After the Primary: Delaware Candidates for General Election on November 8th

Delaware Primary season is over!  Now that the playing field has been seriously trimmed, this is the final list of Delaware candidates for the General Election on November 8th.  Some candidates who I previously called winners after the deadline in July now face an opponent from party-nominated candidates who were put on the ballot by September 1st or members of the Green party who are in the game now.  I will be coming out with my own endorsements in the weeks ahead.

 

Deadline to Register to Vote for General Election: October 15th

Delaware Election 2016: November 8th

 

What’s At Stake:

President: The future of the country.

Delaware Senate: 11 out of 21 seats up for re-election, 11 seats needed for party control.  As of the 148th General Assembly, there were 12 Democrats and 9 Republicans in the Delaware Senate. With no one running against some candidates, 8 Democrats and 7 Republicans will retain seats. Magic number for party control in the Senate- Democrats: 3, Republicans: 4

*the only thing that could change this scenario is if Senator Bethany Hall-Long wins the Lieutenant Governor race and then a special election would take place after the General Election for her seat.  The same would apply if Senator Colin Bonini wins the Governor race.

Delaware House: All 41 seats up for reelection, 21 seats for party control.  As of the end of the 148th General Assembly, there were 26 Democrats and 15 Republicans in the House. With no one running against some candidates, 16 Democrats and 4 Republicans will retain seats.  Magic number for Democrats: 5, for Republicans: 17.  These numbers don’t assume certain parties will win if a candidate is running against one of the Libertarians, Greens, or Independents.   Assuming the incumbents win in those elections, that would change the magic numbers for Democrats to 4 and the Republicans to 15.

As of tonight, we have a brand new Delaware Senator from the 9th Senate District: Jack Walsh.  Congratulations Senator Walsh!  As well, Wilmington will have a new Mayor.  Congratulations to Mayor Michael Purzycki.

 

President:

Hillary Clinton (D)

Jill Stein (G)

Gary Johnson (L)

Donald Trump (R)

 

Governor:

John Carney (D)

Andrew Groff (G)

Sean Goward (L)

Colin Bonini (R)

 

Congress: US Representative

Lisa Blunt Rochester (D)

Mark Perri (G)

Scott Gesty (L)

Hans Reigle (R)

 

Lieutenant Governor: 

Bethany Hall-Long (D)

La Mar Gunn (R)

 

Insurance Commissioner:

Trinidad Navarro (D)

Jeffrey Cragg (R)

 

State Senate:

District 1: 

Harris McDowell III (D) (Incumbent)

James Spadola (R)

 

District 5:

Denise Bowers (D)

Catherine Cloutier (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 7:

Patricia Blevins (D) (Incumbent)

Anthony Delcollo (R)

 

District 8:

David Sokola (D) (Incumbent)

David Chandler (G)

Meredith Chapman (R)

 

District 9: Winner

John Walsh (D)

 

District 12: Winner 

Nicole Poore (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 13: Winner

David McBride (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 14:

Bruce Ennis (D) (Incumbent)

Carl Pace (R)

 

District 15: Winner

Dave Lawson (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 19: Winner

Brian Pettyjohn (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 20:

Perry Mitchell (D)

Gerald Hocker (R) (Incumbent)

 

State Representative:

District 1: Winner

Charles Potter (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 2: Winner

Stephanie Bolden (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 3: Winner

Helene Keeley (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 4: Winner

Gerald Brady (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 5: Winner

Melanie George Smith (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 6: Winner

Deb Heffernan (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 7:

Bryon Short (D) (Incumbent)

Robert Wilson (L)  

 

District 8: Winner

Quinton Johnson (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 9:

Monique Johns (D)

Kevin Hensley (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 10:

Sean Matthews (D) (Incumbent)

Judith Travis (R)

 

District 11:

David Neilson (D)

Jeffrey Spiegelman (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 12: Winner

Deb Hudson (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 13: Winner

John Mitchell (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 14:

Peter Schwartzkopf (D) (Incumbent)

James DeMartino (R)

 

District 15: Winner

Valerie Longhurst (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 16: Winner

James Johnson (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 17: Winner

Michael Mulrooney (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 18: Winner

David Bentz (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 19:

Kim Williams (D) (Incumbent)

James Startzman (R)

 

District 20:

Barbara Vaughn (D)

Don Ayotte (I)

Stephen Smyk (R) Incumbent

 

District 21:

David McCorquodale (G)

Mike Ramone (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 22:

Lanette Edwards (D)

Bernard August (G)

Joseph Miro (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 23: Winner

Paul Baumbach (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 24:

Edward Osienski (D) (Incumbent)

Timothy Conrad (R)

 

District 25:

John Kowalko (D) (Incumbent)

Mike Nagorski (R)

 

District 26: Winner

John Viola (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 27: Winner

Earl Jaques (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 28: Winner

William Carson (D) (Incumbent)

 

District 29:

Trey Paradee (D) (Incumbent)

Ruth James (G)

Janice Gallagher (R)

 

District 30:

Charles Groce (D)

William Outten (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 31: 

Sean Lynn (D) (Incumbent)

Jean Dowding (R)

 

District 32:

Andria Bennett (D) (Incumbent)

Patricia Foltz (R)

 

District 33: 

Karen Williams (D)

Charles Postles (R)

 

District 34:

David Henderson (D)

Lyndon Yearick (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 35:

Gary Wolfe (D)

David Wilson (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 36: Winner

Harvey Kenton (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 37: 

Paulette Rappa (D)

Ruth Briggs-King (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 38: Winner 

Ronald Gray (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 39:

James Brittingham (L)

Daniel Short (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 40: Winner

Timothy Dukes (R) (Incumbent)

 

District 41:

Bradley Connor (D)

Richard Collins (R) (Incumbent)

 

New Castle County Executive

Matt Meyer (D)

Matt Blake (R)

 

Mayor of Wilmington: Winner

Michael Purzycki (D)

 

The following Delaware Senate seats are not up for re-election this year:

District 2: Margaret-Rose Henry (D)

District 3: Robert Marshall (D)

District 4: Greg Lavelle (R)

District 6: Ernie Lopez (R)

District 10: Bethany Hall-Long (D)

District 11: Bryan Townsend (D)

District 16: Colin Bonini (R)

District 17: Brian Bushweller (D)

District 18: F. Gary Simpson (R)

District 21: Bryant Richardson (R)

 

 

 

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Sherry Dorsey Walker For Lieutenant Governor

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jack Markell, Blockchain, Coding Schools, Rodel, BRINC, Pathways To Prosperity, Registered Agents… Delaware’s Role In “The Ledger”

If Washington D.C. is the capital of America, than Delaware is the capital of corporate education reform.

Over the past week, many of us who are resisting the privatization of public education have been talking about The Ledger.  Peter Greene broke the news for the world to see, which Diane Ravitch quickly picked up on.  What is “The Ledger”? Continue reading

Delaware Horror Story Part 3

As David reached out his hand, the woman said, “No David.  You mustn’t.  You must never harm your grandfather.”  David knew what a father was but what made someone grand as a father?  The elderly man had bright blue eyes and white hair.  David had blue eyes as well.  But the lines on the old man’s face were deep, as if each year left a mark on the man.  The woman was young.  She had long red hair and deep green eyes.  She didn’t speak the same language as the man did at first, but he sensed some of it in her normal language.

“David, my name is Astrid.  And this is your grandfather, Jacob,” the woman said.  It was dark outside.  The streets were not normal.  Instead of being flat, they had round rocks.  David looked down at them, questioning why.  “These are cobblestones David,” Jacob said.  “From a time long before you and I.  We are in a country called Sweden.  And now we are in their city called Stockholm.  And this is one of the oldest parts of the city still standing.  We are in Gamla Stan, which means Old Town in our language.”

David looked at Jacob with a puzzled look.  He still didn’t comprehend this “grandfather” thing.  Jacob pulled out a picture of his father, when he was 14 years old.  “This is my son, William.  He is your father.  That makes me your grandfather.”  Jacob understood.  This old man was his father’s father.

The earliest memory David had been one of the magic place.  It was like a place with constant evolution.  One minute it would be snowing and the next it would be bright and sunny and warm.  This is where David lived most days.  He was comfortable there and it filled him with happiness.  The adventures he had in this place were beyond the imagining.  This was David’s home.  He didn’t like it when he dreamed of the real world.  He was in this real world dream now.  There were always questions and nothing made sense.

David heard of this man Jacob.  When he dreamed of the real world, he would hear his mom and dad talking about him.  His mother would tell his father he needed to let it go and they had to concentrate on David.  He remembered one time when his mother told him, “David, one day you will need to wake up.  You will have to become one with the world and survive.”  When David got to the mountain, he dreamed about the real world the whole time.  He wasn’t able to be home, in the land where nothing stayed the same.  To dream was to survive.

“Astrid,” said Jacob. “David looks very confused.  He needs to eat.  We need to take him down to the bistro before the roll call begins.  He may look normal now, but if anyone sees the number on him, they will know.  We didn’t do all of this just to lose him now.”

Astrid reached out her hand to David.  David trusted her for some reason.  She seemed familiar to him but he couldn’t place it.  He touched her fingers as they curled around his.  David looked up at her.  An empty stare with no emotion.  He wanted to tell her how he felt.  That she was okay to him.  But he couldn’t.  Not unless he was home.  When he dreamed of this place, he could never talk.  Just watch.  And listen.  And absorb.  And react.  He felt trapped, like the Beast of Leaftear at home when the creature was defeated in the Battle of Leaftear Ending.  The Beast threatened them all.  He wanted to take over the city of Leaftear and kill them all.  David saved the day when he beat the Beast at a game of Kaleidoscope.  The Leaftearians knew they didn’t have the physical strength to beat The Beast so they relied on their greatest hero in a game of wits.  Afterwards, the Beast sat in his cage for all time and never made a sound.  It ate food, it breathed, and it would even snore at night sometimes, but no words ever came out of his mouth.  That was how David felt when he dreamed of the real world.

****************

William woke up to a loud pounding on his door.  “MEF #313056, you have ten minutes to get dressed and shower.  Breakfast at 0500.”  William grabbed the towel and uniform and made his way to the showers.  They smelled like ancient mildew but the water coming out of the showers felt like hot on a warm summer day.  He got dressed and went to the Convening Room on the sub-levels.  The Colonel gave the daily orders to the MEF.  William received his: “Disinfectant Recognition”.  Inside the packet was a list of instructions for the duty.  William felt his stomach turn inside out.  He remembered this technique from an old television show he watched on something called YouTube.  Some show called Breaking Bad.  The body would be placed in a barrel with acid.  It removed any trace of identity from the victim.  The 12 families called this “extra assurance”.  Not that any parent of one of the Specials could ever claim the body or sue the MEF.  Most of them didn’t even know about the Mountain.

William didn’t know if he could go through with this.  He had to find David in here, or find out if…  the thought was too much for William to handle.  At times like this, William’s self-instinct took over with a fight or flight mechanism.  To escape the impending feeling of a loss too terrible to cope with, William would count to 32.  He came this far and he knew if he couldn’t find the location of his son here he never would.  One of the guards came into the room and whispered to the Colonel.  William couldn’t hear it, but he heard the letters AU at the end of it.  The Colonel shouted “That is impossible.  What do you mean he is gone?  That doesn’t happen.  Not here.  Find him.  NOW!”

“We have a new problem,” claimed the Colonel.  “One of the Specials is missing.  An autistic boy, 12 years old, blonde hair, blue eyes.  #112877AU.  He disappeared two days ago.  There will be no disposal today.  All non-molding staff are to actively search for this boy and find him.  The first person to find him will get an extra hour for lunch or dinner.  The first daughter of the Markell family is coming to the Mountain later today and we are ruined if word gets out we can’t account for one of them.”

****************

Jax sipped the water very slowly.  At 103 years old, she knew she didn’t have much time left.  She had to make sure they understood.  There wasn’t much time left before the purging videos came out.  She carefully placed agents into the Mountain to show the world what was happening there.  Even though the people couldn’t see them, the word would spread.  Fifty-five percent of the population, either dead or on a timetable for execution.  She looked out the window to see what used to be Legislative Hall.  Spread out over the entirety of the Green, it was home to the Markell family of Delaware.  One of the Twelve.  The rulers of the world.  She missed her friends, those who fought so gallantly to prevent this.  She remembered the dying breath of the unions when President Markell signed the order.  By that point, the unions were just minions of the Twelve anyways.  She had been kicked out years before it was official.  During the Red Clay-Christina riot, she watched as the Markell guards beat her friends into submission.  She did not escape unscathed.  A bullet tore into her left kneecap with such velocity it would never be the same again.

Delaware became an island unto itself during the Great Icescape Melt of 2042.  The Markell family built the polymer walls stopping the waters from taking over.  It was too late for Southern Sussex County.  The wall stood south of Milford with nothing but a liquid graveyard to the south of it.  That was the last time she saw her friend, the blogger.  He went down there to find someone, but no one ever saw him after that.  But he left very careful instructions for her.  About what to do if anything ever happened to William, his grandson.  It was Jax who supplied William with the knowledge of what came before.  The device was a treasure trove that explained everything.  All the information the people in power conveniently laughed at and ignored until it was too late.  She missed the resistance.  They came so close.  It would have stopped everything that came to pass.  They let him in thinking he had changed, that he was no longer brainwashed by the Markells.  They were wrong.  Trusting Earl was the worst mistake Jax ever made…

Part 1

Part 2

Editor’s note: I began this story last fall.  It became very dark, very quickly.  Faster than I could take.  As the Every Student Succeeds Act became a reality, I saw this potential future unfolding right in front of me.  A system designed to offer so much promise to the unsuspecting, but laced with poison.  Right now, regulations coming from ESSA are being discussed by politicians, policy-makers, educators, and corporate education reformers throughout the country.  For those who have followed this blog, some of the names in here are very familiar.  But the reality is that every single state has those who opposed what is happening to public education.  This is a story of the last heroes of Delaware in a potential future.  It is meant to be a warning sign of grossly exaggerated proportions.  One hundred years ago, someone could have written a similar story of a whole group of European Jews who were summarily executed just for their faith.  Many would have laughed and ridiculed such a notion.  Not in our time… history is filled with such apathy towards itself.  It is merely a cycle of cascading events with a rise and fall, over and over again.  It is also filled with those who try to fight the future and prevent the same cycle from repeating itself.

$22 Million In Back Property Taxes For New Castle County

What would you do with an extra $22 million dollars?  I would ask the public school children of New Castle County because right now they are short $22 million bucks.  The below picture shows the massive delinquency status of Delaware property taxes for New Castle County.  Aside from a bill that passed that says you won’t get your tax refund if you owe back taxes, what is being done to collect on this debt?  If you own a home, you have to pay taxes.  Like it or not, it comes with owning a home.  Or a business.  I’m talking to you golf course in Appoquinimink!  One question I have (cause I don’t have the time to look it up) is who gets the interest an penalties?  Do the school districts get them or just the county?

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National Education Association To Advocate For Full IDEA Special Education Funding

I didn’t want to put “news” up on the 4th of July, but this one was too important to pass by.  The National Education Association (NEA) is having their Annual Representative Assembly in Washington D.C. this week.  They just passed an item to launch a digital campaign to advocate for the full funding of IDEA.  Since it was reauthorized in 2004, the feds have never given the full amount of funding for special education in America.  Here is how it works now: The feds, through IDEA Part B funding, pays about 10-15% of special education costs while states and local districts pay the rest.  However, the original intent was for the feds to pay up to 40% of a student’s special education costs.

This glaring omission on the feds part results in states and districts bearing the brunt of the costs.  And in a state like Delaware, where there is no Basic Special Education funds from the state for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, the local district or charter is forced to pay for 100% of special education services for these students.  Despite excellent legislation that would have provided these funds over a period of years for these students, the Delaware General Assembly as a collective body refused to allocate these funds in their most recent budget and the bill didn’t move past being released from the House Appropriations Committee.  This should be a no-brainer, but our budget is filled with pork that could have easily been cut to make room for this.

I salute the NEA for their advocacy on this issue.  As states struggle with different education funding models, the US DOE needs to step up and do their promised part.  But it is up to Congress to allocate these funds.  Thank you NEA!

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Thank you to Mike Matthews for putting this picture up on Facebook!

Is Senate Bill 193 An Antidote To Priority Schools, A Social Impact Bond, or a WEIC Alternative?

This is a very interesting piece of legislation introduced today.  This is almost like an anti-priority schools bill.  Take the schools with the most economically disadvantaged students and offer grants to those schools at up to $1 million a year for three years.  It looks great, but I don’t recall seeing these funds in the budget.  So where are the funds coming from?  The bill only says the funds would be appropriated from the state.  It doesn’t specify if these funds would come from the general funds or what the source of revenue is for this.  If this is a social impact bond deal, I can’t support that.  I have many questions with this one.  The Joint Finance Committee slashed education proposals in the budget mark-up last week so why would legislators introduce a new bill that guarantees grant funding of $3 million by the Delaware DOE for the next three years beginning in August 15th of this year?  Unless…

Could this be a way of getting funding through in the event the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan doesn’t pass?  The devil is in the details on this one…

Shameless Plug: Vote For Kevin Ohlandt for Capital Board of Education on May 10th!!!!!

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2015 ICT Report Shows Increase Of Students With Disabilities Placed In Residential Treatment Centers

This is the third year in a row I’ve written about these reports.  They are the articles I hate writing, but feel it is necessary that people see them.  The Delaware Interagency Collaborative Team (ICT) has the very difficult task of determining how to place students with disabilities when the services in a public school can no longer meet their needs.  It is usually based on behavior issues.  These are the toughest cases in Delaware.  I’ve given this group a hard time in the past, but I’ve mellowed out a bit since then.

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In Fiscal Year 2015, 140 Delaware students with disabilities received services through ICT.  Out of those 140, 65 students were placed in residential treatment centers.  24 of those students were placed in out-of-state treatment centers which brings it to 37%.  72 students attended day treatment centers.  As shown by the below graph, very few students received one-on-one services in the school.  The report cites the needs-based funding formula as contributing to this decrease.  Which I find ironic given that the needs-based formula doesn’t allow for basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

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What I always find odd about these reports is they never give the total cost of this program.  They show high and low prices for some of these residential and day treatment centers.  I would think that would be of major concern to the state.  Or perhaps they just don’t want the public to see it for some reason.

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I still feel the endless rigor of Common Core and performance on standardized tests is not good for any child.  But for these students, it has to be extremely hard to meet the demands of “reaching proficiency”.  These are the children I cry and pray for as much as possible.  It is a parent of a special need’s child worst nightmare.  I feel for the parents or guardians of the 140 children who faced this alternative last year.  I can’t help but feel some of these could have been avoided at some point earlier…

Delaware Educational Technology Report Wants Statewide Personalized Learning By 2020

The corporate education reform juggernaut wants personalized learning in every school in America, and Delaware’s latest educational technology report will help to make sure that happens in The First State.  Unless you home school, standardized testing will be impossible to stop in the future.  The plans from this report could also bring data mining into your very own home.

Last year, the Delaware 148th General Assembly created a State Educational Technology Task Force through Senate Concurrent Resolution #22.  The task force released their final report to the General Assembly yesterday.  There are far-reaching and gigantic goals coming out of this report, with huge technological and financial implications for every single student, teacher, school, and citizen in the state.

To be clear from the get-go: I am not against technology in the classroom.  What I am against is technology taking the place of a human teacher.  Technology, in my opinion, should be used as a support for the teacher, and not the other way around.  In today’s society, the majority of us are glued to the internet.  This article would not exist were it not for the internet.  My other chief concern with the digital invasion into every classroom is the data that comes out of it.  I’ve written about this hundreds of times in the past couple years, more so in the past few months.  There is nothing in any law that will prevent aggregate data, formed through algorithms embedded into the various learning modules and standardized tests, from falling into outside companies hands.  In fact, most states seem to want them to have access to this information.  The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) had its guidelines relaxed to such an extent that companies have easy access to student data.  The data is not connected to any personal identifiable information for each student, but it is all sent to these companies with each student identification number assigned to it based on the information they request.

Imagine, if you will, what happens when you go to Amazon.  You’ve been shopping there for years.  Amazon knows what you want to look for.  If you bought the second season of Downton Abbey through their cloud service, bought a paperback of The DaVinci Code a couple months later, and then a Bananarama mp3 a few months later, Amazon will tailor your shopping experience based on everything you have purchased and browsed.  As most of us who have gone through these “suggestive” ideas, there are many times where we don’t want what they are recommending.  But it still shows up.  The same happens with Google.  It remembers what you search for.  How many times have you gone to type something in Google, and they automatically know exactly what you are looking for?  Or Google thinks it knows and goes right to it but it was wrong?  It is all based on algorithms and predictive analysis.

Educational data on your child is crafted the exact same way.  It doesn’t know his name or his social security number, but it knows how old they are, what school they go to, what grade they are in, how long it takes to finish a test, all the behavior issues, any discipline problems, and much, much more.  It is all assigned to that number.  Outside companies get this information for “research” and send it back to the state.  The state is then able to come up with a model for that student based on their own data and what these companies are doing with it.  In time, states will emulate the Amazon and Google predictive analysis methods and will come up with “suggestive” career paths for students (if they aren’t already).  The personalized learning will be tailored towards that career path.  And of course all of this will be based on the Common Core, as students move on based on Competency-Based Education.  They can’t move on until they have gained proficiency in a subject.  Instead of you searching on Google or Amazon, this is the state (already bought by Corporate America) searching on your child and taking those predictive analysis algorithmic conclusions and making decisions on your child.  Whatever happened to the uniqueness and individuality of each child?  There are human factors and emotions that no computer-based model can ever measure.  Corporate Education Inc. wants to take that away from your child.  Permanently.

I also have grave concerns with the goal of every single student in Delaware having a state-owned digital device in home AND school by 2020.  The report shies away from districts and charters having individual contracts with providers of the devices due to cost.  So the technology each student would have would be based on what the state decides to purchase.  We are seeing this already in twenty-four Delaware local education agencies with the Schoology Learning Management System.

For teachers, they will be subject to countless hours of professional learning development geared towards the technology and how to implement the technology towards instruction.  In time, they will be required to show “confidence” in this ability.  Teaching will shift away from teacher to student  interaction to a technology-student-moderator environment.

The report also touches on what is known as the K-12 Open Educational Resources Collaborative.  This group is comprised of eleven states, including Delaware and the following: California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.  But they aren’t the only members.  There are companies and “associations” that signed on as well: the Council of Chief State School Officers, Achieve Inc., The Learning Accelerator, Lumen Learning (most likely an offshoot of The Lumina Foundation.  Their CEO was a speaker at Delaware’s Pathways To Prosperity conference in February), Creative Commons, State Education Technology Directors Association, Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, State Instructional Materials Reviews Association, Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics, and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.  And just to put the frosting on this corporate education reform entity, guess what they support? A member of their advisory team named Joe Wolf, who is also the Chair of The Learning Accelerator, is into “Social Action Bonds”.  But who are we kidding?  You can call them whatever you want, they are all Social Impact Bonds.  Every day there is some new education company coming out of the woodwork that I never knew existed before!

What concerns me about Delaware’s Educational Technology report is the questions that were not asked.  If the goal is to have every single student’s home wi-fi compatible, who pays for the actual internet service provider (i.e. Comcast or Verizon)?  How would it connect to the education personalized management systems?  If the home becomes a new “learning environment”, would anything on the internet in each person’s home then become “data” available for “education agencies” to request from the state (fully allowable under FERPA)?  Since most homes tend to get bundle packages, including cable and phone, does that mean that data could now be fodder for the state?  Imagine every single phone call you make on your landline or every television show you watch being a part of data collection.  By not answering these types of questions, or even asking them, it is very bold of this task force to suggest these kinds of recommendations.  There is a Student Data Privacy Task Force now in session (they meet again on Monday, April 4th from 3:00 to 4:30 pm on the 7th level of the Carvel State Office Building at 820 N. French St. in Wilmington and it is open to the public).  But this task force was created from Senate Bill 79 in Delaware which had so much lobbying from Microsoft and Google that the original intent of the legislation was shredded due to their interference and still allows this open flow of student data at an aggregate level (based on each student’s identification number).

This potential future is happening right before our very eyes.  There is so much more to this, and a few of us in the education blogging landscape suspect a future where the majority of the population become little drones and worker bees as a result of all of this.  We will exist only to serve the hive, aka, the corporate government.  Your job will be created for you based on your digital education.  Meanwhile, those in power will control it all.

It is time for a revolution.

Delaware Education Legislation Introduced Since January: Pending & Signed, Updates On Holdover Legislation

LegislativeHall

I just updated the Delaware “Education Legislation” page on here, but I haven’t been posting new legislation as faithfully as I did last year.  I thought it would be a good idea to give an overall update.  If it states it is on a ready list, that means it is up for a full vote by either the House or the Senate.  And embedded in this article is news Kilroy will be VERY happy about!

House Bill 229: Under the current School Choice program, there are certain students who may receive priority consideration for enrollment in the school of their choice. This Bill adds a new priority consideration for students who have a medical condition or disability that carries an ongoing risk of a sudden medical emergency. If the parent, relative, guardian or caregiver can demonstrate that they would be able to respond quicker to an emergency at the selected school, the student will receive a priority consideration.” Status: House Education Committee 1/7/16, Sponsor: Rep. Wilson

House Bill 231: This bill requires that charter schools participate in the state retirement system.” Status: released from House Education Committee 1/27/16, on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Matthews

House Bill 232: This Act will require the State Board of Education to accept public comment on all agenda items at its meetings, including charter school applications and changes to regulations. The Board is not required to accept public comment concerning student disciplinary appeals. The Board retains discretion to limit the manner, length, and timing of public comment at its meetings.” Status: House Education Committee 1/7/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams

House Bill 234 This bill requires all public secondary schools, including vocational-technical schools, but not including charter schools, to have a school-based health center. The state is required to fund start-up costs at the rate of one school per year for secondary schools that currently lack such a health center. Wellness centers are an important means of providing preventative and primary medical care to teens and overcoming obstacles to care such as lack of transportation and cost. Pursuant to House Bill No. 303, approved in June of 2012, insurers are required to reimburse for services provided at school-based health centers recognized by Delaware’s Division of Public Health. Under DPH regulations students under 18 must enroll for service by having a parent or guardian sign a consent form.” Status: released from House Education Committee 3/9/16, assigned to House Appropriations Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams

House Bill 236: This bill will allow for a school property tax exemption for a person of any age who has been designated as a disabled veteran by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs.” Status: House Education Committee 1/12/16, Sponsor: Rep. Miro

House Bill 240: This bill establishes the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Program. The Program will provide grants to public schools, that qualify as Title I schools, to develop afterschool engagement of students that will provide extended learning, homework assistance, enrichment, and nutrition.
Quality afterschool programs have been proven to enhance student engagement, improve likelihood that students will stay in school, and graduate on time. High quality programs can improve participating students school attendance, enhance literacy and help to apply classroom learning in fun and enriching ways to boost students attitudes toward various academic subjects.
After school hours, from 3-6pm, is the most dangerous time for youth and crime, accounting for the peak time for youth to commit crimes or become victims of crimes. 11.3 million children are unsupervised in the United States after school. 28,292 kids in Delaware are on their own during the hours after school.
According to the Afterschool Alliance’s 2014 ‘America After 3PM’ state survey, of all Delaware children not currently enrolled in afterschool, 40% (48,140) would be likely to participate if an afterschool program were available in their community.
” Status: released from House Education Committee 1/13/16, assigned to House Appropriations Committee 1/14/16, Sponsor: Rep. Longhurst

House Bill 243: Under current federal and state regulations implementing the statewide assessment program, if a school or district has less than 95% of their students taking the state assessment, this can be used against the school or district as it pertains to accountability or progress ratings, and further may disqualify the school or district from safe harbor provisions. As the decision to opt out of state assessments is made by parents, and not the school or district, this bill will prohibit the state from using the rate of participation against a school or district.” Status: House Education Committee 1/19/16, Sponsor: Rep. Miro

House Bill 250: In 2014, the Legislature passed a bill adding instances of “reported and recorded” bullying to the list of reasons why a child could be withdrawn from a choice or charter school before the expiration of the statutory minimum enrollment period or why an application for admission or withdrawal could be accepted outside of the statutory timeframe for submission. This bill seeks to clarify and strengthen that law by adding a requirement that the instance of bullying must also be substantiated. This will ensure the integrity of the law by limiting its exploitation by persons who wish to change schools for unrelated reasons, but preserving the exception for children truly in need of special consideration due to school bullying.” Status: released from House Education Committee 3/16/16, on House ready list,Sponsor: Rep. Williams

House Bill 261: Under existing law, when a child applies to enter a charter school, the burden is placed upon that charter school to contact the previous school district of the child to determine if the child was subject to expulsion. There are also children who are placed in alternative schools programs for discipline reasons who were not expelled. It has become more common for parents of these children to apply for enrollment in charter schools in order to circumvent the expulsion or discipline program. This has been made possible because some school districts have not responded to the requests made by charter schools for these discipline or expulsion records. If the Charter school enrolls the student and later discovers this issue, the Charter school is not permitted to disenroll the student and is thereafter responsible for that child’s cost. The previous school district thus benefits financially from its failure to respond as it is no longer responsible for the cost of that child. The changes in this bill close this loophole for parents and remove the disincentive for school districts to respond to these requests. If the previous school district fails to respond to a request, they will now have to resume responsibility for the costs of the child. The loophole should be closed for many of these parents as the charter schools will have this information available to it when deciding whether to enroll a child, and they are required to disenroll the student upon discovery of this information.” Status: House Education Committee 1/28/16, Sponsor: Rep. Ramone

House Bill 279: This bill would require that public comment be permitted at all open meetings of any board, bureau, commission, department, agency, committee, ad hoc committee, special committee, temporary committee, advisory board and committee, subcommittee, legislative committee, association, group, panel or council. The minimum time will be one minute. Maximum time and procedural rules are left to the discretion of the meeting body.” Status: House Administration Committee 3/8/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams

House Bill 292: This bill requires schools to post the toll-free telephone report line number for child abuse and neglect in a conspicuous location, where it may be viewed by students.  Currently the number is 1-800-292-9582. Status: House Education Committee 3/17/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams  ***On House Education Committee agenda for 3/23/16, 3pm

Senate Bill #171:Currently, all regular school districts, charter schools, and vocational schools are subject to audit by the Auditor of Accounts. This legislative authority is granted to the Auditor of Accounts in multiple sections of the Delaware Code which must be considered together.
This Act seeks to strengthen certain aspects of Title 14 of the Delaware Code with respect to charter school audits and seeks to improve the relevant sections of the Title for consistency and cross-reference of terms.
Status: released from Senate Education Committee 1/21/16, on Senate ready list, Sponsor: Senator Sokola

Senate Bill #180:This Act provides procedures to ensure that each child with a disability who has reached age 18 has an identified educational decision-maker to exercise rights under this chapter. A child with a disability who has capacity may exercise his own rights or appoint an agent to exercise educational rights. A child with a disability who does not have capacity to provide informed consent with respect to educational programming will have an educational representative appointed, with a parent receiving priority for that role. The Department of Education, with the approval of the State Board of Education, shall promulgate regulations to implement this section. The Act shall be in effect 180 days from the date of enactment to allow regulations to be developed and provide school districts and charter schools time to receive training.Status: Senate passed 1/27/16, released from House Education Committee 3/16/16, on House ready list, Sponsor: Senator Poore

Senate Bill #186:This Act creates a Disabled Veteran School Tax Refund Fund to provide property tax refunds of up to $500 to individuals who are disabled veterans of the Unites States Armed Forces with a disability rating as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
This Act provides that an individual eligible for a refund under this Act and a credit based on being over 65 years of age may receive only the greater of the refund or the credit, not both.
Status: Assigned to Senate Finance Committee 1/28/16, Sponsor: Senator Townsend

Senate Bill #202 w/SA#1:This Act excludes buses operated by the Department of Education, any public school district, or any charter school from the requirements for minimum insurance coverage contained in § 2904, Title 14 of the Delaware Code.  This Act is a follow-up to Senate Bill No. 62, which was passed by the General Assembly during the first session of the 148th General Assembly.” SA #1: “This Amendment makes clear that the insurance required by § 2904, Title 14 is for buses that are used, owned, leased, or operated by a person with a contract the Department of Education, any public school district, or any charter school. In addition, this Amendment makes clear that the changes made by Senate Bill No. 202, as amended, take effect upon the enactment of Senate Bill No. 62 of the 148th General Assembly.”Status: Senate passed 3/15/16, assigned House Education Committee 3/16/16, Sponsor: Senator Sokola ***On House Education Committee agenda for 3/23/16, 3pm

Senate Bill #204:This bill would allow for a student to participate in the Inspire Scholarship Program for eight continuous semesters instead of the current six. This would allow a student to use Inspire Scholarships for each of the semesters during a traditional college program.Status: Assigned to Senate Finance Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Senator Bushweller

Senate Bill #207:This Act would improve the state’s response to incidents of school bullying by better informing parents of the availability of intervention by the Department of Justice’s School Ombudsperson, and clarify that the Ombudsperson has authority to intervene in both incidents of criminal activity and incidents that meet the statutory definition of bullying but do not constitute criminal activity. This Act would also give schools and victims’ families discretion whether to report misdemeanor assault incidents between juveniles to law enforcement agencies, rather than mandating the involvement of the criminal justice system in all such incidents. Finally, the Act would ensure that parents of students involved in bullying incidents are informed that such incidents are reported to the Department of Education, and are informed when such reports occur.Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary  Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Senator Rose-Henry

Senate Bill #208 w/SA #1:This Act makes the following technical corrections to two online privacy protection bills passed during the General Assembly’s 2015 session: (i) the Act amends Section 1204C of the Delaware Online Privacy Protection Act, Chapter 12C, Title 6, to insert language that was inadvertently omitted from the bill as enacted; (ii) the Act amends Section 8105A of the Student Data Privacy Protection Act, Chapter 81A, Title 14, to correct a typographical error; and (iii) the Act amends Section 5 of the enacting bill, Chapter 149, Volume 80 of the Laws of Delaware, to correct a misinterpretation of the effective date of new Chapter 81A, Title 14 of the Code.” SA #1:This amendment clarifies that the term “sexually-oriented” has the meaning set forth in § 1602(18) of Title 24. Status: released from Senate Education Committee 3/16/16, on Senate Ready List, Sponsor: Senator Blevins 

 

The following bills were either introduced and passed this session or were carry-overs from the first part of the 148th General Assembly and passed this year:

House Bill #85:This bill allows school taxes and property taxes to be collected by tax intercept.” Status: Passed House of Representatives 1/26/16, Passed Senate 3/10/16, Signed by Governor Markell 3/17/16, Sponsor: Rep. D. Short

House Joint Resolution #4 w/House Amendments #1,2,3:Many students in Delaware schools are failing to receive the education and training that is required to achieve the financial literacy required to be productive citizens.  This joint resolution is designed to establish a task force to study and make findings concerning financial literacy education in Delaware. The task force will also make policy and program recommendations that will help increase the financial literacy of our students.” HA #1: This amendment clarifies that the 2 teachers to be appointed by the President of the Delaware State Education Association and adds two representatives from the Delaware Bankers Association.” HA #2: This amendment changes the report due date to June 30, 2016.” HA #3:This amendment requires that the representatives from the State Board of Education must themselves be members of the Board.” Status: House passed 1/19/16, Senate Passed 1/28/16, signed by Governor Markell 2/1/16, Sponsor: Rep. Briggs-King

House Resolution #22: This Resolution will require the Delaware Secretary of Education to propose options for the General Assembly to consider for adoption as Delaware law as it pertains to the decision by parents to opt their children out of statewide assessments. The Secretary shall provide options for implementation of a uniform procedure and process by which all schools and school districts within this State notify parents of their right to opt out, along with a standard procedure to accomplish the same.   This joint resolution also prohibits the Department and schools from penalizing any student deciding to opt out. It is intended that such prohibition be incorporated within any legislation adopting a procedure offered by the Secretary. Status: House Passed 1/14/16, Sponsor: Rep. Dukes *this House Resolution is not enforceable by law and the Delaware Department of Education has not acted on this at all.

Senate Bill #172: This Act reduces the at-large membership of the Milford School Board from 4 to 3 as of June 30, 2016. The current at-large member holding that seat will continue to do so until the end of his term on June 30, 2016. Status: Passed Senate 1/21/16, Passed House 1/18/16, Signed by Governor Markell 2/3/16, Sponsor: Senator Simpson

 

I would be remiss without giving the official 2016 update on House Bill 50, the opt out bill:

House Bill #50 w/House Amendments #1 and #2, w/Senate Amendments #1 and #2: This bill creates the right for the parent or guardian of a child to opt out of the annual assessment, currently the Smarter Balanced Assessment System. House Amendment #1: This amendment clarifies that the bill only applies to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The amendment also clarifies that the parent or guardian must give written notice at least two school days prior to the start of the assessment. Finally, the amendment includes an effective date of August 1, 2015″, Senate Amendment #1:This amendment adds “district-wide” to the assessment. This amendment also clarifies what information should be included in the notice.” Senate Amendment #2: “This amendment affords eleventh grade students the opportunity to elect not to participate in the statewide assessment.” House Amendment #2: “This amendment removes the provision that allows eleventh grade students the opportunity to elect not to participate in the statewide assessment.” Status: Passed House 5/22/15 (Senate Amendment #2 stricken that date), Passed Senate 6/25/15, Vetoed by Governor Markell 7/15/15, Placed on House Ready List for potential veto override: 1/14/16, Sponsor: Rep. John Kowalko

 

These bills are leftovers from the 1st part of the 148th General Assembly Session but have moved forward in some way this year:

House Bill #34:This bill will allow a local school district board to delay new or changed rules, regulations, or administrative procedures from becoming effective during a school year once the school year has started. This will allow the rules, regulations, and procedures to be consistent for the whole school year.” With HA #2: “This amendment allows the Department of Education to make changes to rules, regulations, or administrative procedures if required to do so by law or if necessary to address an emergency situation, public health, or safety matter. It further defines the terms administrative procedure.”  With SA#1: This Amendment requires that the restriction only applies when there is a direct financial impact created by the new or amended rule, regulation or administrative procedure. This Amendment also clarifies that Charter Schools are included in the restriction. Status: Passed House 6/30/15, Passed Senate 3/15/16, Passed House w/SA#1: 3/17/15, went to Governor for signature, Sponsor: Rep. Spiegelman

House Bill #61:This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes.  Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites.
The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.” Status: Passed House of Representatives 3/10/16, Assigned to Senate Education Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Rep. Hudson ***On Senate Education Committee agenda for 3/23/16, 3pm

House Bill #107:This bill articulates the principle that local school districts and school boards should have the authority to select their own leaders and staff from a pool of qualified applicants. These are decisions best left at the local level rather than imposed by a central authority.” Status: Released from House Education Committee 1/20/16, On House Ready List, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams

House Bill 165:This legislation requires that all full-time employees of the State, including employees of school districts, continuously in the employ of the state for at least one year, shall be eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child 6 years of age or younger. Both parents would be eligible for such leave. Employees shall continue to have the right, as they do under current law, to use accrued sick leave for maternity and paternity purposes. This legislation leaves intact the rights of persons adopting a child over 6 years of age to take unpaid leave. Due to lack of adequate paid family leave policies, many parents must return to work sooner than is optimal for the health of mothers (in the case of biological birth) and children. Granting paid leave will contribute to the establishment of parent-child bonds, breastfeeding establishment, and allow infants to receive vaccines and develop stronger immune systems prior to entering daycare. Further, a more generous leave policy will increase the productivity of workers and reduce employee turnover.” Status: released from House Administration Committee 1/27/16, on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Debra Heffernan

House Bill 186:Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct post-audits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.” Status: Passed House 6/30/15, released From Senate Education Committee 1/14/16, On Senate Ready List, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams

Senate Bill #161:This Act requires public schools to begin their school year after Labor Day. There have been many economic impact reports done that show a positive impact from starting public schools after Labor Day. A report by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association estimates that $369 million would be lost if schools were not required to start after Labor Day. This includes $104 million in wages and $21 million in state and local taxes. Maryland is considering similar legislation. A study of Maryland found that pushing the start of school back would generate $74.3 million in economic activity and $7.7 million in new state and local tax revenue.” Status: released from Senate Education Committee 3/16/16, on Senate ready list, Sponsor: Senator Gerald Hocker

 

And last, but not least, these are holdover bills that SHOULD move forward but they haven’t been heard in committee or are sitting on a ready list waiting for a full vote and have been there since last year:

House Bill #30:This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.” Status: Released from House Education Committee 3/25/15, Assigned to House Appropriations Committee 3/26/15, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams

House Bill #117: This Act will create a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income according to the Department of Education. This funding source will be in addition to the normal enrollment based funding provided to school districts and charter schools. The low-income unit will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12 where the funding can be used for such purposes as providing additional teachers and paraprofessionals for classroom instruction; additional counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and intervention specialists; Response to Intervention Services; and before and after school programs providing homework assistance, and for support for English language learners. To ensure the low-income resources reach the schools where they are most needed, this Act requires that at least 98% of the units be directed towards the schools that generate the funding unless otherwise waived by a local board of education during a public meeting.” Status: Tabled in House Education Committee 5/13/15, Released from House Education Committee 6/3/15, Assigned to House Appropriations Committee 6/18/15, Sponsor: Rep. Debra Heffernan

House Bill 173:The Department of Education often implements policies and educational requirements based upon directives issued by the United States Department of Education. This Bill will require that any directive received by the Department of Education from the Federal Government be automatically disclosed on the Department of Education website without the necessity for making a Freedom of Information Request.” Status: Assigned to House Education Committee 6/10/15, Sponsor: Rep. Richard Collins

Senate Bill #72:This bill increases the teaching and administrative experience qualifications for the Secretary of Education from 5 years to 10 years. The Bill also clarifies that at least 6 years must be of teaching experience and at least 2 years must be of administrative experience.” Status: Released from Senate Education Committee, on Senate Ready List 5/6/15, Sponsor: Senator Bryan Townsend

Senate Bill #92:Delaware Code Title 14§1332 addresses the Program for Children with Autism and its “Special Staff.” Enacted nearly three decades ago, these regulations established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. In addition, the code designates a Statewide Director who primarily has provided direction, training, and technical assistance within the DAP. However, current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education and parents’ desire to have their children educated within their local communities, seem to be incongruent with this older model of service delivery. In addition, the magnitude of the increase in students identified with ASD has clearly created difficulty for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services/support that once was offered. Therefore, the recommended code changes also revise the concept of DAP toward a system in which the Statewide Director would work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. This recommendation reconstitutes the regulations to neutralize the distinction between DAP approved programs and other in-district options, thereby, allowing and providing adequate resources to serve on behalf of all student with ASD in Delaware. The number of technical/ training experts has been identified as one expert per 100 students statewide. It is suggested that the fiscal mechanism to support these changes should be through mandated district participation that is congruent with the current needs based funding system in Delaware. Lastly, the current mandatory committee structure is enhanced to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review board. These changes include articulation of the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director for Students with ASD; the addition of a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions); and the further clarification / additions to the committee structure for family input, monitoring, and protections under human rights. This recommendation recognizes and supports the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes essentially expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students within them.” Status: Released from Senate Education Committee 6/3/15, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose Henry

Senate Bill #93:This bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism.  Among other things, the Interagency Committee on Autism is charged with a) utilizing evidence-based practices and programs to improve outcomes for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in Delaware by sharing information, initiatives, data and communications among both public and private agencies providing services and supports for individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in the State of Delaware; and b) implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2013 Delaware Strategic Plan entitled “Blueprint for Collective Action: Final Report of the Delaware Strategic Plan to Improve Services and Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”  The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism is to provide a resource for training and technical assistance for Delaware state agencies, organizations and other private entities operating in the State of Delaware that provide services and support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The Network is to support the operations of the Interagency Committee on Autism through the maintenance of the website, maintenance of reports created by the Interagency Committee on Autism and maintenance of meeting minutes, as well as other support as needed by the Interagency Committee on Autism.” Status: Released from Senate Education Committee 6/3/15, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose Henry

 

 

Non-Transparent Delaware

The Associated Press did an article entitled “How open record laws are applied in state legislatures” on March 13th.  Delaware did not fare well in this report.  The AP sent Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to all fifty states asking for the public schedules for the state Governor and members of their legislatures for the week of February 1st to 7th of this year.  In Delaware, our General Assembly is exempt from FOIA requests.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who promoted “sunshine is the best disinfectant” regarding public transparency of Governmental records, seems to be having a very hard time with FOIA requests lately, between the FOIA request from his former State Treasurer Chip Flowers and the one he received from the AP for their article.  The article gave Markell’s response to the FOIA:

Delaware legislative leaders refused to provide their emails. The Legislature has specifically exempted emails of lawmakers and their staffs from the state’s Freedom of Information law, as well as any communications between lawmakers, or between lawmakers and their constituents. A bill to remove those exemptions was introduced earlier this month but has yet to be heard in committee. An attorney for the lawmakers also said many activities on their daily schedules are exempt from disclosure, asserting that exemptions allowed by statute or common law extend to the concept of “legislative privilege” based on the Delaware Constitution and common law. The attorney nevertheless released portions of the lawmakers’ schedules while asserting that doing so was not a concession that the information is subject to the FOI law. The activities mostly involved appearances at community meetings and charitable events. The deputy legal counsel for Democratic Gov. Jack Markell said the governor’s office is working diligently to respond to the AP’s request, but that more time is needed because review of the records requires legal advice. Markell’s office has previously denied formal records requests for his emails.

I guess I should count myself lucky for the FOIA I received from Markell’s office back in early 2014.  But the Chip Flowers FOIA denial is certainly interesting because Markell’s office used Exemption 16 to deny the FOIA request.  Exemption 16 is when a General Assembly member or the comptroller is part of an email chain.  I find it very ironic the Governor’s counsel would use that as a reason to decline a FOIA.  Especially since they seem to cherry-pick when they want to use this exemption.  In fact, the Governor’s office has actually shown legislators emails in earlier FOIA requests.  Something I recollected right away as I was reading the Chip Flowers petition from the Delaware Attorney General’s office.  I felt it was my civic obligation to let them know about this memory of mine.

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>

To: Gibbs Danielle (DOJ) <danielle.gibbs@state.de.us>

Cc: Denn Matthew (DOJ) <matthew.denn@state.de.us>

Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 10:04 AM

Subject: The Chip Flowers FOIA Legal Opinion

Good morning Danielle,

I read, with great interest yesterday, the FOIA petition from Chip Flowers.  I found it very interesting the Governor’s office would cite Exemption 16 for not releasing the information Chip Flowers requested. 

In December 2014, State Rep. John Kowalko received a FOIA from the Governor’s office regarding the priority schools in Wilmington.  He gave them to me to publish on my blog.  In several of the emails, General Assembly emails were used and not redacted, and in some of them they gave the actual email from State Reps. 

Here is the link to the FOIAs: 

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/the-priority-schools-foias-part-1-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-roof_o-delawarebats-netde-edude-delaware-edchat/

I find it very interesting the Governor’s office would cherry-pick who this information is released to.  There is absolutely no consistency and I would strongly question the use of this Exemption 16 when it is convenient.  Please feel free to use this information for any ongoing matters regarding Chip Flowers FOIA.  If you need any other clarification on this matter, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

With something that took up so much media interest, I would think the Delaware Attorney General’s office would respond, but so far I have yet to receive a response.  I can only surmise based on the behavior surrounding the Chip Flowers FOIA request and the fact the Governor would need legal advice for the AP FOIA request, the Governor is hiding things.  Could there be something in his daily schedule he doesn’t want people to know about?  Or in his emails?  Did they include his “Alan Jackson” email address?  I’ll be flat-out honest: I don’t trust Jack Markell.  At all.  He is dishonest and sneaky.  He seems to have the General Assembly under his thrall this legislative session.  They are suspending rules and passing bills in record time.  Just today, Governor Markell signed the Commitment to Innovation Act, otherwise known as Senate Bill 200, mere hours after it passed in the House of Representatives and 31 state representatives agreed to suspend the rules.  Including some who have gone on record as saying they never suspend the rules.  This tax-break bill, in conjunction with House Bill 235, are seen as great boons to companies in Delaware as the state faces potential deficits in their state budget.

I  have no doubt Markell will have instituted all of his education policies and agendas in Delaware by the time he leaves office next January.  Judging by the mad rush of legislation which will allow tech companies to swarm into Delaware with our generous tax breaks, Social Impact Bonds, Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education.  Kids will be earning their number of the beast data badges in the not-too-distant future.  Parents won’t be able to notice, because all of our little screen-time kids will be staying after school in the SAIL program.  And Jack’s buddy over at the Rodel Foundation, Paul Herdman… he actually uses LEGOs to lure unsuspecting parents and children into his personalized learning paradise.  If you think Kindergarten grit is bad, wait until you get a load of the money pouring into toddler grit.  Of course, we must determine what children are going to do when they are older before they even know how to tie their shoes.  But we call this Pathways To Prosperity.  We have Jamie Merisotis and the good folks at the Lumina Foundation to thank for all of this nonsense!  And if you think Delaware has issues with FOIA, wait until you hear more about WOIA!  Under the recently confirmed US DOE leadership of John King, these things are going on in just about every single state in the country.

The one thing our non-transparent Governor is good at is the art of distraction.  He gets us all riled up over charter schools, opt out, and teacher evaluations while he paves the road to hell for John Carney who doesn’t seem to have the good sense to come up with his own thoughts.  And in case we get too close to his overall plan, Jack throws things like the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission vs. State Board of Education battle in our faces but there are questions about the legality of that secret meeting.  Hard to tell since no one aside from Tony Allen has responded about that one.  Tony made it very clear to me the whole thing was the Governor’s idea.

This is Delaware.  A state filled with sinister plotting and backroom deals.  Legislators who get the “Jack call” and make miracles happen before our very eyes while telling us it’s all about the DuPont/Dow merger.  Markell is the master of spin.  He can turn crap into gold!  And the state legislators, DOE employees, State Board of Education members, and business leaders watch in amazement as they hold onto their illusions of power and wealth.  We call these people “stakeholders”.  But guess what doesn’t change?  Bullying, teacher dissatisfaction, high-stakes testing, a severe lack of funding and resources for our schools, and more segregation and discrimination for every single at-risk student than you can even fathom.  All under the guise of student success.  The stuff going on behind the scenes?  We will never get that cold, hard, tangible proof to bust these children destroyers.  They write the laws to protect themselves and the citizens of Delaware pay for it.  And we keep electing so many of them!  We are a state that is immune to true and radical change.  We act as if holding onto a political party’s belief is what we must do.  I hate to tell you Delaware, but greed is bi-partisan.  The love we need to have for our children, our unconditional love, that should be enough to make the necessary changes.  But we aren’t doing it.  We are holding onto the dreams of yesterday and think it really matters who becomes the next President or Governor.  We get sucked into the 24 hour news cycle about Trump, Clinton and Sanders while the distracters spin their webs and suck us in.  It doesn’t matter who wins the Presidency because corporate America bought our government while we blinked.  Our kids don’t have a chance.

Bernie Is On The Ballot In Delaware

Bernie Sanders, one of two Democrat contenders for the next President of the United States of America, is officially on the Delaware Primary ballot.  While Delaware only awards 16 delegates, every single one counts.  Hillary Clinton took a very big lead yesterday on “Super Tuesday”, but as some have said, she won in states where she was expected to win.  It is now the 2nd quarter in this high-stakes political presidential primary season, and anything could happen.  Donald Trump does appear to be on the fast track towards a Republican nomination with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio trailing behind in the primaries.  Delaware’s presidential primary is April 26th.

I am hereby endorsing Bernie Sanders as the Democrat candidate for the 45th President of the United States of America.  I do not support Hillary Clinton as I believe she is far too embedded in the Educational-Industrial-Military Complex and we would see more of the same with education under a Hillary presidency.  Donald Trump as President just scares the hell out of me.

berniedeballot

The Truth: Prologue

TheTruth

It takes devious minds to come up with a plan that ultimately destroys what is good.  It takes years of very careful steps, and constant collaboration every step of the way.  It takes money and resources and legislation designed to paint a picture of failure.  It takes pawns, willing and unwilling, to craft a tale.  It takes deception and manipulation to design a system where some win and many lose.  This is The Truth.  This is our life.  These are the lies.  In the coming months, I will be shining the light through the window for all to see.  The paths are very subtle and it is easy to miss the forest around them.  GreatSeal_12_CMYKYou only think you know what this has all been about.  The greatest deception Delaware has ever known will soon be revealed.  So far, we have seen bits and pieces of the puzzle.  The picture will show how we have all been used for an agenda so nefarious and calculating, your head will spin.

The grabbing hands, grab all they can.  Everything counts in large amounts. -Depeche Mode

It’s all about the SJR folks…

 

State Rep. Kim Williams Looking To Change “Good Cause” School Choice Options For School Bullying

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams introduced a bill yesterday concerning school bullying and when a student can transfer to a different school when “good cause” has been established with school bullying.  The current law does not specify what category of bullying can trigger such a transfer.  Rep. Williams legislation would create a new law requiring the bullying to be a substantiated incident.  This would mean an official bullying complaint would need to be filed by the parent or guardian at the school, who would in turn have to rule bullying did occur.  All Delaware schools are required to report this information to the Delaware Department of Education.

This bill would prevent parents from just switching out students without a valid good cause, which unfortunately happens at times in Delaware.  The current law does not protect the schools and the loss of funds when these events occur.  While some parents may take issue with this due to schools not ruling a bullying incident as substantiated (which is a whole other issue which I would like to see improved), there are other options for parents to take should a school not agree with the complaint.  All Delaware schools are required to have the website and contact information for the Delaware Ombudsman for Bullying Prevention through the Department of Justice.

In 2014, then Lieutenant Governor Matt Denned issued a statement regarding the responsibilities of schools reporting bullying incidents:

“It is encouraging to see the progress our schools have made in keeping parents informed about bullying, because that was one of the primary goals of the 2012 legislation,” said Attorney General Denn who co-authored the 2012 legislation as Lieutenant Governor. “But our schools clearly have more work to do in letting parents know what recourse they have when bullying does occur, and the state needs to do a better job accurately tracking bullying incidents so we can accurately monitor our overall progress.”

All bullying complaints, whether substantiated or not, are required to be reported to the Dept. of Education and it is the school’s responsibility to enter the information on a system called E-School.  I have always encouraged parents to request a copy of their child’s E-School report.  This can be done at a school or district level in most situations.  To read the legislation, please see below:

148th General Assembly 2.0 Begins Today!

Delaware_Legislative_Hall_House_chamber_DSC_3452_ad

The second leg of the 148th General Assembly officially convenes at 2pm today at Legislative Hall in Dover.  It remains to be seen what will come out of this.  My hopes and the reality will most likely be different.  I sincerely hope they are able to pass legislation that will help all citizens of Delaware.  While I have incessantly beat the drum on the veto override of House Bill 50, there is a lot of legislation for them to get through.  The biggest of them all, the budget bill, will cast a long shadow over pretty much any legislation with a fiscal note attached to it.  We will find out what our state finances look like in a couple weeks when Governor Markell presents his Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

I wish the General Assembly can get along in the next six months.  I hope party politics doesn’t become the headlines.  We have some great legislators in Dover with the capability of doing great things.  This will be a very unique legislative session.  With over 3/4 of the General Assembly up for re-election in the last year of a two term Governor who has been controversial on his best days.  I have an odd feeling much of what we are about to see is pre-determined.  But there will be surprises along the way as well.

I want to wish all the legislators in Delaware a welcome back and a special notes goes to newly anointed State Rep. David Bentz.  We will know by  the end of June what becomes of the next six months.  You are all representatives of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Leftover Legislation That Needs To Pass Between Now And June In Delaware

The following are bills that, for one reason or another, did not become law by the end of the first part of the 148th General Assembly.  All of these education bills need to happen!  Priority is top down on this list!  I did not include House Bill 50 on this list since that is not leftover legislation since it got the veto, but it will become a major issue in Legislative Hall when it comes up for a veto override!

I updated this article tonight to include the primary sponsors of each bill.  It is good to know which legislator wrote the bill and who to go to if you have questions or concerns about them.

House Bill #30:This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.” Status: Released from House Education Committee 3/25/15, Assigned to House Appropriations Committee 3/26/15, Sponsor: State Rep. Kim Williams

House Bill #117: This Act will create a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income according to the Department of Education. This funding source will be in addition to the normal enrollment based funding provided to school districts and charter schools. The low-income unit will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12 where the funding can be used for such purposes as providing additional teachers and paraprofessionals for classroom instruction; additional counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and intervention specialists; Response to Intervention Services; and before and after school programs providing homework assistance, and for support for English language learners. To ensure the low-income resources reach the schools where they are most needed, this Act requires that at least 98% of the units be directed towards the schools that generate the funding unless otherwise waived by a local board of education during a public meeting.” Status: Tabled in House Education Committee 5/13/15, Released from House Education Committee 6/3/15, Assigned to House Appropriations Committee 6/18/15, Sponsor: State Rep. Debra Heffernan

House Bill 186:Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.” Status: Passed House 6/30/15, Assigned to Senate Education Committee 7/15/15, Sponsor: State Rep. Kim Williams

Senate Bill #92:Delaware Code Title 14§1332 addresses the Program for Children with Autism and its “Special Staff.” Enacted nearly three decades ago, these regulations established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. In addition, the code designates a Statewide Director who primarily has provided direction, training, and technical assistance within the DAP. However, current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education and parents’ desire to have their children educated within their local communities, seem to be incongruent with this older model of service delivery. In addition, the magnitude of the increase in students identified with ASD has clearly created difficulty for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services/support that once was offered. Therefore, the recommended code changes also revise the concept of DAP toward a system in which the Statewide Director would work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. This recommendation reconstitutes the regulations to neutralize the distinction between DAP approved programs and other in-district options, thereby, allowing and providing adequate resources to serve on behalf of all student with ASD in Delaware. The number of technical/ training experts has been identified as one expert per 100 students statewide. It is suggested that the fiscal mechanism to support these changes should be through mandated district participation that is congruent with the current needs based funding system in Delaware. Lastly, the current mandatory committee structure is enhanced to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review board. These changes include articulation of the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director for Students with ASD; the addition of a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions); and the further clarification / additions to the committee structure for family input, monitoring, and protections under human rights. This recommendation recognizes and supports the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes essentially expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students within them.” Status: Released from Senate Education Committee 6/3/15, On Senate Ready List, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose Henry

Senate Bill #93:This bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism.  Among other things, the Interagency Committee on Autism is charged with a) utilizing evidence-based practices and programs to improve outcomes for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in Delaware by sharing information, initiatives, data and communications among both public and private agencies providing services and supports for individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in the State of Delaware; and b) implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2013 Delaware Strategic Plan entitled “Blueprint for Collective Action: Final Report of the Delaware Strategic Plan to Improve Services and Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”  The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism is to provide a resource for training and technical assistance for Delaware state agencies, organizations and other private entities operating in the State of Delaware that provide services and support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The Network is to support the operations of the Interagency Committee on Autism through the maintenance of the website, maintenance of reports created by the Interagency Committee on Autism and maintenance of meeting minutes, as well as other support as needed by the Interagency Committee on Autism.” Status: Released from Senate Education Committee 6/3/15, On Senate Ready List, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose Henry

House Bill #61:This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes.
Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites.
The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.” Status: Released from House Education Committee 5/6/15, on House Ready List, Sponsor: State Rep. Deb Hudson

House Bill 28:Absent an agreement with the school district, charter schools are currently able to retain any funding received for the fiscal year for a student who transfers mid-year from the charter school to a school district. This bill mandates that, if a student transfers from a charter school to a school district after September 30th, such funds will be prorated between the charter school and the school district where the student is then enrolled.” Status: Assigned to House Education Committee 1/22/15, Sponsor: State Rep. Kim Williams

House Bill #34:This bill will allow a local school district board to delay new or changed rules, regulations, or administrative procedures from becoming effective during a school year once the school year has started. This will allow the rules, regulations, and procedures to be consistent for the whole school year.” With HA #1 and 2: “This amendment allows the Department of Education to make changes to rules, regulations, or administrative procedures if required to do so by law or if necessary to address an emergency situation, public health, or safety matter. It further defines the terms administrative procedure.”  Status: Passed House 6/30/15, Assigned to Senate Education Committee 6/30/15, Sponsor: State Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman

House Bill 173:The Department of Education often implements policies and educational requirements based upon directives issued by the United States Department of Education. This Bill will require that any directive received by the Department of Education from the Federal Government be automatically disclosed on the Department of Education website without the necessity for making a Freedom of Information Request.” Status: Assigned to House Education Committee 6/10/15, Sponsor: State Rep. Richard Collins

House Bill #107:This bill articulates the principle that local school districts and school boards should have the authority to select their own leaders and staff from a pool of qualified applicants. These are decisions best left at the local level rather than imposed by a central authority.” Status: Assigned to House Education Committee 4/23/15, State Rep. Kim Williams

To see all the education legislation that passed, got left behind, was stricken or is just floating out there, please go to the Education Legislation tab at the top of this page, below the title of this blog.

Happy New Year Delaware! 2016 Is Here!

Let’s make this a true and lasting year of change in our state where everyone has a voice!  You will hear many voices later today in a post that will have many sides of education lending their own voice.  Some of the names on here may surprise long time readers!  But for now, enjoy the festivities and keep the hope all year long!

Breaking News: Santa Claus Supports Opt-Out!!!

Santa Claus was getting pictures at the Dover Mall with young children.  He always asks the kids what they want for Christmas.  He acknowledged hearing very strange requests over the years.  But he reported to me recently about a very unusual request he got on Black Friday.  A little boy who was 8 years old told Santa he only wanted one thing for Christmas.  He wanted his mother to opt him out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Santa had never heard of such an odd thing before, so he asked the boy what it was.  “I’m in 3rd grade Santa, and all they talk about is some test we have to take next Spring.  All my teachers talk about it.  And we have to take something called an intrum test after we come back from Christmas break.  Every day teachers say ‘this could be on the test.  Make sure you know it.’  I’m getting tired of it Santa.  Nobody cares about my actual grades, and I’m a smart kid Santa.”

Santa asked the boy what “opting out” means?  The boy said some parents actually told the school they didn’t want their kid taking the Smarter Balanced test.  The school gave them a rough time, but the parents fought back.  “If they can do it, can you make sure my mom does it too?”  Santa pondered this for a moment. “I think,” Santa said, “That would be up to your Mom.”  “Good, she is right over there,” the boy said and pointed to his mother.  “Mom, can you come over here?  Santa wants to ask you something!” the boy shouted.

The boy’s mother walked over and Santa said “Your son wants you to opt him out of the Smarter something test.  It’s all he wants for Christmas.”  The boy’s mother explained she had never heard of the test.  “That’s cause this is the first year we take it Mom.  I heard some teachers say it doesn’t actually mean anything and it only lets the state know how we are doing.  And I heard something about some evil Psycho Metric guy.”  The boy’s mother explained, “I will have to look into this.”  The boy shouted “But I want you to opt me out!”  The crowd heard the words “opt-out” and all of a sudden, parents were yelling “Opt him out! Opt him out!”  Santa explained how he had to get to the next kid as the line to visit him was getting longer.  “Let me make some calls on this!  Can I call your mom about this when I get more information?”  The boy’s mother gave Santa their phone number.

After a very long three days, Santa Claus dove into the subject of opt-out.  He ran across this blog, so he gave me a call.  I explained to Santa Claus how opt-out works and that it is a parental right.  He asked me why schools fight it and want the kids to take a test that is bad for them.  I told Santa that the schools get threats and they are intimidated by the Delaware Department of Education.  I told him about House Bill 50, how some of the legislators like Jaques and Sokola tried to block it, how it passed the Delaware House and Senate, but then Governor Markell vetoed it.  But I also explained how the House and Senate might override his veto when they come back to make laws.  Santa laughed. “It sounds like someone should be called Senator So-coal-a!”  I explained to Santa how kids did worse on this test than the one that came before it and all the nasty tricks the DOE was trying to come out with because of the test.  Santa got very upset about the DOE and Secretary Godowsky blowing off the Accountability Framework Working Group’s recommendations about no harsh opt-out penalties for schools.  “Sounds to me like this Secretary and these DOE people want schools to be punished for a parent’s decision.  That isn’t honorable.  I might have to order some more coal this year…”

Santa’s cheeks got very red as he became more flustered about the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  “This just isn’t right!  Now I am understanding why so many kids have looked different and sad the past few years.  I thought this Common Core stuff would go away when they talked about all that nonsense with kids needing to compete with the kids in China.  I go there every year, and most of those kids don’t even take those tests!”  I told Santa how they got rid of that reason, and now it is so kids can be college and career ready!  Santa laughed so hard I could hear his belly jiggling over the phone.  “How in the world can a kid in 3rd grade, or even 8th grade be ‘college and career ready’?  Kids need to play and have fun.  School is important, don’t get me wrong, but there is so much other stuff that makes them grow up.”

Santa called the boy’s mother last night and had a long talk with her.  She agreed that opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best choice for her son.  That night, she wrote a letter to her son’s school opting her son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This morning, she gave it to the principal and kept a copy for herself.  She asked the principal to sign a piece of paper recognizing he received the letter.  She said I could share it but for the sake of her son’s privacy to take out her name.  It said:

Dear Principal,

I am letting you know that I am opting my son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that will be administered in 2016.  I am requesting my son not be punished for my decision and that he is given instruction while the other children are taking the test.  I understand schools have to give the test, but I also know this is a parent’s right and there is no law stating I can’t.  I do not wish to have any meetings or calls about this.  Please respect my decision.

Sincerely,

The boy’s mom

Santa was very proud of the boy for having the courage to ask for something so simple.  It gave him hope that other parents would see the wisdom in the boy and his mother’s decision.  Santa doesn’t usually interfere with the workings of the people, but he thought in this case he should issue some type of proclamation about this whole opt-out thing.  So he asked me to give the exclusive on his proclamation to which I happily agreed.  So without further ado, here is Santa’s official stance on opt-out!

SantaClausLetter

 

An Open Letter To Governor Jack Markell

I have tried to stay on the sidelines in the Syrian refugee crisis.  It is a deep concern of mine in many aspects.  My reasons for not publicly commenting on this are very simple.  I don’t want my readers to get sidetracked from education issues I write about.  The extremes on this issue among Delaware citizens is very apparent.  I have seen people de-friend others on Facebook because they don’t agree with their point of view.  There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground on these issues.  I see very Liberal citizens completely blasting Democrat politicians because they don’t agree with Governor Markell or President Obama.  I see those on the far right continue to trash those who seek equity in our society.

The plain and simple fact is this: there is a very huge population of people in this world who have no choice but to leave their country for fear of their very lives.  This is the reality.  Unfortunately, there are those who take advantage of that and come to other countries to perpetuate terror.  We saw it in Boston and Paris in recent years.  When do the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many?  When does the safety and concern for a country’s current citizens become more paramount than those who are not even having their basic needs met?  This is the crux of these issues.  Both sides have valid points that warrant further discussion.  What drives me crazy is the polarizing effect this has on social media.  I see this with gay marriage and abortion as well.  I cringe when I see very blatant and racist comments when the News Journal posts anything directly related to race on Facebook.

In matters of education, I fully understand I am extremely polarizing on certain issues.  I have never de-friended someone on Facebook though if they don’t agree with my opinion.  I will argue it until the cows come home, but I won’t shut them out.  As a society, we have become very quick to draw that line in the sand.

With that being said, I am taking a stand on the refugee crisis.  I do not think Americans should be put in harms way for the sake of individuals from another country.  While I realize there is more chance of a plane crash happening than a terrorist attack on US soil, the implications and consequences of another event would be long-term and damaging.  I don’t believe the US Government can say with 100% certainty that the vetting process is reliable.  While there is a chance, I can’t support accepting refugees from Syria.  This will tick off many who believe I am a Progressive Liberal.  If anything I am a Progressive Conservative Independent Republican Democrat.  It really depends on the issues.  In a nutshell, I am in the middle.  On this issue, I don’t think the risk of American lives being lost and disrupted is worth it.  9/11 haunted me for many years.  To this day, I always cry on the anniversary.  I didn’t lose anyone that day, but it felt like America was ripped apart and we lost something that day.  It was our sense of safety and security.

Today I received an email as I do every day from various groups and organizations on both sides of the fence on numerous issues.  Upon reading the below letter, I felt it best exemplified my thoughts and concerns with the refugee crisis.  I am posting it here because it is an important issue and a well written letter that best shows where I stand on this issue.  This does not mean I agree with every single aspect of the groups who signed onto this letter.  But on this issue, I stand with their opinions.  I do not think it is a racism or discrimination issue but rather a safety issue.  There is a very clear distinction between the two.

An Open Letter to Governor Jack Markell,
 
In a unified and sincere concern for the safety and economic health of Delaware’s families, we urge you to reconsider your position to relocate “Syrian refugees” into Delaware communities. We ask that you join the 30 other state governors in placing the safety and reasonable concern of your constituents above any other consideration or agenda.  
 
We all share your compassion for those who are suffering and want those who truly need refuge to get it. Like you, we recognize that true Syrian refugees need a safe harbor. That safe harbor is best found in Middle Eastern countries near their homeland beyond the reach of the present violence. The first and most immediate safe place in the region meets their need for safety. Their need is not tax payer supplied housing and EBT cards in Dover, Newark or Seaford, in a culture completely foreign to their Islamic worldview, and 6000 miles from their known way of life. 
 
We know from the recent European experience that “Syrian refugees” comprise people from a dozen or so countries from Morocco to Afghanistan. Claims in Washington of a robust vetting procedure prior to entry to US are not credible. The FBI has reportedly said it is impossible to vet that many people before they come into our country.  Representative Carney and Senator Coons have both expressed their concerns in light of this information.
 
We are equally concerned that your support for President Obama’s planned action reflects a disconnect from those you serve in Delaware. Delaware families are being profoundly impacted by limited resources including a lack of care for our veterans, also a concern of yours. Heroin use is at an epidemic level in our state and destroying families and communities daily. Wilmington continues to suffer from uncontrolled crime and there is a growing racial discontent.  We still face inequalities and deficiencies in our state’s education system that may likely place added burdens on the state’s budget. The people of Delaware just cannot afford the cost, financial and otherwise, of your plan to add to those needing assistance in our state. 
 
You will recall the Tsarnaev family; taken in by the state of Massachusetts under condition of asylum.  The cost to the taxpayer of their direct and indirect benefits exceeded one million dollars. No one in that family ever became self-sufficient or safely acclimated in the U.S.
 
As you know the two sons of that family killed 3 innocent people with a homemade bomb at the Boston Marathon. Over 200 other innocent people were seriously wounded in the blast.  After years in this country they acted with deadly violence as they believed their faith dictates. 
 
Finally, the Tsarnaev family was fully and completely vetted by our Federal immigration authorities as applicants of asylum. 
 
Ultimately, this “compassionate gesture” is estimated to cost the state over 100 million dollars. This cost extended beyond the social benefits taken by the family. It ultimately included, police operations and manhunt, emergency care for the survivors, hospitalization of the wounded, reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation and prostheses needs, business disruption, criminal investigation, state prosecution and public defender costs, and forward projected prison costs; all paid by Massachusetts tax payers.
 
We are faced with new and uncertain dangers that can only increase as we neglect to control those who gain access to our country.  We ask that you block state funding of any sort that would be needed and allocated to resettle this population in Delaware.  Importing persons from a vastly different culture and trying to integrate them is exorbitantly expensive and the unpredictable results can be devastating.
 
Our groups collectively represent many thousands of Delawareans who are passionate, engaged, and aware of the realities of recent events in this world conducted by a few Islamic radicals.  As Governor, your heaviest burden and first concern must be for the safety and common well-being of the people in Delaware.  We ask that you recognize the proven risk associated with similar relocation programs. We further request that you use your authority, in the best interest and public safety of Delaware families and communities, to obstruct President Obama’s ill-considered relocation plan. 
 
Respectfully,
912 Delaware Patriots
Faith and Freedom Coalition Delaware
Central Delaware NAACP
Rev. Dr. Shawn Greener
Frederick Douglass Foundation of Delaware – Sussex County
Institute on the Constitution