Governor Markell Loses His Voice Tonight. Now Is The Time To Seize The Moment.

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At some point later this evening, Delaware will have a newly elected Governor. No matter who it is, they can’t be worse than Governor Jack Markell. I truly hope I don’t eat those words, but I can’t think of any Delaware politician who has sold out Delaware children to corporations more than Jack. Well, there is one, but I’m really hoping he gets ousted in the 8th Senate District today. If not, I expect some very frosty stares between the two of us come 2017.  But it is also my fervent hope that this particular Senator, no matter what the outcome is today, begins to see deep inside his soul what certain viewpoints on education can have on the state as a whole.  But Jack Markell…

I never gave Delaware politics much thought before 2013. I was just one of those guys who stayed in his own neighborhood and didn’t truly care about the state politics. I couldn’t even tell you who my State Rep was before that year. Or my State Senator. But then things changed in my life and I reached a point where I couldn’t live in my insular little bubble anymore. Circumstances demanded I get involved. When things happen to your child, beyond the point of a parent to control it, something happens. A shifting of thoughts begins and a need for understanding takes over. I may have gone way past the point of sanity most parents do when faced with this reality, but I felt it was my obligation to do all this.   I have regrets, but I also know everyone makes mistakes.  But no one, not even Senator Sokola or Mark Murphy, has ticked me off over education more than Jack Markell.

I quickly learned Jack cares more about corporations and their profits than Delaware students. Sadly, he found a way to combine the two and turned Delaware schools into profit centers for companies that could give two craps about student outcomes. Jack knows this. He knows the only way those companies will continue to flourish is with a steady stream of data and fix-it schemes. I suppose most states have a Jack Markell. How else can we explain the onslaught of Common Core and crappy tests like Smarter Balanced? I also learned Markell and Rodel are two sides of the same coin. They feed off each other, like twin parasites infecting their host.

My worst fear is having to continue beating up on Jack Markell. That would only happen if he were put in a more dangerous position than he is now. I see two potential Cabinet positions he could be placed in if the “nasty woman” wins. I’m hoping a rumor I heard long ago about him taking a Cyber Security position in Israel comes true. I would have loved to sit in a debate with him for a few hours and blown apart his theories and thoughts on education.

The most dangerous thing Jack Markell did with education in Delaware happened before he even became Governor. He did the interview for a man from the Massachusetts Department of Education, in their charter school office. A guy named Dr. Paul Herdman. This set up 12 years of education policy in this state that very closely aligned with what was going on across the country. And those plans aren’t done yet. Both of these men are actually very brilliant. They are strategists of the highest measure. They are futurists who plant seeds that bloom years in the future. I actually find them to be very worthy opponents in that respect. But one half of that equation is coming to an end in this state. And hopefully his replacement will be able to sever that cord.

It will be up to our next Governor to see through all the smoke and mirrors involved with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Whoever our new Governor is, I will attempt to meet with him. I intend to have a very long conversation with him, if he will let me, and let him know what I know. Maybe he already knows it already. Maybe he doesn’t. But I truly don’t want to fight him. I will give him a fresh and clean slate from day one, regardless of whatever policies he may have come out with during his campaign. I will also give every single member of the General Assembly that same respect, regardless of what may have happened pre-January 2017. They can choose to hang on to the past and hold a grudge against me.  I haven’t been easy on many.  But whether they are new or old, it is a new day. This also goes for the Department of Education and the State Board of Education. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to expose what I find out, or file FOIA requests or complaints if something happens. Everything I have fought for will continue. But I won’t do it alone.

There are many who are on my side of things on many issues. There are some who are just now beginning to see the big picture. There are those who can’t see the forest through the trees. There are so many moving parts to education and understanding the full scope of it all takes time and patience. But I refuse to allow any child to be a guinea pig or a pawn for profit. I refuse to let their personal data go out to anyone who makes one penny off it. I refuse to let our Department of Education get away with what they have been doing.

January won’t just see new leaders in politics. We will also have new leadership in the Delaware State Education Association. Knowing what little I know about potential leaders and conversation that has taken place in the last week based on a few of my posts, I firmly believe that change in leadership can’t come quick enough. But we also need changes in the charter school landscape. For far too long, advocates for charters have ignored the elephant in the room. I am not saying it is all of them, but those with the loudest voices tend to get what they want. The funding and equity issues involved are killing us as a state. I personally believe there is enough funding in our state budget as it currently stands to have every child get the resources they need. There is a ton of wasted money being spent. We just have to convince the 149th Delaware General Assembly of this fact despite what will be a tsunami of opposition from districts and charter schools alike. I am leaning towards a weighted funding system more and more but not before we make sure every single district and charter schools is held fully accountable for the funds they already have.

The next six months are going to be very slippery in Delaware. One wrong move could send Delaware education sliding off the cliff. Now will be the time for voices like never before. Opt out was a drop in the bucket. But I don’t see those voices. Not front and center. Parents need to speak up like they never have before. They need to be louder than the state, louder than the administrators, and louder than our legislators. We need to become a force to be reckoned with. We need to organize and band together. We won’t agree on everything, but I think the majority of parents in this state can agree that what we have now is not working. We need to make sure Rodel is reduced to a low decibel noise that doesn’t hold the weight it used to. We need to make sure Delaware education is what we want, not what corporations want. This does not mean increased membership in the Delaware PTA either, but they will play a role. You will be hearing from me on this more in the next few weeks. Eyes will open to things that have happened right underneath all our noses with no one the wiser.

I need you. Our children need you. We are Delaware, not them. We need to finally make sure that is understood. We need to end the discrimination and segregation in this state. We need to end the racism that is underneath it all. We need to end the hate and make peace with the past. It is the only way we can truly move forward. I won’t have all the answers. You won’t. But maybe together, we can figure it out.

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My Favorite Delaware Political Ad

I’ve seen a lot of political ads in the past few months, but this is by far my favorite.  I will fully own that I am very biased against Delaware Senator David Sokola.  Just search “Sokola” in the search section on this blog and you will easily find out why.  The quarter-century Senator just needs to go.  Wrap it up.  Cross the finish line.  Say Bon Voyage to Delaware politics.  He had his day and we need fresh blood before more Delaware students, teachers, and schools hemorrhage out.  They say a picture paints a thousand words, but this one does the job with much less.

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I love a good Sokola dig!  I am praying the citizens in the 8th Delaware Senate district make the right decision tomorrow and vote Sokola out and Meredith Chapman in!  Enough is enough.  And don’t buy all the “if the Senate flips Delaware will become a Right To Work state” paranoia I’ve heard from some people.  One, that is NOT going to happen even if the Republicans take over the Senate.  Two, Sokola has done more damage to Delaware education than Governor Jack Markell.  Jack’s only been at this for eight years (twelve if you count his early Rodel-Paul Herdman-Bosom Buddies days).  Dave has been at this for 25 years.  And three, your children and grandchildren will be better for it.

This ad was paid for by the First State First PAC.

Why Did Jean Dowding Switch From Democrat To Republican The Day She Filed To Run In The 31st Rep District?

 

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For 32 years, Jean Dowding was a registered Democrat.  She filed against incumbent Democrat Sean Lynn in the 31st Rep. District for Delaware in July.  But she did NOT file as a Democrat.  She switched her party to Republican.  While it is certainly any American citizen’s right to switch parties at any time, I do find it a bit suspect she would do so the same day she filed to run against a very liberal candidate.

For the record, I fully endorse Sean Lynn for this seat.  He has done an excellent job for his district as well as the State of Delaware.  He has been a staunch supporter for public education.  He introduced legislation designed for more government transparency and fought valiantly for elimination of the death penalty in Delaware.  We need more Sean Lynn and not someone who doesn’t seem to know what party they should be affiliated with unless it is for the sole purpose of running for office.  Is she a Democrat or a Republican?  32 years is a long time to register under one party.  Why wouldn’t she have attempted to run in the primary against Lynn?

While Dowding has a ton of experience under her belt and she deserves kudos for her service to our country, in reviewing her responses in the Delaware State News, her responses were very wishy-washy.  Many of her answers had the “I’ll have to take a look at that”.  Voters don’t want to hear that.  They want someone who is committed to the issues, not someone who doesn’t really know what those issues are.  Sean Lynn knows the issues that Delaware faces and can see past the status quo.  Jean Dowding does not have enough information to lead her district much less make the decisions needed based on having all the facts.  It is that simple.

For those who may think Dowding could have switched parties at some point during the past 32 years and not the day she filed, voter registration websites state otherwise:

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You Have Two Choices Next Tuesday: Vote For Sean Goward Or Pray For Delaware

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John Carney…no.  Colin Bonini…no.  Sean Goward…YES!  Next Tuesday, do the right thing and vote for Sean Goward for Delaware Governor.  There isn’t another choice.  It is essential.  If you want to hear another four years of useless sound bites coming from a Governor that is just following the script and Delaware students losing out even more, then I suggest you begin praying for the future of Delaware.  I think Bonini and Carney are nice guys.  But Governor material?  No.  Politicians?  Yes.  But we desperately need something different in Delaware.  We need someone who will take the bull by the horns and really shake things up.  Someone who will clear the rot in the foundation of this state.

I’ve met Goward a couple of times.  I’ve had long conversations with him.  Back in September, I posted an article where I asked 32 really tough questions on education to the Governor candidates.  All but Carney responded.  He wanted to wait to come out with his “education platform”.  I read that document.  It was a love song for the Delaware Dept. of Education and Rodel and their big plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Bonini’s responses to my questions were okay in some areas, but his schtick about failing schools based on standardized test schools is unacceptable given everything he should know by now about Delaware education.

But Goward?  He gets it.  He understands the absolute crap being foisted on Delaware students and teachers.  He knows about all the corporate education reform going on.  He accepts that Delaware has a lot of issues as a whole and we need to clear out the rot.  When I hear people complaining about things in this state, and not the usual political/corporate jargon thrown around, but the real issues and problems, I see Sean Goward as being the best person to lead this state.  We need radical change.  Our two-party system just plain doesn’t work anymore.  I would love to see a come from behind third-party candidate like Sean Goward actually win next Tuesday.  He is Libertarian.  Who cares?  In the end, does the label matter more than the person behind the label?  What that person stands for?  Their inner integrity?  Labels aren’t getting Delaware anywhere.  Party loyalty is crippling this state, as well as our country, more than anything else.

I’m asking you to take a chance on Sean Goward.  I’m asking you to take a chance on a better Delaware.  A more transparent state that people can actually be proud of.  We need someone who won’t bend to lobbyists and corporate interests.  Someone who will lead this state based on the will of the people, not those who throw pies in the sky with ten year visions.  Our children deserve better than the other two guys.  Our families do.  Our state does.  Vote for Sean Goward on November 8th.  Vote for a leader of the people.

Sokola Ebola Vs. Right To Work: Which Is The Bigger Danger To Education?

Sunday evening I put up a post about a political ad for Delaware Senator David Sokola.  You would have thought I sent a cannonball into a church picnic with the reaction this post got.  In a nutshell, the Delaware State Education Association did not endorse the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, David Sokola.  He has been the chair of this committee for decades.  This was a very clear statement that DSEA no longer has faith in Senator David Sokola when it comes to education.  But unbeknownst to many, DSEA is also part of a PAC with various other Delaware unions that paid for an advertisement for Sokola’s 8th District Senate campaign.  I wasn’t happy to see this and many others weren’t as well.  I linked Frederika Jenner, the President of DSEA, to this PAC because her name appears on their website.

Before I knew it, teachers who are very supportive of DSEA jumped to their defense.  One of them, Mike Matthews, who used to be President of the Red Clay Educations Association and is currently campaigning for Jenner’s spot next January, wrote a very long comment about why Right To Work is dangerous in the current Delaware political landscape.

Before I get to Matthews’ comment, I want to briefly explain what Right To Work is.  Basically, it would prevent a worker from paying union dues but they would get the union benefits.  This has been implemented in some states but the Delaware General Assembly has thwarted this from happening here.  Delaware Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle has been very supportive of Right To Work in Delaware.  Not every Delaware Republican is 100% behind a complete Right To Work state, much less with DSEA.  Matthews’ comment suggests that Right To Work is a bigger danger than very bad Dave Sokola education policy.

Here’s where I stand on this and, as always, I thank Kevin for providing the forum to discuss!

DSEA did not vote to endorse Sen. Sokola for his re-election campaign. As someone who has consistently received DSEA’s endorsement in years’ past, this is obviously big news. I have had many concerns — and shared them publicly — with Sen. Sokola’s positions on education. I think many others have, as well. And that’s why DSEA chose the route it did during the election season this year.

But — and this really is a big BUT — folks need to realize that we are a union whose main goal is to activate and organize its membership. We have seen union membership in many states decrease dramatically because of nasty Right to Work laws. These laws severely weaken the ability of local unions to do the work they need to do — advocate for members and students.

The threat of Right to Work is very much real here in Delaware. If the Democrats lose just two seats in the Senate, then it’s very likely that Republicans will demand legislation that could repress labor rights in exchange for getting YES votes on the budget. If the Republican Senate REFUSES to pass a budget because they are demanding more restrictions on organized labor, then my guess is the Democrats in the House will cave so they can get a budget passed. That’s the reality of the situation that we’re dealing with.

DSEA’s membership in the Delawareans First PAC is borne out of the need to fight back any effort for Right to Work to land in Delaware. DSEA’s participation in this PAC is very much about ensuring our own survival SO WE CAN continue to advocate for our members, students, and schools.

And there are some very clear differences between the two major-party candidates in the 8th Senate District when it comes to labor rights. Sen. Sokola is vehemently anti-Right to Work. Meredith Chapman has stated her support of the collective bargaining process, but can’t say unequivocally that she would be anti-Right to Work. And, as I’ve said to her, should she get elected and the GOP take the Senate, her ability to negotiate with a newly-emboldened GOP leadership will be severely diminished and she will have to walk lock-step with the caucus on these issues.

So, while many of our members — and myself included — have serious issues with Sen. Sokola’s education positions, we have to realize that we are still a union. And it’s our business to maintain our membership and attempt to stave off any threats to that membership. I am completely able to see both sides here and while Sen. Sokola hasn’t been the best friend on education issues, he’s unwaveringly a friend on the topic of Right to Work. To condemn him from all angles because of his education positions (no matter how large those issues are) would be unfair.

DSEA’s membership in this PAC is voluntary, of course, but in the interest of solidarity, it’s imperative that we union brothers and sisters come together and support candidates who will repel Right to Work — even if it means supporting a candidate we oppose on other issues. Because if Right to Work comes to Delaware — which could happen if the Senate swings GOP — then our ability to be an effective agent for change will be severely dampened. And that could have consequences that hasten all the negative things we know have been coming down the education pike for years that you have thankfully been reporting on with such fervor.

I just think it’s important to realize that I think it’s completely within bounds to have severe disagreements with candidates on certain issues, but to find common ground on others, especially issues that relate to the survival of organizations that I would hope are seen as positive players in the education arena like DSEA.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.

So suppose the Republicans gain control of the Delaware Senate and there is a budget impasse next year (as there seems to be almost every year).  Does that automatically make Delaware a Right To Work state?  We just don’t know.  I can picture a scenario where, if it were that bad, certain concessions could take place.  Last week at the Carney-Bonini debate, the subject of Right To Work zones was brought up.  That would not make the whole state a Right To Work place, but for certain companies.  Auto manufacturing was brought up as an example.  But I personally don’t believe the General Assembly would make DSEA a Right To Work organization.  If they did gain control of the Senate, that would last as long as one General Assembly if they did that.  The General Assembly is always on a cycle of campaigning every two years.  Any legislator who voted for Right To Work would automatically lose any future endorsement from DSEA.  Many do not want to face that prospect in the coming years.  Delaware is a small state and its citizens have more access to their Senators and State Representatives than they do in other states.  A Republican controlled Senate would also have to contend with a Democrat controlled House and, by all indications, Democrat Governor John Carney.  Would the Republicans wait around all summer in an attempt to get Right To Work passed if a budget was held up?  I highly doubt it.  Most legislators are at the point of collapse after an all-night session bridging June 30th to July 1st.

While I will certainly say I do not know how many teacher jobs DSEA has actively protected over the years, I imagine it is quite a bit.  Charter school teachers, which are supported heavily by Delaware Republicans, do not presently have teacher unions.  But I firmly believe Senator Sokola is, at a much greater degree, a bigger threat to Delaware teachers than a potential Right To Work law in Delaware.  He has 25 years of experience showing exactly what he has done to Delaware education and the teaching profession.  And judging by the first draft of Delaware’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t see that situation changing any time soon.

I firmly believe Sokola serves interests much bigger than any Democrat platform.  He serves those who profit immensely off students and teachers.  He represents the corporations who want to reform education so they can make more money.  But more dangerous, is the very real threat of how these changes in education will eventually transform society as a whole.  It is my contention that whether Right To Work happened or not, the teaching profession union members across the country fight for every day will be gone one day.  At the rate where are going, everything will be online instruction and teachers will just be glorified moderators if those classrooms are even in brick and mortar schools.  The more we let outside organizations into our schools, the ability for decisions to be decided at a local level diminishes greatly.  That is what Sokola represents.  He takes the side of a particular charter school in his district and he will do whatever is necessary to make sure they look good at the expense of the district around him.  If he didn’t have the power he currently has as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, that would be one thing.  But that taint in his decision-making policy affects every single public school in the state.

In my eyes, as a parent and a Delaware citizen, David Sokola needs to go.  By any means necessary.  I fully endorse Meredith Chapman for the 8th Senate District.  Even if I was a die-hard Democrat and never voted out of party lines, I would make this one exception.  He is that bad.  Do I trust David Sokola to be anti-Right To Work because he truly believes it would be bad for unions or because he knows if he isn’t he would have a hard time getting re-elected in his district with various unions supporting him?  I would go with the latter.  But there comes a time when you have to weed out the rot.  That time is now.  We have had enough Sokola Ebola in Delaware education.  This is a guy who lied in a debate last week.  How can anyone trust him to do the right thing when he lies when the truth would be far better for him?  That is how desperate he has become.  For the first time in 25 years, he knows he may not enter Legislative Hall as a FOIA-protected legislator.  He is scared.  In a microscopic way, down to the molecular level, I feel bad for him in that respect.  But it stops there.  In politics, you reap what you sow.  And what David Sokola has sown over a quarter of a century is dangerous for every single citizen of Delaware.

As I am writing this, the AFLCIO President, James Maravelias just wrote a comment supporting Matthews’ stance on this issue.  To this I can only reply with the following: by allowing Right To Work in Delaware, the unions believe they will lose all their collective bargaining rights.  As a parent, we didn’t seem to have a choice when Senator Sokola, the corporate education reformer led Delaware DOE, and Governor Markell brought Common Core to Delaware.  When a once a year test became the measurement for all Delaware schools.  When our General Assembly passed laws allowing for more charter schools in the state which drained resources out of many school districts.  When special education took a back-seat to standards.  When teachers spent an exorbitant amount of time on professional development during school days.  When our collective voice said “We don’t want our children to take this test”, the DSEA supported an assessment inventory that ultimately led to no real change.  Even when I begged them not to and that it would weaken the parent voice for opt out legislation.  And it worked.  DSEA sheepishly and almost after the fact supported an override of the Governor’s veto but not without my having a tirade of epic proportions that actually caused me to burn some bridges.  I didn’t see DSEA’s collective bargaining power at play when disaster happened at the hands of David Sokola with their own teacher evaluation bill.  One man was able to turn the wishes of the entire DSEA into his playground and he got what he wanted.

Parents are consistently left out of the equation when it comes to education.  Sure, we get our placards on this committee or that task force, but we don’t have the ability to collectively bargain our way out of things we know are bad for our kids.  The majority of the decisions are made those who represent some type of profession in education or a company that will somehow profit off it.  I’m not saying this to bash unions, but to illustrate a point.  Any union is, on its face, going to have a priority of protecting their membership.  I get that.  Just as a baked bean company would be all about making great baked beans.  But when one guy wants to branch off and make different kind of baked bean products that diminish the entire line, that is a big problem.  Even when the research comes back that fully states: this new product isn’t worth a hill of beans, the one guy makes it happen.  That is Senator Sokola in Delaware.

As a final thought, in June of 2015, a Delaware parent openly questioned and challenged Sokola during a Senate Education Committee meeting on opt out.  When Sokola lost his cool and showed the true David Sokola, he told the parent that if she thought she could do a better job herself to run for office.  While this citizen was not able to run for Sokola’s seat, another citizen rose up to the challenge.  Would she have run if Sokola didn’t make a mockery out of parents over opt out?  We will never know.  But perhaps it planted a seed that could begin to bloom next week.  We may not know what kind of plant will grow next year, but it has to be better than the out of control and choking poison ivy that tarnishes every facet of education Sokola touches.  This is why I can’t personally stomach the thought of Sokola sitting in Legislative Hall in 2017.  And nothing, not even a potential threat of Right To Work, could get me to change my mind on that.  Perhaps Frederika Jenner wasn’t fully supportive of paying for a Sokola political ad as a member of the board of Delawarean’s First PAC.  But attaching her name to it sent ripple effects throughout the state in the past 44 hours.  Delaware education won’t change for the better until David Sokola is gone.

As a parent, my top priority is to make sure my child gets the best education possible.  As a parent, I can clearly see how Sokola policy has affected my child and 133,000 other children in Delaware.  I don’t see how a threat of Right To Work has affected these kids.  Perhaps it could become a future danger, but the Defcon-4 danger to education that is happening right now, in real-time, is David Sokola.  He must go.  I understand Mike Matthews and his perception of a Republican Senate as a danger.  But it is not something that would automatically come to pass.  We have years and years of watching Sokola operate.  I’m not running out telling every Delaware citizen to vote Republican in the Senate.  Nor am I doing that for any election this year.  But I would be remiss as a parent, a father, a husband, a supporter of public education, a supporter of teachers, a supporter of transparency, and a supporter of hope by thinking it is okay to give Sokola any possible edge in this election.  I can’t support the triumvirate of Democrat control in Delaware if it means keeping a guy like David Sokola in power.  I will support DSEA and other unions in a lot of areas, but not on David Sokola.  There is no balance in education as long as he retains his Senate seat.

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Trey Paradee For 29th State Rep. District

I’ve known Trey Paradee for a few years now.  He was the first State Representative I ever met.  It is fitting, because he is my State Rep in the 29th District.  I have approached him about many issues, mostly dealing with education.  Trey comes from a long lineage of Paradees who have served Delaware.  I proudly endorse him for another term in the 29th Rep. District.

I witnessed Paradee getting more involved with education during the course of the 148th General Assembly.  During the infamous House Bill 50 opt out saga, Paradee made it a point to attend the House Education Committee meeting to hear what parents and teachers were saying.  He stayed for the entire meeting (and it was a long one).  He voted in favor of House Bill 50 twice and also voted in favor of suspending the rules to allow for a vote on an override of Governor Markell’s veto of said bill.  While that attempt failed, Trey was one of only 13 House Reps who voted yes on this measure out of 40.  It showed his commitment to parents and their inalienable rights.

I haven’t made it easy on Paradee.  As my district rep, Trey is in the sometimes uncomfortable position of being in “that blogger’s” district.  Let’s face it, I’m not always easy on those I disagree with.  To me, it is always about the kids.  But Trey gets that.  I believe he gets that sometimes a legislator needs to cut across the grain in order to do what is right.  But at the same time, he has talked with me about my approach.  And while I haven’t always heeded those words, I very much appreciate his insight.

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This morning, I read the Delaware State News and there was an entire page devoted to Paradee’s views.  His opponents, Republican Jean Gallagher and Green Party candidate Ruth Ann James did not even bother to return the survey.  While it is certainly their right not to participate in a survey, it also speaks volumes to their commitment to informing the citizens of the district about their views on issues.  Given that this article came out a week and a half before the election, I find it odd they would not want to participate in something that would get their positions out there.  Neither of Paradee’s opponents participated in a questionnaire from the Dover Post as well.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Paradee devoted portions of his survey to education.  He cited education funding as a top priority the state needs to change.

However, we have created a system of haves and have-nots, and the referendum process has devolved into a political endeavor with yard signs, call centers and mailers.  Meanwhile, some school districts that deal with a higher number of English second language students and children who face challenges brought upon by poverty do not have adequate resources.  This problem needs to be addressed by the next administration, with the help of parents, educators, and administrators, to find a way to provide adequate resources to our most challenged students while maintaining some of the local control that we have grown to enjoy through the referendum process.

When asked what changes he would like to see in the Delaware Department of Education, he responded with the following:

We need to clean house.  We need to reduce the number of positions and return more control to the local school boards.

Amen Trey!

In looking at Janice Gallagher’s survey responses to the Delaware Voter’s Guide, she fully supports school vouchers which would further cripple an already financially strapped public education system and has proved ineffective in many states.  On her website, Gallagher’s only mention of education is a very broad “create common sense education for your children and grandchildren” which tells me absolutely nothing about what she stands for.  I can easily go back to the past four years and see how Trey Paradee stands on education through his voting record in the House of Representatives.  While I don’t agree with every single vote he has cast, I see a continual increase in his involvement with education issues.

On a personal level, Trey is very approachable and he will look into issues if you go to him.  I have sent a few parents his way over the past couple of years.  During the last legislative session, he made it a point to make sure Delawareans were not unfairly raked over the coals with a proposed Artificial Island project that would have increased energy costs but given the bulk of the benefit of the station to New Jersey residents.  And he succeeded!

Please vote for Trey Paradee if you live in the 29th Rep. District on November 29th.  I know I will!  Besides, who wouldn’t vote for a guy that brings his dogs everywhere!  This is also a state representative who has never missed a vote in the House.  In four years!  Not everyone can say that.  But one thing people can say is that Paradee was a spitting image of Rush singer Geddy Lee in his younger days!

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The 2016 Anti-Endorsements

I see so many endorsements these days based on nothing but vapor.  I thought I would do the opposite.  An anti-endorsement.  Those who I wouldn’t vote for even if they were in my district and they were the only ones running.  These are candidates who have either done some really dumb things or are very clueless about what is going on.  And then there are the elite candidates who think their name is sufficient enough to stay in office.  Sorry, but I see right through you on many issues.  As for my Presidential anti-endorsements, it is a matter of choosing evil either way.  While we can certainly argue all day long about who is more evil, evil is as evil does…

David Sokola, 8th Senate District, incumbent, Democrat: If ever there were someone I would want to disappear from Legislative Hall, it would be Sokola.  It seems like every day I find out more about the damage Sokola has done over the past 25 years.  Enough.  If the 8th Senate District votes this guy in again, they are making a very big mistake.  I will be coming out with something in the next few days that will even cause Newark Charter School parents to rethink any support they may have for him.

Melanie George Smith, 5th Rep District, incumbent, unopposed, Democrat: She is a slippery one, this co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.  Using that kind of pulpit for dubious allocations of state funds is a big no-no in my book.  She has power down at Legislative Hall… too much.  Her recent home purchase in the Newark Charter School 5 mile radius is an transparent as Saran wrap.  I have to wonder what else she has done in the past couple of months in regards to that 5 mile radius…

John Carney, Delaware Governor, Democrat: I’ve heard John is a really nice guy.  He speaks from the heart, but what I worry about is his mind.  In a come from behind primary victory in 2008, Jack Markell beat John Carney.  I believe Carney remembers that very well.  Instead of looking at how bad Markell has been for Delaware over the past eight years, Carney is embracing the Markell mindset and forming the very same allegiances Jack had.  Carney’s “we all have to get along” doesn’t work for me.  It is easy to say that AFTER things have been set in place.  Stacking the deck with certain people and then saying “Let’s get together and talk” is pure politics and that is NOT the change I’m looking for.

Donald Trump, U.S. President, Republican: I lived in New York growing up.  Trump has been around a long time.  I still remember the controversy and shenanigans this guy has pulled going back to the 1980’s.  How he got this far is something I will always wonder about.  He is a bully, pure and simple.  A clown in a suit.  I firmly believe, should he win, he won’t sit long in the Oval Office.  And that will give us a President Mike Pence.  Another corporate education reform lover.  No thanks!

Hillary Clinton, U.S. President, Democrat: When Hillary was running for the New York Senate, an incident happened at Westchester County Airport.  It was covered up.  Someone died.  I wasn’t a big fan of her before that, and I’m not now.  She is the embodiment of all that is wrong with this country.  Corporate interests rule the day for her.  The will of the people will be sapped and broken if she wins.  Not right away.  But it will happen.  She knows damn well exactly what she is doing.  While not as transparent an evil as Donald Trump, it is the snake that is coiled up and hissing behind a rock you have to watch out for.

Colin Bonini, Delaware Governor, Republican: He ran for Governor but every time I hear him talk it sounds like a concession speech to John Carney.  He pretends to hate standardized test scores, but he blasts traditional school districts while thinking charter schools are a worthy replacement.  He forgets that test scores are the apparatus that damages high-need schools in Delaware.  And Colin, slavery apologies don’t change history, but it is a gesture of good faith.  It is not a crutch.

Harris McDowell, 1st Senate District, incumbent: You have long outlived your purpose in Legislative Hall Senator.  I wasn’t a big fan of McDowell before I saw this old post on Delaware Liberal the other night.  He was one of the four flippers on House Bill #334 which made the wretched Smarter Balanced Assessment the law of the land in Delaware.  He also voted no not once, but twice on House Bill 50, the parent opt out bill.  As the Senate co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, it is more than obvious he has used that pulpit for his own purposes.  Shady as shady gets…

Anthony Delcollo, 7th Senate District, candidate, Republican: This candidate did one thing to earn an anti-endorsement.  I attended a fund-raiser for State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Patti Blevins a couple of weeks ago.  Kim Williams will always have my support.  That is a no-brainer.  But Delcollo actually thought it was a good idea to ride around the restaurant where the fundraiser was being held with smears against Blevins on his truck.  This is extremely bad taste and gave me a gross feeling about him.  No thanks…

Pete Schwartzkopf, 14th Rep. District, incumbent, Democrat: A Jack Markell water carrier thick and thin.  It wasn’t just his appalling tactics with his desk-drawer veto of House Bill 50.  It was the disrespect he showed to members of the House.  As Speaker of the House, he has abused that role to further certain interests while using the big chair as a bully pulpit.  But all that pales to his behavior in caucus…  There is a very good reason many in Delaware refer to him as “Sneaky Pete”.

Joe Miro, 22nd Rep. District, incumbent, Republican: The one who brought the VERY WEAK opt out legislation forward when the House could have suspended the rules and overturned Jack Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  Nothing happened with that legislation and it was a way for Miro and other House Republicans make it look like they supported parental rights but instead brought it a crushing defeat that actually made parents feel like legislators don’t care about their rights.

Mike Ramone, 21st Rep. District, incumbent, Republican: See above.  But add to that, his telling me he can’t support the override because of John Kowalko…  not a good thing to tell me at all.  Add in his fervent support of charter school legislation that would have benefited charters for nothing but pleasing the charter crowd.

Bethany Hall-Long, Lieutenant Governor, Democrat: When I saw Hall-Long at the Del. State debate the other night, I saw someone who was pandering to a crowd.  I know, that’s what politicians do in many cases.  But it was thick as mud.  She was overdoing it.  She talks and talks and I don’t know if she truly understand what is coming out.  Her very quick plug for Teach For America the other night, after getting an endorsement from DSEA, spoke volumes.

Lisa Blunt-Rochester, U.S. Congress, Democrat: Her refusal to support parental rights in regards to standardized testing is a big reason I can’t support her.  But her Delaware Way of thinking, where everyone has to hash it out, hasn’t worked for Delaware.  And it is not going to work in Congress.  None of our Delaware reps in Congress have done anything really good for Delaware the past few years.  All of them voted no on an opt out amendment prior to the ESEA reauthorization.  I don’t see her supporting public education the way I would expect her to.  She seems far too connected with the Rodel crowd.  Those connections have been very bad for Delaware education.  While I think it would be great to have a female African-American Delaware Representative in Congress, I don’t think it should be her.

There are a few others who, a year ago, would have easily made this list.  But they earned some points for me in the last year.  It doesn’t mean I’m not watching them like a hawk though.  Some who I easily supported a year ago actually took a turn for the worse but they haven’t completely fallen into the pit.  Their conduct in the 149th General Assembly will tell the tale.  Not every anti-endorsement means I am 100% behind their challenger if they have one.  But my real endorsements are coming soon.

Bethany Hall-Long Supports TFA, Colin Bonini Hates The Priority Schools, and John Carney Says “See My Plan”

johnboninicolincarney

I attended a Delaware Governor and Lieutenant Governor debate tonight at Delaware State University.  It felt like it should have been an episode of The Gong Show.  In a night where Colin Bonini said he felt like Delaware’s apology for slavery was a crutch and Lamar Gunn talked to the audience about discrimination and how they don’t have to vote blue or red but rather the person.  There was a lot of talk about discrimination tonight, yet no one addressed the point that the Libertarian and Green candidates were not invited to the debate.  Candidates who I’m sure would have had a lot more to offer than the ones I saw tonight.

Yes, in a reply to a question about a lack of minority teachers in Delaware, Senator Bethany Hall-Long took it upon herself, a DSEA supported candidate, to publicly support Teach For America.  She said why do we have to wait that long when we have Teach For America ready to come into our schools.  So let me get this straight Bethany: you would rather have minorities go through a six-week crash course on teaching Delaware students and throw them in schools than go through the actual degree process to become a Delaware teacher?  Would you have come out with that statement before you were endorsed by the Delaware State Education Association?  This was after she gave a very bizarre “Take A Look At Me Now” opening statement like she was auditioning for a 21st Century Shirley Temple movie.

Colin Bonini decided to throw the six priority schools under the bus.  And then go in reverse and run over them all over them again.  By calling them “six failed schools” because of their test scores, he bashed the schools for only hiring assistant principals.  But then he went that next step as only Bonini would by saying they should have been converted to charter schools.  When asked about why he voted no on the resolution for Delaware to apologize for its role in slavery, Bonini actually told the over 90% African-American crowd he thought slavery apologies were a crutch.

And John Carney.  If I heard “if you take a look at my plan” one more time I was probably going to have to yell “Do you even know what is in your plans?”  Because it was obvious in many areas he didn’t.  When asked about criminal justice he said his campaign was coming out with a plan on that subject in a few days.  As he smugly sat there and said “When I become the next Governor,” Bonini retorted back with his I know I’m going to lose face with a similar comment about how Carney would work in his administration.  In fact, Bonini made it a point to tell the audience he likes John Carney even though his campaign manager keeps telling him to stop saying that.  Carney went a step further and told everyone he and Bonini are friends, and “that’s how we get things done in Delaware.”  Yes, the rotting and festering wound we call “The Delaware Way.”  In some respects, Bonini almost looked like he was prepping for continued life as a Delaware Senator who will have to work with Governor Carney.  It was the only logical answer I could find as he tried to mesmerize the audience with the magical word “Prosperity” throughout the night.

When Lieutenant Governor candidate Lamar Gunn wasn’t trying to eviscerate his opponent every chance he got, he did make some good points about race in Delaware.  But it got lost in his newly created powers he wants for the Lieutenant Governor role.  Carney, Bonini, and Hall-Long all talked about college and career readiness.  And this legislation and that legislation.  Bonini answered many questions with one word, “Prosperity”, before he attempted to explain why prosperity is the answer to life.  Both Hall-Long and Carney couldn’t seem to reconcile how Delaware needs all these 21st Century jobs starting real soon and how we need the bottom rung jobs as well.  It almost seemed like they were telling the audience, “Don’t worry, we will create jobs for you if we can’t get you into those Pathways To Prosperity jobs.”

It was a dismal night.  After the Carney-Bonini debate, someone asked me if I liked what I heard.  My only response was “I never like what I hear.”  This is Delaware.  Everyone wants a seat at the table, but as Gunn put it, you aren’t being invited to the table, you are a dessert on the table.”   Two words I didn’t hear from any candidate’s mouth were special education.  They all seem to forget that for some students, it isn’t just being a minority, it is also being a student with disabilities.  But Carney told the audience how we have been going from one education reform to the next, but whatever we come up with next, we have to make it stick.  Like we haven’t heard that before.  As the Delaware DOE gets ready to unleash the first draft of their ESSA plan that will be a boon for outside providers and will pretty much give schools the same sucky accountability standards they had before.  But both Carney and Bonini said they believe in local control.

In response to the upcoming report coming out on discrimination in Delaware State Government, Carney wants to take that role out of the Office of Management and Budget and give them their own brand new cabinet position in Delaware government.  As he talked about the huge deficit we will face in the next year.  When asked if that would be separate from a Civil Rights office, Carney quickly chimed in that he could roll that into it.  Bonini spoke about a letter he wrote wanting to create new committees in the House and Senate for civil rights but added it would have been hard to do in the middle of a General Assembly.  But Gunn went after Hall-Long for not voting on it even though it was never legislation.

Like the picture of John Bonini and Colin Carney above, my brain felt very blurry as I left the auditorium and walked to my car on this crisp and cool Autumn evening.  It is an epidemic during this 2016 election season.  Brain cells crashing into each other as we continue to ask ourselves why the future sounds so important but those guiding the way are oblivious to so much.  If I walked away from this with any support for any of the four candidates, it would have to be Gunn for Lieutenant Governor.  Only to watch him preside over the Senate while Bethany Hall-Long fake smiles the whole time.  I would have loved to have seen Carney and Bonini react to Libertarian Gubernatorial candidate Sean Goward’s awesome ideas.  But that’s the Delaware Way…

So what should I expect in the next four years of Delaware?  John Carney purposely avoiding eye contact with me, which would make tonight the hat trick for this kind of behavior since I met him at one of his Spaghetti meet and greets earlier last month.  But that’s okay, I’m sure he has a plan…

Senator David Sokola Does NOT Get Endorsed By Delaware State Education Association

The Delaware State Education Association came out with their 2016 Endorsed Candidate list for the upcoming election in November.  There is a rather large glaring omission: the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, none other than 8th District Senator David Sokola.  I can’t say I’m surprised.  He was not a friend to teachers in the 148th General Assembly.  Or parents.  Or students.  Between House Bill 50 and House Bill 399, opt out to teacher evaluations, Sokola did not make a lot of new friends the past two years.   He was widely seen as the legislative water carrier for Governor Jack Markell.  While he is now trying to distance himself from the Delaware Dept. of Education, his actions the past two years speak otherwise.  This is very big folks!  To be the Chair of an education committee at Legislative Hall and NOT get endorsed by the teachers union speaks volumes.

DSEA’s 2016 Endorsed Candidates for State and Federal Elections

DSEA’s 2016 Endorsed Candidates

Delaware United And “Video Gate”

*Editor’s Note: The Sokola Videos are back up now.  Apparently, Delaware United didn’t announce the videos yet but forgot to put it on private when they uploaded them to Youtube.  And of course the Sneaky Snake Blogger stumbled on them (which is how I find a ton of stuff… shhhhhh!).  I was a bit rough on the rookie political grassroots group.  They are new, and they will make mistakes.  Growing pains of any new organization.  I know I never make mistakes on here (stop laughing).  And I never overreact (seriously, stop laughing).

This morning, I put up a series of videos between Delaware United and Delaware Senator David Sokola.  I found these three videos on Youtube last night.  At the request of one of the parties involved in the videos (not David Sokola), I was asked me to take the post down. I honored the request. I soon found the videos were made private on Youtube.  I felt the interview was excellent and gave voters in the 8th Senate District a good vantage point on David Sokola’s views on education. Many topics were covered: the Charter School vs. Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education lawsuit, the WEIC redistricting plan and what happened in the General Assembly, education funding, Newark Charter School, parent engagement, teacher unions in charter schools, and so on.  But apparently, since Delaware United does not slam candidates, the perception of posting the videos on a blog that is very critical of David Sokola would be seen as the group slamming Sokola.

Delaware United has been around for a few months now. After Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the Presidential Democrat primary, many upper Delaware Bernie supporters created Delaware United. Since their creation, they have reached out to candidates in Delaware at a state and federal level.  While Delaware United claims to not be affiliated with any political party, every single one of their endorsements have been Democrat candidates.  While I agree with some of their choices, I have serious issues with a group that claims to be non-partisan but every single one of their goals and endorsements are Democrat leaning.  The group describes themselves as the following on their Facebook page:

Welcome to Delaware United, a proactive group of Delaware voters and volunteers from various backgrounds, all united to change the course of Delaware local politics.

But what is even odder is their rules for their Facebook page:

Policies and Practices for Delaware United Online Activity

Delaware United·Thursday, September 22, 2016 .

Policies and Practices for Delaware United Online Activity
Updated: September 22, 2016

*All rules are subject to change at the discretion of Delaware United’s Administrators
Rules for Facebook posts for Those Who Like, Visit or Follow Delaware United’s Page

  1. No posting on, commenting on, or tagging/hashtagging Delaware United regarding Presidential Politics. This is a locally-organized group, and we need to come together to change Delaware. That will not happen by subdividing on presidential politics, it will happen by getting involved locally and making a difference in Delaware specific issues.
  2. No posting on, commenting on, or tagging/hashtagging Delaware United in attack posts about any candidates. We are all adults, and you don’t need to pick on anyone or drag anyone down to prove your point. If you want to lift up a candidate and explain reasonably and maturely voice your opinion about any candidate, you are certainly free to do so. However, we do not attack other candidates, we are nonpartisan, we use positive press because we do not need to further propagate the disrespectful division in our political process. This state belongs to all of us, and we need to work together to make a difference.
  3. No attacking each other via posting, commenting, or tagging/hashtagging. When you see something you don’t agree with, there is the option to keep scrolling. Please do not attack other people because they have different opinions on a topic or person. If you can respectfully voice your opposing opinion and wish to open a dialogue GREAT; we encourage that, but please be respectful of each other. Again, we need to work together.
  4. No spam posts or comments. If you are repeatedly posting the same long, drawn out comments it will be removed each time, after which you will first receive a warning message or comment, and then you will be banned from commenting and/or blocked. Open a dialogue, talk to each other, voice your opinions, but no one wants to read the same 1200 word post that you have pasted in every comment for the past week, or see that you are using a page with an engaged audience for your own purpose.
  5. Please try to post comments relevant to the post. We have all seen someone try to post a completely unrelated article or copy paste a comment in every post on a page, but we have also seen comments stray way off topic, despite whether or not the commenters realize this. An open dialogue is great, and it is encouraged, but this is about creating community, so please if you want to talk to someone about an issue privately message them or friend request them, and chat elsewhere. Build friendships, build dialogues, and community; we need to come together in Delaware, and who knows maybe we can create some in person relationships instead of just cyber ones. We aren’t going to block anyone, or delete comments for straying off topic, but rather we are encouraging you to become a community.
  6. Refrain from using certain language to describe our group. Please do not refer to Delaware United directly using all or any part of the following terms: “Democrats”, “Progressive.” “Liberal,” “Watchdog;” We don’t need labels, and not everyone in this group falls under any of these terms, so please be respectful of them. Please keep in mind the nature of our group is one that is all-inclusive, regardless of political party or past voting history, and even those who cannot vote in Delaware are still welcomed and useful volunteers, as long as they believe in our platform.

When a supposed non-partisan group begins telling people HOW TO VOTE, I have serious issues with that.  Any citizen’s right to vote is their choice.  How a person formulates who they want to vote for and why is their own business.  It gives a vibe of “if you don’t agree with us then you can’t be a part of our group.”  By telling people we welcome everyone as long as you believe in our platform, that sends a very mixed message.  But this October 15th post on their Facebook page really pissed me off:

Hey everybody, I just want to share this message of caution when it comes to some of the rhetoric that’s affecting the hardest working candidates in this election cycle.

One thing I have to say, that I forgot to mention in the video, is that we have people fighting for some of the most forward thinking policies in our nation, right here in Delaware, and they need your help to get re-elected to continue fighting that fight. Please consider volunteering and help us help Delaware. We need people to remain in the house and senate that have fought for living wage policies, public option health care, pay equity, campaign finance reform, and all the other issues we care about most. This clean out the house, and burn it down in the process rhetoric is not only dangerous, but it is also detrimental to our goals across the country.

You have to consider what the other option is in the general election, would we be going from a person with one policy position you don’t agree with, to a person with even worse positions? Is that a trade you really want to make? Additionally, please be aware that you can not just vote based on positions on one issue, that is dangerous and short sighted. If you agree with 90% of the candidates policies, but 10% you disagree with, on one side of the ticket, but on the other you disagree with 90% but agree with 10%, is that a trade you really want to make as well? Please vote, but please vote educated.

What percentage of a person’s issues that factor into how they vote is their own business.  There is no formula to this.  It is all an individual decision.  This is just one of the many reasons I can’t wait until this damn election is over.

I never participated in any of Delaware United’s events.  I did share their video series with Sokola’s Republican opponent, Meredith Chapman.  I just realized while linking to that article, the 2nd out of the three videos no longer exists.  For a group that promotes transparency, I am having a very difficult time with their back and forth on what can be said, what views a person is supposed to have, what percentage of their mind should vote for a candidate, deleting of public posts, their very biased endorsements based on their overarching goal of the group, and the very bizarre handling of the Sokola/Chapman contest.  What does it even mean when you post videos with one candidate in a contest but not the other candidate?  I think this group has bitten off more than they can chew.  I have no doubt Delaware Democrats love them to death.  But this is not Delaware United.  This is Delaware Democrats United.  If you want to claim to be a non-partisan group, then stick with the original title.  But their actions suggest something altogether different.  I deplore any type of censorship.  Their very strict rules in regards to what people can or can’t say goes against the most basic foundations of a democracy.  If this is “Delaware United”, then count me out.

I will attempt to recollect to the best of my ability the highlights of the Sokola interviews.  The first video was about Delaware education.  The first question dealt with the charter school lawsuit against the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Sokola said there were inconsistencies with the formula but he laid the blame on the Delaware DOE for what happened.  When asked if he would pick a side in the battle: charters or school districts, Sokola flat-out said his side is “the money follows the kid”.  He made it look like the General Assembly will still attempt to bring all the sides together on this issue and hopes to have many parents attend.  But he said “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” in regards to getting parents involved.  One question dealt with Newark Charter School and the lack of an organized PTA or PTO.  As well, the question also touched on teacher unions in charter schools.  Sokola said he will not write legislation forcing union membership as he believes that is a choice for each teacher to make in filling out a union card and collectively creating a union.  He said the idea of charter schools creating innovative schools was written into the original charter law (which he wrote and took full credit for), but he claimed it is a two-way street and both sides need to come together to collaborate.  He cited Kuumba Charter School having a Singapore Math program and how Brandywine reached out to them and came together.  One Delaware United member said she asked NCS Head of School Greg Meece about this issue to which Meece said something to the effect of throwing out an olive branch and no one took him up on it.  In regards to WEIC, Sokola said it came down to funding.  When told the funding could have been made available, Sokola replied with a nonchalant answer about the original WEAC plan giving certain recommendations but when the WEIC redistricting plan came out it became much more with no clear way of knowing if those recommendations would work in the long run for students.  A suggestion was made to Sokola that if legislation comes up in the Senate Education Committee where parents come to support an issue, that legislation should happen first on the agenda so parents can get back to their families.

When I first heard about Delaware United, a citizen approached me about it.  This person said they were concerned about how the group was forming.  I checked them out.  I liked their Facebook page.  But I made it very clear to this group I would not support all of their endorsements and I felt their censorship regarding certain things flew against what they stood for.  Apparently that advice wasn’t taken seriously.  I am putting up the Sokola interview article again.  I am now seeing the 2nd Sokola video is still up.  Read from that what you will.  This blog will no longer play Ping-Pong over another group’s internal strife.

 

Vote For John Kowalko In The 25th Rep District On Election Day!

johnkowalko

No one stood up for parents more than Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko in the 148th General Assembly.  As the prime House sponsor on House Bill 50, the opt out bill, Rep. Kowalko fought for months to ensure that a parent’s fundamental rights to opt their child out of the state assessment was honored.  Furthermore, it would have stopped schools or the state from punishing a child for having a parent opt them out.  Ultimately, the bill overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate but Governor Markell vetoed the bill.  An attempt to override the veto failed when the legislators came back in 2016.

parentrally2

John Kowalko is the rake at the gates of hell when it comes to standing up to Jack Markell on education.  He is not afraid to go against the establishment when he knows in his heart those choices are not good for kids.  He has always been about looking out for the little guy.  He will not vote yes on the state budget if it means those with the highest needs will do without.  I respect that immensely.  Because of his stances and how he makes noise, he runs into opposition constantly in the General Assembly.  We need more legislators who can be vocal and won’t bow down to leadership.

kimkevjohn

Kowalko’s opponent has failed to give me any reason to support him.  If anything, he sounds a lot like John Kowalko but much less experienced.  I have never subscribed to this Delaware Way theory of “getting along to go along.”  I compare it to being a part of the race without realizing you are being dragged by the horse on the way to the finish line.  We don’t need more of that in Dover.  We need more like Kowalko!  Some will call me crazy and believe that John Kowalko is unable to get along with his peers.  I think it is the other way around.  Too many are unwilling to get along with Kowalko because they know he is right and that if they allied themselves with him it wouldn’t be the best for their own personal agendas.  The will of the people in Delaware should be the biggest priority of our General Assembly.  But private interests and political power rule the day.  Until we get more John Kowalkos in the General Assembly, we will continue to play this status quo game.  And that is NOT good for Delaware.

PPC#2

At the end of the day, Kowalko is about doing what is right. Yes, he utilizes the press every chance he can to get his message out to the people. It is not self-serving. It is so enough people can hear what he is saying to help the people. I endorse John Kowalko for the 25th Rep. District in Newark. I urge citizens in this district to re-elect John Kowalko so we have another voice of reason in the Delaware 149th General Assembly.

 

The Sad Legacy Of Delaware Senator David Sokola

It’s hard to believe it has been almost 22 months since the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union and Delaware Community Legal Aid announced their complaint against the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  That complaint is sitting in the Philadelphia Office of Civil Rights collecting dust.  I read the complaint again this morning.  There is a legislator whose name is mentioned a few times in this complaint as the author of legislation that contributed to segregation in Delaware… Senator David Sokola.

ncsvschristina

I’ve noticed in the past week that the upcoming General Election in Delaware has many wondering if Sokola’s accomplishments outside of education should give him a second chance.  I’ve argued that no matter what Meredith Chapman’s stances on education are, they pale in comparison to what Sokola has wrought.  To be honest, aside from a video interview with Delaware United and a citizen commenting on a Facebook thread that Chapman supports a parent’s right to opt out of the state assessment, I have not heard enough from her to get a good picture of her views on education.

cswvsredclay

Knowing what occurred in Delaware because of certain charter schools and their enrollment practices, I thought this would be a slam-dunk in the Office of Civil Rights.  But that office, an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Education, has been strangely silent.  I am aware these complaints take years to reach a ruling.  But the complaint itself says enough about Senator Sokola that any citizen reading it should be able to have a clear picture in their mind.  The complaint also talks about the ignored warnings and omens from many that came with Sokola’s legislation which led to de facto segregation in parts of Delaware.  I have never heard Sokola apologize for this.  I’ve never seen any indication that he understands any of this.

savsir

David Sokola is a very intelligent man.  He is someone who sees data and facts.   His favorite word is “heartburn” when talking about legislation he doesn’t like.  I’ve heard from many about his support for non-education bills that were very progressive in nature.  But as I’ve always said, if you support legislation that will ultimately harm children, that is not very progressive.  Like the citizens of Delaware who offered warnings before harmful Sokola legislation passed in the Delaware General Assembly, I offer a warning to Delaware.  If the citizens of the 8th Senate District vote Sokola back into another term, Delaware children will suffer.  Numbers don’t lie, and even if those charter schools changed their enrollment preferences to get rid of pre-enrollment assessments, 5 mile radius, sibling preferences, employee preferences, or the many other little things that contributed to the eventual outcomes we now see, it will be years before the situation balances between those three charter schools and the districts around them.

The complaint against the Delaware DOE and Red Clay is below.

Delaware Medicaid Cuts For Day Treatment Centers Will Make Schools A “One Size Fits All” Band-Aid

The root of the State of Delaware cutting day treatment centers that have state contracts lies with Medicaid.  The federal government issued guidance in 2011 urging states to look at their state Medicaid plans.  As a result of Delaware’s plan, it has been determined that day treatment centers can no longer be reimbursed for education through Medicaid as of June 30th, 2016.  The news coming out about the state closing these centers has not been officially released yet but something is supposed to come out from the Division of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families this evening.

What this means is day centers can no longer provide any education services for children under the age of 21.  They can only provide direct treatment or counseling.  Many students that currently attend these centers receive both.  It will force these centers to essentially shut down.  So far, it has been confirmed that the two most impacted day centers will be the Terry Center in New Castle and Seaford House in Sussex County.  But there are others, and this will impact a lot of children.

So where will these children go?  Many parents of these students fear they will be placed in their district Intensive Learning Centers (ILC).  I have found these ILCs to be more like a boot camp than a place where students with disabilities or troubled youth can get the true help they need.  The ILCs tend to treat all problems as behavior, but most severe disabilities are neurologically based.

All of this was reported by the State of Delaware through the regulatory process, but the language used in the writing is somewhat vague and never once mentions the words “day treatment center” which is the commonly used terminology for these places.  This is from Regulation 763 which was finalized on February 1st, 2016:

5. Other EPSDT Services
Reimbursement for services not otherwise covered under the State Plan is determined by the Medicaid agency through review of a rate setting committee. Non-institutional services are paid on a fee-for-service basis. Institutional services are per diem rates based on reasonable costs. These services include:
(a) Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care – see ATT. 4.19-B, Page 7
(b) Inpatient and Partial Hospital Psychiatric Services – reimbursed on a per diem basis
(c) Outpatient Psychiatric Facility Services – fee-for-service
(d) (b) School-Based Health Service (SBHS) Providers:
School based health service providers include Delaware school districts and charter schools and may provide the following Medicaid services per Attachment 3.1-A, Page 2 Addendum:
EPSDT Screens
Nursing Services
Physical Therapy
Occupational Therapy
Speech Therapy, Language and Hearing Services
Psychological and Developmental Treatment Assessment
Counseling and Therapy
Residential Mental Health or Developmental Disability Treatment
Specialized Transportation Services
19 DE Reg. 763 (02/01/16) (Final)

 

As I feared, they are taking out services that are necessary for students with disabilities and attempting to replace those with either in-home services or school-based services.  I’m sorry, but even with the strides some schools have made with special education, these students are not meant to be in an inclusive setting at times based on their disabilities.  And ILCs are a prison for these kids.  They are psychological torture.  This is very bad.  Delaware will say they went through all the proper channels, but if the Regulation was finalized in February, why are parents just finding out about this now? Why didn’t they send something to parents that have their child in the state Medicaid program to let them know of these HUGE changes?  Writing about regulations with all their confusing jargon and legalese is not the same thing as making sure that information gets disseminated to citizens in a clear and coherent way.  This is how both state and federal government get away with things.

But who is going to pay for these increased services in our schools?  We don’t have enough money now to properly service public education.  Will this mean more federal grants tied to the Every Student Succeeds Act?  Or will we start to see the slow invasion of non-education entities coming into our schools?  Is this just Delaware or will other states go through this process?  These are burning questions I mean to find the answers to.

Unless the legislators don’t check their state email, they should all know about this by now.  I emailed every one of them, along with Governor Markell, Attorney General Matt Denn, DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and several others about this today.  But this information regarding the regulation and the Medicaid situation I just found out about in the past few hours.  In reviewing the FY2017 Budget Proposal by the DSCYF to the Joint Finance Committee this year, this plan wasn’t clearly laid out to the General Assembly.  But the timing on this, when these day treatment centers would close, would be after the General Election even though Medicaid stopped reimbursing for these services as of 6/30/16.  How many people knew about this?  Did John Carney?

I have wondered over the past two years, as I fell deeper into the corporate education reform rabbit hole, how students with disabilities, especially those with the most severe, could ever survive in the upcoming personalized learning/competency-based education world.  The answer is becoming very clear: they can’t.  I believe the intent is to push them out of public education.  To force parents into homeschooling their children with moderate to severe disabilities.  The problem becomes the affordability of this.  That would mean one parent can’t work a normal 9-5 job.  It means less revenue for the state.  But these families will still be expected to pay property taxes to pay for our schools.  How is that just in any way?  I have always spoken out against voucher programs.  But if our state wants to force the hand of families of disabled children, perhaps it is time a new conversation started.

 

Delaware Governor Candidate John Carney Releases Proposed Education Policy

johncarney

Congressman John Carney, one of the candidates for Delaware Governor, released a long education policy proposal.  After many months of grilling Carney’s campaign for this, he has finally released it.  Earlier this month, I had 32 different questions I asked the candidates, but Carney did not respond due to his desire to release this information after the Delaware Primary.

A Message From Sean Goward, Candidate For Delaware Governor

Delaware candidate for Governor Sean Goward is asking for YOUR help.  No matter what your political views are, everyone deserves a shot to speak when they run for office.  It can’t just be the blues and the reds that get to debate, no matter where it is.  This message also applies to Andrew Groff, the gubernatorial candidate for the Green Party as well!

The most recent poll out of Quinnipiac on this issue has debate inclusion at a very favorable 62%.  Delaware can do better than that though.  Let’s get 100% and be fair to ALL the candidates!

Good afternoon,

Whether you support my campaign or not, I would like to ask your support in favor of an open and transparent election process. University of Delaware Center for Political Communication has a requirement that we meet a 10% poll threshold in a professionally conducted public opinion survey. I’m not sure how many of you have received phone calls asking you who you intend to vote for, but for the calls I’ve gotten, despite being on the ballot, unopposed in my party, I was not one of the options.

The market of ideas only improves with more options, and I’m not asking you to buy my ideas, or to vote for me. While the LP presidential nominee is working hard to meet his 15% threshold for debating on the national stage, more than 75% of people polled support having third party candidates on the debate stage. In an election year that is marked by a distaste for a lack of options, what I am asking for is that we leverage the support of the people of Delaware for allowing your Libertarian candidate to stand on the debate stage next to Congressman Carney and State Senator Colin Bonini , and represent the ideals of Liberty. 

If you would like to hear another voice outside the mainstream of options provided, please call or write to the University of Delaware Center for Political Communications and ask them to revisit their exclusionary policy that favors only the two party system. Thank you.

Yours in Liberty,
Sean

I would LOVE to see Sean Goward debate with Carney and Bonini.  Groff as well.  Let’s make it happen!

Contact Info to make this happen:

UD CPC
Email: prbrewer@udel.edu
Phone: (302) 831-7771

 

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Kim Williams For State Representative, 19th District

kimwilliamsstaterep

She does the right thing.  There is no other reason than that to vote for Kim Williams in the 19th District.  But for those few and far between in Delaware who may not know Kim Williams, let me explain why I am endorsing her.

Kim Williams is the Vice Chair of the House Education Committee.  She has served on that committee since she was first elected in 2012.  In that time, she has dealt with charter school reform, opt out, charter school audit, teacher evaluation, special education, education funding, Smarter Balanced, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, bullying, and so much more.  She votes with her conscience every single time.  Not how others vote, or the popular vote, but how SHE wants to vote.  And behind that vote is her love of children.  Not just the children of her district.  Not just the children in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  All the children of Delaware.

If there are issues going on at a school, she is there.  She isn’t afraid to ask questions when it has to happen.  If there is something big going on in education, she is there.

My favorite “Kim Williams” moment was when I was talking to a friend that lives in a school district 45 minutes south of me.  Kim’s district is way up in Newcastle County.  This friend told me how she was working with Kim on an issue.  I was amazed that Kim would help someone who lives so far away.  That’s just who she is.

But she is more than just an “education” state rep.  She is the people’s representative.  To me, she is the heart and soul of Delaware, at least what I would like it to be one day.  I wrote a fake article last year called The Last Exceptional Delaware Post.  In this imaginary future, Kim Williams was the Governor of Delaware in the year 2024.  I’m not ruling that out!

In writing this article, I wanted to find a picture of Kim that represents who she is.  It was very hard.  As I looked through her pictures on Facebook, she is always surrounded by people.  All the time.  Whether it is her family, her friends, her constituents, her peers in the General Assembly, she is always with people!

Please check out Kim’s State Rep. Facebook page to see how engaged she is with not only her constituents, but all of Delaware.  For those wishing to donate to Kim’s campaign, please go here: Contribute to Kim Williams, State Rep. 19th District Campaign

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Sherry Dorsey Walker For Lieutenant Governor

sherrydorseywalker

I’ve known Sherry Dorsey Walker for a couple of years now.  I first met her at a Christina Board meeting on the priority schools two years ago.  She stood quietly in the back, listening to every single word said.  It was one of the very few meetings I’ve been to in Delaware where the public comments were longer than the actual board meeting.

Sherry is a huge education advocate.  She wants the best for the children of Wilmington and the entire state.  Sherry gets it, in ways that many others do not.  She recognizes that poverty and violence are a hurdle to overcome.  She is all about ending the school to prison pipeline and making sure suspensions drop, especially for African-American students.

Jackie Kook, a Christina School District teacher, had this to say about Sherry:

I’ve been working with her on the Coalition for Fairness and Equity in Schools. She has a sister who is an educator. She’s good people and listens to the teachers.

I couldn’t agree more.  I would love to see Sherry presiding over the Delaware Senate!

 

Primary Polls: Who Will Win & Who Do You Think Deserves To Win! Vote Before You Vote!

please-vote

In about 51 hours, the Delaware Primary Season will be over.  There are a ton of races throughout the state, from Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Insurance Commissioner, U.S. Congress, State Senator, State Representative, Mayor of Wilmington and New Castle County Executive.  With these polls, pick who you think will win and who you think deserves to win (your chosen candidate).  For some races this will be it after the primary.  Whoever wins the primary wins the election.  But some races aren’t done after the Primary.  Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday!

 

 

 

 

Epic Fail: State Rep. Candidate Tries To Make It Look He Was Endorsed By DSEA When He Wasn’t

A candidate in the 10th State Representative District uploaded a picture on his Facebook page today suggesting he had been endorsed by the Delaware State Education Association when he had not.

Former State Rep. Dennis Williams (not the Mayor of Wilmington) is running against current State Rep. Sean Matthews.  Matthews beat Williams in the Primary two years ago.  Williams is attempting to get his seat back despite a plethora of endorsements for Sean Matthews, including Sean’s endorsement by DSEA!  Today, he put this picture up on his Facebook campaign page:

denniswilliamsfakedseaendorsement

When he was called out on it, he suggested it was an older endorsement from DSEA.  I would say that was a very unwise decision for Williams.  Williams also did a “side-by-side” of information that makes him look great compared to Matthews.  When Matthews voted no on the budget on July 1st, 2015, he had very specific reasons for doing so along with five other Democrats.  By even attempting to do this comparison, Williams is making a mountain out of hay.  Horrible, just horrible…

I wish candidates could run fair campaigns and instead of stating why they are better, they should talk more about what they are going to do.  And putting up VERY deceptive pictures to give a false illusion of an endorsement is fraudulent in my opinion.  Williams has since taken the cover photo down, but the posting still appears on his Facebook campaign page.  I sincerely hope he takes it down soon so voters won’t get a false impression that he was endorsed by DSEA when he wasn’t.

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Sean Matthews For State Rep. District 10

sean_matthews

Sean Matthews is awesome.  I can’t put it any clearer.  The 1oth Representative District in Delaware has only one choice to make on September 13th: Sean Matthews.

I met Sean in the beginning days of the 148th General Assembly when he came in as a rookie.  He is always friendly and cordial.  I knew he was an educator and stood for many of the same things I do.  But he took the ball and ran with it.  During the House Bill 50/opt out saga, he was in front of the bill supporting it all the way.  This brought him in conflict with some of his Democrat peers in the House, but he didn’t give up.  When there was a question if the bill would die in the original House vote, Sean added an amendment to make it just the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  My proudest moment with Sean Matthews came in March of 2015.  The News Journal had an opposing views column on opt out, and Sean annihilated State Rep. Earl Jaques position on the issue.

But Sean’s accomplishments go beyond just House Bill 50.  He sponsored House Bill 157, signed by Governor Markell, which would change how potential patients are able to gather crucial information about freestanding emergency rooms.  He helped ease some of the burdens citizens face during snowstorms when they live near a school with House Bill 129, also signed by the Governor.  Matthews also sponsored a bill that may not seem important now but could save many lives down the road with House Bill 91.  If a student is opted out of immunizations based on religious beliefs, that student would be temporarily excluded from school in the event of an outbreak for what that student could have received a vaccine for.  That one was controversial, but it makes sense in the context of that kind of frightening scenario.  Sean also signed on as a sponsor on many education bills that I pushed for, including House Bill 30 (basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade) and House Bill 399 (the teacher evaluation bill that I am hearing Governor Markell will sign in the next few weeks).

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As an educator in the Brandywine School District, Sean knows exactly what kind of challenges students face.  He doesn’t buy into the education fixit talk we hear from so many in Delaware.  He knows what teachers need to be able to reach students so they can truly succeed.  Not by a standardized test, but by treating students as unique and creative kids.  He knows that poverty is not an excuse for teachers to do their best with low-income students, but it plays a crucial factor in brain development.  I remember hearing him on the Rick Jensen Show one afternoon when he talked about the actual physical effects of poverty on the human brain and how that can impact a student’s ability to learn effectively.

On June 30th, 2015, Sean and five other Democrats valiantly said no to the budget that year.  He knew this would draw criticism from some of his peers who believe a budget vote must always be yes.  But he stood his ground, and for that I respect him.  I would rather see someone vote no for the right reasons than vote yes for the wrong reasons.

seaninthehouse

He was one of the key members on the Assessment Inventory Committee that advocated for including the Smarter Balanced Assessment as one of the tests to look at getting rid of.  In the education arena we live in under Governor Markell, Sean consistently stuck his neck out in the face of fierce opposition.  But he did so with style and grace.  I don’t know if he first coined the phrase “cash in the trash” but it was the first time I heard it.  This term refers to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on education reform that doesn’t really do anything for students or educators.

He is one of the younger and newer faces at Legislative Hall, but also one of the brightest.  Rookie House Reps aren’t always able to get a lot done during their first term.  But Matthews will be one to watch, that I can bank on.  We have only begun to see what Sean Matthews has to offer and I urge the citizens in the 10th District to vote for Sean next Tuesday, September 13th.  Dennis Williams had his time.  It passed in 2014 when something better came along.