Human Sex Trafficking Bills Sent To Governor Carney For Signature

Beneath all the hullaballoo of the Delaware budget, two bills passed quietly in the nights the legislature was attempting to hammer out a budget.  Both bills dealt with the subject of human sex trafficking.

House Bill 164, which establishes the Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council, passed the House on 6/27 and the Senate on 6/30.  Senate Bill 75, which “updates Delaware’s human trafficking crime to prohibit the same acts that are included in the federal Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015“.  This bill will go after the scum bags who put these victims up for prostitution on places like Craigslist, Backpage, and Kik.

When I first wrote about Human Sex Trafficking in Delaware a few months ago, I had just been to a presentation on it in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  It disturbed me greatly how grown adults can take advantage of minors and sell them off to perverts as sex slaves.  It became one of my most-read articles so far this year and is still high up on that list.  It is a crime that doesn’t get a lot of attention but affects each one of us.  It is incumbent upon the citizens of this state to report these types of crimes if they even suspect it.  You could be saving a life.

I don’t always give our legislators credit, but with these two bills they did the right thing.  Both of these bills go into effect once Delaware Governor John Carney signs them.  If only education were so easy…

The “Wahl” Bill Dealing With Zero Tolerance Policies On Weapons Goes To Governor Carney For Signature

There was so much activity going on Sunday night/Monday morning with bills passing left and right, I didn’t realize a very important one passed the Senate.  House Bill 176 passed the General Assembly and is waiting to be signed by Delaware Governor John Carney.  Anyone who has been following this bill and the backstory behind it knows this started with one father’s fight against the Brandywine School District.

Pat Wahl’s son was alleged to have brought a weapon into school and was suspended.  His father fought the charge but the Brandywine Board of Education voted on it and agreed to the administrator’s recommendation.  Wahl appealed the decision with the State Board of Education and won.  After a legal situation with the district, Wahl and Brandywine settled.  The result of the settlement was Brandywine would change their zero tolerance policies.  Wahl took it another step and spoke with State Rep. Deb Hudson.  As a result, House Bill #176 was born.  Congrats to Wahl, Brandywine, and State Rep. Hudson for taking what could have been a matter of sour grapes and actually creating something lasting for all Delaware Schools.

While HB #176 deals primarily with weapons, this could be the start of a whole new way of looking at school discipline.  As I’ve been writing the series about what happened to J in Smyrna School District, I have heard from several parents about similar kinds of situations.  It has become very transparent to me that the next leg of the Delaware 149th General Assembly needs some companion legislation to House Bill #176.  Pat Wahl had the time and the means to take things as far as he did, but not all parents are so fortunate.  Not to disparage Wahl in any way, but for every one of them, there are probably 25 parents who wouldn’t have the money, resources, or even knowledge to be able to fight these issues.  Which is exactly why I am tackling them: to spread that knowledge and shine a light on what many are seeing as a very heavy hand on the part of some school districts when it comes to discipline.

In the meantime, I will take this victory and raise a glass in honor of Wahl.  I look forward to Carney signing this and making this the law of the land in Delaware.

Delaware Senate Passes Bill Discriminating Against Christina Wilmington Students, Not Given Preference To Newark Charter School

It appears de facto segregation is just as okay with the majority of the Delaware Senate as it was with the Delaware House of Representatives.

The Delaware Senate just passed House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 with 12 yes, 4 no, 2 not voting, and 3 absent.  The no votes belonged to State Senators DelCollo, Henry, Marshall, and McDowell.  Those voting yes were Bonini, Bushweller, Cloutier, Hansen, Hocker, Lawson, Lopez, McBride, Poore, Richardson, Sokola, and Walsh.  Lavelle, who originally voted yes, switched to “not voting” and Senator Simpson stuck with his original not voting.

An attempted amendment, similar to the failed amendment in the House, would have removed the very controversial part of the bill that would disallow Christina Wilmington students to be given the same preference as the Greater Newark Christina students for Newark Charter School.  Sokola argued it was an unfriendly amendment.  The amendment failed with 6 yes, 8 no, 5 not voting, and 2 absent.

Senator Robert Marshall said he believed the amendment would open the preference to everyone in the Christina School District and if parents really wanted their child to get an NCS education, they would find a way to make sure their child gets there.

A representative from the Delaware State Education Association testified they would be in support of the amendment which echoed their stance at the Senate Education Committee meeting two weeks ago.

The bill will go to Governor John Carney for signature.  I call on ALL to contact Carney’s office in deep opposition to this bill that I fear will set up the State of Delaware for a massive lawsuit for furthering de facto segregation.  He needs to veto this discrimination factory of a bill!

To see how your legislators voted on this horrible bill, please go here: http://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?LegislationId=26068

Charter School 5 Mile Radius Bill Gets Vote In Delaware Senate Today

The very controversial HS1 for House Bill 85 gets a full Senate vote today.  This is one of the thorniest education bills in the Delaware General Assembly this session.  It would remove the 5 mile radius enrollment preference for charter schools but there is a loophole.  For the Christina School District, which has a non-continguous section in Wilmington, those students would not get a preference to get into Newark Charter School.  That is Delaware’s largest charter school.

It was released from the Senate Education Committee two weeks ago but not without controversy.  In the House, it prompted a long debate over the issue last month.  Those who opposed the bill alleged it would cause even more de facto segregation of Wilmington students.

Delaware Cursive Bill Goes To Governor Carney For Signature

How about those apples Kate Gladstone?  The Delaware Cursive Bill, House Bill #70, passed the Delaware Senate today with 17 yes and 2 no votes.  Two State Senators were absent.  The no votes were State Senators Gary Simpson and Ernie Lopez.  Now the bill, which would make cursive instruction mandatory in Delaware public schools, will go to the desk of Governor John Carney for signature.

This was a surprisingly controversial bill this session.  A prior attempt at this legislation came out in the 148th General Assembly but failed to get a full vote in the House.  This time, it went all the way through the General Assembly.  It created a good amount of discussion concerning the worthiness of the bill.  Full disclosure, I fully supported this bill.

One of the folks opposed to the bill was a woman named Kate Gladstone.  She made it her mission at the House Education Committee meeting to make sure the bill went nowhere.  Obviously, most of the Delaware legislators were not swayed by her unconvincing arguments.  Perhaps another state will listen to you when they follow Delaware’s lead on this Ms. Gladstone!

I want to thank State Rep. Andria Bennett who saw this bill through as well as State Rep. Deb Hudson who gave it a valiant attempt two years ago!

New State Board of Education Member Dennis Loftus Will Replace Teri Quinn Gray As President

I reported earlier today Delaware Governor John Carney nominated Dr. Dennis Loftus for a seat on the Delaware State Board of Education.  This afternoon it was revealed during the Senate Executive Committee meeting prior to the vote he would become the President of the State Board of Education.  In Delaware, the Governor appoints the members of the State Board as well as the President of the board.  The board members vote for the Vice-President.  Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, the prior State Board President was selected by Delaware Governor Jack Markell in 2009, shortly after his inauguration.  The State Board of Education serves at the pleasure of the Governor.

Things just got very interesting for the State Board of Education.

 

 

Some Big Education Bills Up For A Vote Today In The Delaware General Assembly

Cursive.  Educator Licensure.  Child Abuse Training.  Bullying.  Gang Detection.  Public School Enrollment for children in custody of DSCYF.  These are the biggest education bills up for a vote today in the Delaware House of Representatives and the Senate.  Two will go to the House and two to the Senate if they pass.  What are these bills?

House Bill #70:

This is State Rep. Andria Bennett’s cursive bill.  It was released from the House Education Committee in April.  It would make cursive instruction mandatory in all Delaware public schools.  It has many in support of the bill, but quite a few are opposed to it as well.

Under current educational standards, students are no longer required to be taught cursive writing and many schools have abandoned teaching cursive writing to students. As cursive writing is still an imperative skill in many professions, this bill makes teaching cursive writing a requirement for all public schools in Delaware.     

VIEW HB70

House Substitute 1 for House Bill #143:

State Rep. Kim Williams’ HS1 for HB #143 deals with teacher licensure and the Praxis exam.

This Act removes the provisional license and re-establishes a 3 tiered licensure system. An initial license provides for two years for the initial licensee to obtain a passing score on an approved performance assessment. This Act provides for reciprocity for a state-created and approved performance assessment from another state or jurisdiction to meet the performance assessment requirement. This Act also eliminates the general knowledge exam for licensure which will result in a savings to the candidate of a range of $100 to $150. Additionally, this Act provides for a reimbursement of no less than $100 to a license holder who meets the performance assessment requirement and becomes employed in a Delaware public school. The Department will be responsible for training local district and school staff on the performance assessment. Additionally, the Department of Education leadership, including the Secretary of Education will be trained on the performance assessment. For enactment, any individual provided an initial license prior to the enactment date will not be subject to the requirement of obtaining a passing score on a performance assessment. Additionally, any individual provided a provisional license prior to the enactment date will be reissued an initial license and the 2 year requirement for meeting the performance assessment will become effective commencing on the new issue date. The remainder of the bill makes conforming changes to cross-references and license designations.

VIEW HS1 FOR HB143

Senate Bill #87:

Senator Margaret Rose Henry’s bill deals with children in the custody of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families.  The Every Student Succeeds Act has certain provisions dealing with these students and this legislation would bring Delaware in synch with that requirement under the McKinney-Vento Act.

This Act updates the school stability law for children in the custody of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF) following passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESSA requires Delaware to eliminate the provision “awaiting foster care placement” under § 202(c), Title 14 in accordance with the federal McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act by December 10, 2017, and instead create a distinct provision regarding school stability for children in the custody of DSCYF. [42 U.S.C. §§ 11431 to 11435; ESEA section 1111(g)(1)(E)(i)-(iii)), 20 U.S.C. §6311(g)(1)(E)]. This Act clarifies that children in the custody of DSCYF remain entitled to attend their school of origin if it is in their best interests to do so, or are eligible for immediate enrollment in a new school. Sections 1, 2, and 3 of this Act take effect on the effective date of final regulations published in the Register of Regulations and promulgated under authority granted by § 202A(d) of Title 14, which is created by Section 2 of this Act.   

View SB #87

Senate Bill #102:                  

Another Senator Henry bill.  This bill is similar to last year’s Senate Bill dealing with bullying and child abuse training for educators.  This has A LOT of provisions in it.  It was heard in the Senate Education Committee meeting yesterday.  The Delaware DOE, DOJ, and the Office of the Child Advocate worked on this one for a long time.

This Act consolidates Delaware law related to child abuse and child sexual abuse training and detection, suicide prevention, bullying, criminal youth gang detection, and teen dating violence and sexual assault into one subchapter of Chapter 41, Title 14 of the Delaware Code and develops a non-academic training program that coordinates the trainings school district and charter school employees are required to receive. In addition to streamlining non-academic trainings, this Act provides school districts and charter schools with flexibility to meet current and future non-academic training needs of school district and charter school employees, students, and parents. This Act applies to all public schools, including charter schools and vocational technical schools. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual, ensure consistency within the new subchapter, and make references throughout the Code consistent based changes to certain Code designations made by this Act.                    

View SB #102

House Agenda for 6/8/2017

Senate Agenda for 6/8/2017

Delaware Youth In Government President Madeline Campbell’s Speech To The Delaware General Assembly

Every once in a while, when I’m down at Legislative Hall, I get to witness something really good happening.  That happened today.  I saw Madeline Campbell, the Delaware Youth In Government President, give a speech to the entire Delaware House of Representatives.  Prior to that, she did the same thing in front of the Delaware Senate.  If you know much about public speaking, it can be intimidating to do in front of a class or a group of people.  To do it in front of an entire legislative body is something else.  To do it at her age is phenomenal!  Campbell did an awesome job with her delivery.  It is kids like Campbell who represent the future of Delaware!

With Madeleine and her Mom’s permission, I present the speech she gave to the Delaware Senate and the Delaware House of Representatives today:

Hello! My name is Madeline Campbell, and I am a senior at Newark High School. Over the course of the last year, I have had the honor and privilege to serve the State of Delaware as the 49th Youth Governor to the Delaware Youth in Government program.

Some of you might not know this, but every April 16th middle and high school students fill these chambers, as well as the courthouse and create a mock government. There are five separate components to our program. The House of Commons which is our middle school group, the judicial branch which functions as an appellate court, the lobbyist corp who all represent different companies in our state, the press corp which documents our entire conference, and last but not least, our legislative branch which is broken up in to two separate House chambers, and a Senate.

Before our delegates get to Legislative Hall, they have weekly meetings at their schools or their local YMCAs to prepare for our conference. Students work for months to draft legislation to combat an issue that they see in our state. This year, topics ranged from education reforms, teacher support, expansion of opportunities for ELL students and deaf students, dark money groups and their involvement in political campaigns, bioremediation, gun control, abortions, and mental health care. To see students my age that are passionate about topics that affect not only our state, but our nation as a whole is truly inspiring. We look at problems in a fresh light, and bring a perspective to the table that not a lot of adults might think of.

This year, there were two key pieces of legislation that I thought stood out above the rest.

The first, is entitled the Gun Safety Act, and it was written by a delegate at Salesianum High School. The intent of his bill was to “increase gun control measures in the State of Delaware, requiring owners of handguns, rifles, and shotguns to receive a permit to own a firearm. Said permit shall be contingent upon passing a gun safety course, and firearms transfers shall not occur before a permit is obtained. The bill also prohibits magazines above a certain size depending on the type of fire arm.” The legislation put specific requirements on who could legally obtain a license for a gun. Anyone under the age of 18 would not be granted permission to own a long arm and anyone under the age of 21 would not be permitted to own a hand gun. Additionally, any person convicted of a violent felony, or anyone who had previously been committed to a hospital or sanitarium for a mental disorder would be barred from obtaining a permit. The penalties for obtaining a gun or magazine illegally would be either jail time or a heavy fine, depending on the severity of the case.

The second piece of legislation that caught my attention this year was entitled “An Act to Make Delaware a Sanctuary State”, and was also written by a delegate from Salesianum High School. The purpose of this delegate’s bill was to strengthen Delawarean communities by restricting the acquisition of information about immigration status by local and state agencies and to limit the communication of immigration status to federal immigration agencies. This legislation hopes to bar state and local law enforcement agencies from using any department money, facilities, property, equipment or personnel to investigate, interrogate or arrest any persons for immigration reasons. The legislation also does not prevent the state agencies from sharing already public information with federal authorities, if they ask.

These two bills stood out the most to me, because these delegates attempted to solve issues that our own legislature struggles with. As I sat up in the balcony and watched debate happen on these bills, I was worried that students would get emotional and heated, and let their feelings control the debate instead of their minds. But that never happened. When I watched my peers debate on these topics I saw nothing but respect. No, not every person in the chambers agreed, but they argued passionately and disagreed respectfully, and that matters more than whether or not both of these pieces of legislation passed.

The character that I saw in these chambers, from students my own age, is my favorite aspect of youth in government. Yes, we are a program that teaches students about politics and the legislative process, but that is not all we are. We are a program that prides ourselves on upholding the four core values of the YMCA: Honesty, caring, responsibility, and respect. We are a program that teaches students how to care about issues, and then fight for those issues. We are a program that teaches students that they have a voice in our state, and that their voice matters. We are a program that teaches students that politics is about the people, not about the party. We are a program, that is building the future of this state, and for that I could not be more proud.

I would like to thank the following people for investing in the future of our state by sponsoring students in the Youth in Government program: Senator Brian Bushweller, Senator Anthony DelCollo, Senator Bruce Ennis, Senator Margaret Rose Henry, Senator Bryan Townsend, Senator Jack Walsh, Rep John Viola, Rep Paul Baumbach, Rep Deb Hudson, Rep Ruth Briggs-King, and Rep Kim Williams.

For those of you that have not gotten the chance to come see what Youth in Government is all about, I would like to invite you to pop in next Spring, and see what we are all about. I promise you will be blown away by the caliber of greatness that the students of our state possess.

Thank you for all for your time, and for allowing me to give you a little glimpse of what the Delaware Youth in Government program is all about.

 

 

Live: Dr. Susan Bunting Confirmation Hearing For Delaware Secretary Of Education

Today, right now, the Delaware Senate is holding confirmation hearings for various nominations from Governor Carney for Delaware Cabinet positions.  Dr. Susan Bunting, the Superintendent of Indian River School  District, has her hearing today.  I will be following her hearing live down here at Legislative Hall in the Senate Chamber.  Dr. Bunting, if selected, would replace Secretary Dr. Steven Godowsky to lead education in Delaware.

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While I have been waiting for Bunting’s hearing, I’ve been listening in on other confirmation hearings.  No major drama going on.  Bunting is waiting patiently for her hearing and seems very calm and collected.  Bunting is now up.

Said she is honored and humbled to be nominated.  Has a long history of teaching Delaware.  Taught talented and gifted for many years.  Went to help all gifted students.  Became Director of Special Curriculum for Indian River School District.  Said she is on Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee, STEM Council, SAIL After School Committee, is with Mid-Atlantic Advisory Committee, DPAS-II Committee, American Association of School Personnel, and so forth.  Advocates on Capital Hill for educational bills.  Is grateful after being in district with many ELL students and economically deprived students, she is looking forward to helping these students at a state level.  Is enthusiastic, should she be selected, to serve the students of this great state.

Senator Nicole Poore is asking about special education and the challenges as the population is growing.  Bunting responded by saying we need to zero in on the priorities of our students.  All students have the opportunity to be successful.  We have fiscal issues which could make the matter more challenging.

Senator Margaret Rose Henry is asking about funding for students with special needs and poverty students.  Bunting said we are going to have to do more with less.  She has that experience in her own district.

Senator Gary Simpson said he is a strong supporter of her nomination.  She has proven over the years that Indian River has a strong academic program.  However, he needs to ask two questions.  He has confidence she will explain him.  Based on issues of financial malfeasance in Indian River, what can she do to make sure ALL districts operate with financial transparency?  She thinks this is a major issue and will work with all districts on these matters.  Simpson asked about the ACLU lawsuit concerning special education students in her district.  She feels the Delaware DOE needs to collaborate with districts better to improve educational opportunities for these students and all students.

Senator David Sokola said, as head of the Senate Education Committee, he has worked with Dr. Bunting for years and looks forward to seeing her as the Secretary of Education.

Senator Colin Bonini said he is concerned about Delaware’s education system as a whole.  Said he was going to ask her to grade Delaware’s education as a whole but he won’t ask her to do that.  He is concerned about Delaware’s SAT scores, but he understands all Delaware students take it as opposed to other states.  He doesn’t feel our system is underfunded.  Said he is torn because everyone speaks highly of her and respects her, but he thinks our education system is failing our students.  He said there is too much talk about closing charter schools when one in five Delaware students aren’t ready to graduate high school.  He is confident in the Every Student Succeeds Act.  He wants a high standard and accountability system.  He said the other 18 Delaware superintendents are her friends and colleagues.  Wants to know what our strengths and weaknesses are how we can improve the system.  As well the relationships with her colleagues.  Bunting said she does have those relationships and feels they are a collective group.  They believe strongly in accountability.  Believes ESSA provides the opportunity to ratchet up our system.  Collaboratively, Bunting said, we are going to have to do more with less.  This gives us an opportunity to brainstorm and come up with new ways.  For early childhood, she said, we need to reach for higher goals.  We need to set high marks, reach those high marks, and get there for the sake of our students.  Bonini asked what her impression is of charter schools.  Said he is a huge fan but others in this building are not.  Bunting said we have the opportunity at the DOE to look at the charter and make sure all charters are equitable and make sure the boards of charter schools are true to that charter.  Feels the money should follow the students so all students have equal education access.

Senator Bryan Townsend asked about district consolidation.  Bunting said is looking at collaborative efforts to look at that.  Townsend asked about very different funding structure for vo-techs and wants to know her thoughts about the merits of the current vo-tech funding system when so many districts are now offering CTE programs.  Bunting said that system has merits.  She wants all students to have the opportunity to have post-high school success.  Townsend asked about the trend towards vo-tech and CTE programs.  He senses there is a lot of duplicity going on right now.  She said they can take a look at that.  She thinks many students are improving because of a strong vo-tech experience.  Townsend asked about changes at the DOE to help the state budget gap and what her thoughts are on that.  She suspects there is a need for reorganization and a look at duplicated positions.  If there are programs they no longer need and they need to examine everything very carefully.  Townsend asked for the timeframe for that examination.  Bunting said if she is selected it would start tomorrow morning.

Senator Greg Lavelle said based on her application she is glad Bunting is registered as a Republican.  Lavelle asked about her stance on testing.  Bunting feels it is necessary and said it helps students and we need it.  It helps with Response to Intervention.  Brought up the Assessment Inventory Task Force and wants to continue to look at cutting back on testing if necessary.  Lavelle asked about opt out.  She said federal law states 95% and we have to follow federal law to get funding.  She said there are situations where students need to opt out.

Senator Poore is asking about after-school enrichment programs.  Bunting said there are opportunities to blend this with different activities like art and music and looks forward to partnering with 21st Century Grants to redirect funding and provide those opportunities.  We have to regain lost learning (during summer) and get that back before they come back to school.

Senator Townsend asked about start times for schools.  Said research shows starting earlier helps students with performance and growth.  Bunting said it is an issue but we have to look at research but agrees that research does show these things.

Senator David McBride said the committee has several bills under consideration.  He said they are going to have a semi-school recess.  They should be back around 4:30pm but warned they could be late.  He recommended the public keep their seats but did say Delaware is one of the only state legislatures that allows the public to sit on the floor.

We are back in session.  Bethany Hall-Long, the new Delaware Lieutenant Governor, is presiding over the full Delaware Senate.  They are reading in new bills and results of committee meetings.  They are reading the nomination results from the Senate Executive Committee.  Bunting was referred to move forward for a full Senate vote with six on its merits.  Now we wait for the full vote.  Brief pause due to a guest on the floor from the Delaware Retired Educators Association giving a speech asking the Delaware Senate to carefully look at how budget cuts could affect retired educators.  Just had roll call.  Senate is back in session.

The nominations are up.  First up, James Collins for Chief Information Office for DTI.  We could have a little bit more of a wait for Bunting.

Roll call for Dr. Susan Bunting’s nomination as Delaware Secretary of Education.  Bonini: No, Rest are all yes with one absent (Lawson) and one vacant seat.  Dr. Susan Bunting is the new Delaware Secretary of Education with 18 yes, 1 no, 1 absent, and 1 seat vacant.

 

 

 

Susan Bunting’s Senate Nomination Will Not Happen Today

Delaware Governor John Carney named Dr. Susan Bunting, the Superintendent of the Indian River School District, as his Secretary of Education for the First State. In a discussion with current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky a week ago, he informed me Bunting’s nomination would take place today. There are Senate Confirmation Hearings on the agenda, but Bunting is not one of them. Godowsky told me she wanted to be confirmed by the time of the State Board of Education meeting tomorrow. It does not look like that will happen as a hearing date has not been set at this point.

Bunting’s nomination was read in for the Delaware Senate yesterday along with all of Carney’s selections. Those could not be formally recognized by the General Assembly until Carney was sworn in which happened yesterday. I don’t believe this means anything as the docket is very full today for nominations. I just talked to a source at Legislative Hall who informed me that if it is not on there it won’t happen today. But I have no doubt it will. It could happen tomorrow or next week knowing how things worked around these chambers.

Many in Delaware education have saluted the possibility of Bunting as the Secretary of Education. Many in lower Delaware were pleased this position went to someone from Sussex County which has not been a practice in many years. Many feel that the Indian River audit investigation seemed to place the blame on Patrick Miller, the former Chief Financial Officer who allegedly abused finances in the district for well over a decade. The scope of the audit investigation was limited to the past few years but many feel Miller’s transgressions occurred years before that. The Delaware Attorney General’s office did announce they would be looking into the matter with Miller shortly after the audit investigation came out.

It remains to be seen if the audit investigation will affect Bunting’s confirmation hearing. I would have to assume someone will bring it up and potentially ask her how she could have not seen what was going on. As Secretary of Education for Delaware, Bunting would be responsible to oversee roughly a third of Delaware’s state budget. I will let readers know when Bunting’s confirmation hearing is scheduled.

At a national level, Betsy DeVos had her own U.S. Senate Confirmation Hearing yesterday but the U.S. Senate has not taken a vote on her nomination by President-Elect Donald Trump as of this writing. Her hearing was somewhat controversial as some Democrat Senators grilled DeVos on her motivations with public education. At one point, Senator Al Franken asked DeVos a question about proficiency and growth and she did not appear to know they are two different things.

Delaware House Education Committee Gives Fond Farewell To Secretary Godowsky

As Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky spends his last two weeks in the role, the House Education Committee gave Godowsky a fond farewell at the end of their committee meeting today.  Together with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and House Majority Leader Val Longhurst, the committee brought Godowsky up to the podium and a few members gave eloquent praise to the Secretary of Education who could only be seen as an improvement over his predecessor, Mark Murphy.

State Rep. and House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques stated Godowsky became a dear friend which was echoed by State Rep. Kim Williams.  Williams thanked Godowsky for always being there to answer her many questions and said she would miss him.  Godowsky informed me his last day will be January 24th.  Governor-elect John Carney named Indian River Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting as his choice for Delaware Secretary of Education.  Bunting will appear before the Delaware Senate on January 18th for her confirmation hearing.

I asked Godowsky if he was counting the days.  He stated he has mixed feelings about leaving.  He said he is sure on his last day he will be ready but he will miss working with the people.  But he is not done with education in Delaware.  While no formal announcement has been made about his post-Secretary plans, I have no doubt Godowsky will still be in the education arena.  He even joked at the tribute today that he will be “babysitting” education in the First State.

Despite my many articles about education policy and procedures, Godowsky was very much a sea change from Mark Murphy.  On a personal level, Godowsky was always approachable when I saw him and he would always say hello to me.  I can’t imagine leading the entire Delaware Dept. of Education.  The honest truth is I have no idea how Dr. Bunting will be as Secretary of Education.  So much of that will be based on the environment around her and what John Carney plans to do with that environment.  One issue she will face right off the bat is the education funding issue, especially in relation to Delaware’s projected $350 million dollar deficit heading into the FY2018 state budget talks.  I’ve been a bit rough on her on the Indian River audit investigation and the fallout from that scenario.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, best of luck to Secretary Godowsky and may good health and luck find you in your next plans.

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So, About Those Attorney Fees For The Charter Lawsuit…

Who is the benefactor to the 15 charter schools suing the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education?  You know, the one where the almighty (or are they?) charter schools want more money?  Led and initiated by Newark Charter School who got fourteen other charters to follow suit.  Literally.  As in a lawsuit.  But they had a little problem they had to take care of first.  The damn attorney fees.

I imagine taking a case like this would involve a lot of prep work and discovery.  Saul Ewing, LLP is the law firm representing the fifteen charter schools in their lawsuit against the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education.  As the named parties are represented by their own counsel, the charters would have to be able to definitively prove their case.  Or at least a perception of their case.  That’s what attorneys do.  Make a jury or judge believe their side of the story, whether it is right or wrong.  It is always about the belief.  But who is paying Saul Ewing for this lawsuit? Continue reading “So, About Those Attorney Fees For The Charter Lawsuit…”

Crazy But Practical Election Day Voter Guide: Goward, Gesty & Gunn

Now that is a 3G network I would like to see tomorrow! Sean Goward for Governor!  Scott Gesty for Congress!  La Mar Gunn for Lieutenant Governor!  I can pretty much guarantee if you pick the droll and predictable John Carney, Lisa Blunt Rochester, and Bethany Hall-Long you will get exactly more of the same.  If Gesty had to lose, I would hope it isn’t with an LBR victory but a Hans Reigle one.  We need change in Delaware, and we need it NOW!  I know, the odds of all this happening are not in my favor, but a guy can dream, right? Yes, two Libertarians for big roles : Delaware Governor and Congress, and a Republican for Lt. Governor!

Watching La Mar Gunn preside over the Delaware Senate would be a lot of fun to watch!  Sometimes watching the Delaware Senate is about as exciting as getting a tooth extracted.  Watching Goward hold everyone accountable would be awesome!  That guy will make Delaware great again!  And watching Gesty in Congress would be incredible!

For the Delaware State Reps and Senators, I believe my dream victories are fairly transparent, but some of these may shock you.  For the House, I want A LOT of new faces but it is important we keep the good ones!  For the Senate, I will be upfront and say I want the Republicans to win the Delaware Senate.  42 years of control on one side is too much.

Kim Williams (19th Rep District) (D)

Sean Matthews (10th Rep District) (D)

John Kowalko (25th Rep District) (D)

Meredith Chapman (8th Senate District) (R)

Sean Lynn (31st Rep District) (D)

Andria Bennett (32nd Rep District) (D)

Jeff Spiegelman (34th Rep District) (R)

James Spadola (1st Senate District) (R)

Denise Bowers (5th Senate District) (D)

Patti Blevins (7th Senate District) (D)

Carl Pace (14th Senate District) (R)

Gerald Hocker (20th Senate District) (R)

Kevin Hensley (9th Rep District) (R)

James DeMartino (14th Rep District) (R)

Barbara Vaughn (20th Rep District) (D)

David McCorquodale (21st Rep District) (Green)

Lanette Edwards (22nd Rep District) (D)

Jimmy Brittingham (39th Rep District) (L)

Edward Osienski (24th Rep District) (D)

Trey Paradee (29th Rep District) (D)

Karen Williams (33rd Rep District) (D)

David Henderson (34th Rep District) (D)

Gary Wolfe (35th Rep District) (D)

Paulette Rappa (37th Rep District) (D)

What is interesting are my picks for the Senate have a lot of Republicans but Democrats in the House.  I’m sure I will be severely disappointed around 10pm tomorrow evening!  But nothing will pale in comparison to the Presidential election.  Cause no matter how you slice it, we are screwed with either one of them.  And remember America: You asked for it!  I don’t think it will be the doom and gloom many are predicting if either of them win, but I have no doubt we can anticipate major issues in America.  And as God is my witness, if Hillary wins and picks a certain Governor for the U.S. Secretary of Education, I will personally make sure every single U.S. Senator hears from me along with legions of witnesses, supporters of a low-jack movement, and anyone I can get to make their voice heard loud and clear.  If you think Arne Duncan or John King suck, you don’t want Jack-Jack as the next Secretary of Education in America.  He smiles when he stabs students and teachers in the back!

Let the countdown begin!

 

An Inside Look At The DSEA Endorsement Machine

The Delaware State Education Association comes out with endorsements during election cycles.  This year there are a ton of candidates at the state and federal levels.  Below is a document showing why DSEA endorsed certain candidates in the Delaware House and Senate.  These are only the candidates who have an opponent that they endorsed.  I find some of their choices to be very interesting.  For example, Joe Miro got a nod for getting an appointment on the Southern Regional Education Board.  Two words that I did not see in this document were opt and out.  That is very concerning as  a parent viewing this document.  In fact, some of their endorsed candidates opposed the override of Markell’s veto on House Bill 50.  The words “voted”, “ensured”, and “supported” all come down to a yes vote either in committee or on the floor.  Only two of the candidates they support in a race aren’t incumbents.  Don’t get me wrong, I agree with many of their choices, but this wording for one of the candidates really made me want to vomit a little bit…

Helped DE students complete in the ever-changing global economy by supporting funding for important academic programs, like the Governor’s World Language Expansion Initiative

That sounds like something Jack Markell would say…

One of these was a complete head-scratcher because I don’t recall this legislation even coming to a vote.  I fully support the candidate this is attributed to, but it seems misguiding to put this in their profile when this same rep was a fervent supporter of the opt out bill and that doesn’t even get a mention.

Supported the creation of a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income that will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12

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.

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.

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.

 

Senator David Sokola On The Charter/Christina Lawsuit, WEIC, Newark Charter School, and Education Funding

Delaware Senator David Sokola is up for re-election. But this isn’t just any normal re-election. He is up for the fight of his life! After a very contentious 148th General Assembly and education issues coming up left and right, Sokola is faced with a very determined opponent. Meredith Chapman is running on the GOP side of the 8th Senate District ticket. Delaware United interviewed Sokola in a three-part interview. One of the interviewees is Elizabeth Paige. While she is not interviewing Sokola in her role as the President of the Christina Board of Education, there is definitely some tension there! These videos, especially the first one, are a must-watch! Thanks to Delaware United for interviewing Sokola!

Governor Markell Gives Two Big Middle Fingers To Legislators With Latest Executive Order

Delaware Governor Jack Markell sure was a busy guy yesterday.  In the morning he was pimping the Rodelian Teacher Leader Project.   But then he decided to defy the Delaware Senate and signed Executive Order #61.  What did Jack do this time?

A couple of months ago, Markell’s Chief Ass-Kisser, Delaware Senator David Sokola, tried to get a bill going that would create a permanent steering committee for the Pathways to Prosperity program in Delaware schools.  The bill made it out of committee, but never made it to the Senate floor in June.  From what I hear, it wouldn’t have passed.  It was not considered a priority and legislators weren’t fully sold on this idea.

So what does Jack do?  He goes and says “screw you Delaware Senate.  If you won’t do my bidding, I’ll just make it happen!”  He did that yesterday with Executive Order #61.  But not only did he give two very big screw yous to the Delaware Senate, but also disability advocates and Delaware parents (again).  Because even though Senate Bill 277 didn’t make it to the Senate floor, an amendment was added which would have had two other members on this steering committee:

This amendment adds two members to the Pathways steering committee, one member from a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities and one member of the public who is a parent of a Delaware public school student.

I was at the Senate Education Committee meeting when this bill was discussed.  I was the one who questioned why there were no parents on this steering committee.  Sokola pretended it was a mistake parents weren’t on the steering committee with his obviously fake “Oh my gosh” face.  As well, the Chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens noted there was no one representing students with disabilities on it.  Thus, the amendment.

Look at the test of Jack’s “I can out-trump Trump” Executive Order and then compare it to the original language in Senate Bill 277:

Text of Executive Order 61

TO: HEADS OF ALL STATE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

RE: ESTABLISHING A DELAWARE PATHWAYS STEERING COMMITTEE

WHEREAS, in 2015, Governor Markell established the Delaware Promise, a commitment that the state will combine education and workforce efforts to provide opportunities for our students as they prepare to enter and advance in a career;

WHEREAS, Governor Markell’s administration has established “Delaware Pathways”, a collaborative workforce development partnership which will create a fluid relationship between our public education system, post-secondary education, non-profit, and employer communities to ensure that the pathway to college and a well-paying job is accessible for every Delawarean, and to help the state fulfill the “Delaware Promise” of ensuring that 65% of our workforce earns a college degree or professional certificate by 2025, and that all of our students graduate high school;

WHEREAS, a Steering Committee is necessary to ensure that the program’s long term sustainability and adaptation proceeds in a manner that aligns its offerings to the needs of the workforce and to the students and parents who participate, along with ensuring that the budgetary priorities of the program are identified and outlined in a transparent and collaborative manner;

WHEREAS, we must work to continue to expand access to these programs in order to provide Delaware students with the opportunity to earn an industry-recognized credential, early college credit, and relevant work experience in high-demand fields in our state and regional economies.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JACK A. MARKELL, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Delaware, do hereby declare and order the following:

1. The Delaware Pathways Steering Committee (“Steering Committee”) is hereby established to set the strategic direction of the Delaware Pathways work and provide recommendations for future development and growth of the program, and ensure that program offerings are properly aligned with current and expected employer demand.

2. The Steering Committee shall consist of 14 members as follows:
a. The Secretary of the Department of Education.
b. The Secretary of the Department of Labor.
c. The Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services.
d. The Director of Economic Development Office.
e. Chair of the Delaware Workforce Development Board.
f. The President of the Delaware State Board of Education.
g. The President of Delaware Technical Community College.
h. One superintendent of a public school district appointed by the Governor.
i. One superintendent of a vocational technical school district appointed by the Governor.
j. Two business representatives appointed by the Governor.
k. Three members of community or non-profit organizations appointed by the Governor.

3. Members serving by virtue of position may appoint, in writing and in advance of a particular scheduled meeting or on a permanent basis, a designee to serve in their stead and at their pleasure. Members appointed by the Governor shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.

4. The Steering Committee shall, at least annually, and no later than January 15th of each calendar year perform at least the following:
a. Advise the Governor on the priorities, policy issues, and specific plans for the ongoing implementation of Delaware Pathways.
b. Review the policies of existing statewide programs and funding streams to make recommendations and take actions that align education, higher education, and workforce development programs in the state.
c. Provide guidance and leadership to agency staff involved in implementing this work for the development, expansion, and improvement of Delaware Pathways.
d. Set and track annual goals for Delaware Pathways.
e. Assist in convening stakeholders and increasing participation in Delaware Pathways programs throughout the state.

5. The Governor shall designate from the members one Chairperson of the Steering Committee. The chairperson will be appointed biennially.

6. Members appointed to the Steering Committee shall serve renewable terms of 2 years, except in the case of public employees who are not school district superintendents and who are continuing in the same designated position, and in the case of initial appointment terms, which shall be either one or two years.

7. The initial appointment terms of non-public employees and school district superintendents shall be either one or two years, such that three of the appointed non-public or school district superintendents shall serve a one year term, and the other four shall serve a two year term. The terms of each individual appointment shall be at the discretion of the Governor, but after the initial term is served the position shall be for a renewable term of 2 years.

8. The Steering Committee shall meet at the call of the Chairperson, but not less than semiannually.

9. Any vacancy occurring in the appointed membership must be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.

10. Administrative support shall be provided by the Department of Education.

11. Nothing in this Order is to be construed to create a private right of action to enforce its terms.

This Executive Order shall take effect immediately.

Now, if I were a betting man, Markell is doing a few things here.  One, he is laughing at the Delaware Senate.  Two, he is setting things up for John Carney who is a big Pathways cheerleader.  Three, he is fulfilling his Rodel promise (as well as whatever promise Rodel made to the Lumina Foundation).  Four, he is padding up his own resume for his post-Governor job.  And Five, he is fulfilling the “Dear Hillary” letter by setting Delaware up as a pilot state for the Pathways portion of this agenda.  I underestimated Markell.  I really thought he would start to quiet down in his final days.  He is busier than ever.  He is also a backstabbing and conniving jackass.

As for you Mr. John “I don’t respond to you little blogger” Carney, I have a feeling I’m going to have to start looking into you.  A lot.  I don’t think you are who you appear to be…  You are running out of time to prove me wrong…  It’s going to be a loooooooooong four years if this continues…

DSEA Statement On House Bill 399

The Delaware State Education Association issued a very strong statement on the passage of House Bill 399.  The teacher evaluation bill which was completely gutted by Delaware Senator David Sokola with his amendment will affect teachers throughout the state if certain aspects of the pilot program become a permanent thing.  Obviously, there is a lot more they could have said about what happened, but this is a an official statement from the organization.  I am fairly certain there will be many discussions about what happened with this bill moving forward.  If I were DSEA, I would think very carefully about who they are endorsing in the 8th Senate District…

Update on House Bill 399:

HB 399 finally passed the Senate in the wee small hours of Friday morning. However, it’s passage came with two senate amendments attached to the bill which the House had already passed by a unanimous vote.

DSEA is deeply appreciative to its members, parents, and members of the community who supported our efforts to secure passage of the original bill passed in the House. The letters, emails, and phone calls which were made to legislators were very helpful in maintaining a firewall of support for the bill as it endured an onslaught of attacks from groups who sought to kill it. While the results of the bill were not “perfect”, politics rarely produces “perfect” results. We believe this is an important step forward, one which will help repair the damage done to DPAS in years past.

It must be noted that the final result was not a “compromise bill” in our eyes. We fought throughout day and night (literally) to maintain the original integrity of the bill, opposing Senate Amendment 1, but were unsuccessful. Nevertheless, we think the changes will help improve the quality of educator evaluations in Delaware going forward. Full text of the bill is available at: http://bit.ly/hb399-final.

The main victories which were maintained in the bill:

(1) Each component of DPAS will have equal weight in the overall score. This ends the past practice where Component V, which was built on the student score on the state standardized test, played a disproportionate level of influence on an educator’s evaluation.

(2) Codified the requirement of annual evaluations for all educators holding an initial license and all other educators to be evaluated every two academic years.

(3) Codified the allowance for the educator to select/determine a measure which they feel will demonstrate student improvement, in addition to measure(s) selected by their evaluator.

Senate Amendment 1 (http://bit.ly/hb399-sa1) to HB 399 was authored by Sen. David Sokola. DSEA opposed the amendment. Sen. Sokola’s amendment made the following changes to the bill:

(1) Clarifies that administrators maintain the “final say,” or discretion, to determine whether the State standardized assessment should be used as part of an educator’s evaluation.

(2) Clarifies that the proposed changes to the DPAS II evaluation system, as recommended by the DPAS II Advisory Committee, are intended to be piloted in three local education agencies to evaluate their effectiveness before any changes are permanently incorporated.

(3) Inputs comments received from stakeholders to include parent and student surveys in the pilot as well as include the alternate evaluation systems in the evaluation study.

Senate Amendment 2 (http://bit.ly/hb399-sa2) to HB 399 was authored by Sen. Bryan Townsend. Sen. Townsend’s amendment helped to codify the requirement that the educator be able to select/determine one measure of student improvement (see item #3 in “victories” listed above).