As US DOE Releases Proposed Rules For ESSA, Kline & Alexander Threaten To Pull The Plug

The first set of proposed rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act, unofficially released on May 20th, are already drawing the ire of many in Washington D.C. are not too happy with them.  Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) and US Rep. John Kline (MN) issued a press release today advising the United States Dept. of Education and Secretary of Education John King that if the proposed rules for regulation do not match the sprit and intent of the law they will take measures to overturn the proposed rules.

Both Kline and Alexander feel the federal overreach, which ESSA was supposed to get rid of, is still there.  This is not the first time in recent months they have blasted John King over the US DOE’s interpretation of the ESSA.  But as the proposed rules come out, expect a vicious fight in D.C.

Below are the proposed rules sent out for public comment.  They will be published in the Federal Register on May 31st, next Tuesday.  Also below are a summary of the proposed rules, a chart, the press release issued today by the US DOE on the proposed regulations, the Title I approved consensus for regulatory language on assessments, and the press release issued today by Kline and Alexander.

NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING FOR REGULATIONS UNDER ESSA FOR ACCOUNTABILITY, STATE PLANS, AND DATA REPORTING TO APPEAR IN FEDERAL REGISTER ON 5/31/16

US DOE SUMMARY OF PROPOSED REGULATIONS ON ACCOUNTABILITY, STATE PLANS, AND DATA REPORTING UNDER ESSA

US DOE CHART ON PROPOSED ESSA REGULATIONS

PRESS RELEASE FROM US DOE ON PROPOSED REGULATIONS, 5/20/16

TITLE Ia: APPROVED CONSENSUS REGULATORY LANGUAGE FOR ASSESSMENT IN ESSA, 4/19/16

PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY HOUSE AND SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN, 5/26/16

House and Senate Education Committee Chairmen: ESSA Accountability Regulations Need Close Review
Chairmen say if regulation doesn’t follow law, they will seek to overturn it through Congressional Review Act

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released the following statements after the Department of Education released its proposed regulation implementing “accountability” provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act. This proposed regulation is the first step of the regulatory process. The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal.

Congressman Kline said: “Congress worked on a bipartisan basis to move the country away from the prescriptive federal mandates and requirements of No Child Left Behind. We replaced that failed law with a fundamentally different approach that empowers state and local leaders to determine what’s best for their schools and students. I am deeply concerned the department is trying to take us back to the days when Washington dictated national education policy. I will fully review this proposed rule and intend to hold a hearing on it in the coming weeks. If this proposal results in a rule that does not reflect the letter and intent of the law, then we will use every available tool to ensure this bipartisan law is implemented as Congress intended.”

Senator Alexander said: “I will review this proposed regulation to make sure that it reflects the decision of Congress last year to reverse the trend toward a national school board and restore responsibility to states, school districts, and teachers to design their own accountability systems. The law fixing No Child Left Behind was passed with large bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate. I am disappointed that the draft regulation seems to include provisions that the Congress considered—and expressly rejected. If the final regulation does not implement the law the way Congress wrote it, I will introduce a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to overturn it.”

16 To Watch In 2016: State Rep. David Bentz

Back in September, Democrat David Bentz won in a special election that determined who would take over from the resigning State Rep. Michael Barbieri.  Both candidates ran a clean campaign.  Since he won the election to serve the 18th district of Delaware, Bentz won some plum assignments with the various House committees in the 148th General Assembly.  He will be serving on the Education, Energy, Labor and Natural Resources.  But a big surprise was his assignment as Vice-Chair of the Health and Human Services Committees.  Barbieri served as the Chair of that committee, a role which State Rep. Deb Heffernan will take on.

I am very curious how Bentz will do in the General Assembly.  As a former legislative aide to Barbieri, I’m sure he gained a great deal of insight on the legislative process.  What kind of legislation will he introduce?  How will his votes land in the Education Committee?  If the General Assembly attempts to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, what vote will Bentz cast?  He will definitely be a legislator to watch in the 2nd half of the 148th General Assembly.

In looking at various issues he has written about, I think we can expect to see some definite education, criminal justice, student loan defaults and issues with the homeless in Bentz’s future.  As the only “rookie” legislator introduced this term, I expect a learning curve but I think Bentz will rise to the challenge.  The most important thing for him to do will be to emerge out of Barbieri’s shadow.  He will need to become his own legislator.  Which means I certainly hope he won’t follow in Barbieri’s footsteps on House Bill 50!  I look forward to seeing what the “rookie” does during his first, albeit shortened, term.

How Much Influence On Education Policy Does Rodel, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the DE Business Roundtable Really Have?

“The Markell Administration and the Delaware Department of Education led a number of initiatives aligned with and supported by the Rodel Foundation and Vision Coalition.”

Melissa Hopkins with the Rodel Foundation wrote a very long article recently about the non-profit company’s outlook on the first half of the 148th General Assembly.  You can read Rodel’s Legislative Update article and see which bills they openly supported.  Aside from House Bill 50, which Executive Director Dr. Paul Herdman openly opposed, what other legislation did they fight?  By announcing in this article what legislation they supported, it is very easy to find out what legislation they opposed.  By going to the Public Integrity Commission website for Delaware, you can actually download all the lobbyist activity for all legislation.  I did just that and found all the bills Rodel has registered as a lobbyist for.

Rodel sees itself as some sort of policy-maker and thinks they have the ability to “align” the field with their own interests.  This is very dangerous in the education arena.  They are a non-profit designed to disrupt public education as we know it, and their ultimate goal, along with the other “reformers” is to create more and more charter schools.

What always concerns me about Rodel, as well as the Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, is how much lobbying influence they have.  Yes, that is the whole point of being a lobbyist.  But it just seems whenever these three get going on certain legislation, there are always problems.  The biggest bills all three of these groups opposed this year were House Bill 50 (the parent opt-out bill) and House Bill 186 (the charter school post-audit accountability legislation).  The good part is these lobbyists have failed to sway enough legislators to prevent these bills from moving forward.  These groups are experience waning influence as the voices of  parents and educators are rising.  But they have certainly made their mark in providing disruption and getting parts they want added to bills.

Take the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  With Senate Bill 33, the IEP Task Force legislation, this bill was destined to make a clean sweep through the Senate and the House.  But once DCSN got their hooks in, the bill found itself tabled, with two amendments, later stricken, and a 3rd one added in.  You can also see what legislation they lobbied for here:

The very fact that the Executive Director of DCSN was able to get 600 emails sent to legislators to oppose House Bill 186 is very worrisome.  Did these 600 “opposers” get all the facts?  No, they received the very tainted and biased views from the same organization that made every attempt to gut this bill like a fish.  As charter school fraud and financial abuse spreads throughout the state, this bill is a no-brainer.  It passed the House of Representatives in Delaware, and will next go to the Senate Education Committee in January.  To openly oppose legislation like this does not seem like the best public relations move, especially knowing that even more reports like the recent Academy of Dover one are forthcoming.

It seems like every time I am at Legislative Hall, I see the same faces: the lobbyists from Rodel, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee.  The last of these is the most concerning to me.  The Delaware Business Roundtable is a group of businessmen in Delaware who meet to determine how education should be in Delaware.  They aren’t educators, they are big businessmen, with more accumulated wealth than the gap in Delaware’s anticipated FY 2017 budget.  They have no official website, and they are not a public entity.  So you can’t see minutes of their meetings or what they talk about behind closed doors.  In fact, on the Delaware lobbyist website, it shows this:

Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.

c/o Rodel Foundation of DE
100 West 10th St., Suite 704
Wilmington, Delaware 19801

I reported last November, based on the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee’s non-profit tax forms, that Rodel runs the show for this organization.  They file the taxes for them, get the mail and act as a management company for this organization.  When I tried to find a listing of their current membership, a simple Google search yielded no results.  This is a level of non-transparency and secrecy beyond the realm of normalcy.  The Roundtable may be great at running their prospective businesses, but I don’t think they should be influencing State Departments and legislators for how education ought to be, especially when we don’t even know who they are.  But if I were a betting man, I would assume most of these companies have someone sitting on this “roundtable”.  But education is not King Arthur’s Camelot.  Big business getting involved in education led us to the creation of high-stakes assessments with funds flowing out of the classroom and into the waiting arms of “consultants” who will “fix” the problem.  But nothing ever gets fixed.

Their lobbyist firm is The Byrd Group.  With the Roundtable, it seems like they send the same three people in for a certain amount of legislation whenever they go to Legislative Hall.  Are they meeting with legislators all at once, or taking turns, picking and poking along the way?  Find out which bills they lobbied for!

Of particular concern to me is the amount of lobbying done on bills sponsored by State Rep. Earl Jaques and State Senator David Sokola.  As the Chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees, these two legislators have a tremendous amount of influence with education bills.  But how much of the direction of the bills under their jurisdiction are influenced by these three organizations?  And who is the fourth factor involved in all of this who is always at Legislative Hall but is not considered a lobbyist because she actually works for the State of Delaware?

Donna Johnson is the Executive Director of the State Board of Education.  Never mistake her for a Delaware Department of Education employee.  She doesn’t like that.  She is at Legislative Hall all the time.  When she isn’t in education committee meetings, she is hanging out with folks, talking away.  She speaks on almost every single education bill that comes before the House and Senate.  But what is very alarming is her very close connection with the three above lobbyist entities.  Is she influencing them or are they influencing her?  Or are they all in cahoots with each other?  I can’t recall too many bills this session that the four were in disagreement with each other over.  Which is very frightening that legislation is made or opposed based on the influence of three non-profits and the woman who runs the day -to-day operations of the State Board of Education.

The legislation that makes a lot of sense, bills that come from folks like State Reps. Kim Williams, John Kowalko, and others tend to be some of the bills that are opposed by the four.  Both Williams and Kowalko are tired of the lack of accountability and transparency by the DOE, and are very wary of the influence the three non-profits have on the state of education in Delaware.

To be fair, there are other lobbyists that hang out at Legislative Hall and do exert influence, most notably Kristin Dwyer with the Delaware State Educators Association.  The organization she works for is charged with looking out for the thousands upon thousands of teachers in our state.  Since so much legislation does revolve around education, and more specifically, the role teachers play in education, I would be shocked if she wasn’t there.  But even DSEA’s lobbying activity on education bills is much less than any of these three.  Other organizations such as the Delaware PTA and some of our universities make appearances.  But these three non-profits are always there.

Parents have no idea how much goes into legislation surround their children in schools, and it astonishes me how much public policy is based around three non-profits sticking their nose in areas where they have a clear conflict of interest.  Even more astounding is the role the State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE play in this quagmire.  Our Governor plays right along, helping to dictate policy and curriculum for our children, oblivious to what is going on in his own state.

An anonymous source, speaking out because they felt it was the right thing to do but was also afraid for their job, said “The News Journal plays right into their hands because if they don’t they lose valuable advertising dollars they desperately need.”

The education four will surely be around in January, fighting the bills that make the most sense, and cheerleading bills that serve their own agendas.  It’s the landscape of education in Delaware now, because we have allowed it to happen.  These are the forces that want Common Core State Standards, Smarter Balanced Assessment, Annual Yearly Progress, Personalized Learning, and Teacher Accountability based on High-Stakes Testing.  We have allowed this “breakfast of champions” to control our children’s lives.

edbuddies7115

Pictured are Kendall Massett (back left), Donna Johnson (back right), Rebecca Byrd (front right), and Melissa Hopkins (center front).  This picture was taken at 7:30 in the morning on July 1st, right after Governor Markell signed the FY2016 budget bills following the all-night legislative session.

The Kowalko-Schwartzkopf Battle Takes Center Stage At Legislative Hall On First Day

Ten days ago, Delaware House Speaker for the State of Delaware Pete Schwartzkopf kicked State Representative John Kowalko off the education committee and removed him as chair of the energy committee.  While Kowalko has been very outspoken about the decision, including having a press conference before the General Assembly convened on the first day of their legislative session, Schwartzkopf stayed silent on the issue.  Until today.

According to a report from Amy Cherry with WDEL, Schwartzkopf denied his decision was based on Kowalko’s stance on the priority schools which he has made very public.  According to the WDEL report, Schwartzkopf said the following:

He said “I don’t agree with the governor’s plan on the priority schools. I don’t agree that all the teachers up there should have to resign; I don’t think they should have to re-apply for their jobs. I don’t think these principals need to be moved out of their schools,” he said. “I’m directly opposed to it.”  

Cherry reported the following statement: The speaker said he’s been largely silent on the priority schools plan because it’s not a Sussex issue.

Thank the Lord this stuff doesn’t happen down in Sussex.  Newsflash Pete: You represent the state as Speaker of the House, not the county you live in.  How many other statewide issues do you stay silent on cause they happen in your neck of the woods?

 “You know, the bottom line is this, if he wants to come in and talk to me, that’s fine, I’ll sit here and talk with him. I don’t have a problem with that, but the committees aren’t changing.”

Way to be flexible there Pete.  Blame the guy for speaking out on an issue that you completely agree with but manage to stay silent on for over four months.

Meanwhile, at Kowalko’s press conference, the state representative told members of the public to:

“Send letters to every member of the General Assembly and demand they give you honest answers.”  “There are alterior motives at play here.” “41 people are chilled by this leadership attitude.” (speaking about the 41 state representatives)

Kowalko said he is not afraid of being marginalized in the caucus, but he does view Schwartzkopf’s decision as punitive and a punishment.  He views the often phrased “Delaware Way” as a “Department of closeness” and this way of doing things is “incestuous and cronyism”.  He believes the state should have an Inspector General to investigate and “patrol and police a willingness to hide things.”  This new agency, according to Kowalko, should have “no allegiance to anything.” Referring to the bias of the media in Delaware, Kowalko said “If we have silence of the media, we have silence of the public.”

I will definitely say I take Kowalko’s side on this matter, and not just because I agree with his opinions about the priority schools.  Cause I agree with Schwartzkopf’s newly found opinion as well.  I take issue with anyone doing something punitive for being an “activist”.  Someone who rallies the people is an activist.  So what exactly are you doing when you are trying to get their vote Mr. Speaker?

For more information on Schwartzkopf’s side, please read AND listen at http://www.wdel.com/story.php?id=65449

 

 

While Legislators Dine At The Governor’s House, Fate Of 1000+ Students To Be Discussed At Christina Board Meeting

Governor Jack Markell is hosting a dinner at Woodburn Mansion in Dover tonight for all the legislators and their families.  Meanwhile, the Board of Education for Christina School District is having their third board meeting in 15 days to go over the Memorandum of Understanding for each of their three priority schools.

The dichotomy here is amazing.  How much money does it cost for a dinner at a mansion with 200 people in attendance?  How many of the low-income students in these schools could be fed for a month with those kinds of funds?  I highly doubt Markell ordered Taco Bell for everyone.

Meanwhile, Mike Matthews reported the following on Facebook:

This should be fun. Mark your calendars: There will be a Joint Education Committee meeting in Dover on Wednesday, January 21. I’m told that because education has been such a hot topic that both houses of the legislature will be joining forces to get an update from DoE on any host of hot messes going on right now.

That might be a meeting worth going to if it is open for the public.  As of right now there is no notice of this meeting on http://legis.delaware.gov/LEGISLATURE.NSF/?open but I’m sure that will change.

I caught the tail-end of the swearing-in ceremony for the Delaware State Representatives.  It was a packed house with no actual legislation discussed.  I expect they will be seeing me around Legislative Hall quite a bit during the next six months.

I expect final decisions will be made by the DOE and Governor Markell within the next week on the six priority schools in Red Clay Consolidated and Christina School Districts.

Kowalko Vs. Schwartzkopf, Press Conference 1/13/15 At Legislative Hall In Dover

After Delaware House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf gave State Representative John Kowalko the boot off of the House Education Committee and the House Energy Committee, thousands of Delawareans have voiced their displeasure at this action.  Kowalko has hit the papers, blogs and the radio since then.  Tomorrow, he is giving a press conference in his office at Legislative Hall in Dover.  Here’s what you can expect:

 

Mike Matthews (and many others in Delaware) Plea To the 148th General Assembly @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @ecpaige @Apl_Jax @DelawareBats @nannyfat @Roof_O #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

Mike Matthews Facebook page is one of the first places I go when I am looking for information on education in Delaware.  Today, I found this:

This post is directed at the House Democratic caucus, which will be meeting tomorrow to determine leadership positions for the next General Assembly: House members, for the past two years our education system has continued to remain under attack by a Department of Education and Governor that refuse to address the real issues impacting our schools and instead rely on punitive labels and bad pieces of legislation driven by the ‪#‎edreform‬ movement. I’m going to be very frank: Current House leadership has generally aligned itself too closely to the governor’s agenda. There has been little pushback on matters of education outside of a cabal of reliable Democrats who’ve rightly voted against the Governor’s education agenda. Regardless of how the leadership vote goes tomorrow, all in the House — and Democrats in particular — must do a better job in 2015 of introducing and debating education legislation that’s good for kids.

I’m in full agreement with Mike.  I have to add Republicans need to do a better job.  If Greg Lavelle seriously wants to run for Governor in 2016, he needs to step up his game big time.  When Markell’s house of cards crumbles, people will be looking at who aligned with him.  The first place people will look is how legislators voted on key education bills.  In particular, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The legislators never received the chance to vote on Common Core, but they had their chance with Smarter (as the DOE now calls it).

We need the voices of sanity in our legislature.  I would love to see Senator Dave Lawson on an education committee.  I know this hasn’t been his forte in the past, but he has shown a keen interest in education in the past year.  It wouldn’t shock me to see him run for Governor in 2016.  He introduced legislation on the last day of the 147th Assembly to ban common core and everything that goes with it.  It was a futile effort, and he knew that, but he planted the seed.  Now it just needs to grow.

Very Interesting Chat With Delaware State Representative Last Night re: Mark Murphy and Smarter Balanced Assessment @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat #netde #eduDE

Last night, the Kent County League Of Women Voters held a public debate for the Kent County candidates running for office in the election on November 4th.  The event was held at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover, DE.  Several candidates declined the debate, and some were unable to attend.  Under debate law, if one party in a particular race does not show up, the other party is unable to debate.

For the Delaware House Representative candidates, the parties that debated were District 30 candidates Libertarian Gordon Gene Smith and Republican Jonathan E. Gallo (current Democrat House Rep. William Outten declined the debate) and District 11 candidates Democrat Lynne Newlin and current Republican House Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman.  For the Senate, the only attending candidates were from the 17th Senate District, current Democrat State Senator Brian Bushweller and Republican candidate Dr. Kim Warfield.

A two-part question asked of the candidates on their position on standardized testing and allowing parents to opt out of standardized testing.  Senator Bushweller said he does not believe parents should have the option to opt their children out of standardized testing because he felt students need to be measured for their proficiency.  He also added his belief there have been too many changes in the tests in Delaware, and when the Smarter Balanced Assessment comes out “in a couple years” this will be the third test.   House Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman felt there should be a consistent set of standards for the country, but parents should have the right to opt their children out of standardized testing.  Both of these elected officials voted for House Bill 334 which allowed the Smarter Balanced Assessment to replace DCAS as the state standardized test.

After the debate, I had the opportunity to speak with House Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman, and I asked him why he voted for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He said his wife is a teacher, and most teachers hated DCAS because it was administered to students three times a year.  I explained to him that I believe the Smarter Balanced Assessment is worse than DCAS.  He replied that for House Bill 334, it was a choice of the lesser of two evils, and what made it very difficult for the vote was the fact that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy had already bought the test for the state.  He felt it put the legislators in a no-win situation.  He gave me permission to publish this opinion.

As for Senator Bushweller’s statement about the Smarter Balanced Assessment during the public debate, where he said it was coming out in “a couple years” it showed an ignorance of the current education climate in Delaware based on the fact that the test will first be administered in the Spring of 2015, not two years from now.  It really makes me wonder based on the two current legislator’s comments how much information they were given about the test before the vote.  Neither of them served on the Education Committee for their respective branch.

I posed a question in an article last month in regards to the testing schedule, but I was given some confusing information about the possibility of interim tests and the DOE document I first saw did not indicate it was optional for the school districts.  As well, two Delaware House Reps, who wished to remain anonymous, informed me they were not aware of an interim test at all and didn’t recall even an option being presented to them.  Neither of them served on the Education Committee for the House either.  In comments on that article, someone who seemed to have insider knowledge of the legislative process behind this bill, and was present, wrote this:

This was passed out at the House and Senate joint education committee meeting in May- that was (t)he first place I saw it, thus legislators had this graphic before voting on the bill as well.

But this commenter assumed the legislators had all information available to them prior to voting on the bill.  Was this the case?  Does anyone in Legislative Hall who was NOT on the education committee want to give an official comment about what exact information was given to them before their vote?