The Delaware General Assembly returns for their 150th gig on Tuesday, January 8th. But a slew of pre-filed legislation came out today including a few education bills. These are interesting bills to say the least! Continue reading
According to Governor Carney’s public schedule, he might get some blisters on his fingers from signing so many bills. Tomorrow and Wednesday he will be signing 29 bills at various times of the day. In the education world, two big bills will get the ink. The long awaited House Bill #292 which makes drastic changes to the Delaware Autism Program will finally become law. Another big one is Senate Bill #172 which takes steps to improve transparency in education funding. It doesn’t go far enough in my opinion. Nothing will until the public can see where every penny in public education goes.
To see the 29 bills being signed and what they are about, please see below. Continue reading
I don’t get it. Every single year the Delaware General Assembly insists on having their late-night marathon with hundreds of bills on the agendas. They had many opportunities to prevent that this year. But instead, they had unending tributes to departing legislators, the Governor scheduled non-budget bill signings on June 30th, and they waited until the last minute to put up a minimum wage bill.
The tributes to the departing legislators had been going on for days. And they never seemed to end. I get that you want to honor those who wrote bills for decades. But a time limit on the comments would have been really good.
The temperature in Legislative Hall went up as Governor Carney signed an Executive Order around 4:45pm to put the methodology of “budget smoothing” into his proposed budget each year. Since the Democrats in the General Assembly balked on this idea that would change the Delaware Constitution, Carney felt he had to get something about it in writing, thus the Executive Order.
Around the same time, an unending line of pro-gun supporters flooded Legislative Hall. It was already a hot day, and just having more bodies in the place physically rose the temperature in there! All the suits began sweating and it became uncomfortable. As the pro-gun folk realized there was NOT going to be any last-minute legislation (which was their reason for coming- a just in case), they began to leave and you could actually feel the air in there.
Many candidates who filed for the upcoming election were seen in the halls. Even Kathy McGimmick was seen dashing in, heading towards Speaker of the House Pete Schwartkopf’s office, and leaving about 10-15 minutes later. It was a good opportunity to meet some of the candidates I had not met yet and to chat with those I had.
Even a wine bill caused chaos! When Rep. Dave Wilson changed what I assume was a yes vote to a no, Rep. Jeff Spiegelman did not mince his words with Wilson as he yelled “You stabbed me in the back!”
For education, the VERY controversial House Bill #454 was stricken. This was the “show me the money” bill for developers and a decrease in their property assessments for redeveloped land. Buh-bye bad bill!
But here is what gets me. They talk about how much they respect their staff but treat them to intolerable working conditions. Some of their staff came in at 11am yesterday. They were still there at 7:30am this morning. Some of their staff are senior citizens. Hell, some of the legislators are senior citizens! I don’t blame every legislator for this. But the leadership is who determines these monstrous agendas.
It is not a party no matter what you hear. Having legislators pass laws when they are beyond the point of exhaustion is the very definition of insanity. Tempers flare and they grumble. Visitors wait in the lobby and constantly ask what the heck is going on. This morning, when I left around 2:45am, the Capitol Police were already indicating their workers were past the 16 hour shift mark. Sure, the free ice cream for visitors helps. But the cafeteria closes at 8pm. You have to go to WaWa to get coffee!
This is what kills me about Legislative Hall- the lack of plugs! We live in a cell phone society now. The plug shortage (except for legislators and their staff) causes folks to huddle around the rare plug outlets. Which brings me to my next point- why do they not have TVs in the lobbies showing live feeds of the House or Senate? This isn’t 1950 anymore Delaware! We can do this. Hell, they could do live feeds on the internet as well!
There has to be a better way. It wasn’t like there were a ton of new bills that were introduced on the last day. It was the fact they left tons of bills languishing until the last minute. Instead of having all these tributes and fluff stuff during their many other legislative days, maybe they could do what we elected them to do- vote on legislation!
I was one of the lucky ones. The last education legislation passed at 2am. Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting left immediately after that vote. I should have taken her queue but decided to stick around until I asked myself what was so important for me to stick around. Sure, I could have seen the minimum wage bill debacle. Which would have consisted of me rolling my eyes when they decided to stay open.
I lost big time. I called a departure time of 12:38am. They left hours after the sun came up this morning. On the plus side, they get to rest for the next six months! But like the myth of teachers doing nothing during the summer, many of our legislators plan for the next session and do a ton of research on bills they would like to introduce. Many of them will spend the next few months campaigning as all 41 of the State Reps and 10 of the State Senators are up for re-election. For some of them, they will sail off into the retirement sunset and, no doubt, thank the lucky stars they will never have to pull the June 30th/July 1st all-nighter.
The sad part? I’ll probably do this again next year. I’m a glutton for punishment! But I have to admit, I do enjoy Delaware politics for a few reasons. We are a small state. You can drive an hour or so from any direction and wind up at Legislative Hall. It can take time, but you can get to know pretty much every single legislator in the state. You can hang out at Legislative Hall and say hi to the Governor when he emerges from the bat cave. You can joke around with his staff as they walk around looking like the weight of the world rests on their shoulders and manage to get them to crack a smile. You can attend a rally against separating families one minute and chat with folks who wear “live free or die” t-shirts the next. You can chat with the Delaware Secretary of Education and not worry about detention. If you go to Leg. Hall often enough, the Capitol Police call you by your name when you walk in the door. For me, it is my home away from home in a weird way.
The 149th Delaware General Assembly is finished! All bills either passed or didn’t. If it is in black, it passed. If it is in red, it didn’t.
Legislators: If you find any errors, omissions, or want to provide clarification on the status of a bill, please let me know.
State Representative Kim Williams pre-filed legislation today that would do away with emergency certifications for pending special education teachers in The First State. As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, this is no longer allowed in public education. From the bill’s synopsis:
Enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act amended the Individuals with Disability Education Act (“IDEA”) by mandating that special education teachers must have obtained full certification and may not be working under emergency certifications. The Delaware Department of Education must stop issuing emergency certifications in special education in order for the State to continue receiving $36 million in federal IDEA funding for our schools. This Act creates a mechanism that is in compliance with federal requirements to enable educators to obtain a certificate of eligibility in the areas of special education. Educators will be able to meet federal requirements while being enrolled in an approved, alternative routes to certification program. This Act will allow local education agencies to staff special education classrooms while ensuring the educators are receiving high quality training working toward their standard certificate in the appropriate area of special education. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.
Also sponsored by State Senator Nicole Poore, this bill has many co-sponsors by several Democrats but no Republicans. But that shouldn’t matter as this is a federal requirement now. So what does this mean? It means you can’t just be put into a classroom that has students with disabilities with an Individualized Education Program based on an emergency certificate. You have to already be going through some type of program that would allow you to be heading towards full certification. I expect this to pass with no problems.
As well, Williams also pre-filed legislation today concerning special education diplomas with House Bill #287 which I wrote about here. To read the full pending legislation for House Bill #286, please go here.
It’s been a while. At least for me.
I haven’t been blogging as much. Like I’ve said before, sometimes you have to take a break and recharge your batteries. But it doesn’t mean things aren’t happening offline or in sidebar conversations. These are just some of the things I’ve seen and heard the past few weeks: Continue reading
*Updated with new legislation, votes on the floor, and committee agendas for tomorrow
Confused by all the Education legislation floating around in Delaware? Can’t keep track of it all? Don’t worry, I can’t either sometimes. But I felt it was necessary to reestablish my old tradition of putting it all together. I will update this as the Delaware 149th General Assembly finishes off the first half of this session on June 30th and when they reconvene in January 2018. Below are all 50 of the education bills that have come up in the 149th General Assembly just this year alone. More legislation will come by the time it is all done on June 30th, 2018. Continue reading
Cursive. Educator Licensure. Child Abuse Training. Bullying. Gang Detection. Public School Enrollment for children in custody of DSCYF. These are the biggest education bills up for a vote today in the Delaware House of Representatives and the Senate. Two will go to the House and two to the Senate if they pass. What are these bills?
House Bill #70:
This is State Rep. Andria Bennett’s cursive bill. It was released from the House Education Committee in April. It would make cursive instruction mandatory in all Delaware public schools. It has many in support of the bill, but quite a few are opposed to it as well.
Under current educational standards, students are no longer required to be taught cursive writing and many schools have abandoned teaching cursive writing to students. As cursive writing is still an imperative skill in many professions, this bill makes teaching cursive writing a requirement for all public schools in Delaware.
House Substitute 1 for House Bill #143:
State Rep. Kim Williams’ HS1 for HB #143 deals with teacher licensure and the Praxis exam.
This Act removes the provisional license and re-establishes a 3 tiered licensure system. An initial license provides for two years for the initial licensee to obtain a passing score on an approved performance assessment. This Act provides for reciprocity for a state-created and approved performance assessment from another state or jurisdiction to meet the performance assessment requirement. This Act also eliminates the general knowledge exam for licensure which will result in a savings to the candidate of a range of $100 to $150. Additionally, this Act provides for a reimbursement of no less than $100 to a license holder who meets the performance assessment requirement and becomes employed in a Delaware public school. The Department will be responsible for training local district and school staff on the performance assessment. Additionally, the Department of Education leadership, including the Secretary of Education will be trained on the performance assessment. For enactment, any individual provided an initial license prior to the enactment date will not be subject to the requirement of obtaining a passing score on a performance assessment. Additionally, any individual provided a provisional license prior to the enactment date will be reissued an initial license and the 2 year requirement for meeting the performance assessment will become effective commencing on the new issue date. The remainder of the bill makes conforming changes to cross-references and license designations.
Senate Bill #87:
Senator Margaret Rose Henry’s bill deals with children in the custody of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families. The Every Student Succeeds Act has certain provisions dealing with these students and this legislation would bring Delaware in synch with that requirement under the McKinney-Vento Act.
This Act updates the school stability law for children in the custody of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF) following passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESSA requires Delaware to eliminate the provision “awaiting foster care placement” under § 202(c), Title 14 in accordance with the federal McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act by December 10, 2017, and instead create a distinct provision regarding school stability for children in the custody of DSCYF. [42 U.S.C. §§ 11431 to 11435; ESEA section 1111(g)(1)(E)(i)-(iii)), 20 U.S.C. §6311(g)(1)(E)]. This Act clarifies that children in the custody of DSCYF remain entitled to attend their school of origin if it is in their best interests to do so, or are eligible for immediate enrollment in a new school. Sections 1, 2, and 3 of this Act take effect on the effective date of final regulations published in the Register of Regulations and promulgated under authority granted by § 202A(d) of Title 14, which is created by Section 2 of this Act.
Senate Bill #102:
Another Senator Henry bill. This bill is similar to last year’s Senate Bill dealing with bullying and child abuse training for educators. This has A LOT of provisions in it. It was heard in the Senate Education Committee meeting yesterday. The Delaware DOE, DOJ, and the Office of the Child Advocate worked on this one for a long time.
This Act consolidates Delaware law related to child abuse and child sexual abuse training and detection, suicide prevention, bullying, criminal youth gang detection, and teen dating violence and sexual assault into one subchapter of Chapter 41, Title 14 of the Delaware Code and develops a non-academic training program that coordinates the trainings school district and charter school employees are required to receive. In addition to streamlining non-academic trainings, this Act provides school districts and charter schools with flexibility to meet current and future non-academic training needs of school district and charter school employees, students, and parents. This Act applies to all public schools, including charter schools and vocational technical schools. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual, ensure consistency within the new subchapter, and make references throughout the Code consistent based changes to certain Code designations made by this Act.
The Delaware State Education Association comes out with endorsements during election cycles. This year there are a ton of candidates at the state and federal levels. Below is a document showing why DSEA endorsed certain candidates in the Delaware House and Senate. These are only the candidates who have an opponent that they endorsed. I find some of their choices to be very interesting. For example, Joe Miro got a nod for getting an appointment on the Southern Regional Education Board. Two words that I did not see in this document were opt and out. That is very concerning as a parent viewing this document. In fact, some of their endorsed candidates opposed the override of Markell’s veto on House Bill 50. The words “voted”, “ensured”, and “supported” all come down to a yes vote either in committee or on the floor. Only two of the candidates they support in a race aren’t incumbents. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with many of their choices, but this wording for one of the candidates really made me want to vomit a little bit…
Helped DE students complete in the ever-changing global economy by supporting funding for important academic programs, like the Governor’s World Language Expansion Initiative
That sounds like something Jack Markell would say…
One of these was a complete head-scratcher because I don’t recall this legislation even coming to a vote. I fully support the candidate this is attributed to, but it seems misguiding to put this in their profile when this same rep was a fervent supporter of the opt out bill and that doesn’t even get a mention.
Supported the creation of a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income that will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12
Sunday evening I put up a post about a political ad for Delaware Senator David Sokola. You would have thought I sent a cannonball into a church picnic with the reaction this post got. In a nutshell, the Delaware State Education Association did not endorse the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, David Sokola. He has been the chair of this committee for decades. This was a very clear statement that DSEA no longer has faith in Senator David Sokola when it comes to education. But unbeknownst to many, DSEA is also part of a PAC with various other Delaware unions that paid for an advertisement for Sokola’s 8th District Senate campaign. I wasn’t happy to see this and many others weren’t as well. I linked Frederika Jenner, the President of DSEA, to this PAC because her name appears on their website.
Before I knew it, teachers who are very supportive of DSEA jumped to their defense. One of them, Mike Matthews, who used to be President of the Red Clay Educations Association and is currently campaigning for Jenner’s spot next January, wrote a very long comment about why Right To Work is dangerous in the current Delaware political landscape.
Before I get to Matthews’ comment, I want to briefly explain what Right To Work is. Basically, it would prevent a worker from paying union dues but they would get the union benefits. This has been implemented in some states but the Delaware General Assembly has thwarted this from happening here. Delaware Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle has been very supportive of Right To Work in Delaware. Not every Delaware Republican is 100% behind a complete Right To Work state, much less with DSEA. Matthews’ comment suggests that Right To Work is a bigger danger than very bad Dave Sokola education policy.
Here’s where I stand on this and, as always, I thank Kevin for providing the forum to discuss!
DSEA did not vote to endorse Sen. Sokola for his re-election campaign. As someone who has consistently received DSEA’s endorsement in years’ past, this is obviously big news. I have had many concerns — and shared them publicly — with Sen. Sokola’s positions on education. I think many others have, as well. And that’s why DSEA chose the route it did during the election season this year.
But — and this really is a big BUT — folks need to realize that we are a union whose main goal is to activate and organize its membership. We have seen union membership in many states decrease dramatically because of nasty Right to Work laws. These laws severely weaken the ability of local unions to do the work they need to do — advocate for members and students.
The threat of Right to Work is very much real here in Delaware. If the Democrats lose just two seats in the Senate, then it’s very likely that Republicans will demand legislation that could repress labor rights in exchange for getting YES votes on the budget. If the Republican Senate REFUSES to pass a budget because they are demanding more restrictions on organized labor, then my guess is the Democrats in the House will cave so they can get a budget passed. That’s the reality of the situation that we’re dealing with.
DSEA’s membership in the Delawareans First PAC is borne out of the need to fight back any effort for Right to Work to land in Delaware. DSEA’s participation in this PAC is very much about ensuring our own survival SO WE CAN continue to advocate for our members, students, and schools.
And there are some very clear differences between the two major-party candidates in the 8th Senate District when it comes to labor rights. Sen. Sokola is vehemently anti-Right to Work. Meredith Chapman has stated her support of the collective bargaining process, but can’t say unequivocally that she would be anti-Right to Work. And, as I’ve said to her, should she get elected and the GOP take the Senate, her ability to negotiate with a newly-emboldened GOP leadership will be severely diminished and she will have to walk lock-step with the caucus on these issues.
So, while many of our members — and myself included — have serious issues with Sen. Sokola’s education positions, we have to realize that we are still a union. And it’s our business to maintain our membership and attempt to stave off any threats to that membership. I am completely able to see both sides here and while Sen. Sokola hasn’t been the best friend on education issues, he’s unwaveringly a friend on the topic of Right to Work. To condemn him from all angles because of his education positions (no matter how large those issues are) would be unfair.
DSEA’s membership in this PAC is voluntary, of course, but in the interest of solidarity, it’s imperative that we union brothers and sisters come together and support candidates who will repel Right to Work — even if it means supporting a candidate we oppose on other issues. Because if Right to Work comes to Delaware — which could happen if the Senate swings GOP — then our ability to be an effective agent for change will be severely dampened. And that could have consequences that hasten all the negative things we know have been coming down the education pike for years that you have thankfully been reporting on with such fervor.
I just think it’s important to realize that I think it’s completely within bounds to have severe disagreements with candidates on certain issues, but to find common ground on others, especially issues that relate to the survival of organizations that I would hope are seen as positive players in the education arena like DSEA.
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.
So suppose the Republicans gain control of the Delaware Senate and there is a budget impasse next year (as there seems to be almost every year). Does that automatically make Delaware a Right To Work state? We just don’t know. I can picture a scenario where, if it were that bad, certain concessions could take place. Last week at the Carney-Bonini debate, the subject of Right To Work zones was brought up. That would not make the whole state a Right To Work place, but for certain companies. Auto manufacturing was brought up as an example. But I personally don’t believe the General Assembly would make DSEA a Right To Work organization. If they did gain control of the Senate, that would last as long as one General Assembly if they did that. The General Assembly is always on a cycle of campaigning every two years. Any legislator who voted for Right To Work would automatically lose any future endorsement from DSEA. Many do not want to face that prospect in the coming years. Delaware is a small state and its citizens have more access to their Senators and State Representatives than they do in other states. A Republican controlled Senate would also have to contend with a Democrat controlled House and, by all indications, Democrat Governor John Carney. Would the Republicans wait around all summer in an attempt to get Right To Work passed if a budget was held up? I highly doubt it. Most legislators are at the point of collapse after an all-night session bridging June 30th to July 1st.
While I will certainly say I do not know how many teacher jobs DSEA has actively protected over the years, I imagine it is quite a bit. Charter school teachers, which are supported heavily by Delaware Republicans, do not presently have teacher unions. But I firmly believe Senator Sokola is, at a much greater degree, a bigger threat to Delaware teachers than a potential Right To Work law in Delaware. He has 25 years of experience showing exactly what he has done to Delaware education and the teaching profession. And judging by the first draft of Delaware’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t see that situation changing any time soon.
I firmly believe Sokola serves interests much bigger than any Democrat platform. He serves those who profit immensely off students and teachers. He represents the corporations who want to reform education so they can make more money. But more dangerous, is the very real threat of how these changes in education will eventually transform society as a whole. It is my contention that whether Right To Work happened or not, the teaching profession union members across the country fight for every day will be gone one day. At the rate where are going, everything will be online instruction and teachers will just be glorified moderators if those classrooms are even in brick and mortar schools. The more we let outside organizations into our schools, the ability for decisions to be decided at a local level diminishes greatly. That is what Sokola represents. He takes the side of a particular charter school in his district and he will do whatever is necessary to make sure they look good at the expense of the district around him. If he didn’t have the power he currently has as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, that would be one thing. But that taint in his decision-making policy affects every single public school in the state.
In my eyes, as a parent and a Delaware citizen, David Sokola needs to go. By any means necessary. I fully endorse Meredith Chapman for the 8th Senate District. Even if I was a die-hard Democrat and never voted out of party lines, I would make this one exception. He is that bad. Do I trust David Sokola to be anti-Right To Work because he truly believes it would be bad for unions or because he knows if he isn’t he would have a hard time getting re-elected in his district with various unions supporting him? I would go with the latter. But there comes a time when you have to weed out the rot. That time is now. We have had enough Sokola Ebola in Delaware education. This is a guy who lied in a debate last week. How can anyone trust him to do the right thing when he lies when the truth would be far better for him? That is how desperate he has become. For the first time in 25 years, he knows he may not enter Legislative Hall as a FOIA-protected legislator. He is scared. In a microscopic way, down to the molecular level, I feel bad for him in that respect. But it stops there. In politics, you reap what you sow. And what David Sokola has sown over a quarter of a century is dangerous for every single citizen of Delaware.
As I am writing this, the AFLCIO President, James Maravelias just wrote a comment supporting Matthews’ stance on this issue. To this I can only reply with the following: by allowing Right To Work in Delaware, the unions believe they will lose all their collective bargaining rights. As a parent, we didn’t seem to have a choice when Senator Sokola, the corporate education reformer led Delaware DOE, and Governor Markell brought Common Core to Delaware. When a once a year test became the measurement for all Delaware schools. When our General Assembly passed laws allowing for more charter schools in the state which drained resources out of many school districts. When special education took a back-seat to standards. When teachers spent an exorbitant amount of time on professional development during school days. When our collective voice said “We don’t want our children to take this test”, the DSEA supported an assessment inventory that ultimately led to no real change. Even when I begged them not to and that it would weaken the parent voice for opt out legislation. And it worked. DSEA sheepishly and almost after the fact supported an override of the Governor’s veto but not without my having a tirade of epic proportions that actually caused me to burn some bridges. I didn’t see DSEA’s collective bargaining power at play when disaster happened at the hands of David Sokola with their own teacher evaluation bill. One man was able to turn the wishes of the entire DSEA into his playground and he got what he wanted.
Parents are consistently left out of the equation when it comes to education. Sure, we get our placards on this committee or that task force, but we don’t have the ability to collectively bargain our way out of things we know are bad for our kids. The majority of the decisions are made those who represent some type of profession in education or a company that will somehow profit off it. I’m not saying this to bash unions, but to illustrate a point. Any union is, on its face, going to have a priority of protecting their membership. I get that. Just as a baked bean company would be all about making great baked beans. But when one guy wants to branch off and make different kind of baked bean products that diminish the entire line, that is a big problem. Even when the research comes back that fully states: this new product isn’t worth a hill of beans, the one guy makes it happen. That is Senator Sokola in Delaware.
As a final thought, in June of 2015, a Delaware parent openly questioned and challenged Sokola during a Senate Education Committee meeting on opt out. When Sokola lost his cool and showed the true David Sokola, he told the parent that if she thought she could do a better job herself to run for office. While this citizen was not able to run for Sokola’s seat, another citizen rose up to the challenge. Would she have run if Sokola didn’t make a mockery out of parents over opt out? We will never know. But perhaps it planted a seed that could begin to bloom next week. We may not know what kind of plant will grow next year, but it has to be better than the out of control and choking poison ivy that tarnishes every facet of education Sokola touches. This is why I can’t personally stomach the thought of Sokola sitting in Legislative Hall in 2017. And nothing, not even a potential threat of Right To Work, could get me to change my mind on that. Perhaps Frederika Jenner wasn’t fully supportive of paying for a Sokola political ad as a member of the board of Delawarean’s First PAC. But attaching her name to it sent ripple effects throughout the state in the past 44 hours. Delaware education won’t change for the better until David Sokola is gone.
As a parent, my top priority is to make sure my child gets the best education possible. As a parent, I can clearly see how Sokola policy has affected my child and 133,000 other children in Delaware. I don’t see how a threat of Right To Work has affected these kids. Perhaps it could become a future danger, but the Defcon-4 danger to education that is happening right now, in real-time, is David Sokola. He must go. I understand Mike Matthews and his perception of a Republican Senate as a danger. But it is not something that would automatically come to pass. We have years and years of watching Sokola operate. I’m not running out telling every Delaware citizen to vote Republican in the Senate. Nor am I doing that for any election this year. But I would be remiss as a parent, a father, a husband, a supporter of public education, a supporter of teachers, a supporter of transparency, and a supporter of hope by thinking it is okay to give Sokola any possible edge in this election. I can’t support the triumvirate of Democrat control in Delaware if it means keeping a guy like David Sokola in power. I will support DSEA and other unions in a lot of areas, but not on David Sokola. There is no balance in education as long as he retains his Senate seat.
Two weeks. If you asked a legislator in the Delaware Assembly what two weeks means at the end of June, they would most likely say it is a lifetime. It’s crunch time, and not all bills will make the cut. This is a guide to what education legislation has recently passed, what is ready for a vote, what still has to face a committee, and what will most likely get the chopping block. I don’t anticipate any new education legislation coming out in the next 10 days, but Delaware in the last two weeks of the General Assembly is like the Wild West. Anything can happen. And with all the committees that are supposed to have reports out by the 30th (Assessment Inventory Committee and Education Funding Improvement Committee), anything could very easily happen. It is very important to watch everything that goes down in the next 10 days and INSTANTLY make your voice heard if you support or oppose a sneak bill.
House Bill #435: The fifth Delaware charter school audit bill, faces the House Education Committee on Wednesday at 1:30pm. The House Republicans hate bills like these, but once again, the votes are not in their favor. I expect it will be released from both committees and it will pass the House and Senate on it’s way to Governor Markell for signature.
Senate Bill #161: The underdog of the 148th General Assembly! The no school until after Labor Day passed the Senate with an 11-10 vote. I could actually envision a suspension of rules behind closed doors deal on this bill. If this gets a full House vote based on that, I think it will pass. New Castle County will complain for the next five years about it, Sussex County will cheer, and Kent County will be in the middle.
House Joint Resolution #12/House Bill #424/House Bill 425: HJR #12 is the actual Wilmington Redistricting legislation. HB #424 states school boards can’t arbitrarily raise taxes. The latter faces the House Education Committee at 2:30pm for a very special meeting designed solely to lift this from tabled status. Once that hurdle is done, I expect it will either be subject to a suspension of rules for a full House vote tomorrow (and the chaos that will ensue if that happens!) or it will be on the agenda for Thursday this week. The reason I think it will get a suspension of rules vote tomorrow is because it still has to go through the Senate Education Committee, which will most likely have their last meeting on Wednesday. The same goes for HB #424 if it is released from the House education committee tomorrow (which I expect it will). HB #425 has been non-existent in terms of conversation so I think it will drift off in the summer sky. For the full votes, I have no idea how the other two bills are going to do. It has a lot of Democrat Wilmington support. But downstate and with Wilmington Republicans, that is another matter. This could go either way.
House Bill #399: The redesigning of Component V in the Delaware teacher evaluation system. I expect it will pass the House. Sokola would have to be a complete idiot to not put it on the Senate Education Committee agenda for Wednesday. It reminds me a bit of the opt out bill last year. It has overwhelming support, Sokola hates it, and the Governor will most likely veto the bill. But there is no Hail Mary for Sokola if he does veto it. I will predict now that if Markell vetoes this bill, Sokola will be doing a lot of biking next year while has peers are making bills.
Senate Bill #199: This is a Sokola bill, so I don’t necessarily trust it. Come on Kev! The guy has to do something good for education! I have yet to see it in the long-term. This one fell under the radar for me, but it wasn’t introduced until June 7th, flew out of the Senate Education Committee the next day, and got a full Senate vote where it unanimously passed on June 14th. The odd part is the low numbering of the bill which is unusual. All the other bills around this one were introduced in March. As if it was intentionally hidden. When Sokola bills take flight, I worry. This looks to me like it opens the door for more Teach For America and Relay Graduate Schools. This one could suffer due to the Sokola/Jaques spat. You can read the full text of the bill here (and I recommend all teachers do so): Senate Bill 199
House Bill #30: The basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade was finally released from the House Appropriations Committee last week. But it is not on the agenda for a full House vote tomorrow. Things happen very fast when the legislators are on the homestretch, but I fear HB #30 will not survive its way out of the 148th General Assembly.
Senate Bill #92/#93: The autism bills haven’t been heard in the House Appropriations Committee yet. Why is that? They aren’t on the agenda for the meeting on Wednesday either. Hmm…
Senate Bill #207: The school discipline reporting bill by Senator Margaret Rose-Henry. Do the police have to be called every time a student gets into a fight? This bill would say no to that practice. Come on, like all of our schools are actively doing this? It passed the Senate and it is on the House Education Committee agenda for Wednesday. I suspect this will pass, but I have a lot of concerns with this bill in terms of implementation of the law.
Senate Bill #213: Another Senator Rose-Henry bill which would make it mandatory for school staff, students AND parents to get personal body safety and children sexual assault prevention training for students in Kindergarten to 6th grade. It’s up for a Senate vote tomorrow…
House Bill #408 w/Amendment #2: Passed the House, Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday. An amendment was added to include charter schools in this school breakfast legislation, even though Kendall Massett doesn’t want it. Most of the House Republicans voted no on this bill. I suspect it will pass the Senate, but stranger things have happened.
Senate Bill #277: The Dave Sokola “Pathways To Prosperity” steering committee. This is going to happen. This is Jack Herdman’s baby! Paul Markell has talked about Pathways to Prosperity more this year than anything else! This gets the full Senate vote tomorrow. Yes, I know what I did there…
House Bill #374: The former bill for this which limits school board seats to 3 years was not popular. So State Rep. Paul Baumbach brought forth a new one limiting school board seats to four years. House Education Committee on Wednesday. If this passes, it is going to throw the typical school board election cycle into chaos in coming years. This bill is a response to the Christina School District Board of Education, and nothing else. I don’t like it.
House Bill #355: As Delaware blazes forward (with a lot of blinders on) with technology, this bill makes it so a computer science class is mandatory and that it can be used as a credit for either math or science. This gets a full House vote tomorrow. It will pass. Jack loves bills like this.
House Bill #250: The charter school bullying choice bill passed the House and is on the Senate Education Committee agenda for Wednesday. This will pass. Add anther notch to State Rep. Kim Williams’ many education bills in the 148th General Assembly for this one! This bill makes it so any bullying must be substantiated for a student to obtain good cause to choice out of a traditional school district or other choice school. My one concern with this bill is what happens if the bullying is NOT substantiated even though it should be? That never happens in Delaware, right?
House Bill #350: The “let’s ignore due process and publish when teachers get investigated bill” is dead. This bill isn’t going anywhere. What was the point of this Mr. Delaware Speaker of the House?
House Bill #236: The “tax exemption for full disabled vets” bill was released by the House Education Committee and sits in House Appropriations. I like this bill, but with the current budget deficit, this isn’t one of those mandatory bills that should be a no-brainer. But it could pass. This one will be a wait and see.
House Bill #232: This bill is so easy it isn’t even funny. It would allow the State Board of Education to accept public comment on items that are going to have action at one of their State Board meetings. Released from the House. With opposition from Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett. One of those bills where the Johnson effect sends it swirling into the abyss…
THE DEAD ZONE
House Bill #261: The charter school records bill sponsored by State Rep. Mike Ramone. Seeks to punish school districts if the records aren’t sent as soon as possible or schools don’t notify the charter when a student was placed in an alternative setting when a student choices to a charter. No mention of a vice versa in this bill. This was dead on arrival Mike!
House Bill #260: The “have the State Board of Education hold their meetings at 5:30 bill” is an awesome bill, but it is one of those ones that probably causes Donna Johnson to complain A LOT, thus this bill gets the Johnson effect! Sadly, this bill won’t go anywhere.
House Bill #243/House Resolution #22: The House Republicans very odd reaction to a potential override of Markell’s veto on House Bill #50. Hey State Rep. Miro, what were Godowsky’s recommendations? The only thing you told me was that he did send them to you. What now? And Ramone: I still remember what you promised me that day. I am holding you to it! If not, everyone will know what you told me.
House Bill #240: The “Come SAIL Away” bill dealing with afterschool school for students drifted off to sea after the Joint Finance Committee said nope. Barring some huge windfall from DEFAC (who determines the state’s revenue) at the last minute, this bill is driftwood.
House Bill #234: The school-based health center would provide funding for the remaining schools in Delaware that don’t have these. Once again, the budget deficit kills this bill.
House Bill #231: This bill would make it mandatory for charter school teachers to participate in the state pension system. The Kendall and Johnson effect is in FULL swing here…
House Bill #117: This bill which would designate funding for low-income students on a level consistent with special education funding is a good bill, but it is tied to so many other education funding issues with WEIC and the Education Funding Improvement Committee it was drowned out by other things going on. It’s a shame cause I supported it.
House Bill #107: The “only local school districts and local boards” can choose their own leaders bill is fantastic. This came out of the priority schools saga when the DOE wanted to pick leaders for the priority schools. This bill has been ignored since it was introduced.
House Bill #52: The State Rep. Deb Hudson cursive bill isn’t going anywhere. It’s been on the House Ready list for well over a year.
House Bill #28: This bill never had a chance with the Kendall factor. It would make it so charters have to give up their funding for a student if they leave the charter in the middle of the year. This was one of my favorite bills last year, but nothing EVER happened with it. Like I said, the Kendall factor…
Senate Bill #239: The restorative justice in lieu of school suspensions bill got a lot of media mentions in Delaware. But that appears to be it…
Senate Bill #228: Another victim of the Joint Finance Committee, no, we won’t see more funding for the Delaware SEED scholarship program.
Senate Bill #193: The Senator McDowell sponsored “let’s do a study on disadvantaged students in Delaware and get the colleges and universities to participate” bill. Harris, I think we have enough studies and reports.
Senate Bill #72: The Senator Bryan Townsend “I hate Mark Murphy bill” doesn’t have the luster it had when everyone’s favorite joke was the Secretary of Education. Buh-bye!
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
Since the snowmageddon is upon us, I thought this might be a good time to hold the very first Exceptional Winterfest Weekend. This event will be going on ALL weekend long during the Blizzard of 2016. Below are the links to discuss education issues. I want ALL sides of the issues to feel welcome and this will be no holds barred. I encourage everyone to log in as their real name. I would avoid personal attacks for all. I would comment on this thread now to avoid your account going into moderation. If my power goes out, I won’t be able to moderate comments and release them if you are a first-time user. I would ask that if you are an elected official to send comments through your state email address to avoid any potential impersonations of elected officials.
I would love to see Governor Markell, Paul Herdman, Earl Jaques, David Sokola, Kendall Massett, Donna Johnson, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Chris Ruszkwoski, and Dr. Steven Godowsky come on over and comment. If any of you have the means to contact them, please invite them to this one of a kind chance to really get to the heart of the issues.
My hope is that by the end of this weekend, if this experiment doesn’t fail miserably, that maybe we can reach consensus on some of these issues in Delaware education. We are not going to agree on everything, but maybe we can understand the different sides and have more respect for each other’s opinions when all is said and done. There is no better time than a blizzard to do this, as most of us will be in our homes with our loved ones.
These are the topics, all of which will be under the title of this blog:
All comments are now turned on. I apologize. I didn’t realize these “pages” on my blog had to be individually turned on. Thank you for your patience!
The second half of the 148th General Assembly begins next Tuesday, January 12th. While a great deal of focus is on the veto override of House Bill 50, there are actually several important bills about education that deserve to pass. The House and Senate Education Committees meet weekly, usually on Wednesdays.
House Education Committee Meeting, 1/13/16, 2:30pm, House Chamber
Agenda: Presentation by Vicki Innes with Reading Assist, additional items to be determine
Senate Education Committee Meeting, 1/13/16, 3:00pm, Senate Hearing Room (2nd floor)
Agenda: Senate Bill 165, House Bill 186
To view all the education legislation, the status of each bill, and who the sponsor is, please go here.
For any committees in the Senate or the House, public comment is allowed.
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.
It has been a year and a half since I started this blog. 18 months today. Over 2,000 posts. Only three days where I didn’t write something: 6/16/14, 7/14/14, and 8/31/14. There has been an article on here every day since 9/1/14. Without fail. Some days I’ve put tons of stuff up. This should tell you something: how jacked up Delaware is with education. The very fact that I could find over 1,000 things to write about proves this. Some of the articles have common themes: Special Education, Opt-Out, Delaware DOE, Charter Schools and Governor Markell are the most obvious ones. Today, I’m just going to free write, say what is on my mind. No theme, no clear topic. Just writing.
I never thought I would get involved in pending legislation, but I’ve learned it is very important to know what is coming. Not just for yourself, but for your kids. If I’ve learned nothing in the past 18 months, it is that every single voice does matter. Don’t be afraid to use it. You never know when it will make a difference.
I still remember that first night when I picked the name. That nervous anticipation. Picking my “header image”, which graced the front of this blog most days and nights until very recently when someone wrote to Warner Brothers about my use of their image. Its not like I profited over it. Just someone being bitter and resentful I’m sure. Whoever you are, let me just say this: you suck!
The one question I am asked constantly is how I have the time to do this. The easy answer: I don’t. I’ve spent far too many late nights and early mornings on this blog. It is exhausting. And for a while there, I was going to every meeting under the sun. I’m spent. Tired. Exhausted. I’ve said this before, announcing I was going to slow down, only to come back roaring and writing more than ever. But like any long distance runner, you eventually hit that wall. Where your body just gives. I’m pretty sure I’m at that point. But I am resilient and bounce back fast, so any pause will be short-lived I’m sure. Or the DOE or Markell will do something to tick us off and that gets the blood boiling again.
There are days where I feel like nothing I do makes a damn bit of difference. Special education in Delaware is still a mess. Jack is still messing things up. The DOE will do as they please as long as Jack is protecting them. Charters still have big issues. I never dreamed there could be so many issues with education that would warrant daily articles. It really is crazy. I’m just tired of being mad all the time. I’m tired of seeing the same people do the same things over and over again and nothing seems to stop them. And I see others blindly following them, ignorant of what is right in front of them. I’m sick of charter parents arguing the whole choice argument over and over like it is their kids God-given right to attend “great” schools and screw the other kids. Is it right to be mad at them? I don’t know. I can explain it until the sun sets in the east, but until you have a child that has experienced the painful art of not being included somewhere or not given services they are legally entitled to, it is probably hard to imagine. But then I see something like House Bill 50 passing the General Assembly, or schools like Family Foundations Academy or Delaware Met and their stories being made public when most of the mainstream media aren’t touching on a quarter of the issues going on in these schools. Someone has to tell the tales.
I don’t write much about my son on here any more. Its not because I don’t want to, but I feel his stories are his to tell. I could write stuff every single day about him. But he knows I blog, and he knows what I blog about. I’m cool with that. Some days he wants to hear about stuff, but most days he just wants to be a kid. Nothing wrong with that at all.
I got a hair cut the other day. For men getting older, do you ever just watch as your hair falls and you notice as the years go by how much is grey or white? I saw that today. Usually it is brown with bits of grey here and there. On Friday, it was a lot more. It makes you think. Not about how long you’ve live, but how fast it goes. You blink, and time is gone. If this is my “time capsule”, so be it. There are much worse things I could be doing!
“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.
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.
I’ve talked about legislation that did pass, and bills that are still pending. The following are bills that should happen given the current state of education in Delaware. I strongly encourage our legislators to read this and start thinking about these ideas if you haven’t already. If we really want meaningful change for students in Delaware, we need to start thinking outside of the very small box we have placed ourselves in with curriculum, assessments, transparency, accountability, discipline and special needs. These are by no means my only ideas, but ones I feel could best benefit everyone involved in education in a meaningful way. I welcome comment on these ideas and actual ways to move forward on these if consensus is reached on them.
1) A bill to mandate the Delaware Department of Education places any contract with any outside vendor, regardless of active or non-active status, on their website. This shall include the original request for proposal, any bidders and their proposed bids within 10 business days after the selection of the contracted vendor, any addendums to the contract, change orders, or extensions, a clear and concise timeline for the contract, and any violations of the contract unless involved in current legal action. As well, all funds released to such vendor must be fully transparent for each vendor along with the dates of such payment and the services rendered for those funds. If any contract is in conjunction with another state Department, the Department of Education shall also release the same contract and financial information regardless of the reporting Department for the vendor.
2) A bill to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the state assessment for Delaware. Any further state assessments developed in the state for the purposes of assessing Delaware students shall not be used for teacher evaluations and shall have no impact on a school’s accountability ratings, annual yearly progress, or the ability for a student’s retention or summer school options. Any state assessment shall be used for informational purposes only to guide teachers and educators in best practices for instruction of students and further advancement of researched and normed best educational practices. Any future state assessment must have a 3/4 majority vote in both the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate in the event that item #10 on this list does not occur. Any testing vendor or contract associated with a state assessment must clearly indicate on their request for proposal any method of data collection and disbursement, internet safety protocols, conflicts of interest, scoring system with open and transparent rules and regulations surrounding such system, and ability to collect, collate and disseminate the scores based on the educational material to the State Board of Education and all school districts, charter schools and vocational school districts in a manner which will give reliable, timely (within one month), and purposeful educational direction designed for the ability to help students progress to the next level and to identify key barriers on an individual and local level for any student achievement. Any accommodation approved by an IEP or 504 team for the purposes of students with disabilities shall be honored as long as it does not prevent the student from actively taking part in such assessment. Any student who appears to be having undue stress or anxiety while taking such assessment shall immediately be given the ability to stop the assessment and take it at a future time. No assessment shall be more than three hours long and shall take up more than three school days. Any section of any such assessment shall be given no longer than one hour increments for each. No elected Governor of Delaware shall issue an Executive Order for any such state assessment, curriculum associated with the state assessment, or state standards for any such assessment. No local school district, charter, or vocational school district shall provide more than two assessments a school year, longer than two hours, as approved by the State Board of Education and the local school board of education based on the above and below criteria within this act. This does not include final exams, mid-terms end of unit assessments, teacher created assessments, the SAT, ACT, or classroom quizzes. None of these assessments shall create situations where a student is exposed to deductive reasoning or opinion based on any religious, racial, civil rights, violent, or current controversial issues that could create any type of belief system or cultural group to be affected, compromised, or in any way cause civil unrest or situations pitting students, parents or educators against each other.
3) The Delaware Department of Education and the State Auditor of Accounts will create a Comptroller General to oversee the financial flow of education funds coming in and out of all Delaware school districts, charter schools and vocational. This comptroller shall report on a monthly basis to the State Board of Education on the financial viability of all the above as well as any red flags that come up during their constant review and monitoring of all state, local, and federal funds. Any funds received by charter schools in the form of grants or donations, whether individual, group or foundation, shall be shown on the Comptroller General website as well as each charter school’s website. The charter school website must show where the funds are allocated, the purpose, and the progress of those funds being spent.
4) An act to remove the provision regarding the State Board of Education. Previously, the Governor appointed members to the State Board of Education. All seven members of the State Board of Education shall be elected by the general populace during the general election occurring each Election Day in the state. No member shall serve longer than a 3 year term, and term limits are set at two terms. No member who previously sat on the Governor-appointed State Board of Education shall be able to announce candidacy for the State Board of Education. The Executive Director of the State Board of Education shall be appointed by the General Assembly with a 3/4 majority vote in both the House and the Senate. The make-up of the State Board of Education shall consist of the following: Three members from Newcastle County, two members from Kent County, and two members from Sussex County. Three members shall be parents not affiliated with any state organization, department, group, commission or task force. No legislators shall be a member. Two members must be educators or former educators. One member must be an administrator or former administrator. One member must be either a special education educator or have sufficient special education background to represent the population of students with disabilities. No member shall be on the board of any current school district, charter, or vocational technical district. No member shall be employed or sit on the board of any past or present Department of Education contracted vendor. This act removes the Cabinet position of Secretary of Education and any reports created through this duly-elected State Board of Education must be sent to the Governor within 3 business days.
5) All school districts, charter schools, and vocational districts must have on their website the following: the number of Individualized Education Programs (IEP) the school currently administers, to be updated by the 5th day of each calendar month; the number of applied for IEPs and the number of accepted IEPs, the number of administrative complaints filed with the Department of Education against the school in terms of special education, the number of mediations through the Department of Education, the number of Due Process Hearings and their decisions with redacted identifiable student information, the number of special education lawsuits the school has or had, and the financial awards, including any applicable attorney fees or other amounts of each resolution if applicable; no hearing officer of any Due Process Hearing or Administrative complaint shall serve on any other state Department, group, commission, council, or division. The newly selected Due Process Hearing Council shall consist of five members, to be appointed by the duly-elected State Board of Education, and shall have the following qualifications: two parents of a child with a current IEP or last had an IEP within the past five years, one special education teacher currently employed by the State of Delaware, one member with a license to practice psychology, and one member with a license to practice psychiatry.
6) This act is to clarify that all schools must report any incidents of bullying, offensive touching, or fighting through the E-School or any such future designated system within two calendar days. All perpetrator and victim reports must be filled out. Any incident with a perpetrator or victim on this system shall be communicated with the parent or legal guardian of the student within 3 business days and signed by the parent or legal guardian. All such reports shall be given to the parent or legal guardian of a student along with their marking period or trimester report cards. Any proven failure to follow this act more than 3 times over any rolling three month period shall results in a filing by the State Board of Education to the Delaware Attorney General’s office to conduct an immediate investigation of the school or district, which shall have public notice of such filing both on the school or district website along with the most circulated newspaper in each county, to determine if the school is considered a persistently dangerous school and if determined, the school shall notify all parents of this designation within 5 business days of this decision.
7) This act is to clarify the process of “manifestation determination” as dictated by Delaware state code and Federal law. Any student on an IEP or Section 504 plan has clear and concise rights in regards to discipline. In the event of multiple suspensions, currently 10, but with this act changed to 5, the IEP or 504 team must convene within five business days to determine if the actions associated with the suspension or expulsion were a manifestation of the student’s disabilities. If it is determined by the team to be such, the school psychologist must do a functional behavioral analysis of the student within ten business days, report the findings to the team, and a behavioral intervention plan must be developed to assist the student with coping mechanisms, best proven practices associated with that particular disability to prevent such behaviors, and appropriate steps to educate students and all school staff in regards to the student’s disability as approved by the parent or legal guardian. This act shall also apply if a student spends more than 30 hours out of the instructional classroom due to any discipline incident. In the event the parent or legal guardian cannot be notified within 15 business days for any part of this process, one member of the duly-elected State Board of Education or the Due Process Hearing Council shall be appointed to represent the parent or legal guardian after all efforts to contact the parent have been exhausted within a 10 day period of time.
8) Any incident of an educator, school staff member, contracted vendor, or adult on school property or school function, seen by witnesses, whether student or adult, or viewed on school surveillance equipment, or reported by a parent after the fact in both writing and verbally, physically assaulting a student in retaliation or with malicious intent, including the following: punching, kicking, scratching, pulling hair, spitting on, biting, head butting, twisting any part of the student’s body with intent to cause discomfort, pushing to the extent the student falls down or falls into a surface to cause any type of mark on the student’s body, struck with a foreign object, or seen to actively notice and not react in a timely manner while other students engage in such activity against a student, shall result in the school administrator, or designated appointee, district superintendent, or designated appointee determining of the local law enforcement shall be contacted and an emergency convening of the local board of education within three business days with a quorum present to determine the nature of the incident and if any result of the action was through legal seclusion and restraint mechanisms as allowed by state law, and what the next appropriate steps shall be. This information must be reported to the State Board of Education and the Attorney General’s office within 24 hours. If either body determines the local board did not act in the student’s best interest, such adult will be terminated without pay or pension if employed by the state, or banned from the school property or any school function if not. Collective bargaining rights, if applicable, shall be suspended during this investigation. The local educators association, if applicable, must be notified of any such investigation within 24 hours and both the agency and the educator must be notified of the exact details of the allegation. In the event of any such action where the school is legally bound to contact law enforcement under state code and regulation, any decision determined by the state court system shall supersede any decision by the local board or state board of education.
9) This act shall remove Title 14, paragraph 508, section 347 of state code, the provision that charter schools shall keep any excess transportation funds over the contracted bid with any school bus company. In the event a charter school or school district owns the school buses, they must report on a monthly basis on their website, to the State Board of Education, and the Comptroller General all receipts for fuel, tolls, bus driver wages, repairs, estimates for repairs, and any maintenance receipts or costs for such buses.
10) Any Federal mandated curriculum, assessment, waiver, or regulation designed to give any type of educational direction to any school, student, or educator must be approved with a 3/4 vote by the following coalition of representatives: The State Board of Education, the President of the Delaware State Educators Association and each local president of the local educators associations based on a majority vote by each member of such local organization, three members of each school district board of education, one member from each charter school board of education, one member of each vocational school district, the President of the Delaware Association of School Administrators based on a majority vote by that body, the President of the Delaware Parent Teacher Organization based on a majority vote of that membership, and five Delaware State Representatives, three of which must be on the House Education Committee, three Delaware State Senators, two of which must be on the Senate Education Committee, and a State Board of Education appointed “50 Parent Council” consisting of the following: 22 parents from Newcastle County, 15 parents from Kent County, and 13 parents from Sussex County, all of which must have children currently enrolled in Delaware public schools with at least four years left in school, and not a member of any of the other organizations listed on this act. This body must then approve any such Federal education designation with a 3/4 majority vote. Any Federal funding linked to such curriculum, assessment, direction or regulation, shall be a means to give punitive action to any school, student or educator, nor shall a rule, threat or veiled threat of the removal or reduction of any mandated Federal funding give rise to intimidate, bully or coerce any type of public school establishment or state governing body into accepting these actions on a Federal level.
11) All state employees associated with any type of disbursement of educational funds, or employed to receive any such funds, with approval by the Comptroller General and the local board of education shall, in the event of the issuance of a state purchase card, list on the school or district website any and all receipts for such purchases, the reason for the purchase, and the exact description of the purchase designed for and approved under norms and regulations as determined by the Comptroller General and the State Board of Education to best serve the education of students in Delaware.
12) All school district and charter school board meetings must be digitally recorded and live-streamed from their websites. Minutes from non-executive sessions of board meetings must be posted on the school website within two business days if any action items were voted on or discussed to give parents and citizens the ability to view these items. All recordings must be placed on the school website within three business days of such board meeting. All boards must have a clear and concise agenda listed one week prior to any board meeting along with a description of any action items. All school board meetings must take place at either the district office or a school within the district. No board meeting shall take place at any location outside of these two designated areas, including any retreats which shall also be open to the public with the above rules and regulations. This will also include the State Board of Education.
13) The convening of a task force to determine how the Department of Education in Delaware effectively guides and determines best education policies for students in Delaware. No member of this task force shall be any past or present employee of the Department, or any contracted vendor employee currently or in the past receiving any funds from the Department. This task force must consist of the Governor, three members of the duly-elected State Board of Education, the Comptroller General, the President of the Delaware State Educators Association, the President of the Delaware Parent Teacher Association, the President of the Delaware Association of School Administrators, three board members from each traditional school district, one member from each charter school and vocational district, 5 parents from Newcastle county, 3 parents from Kent County and 3 parents from Sussex County, two special needs advocates, two parents of special needs students, two members from any minority-based Civil Rights group, and nine State Representatives (three of which must be on the House Education Committee) and five State Senators (two of which must be on the Senate Education Committee). This task force shall look at all best practices, rules, regulations, salaries, reporting structure, and communications within the Department and vote with 3/4 majority on proposed legislation to be reported to the Governor, publicly shown, and brought before the General Assembly within 30 days of the report or the first day of the assemblage of that body if after 30 days.
House Bill 50 is waiting. No action has been taken by Delaware Governor Jack Markell on the parent opt-out legislation. Matt Albright with the News Journal spoke with Jonathan Dworkin, the spokesman for Governor Markell, and wrote yesterday:
“Markell has not asked for H.B. 50 to be delivered to his desk yet, Dworkin said. Once he receives the bill, he has 10 days to veto it; if he doesn’t, it becomes law with or without his signature.
That means the Legislature would have to wait for a veto override vote until next year unless they call a special session, which is unlikely.”
I checked Delaware state code, and found the following:
“Section 18. Every bill which shall have passed both Houses of the General Assembly shall, before it becomes law, be presented to the Governor;”
The key part concerning this seems to be “presented to the Governor”. Whose job is it to present a bill to Markell? The last place House Bill 50 sat in was the Delaware Senate and they passed the bill a week ago today. I contacted Markell’s office, and they indicated he has ten days to take action on a bill, but when I asked specifically about the bill being “presented”, they did not have an answer but did indicate they would check on that aspect as well as the status of the bill and would get back to me either later today or Monday since their offices are closed tomorrow.
Meanwhile, other education bills passed both the Delaware House and Senate and are also awaiting a signature from Markell. In no short order:
House Bill 91, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Rep. Sean Matthews, Synopsis: This bill involves the public school immunization program. Currently, the Affidavit of Religious Belief does not expressly alert parents or guardians who file for the religious exemption from the program that the child will be temporarily excluded from school in the event of an epidemic of a vaccine preventable disease. This bill amends the required affidavit so parents or guardians are directly made aware of the possibility of the child’s temporary exclusion from school. The bill also adds that the asserted cause of a medical exemption may be subject to review and approval by the Division of Public Health. Additionally, the bill would require the Division of Public Health to declare an outbreak, rather than the current language of an epidemic throughout the State or a particular definable region thereof.
House Joint Resolution #6 w/House Amendment #1, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Rep. Earl Jaques, This House Joint Resolution directs the DPAS II Advisory Committee to review and make recommendations to the current educator evaluation system. This Resolution also limits the State Department of Education’s ability to propose changes to certain sections of the Administrative Code.
Senate Bill #61, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, This Act clarifies that school buses are not exempt from the requirement to stop at railroad grade crossings regulated by a traffic-control signal or at railroad grade crossings protected by crossing gates or flashing lights. Section 4163 currently is contrary to best safety practices requiring that school buses stop at these types of crossings to ensure optimal safety for students.
This Act also makes additional changes to § 4163 in keeping with the grammar and style guidelines of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.
Senate Bill #62, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, This Act updates the minimum insurance coverage requirements for school transportation to reflect current industry standards.
Senate Bill #94, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Brian Bushweller, This Act requires the Department to develop a regulation for the identification of a “military-connected youth”. The Act further provides that this identification is not a public record, is protected by the federal Family Educational and Privacy Act and shall not be used for purposes of determining school achievement, growth or performance. The purpose of this identification is to ensure the necessary individuals at the school level are aware of any military connected youth for services and supports.
Senate Concurrent Resolution #29, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Bethany Hall-Long, This concurrent resolution establishes the Behavioral and Mental Health Task Force to examine mental health in the State of Delaware and make recommendations for the improvement of services and the mental healthcare system. *editor’s note: while this is not a direct education bill, many students would benefit from a better mental health care system in the state
Senate Concurrent Resolution #39, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Colin Bonini, This Concurrent Resolution forms a working group to make a recommendation as to whether or not the Budget Bill should continue to be treated as a simple majority Bill. *editor’s note: this working group will take a hard look at funding for charter schools, University of Delaware, and Delaware State University. Since they are considered corporations under state law, and corporations need a 3/4 majority vote for passage, and currently the budget bill only needs a majority vote, this group will examine this legal anomaly.
Senate Joint Resolution #2 w/Senate Amendment #1, passed 7/1, Sponsors: Senator David Sokola and Rep. Earl Jaques, The amount of testing required of our students and educators has grown significantly in recent years. While the General Assembly recognizes the need to administer assessments that provide valid and reliable data about how Delaware’s students are growing academically, it is also committed to maximizing time in the classroom for our educators to teach, and our students to learn.
The Department of Education is already coordinating an inventory of all assessments required at the state, district, and school level. This Joint Resolution requires the Department of Education to report the inventory results, and any assessments that districts or the state propose to eliminate, to the public and to the House and Senate Education Committees of the General Assembly. It also requires the Department to convene a group, consisting of members of the General Assembly and the public, to conduct an in-depth review of the inventory results and make recommendations for consolidation or elimination of assessments.
Senate Joint Resolution #4, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, While Delaware is deeply committed to preparing every child to reach his or her full potential and succeed in the new economy, the State will not be able to build a world-class education system for its children without modernizing the 70-year-old education funding system. This Joint Resolution establishes the Education Funding Improvement Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of Delaware’s public education funding system and make recommendations to modernize and strengthen the system. The Commission will include stakeholders from across the education system and will submit a report and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly no later than March 31, 2016.
House Bill #184, passed 6/30, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Heffernan, This bill establishes a mechanism for persons receiving special education services pursuant to an active Individual Education Plan until the age of 21 to receive license to drive.
House Joint Resolution #7, passed 6/30, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, Recognizing (1) that many of our educators are assuming greater levels of responsibility and demonstrating leadership in their classrooms and schools, (2) that our current educator compensation system does not reflect the work we value in our educators or provide them with a meaningful career pathway or ability to earn additional compensation for assuming additional responsibility, and (3) that we must retain and attract great educators to ensure that our students are prepared to compete in an increasingly global economy, this bill re-establishes the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation and Careers in addition to establishing two sub-committees: the Educator Work Group and the Technical Advisory Group. The Committee will continue its work in developing a plan for an alternative compensation structure and career pathway for educators aligned with the parameters set forth in Senate Bill No. 254, including providing educators with a meaningful career pathway, including higher starting salaries and recognition for working with high-needs students, and significant leadership opportunities for career advancement that keeps talented educators in the classroom. The Committee must submit updated recommendations to the Governor by March 31st, 2016 with sufficient detail for implementing legislation, and will continue to meet thereafter to issue subsequent recommendations for consideration.
I will be updating the page on this blog entitled “Education Bills in the 148th General Assembly” over the next week and as Markell makes decisions on these as well. I also intend to go through all the legislation that was passed over and is left in limbo until January 2016.