Delaware House Committee Lists Of All Members

No sooner do I write about not seeing who is on the Delaware House of Representative Committees than it appears before my very eye in my email!  Apparently the Delaware Senate Committees list isn’t being released because of some leadership shenanigans going on over there.  Delaware politics… Continue reading

Education Legislation Returneth In The 150th General Assembly

The Delaware General Assembly returns for their 150th gig on Tuesday, January 8th.  But a slew of pre-filed legislation came out today including a few education bills.  These are interesting bills to say the least! Continue reading

Earl Jaques Bows To The Delaware Chamber Of Commerce Over Special Education Diplomas

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.

 

Controversial House Bill 250 Released From House Education Committee

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams introduced House Bill 250 on January 20th.  Today it appeared before the House Education Committee and it was released based on its merits.  The bill would make it so parents can’t choice their child out of a school for good cause unless a bullying incident is considered to be substantiated.  Normally I agree with 99% of the legislation Rep. Williams sponsors but this one I cannot give my full support to without major changes.  From the synopsis of HB250:

In 2014, the Legislature passed a bill adding instances of “reported and recorded” bullying to the list of reasons why a child could be withdrawn from a choice or charter school before the expiration of the statutory minimum enrollment period or why an application for admission or withdrawal could be accepted outside of the statutory timeframe for submission. This bill seeks to clarify and strengthen that law by adding a requirement that the instance of bullying must also be substantiated. This will ensure the integrity of the law by limiting its exploitation by persons who wish to change schools for unrelated reasons, but preserving the exception for children truly in need of special consideration due to school bullying.

My fear with HB250 is the schools and districts themselves.  I have heard many times from parents that they submitted a bullying report that was not substantiated by the school even though it was clearly a bullying incident.  While Rep. Williams states parents used the “good cause” related to bullying as an excuse to choice their child to another school, the flip side of this legislation is far more dangerous.  What happens if a student is bullied and the school never substantiates that bullying?  Even when it clearly is bullying?  Isn’t that putting a student at serious risk of harm or injury by not allowing the parent to choice their child out of that school?

I’m not saying every school or district does this.  But some facts can’t be ignored.  If a school has too many bullying and violent incidents, they can be labeled as an “unsafe school”.  Schools don’t want this which is why we don’t always see more substantiated bullying incidents.  Christina School District had the Office of Civil Rights come down on them because they had too many suspensions for minority students.  I’ve heard from many teachers in Christina that they have to be very careful with suspensions because of that.  As a result, things that are indeed bullying could be looked the other way due to the OCR ruling.  Many Delaware schools and districts took careful note of that.

I think with a bill like this there should be a clause that all bullying incidents be reviewed by a neutral third-party if a parent disagrees with the unsubstantiated ruling from a school administrator.  I don’t agree parents should use “good cause” as an excuse to choice their child out if no bullying is happening.  But at the same time, keeping any student at a school where there is a chance they could be bullied more is not safe to do.

Delaware House Bill 52 Would Make Cursive Mandatory in Delaware Public Schools

I didn’t see this one coming, but I am all for it!  How can students sign checks and important documents if they don’t know how to do it when they are “college and career ready”?

 

Congratulations To Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams!

Delaware State Representative Kim Williams continues to astound me during the 148th General Assembly, and we aren’t even two months into it!  She has introduced several education bills, is the Vice Chair of the House Education Committee, and she is very active in education.  This is just another reason why Kim is awesome!  This was taken from the Delaware House Democrats email called Legislative Insider:

Rep. Williams to serve on disabilities panel

Rep. Kim Williams has been appointed to the Community Advisory Council of the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies. The CAC is composed of individuals with developmental disabilities and related disabilities; family members of individuals with developmental disabilities; representatives from disability-related training, service, and advocacy organizations; representatives from state agencies; and other disabilities advocates.

Rep. Williams has been active in education for 25 years as a parent, local PTA leader, Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education vice president and currently vice-chair of the House Education Committee. She also serves on the Delaware Healthy Mother and Infant Consortium, and is a member of legislative Kids Caucus.

“I’m truly honored and excited to be part of the Community Advisory Council,” Rep. Williams said. “Disabilities studies is something I am passionate about, and I look forward to working as part of the council to improve the lives of Delawareans with disabilities.”​

Live From Legislative Hall, the Wilmington Education Committee Presentation to Joint Education Committees

Both the House and the Senate are here for a joint committee meeting to hear Dr. Tony Allen present the recommendations of the Wilmington Education Committee.

Dr. Tony Allen is explaining how Wilmington Education Committee came about and recent developments such as Governor Markell issued priority school directives, the ACLU Complaint, and the closure of Reach and Moyer charter schools.

“It is the time to act.  It is time to set Wilmington education on a new and different path…anything less will continue to compromise the lives of our children…we don’t enter this situation lightly.”

Allen explained how a week after the priority schools announcement, Markell reached out to him to begin the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  Educators, parents, community leaders, and members of University of Delaware teams are members of the team.  They reviewed 117 years of Wilmington education.  “It has been fraught with many challenges.”  Brown vs. Board of Education was ruled on in 1954, but Delaware didn’t act on it for many years later.  Talking about the Neighborhood Schools Act, the recommendations from all those committees have not been acted on.  “The confluence of events with education give us this window of opportunity to act.” Continue reading

Delaware DOE To Present ESEA Waivers Process To Delaware Legislators on 1/21/15

The Delaware Department of Education has been invited to present the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Waiver Process to the Delaware House of Representatives Education Committee.  The meeting is scheduled for 1/21/15 at 2:30pm.

This will be the first chance many of these legislators get to meet the DOE’s Chief Proficiency Officer, Mrs. Penny Schwinn.  Even though he is not on the committee, I’m sure John Kowalko will make an appearance!  Other DOE reps slated to attend are the following: Ryan Reyna, Challis Breithaupt, Chantel Janiszewski, Tina Shockley, and Mary Kate McLoughlin.

The Delaware Senate Education Committee has a meeting posted for 3:00pm the same day with no other information provided (but due to Schwinn’s often hectic and busy schedule, I’m sure it’s probably to meet with both the education committees at the same time).  Both of these meetings are open to the public.