Delaware School Safety Report Shows Severe Limitations In Our Schools For Controlling Violence

If we are to have a chance to reduce and reverse this type of behavior, it is necessary to begin early and to start in the home. Efforts must be made to reach out students and to provide them with positive new directions in elementary school. Several committee members pointed out that “middle school is too late.”

“If joining a gang is the only way to survive, the kids will join gangs,” one committee member said, adding, “A lot of teachers don’t know who gang members are. You, as a teacher, should know how to interact with kids and parents because kids and parents may not have the ability to interact with us.”

The committee discussed the possibility of cell phone bans in schools, but public schools in Delaware have not done so because parents want to be able to reach their children by phone.

These were just a few of the topics discussed in the Special Committee on Public Safety.

School safety.  Two words that mean so many things to so many people.  To some, it means making sure every single student and staff member is protected from violence.  To some it means reporting requirements.  Many think of Sandy Hook or Columbine.  Others think of a mounting problem that can never be corrected.

Earlier this year, in the wake of two very violent deaths in Wilmington, a group was formed by Senator Robert Marshall.  Marshall is the Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee.  He formed a group that met twice to discuss school safety issues with various topics introduced.  Out of these meetings, Senate Concurrent Resolution #83 formed a Special Committee on School Safety.  The final report was given to the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate and Governor Markell yesterday.

The below report has a great deal of information.  It is very long but it is worth the read.  Take the time to read it.  Every single word.  Whether you are for or against School Resource Officers or Constables in Delaware schools, it is important to know what is happening out there.  It affects every single citizen of this state.  Issues in schools can explode outside of schools often, but issues outside of schools are brought into schools all the time.

The one thing I took out of this report is there are no easy answers.  Issues around funding and legality are some of the biggest obstacles to making schools safer.  Trauma plays a huge role in our high-needs schools.  Family issues outside of school are one of the biggest obstacles to safe schools.

There was one recommendation coming out of the final report that I didn’t see discussed anywhere in the meeting minutes.

Provide funding for the Delaware Department of Education to conduct a voluntary, statewide survey among students, parents, and teachers to get their thoughts on improving the learning environment and ways to make our schools safer.

It can’t be a report on education in Delaware without the Delaware Dept. of Education inserting something they want, which usually involves them getting more money.  One important thing to take note of in this report is that Delaware Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques were both listed as members of this committee but neither went to any of the meetings on it or bothered to assign a designee to attend in their absence.

The parts about Senate Bill 207, which I also issued severe problems with, were echoed by many in regards to future under-reporting of incidents in schools.  I thank God the House added an amendment to the bill that still requires mandatory reporting to the Delaware DOE.  But there is one line about Senate Bill 207 in the final report which will give any Delaware citizen severe anxiety.

General Assembly Faces Bottom Of The 9th With Crucial & Bad Education Legislation

Two weeks.  If you asked a legislator in the Delaware Assembly what two weeks means at the end of June, they would most likely say it is a lifetime.  It’s crunch time, and not all bills will make the cut.  This is a guide to what education legislation has recently passed, what is ready for a vote, what still has to face a committee, and what will most likely get the chopping block.  I don’t anticipate any new education legislation coming out in the next 10 days, but Delaware in the last two weeks of the General Assembly is like the Wild West.  Anything can happen.  And with all the committees that are supposed to have reports out by the 30th (Assessment Inventory Committee and Education Funding Improvement Committee), anything could very easily happen.  It is very important to watch everything that goes down in the next 10 days and INSTANTLY make your voice heard if you support or oppose a sneak bill.

House Bill #435: The fifth Delaware charter school audit bill, faces the House Education Committee on Wednesday at 1:30pm.  The House Republicans hate bills like these, but once again, the votes are not in their favor.  I expect it will be released from both committees and it will pass the House and Senate on it’s way to Governor Markell for signature.

Senate Bill #161: The underdog of the 148th General Assembly!  The no school until after Labor Day passed the Senate with an 11-10 vote.  I could actually envision a suspension of rules behind closed doors deal on this bill.  If this gets a full House vote based on that, I think it will pass.  New Castle County will complain for the next five years about it, Sussex County will cheer, and Kent County will be in the middle.

House Joint Resolution #12/House Bill #424/House Bill 425: HJR #12 is the actual Wilmington Redistricting legislation.  HB #424 states school boards can’t arbitrarily raise taxes.  The latter faces the House Education Committee at 2:30pm for a very special meeting designed solely to lift this from tabled status.  Once that hurdle is done, I expect it will either be subject to a suspension of rules for a full House vote tomorrow (and the chaos that will ensue if that happens!) or it will be on the agenda for Thursday this week.  The reason I think it will get a suspension of rules vote tomorrow is because it still has to go through the Senate Education Committee, which will most likely have their last meeting on Wednesday.  The same goes for HB #424 if it is released from the House education committee tomorrow (which I expect it will).  HB #425 has been non-existent in terms of conversation so I think it will drift off in the summer sky.  For the full votes, I have no idea how the other two bills are going to do.  It has a lot of Democrat Wilmington support.  But downstate and with Wilmington Republicans, that is another matter.  This could go either way.

House Bill #399: The redesigning of Component V in the Delaware teacher evaluation system.  I expect it will pass the House.  Sokola would have to be a complete idiot to not put it on the Senate Education Committee agenda for Wednesday.  It reminds me a bit of the opt out bill last year.  It has overwhelming support, Sokola hates it, and the Governor will most likely veto the bill.  But there is no Hail Mary for Sokola if he does veto it.  I will predict now that if Markell vetoes this bill, Sokola will be doing a lot of biking next year while has peers are making bills.

Senate Bill #199: This is a Sokola bill, so I don’t necessarily trust it.  Come on Kev!  The guy has to do something good for education!  I have yet to see it in the long-term.  This one fell under the radar for me, but it wasn’t introduced until June 7th, flew out of the Senate Education Committee the next day, and got a full Senate vote where it unanimously passed on June 14th.  The odd part is the low numbering of the bill which is unusual.  All the other bills around this one were introduced in March.  As if it was intentionally hidden.  When Sokola bills take flight, I worry.  This looks to me like it opens the door for more Teach For America and Relay Graduate Schools.  This one could suffer due to the Sokola/Jaques spat.  You can read the full text of the bill here (and I recommend all teachers do so): Senate Bill 199

House Bill #30: The basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade was finally released from the House Appropriations Committee last week.  But it is not on the agenda for a full House vote tomorrow.  Things happen very fast when the legislators are on the homestretch, but I fear HB #30 will not survive its way out of the 148th General Assembly.

Senate Bill #92/#93: The autism bills haven’t been heard in the House Appropriations Committee yet.  Why is that?  They aren’t on the agenda for the meeting on Wednesday either.  Hmm…

Senate Bill #207: The school discipline reporting bill by Senator Margaret Rose-Henry.  Do the police have to be called every time a student gets into a fight?  This bill would say no to that practice.  Come on, like all of our schools are actively doing this?  It passed the Senate and it is on the House Education Committee agenda for Wednesday.  I suspect this will pass, but I have a lot of concerns with this bill in terms of implementation of the law.

Senate Bill #213: Another Senator Rose-Henry bill which would make it mandatory for school staff, students AND parents to get personal body safety and children sexual assault prevention training for students in Kindergarten to 6th grade.  It’s up for a Senate vote tomorrow…

House Bill #408 w/Amendment #2: Passed the House, Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday.  An amendment was added to include charter schools in this school breakfast legislation, even though Kendall Massett doesn’t want it.  Most of the House Republicans voted no on this bill.  I suspect it will pass the Senate, but stranger things have happened.

Senate Bill #277: The Dave Sokola “Pathways To Prosperity” steering committee.  This is going to happen.  This is Jack Herdman’s baby!  Paul Markell has talked about Pathways to Prosperity more this year than anything else!  This gets the full Senate vote tomorrow.  Yes, I know what I did there…

House Bill #374: The former bill for this which limits school board seats to 3 years was not popular.  So State Rep. Paul Baumbach brought forth a new one limiting school board seats to four years.  House Education Committee on Wednesday.  If this passes, it is going to throw the typical school board election cycle into chaos in coming years.  This bill is a response to the Christina School District Board of Education, and nothing else.  I don’t like it.

House Bill #355: As Delaware blazes forward (with a lot of blinders on) with technology, this bill makes it so a computer science class is mandatory and that it can be used as a credit for either math or science.  This gets a full House vote tomorrow.  It will pass.  Jack loves bills like this.

House Bill #250: The charter school bullying choice bill passed the House and is on the Senate Education Committee agenda for Wednesday.  This will pass.  Add anther notch to State Rep. Kim Williams’ many education bills in the 148th General Assembly for this one!  This bill makes it so any bullying must be substantiated for a student to obtain good cause to choice out of a traditional school district or other choice school.  My one concern with this bill is what happens if the bullying is NOT substantiated even though it should be?  That never happens in Delaware, right?

House Bill #350: The “let’s ignore due process and publish when teachers get investigated bill” is dead.  This bill isn’t going anywhere.  What was the point of this Mr. Delaware Speaker of the House?

House Bill #236: The “tax exemption for full disabled vets” bill was released by the House Education Committee and sits in House Appropriations.  I like this bill, but with the current budget deficit, this isn’t one of those mandatory bills that should be a no-brainer.  But it could pass.  This one will be a wait and see.

House Bill #232: This bill is so easy it isn’t even funny.  It would allow the State Board of Education to accept public comment on items that are going to have action at one of their State Board meetings.  Released from the House.  With opposition from Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett.  One of those bills where the Johnson effect sends it swirling into the abyss…

THE DEAD ZONE

House Bill #261: The charter school records bill sponsored by State Rep. Mike Ramone.  Seeks to punish school districts if the records aren’t sent as soon as possible or schools don’t notify the charter when a student was placed in an alternative setting when a student choices to a charter.  No mention of a vice versa in this bill.  This was dead on arrival Mike!

House Bill #260: The “have the State Board of Education hold their meetings at 5:30 bill” is an awesome bill, but it is one of those ones that probably causes Donna Johnson to complain A LOT, thus this bill gets the Johnson effect!  Sadly, this bill won’t go anywhere.

House Bill #243/House Resolution #22: The House Republicans very odd reaction to a potential override of Markell’s veto on House Bill #50.  Hey State Rep. Miro, what were Godowsky’s recommendations?  The only thing you told me was that he did send them to you.  What now?  And Ramone: I still remember what you promised me that day.  I am holding you to it!  If not, everyone will know what you told me.

House Bill #240: The “Come SAIL Away” bill dealing with afterschool school for students drifted off to sea after the Joint Finance Committee said nope.  Barring some huge windfall from DEFAC (who determines the state’s revenue) at the last minute, this bill is driftwood.

House Bill #234: The school-based health center would provide funding for the remaining schools in Delaware that don’t have these.  Once again, the budget deficit kills this bill.

House Bill #231: This bill would make it mandatory for charter school teachers to participate in the state pension system.  The Kendall and Johnson effect is in FULL swing here…

House Bill #117: This bill which would designate funding for low-income students on a level consistent with special education funding is a good bill, but it is tied to so many other education funding issues with WEIC and the Education Funding Improvement Committee it was drowned out by other things going on.  It’s a shame cause I supported it.

House Bill #107: The “only local school districts and local boards” can choose their own leaders bill is fantastic.  This came out of the priority schools saga when the DOE wanted to pick leaders for the priority schools.  This bill has been ignored since it was introduced.

House Bill #52: The State Rep. Deb Hudson cursive bill isn’t going anywhere.  It’s been on the House Ready list for well over a year.

House Bill #28: This bill never had a chance with the Kendall factor.  It would make it so charters have to give up their funding for a student if they leave the charter in the middle of the year.  This was one of my favorite bills last year, but nothing EVER happened with it.  Like I said, the Kendall factor…

Senate Bill #239: The restorative justice in lieu of school suspensions bill got a lot of media mentions in Delaware.  But that appears to be it…

Senate Bill #228: Another victim of the Joint Finance Committee, no, we won’t see more funding for the Delaware SEED scholarship program.

Senate Bill #193: The Senator McDowell sponsored “let’s do a study on disadvantaged students in Delaware and get the colleges and universities to participate” bill.  Harris, I think we have enough studies and reports.

Senate Bill #72: The Senator Bryan Townsend “I hate Mark Murphy bill” doesn’t have the luster it had when everyone’s favorite joke was the Secretary of Education.  Buh-bye!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kim Williams & David Sokola Reach Kumbaya Moment With New Charter School Audit Bill

Wow!  I wouldn’t have seen this happening five months ago, but new legislation introduced today by co-sponsors Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator David Sokola focuses on the fifth attempt at a charter school audit bill in over a year.  Williams’ House Bill 186 passed the Delaware House almost a year ago, but when it arrived at the Senate Education Committee, Chair of the Committee Senator Sokola introduced his own charter audit legislation, Senate Bill 171.  This led to a lot of back and forth on social media between Sokola and Williams and other sides of each bill.

In the spirit of compromise, it appears the two have come together in the form of House Bill 435, seen below.  Will this sail through the House and Senate in the final weeks of the 148th General Assembly and settle the matter once and for all?  Time will tell!

Jea Street Threatens To Sue Delaware If WEIC Bills Don’t Pass

“When it comes to justice for children of color in the city, it has never been the General Assembly, it has always been the courts or the federal government that acts,” Street said.  “I don’t think this is going to be any different.”

Civil rights advocate Jea Street told the News Journal he will sue the state of Delaware if the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan doesn’t pass.  The Delaware General Assembly has a limited amount of time to act on the plan.  There are six more voting days in the House of Representatives and nine in the Senate.  One of the bills was released from the House Education Committee but two others haven’t been heard yet.  If the bills pass the House, they must go to the Senate Education Committee.  Time is running out but so is the patience of advocates like Street.

Most other states have created systems that give extra funds to high-poverty schools, but Delaware’s system, he says, assumes a school in a violence- and poverty-wracked neighborhood can operate with the same resources as a school in a quiet, wealthy suburb.  “You talk to any expert, they’ll tell you that’s not how it works,” Street said.

Street was front and center during the press conference announcing the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the state and Red Clay Consolidated.  I haven’t heard Street talk about that lawsuit since it was announced.  That lawsuit alleged Delaware and Red Clay allowed charter schools to use discriminatory practices for enrollment purposes citing schools such as Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy.  I don’t see him beating on that drum anymore.  That lawsuit has been lingering for over a year and a half while the Office of Civil Rights stalls on the investigation.  I have to wonder why the News Journal doesn’t talk about that when they are writing an article about discrimination in Wilmington.

On the other hand, I agree with Street.  Delaware passes the baton to the courts or the feds when things don’t change in the General Assembly.  But when the article talks about the schools in Wilmington being operated by districts in the suburbs, the Wilmington schools will still be handled by a district from the suburbs.  The inequities he is talking about will still be there, but they will be more concentrated in one district.  From what I’m hearing, the Education Funding Improvement Commission report is delayed and may not be out by June 30th.  Having gone to one of the meetings, no one could seem to agree on any one viable strategy.  I’ve found Delaware likes to talk about education… a lot!  But when it comes time to make the crucial decisions, everyone sits like a deer in the headlights.  In the meantime, children suffer.  We spend tons of money on research and reports but we don’t do anything with it.  We had that huge Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  The DOE paid Public Consulting Group somewhere around $50,000 to do that report.  And what do we  have to show for it?  Absolutely nothing.  It is money that could have been used on something viable, like an extra teacher in one of these schools.  Instead we piss away money on absolute nonsense!

Why Did Mike Matthews Bill The General Assembly For Almost $250,000?

Earlier this week, Red Clay Educators Association President Mike Matthews sent the Delaware General Assembly an invoice for $235,000.  What was the reason for this?  You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?  I am putting in the read more tag so you can, you know, read more!  There is a very good reason why he billed our legislators. Continue reading

Delaware JFC Cuts Charter School Performance Fund, SAIL, Career Pathways, Teacher Pay Raises, & More From Budget

BudgetCutsRodel

While this isn’t my dream list of cuts, and some things are still in there, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee sure did swing the axe on tons of programs from Governor Markell’s budget!  Gone is the after-school SAIL funding ($1 million), the always controversial charter school performance fund ($500,000), career pathways programs ($250,000), more internet bandwidth for schools ($3 million), a technology block grant ($1 million), and SEED scholarship expansion ($500,000).

The VERY controversial early learning budget of $11 million got cut to $9 million.  Teachers will not be happy about this: they lost their raises which had $3 million allocated.  Even the big three: University of Delaware, Delaware State University and Delaware Technical Community College got a 1% slash in their operating budgets.

Governor Markell is on the way out and the Joint Finance Committee sent a strong message to Delawareans today: we are not going to allow all this rampant spending in education to continue for programs that have no intrinsic value to the true success of students.  It’s almost like they read all the crap in the Every Student Succeeds Act and said “Not for Delaware”!   I’m sure Rodel is pissed about a lot of these cuts, but it’s about time we got their stink out of Legislative Hall.  Eight years is enough!

They can cut some more stuff: the charter school transportation slush fund (which can add up to about $2 million a year), all these insane contracts the DOE has with the take the money and run education companies (they could probably save the deficit by taking an axe to that stuff), and perhaps some more to the early learning program (or hell, give it all to the basic special education funding for Kindergarten to 3rd grade students with disabilities).  Not mentioned in today’s round of budget cuts are any funds associated with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan.  But the General Assembly has to pass the legislation first!

The JFC meets tomorrow, so there could be more.  I’m sure the lobbyists are chomping at the bit to meet with every single legislator they can between now and June 30th, the last day of the 148th General Assembly.

 

Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month Begins TODAY!!!!

TAA_Logo_Stacked_Chapter_WashD.C.

Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month begins today, May 15th, and runs through June 15th.  In support of those with Tourette Syndrome, please wear teal on Tuesdays during TS Awareness Month!  The Tourette Syndrome Association of America has renamed itself The Tourette Association of America.  With a new website and a new logo, TAA is looking to bring massive awareness of this disability to America!  As of May 22nd, http://tourette.org will be the new website, replacing http://www.tsa-usa.org/index.html.

In Delaware, the awareness month was honored yesterday by the Delaware 148th General Assembly when both the State House of Representatives and Senate unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution #36, recognizing the awareness month.  Tomorrow, in Glasgow Park in Newark, DE, there will be a TS Walk in honor of Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month, beginning at 10:00am.

For students with Tourette Syndrome in Delaware, the call for awareness and acceptance has never been greater.  As a father of a child with TS, it can be very tough for our kids.  Acceptance and understanding can be difficult.  For those who happen to see a child ticcing, or maybe even making noises, try to understand these children can not help it.  And drawing attention to tics usually result in greater stress for the child, which only increases the tics.  Children with TS are just like any other kid, they just happen to have something others don’t.