The June 30th Delaware General Assembly Meme Lovefest

I’ll be here all night long folks!

State Rep. Joe Miro : Doesn’t Care About Parental Rights But Loves Big Business

Do you trust Secretary Godowsky?

This question was posed to me yesterday after the Delaware House of Representatives voted down the suspension of rules on the veto override of House Bill 50.  Asked by State Rep. Joe Miro, I immediately responded: “I’m sure he’s a nice person, but it doesn’t matter who holds that title.  Santa Claus could be the Secretary of Education, but they would still be a puppet to Governor Markell.”

Miro

The latest trumpeter to actually think they were instrumental in Mark Murphy’s “resignation” is Miro.  His warped belief that most legislators voted in favor of House Bill 50 last spring as a protest of Mark Murphy is filled with delusions of grandeur.  If he is correct, than I would like the names of all those legislators who voted yes for a bill supporting student and parent rights.  Put your money where your mouth is Joe…

Meanwhile, the Delaware House Republicans issued their latest weekly newsletter with some very interesting thoughts in here, which I will be redlining in the Transparent Christina tradition.

Veto Stands on Opt-Out Bill, but Issue Moves Forward 
with New Proposals

An effort to override Gov. Jack Markell’s veto of a bill that sought to codify parents’ right to remove their children from academic assessment testing failed in the House of Representatives Thursday.

Because of cowards like Bolden, Brady, Briggs-King, Carson, Dukes, Gray, Heffernan, Hudson, Jaques, J. Johnson, Q. Johnson, Kenton, Longhurst, Miro, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Outten, Peterman, Potter, D. Short, Smith, Smyk, Viola, Wilson, Yearick, and Schwartzkopf.  And Ramone, can’t forget the cowardly not voting.

Last July, the governor vetoed House Bill 50, as amended.  The measure sought to allow parents and guardians to opt their children out of the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment and any district-level assessment.

Did you people even read the bill?  “Sought to allow” is a complete lie and you know it.  In the previous paragraph you used the word “codify“.  It can’t be both.  This intentional misuse of the wording in the bill serves to demean parents even more than most of you did yesterday, with the exception of three who truly knew better than the rest of you.  Or did they?  More on that later.

In vetoing the bill, the governor said the legislation would weaken “the only objective tool we have to understand whether our children are learning and our schools are improving.”

The only “tool” I see is the one talking in that last sentence.

Opponents of the bill, including the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, also noted the legislation could have resulted in the potential loss of millions of dollars of federal education funding if enough children refused to take the test.

Yes, let’s quote the Chamber of Commerce but absolutely no parents.  It shows where the House Republicans loyalties lie.  Can’t wait to see the campaign donor lists for ALL of you in the next eight months…

Teachers’ and parents’ groups had supported the bill citing classroom time lost to testing; increased stress on students and teachers; and questions about its usefulness in helping educators identify and address students’ needs.

And yet absolutely nothing about the bullying, intimidation, and pressure put on parents about this test, and the repercussions inflicted on students and parents.  That must not have been discussed at all.  Maybe if any of you bothered to go to the rally yesterday to hear parents speak instead of trying to get your crappy legislation going you would have realized the difference between reality and fantasy.

As promised last week, House Bill 50’s prime sponsor, State Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, attempted to override the veto.  The two-step process first required a vote on a motion to bring the bill to the House floor.  That would have been followed by the override vote.

But you were too weak to allow that to happen.  So you used the cowards way out, even though many of you did the complete opposite three hours later over a corporate tax bill.  Guess that worked out well for you… paging big business!

Despite the bill getting overwhelming support last year, few legislators appeared to relish the prospect of a veto override attempt and its potential for damaging relations between the executive and legislative branches.  The motion to suspend rules failed on a vote of 13 to 26, with one absent and one not voting.

Here is where you start to lose it.  Because all who voted no didn’t think about their constituents at all, only how it made YOU look to the Governor.  Pathetic.  But not as bad as what comes next…

State Rep. Joe Miro, R-Pike Creek, said many lawmakers initially voted for House Bill 50 last year as a means of expressing their displeasure with then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  Sec. Murphy announced his resignation in August and was replaced last fall.

So you won’t override a veto of a bill YOU passed in your supposed effort to make Mark Murphy look bad, which in a very real sense, would cause “potential damaging relations between the executive and legislative branches”, but then you won’t vote on the override of the veto of that bill cause you don’t want to tick off Jack Markell?  Are you out of your mind Miro?  You sound like a complete hypocrite.  What color is the sky in your world?

Still, many of the factors that inspired the bill remained and lawmakers moved quickly on Thursday to introduce new legislation to address those issues: House Resolution 22 and House Bill 243.

But in your infinite wisdom none of you thought about actually sitting down with Rep. Kowalko or Senator Lawson (a member of your own party mind you) a year ago to discuss those issues?  Instead you wait until the day of a veto override to be Superman to Lex Luthor (I knew Markell reminded me of someone)?  We know what your efforts entailed, but you have more to say on it, so I will comment then.

The former measure calls for the new Secretary of Education to propose legislative options for implementing a uniform process for notifying parents of their existing right to opt their children out of testing and a standard procedure for accomplishing it.  The resolution also makes clear any such option would prohibit education officials from penalizing any student opting-out.

The two key words in this paragraph are “calls” and “option“.  I think most parents know of their “existing right to opt their children out of testing“.  So if House Bill 50 was accused of “allowing parents to opt-out“, what the hell does your Resolution say?  We are going to make sure they know and we will even mail it to them.  And once again, a resolution is not enforceable which is why you had to use the words “calls” and “option“.  Nowhere are the words “shall“, “mandates” and “law” used.  And what are “legislative options“?  Aren’t you clowns the ones people elect to come up with “legislative options“?  And Godowsky’s reaction to this?  “We will have to take a look at that resolution.”  How did your Hail Mary pass work out for you?

The latter measure would hold harmless from state action any school that has more than five percent of its students opting-out of an assessment.  Current state and federal laws call for potential sanctions against schools with less than 95 percent of their students taking certain assessments.  The proposed bill would not have any impact on federal repercussions from falling below the participation threshold.

Yeah, screw the parents but save the schools.  What are these state sanctions you speak of?  Cause last I looked and spent a considerable amount of time investigating, any sanctions were federally driven through ESEA flexibility waivers.  That our ass-kissing DOE and State Board caved on, which were based on federal “guidance” that was not congressionally approved or tied to existing law.  The Every Student Succeeds Act indicates states decide on these things, not the feds.  But the feds are trying to threaten funding cuts again over opt-out with no enforceable means of doing so.  Are you sure your Republican House attorney looked at this?

On Thursday, both measures were garnering broad bipartisan support and are expected to quickly move forward.

Passing an unenforceable resolution means as much as the hair on Jack Markell’s head!  And this “broad bipartisan support“… would that be with the House Democrats who also screwed parents over?  Bolden, Brady, Carson, Heffernan, Jaques, J. Johnson, Q. Johnson, Longhurst, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Potter, Smith, Viola and Schwartzkopf?  Added with the Repubs who voted no to student rights if they are opted out?  Briggs-King, Dukes, Gray, Hudson, Kenton, Miro, Outten, Peterman, D. Short, Smyk, Wilson & Yearick?  And the most cowardly of all, Rep. Ramone who actually thought not voting would prevent the wrath of parents and bloggers everywhere?  And for that matter, I saw this legislation RIGHT after the vote.  I was given copies of it in the Republican office.  It already had Reps. Spiegelman and Hensley on it.  Which means the attempt to “file it” before the vote on the suspension of rules would show Reps Spiegelman and Hensley already signed onto it.  But they still voted yes on the suspension of rules knowing other members of their party were going to vote no based on legislation they already signed onto?  Or was the broad bi-partisan support the deal you guys made with the Governor for the corporate tax bill in return for your Judas votes?  Sorry, the only broad bi-partisan support I see is the lack of support two thirds of our General Assembly provided to students and parents yesterday.  Possibly higher due to this latest find…

I have to say, I was really hoping to play my daily pin the tail on the state rep on one of the House Democrats who voted no on the suspension of rules, but after reading this House Republican newsletter, I really couldn’t resist.  Thank you Rep. Joe Miro, for making it easy!

David Bentz Beats Eileen O’Shaunessy-Coleman In 18th District State Representative Special Election

In a special election today, former legislative aide David Bentz won the vacant slot left by former State Rep. Mike Barbieri when he resigned at the end of July.  While the count is not official yet, it looks like Bentz beat his opponent by a 56.7% of the vote.  This gives House Democrats continued control of the coveted 3/5ths of the House majority, which is the amount needed to pass certain bills like tax increases.*

I contacted both of the candidates for their stance on education in Delaware, but nothing came of it.  It will be interesting to see if Bentz sticks to his campaign promises in supporting the override of Governor Markell’s House Bill 50 veto.  Parents who advocate for opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment are growing by the day, and they want this to happen.

O’Shaunessy-Coleman ran a good campaign, and for a while there today she was tracking ahead in the polls.  She is a special education advocate, so I wouldn’t have minded seeing her win the slot.  I am confident we haven’t heard the last from her.  Part of me is torn on this.  I liked both the candidates, but I’m not sure the House Dems having that much control is a good thing. It doesn’t allow for a great deal of balance in Delaware.  I’m sure this will anger many of my Democrat friends, but with the way certain legislators have been behaving the past few months, a balance is very much needed to counter certain egos.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am in the middle.  I follow the dictates of what I believe and my own conscience when it comes to politics.  Both sides have valid issues, and both have some things I am fundamentally against.  I don’t choose to get into non-education matters too often, but that may change in the future as I am learning there is a lot of politics that goes along with education, especially in Delaware.

But for now congrats to State Rep. David Bentz.  As I wrote on his Facebook page, he will assuredly be hearing from me quite a bit, and I reminded him to stay true to his constituents.

*This article has been updated as of 9/14/15 to reflect that the 3/5 majority is needed for tax increases, NOT state budget approval.

Charter School Fraud Ignored By Delaware House Republicans, Education Chair Jaques & Senator Sokola

“Rep. Dukes asked how many charter schools are under investigation.  Ms. Davies said seven.  Rep. Dukes asked if they were serious infractions.  Ms. Davies said some of the investigations are far enough along to know it is really bad.”

One of the most interesting legislative arguments in the past few months has been the saga of the charter school audit bill.  First introduced by State Rep. Kim Williams back in March, the bill has taken on different forms, culminating in a House Education Committee battle from 6/17/15.

The minutes from the 6/17/15 meeting clearly show a House divided with common sense prevailing on the Democrat side (with the exception of Education Chair Earl Jaques) and blissful ignorance on the side of the House Republicans.  When it comes to charter school accountability and transparency, this pattern consistently emerges and it does not bode well for the education system in Delaware when seven schools are investigated by the state Auditor of Accounts.  I asked one House Republican why they voted no on House Bill 186, but he was unable to remember why at the time.  This was late in the evening on June 30th, but I would think anyone would know why they voted no on a bill.

By the time the bill got to the Senate floor, Senator David Sokola immediately tabled the bill and demanded it be heard in the Senate Education Committee.  Sokola has long been a clear supporter of charter schools and has sponsored or supported many bills that give them the lack of transparency they currently have, including the original charter school legislation from 1995.

When the Delaware General Assembly shows a clear bias towards charter schools, who represent only 10-15% of Delaware students enrolled in these types of schools, but takes up so much of the conversation, it is very troubling to know charter schools can get away with so much.  When we have Education Committee chairs on both sides of the General Assembly who very openly make every attempt to protect these schools is extremely disturbing.  Even more alarming is the parents and supporters of charter schools who just don’t care, or continue to enroll their children in schools that have clearly had serious financial abuse.

I contacted the Auditor of Accounts office a couple weeks ago and spoke with Ms. Davies.  I asked again for the names of the other four charter schools being investigated by that office, but she explained she was not able to do so at the time because that could give a presumption of guilt when no judgment has been rendered since the investigations are still under way.  Which I completely understand but there is another side of this issue which I did explain to her.  Parents make choices for their children with different schools and they have a right to know if the school they choose has issues going on.  She understood that, but was still unable to reveal the schools.  I don’t blame her in any way.  It is a thorny issue.

We have to wonder, as citizens of Delaware, why certain legislators seem more concerned with looking good for the Delaware Charter Schools Network than showing clear transparency and open government for the constituents they represent.  Charter schools are not evil in and of themselves, but the secrets, lies, and cover-ups are increasing rapidly and the more they occur the more we see this insane protection of them by some of our legislators.