News Journal Lacks Integrity And Ethics With Coverage Of State Auditor Race

Last week, News Journal reporter Jessica Bies came out with an article about a confidential report that the News Journal “obtained”.  The article was rife with speculation and hearsay based on a report commissioned by State Auditor Tom Wagner concerning Kathleen Davies.  That article appeared in print today.  It looks like something you would see in a bargain-basement tabloid at a grocery store. Continue reading

Holy Crap! Paul Herdman and I Agree (Mostly) On Something Involving Delaware Education!

The end times are nigh.  I read an opinion piece by Paul Herdman on delawareonline and found myself agreeing with a lot of what the CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware was saying.  No, I don’t have food poisoning.  I haven’t been drugged.  I didn’t slip on a banana peel and pass out.  But Dr. Paul Herdman and I both seem to agree on disagreeing with some of the cuts the Delaware Joint Finance Committee proposed a few weeks ago.  I know, I couldn’t believe it myself!

What Doc Herdman is lamenting are cuts to early childhood education and college access.  I believe every student, if they have the means and even if they can get help, should go to college.  I also think early childhood education is very important.  While the Doc and I disagree on the methods, I have to believe we both want kids to get the best education possible.  While he may think Common Core, Smarter Balanced, Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education are the best ways, I think true instruction in the classroom with teacher-created tests and assessments are the way to go.  I don’t think kids need all this educational technology in the classroom.  I don’t think we need all these leadership training classes.  Leaders should come naturally, not some profit-induced seminar brought on by Education Inc.  The best education leaders are those with advanced knowledge of education through advanced masters degrees and come up through years of teaching.

But any cuts to education aren’t good.  I wish the Doc would go a step further and go after wasteful spending at the Delaware Dept. of Education and all that trickles down to our schools as a result of their continued corporate education reform shenanigans.  I wish he would urge our General Assembly to fully fund our state auditor’s office so they can, you know, actually follow Delaware law and properly audit our school districts each year.  I was really hoping he would recommend our General Assembly (finally) implements basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, especially with his background in special education.  But I’ll take what I can get.

The final week of the 149th Delaware General Assembly’s 2017 session is going to be absolutely crazy.  I’ve told others.  It won’t be over by July 1st.  The gap is just too big and I’ve heard several legislators say “I won’t vote for the budget if (insert this cut or this attempted revenue here).”  I don’t blame them.  But some pain will have to come in this budget.  It is my fervent hope students won’t lose out.  I do support district consolidation in Delaware and while there are those who think it won’t amount to much saving, we won’t know unless we really study it.  It is my contention there would be considerable savings.  I do support shared resources, like Herdman.  Whether it is a traditional, charter, or vo-tech, why wouldn’t we come together as a state to make sure students have all the resources they need?  I don’t think school boards should be given a one-time chance to raise the match tax without a referendum as I truly believe that will hurt school districts when they do need to go out for a referendum.  If districts and charters can actually share, all students would win.  It takes some pride swallowing on both ends.  Get rid of the charter school transportation slush fund or any perks for charters out of the budget.  It only aggravates the us vs. them mentality.  Truth is, there should be no us vs. them.  It should be education for all students.  Get rid of old, antiquated laws that create any type of de facto segregation.

The truth is, the Doc and I probably agree on a lot of things but our differences cast us as polar opposites.  I’m sure he is a good guy, and yes, I think he should be taxed at a higher tax bracket along with the rest of the $150,000 and over club.  This does not mean, by any stretch, I will attempt to get on the Rodel Advisory Council.

Dickinson Physical Education Teacher Arrested For Theft But Links To Delawareonline Article & Facebook Posts Disappear…Hmmmm

Something is afoot at Dickinson High School in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Last week, a message went out to parents that Physical Education teacher Andrew Schuster was arrested and charged with theft of electronics.  From what I’m hearing from some Red Clay parents, who wish to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, there was a Delawareonline article on this that disappeared.  But that article is gone, as well as several Facebook articles about it.  Good luck trying to get me to retract this!

And, sad to say, this won’t be the last educator arrest post I put up in the coming days.  Another arrest went down last night but until further details about that one come out officially, I am staying mum for now.  I’ve seen many Facebook posts explode lately when people slam teachers for this kind of stuff.  Nothing should get buried when it comes to someone who is overseeing students.

I have to wonder how much pull a school district has that can make newspaper articles disappear as well as Facebook posts.

Red Clay Interpreter’s Very Bigoted & Racist Comments Shock Delaware

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After Governor Markell signed Senate Bill 122 and House Bill 148 at the Hockessin Colored School last Tuesday, the Delaware News Journal quickly got a story up on Delawareonline.  On their Facebook page, comments started pouring in, including the above discriminatory and racist comment.  Word has it she is an interpreter for the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  I believe there is a petition going for her to be fired immediately.

This kind of talk should become illegal in our country.  What is wrong with people?  The comment disappeared, but luckily a source got a picture of the very controversial comments….

And So It Begins…Markell Signs Bills To Allow For Redistricting Of Wilmington Schools & Creation of WEIC

Let the games begin!  Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 122 and House Bill 148 into law today at the Hockessin Colored School.  Joined by city and state leaders, these articles of legislation will allow for the creation of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) and the redistricting of Wilmington district lines by the State Board of Education.  Any plans the State Board comes up with will be subject to approval by the 148th General Assembly.

Delawareonline, in an article written by their education reporter Matthew Albright, published the news and a video earlier today.  Albright said WEIC will be chaired by Tony Allen, the Bank of America executive who also chaired the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC), and will have assistant chairs consisting of Kenny Rivera, the President of the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education and Elizabeth Lockman, a parent advocate who also served on WEAC.

The plan will move the City of Wilmington schools out of the Christina School District into the hands of Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Some, including myself, have wondered if there are ulterior motives at play from Governor Markell, city leaders, some state legislators, the Delaware Department of Education, and the State Board of Education.  I’ve always hypothesized there is a secret plan to increase the number of charters in Wilmington or make it an all-charter district.

The bottom line is it will come down to funding.  The state of Delaware is already projected to have a $160-$170 million dollar deficit in next year’s budget.  So where will the money come from for this redistricting?  I can picture corporations wanting to donate funds, or non-profits like Rodel or the Longwood Foundation.  They will have stipulations for these funds, which could change the overall plan for the redistricting.  Yes, it needs legislative approval, but what if there is already a consensus among our state legislators?  This is conspiracy theory at it’s maximum for a state like Delaware, and I pray I’m wrong.  But if the DOE is already reneging on the promised priority school amount for Red Clay, how can the state assure adequate and proper funding for this endeavor?

“As I have said many times, the only way this all works is if Red Clay has a seat at the table as decisions are being made, is properly funded for taking on greater responsibility and is given a reasonable timetable that we all agree to,” Allen said.

What will be important for Red Clay is to make sure they have a seat at the table and they are not what’s on the table!

Governor Markell has less than a year and a half left in his term as Delaware Governor, and he will want to leave his “legacy” on Delaware.  The question looms over what that legacy will be, and if it will be for the people of Delaware or corporate interests and the privatization of our schools.  I like Tony Allen, and I want to think he is being true to his word on all of this, but there is just way too much that hasn’t been planned or answered in regards to this.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission will hopefully provide many of those answers.

Based on the video Delawareonline provided, in attendance were the following: Governor Markell, Tony Allen, WEAC Vice Chair Dan Rich, State Rep. Charles Potter, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Senator Margaret Rose Henry, Kenny Rivera, Elizabeth Lockman, Kendall Massett (Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network), Karen Eller (Christina School District teacher and WEAC member), Delaware PTA Vice-President for Advocacy Yvonne Johnson, State Board of Education member Gregory Coverdale, Red Clay Consolidated Superintendent Merv Daugherty, WEAC member and legislative aide Meghan Wallace, legislative aide Mark Rucci, and many others.  If anyone wants to add names that I missed or don’t know, feel free to comment or email me.

Rep. Kowalko & Senator Lawson Slam Markell’s HB50 Veto With Style & Facts!!

With permission from State Rep. John Kowalko to publish his letter that appeared on Delawareonline earlier this afternoon!

Markell Veto…..Opt-out or Cop-out

                It has been one week since we received Governor Markell’s message that he had vetoed House Bill 50 (the parental opt out rights bill). We feel it is our obligation, as responsible lawmakers, to thoroughly review and consider all aspects of Governor Markell’s stated reasons for vetoing this legislation.
Unfortunately, we found little if any reasonable logic to the Governor’s action and explanation. Quite frankly, there were a few questionable inaccuracies in the statement that lead us to believe that Governor Markell’s action was premeditated with little thought given to the overwhelming support from parents, teachers, administrators, school boards, and the General Assembly for HB 50.
We made every effort to grasp the argument that the administration was trying to make, but the indefatigable truth remains that he had no logical reason to reject the wishes of the parents and lawmakers and instead chose to diminish the seriousness of the “opt-out” movement with a series of unsubstantiated arguments.
The third paragraph of the Governor’s veto statement suggests that educators and school leaders opposed the legislation when, in fact, the reality is that HB 50 and parental opt-out rights are supported, unequivocally, by the DSEA and its membership and the Delaware PTA and its membership. There were also three of the largest and poorest school districts in the state–Christina, Red Clay, and Capital–who voted for and passed resolutions supporting parental opt-out rights. Also noticeable in its deliberate exaggeration is the Governor’s contention that the civil rights “community” opposed the legislation, while refusing to acknowledge that a larger portion of that community did not oppose “opt-out” legislation. Particularly offensive was the language in the fourth paragraph that stated, “if struggling students are disproportionately encouraged to opt out as has happened elsewhere, we may not be able to identify the children who need intervention to be successful.” Unfortunately, this type of hyperbole paints a false picture of the situation in many ways. There is no proof available or offered that a “disproportionate encouragement “of students to opt out has “happened elsewhere.” There is no evidence whatsoever that the test that will be used in Delaware does or will identify children who need intervention. Most importantly, HB 50 does not and cannot be used to encourage or discourage participation in the assessment test.
The fifth paragraph posits the unsubstantiated and unproven assertion that “students with disabilities and students of color have benefitted the most from the adoption of statewide testing requirements.” There is no valid data that would suggest this to be an accurate statement of fact. Out of respect for the office of the Governor, we will temper our comments regarding the deliberate misrepresentation of reality in that sentence and its intention to instill fear and doubt in the minority and disabled communities.
Governor Markell, in his veto statement, also suggests that HB 50 was a construct of those who feel that children are over-tested. This completely misses the point that the legislation is exclusively about parental and child rights to not participate in this specific, unproven, time-consuming distraction called the “Smarter Balanced Assessment,” which hinders their ability to learn expediently and prevents appropriately identifying their shortcomings and needs to succeed. The fact that this administration chooses to engage in the politics of distraction that could result in useful and proven tests being shunned to the detriment of students and educators speaks volumes against the Governor’s decision to veto HB 50.
In conclusion, after having thoroughly examined the Governor’s stated positions on parental opt-out rights and because of the enormous public support expressed for HB 50 by educators (DSEA), parents and families (PTA), school administrators (Capital, Christina, and Red Clay resolutions), and the huge majority of General Assembly members who supported HB 50, we have decided that it is our sworn responsibility to our constituents and all Delawareans to bring HB 50 to the floor in January for a veto override vote.

Representative John Kowalko 25th District, 14 Kells Ave. Newark De. 19711    302 547 9351
Senator Dave Lawson 15th Senatorial District  302 270 1038