hillary in mind.  Do not mistake this as coincidence.  It is far too important for the future well-being of our country and the generations to come.  This cradle to grave mindset with the people of America is not a good thing.  If the government doesn’t want people to think for themselves, why don’t they just come out and say “We are communist now”.  Instead they do the long con thing with crap like this.

When I see legislation like Senate Bill 277 come across my screen, I shudder.  It is all falling into place.  And when I see Senator Brian Pettyjohn on this as well, I have to wonder.  Bi-partisan support for a bill like this scares the crap out of me.  It isn’t even about political parties anymore folks, it’s about the agenda.  Bills like this make splashy headlines and make us think we are looking out for the kids.  The reality is the ultimate smokescreen, the tracking and decreased effort to make our kids the best they can be.  Just last week Markell tweeted about how kids don’t really have to go to a four-year college to be successful.  He may be right, but chances are much better their lives will be better in the long run if they are about to go a four-year college versus a two-year community college.  But schools like Del-Tech are huge supporters of initiatives like these.  They are banking on it!  Why else would we see legislation honoring their leader months after he got the position show up last week?  It is all glorified ass-kissing, done in such a way that nobody will know.  The “Delaware Promise” is great for those who profit off it.  But for every day people like you and I?  Forget about it.  So why do we keep electing these knuckleheads who introduce legislation just to make themselves look great?

Sokola is winning brownie points by giving the teachers what they want with the Component V bill, which is part of their evaluations.  But don’t forget who wrote the original bill which put the bad stuff into place in the first place.  Hello Senate Bill 51!  All eyes will be on that and the Wilmington redistricting bills while legislation like this gets passed very quietly and smoothly.  Unless someone writes about it first.  I oppose this bill for all the reasons I’ve written.  I’m not shocked Sokola is introducing this bill today.  But I do hope Meredith Chapman kicks his Markell-loving ass next November!  And Paul Baumbach is not impressing me at all lately.  I know he is a darling with the Newark crew, but this is all politics!  The Delaware Dems need to watch out if they want to retain their power in the General Assembly next year.  They are due for a monstrous shift in power.  I wouldn’t necessarily assume they will all get to keep their window seats next year!

How To Screw Over The Delaware DOE In One Fell Swoop

Hell froze over!  A bill currently in circulation for sponsorship would give Delaware teachers a choice if they want the state assessment in their annual evaluation.  As well, it gives all components equal measurements.  This revelation came about yesterday at the DPAS-II Advisory Committee when State Rep. Earl Jaques whipped it out and showed the committee.  This is big folks!  Of course, a certain former Delaware DOE employee isn’t too happy about it but that’s what happens when you leave a “company”.  They dismantle all your work and try something else.  I’m sure we will hear more whining about this bill in the coming weeks from those who profited immensely from how DPAS-II is currently.

Teachers in Delaware will breathe a collective sigh of relief over this one if it passes.  Which is great for the teachers.  But this isn’t the best for students.  It still leaves the state assessment, Smarter Balanced, in play.  If teachers can have the option for it not counting, how about students?  If teachers can opt in, why not students?  Until then, I hope the students’ parents opt out!

I imagine the sponsors on this bill are looking ahead to November at this point.  Their prior history of courting favor with Governor Markell will cost them votes unless they take some radical action now.  The Markell education foundation is starting to crack and crumble.

This draft legislation was found at the blog linked above.  Along with a lot of crying and complaining.  Boo-friggin’-hoo!

 

Kilroy’s Legacy On Senate Agenda Today For Full Senate Vote

House Bill 61, the school board audio recording legislation, is up for a full Delaware Senate vote today.  This bill has a long history in the Delaware General Assembly.  Many districts and the State Board of Education already record their board meetings and put them up on their website.  This bill would make so they all have to, including charters and vo-techs.

HB61SenateAgenda

In the 147th General Assembly, it was House Bill 23.  It was released from the House Education Committee but never progressed from there.  State Rep. Deb Hudson reintroduced the bill last year as House Bill 61.  It cleared the House Education Committee last year and passed the House this year.  A little over a month ago it was released from the Senate Education Committee.  The Chair of the Senate Education Committee is the legislator that puts it on the agenda for the Senate, which would be Senator David Sokola.  Finally, after many years, Kilroy’s dream is about to come true.  Others fought for this as well, but Kilroy was the one really pushing it.  If the Senate passes this (and I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t), it goes to Governor Markell for signature and then it would be the law of the land.

Never underestimate what hard work and perseverance can accomplish.  Don’t give up, even when you think all is lost.

Delaware State Senator David Sokola Faces Competition From Republican Meredith Chapman In 2016 Election

For over a year now, many people in Delaware have felt State Senator David Sokola has served for far too long in the Delaware Senate.  Today, a Republican named Meredith Chapman publicly announced she is running for State Senate in District 8.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Chapman’s resume includes the following summary of her credentials:

Award-winning, nationally-recognized digital strategist, educator, communicator and former journalist, known as @MediaMeredith. Highly motivated and polished public relations manager with expertise in higher education, public affairs, government and politics, community outreach, crisis management, multimedia and strategy development as well as relationship cultivation. Innate leader with successful track record in management, organizational development, and strategy creation and execution. More than 10 years experience with and in the Delaware news scene with work on national and global levels. Proven skills in strategic communications, project management, program development, leadership and high-profile outreach and event management.

She is the current Director for Digital Communications at the University of Delaware.  This could get very interesting.  What do you think?  Is it time for new blood in the 8th Senate District in Delaware?  I will flat-out say I believe Senator Sokola has not used his position as Chair of the Senate Education Committee without bias towards certain agendas in Delaware.  A fervent charter school and standardized testing supporter, Sokola has been a lightning rod of controversy for some time.

MeredithChapman

 

Publius, otherwise known as Henry Clampitt…

For years, the online denizens of Kilroy’s Delaware have been subjected to the very pro corporate education reform rants of Publius, aka Henry Clampitt.  Clampitt served on the Board of Directors for the Charter School of Wilmington for many years until he “resigned” with no explanation given to the public whatsoever.  The CSW Board is usually very tight and tends to have many of the same folks on the board for years at a time.

Clampitt also serves on the Legislative Advisory Committee for the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  Clampitt has been in this role since some point last year.  Clampitt is very “pro-choice” when it comes to a parent’s ability to choose what school their child attends.  I believe this to be admirable, however, given his inability to fully understand how certain charter schools enrollment preferences have adversely affected segregation and discrimination in the Wilmington, DE area, it is an advocacy based on wrong intentions.  Having served on the Delaware Enrollment Preferences Task Force, Clampitt firmly believed in placement tests prior to admission at schools like CSW.

Clampitt and I have gone toe to toe on Kilroy’s Delaware going on two years now.  He is vicious in his attack methods, going so far as to make fun of people’s physical features while hiding behind his online moniker.

A few months ago, someone opened a Twitter account under the name of Henry Clampitt with a twitter handle of @publiusedecere, which is also his name on Kilroy’s Delaware.  Nobody knows who posted this Twitter account, but it disappeared within 24 hours.  For many, it is no secret who Publius really is.

ClampittPublius

When this Twitter account opened, it was in the middle of a major battle between two bills pending in the Delaware General Assembly concerning charter school audits.  On one side was State Rep. Kim Williams and the other was Senator David Sokola.  Williams’ bill passed the House last year.  Sokola introduced his bill in January.  Many felt (which I agree with) that Sokola’s bill weakened Williams’ bill.  At the Senate Education Committee meeting on Sokola’s bill, Williams and Kathleen Davies from the State Auditor’s office faced off against Sokola, Clampitt, and Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  Neither bill has gone up for a vote in the Senate since that meeting.

Clampitt attacked Rep. Williams in his “anonymous” blog comments on Kilroy’s Delaware.  If I were a guessing man, I would say Clampitt finally pushed someone over the edge which resulted in this fake Twitter account days later.  Many people sent me the link to this Twitter account.  I was shocked that someone went to that level of creativity to out Clampitt, but I wasn’t surprised.

As our little war has progressed over on Kilroy’s, Clampitt has recently started an online campaign to attack me whenever he gets a chance.  If nothing is even discussed in one of Kilroy’s article, as seen recently with some of his posts about Donald Trump, Clampitt will come out of nowhere in his vain attempts to demean me.  This is why I feel some perspective is needed for those reading Kilroy’s Delaware.  Clampitt has made this personal because he seems to be out to “get me”.  I don’t mind anonymous commenters unless you cross that line too many times.  I’ve written about Publius and Clampitt on here, but never together.  Kilroy has done the same.

Many have felt Clampitt, based on his comments, did himself in with the board at CSW.  Others, including myself, feel he can be very racist or discriminatory in his attempts to win an argument.  Many are just plain disgusted with his online antics.  Words such as “cocky” and “arrogant” are the labels I hear the most when others speak about Publius/Clampitt.

It has been highly rumored that he will attempt a run for the Red Clay Consolidated School Board next year, and will run against President Kenny Rivera.  This is something many in the Wilmington community seem to be dead against.  I’ve seen Clampitt a couple times.  Once at an Enrollment Preference Task Force meeting, and the other at a Red Clay board meeting.  When surrounded by his buddies in the charter community, Clampitt can tend to be very vocal.  But at Red Clay, he is very quiet and reserved.

Clampitt seems to be offended by anyone who disagrees with him.  He seems to have a particular hate for myself and Christina board member John Young.  He is also a fierce believer in standardized testing.  When asked about this, he states the same mantra all who support high-stakes testing: “We need to close the achievement gap.”  The very same achievement gap that has widened even further as a result of tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He believes opt out is wrong and opposes it on every single level.  He takes cheap shot at concerned parents who don’t believe a standardized test is a good measure of academic ability.

Together with his online supporters on Kilroy’s, he has turned what used to be a good place to have earnest discussions about education into a place where many are so offended they don’t come back anymore.  I refuse to leave Kilroy’s “kitchen table” because of a cyber bully.  But I will not continue to be mocked by a man who has so many inherent conflicts of interest.  If this means I am no longer invited to Kilroy’s, so be it.  But I am a firm believer in defending myself when attacked as voraciously as Publius has done.  Last summer, he went way over the line when he attacked my son’s disability.  I wanted to write this then, but I held back.  But as the attacks intensified the past couple months, I felt it was time to take a stand.  If he wants to continue to be a coward thinking he is protected by hiding behind his oh-so-original blog commenter handle over on Kilroy’s, that is his prerogative.  But in the real world, we all know who you are.

It is time to put a face to the name of Publius…

HankClampitt

Look For Late Night Deals On Education Legislation At Legislative Hall On June 30th

As predicted, the final hours of the Delaware 148th General Assembly are going to be a hotbed of activity.  It will be Governor Markell’s last chance to get the legislation HE wants passed while he is still Governor.  For the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee, no date has been scheduled for their next meeting.  The final report is due 6/30/16.  And just now, the Delaware Senate passed Senate Concurrent Resolution #56.  This concurrent resolution which will most likely get passed by the Delaware House of Representatives today, extends the due date for the final report of the Education Funding Task Force.  This group was formed from Senate Joint Resolution #4 last year.

SCR56

These are the kinds of shenanigans where transparency goes out the window.  Rules are suspended so bills aren’t heard in committee and bills fly in and out of Legislative Hall on the last day of session.  The Governor will sign them because he is the one calling all the shots.  And on so many of these kinds of bills, we see the same names: Sokola and Jaques.  The education bullies of the state.  The ones who treat the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education like they are the royalty of Delaware.  The ones who treat parents and their rights as if they are a fly to swat away.  The ones who take good education bills and make mincemeat of them (or try).  Enough.  Someone run against these two education thugs.  Please!  If I were a betting man, I would say the results of these two committees are a foregone conclusion and the legislation that will come out of them was written a long time ago.  They just want to ram it through in the wee hours of June 30th, possibly into July 1st.  When everyone will be going nuts over the budget, Markell will take advantage of this and get his usual legislative accomplices to do his work.  WAKE UP DELAWARE!

Governor Markell Gives Godowsky Authority To Replace SBAC With SAT Without General Assembly Approval Or An Executive Order

It took a lot of work for the General Assembly to implement the Smarter Balanced Assessment into Delaware State Code.  Now Governor Markell has granted Secretary of Education Godowsky the authority to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment from the lives of high school juniors and replace it with the SAT.  Here’s the problem, the SAT is not considered to be a state assessment as defined in Delaware law.  Funding for the SAT to be provided to all Delaware students was part of a Race To The Top grant, and now that funding is gone.  Is Delaware going to pick up the cost for this?  As well, Markell did not issue an executive order to make this happen.  Are we now entering a stage in Delaware where the Governor can do whatever he wants as long as ten members of his own party write a letter to him?

This is clearly Markell’s strategy to once again thwart those who support the opt-out movement.  And he is doing this while at the same time spitting in the face of the General Assembly.  With the override of his House Bill 50 veto possibly coming up as early as January 14th, Markell is not pulling any punches to fight this.  I really hope the legislators who side with him on this issue think long and hard about his circumvention of the legislative process when it comes to Delaware education.  This is just another in a long series of moves the Governor made in the last eight years to make his corporate friends happy.

From the DOE press release:

SAT to replace Smarter in 11th grade

The SAT will replace the Smarter Assessment as the state test for high school juniors beginning this spring.

The change comes at the request of legislators and as the state continues to look for ways to reduce testing, particularly for 11th graders who already were taking both exams as part of Delaware’s state-funded School Day SAT program.

The College Board, the nonprofit that administers the college entrance exam, is launching a redesigned SAT this spring that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, the academic expectations for what Delaware students should know and be able to do at the completion of each grade level. The changes to the SAT also include a move away from obscure “SAT vocabulary words” to the use of relevant vocabulary words in context, an in-depth focus on essential areas of math and the elimination of the guessing penalty.

“Our students deserve an exam that helps them gauge their college and career readiness, and our teachers deserve an exam that provides them with the information they need to guide their instruction. This is one example of how we are reducing the testing burden on our students and teachers,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “This is a smart solution that ensures our educators, students and families get the information they need while mitigating the over-testing concern many share.

The state will continue to administer the Smarter Assessment in grades 3 to 8.

Delaware has been administering a school-day SAT to all public school juniors at no cost to students since 2011. Godowsky said making the transition to use the SAT as the accountability test this year is based on the feedback of elected leaders, educators and families. Last week, 10 legislators sent a letter to Gov. Jack Markell asking to replace the 11th grade Smarter exam with the SAT.

“Our community was clear that this was in the best interest of our high school juniors and the sooner we could make the switch the better,” Godowsky said. “This decision is in response to that feedback.”

Gov. Jack Markell, who launched a statewide assessment inventory process last spring, said, “We believe that the concerns about the testing burden on our juniors are well founded.  We also agree that this move is a smart, commonsense way to reduce the testing burden significantly without sacrificing our ability to understand whether we are serving our students well and whether they are making the progress they need to be successful.  I have asked Secretary Godowsky to immediately designate the SAT as our 11th grade assessment and take all necessary steps to implement the change so that, beginning this year, juniors will no longer take Smarter Balanced.  The department will seek federal approval for this change in our state assessment as quickly as possible and otherwise ensure that the transition goes smoothly in schools across the state.”

Under Delaware’s former state test, the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS), 9th and 10th graders were tested. When the state moved to Smarter in Spring 2015, 11th grade became the singular testing year for high school. But many said that proved overwhelming for juniors, who also take Advanced Placement exams, the SAT, SAT subject tests, the ACT and other tests during their 11th grade year.

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Vicki Gehrt, president of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association, said superintendents in the state are in support of substituting the SAT in lieu of the Smarter Assessment as the required assessment for high school students.  This shift both gives teachers more time to provide necessary instruction and eases the load on our high school students with respect to the annual assessments they already must take.

State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray said students and families value the SAT.

“The redesigned SAT provides important information students, parents and educators want and need to understand students’ college, career and civic readiness. For that reason, it is already valued by parents and students.  In addition, by using this test as the high school assessment for English language arts and math, we will reduce the amount of required testing and costs to the state,” Gray said.

Last spring, the General Assembly passed and Governor Markell signed into law Senate Joint Resolution 2, requiring an inventory and review of all assessments currently administered at the state, district and school level “with the goal of decreasing the testing burden on students and teachers and increasing time available for teaching.”

This work continues. Districts and charter schools, which were eligible for supporting state grants, submitted their assessment inventories, recommendations, and impact information to the state at the end of December. The department has convened an assessment inventory committee with representatives from the House and Senate education committees, Delaware State Education Association, state superintendents, civil rights community and parents to make recommendations. The state’s final report must be published by June 2016.

Sen. David Sokola, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Rep. Earl Jaques, chair of the House Education Committee, lauded today’s announcement.

“This is the kind of change legislators were seeking when we approved SJR 2 to create a task force to fully review our student testing,” Sokola said. “This is a good first step toward removing burdens on our students and increasing instruction time for teachers, while also providing them with the important metrics needed to gauge student progress.”

Jaques agreed, “This decision eliminates duplicative testing and reduces over-testing while helping to ease student stress and parental concerns.”

The department has posted information and will continue updating its website with information, including resources for districts/charters and the public, regularly. Educators or families with questions may email assessment@doe.k12.de.us or call (302) 857-3391.

As students prepare for the spring SAT, they also have some extra help this year. A partnership with Khan Academy and the College Board offers personalized SAT preparation based on students’ PSAT results. Delaware also provides the PSAT free to all public school 10th graders.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

Denn and Sokola School The DOE On Horrible New Teacher Regulation

…it should not eviscerate a tool that was instructed by law to create for the purpose of monitoring and maintaining an important teacher recruitment program.

And the hits keep coming!  In the latest round of “great and awesome regulation comment letters”, this one comes from Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn and Delaware State Senator David Sokola.  This is in regards to Regulation 775, which proposes to amend the state code on new teacher hiring date collection to align with the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Unit at the DOE’s annual report.  Denn and Sokola BLAST the Delaware DOE over this regulation!  Good job DOE!  Keep ticking off Sokola!  I hope he is beginning to see the light at the end of the DOE tunnel like the rest of Delaware has!

Yeah, let’s take something that works and has no problems and turn it upside down so we can align with the maligned Delaware Department of Education!!!  And the actual proposed regulation…

Delaware Education Legislation That Should Have Passed In The 148th General Assembly

I wrote earlier today about education legislation that passed the other day and went to Governor Markell for signature, veto, or no action.  To date, Governor Markell has never vetoed any education bill that has come before him.  But some legislation never gets there.  The following are bills that had tremendous merit, but for various reasons either never got heard in committee, were never voted on, never went to the other side (House or Senate), or were stricken.  Others are bills I’m going to label as very controversial and have danger flags all over them.  I’m not going to list them all, but the most important ones.

House Bill #28 Status: House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: Absent an agreement with the school district, charter schools are currently able to retain any funding received for the fiscal year for a student who transfers mid-year from the charter school to a school district. This bill mandates that, if a student transfers from a charter school to a school district after September 30th, such funds will be prorated between the charter school and the school district where the student is then enrolled.  

What Happened: This is the first of the many Kim Williams education bills she introduced this year.  While she has quite a few on this list, a lot of her bills passed.  She really took off, right from the very beginning of this year’s session, to get education bills out there to correct a lot of the injustices set up in the budget and with the way the DOE runs things.  Unfortunately, with the heavy-handed pro-education reform Governor Markell and his minions at the DOE, along with Rep. Earl Jaques as head of the education committee, bills like this are hard to be heard along with the stiff lobbying from the Delaware Charter Schools Network.

Prediction: State Auditor reports come out showing more charter financial mismanagement, the state desperately looking for any available funds for the budget, and Jaques either stripped of chairmanship power on the education committee or knocked down a peg or two from Schwartzkopf in the coming days of elections, and this one will pass.  The charter party in Delaware is going to get crashed, and it will change the entire landscape they are used to living in.  It wouldn’t shock me if amendment were added stripping charters from their transportation slush fund where they get to keep their excess funds from their transportation budget.  It will get strong opposition from the Republicans, but even some of them will realize the public will remember that come vote time!

House Bill #30 Status: sent to Appropriations Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.

What Happened: The budget.  This bill has a $7.5 million fiscal note.  The sad part is these students should have always been provided this funding from the get-go.  Unfortunately, this bill will be one of those that will rise or fall based on the budget next year.

Prediction: The IEP Task Force will reconvene, and in conjunction with House Bill 117, the Wilmington redistricting push, and the Senate Resolution group looking at funding, as well as IMMENSE pressure from this blog, it could pass.  Special education is about to become a huge topic in Delaware, bigger than at any time before.  Trust me on this!

House Bill #34 Status: sent to Senate Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, synopsis: This bill will allow a local school district board to delay new or changed rules, regulations, or administrative procedures from becoming effective during a school year once the school year has started. This will allow the rules, regulations, and procedures to be consistent for the whole school year.

What Happened: this bill, which I loved when it was introduced back in January, just passed the House on the last day of session.  It is a good solid bill which will prevent the DOE from sneaking in regulations during the summer forcing schools to submit to them without any guidance or support once they come back in August.

Prediction: It will pass the Senate, but not right away.  Spiegelman, as a young Republican in the House, wants to show some muscle.  In the Democrat controlled House and Senate, this can be dangerous.  They will not give him what he wants all the time, but they will give him lots of carrots.

House Bill #52 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: Under current educational standards, cursive writing is no longer required to be taught to our students, and many schools have abandoned teaching it to their students. As cursive writing is still an imperative skill in many professions, this bill will make the teaching of cursive writing a requirement for all public schools in Delaware.

What happened: not a lot.  It was released from the education committee.  It had so-so public support, but not a lot.  Both sides had pros and cons on the issue.

Prediction: If the House has a really slow day and Schwartzkopf is in a good mood, it might get to a vote.  I wouldn’t bet on it though.

House Bill #61 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes.
Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites.
The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.

What Happened: Pete Schwartzkopf.  I’m guessing the Speaker of the House really hate this bill, cause this is the third year in a row it came out of committee and sat on the ready list.  Also known as the Kilroy’s bill, the charters have fought against it by crying over the “expenses”, but it really isn’t an expensive venture.

Prediction: This will depend on charter school behavior between now and next year.  If the State Auditor finds more bad financial behavior, this could cause Schwartzokpf to finally put it to a vote.  I think it will pass with strong Democrat support, but like House Bill 186, the Republicans will shoot it down because of their strange obsession with charters.  It will pass under this circumstance.  And we can’t forget the Kilroy effect on this bill.  He is very pissed about the treatment of this bill.  He could drum up a lot of public support for this bill, and I will be happy to help him.

House Bill #107 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill articulates the principle that local school districts and school boards should have the authority to select their own leaders and staff from a pool of qualified applicants. These are decisions best left at the local level rather than imposed by a central authority.

What happened: This bill was a reaction to the DOE and Markell’s priority schools initiative, where six schools were told by the DOE they will get new leaders because of their bad standardized test scores.  The whole priority school controversy died down quick after the WEAC recommendations, but they are still out there.  Red Clay negotiated against the new leaders and won.  Christina is up in the air due to the whole redistricting legislation, Senate Bill #122.

Prediction: This won’t go anywhere, unless the DOE pulls a priority schools sneak attack in the fall causing the dormant issue to rise again.  Then this bill has a fighting change.

House Bill #108 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill requires that the General Assembly approve any ESEA Flexibility waiver prior to its submission to the U.S. Department of Education.

What happened: Too many bills like this, designed to give the General Assembly more control over the out of control DOE.  With the House Education Committee led by the very-friendly-with-DOE-and-probably-too-much Rep. Earl Jaques, it was never put on the agenda.

Prediction: It will depend on Jaques retaining his chair on the committee.  With numerous issues over House Bill 50 and House Bill 186, it would not shock me if Jaques had a conversation with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf.  This will also depend on DOE behavior regarding their current ESEA waiver application and next year’s as well.  Another curve ball could come in the form of ESEA reauthorization at a Federal level which would render this bill meaningless if waivers are done away with.

House Bill #117 Status: assigned to House Appropriations committee,  Sponsor: Rep. Deb Heffernan, synopsis: This Act will create a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income according to the Department of Education. This funding source will be in addition to the normal enrollment based funding provided to school districts and charter schools. The low-income unit will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12 where the funding can be used for such purposes as providing additional teachers and paraprofessionals for classroom instruction; additional counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and intervention specialists; Response to Intervention Services; and before and after school programs providing homework assistance, and for support for English language learners. To ensure the low-income resources reach the schools where they are most needed, this Act requires that at least 98% of the units be directed towards the schools that generate the funding unless otherwise waived by a local board of education during a public meeting. 

What Happened: The budget.  Another bill with a fiscal note during very tight budget negotiations.  With the already passed Senate Resolution to look at funding in schools, and the strong push from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, this bill will be on a fast track in 2016.

Prediction: How much money will we have?  They are already projecting a $160 million deficit in Delaware next year.  Unless revenue starts pouring in, this bill could die on the fiscal vine.

House Bill #161 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE ESTABLISHING THE PARENT EMPOWERMENT EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT ACT.

What happened: This one was dead on arrival.  The whole idea of vouchers, which is exactly what these are, is a Republican idea.  In Dover, the Democrats rule and have for many years.  Democrats, the DSEA, and even Governor Markell are dead set against any type of voucher plan.

Prediction: if this even makes it to the House Education Committee, it will be shot down very fast.  And with states like Nevada ruling voucher programs unconstitutional, and Colorado giving a state ruling against them, any potential support for vouchers will quickly fade.  With the upcoming election year, the very thought of vouchers will be brought up by many Republicans, but it is a toxic subject opposed by many.  If you want to see how a voucher system can bring an entire country’s education system to it’s knees, just look at Sweden.

House Bill 173 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsors: Rep. Richard Collins and Senator Greg Lavelle, synopsis: The Department of Education often implements policies and educational requirements based upon directives issued by the United States Department of Education. This Bill will require that any directive received by the Department of Education from the Federal Government be automatically disclosed on the Department of Education website without the necessity for making a Freedom of Information Request. 

What Happened: Nothing.  It was introduced on 6/10/15, late in the session, by two Republicans.  However, given the shenanigans with the DOE and the many issues legislators conveyed with the DOE this year, this should have been a no-brainer.

Prediction: Up in the air.  There are other bills like this, demanding more transparency and stringent rules for the DOE and State Board.  Can all of them get passed?  It will really depend on how the DOE, Secretary Murphy, and the State Board “play” in the next year.  But this would lend transparency to the DOE, and I can see them wanting this to give the illusion…

House Bill 186 Status: Passed by House of Representatives, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis of bill: Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.

What happened: In four words, Delaware Charter Schools Network.  They openly lobbied against the bill, even setting up an email your legislator campaign on their website which several charter schools reached out to parents about.  Meanwhile, charter schools from Dover to Wilmington had allegations and reports coming out regarding financial abuse by school leaders.  This bill rolled the previous Williams sponsored House Bills #53 and 154 into one.

Prediction: more reports will come out from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office regarding other charter schools under investigation.  DCSN will lobby even harder, but transparency and financial controls will rule the day. Once again, the charter party is coming to an end in 2016. Remember this.  I’m not saying they will disappear, far from it.  But they will be held to higher financial and organizational standards.

Senate Bill #72 Status: on ready list for Senate, Sponsor: Senator Bryan Townsend, synopsis: This bill increases the teaching and administrative experience qualifications for the Secretary of Education from 5 years to 10 years. The Bill also clarifies that at least 6 years must be of teaching experience and at least 2 years must be of administrative experience. 

What Happened: This bill came out around the same time the Delaware State Educators Association and their local organizations in Christina and Red Clay publicly denounced Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with their vote of no confidence.  It immediately became a must-read article for newspapers and bloggers.  Shortly thereafter, the Delaware Association of School Administrators issued the same decree.

Prediction: This one is tough.  While there is certainly not a lot of love for Murphy in Legislative Hall (and in much of Delaware), he does have some things going for him.  This past Monday it was announced he was joining the board of the Council for Chief State School Officers.  This give him even more federal protection under US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s gaze.  Rep. Earl Jaques is the DOE’s House boy, so he may not put it on the agenda for the education committee.  As well, he is the perfect patsy for Governor Markell who runs the show.  Murphy does not bend for anyone if it contradicts one of Markell’s education policies.  While I think this is the funniest bill out there, it could set up an even worse situation if it passes.  Imagine a Secretary with the same  mindset as Murphy but more qualified.  Someone with charisma and public appeal.  That could be more dangerous than Murphy could ever be.  Unless Murphy does something colossally stupid over the next year, he isn’t going anywhere.  No matter what passes, Markell will never sign this bill.

Senate Bills #92 & 93 Status: on ready list for Senate vote, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose-Henry, synopsis for SB92: Delaware Code Title 14§1332 addresses the Program for Children with Autism and its “Special Staff.” Enacted nearly three decades ago, these regulations established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. In addition, the code designates a Statewide Director who primarily has provided direction, training, and technical assistance within the DAP. However, current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education and parents’ desire to have their children educated within their local communities, seem to be incongruent with this older model of service delivery. In addition, the magnitude of the increase in students identified with ASD has clearly created difficulty for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services/support that once was offered.
Therefore, the recommended code changes also revise the concept of DAP toward a system in which the Statewide Director would work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. This recommendation reconstitutes the regulations to neutralize the distinction between DAP approved programs and other in-district options, thereby, allowing and providing adequate resources to serve on behalf of all student with ASD in Delaware. The number of technical/ training experts has been identified as one expert per 100 students statewide. It is suggested that the fiscal mechanism to support these changes should be through mandated district participation that is congruent with the current needs based funding system in Delaware. Lastly, the current mandatory committee structure is enhanced to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review board.
These changes include articulation of the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director for Students with ASD; the addition of a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions); and the further clarification / additions to the committee structure for family input, monitoring, and protections under human rights. This recommendation recognizes and supports the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes essentially expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students within them.
, synopsis for SB93: This bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism.  Among other things, the Interagency Committee on Autism is charged with a) utilizing evidence-based practices and programs to improve outcomes for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in Delaware by sharing information, initiatives, data and communications among both public and private agencies providing services and supports for individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in the State of Delaware; and b) implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2013 Delaware Strategic Plan entitled “Blueprint for Collective Action: Final Report of the Delaware Strategic Plan to Improve Services and Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism is to provide a resource for training and technical assistance for Delaware state agencies, organizations and other private entities operating in the State of Delaware that provide services and support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The Network is to support the operations of the Interagency Committee on Autism through the maintenance of the website, maintenance of reports created by the Interagency Committee on Autism and maintenance of meeting minutes, as well as other support as needed by the Interagency Committee on Autism.

What Happened: The budget.  This is one of those crucial bills dealing with a fast-rising population of children and adults with Autism.  This bill will cost a lot of money.   With the budget issues at the end of the session, there was no way this was going to get to a vote.

Prediction: If you thought the opt-out parents were vocal, the General Assembly may want to prepare for these parents.  The Delaware Autism Program is running out of money.  States are obligated under Federal law to provide services.  Cuts will have to be made in the budget to make room for this.  Taxes will increase after the 148th General Assembly closes shop, this is a given.  These bills have to pass.  This is one of the biggest health issues of the future, and if we don’t get control over it now, it will jeopardize thousands and thousands of children and adults with Autism.  If you think we spend a lot of money on residential treatment centers now, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the future. Anyone who votes no on this bill will instantly be seen as the state pariah and will be voted out of office. This bill will pass, but the cost will be enormous, and sacrifices will need to be made.

Senate Bill #137 Status: on Senate ready list, Sponsore: Senator Harris McDowell, synopsis: Delaware’s Community College System plays a critical role in the State’s economy by providing workforce development and transfer education that connects Delawareans with good paying jobs within the State and region. This Act gives the College’s Board of Trustees the authority to issue bonds to finance the cost of major and minor capital improvements, deferred maintenance, and the acquisition of related equipment and educational technology associated therewith and establishes the Community College Infrastructure Fund to pay the principal and interest on such bonds. This Act adopts the county vo-tech structure to finance the Fund by authorizing the College’s Board of Trustees to collect a local property tax subject to a cap.

What Happened: it didn’t get heard by the Senate Education Committee until the last week of committee meetings.  Too many other bills demanding to get a vote, got lost in the shuffle.

Prediction: this is one of those what I like to call “sneaky bills” where it gets passed, and all of a sudden citizens start wondering “Why did my taxes go up and I’m paying for community colleges?”  If this passed by June 30th, it wouldn’t have survived the House.  But in 2016, anything can happen with the budget.  This could either get a lot of support or it will die quickly.

Senate Bill #161 Status: Senate Education Committee, sponsor: Senator Gerald Hocker, synopsis: This Act requires public schools to begin their school year after Labor Day. There have been many economic impact reports done that show a positive impact from starting public schools after Labor Day. A report by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association estimates that $369 million would be lost if schools were not required to start after Labor Day. This includes $104 million in wages and $21 million in state and local taxes. Maryland is considering similar legislation. A study of Maryland found that pushing the start of school back would generate $74.3 million in economic activity and $7.7 million in new state and local tax revenue.

What Happened: Introduced on the second to last day of the session, this bill was destined to go nowhere by June 30th.

Prediction: This is another one of those downstate bills that aren’t popular in Newcastle and Kent.  This one goes nowhere.  Even if it saved the state money, the effect wouldn’t be seen to balance the budget by 6/30/16.

A lot of these bills will depend on the budget.  This is the reality.

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.

Delaware Parents: You Don’t Need House Bill 50 To Opt-Out

After watching the absolute degrading way some Delaware legislators handled House Bill 50, I find myself no longer caring if this bill passes or not.  With no disrespect to State Rep. Kowalko, Senator Lawson, and the many legislators who supported this bill, but it has become so watered down it is now a joke.  To the parents of Delaware: you have never needed this legislation to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The bill, as originally written, was always meant to stop the bullying and intimidation going on in our schools.  Yes, it codified a parents right to opt-out, but even more important, it offered protection.  This is what Senator Sokola, State Rep. Jaques, the DOE, Rodel, Governor Markell and all the opposition feared the most.

They don’t want schools to NOT be held accountable.  They don’t want teachers to NOT have their evaluations become skewed due to opt-out.  But most of all, they don’t want their data to become tarnished.  Opt-out does that, in spades.  Seeing the opposition in action has absolutely sickened me to my stomach.  These are people who do not give one iota of a crap about parents.  They are in it for themselves: for power, for an imagined standing with God knows what, for money, and for opportunity.  We all know who they are, and if I haven’t made that abundantly clear in the past year, then I will again and again, one by one.

What I can no longer do is keep going to meeting after meeting, watching vote after vote, and keep seeing a mockery made of parents and students.  Politics in Delaware is frightening.  The side deals, the messages scurried back and forth, like little rats trying to get to the prize.  The very fact that legislators and their aides are not subject to FOIA allows for all kinds of shenanigans.  I saw it yesterday as Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsey O’Mara, was sending notes to legislators and texting Sokola’s legislative assistant Tanner Polce, who would then go to Sokola to say what she said.  What the hell is that?  I’m sure this goes on in politics all the time, and it’s probably not even illegal in this whacked out state, but does that make it right?  No.

We deserve better from our state.  But we continue to vote some of the same people into power again and again and then we scratch our heads and wonder why.  Sokola has been jacking up education in our state for 25 years.  That’s a quarter of a century with a lot of damage.  I’m sure, like most politicians, he had honorable intentions in the beginning.  But now he is a mockery of the office he holds, and I seriously hope a contender comes along and knocks him off his high horse.

I will be writing more about all of this, but I will no longer beg and plead to have my rights honored and those of other parents in our state.  Our rights are there.  You can’t touch them, you can’t see them, but they are as real as the stars in the sky.  Opt your kids out if you don’t like this test.  I will cheer you on the whole time you are doing it, but trying to get laws in place for this I can no longer do in the environment we live in.  What the “evil” legislators are doing is so toxic to children, and they don’t care.  They don’t live in the same world as you or I.  To so many of them, it is about what happens in their chamber at Legislative Hall in Dover.

To the teachers of Delaware: you all need to rise up and finally make a stand.  If you don’t like what is happening with your jobs, then you need to once and for all unite and do it loudly.  But do it right, and do it with pride and dignity and don’t back down.  As the saying goes, “you can’t negotiate with terrorists”, and that’s what is happening in your profession.  The fear mongering and threats held over your head cause many of you to sink into a corner.  Stop doing that.  If you believe in what you do, then stand up for it.  Fight.  Do not like a traitor like Jesse Parsley be the voice for teachers.  Call them out and name them.

Parents will fight for their children.  And this battle will continue.  The war is not over.

I am not abandoning opt-out.  At its essence it has always been a grassroots movement based on our deep and abiding love for our children and getting the policy-makers to listen.  None of us wanted this to be a perversion of our beliefs, but that’s what happened thanks to Sokola, Jaques, and all the rest.

House Bill 50 Has Officially Been Released From Senate Education Commitee #supportHB50

According to Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks, House Bill 50 will be released tonight from the Senate Education Committee.

With that being said, please email the entire Senate not to pass Senator Sokola’s proposed amendment adding district-wide assessments to this bill!!!!  Please ask for President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins to put this bill on the agenda as soon as possible and for the Senate to vote yes!  We are soooo close on this, and this has been a true team effort!

Harris.McDowell@state.de.us MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us robert.marshall@state.de.us greg.lavelle@state.de.us catherine.cloutier@state.de.us Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us David.Sokola@state.de.us Karen.Peterson@state.de.us bethany.hall-long@state.de.us Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us Nicole.Poore@state.de.us David.McBride@state.de.us bruce.ennis@state.de.us Dave.Lawson@state.de.us senator-colin@prodigy.net brian.bushweller@state.de.us gsimpson@udel.edu Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us Gerald.Hocker@state.de.us Bryant.Richardson@state.de.us

**TITLE HAS BEEN CHANGED, OFFICIALLY RELEASED**

And it has been officially been released on the legis.delaware.gov website as well:

148th General Assembly
House Bill 50 w/HA 1
Primary Sponsor(s): Kowalko Additional Sponsor(s):    Sen. Lawson

Co-Sponsors: Reps. Bennett, Baumbach, Keeley, Matthews, Spiegelman, K. Williams, Yearick; Sen. Henry

Introduced On: 03/12/2015

Long Title: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT.

Synopsis of Bill: This bill creates the right for the parent or guardian of a child to opt out of the annual assessment, currently the Smarter Balanced Assessment System.

Current Status: Out of Committee   On  06/11/15

House Bill 50 Has NOT Been Released Out Of Committee…Yet, But A New Problem Emerges… **UPDATED**

Because most of the Senators in the Education Committee were not present during the actual meeting, the bill has to be circulated to each one of them.  According to Senator David Sokola, he expects this to happen tomorrow.  It is also expected, not that I’ve heard this from Sokola, that House Bill 50 will be released from committee.  With that being said, a new wrinkle has come up.  Apparently, and this is coming straight from Sokola, he is considering adding an amendment to the bill.  What would happen with that is the Senate would vote on the amendment, which would kick the bill back to the House if the Senate passes it.  If the House passes the amended legislation, it would then go to Governor Markell’s desk.  At this point, he could do one of three things: sign the bill, veto the bill, or do nothing and in 12 days it would become law.  If the House passed the amended vote by June 30th, Markell would have 12 days to make his decision.

The parent opt-out bill saga never ends.  And this has just been confirmed by Yvonne Johnson with the Delaware PTA: the amendment would allow opt-out of district-wide assessments.

My Son & I Will Be On NBC Philadelphia News This Afternoon Discussing Parent Opt-Out

Tim Furlong with NBC Philadelphia Channel 10 left my house about half an hour ago after filming a segment on parent opt-out of standardized testing for the afternoon news.  This news story will also include Tim covering the Senate Education Committee meeting today at Legislative Hall in Dover at 3pm.  With numerous articles appearing today from WDEL and WDDE on House Bill 50, this will be THE place to be at Legislative Hall today.

Another bill has been added to the agenda, Senator Margaret Rose Henry’s Senate Bill 122, which is described as:

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14, CHAPTER 10 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION AND THE REORGANIZATION AND CHANGING OF SCHOOL DISTRICT BOUNDARIES.

I did hear Senator Sokola promise State Rep. John Kowalko House Bill 50 would be heard first today after it was postponed during last week’s meeting.  I sincerely hope the Senator lives up to his promise.

Email To Delaware Senate Leaders Requesting House Bill 50 To Be Petitioned Out Of Committee

I just sent the following email to Delaware Senators Patricia Blevins, David McBride, and Margaret Rose-Henry, who form the majority Senate leadership.  I also forwarded the email to the Senate Minority leaders, Gary Simpson and Gregory Lavelle.

Senators Blevins, McBride and Henry,

My name is Kevin Ohlandt and I am a parent advocate for the parent opt-out movement in Delaware.  Today, House Bill 50 was finally scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee.  Many parents traveled to Dover to hear the bill, and many more were eagerly awaiting the results.  Some arranged for babysitters, or took time off of work.  I fully understand that agendas are subject to change, but it was painfully obvious to all in attendance what was going on during the meeting.  House Bill 50 was the oldest bill on the agenda.  While I in no way mean to disparage the importance of the others bills, because they are all equally important, I found the meeting to be very disorganized.    Senator Sokola arrived ten minutes late for what he knew was a very full agenda.  The room was filled with people, and I understand it is customary in a situation like that to limit public comment.  As the meeting went on, many members of the public gave public comment which was not limited in any way whatsoever.  As well, Senator Sokola gave prominence to Senate Joint Resolution #2 over House Bill 50.  To give some background here, Senator Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques both sponsored this resolution, with the collaboration of Lindsey O’Mara from the Governor’s office and the Delaware Department of Education.  I published a document circulated by the DOE labeling SJR #2 as an alternative to House Bill 50, the same day SJR #2 was formally introduced.  As well, I have seen an email sent out by Shana Young with the DOE indicating that SJR #2 would not give the General Assembly any “formal authority” over the assessment inventory.  Today, at the meeting, time was spent on an amendment giving the General Assembly more authority.  It was also announced the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the very test parents are opting out of, could be included in this supposed “assessment inventory”.

To give an idea of the manipulation being perpetrated by the DOE, I submitted a FOIA request to the DOE for this exact email.  I was told today it does not exist.  So either the DOE employee is using personal email for state business, the email was deleted, or there is a cover-up.  I have already called out the DOE on their outright lie in response to their FOIA response, and I will submit yet another complaint with the Department of Justice in regards to these matters. It is my contention, and that of many concerned parents, this has all been done under the watchful eye of Senator Sokola.  The Delaware Department of Education, including Secretary Murphy, were very smug and condescending as the meeting abruptly ended without House Bill 50 even being heard and I was receiving texts it would not be heard before the meeting was only 1/4 done.  At no point during the meeting did Senator Sokola attempt to limit public comment, or even advise parents who came for House Bill 50 the bill would not be heard.  It is also many parents contention around Delaware that certain legislators are more tied to Governor Markell’s education agendas than serving their constituents and the citizens of Delaware.  Unfortunately, this includes both Chairs of the Education Committees in the General Assembly.  This is a bill that was passed by the House with a 36-3 vote, and it is disrespectful to let it fall prey to these types of political games.  It is disrespectful to the parents, students, teachers, and supporters of this bill who have fought for so long to have their voice finally be heard in education matters. Therefore, I would like to ask you, Senator Blevins, to suspend Senate rules and petition House Bill 50 out of committee prior to its 12th legislative day based on the following Senate rules:

RULE 16. PETITION OUT OF COMMITTEE.

Upon written request signed by the majority of the members elected to the Senate and directed to the Presiding Officer, any bill, joint resolution, or other business that has been in a committee for a period exceeding 12 legislative days, except those assigned to the Bond Bill or Finance Committees, shall be reported to the Senate.

Delaware parents need this bill to be heard.  The abuse, intimidation, and outright lies stemming from the Department of Education and the Governor’s office is very damaging to the integrity of Delaware.  Many parents have seen and felt the manipulation and abuse of power in education matters in our state, and it is becoming more transparent every single day.  The stall tactics on this legislation, first very smugly done by State Rep. Jaques in the House Education Committee, and now more overtly done by Senator Sokola, do not paint a nice picture for the legislative process in Delaware.  It shows a level of corruption and maneuvering that brings shame on the Delaware General Assembly.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Respectfully,

Kevin Ohlandt