It looks like you need special permission to introduce legislation to help students with disabilities. At the Joint House and Senate Education Committee today in Delaware, State Rep. Earl Jaques asked one of the presenters of the special education strategic plan if she checked with the Delaware Chamber Of Commerce first before pushing legislation for special education diplomas. Currently, many students with disabilities with complex and intensive needs get a certificate in lieu of a diploma. Many businesses will not hire these young adults after graduation because they do not have a diploma.
The legislation, which was filed last week by State Rep. Kim Williams, would award these students a diploma based on modified standards. It is not exactly the same as a regular diploma because of those modified standards, but it is still a diploma. That way, these students would be able to check the box on job applications indicating they have a diploma.
During a question and answer session after Michele Marinucci and Bill Doolittle gave the special education strategic plan presentation, State Rep. Earl Jaques (also the Chair of the House Education Committee) asked Marinucci if she consulted with the Delaware Chamber of Commerce and the business community over the proposed legislation. Marinucci indicated she had not. I took severe offense to this question from Jaques. As if legislators need some type of special permission from big business to allow things to get better for people with disabilities. We don’t need permission from the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber should be begging for this type of bill to allow equal access to employment for ALL Delaware citizens. As State Senator Anthony Delcollo pointed out, there exist certain laws already such as the Americans with Disabilities Act that prevents discrimination against disabled citizens.
The entire Delaware certificate system needs to disappear. There are plenty of jobs where former students are more than qualified but this discriminatory certificate prevents them from getting those types of jobs. Our legislators and Governor need to stop bowing down to big business in Delaware and do what is right for ALL the citizens, especially the most vulnerable. While big business lobbyists run rampant throughout Legislative Hall telling legislators how they should vote and which bills they support and which ones they don’t, our legislators are missing the point of making laws. It should be what is best for all the citizens, not just those with the fattest wallets. There are those legislators who understand this, State Rep. Kim Williams being one of them. But far too many listen to those who have the most money.
While Jaques indicated he doesn’t want to see potential problems arise from persons with disabilities just checking a box and not being qualified for those jobs, there is also a thing called an interview process. As well, many job applications do ask an applicant about their qualifications to meet the need for the job. Having a certificate instead of a diploma is an instant barrier that serves to weed out these job applicants from the get-go. I find this practice disgusting and barbaric. For this comment to come from Jaques, who has publicly acknowledged having a grandchild with Autism, I found it particularly disturbing. I’m sure he is trying to get all his ducks in a row and making sure there has been enough stakeholder engagement. And while I do agree the business community should certainly be a part of the discussion in how to best help students with disabilities and improve upon the process, I do not think any group involved in getting common sense legislation through needs permission first. I wonder if Jaques read my article on the current Chair of the Delaware Chamber of Commerce from yesterday. Maybe then he would understand why I am vehemently opposed to any pre-consultation with the damn Chamber over education legislation.
The actual presentation was top-notch. The plan is designed to help students with disabilities and schools to improve special education. While the plan is not set in stone and is a “living document”, I think it is a major step in the right direction. This group did their homework and while I always think there should be more parents not affiliated with any other organization on these things, there is an excellent amount of diversity from all aspects of special education. To see the actual strategic plan and what was discussed today, please go here.
I did see one moment of political maneuvering and it was very blatant in my opinion, but since I am unable to verify that as fact, I will stop right there. I will say it did not involve anyone involved with the Special Education Strategic Plan. But I expect more from that legislator than to ask questions on behalf of the Governor. If the Governor’s circle of advisers want to ask a question, they should just do it themselves. They are more than welcome to do so. By using a legislator to get a point across is just slimy in my opinion. Especially when it really doesn’t have much to do with the actual presentation being discussed and more about a priority of Governor Carney. I will say to this legislator as well as Carney’s guy, the article I posted yesterday with the actual plan embedded into it was posted on the Solutions for Wilmington Schools Facebook page and was read by many.
In another brilliant moment of the Joint committee session, State Senator David Sokola (the Chair of the Senate Education Committee) suggested to Marinucci that they should really take a look at Finland’s special education and what a bang-up job they do recognizing special education needs at an early age. State Rep. Sean Matthews replied to Sokola’s statement that the educational barriers that exist in Delaware, such as charter and choice school enrollment preferences, do not exist in Finland. He indicated Finland is at the top of education in the world because they do not have those barriers and grant equal education to all in Finland. As well, Matthews said you don’t see actions like “counseling out” going on in Finland. That is a practice with certain charter schools where parents are told “we aren’t sure if your child is the right fit here”. While I don’t know how much this goes on now, it has been an allegation thrown at certain charters in Delaware. Many students in the past would wind up back in their traditional school district in the middle of a school year. Many of these were also special education students. Sokola is a firm believer in enrollment preferences, usually those that protect the largest school within his own voting district, Newark Charter School.
In terms of the entire House Education Committee it would have been nice if the Republican House members actually stayed for the entire presentation. About twenty or so minutes in they all walked out. But along those lines, State Rep. Melanie Smith was a no-show as she usually is. No offense to the GOP guys, but if you are on a committee you should stick around for, you know, the actual meetings. It is special education. Not sure what was more important than that. But I digress. On the Senate side, the only missing Education Committee member was Senator Bryan Townsend.
Despite Jaques’ assurance to me yesterday that this meeting would be on the live audio feed on the General Assembly website, it was not. But there were also issues in getting a smart-screen going for the strategic plan presentation so I would chalk that up to technical issues going on. Legislative Hall is a very old building.