Live, From Delaware, It’s The Carney & Bunting Education Funding Tele-Town Hall

I will get the call at 7:45pm.

For those following, Mike Matthews is also going to live comment on his Facebook account.  I told him I was going to live blog.  He said to do it cause he won’t catch everything.  I told him that is okay because I can just screenshot everything he says.

It is 7:46pm and no call yet.  Mike Matthews hasn’t received one either.  A government function running late?  Say it isn’t so!

Out of ten people on Mike’s Facebook page, only one has gotten the call.  Just got the call!

Carney is on the line!  Thanking DASA and DSEA for getting the word out.  Vehicle he has been using since he was our lone Congressman.

Been travelling up and down the state and has participated in about a dozen town hall meetings.  Legislators helped to organize these.  Has heard from people we have a structural budget problem.  This should be a balanced solution.  People want us to run government more effectively and proficiently.  Thinks with “shared sacrifice” more people will chip in.

Most folks don’t want to see cuts in programs or tax increases. People want a balanced approach with shared sacrifice.

More kids with special needs.  Forced to deal with almost $400 million dollar shortfall.

Purpose of call is to talk about education cuts and way to bring this to General Assembly.  Thinks it will be $200 million in cuts and $200 million in new revenue.  Corporate franchise tax will give us some extra bling.

Cigarettes going up a $1.oo.

Education spending is flat.  Fund teacher units based on student growth, early childhood education, teacher step increases, professional development.  Education is $1.4 billion.  $1.2 billion goes to districts to pay for teacher salaries and other costs.  State pays about 60% of all education spending in our state.  Suggesting is an across the board cut of 1.5% and $22 million cut in educational sustainment fund.  Wants districts to cut $22 million.  When federal funds went away for math and reading specialists, state picked them up.  Doesn’t want to cut anything.  Need for Delaware to be more competitive in the long-term.

Talking about spending time at Red Clay school in 2nd grade class.  Skipped around on questions.  The moderator interrupted to hear my question.  My question surrounds tuition funding for special education.

Sandy from Newark was cut off.  Cindy from Dover asked if how long it could take the state to go from 19 school districts to 6 school districts and central supply ordering.  To cut down on everything.  Carney said the idea of district consolidation has been raised in the town halls.  He said you would have to look at actual cost saving as a result.  Was done in the 1960s down in Sussex County and in New Castle County under the desegregation order.  Difference in pay scales can result in a level-up effect.  Could be higher pay and larger cost to districts.  Looking at all expenses for state through state-wide committee.

Back to Sandy from Newark.  No Sandy.  Got my question (Wow).  Asked if they are going to look at tuition funding for special education students.  Said the numbers have grown as much as twice a regular student to eight times a regular student depending on challenges for student.  Making sure students meet that qualification is important.  Dr. Bunting got on.  If a student’s needs can’t be served in the district, tuition funding kicks in to make sure those funds are used for that child.  It is also used for gifted students in Sussex County.  There are specific allocations for those costs so they do look at them.

Carrie from Newark asked how budget cuts will affect related arts teachers.  Said a lot of the decisions will be made by local districts and school boards.  He would like to see administrative overhead cuts and not personnel cuts.  Said he would much rather see higher tax revenue than cuts.  $37 million in total cuts for education out of the total $200 million they are looking for.  More than he would prefer.

Mike from Middletown is asking about rainy day fund.  Carney said it is 5% and it is a one-time amount and if you built spending on it, it would be held inappropriated against that.  It is for downturn in middle of fiscal year.  Legislature can’t appropriate more than 98% of the budget.  Rainy day plus that 2% cushion would be against the law.  It is more for emergency situation.  Can’t use those funds from year to year.

Jerry from Cape Henlopen is on the line.  He is an ESL teacher.  Hasn’t received 2% increase in five years and has more students that don’t speak English.  Said he has no support.  They have higher special education funding but none for ESL students.  Very disappointed in Delaware with this.  Said he talked to teachers in Georgetown about their needs.  Wants more funds for these students.  Biggest problem we have is the difference in proficiency levels between lower advantaged students and those from higher income.  Wants ALL students to be able to read by 3rd grade.

Kurt from Dover asked about raising gas tax. Said we have the lowest gas in the area.  Everyone would pay equally.  Has heard this suggestion.  Said if we have two funds for budget and one is transportation trust fund.  Gas tax goes towards that.  Transportation should pay for itself.  Allows us to go to financial markets and get bonds.  Started under Governor Castle.  General Assembly refused to raise this under Governor Markell.  Said they are in good shape.   Secretary Cohen said doesn’t need a gas tax.  Deficit is in the General Fund.

Jennifer from Kent County asked about classroom sizes.  How can classroom ratios meet the needs of ALL our students.  He supports the lowest ratios the districts can provide based on their funding needs.  A lot of districts take waivers in K-3 for classroom ratios, allows 22 students to teacher.  They get these waivers to allow for other programs like art and music.  Budget would keep overall spending flat, would fund teachers, step increases, professional service days, discretionary funds like education sustainability funds.  In perfect world, would love to spend on positive things.

Cameron from Woodside.  Teacher at Poly-Tech High School.  Have the budget cuts proposed looked at how tech programs could be cut?  Looking at how student transportation funding works.  Doesn’t think is as cost-efficient as it could be.  Thinks we should consolidate in some way.  Said transportation for vo-techs is same proportionate to districts.  Asking districts to take on 5% more of those costs.

Andrea from Newark talked about school boards raising taxes without referendum.  Would what they are asking for be equal to what they are asking for in Colonial’s referendum?  Carney said $22 million is relatively small amount, would amount to $40-$50 increase.  Said we can pay for these services.  Said local district money that comes from property taxes is very low compared to New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  He said that is important cause people move here based on those low property taxes.  He said that doesn’t mean people willingly want more property taxes.  Said this keeps Delaware competitive.

Bob from Wilmington asked about raising property assessment values.  They haven’t been raised in 30-40 years.  Carney said he was on the property reassessment task force under former Governor Carper.  Property assessments are not current.  State law said if reassessment is done, districts are required to lower tax rates.  That can change through legislation.  Can’t be done in five months to put together budget proposal in March and then approved by June.  Thinks it is something we need to look at.

Dawn from Delmar asked about lowering number of days state employees work.  Right now she works 188 days.  Said she would be willing to work 185.  Carney said his budget director proposed lowering professional development days but he doesn’t want actual paycheck cuts.  Believes that is counter-productive.  Said half the cuts he is proposing would be recoverable from the districts through higher taxes.

Ashley from Kent County asked about after-school programs.  If those programs are cut such as 21st Century, what are the plans to keep kids off the street and keep them away from legal issues.  What do we do with those students?  Carney said he supports partnering with non-profit agencies like Boys & Girls Club.  Supports grant-in-aid funding for those types of programs.  Wants sustainable budget to cover those programs and to make sure disadvantaged background students get those needs.  Said 21st Century is federal program.  His approach to budget is to maintain programs and funding we have.

Laurie from Wilmington thanked Carney for listening to teachers.  Said we spend a lot on micro-management.  Race To The Top gave us a very irresponsible and expensive accountability system.  Said we need an overhaul of this system.  Carney said he asked Secretary Bunting to reorganize the Dept. of Education be more of a resource department as opposed to an accountability machine.  Administrative overhead costs are huge according to Carney across the state.  Said this can be done with district administrative overhead.

In a poll, 68% of callers support paying higher property taxes to support education, 32% said no.

Michelle from Dover is up next.  She asked if the solutions on the table are going to fix the structural problems.  She said another place to look at is our income taxes.  She said by raising income taxes a full 1% instead of 2/10th of a percent, it would raise $160 million dollars.  Surrounding states are about 3% higher in overall taxes.  Carney said PA and MD have sales tax.  He thinks Trump’s decline in taxes announced this week is a bad idea.  He said our tax bracket is low at $60,000.  Seven states have flat rates and no brackets, like PA.  He said one of the goals is to reduce the top marginal tax rates when our top rate was 19%.  Today it is at 6.6% and he is proposing it go up to 6.8%.  Wants to get rid of itemized deductions.  Said this benefits higher income households.  Said increasing the standardized deduction helps lower-income families.  Said it is a shared sacrifice.

Jill from Smyrna asked why step raises always occur for teachers.  He said they are contractual.  They could suspend those but it is a relationship between teachers and school districts.  He said there are other groups of employees that get steps as well, can’t recall what they were.  He said it is unusual to do due to contractual obligations.

Last question is from Devon from Wilmington.  I know that guy!  He asked about assurances that shared sacrifice won’t disproportionately affect disadvantaged students.  Carney said he thinks students will get what they need with his balanced approach.  He said the WEIC group has worked on these issues for a number of years.  He wants Bunting to take a hard look at this.  He does have a million in education opportunity grants in his proposed budget.  We still get federal Title I funding for these supports.

Governor Carney thanked everyone for being on the call.  5,000 people were on the call according to Carney.  Appreciates the dialogue we’ve had.  Encourage people to talk to their legislators about the revenue package.  To all the teachers, thank you for all the great work you do every day.  Thank you, and God Bless everyone.

With that, the Education Funding Tele-Town Hall is over.  Thanks for following along!

 

 

 

 

 

Carney & Bunting Tackle Education Funding But The Red Herring Fooling Everyone Lurks Around The Corner

Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will talk to educators, parents, and citizens tonight about education funding and the state budget tonight at 7:45pm.  To be included on the call, you had to sign up yesterday by 2pm.  I signed up on Tuesday.  I will be reporting live from the Town Hall.  What concerns me the most is not what Carney is saying.  It is what he isn’t talking about… Continue reading “Carney & Bunting Tackle Education Funding But The Red Herring Fooling Everyone Lurks Around The Corner”

The Rodel Teacher Council Policy Briefs & Why Delaware Teachers Need To Be VERY Concerned

I’ve heard from more than a few teachers in the past hour since I posted about the Rodel Teacher Council’s presentation to the State Board of Education.  Many were unaware of what this very small group of Delaware teachers have been up to and how it could impact the future of their profession.  I wanted to follow-up on that article with this set of “policy briefs” created by this teacher council.  What could happen is this corporate education reform hocus-pocus is all of a sudden written into Delaware state code without anyone the wiser.  This would be done by our General Assembly who Rodel has been making nicey-nice with in the past year.  I would strongly urge all the local teacher unions and the Delaware State Education Association to get on top of this as soon as humanly possible and find out what the hell some of the teachers in their districts are doing with all this in the name of Rodel.  I’ve been warning about these possibilities for a long time.  But it will take much more than me to stop this from becoming the new reality.

For months, I’ve heard Delaware Governor John Carney talk about “public and private partnerships”.  Funny how the Rodelians mention this very same thing in their policy briefs issued last November.  If you think for one second John Carney is not under Rodel’s thumb, think again!

I’ve written about “Social Impact Bonds” before.  Where companies come in and essentially make bets on student outcomes.  Now we see “Innovation Funding”, also known as crowdsourcing, where communities “invest” in schools so someone can make a whole lot of money.  As well, the state won’t have to pay for it.  But all that comes with a price.  The future generation of students who will be fully immersed in this nonsense will become nothing more than drones to the corporations as true local decision-making becomes a thing of the past.  Meanwhile, all the “smart” and “wealthy” kids will be attending private schools paid for, in part, by school vouchers.

The below documents were created last November but they are making their rounds with the decision-makers in Delaware education.  This is Paul Herdman’s ultimate vision folks.  Everything else has just been a sideshow compared to this.  They can come out with all the pretty and colorful presentations they want.  But as long as people keep swallowing their pills, this will continue.  It will never change until people demand our Department of Education, our legislators, and our schools stop adopting Rodel’s corporate greed-driven drivel.  And for the love of all that is holy, will education stakeholders who really should know better please get off the Vision Coalition?  All you are doing is prolonging the existence of Rodel.  DSEA, DASA, and DSBA need to inform all those who pay dues to them of every single aspect of these policies and let their members decide how to deal with this.  Decisions like this should not be brought forth by 22 Delaware teachers speaking for the entire teaching force in Delaware.

The Rodel Teacher Council Scares The Living Hell Out Of Me

Today, the Rodel Teacher Council gave a presentation to the Delaware State Board of Education with policy recommendations for their Personalized Learning Blueprint.  I’ve written about them before and actually received a bit of heat from a few of their membership.  These aren’t bad people or bad teachers.  I truly believe they have been brainwashed into the corporate education reform movement.  Some may not even realize it.  But what they came out with today for their State Board presentation literally frightens me and makes me wonder more than ever where public education is heading.  I have to wonder if the State Board of Education would ever allow those who are against this kind of thing to give a presention to them.

This presentation has all the education reform buzz words in it: Personalized Learning, Blended Learning, Competency-Based Education, Micro Credentials, Seat-Time, Social and Emotional Learning, Waivers, Assessment, and Standards.  To break it down, under these models the eventual goal is what is known as “stealth assessments”, the state assessment broken down in chunks at the end of each unit.  The student can’t move on until they “master” the material provided to them from their digital technology.  Predicting the future here, I imagine Delaware will eventually incorporate some kind of “digital badge” the student would get once they “master” the material (Colorado is at the forefront of this ridiculousness).  Meanwhile, all the data from this ed tech is going to vendors galore.  Personal and private data, every single keystroke.

So why are Delaware educators jumping on this bandwagon when it will eventually lead to the demise of the public school teacher?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Special standing, power, incentive for future mobility in their profession?  Perhaps they are blind to how their actions today will lead to the end of their professional world as we know it.  The fact that ANY Delaware school district teacher would get behind something with the Rodel name in it makes me suspect.  Very suspect.  The fact this council is going before the State Board of Education after they went to some legislators earlier this month makes me very worried.  Worried that legislation is coming that will allow this Rodel Vision of Educational Paradise.

Make no mistake.  This has been in the planning stages for years.  And it will get a huge push in states once Blockchain Technology really gets going.  And Delaware will be at the forefront of that initiative.  People read stuff like this from me and some say I am wearing a tin hat or engaging in conspiracy theory.  Let them.  They said the same thing when I said Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Committee was just a big distraction from opt out and would produce nothing worthwhile.  I said that before the legislation even passed which created that committee.

What is Governor Carney’s role in all this?  I don’t think he has an original thought on any of this.  I think his staff tells him what to do.  Many of those staff members are fully aligned with this Rodelian future and have been for quite a while.

To read what the Rodel Teacher Council (aka Rodel) wants policy-makers in Delaware to subscribe to, please read the document below.

Homeowners Set To Get Screwed With Governor Carney’s “Shared Sacrifice”

Yesterday, the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee (DEFAC) projected Delaware’s budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2018 to be $395 million dollars.  This is up ten million from the last time the committee met.  Tonight, the Christina Board of Education will discuss the impact on taxpayers.  Governor Carney is suggesting school boards raise what is known as the match tax (the portion the state matches certain funding) by having the district school boards levy the tax without a referendum.

Christina’s Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, created an impact budget for how this increase would hit taxpayers.  In the below example, a home that just sold for $224,000 would see their property taxes raised $46.50 with the match tax scenario.  Keep in mind, this is based on the property assessment value of $63,700, which is almost a quarter of the home’s actual value based on the sale price.

This is not the only sting homeowners, as well as all Delaware citizens, will feel starting July 1st.  State taxes, collected from paychecks, will go up for most.  State employees will see higher insurance rates.  Salary raises for state employees will most likely disappear.  Services will be cut.  It is all rather bleak.  Our General Assembly has utilized every single benefit to state funding, such as the proceeds from the tobacco lawsuit, without realizing those perks were eventually going to disappear.  State revenue does not match state expenses.  Companies, such as DuPont and soon Barclays, left Delaware for the most part, causing a severe lack of revenue and jobs.  Delaware has, and will continue to, spend more than it makes.

With the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, there was a request to raise property assessment values.  While Delaware’s assessment values are still far lower than most states, it also created an influx of senior citizens moving to The First State because of that.  But the ability of school boards to raise property taxes, already through the special education tuition tax and soon the match tax, could have a negative impact on the desire of the elderly to move to Delaware or even stay here.

Meanwhile, there has been no action on the Governor’s part to institute the basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  State Rep. Kim Williams introduced two bills in the last two General Assemblies to take care of this but neither bill has moved forward due to the state funding issues.  Oblivious to all the future costs by not having this essential funding in place, our state continues to bumble through special education with this very real omission to the foundation of special education students who are just beginning to manifest their disabilities.  The projected amount to fund what should have always been there is a little bit less than $13 million a year.  By not providing that funding, the state relies on the school districts or charter schools to pay for these services.  Either way, it has a negative effect.  If the school does provide those services, it results in more of a drain on local funding.  If the school doesn’t, they are not only breaking special education law if the child qualifies for an Individualized Education Program, but they are also looking at higher costs for that student in the future by not providing that foundation.  So that $13 million a year mushrooms to much higher costs for these students down the road.

Just this morning, State Rep. Earl Jaques announced a new bill on Facebook creating a fund in the Delaware Dept. of Education budget for an Educational Support Professional of the Year award.  Delaware has 16 school districts, 3 vocational districts, and over 20 charter schools.  This bill would allow each district (20, which includes one award for all the charters) to give their winner an extra $1000.00.  The overall winner would get $1,500.00.  While $21,500 in the DOE budget doesn’t amount to much, it is symptomatic of the mindset of far too many of our legislators.  Instead of finding solutions, too many of them find ways to spend even more money.  If our state was swimming in money, I would be okay with this bill.  But not now.

Delaware’s legislature is going to have their hands full when they return from Spring Break next Tuesday.  This budget deficit is not the result of a national recession like what we faced in 2009.  This is Delaware created.  We spent our way out of the recession and now we are paying the piper.  Governor Carney looks like a deer running towards headlights with his reactions to this ever-increasing budget deficit.  I predict he will have a very tough time getting re-elected in 2020 if this trend continues.

Governor Carney Is NOT Letting The Sunshine In!!!!

In February, Delaware Governor John Carney brought back the Family Services Cabinet Council through Executive Order #5.  Many in Delaware thought this was a good thing.  But apparently transparency took a backseat to this return.  The group met on Wednesday, April 5th, 2017 in a meeting that was closed to the public and press.  What is the point of this council if it is not able to be seen by the public?

I discovered this when I was looking at the Governor’s public schedule last week.  I also view the Delaware Public Meetings Calendar and did not see this on there.  I would have attended this meeting had it been made public but I never had the chance.

For a council that is responsible for recommendations for so many issues in Delaware, I am shocked they wouldn’t let the public in on it.  To that end, I emailed Governor Carney’s staff about this gross oversight on April 6th.  Over a week later and NO response.

This is the kind of crap I would expect from former Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  I truly hoped Governor Carney would be different.  But I am not seeing that marriage between the state and the public.  Especially with a council as important as this one.  So what are the areas this council covers that Carney doesn’t want the public to hear conversation about?

If this council isn’t open to the public will we ever see any minutes from their meetings?  Attendance?  Who else is invited?  What they are even doing?  I urge Governor Carney to answer these questions and make this council open to the public.  Delaware got an F for transparency and came in 49th out of 50 states in an evaluation of public transparency at the end of 2015.  That should have ended on January 17th, 2017, the day Governor Carney swore his oath of office and promised the citizens of Delaware he would listen to the people.  I expect more from you Governor Carney!

For those who have been following this blog the past few years, I have written many articles about the eventual goals of the corporate education reformers and this council seems to be moving things along in that direction.  Especially when it comes to strengthening the “public-private partnerships”.

The mission of the Council shall be to design and implement new service alternatives for school and community-based family-centered services, and otherwise act as a catalyst for public-private partnerships to reduce service fragmentation and make it easier for families to get supportive services.

In a nutshell, this is inviting non-profits into our schools.  While some may see this as a step in the right direction, I am hesitant to think this is the cure for what ails the youth of Delaware.  Every single time a company, whether it is for-profit or non-profit, comes into our schools, it is siphoning money away from students and into the more than welcoming hands of corporations.  With that comes bad education policy because the corporations only make money off education if there is something to fix.  The measurement of what needs to be “fixed” is the standardized test, currently the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  If there is one thing we have learned in Delaware it is the Smarter Balanced Assessment is very flawed and their consortium is extremely non-transparent and secretive.

Carney was also instrumental in getting the whole Blockchain thing going in Delaware.  If you want your children to morph into drones in the Common Core/personalized learning/digital tech/stealth testing/digital badge environment than please ignore this article.

As citizens of Delaware, we need to demand transparency from Governor Carney.  Please call the Governor’s office today.  The Dover office phone number is (302) 744-4101 and the Wilmington office phone number is (302) 577-3210.  Or you can email him here: Email Governor Carney

Education Funding Mismanagement In Delaware

The below picture portrays exactly what is wrong with education funding in Delaware.  There is no consistency or oversight with where existing funds are going.  As a result, we have a boiling cauldron of fraud, waste, and abuse.  It seems like anyone can get paid in education and it can be catalogued however a school wants.

In this picture, we see the former Head of School from Family Foundations Academy and East Side Academy doing what appears to be consulting work for three Delaware charter schools.  Given that the amounts are very similar, I can assume it was the same type of work.  All three schools put the payments under different categories: Educational Benefits-Chld, Consultants, and Other Professional Service.  All three schools used different funds for what I assume to be similar work: Special, General, and Federal.  All three schools belong to the same Wilmington Charter School Collaborative, which is an alternate teacher evaluation system.  This initiative came about through Lamont Browne.

Lamont Browne left Delaware last summer and moved to Colorado to work his “magic” in another corporate education reform state.  So how is it he is able to do all this work in Colorado and still get paid by the State of Delaware through various charter schools?  Does he have a finders fee for this teacher evaluation system?

Governor Carney wants to talk about all these education funding decisions but has completely ignored the elephant in the room: we don’t know where existing funding is going to, especially in our charter schools.  School districts pull the same kind of shenanigans (wait until you see the next major audit investigation report coming out of Tom Wagner’s office!) but they can be harder to find.

I did go ahead and submit this as a tip to Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office as I wrote this article.  In the vein of full transparency, I am including screen shots of my tip:

When I write about this kind of stuff, all too often charter school supporters start defending the schools and say I am picking on charter schools.  While this most likely isn’t a Sean Moore kind of deal, it is symptomatic of what is wrong with our education funding oversight in Delaware.  I’m not looking for the causes as much as I truly want a solution to these kind of problems.  I would love to stop writing about these matters.  So Governor Carney, I am throwing you the gauntlet one more time: are you ready to talk about this or do I need to keep writing?

Please Send The Letter To Governor Carney To Give Basic Special Education Funding To Students In Kindergarten to 3rd Grade

I can’t believe we have to beg for this.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams organized a letter-writing campaign for House Bill 12 which would provide basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  So far, 729 letters have been sent to Delaware Governor John Carney.  Williams’ goal is 1,000.  My goal?  10,000.

It is utterly ridiculous that these students do not get special education funding at the onset of their educational foundation.  All this obscene lack of funding does is set up failure.  This is the cardinal sin in education: failure equals more money for corporations to come in and “fix” education.  It also helps with future lawsuits and students getting behind the 8-ball from the very beginning.  It is stupid and immoral.  Yes, Delaware has a $385 million dollar deficit.  We get it Governor Carney.  But you need to make this happen.  We hear the talk about students becoming college and career ready.  How about making these students with disabilities elementary school ready?  I see all this money getting dumped into early childhood education, which I am sure is needed.  But you can’t pump them up and pull the football away when they get into elementary school.  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose for nearly 20% of Delaware students?

Thank you to all who have signed this letter which can be found here.  If you haven’t signed it yet, let’s make Governor Carney’s office very busy today!

Opt Out Wins Big In Delaware

After more than two years of the Delaware Dept. of Education holding an opt out penalty against Delaware schools, the moment of victory for advocates of opting out of the state standardized test came in a big way last night.  Not with a bang, but what appeared to be a conciliatory moment for the Delaware DOE.

At the final meeting of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee last evening, the group met for what appears to be the last time before the DOE submits their Consolidated State Plan to the United States Dept. of Education.  The DOE acknowledged they have no idea what to expect in regards to approval of their plan by the feds.  Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field Rogers stated they knew what to expect from the feds under the Obama Administration but under new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos they are in unchartered territory.

For advocates of opt out, an unexpected but meaningful change to the Delaware School Success Framework, the Delaware accountability system, signaled a clear shift in thinking from the Department.  Under the former framework, if a school went below 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other state assessments, an opt-out penalty would kick in.  Schools could have their final accountability rating lowered if the opt out penalty kicked in.

The opt out penalty saga began over two years ago, under former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  At that time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was raging through the Delaware legislature.  The bill would have codified a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly but the corporate education reform leaning Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill.  Shortly after, the Accountability Framework Working Group recommended not going ahead with the opt out penalty in the framework but were overturned by Markell and the new Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  When Delaware began working on the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the opt out penalty remained.  Even though advocates spoke out against it, many did not predict the Department would remove it.  But under Governor Carney and current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, there appears to be a change in thinking.

Field Rogers said the penalty is gone and they will be going with the recommendations from the AFWG, whereby a school must submit a letter to the Department on how they will work to get the participation rate back up to 95%.   She did mention that if they see the same schools with high opt out rates a few years in a row that they may seek “interventions” for those schools but nothing was specifically named.

To see the final Delaware ESSA plan, please see below.  There might be some tweaks here and there based on the final meeting last night, but for the most part, this is it.  I’ve heard quiet rumors concerning the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  We could see a change in that area but nothing official has been announced.  We shall see…

 

Carney’s Budget Reset Will Put The Hurt On School Districts, Charters And Citizens Of Delaware

Delaware Governor John Carney released his FY2018 Budget “Reset”.  He is calling for a ton of cuts across Delaware programs as well as increase revenue by increasing taxes.  The extremely wealthy won’t get the tax increases many have been calling for in this proposed budget.  But property owners will feel it.  Here comes the Delaware sink hole!

In education, the match tax will switch over to the local side, to be raised by school boards without a referendum.  Which is all well and good if you don’t own property.  But if you do, expect to pay more in school taxes.  As well, $15 million will be cut from district and charter operation budgets doled out by the state.  I don’t see the funding for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade but I see $4.7 million more for early childhood education.  We poured $18 million into that last year.  I don’t see any proposed cuts to the Department of Education even though Carney ran around during his campaign saying he was going to streamline the Department.  Carney is allowing for $25.1 million for new teachers and $1 million for his “opportunity grants”.  $22 million would be cut from the education sustainment fund (thus the district boards getting to get more school taxes without a referendum like they do with the tuition tax).

In the below document, we see absolutely nothing about marijuana revenue or an increase to the gax tax.  But smokers will be gouged another buck a pack.  The retirement age for additional personal credit will rise from 60 to 65 while all senior citizens will see their Senior Citizen Property Credit reduced by a hundred dollars.

I get that you have to make up for a $385 million dollar deficit by making cuts but it is important to know how we got there.  Former Governor Jack Markell came on board as the Great Recession of 2008 spread its wings.  After that, Markell just spent and spent and spent without really getting enough revenue to stick around in the state.  Our population grew as special education services grew at a much higher rate.  Something disability communities have been saying will happen for years.   I am not a big fan of this budget proposal.  Carney, like his predecessor, refuses to make the rich pay more.  I don’t see a lot of “shared sacrifice” going on here.  If it was truly shared, it would hurt everyone.  To someone making a million bucks a year, a nominal increase in taxes isn’t going to hurt them as much as it will to a family living off $30,000 a year.  Granted, this is assuming the General Assembly approves this and the budget deficit stays the same.  It could (and I predict it will) increase between now and June 30th.

I don’t envy Carney.  He inherited most of this from Markell.  But with all his “coffee klatches” as the folks over at Delaware Liberal call them, I would have expected something a lot more different than what Markell gave us back in January.  I’ve told Carney’s people exactly what he needs to do in terms of education funding.  The response from them?  Crickets.  They hear me out and then nothing.  Just because I haven’t written as much about district and charter funding shenanigans doesn’t mean it hasn’t been foremost in my mind.  I was counting on the new administration to do the right thing here.  Looks like I’m going to have to do this the hard way and start REALLY ticking people off.

Apples, Oranges, & The Myth Of Grading Schools: The True Goals Behind Bad Education Policy

Atnre Alleyne came out with a blog post this morning supporting a Governor Carney idea where Delaware rates schools with stars.  Of course he did!  I don’t care what you label them with: stars, letter grades, numbers, or rocket ships.  It all translates to a comparison between apples and oranges.  What I find most ironic about Alleyne’s post is how self-serving this is for him.  As the guy behind Delaware Can, any school labeling further perpetuates the myth that companies like that thrive on: label, shame, and punish.  Alleyne’s personal war against the Delaware State Education Association is filled with holes and misdemeanors!  I thought I would pick apart a few of his “facts” and “myths”.

The Fallacy of Surveys

Thousands of Delawareans responded to the Delaware Department of Education’s 2014 survey indicating they want school performance ratings.

When you come out with a survey that doesn’t even ask the question “Do you think Delaware should have school performance ratings?” and you continue that survey with questions about those ratings, I don’t think it is fair to say that means “thousands of Delawareans” wanted this.  The survey predetermined the school report cards was going to happen (as required by federal law) but that in no way to translates to the citizens of Delaware demanding this system.

Self-Serving Agendas

Recently a coalition of 24 community and business groups also sent the Department a letter with recommendations for the state’s ESSA plan that called for a “single summary rating for schools and districts…in order to ensure clarity for parents and community members.”

And who led that band of public education marauders, disguised as organizations wanting to help public education?  Who corralled and convinced these 24 mostly non-profits who would benefit from what Alleyne wants?  Who was also on the Governor’s Advisory Committee for the state ESSA plan and in a position to leverage his agenda?  Yes, none other than Atnre Alleyne.

The Rating-Label Scheme

MYTH: School ratings are more of the type of “testing, labeling, and punishing” we do not need in our schools.

Yes, they are.  Given that the weighting of these report cards is over 50% towards results from the Smarter Balanced Assessment so carefully masked as two different categories: growth and proficiency, it most certainly is a testing, labeling, and punishing apparatus.

Even The Feds Are Backing Away From Bad Education Policy

Today, federal law requires that we identify and “label” the bottom 5 percent of schools in our state. The school report cards to which the Department has committed renames those schools – from Priority and Focus schools to   Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) schools – and continues its support for these schools with access to more money and assistance. That’s not punishment. It’s being honest about where and how we need to help our schools.

A label is still a label even if you change the wording.  I love the word “Targeted” because that is exactly what this system does.  Jack Markell loved this and apparently Governor Carney does as well.  U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos seems to be backing away from a federal accountability system and leaving it up to the states.  Governor Markell embedded that system into Delaware and our whole education system is based on this.  Alleyne, who used to work for the Delaware Dept. of Education, is very familiar with this system and knows exactly what it is meant for.

The Growth In Our Education System Is Malignant

It’s also important to remember that growth measures, which take into account how much a student’s performance has grown over a school year, also benefits schools with higher performing students in ensuring they help their students grow, as well.

Okay, this is the part that absolutely kills me!  If a school has higher performing students, i.e., the average proficiency on SBAC is 3.87 out of 4, that does not leave much room for growth.  But the illusion of having a growth goal of students reaching a 3.9 proficiency is not out of the ballpark.  It is doable and can certainly happen.  Take a school with a high population of low-income and students with disabilities, where the average SBAC proficiency is 1.24 and the growth goal to proficiency is 2.0, the whole system changes.  The work needed to get to that score, with more challenging students with much higher needs, multiplies at an exponential rate.  The odds of that school reaching that goal are much lower than the “high-performing” school that only needs to go up a tiny bit to reach their growth goals.  It is comparing apples and oranges.

Judging The Haves and The Have-Nots And Voucherizing Students

MYTH: If you give schools a rating parents are just going to use that single rating to judge schools and ignore all the other information about a school’s performance.

This is an exercise in futility.  This is the difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.  The “haves” will utilize this system to find the “best” school for their child.  Many of the “have-nots”, who in many cases aren’t even aware a system like this even exists, will simply send their child to the local neighborhood school.  In the midst of this landscape we have the issue of school vouchers coming to the front burner.  So much so that the feds are willing to dump all this truly bad accountability crap out the window in favor of a voucher system that will make private schools the next big thing.  For reasons they aren’t saying, this will be the cushion for students from wealthier families for what happens next.  See more on this later.

How To Place Yourself In An Area Of “Importance”

Our goal, as advocates and policymakers, must be to equip parents and taxpayers with school quality information that is easy to understand, fair, and consistent.

Notice Alleyne uses the word “Our”, as if he is the man behind the curtain waving the magic wand that mesmerizes his audience into taking his every word as the Gospel truth.  For a guy that makes a living based on the very worst of corporate education reform Kool-Aid disguised as helping disadvantaged students, I encourage all Delawareans to take what he says with a grain of salt.  Having met Alleyne in person, he is a nice guy.  But his education policy and what he advocates for causes alarm bells to go off in my head.  I get why he does what he does, but he is just another victim of the bad education policy that is fighting for its last legs in the new era of Trumplandia.  I completely understand that he wants better education outcomes for minority students.  I do as well.  I also want that for students with disabilities and English Language learners.  It is the way Alleyne wants this that bothers me.  If society as a whole has not learned the valuable lesson that the continued use of high-stakes testing is just plain bad for public education, than folks like Alleyne will continue to spread their “myths” and “facts”.  I say opt out of not just the high-stakes testing but also opt out of false edu-speak that exists to sway parents of student populations and trapping them in a system where testing reigns supreme.

What’s Up With All The Teacher Union Hate?

If there is one consistent question I’ve been asked by parents who seek to understand this system of high-stakes tests it is this: if we don’t use these tests how do we measure how our schools are doing?  It’s a damn good question and I won’t pretend to have the answer.  I have always suggested that a student’s classroom grades are more of a true measure than these once a year test scores.  I don’t believe in students going on to the next grade if they aren’t ready.  That is when parents need to carefully watch their child’s progress.  It is not the end of the world if a student is held back.  We need to also trust our teachers that their years of preparation and continued training serve to benefit our child’s success in education.  If you have doubts about a teacher’s effectiveness than certainly question it.  I believe it is our sacred duty to do so.  But when we are given lie after lie about teachers from these education think tanks about how bad unions are and how they only want what is best for them, we have to recognize the truth: these companies do NOT want teacher unions to exist at all.  They don’t like the idea of teacher’s organizing on behalf of themselves because it takes away from their profit-making ventures.  The sad part is how so many parents actually believe these horrible lies about public education.  So when unions fight against these bad policies they are immediately painted as the villain in articles like the one Alleyne wrote today.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the teacher unions are perfect.  But I don’t think any organization, school, parent, student, or state agency is perfect.  But there is a clear difference between offense and defense.  I see corporate education reformers as a vicious marauder into areas where they have no business being in.  The predictable result is teacher unions going on the defense against these schemes and agendas.

Opt Out Is The Only Defense

The only way to fight a bad system is to ignore it.  This is why I have always defended a parent’s fundamental and God-given right to opt out of these silly little standardized tests.  I refuse to give them the clout these companies think they deserve.  I would rather hear the word of the teacher in the classroom who is on the ground floor watching the colossal waste of time these tests have.  They are expensive, take up true teaching time, take up school resources, kill libraries during testing time, and the results serve no true purpose.  If you haven’t opted your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year, please do so now.  Even if they are already in the middle of testing.  When many parents get the Delaware DOE suggested letter from the school about how opt out is illegal and the school can’t allow it, treat it as fire-starter material for a fire-pit in your backyard.  Just write a letter to your child’s school stating you are opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, hand it to the principal, and state there is to be no further discussion on the issue.  If they attempt to dissuade you, give a pleasant “thank you but no thank you” and stand firm on your decision.

What Is A Governor To Do Facing A $385 Million Dollar Deficit?

For Delaware Governor John Carney, he faces a crucial moment.  He has to make cuts in the state budget.  There won’t be easy choices, but one should be a no-brainer: get rid of the dead and expensive weight at the Delaware DOE and get rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Sever the ties between the Delaware DOE and these “non-profit” for-profit education companies.  If that means getting rid of DOE employees whose sole existence is to continue what amounts to lobbying off the backs of children, just do it!

The True Goal Behind Alleyne And The Rodel Foundation

These are the end goals behind all this:

  • Get rid of the teacher unions
  • Have students learn in a 100% digital learning environment
  • Create a competency-based education system which will prevent students with high needs from advancing more than ever before
  • Track the hell out of the data in this ed-tech wonderland and create what amounts to a caste system where the best students get the best jobs and the struggling students get the menial jobs
  • Do away with brick and mortar schools and have teachers become glorified online moderators
  • Send young children to 3rd party organizations to get their “personalized learning” with Teach For America and other fast-track educator prep “teachers” guiding students
  • Have older students logged into whatever Blockchain technology is coming our way where they “earn to learn” and companies profit from teenagers

Surf-And-Turf or Filet Mignon?

We see this in agendas like Delaware’s “Pathways to Prosperity” program.  I attended Governor Carney’s Inaugural ball.  All the food was prepared and served by students in the culinary program.  The food was awesome.  But did any of those students who prepared this food get paid for their servitude?  I highly doubt it.  I have no doubt they received some type of education credit for their service while the State of Delaware says “thanks for the cheap labor”.  Or what about these “coding schools” where students pay thousands of dollars to train themselves on coding while at the same time doing work for very big companies through the training material?  Our students are nothing more than fodder for corporations.  They are the true victims in this new world and are being used by those whose biggest concern is if they should get the surf-and-turf or just the filet mignon at their next country club dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

High Noon For The Delaware State Board of Education On Tuesday

We can do it better ourselves but we won’t tell them that.

The Delaware State Board of Education could be shut down as of Tuesday.  They face the Delaware Joint Legislative Overview and Sunset Committee.  The State Board was put under review by the committee last year after some very rough years under former Governor Jack Markell.  Many of the complaints circulate around their Executive Director, Donna Johnson.  As well, many citizens and education organizations in the state feel the State Board has outlived their usefulness and just seem to perpetuate agendas brought forth by corporate education reform organizations such as the Rodel Foundation of Delaware and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  I wrote about their last meeting with the committee over a month ago.  But I was able to be the sole attendee at a meeting yesterday where the State Board discussed their final meeting with the Sunset Committee and boy was it a doozy! Continue reading “High Noon For The Delaware State Board of Education On Tuesday”

Governor Carney Brings Family Services Cabinet Council Back To Delaware

On Tuesday, Delaware Governor John Carney signed Executive Order #5.  This order reestablishes the Family Services Cabinet Council.  From the press release:

Governor Carney Reestablishes the Family Services Cabinet Council

Date Posted: Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney signed Executive Order Five on Tuesday, reestablishing the Family Services Cabinet Council to help coordinate public and private services for Delaware families.

Delaware families continue to face significant challenges – including the high cost of child care; violence and poverty in their neighborhoods; the impact of caring for an aging family member; and the challenges of navigating an economy in transition. The Family Services Cabinet Council will be charged with coordinating public and private services that are often fragmented, and proposing changes to current programs to make the delivery of state services more effective.

Governor Carney will serve as chair of the Council.

Reestablishment of the Council, which was first established under Governor Tom Carper, was an action called for by Governor Carney’s Transition Team in their Action Plan for Delaware. The Council also will work closely with the Government Efficiency and Accountability Review Board (GEAR), which Governor Carney created this month to identify cost savings and efficiencies in state government, and to more effectively operate state programs and services.

“Our challenge is to determine whether the programs and services we offer are effective in moving families out of poverty, improving our system of education and creating opportunities for all Delaware families to succeed,” said Governor Carney. “That requires all of us – government agencies, nonprofits and private business – to work together. That also requires that we measure our progress. The reestablishment of the Family Services Cabinet Council will help us do just that, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of Delaware families.”

The Council will be tasked with implementing innovative tools and strategies for addressing a series of specific issues, including: breaking the school-to-prison pipeline; improving access to early childhood education; increasing the availability of affordable housing; improving access to substance abuse treatment; reducing recidivism in Delaware’s correctional system; expanding job training opportunities; and reducing violence in Delaware’s neighborhoods.

The Council will include eight members of Governor Carney’s Cabinet – the Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families; the Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services; the Secretary of the Department of Education; the Secretary of the Department of Labor; the Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security; the Director of the Delaware State Housing Authority; the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; and the Commissioner of the Department of Correction.

“It is our duty to ensure that our children and our families have the necessary tools to be healthy, prosperous, and safe,” said Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long. “The reestablishment of this Council will break down silos in state government and allow for a more collaborative and coordinated approach to address some of the most critical issues we face, so that every Delawarean has a fair shot.”

 

Video of “John Carney Comes To WEIC”

Instead of taking copious amounts of notes at the 2 hour Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meeting tonight, I decided to record it for video.  Please keep in mind I am an amateur with this stuff.  My laptop battery was about to run out half way through so I had to move my laptop away from the crowd to keep recording.  All of the Governor Carney visit is visible and most of the Secretary of Education Bunting visit is as well.  Once again, I apologize for the quality!

Governor Carney & Secretary Bunting Will Be At Big WEIC Meeting Next Week

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission will hold their next meeting on Tuesday, February 28th.  On the agenda is an appearance by none other than Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting.  This will be interesting!

weicagenda22817

This week, Carney gutted a proposed weighted funding formula for the FY2018 state budget stating there is no money for it.  WEIC doesn’t work at all if the money isn’t in that budget either.  The state is facing a $350-$400 million dollar budget deficit.  In November, WEIC Chair Tony Allen publicly announced that if WEIC doesn’t go through he can foresee some type of legal action against the State of Delaware.  Interestingly enough, WEIC member Meredith Griffin filed today to run for the Christina School District Board of Education for the election in May.  That sets up that election for a four-person race with still another week to file for potential candidates.  This week, issues of race and due process came up in Red Clay stemming from an incident at a basketball game between A.I. DuPont High School and Delaware Military Academy.  Carney and Bunting are getting an hour to talk.  That is actually a long time.  I can’t say if I’ve ever heard Carney talk about education that long.  I don’t know if all of these issues will come up at the meeting, but this meeting comes at a very interesting time.  This will also be a big moment for Secretary Bunting as she is new in office and will be tasked with restricting the Delaware Dept. of Education.

WEIC and it’s earlier incarnation, WEAC, have been around for two and a half years.  Eventually, WEIC presented a plan to send Christina Wilmington students to Red Clay along with several other initiatives throughout the state to improve education for high-needs students.  After a long and drawn-out battle with the State Board of Education, WEIC’s plan turned into legislation.  That legislation failed to pass in the Delaware Senate.  New legislation extended the planning period for another year.  But with this year’s budget deficit looking dismal, will WEIC get the bypass again?  If it does, what will folks like Tony Allen and Jea Street’s next move be?

This could be a crowded meeting.  Get there early.  And what is up with five minutes of public comment?  They may want to stretch that out!

Get The Balance Right #TeamMarino

Tomorrow is the biggest day in Delaware history since Washington crossed the Delaware!  Not really, and that crossing was between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  But voters in the 10th Senate District will choose their new Senator: John Marino or Stephanie Hansen.  I am really hoping they do the logical and sensible thing.  First off, they need to get out and vote.  Second, they need to vote for John Marino.

I won’t even play Pacman with all the crazy spending going on in this election.  Both sides have spent gobs of cash on this election.  The Dems are fighting for their triumvirate of state government control while the GOP is hoping for a slice of the pie.  Caught in the crossfire are the actual candidates, Marino and Hansen.  It comes down to choice, pure and simple.  But this is NOT just a vote for John Marino, it is also a vote for Delaware.  Eight long Markellian years have brought our economy down, our education to a standstill, and disenfranchised citizens up and down the state.  Dem control led to Governor John Carney telling people in a virtual town hall the other night that we don’t have money to help low-income schools.  We have a $350-$400 million deficit heading into the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.  That’s nearly 10% of our budget.  Can you afford a 10% reduction in your paycheck?  I know I can’t.  Delaware can’t either.

When one party has control, the other side doesn’t really matter.  Majority rules, so they say.  This gives us bad legislation and slush funds inserted into the state budget.  This gives our schools less while they pay more.  The Dems should be nervous.  They realize their reign of power is coming to an end.  They will use fear mongering about Right To Work as an excuse to vote for Hansen.  God forbid we actually get compromise in Delaware!  God forbid the two parties are forced to work together for the betterment of the state.  Please, let’s keep one party in control so my quality of life suffers.  One party control does NOT work.  We are seeing this more than ever with our federal government.  I am not a one party guy, but as Senator Brian Pettyjohn stated in a letter to the editor in the Delaware State News, it is about balance.  We need to get the balance right.  So tomorrow, if you live in the 10th, vote for John Marino.  He’s a good guy who will stick by his principles no matter what.  Don’t lump him in with all the rhetoric coming from the Hansen side.

For the first time in nearly a decade, a select group of people in the state can determine the future of Delaware.  Will they choose the status quo which has put us in the very precarious situation we are in now, or will they vote for change and compromise and a shot at a better tomorrow for all and not the few?  Delaware teachers: what has one-party control brought you?  Delaware parents: do you like all the aggressive testing in our schools?  Delaware citizens: Has the massive loss of businesses in our state helped you or your property values?  If I lived in the 10th, I would vote for Marino.  But I don’t.  I can only endorse him.  Again and again if need be.  Delaware without one-party control can be a frightening thought.  It is unknown what could happen.   Our unions will shrivel up and die.  That’s what the Dems campaigning for Hansen would have you believe.  But what is very known is what one-party control has wrought, and it is not good.  Get the balance right.

Delaware State Board of Education’s Wild Sunset Review & They Are Still Missing A Member

The State Board does not hear or receive official complaints.

As the Delaware State Board of Education goes through their sunset review with the Delaware Sunset Committee, it has become more clear than ever this is a state agency in need of massive change.

After board member Jorge Melendez resigned last fall, the Delaware State Board of Education still has six members on their seven seat roster.  Three weeks into Governor Carney’s four-year term, there has been no nomination for Melendez’ replacement.

My concern is what happens if the State Board of Education votes on an action item which results in a tie vote.  Who breaks that stalemate?  How long will Carney wait to choose a replacement?  As well, the Governor has the authority to replace the existing State Board of Education President with Senate confirmation.  Will Carney do this which has been a typical thing in the past?

At present, the Delaware State Board of Education is under Joint Sunset Review by Delaware legislators.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board, submitted a very lengthy questionnaire to the committee last October.  Johnson provided an extensive and very thorough history of the State Board of Education which included items I had no clue about.  Included in the document is a list of Delaware Attorney General opinions that affect the agency.  There have been 21 such opinions dating back to 1996 with an average of one per year.  Eight Executive Orders, all issued for former Delaware Governor Jack Markell, had an impact on the State Board as well.  There is one section that talks about bringing the former Delaware Teacher of the Year on the board as a non-voting member.  Donna Johnson’s role was changed in 2010 from Policy Analyst to Executive Director.  Aside from her, the only other staff is an administrative assistant through the Delaware Dept. of Education (awesome lady by the way, Dani Moore).  Donna Johnson’s performance review is also included in the below document, but there is no indication of who approved this review aside from the State Board of Education in 2015.  I do not recall seeing this performance review on a State Board of Education agenda, but that may not be required under Delaware code or perhaps I missed it.  The most shocking part of this document exists towards the end.  The State Board of Education does not receive or recognize complaints about their own agency.  Perhaps this is why they are often perceived as a state agency that acts with an air of impunity and infallibility.  I believe that needs to change.

 

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

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

senateexeccomm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

It’s Baaaaaaack… Opt Out Redux! Kowalko Files New Opt Out Legislation In Delaware

On Thursday, we will see new opt out legislation from State Rep. John Kowalko.  It will be very similar to House Bill 50 but it will have a different number.  I thought they would retire that number after the last go-around with opt out.  Will House Bill #60something have a shot with Markell gone if the General Assembly passes it?  Would Governor Carney sign it?  Are parents still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  It doesn’t begin again until March so if parents are thinking about it, we won’t hear much noise until February.  I still fervently support opt out as a parental choice and feel there should be legislation to codify that right.  I already have a few ideas for a potential amendment but I’m holding that one very close to see how the response to the bill goes.

I will support this bill in its entirety.  I will write about it and campaign for its passage.  I don’t know if I will be as heavily involved in it as I was two years ago.  But most of the legwork has already happened.  House Bill 50 brought opt out into daily language in the First State.  Markell fighting it most likely caused opt out numbers to increase.  Some have (I believe correctly) surmised that ed reformers wanted opt out at some levels.  Plans have been afoot to create stealth tests in a personalized learning environment.  These would most likely be in the form of end-of-unit tests but it would still be the state assessment, just taken throughout the year.  That could be a tough nut to crack.  But all nuts have some crackability.  You just have to find the right tool.

Only One More Day To Vote In DSEA Election For President and Vice-President

The voting for the Delaware State Education Association leadership officially ends tomorrow, January 23rd.  All ballots must be in as per the DSEA election website.  Initial results will be shared with the Executive Director and Business Manager of DSEA on Thursday, and preliminary results will be announced on January 27th.  If there is a challenge based on the preliminary results, that would have to be in by February 3rd.  At the DSEA Executive Board meeting on February 16th, the results will be officially ratified.

There are four races for the President slot and two for the Vice-President.  For President, there is Karen Crouse, Mike Matthews, Danny Rufo, and Dom Zaffora.  For Vice-President, there is Jackie Kook and Stephanie Ingraham.  Two are running on a “ticket” per se, but that ticket could be divided pending the results.  Those “tickets” are Matthews/Kook and Crouse/Ingraham.

What is at stake with this election?  The teacher’s union in Delaware would have a lot to contend with in the coming years.  The three-year terms would usher in the new Every Student Succeeds Act in Delaware along with mounting budget issues that will almost assuredly result in education cuts along the way.  Add on the new Carney administration and a promise from Governor John Carney to make the Delaware Department of Education less of an accountability factory and more of a resource center for districts and charters.  However, much of that will depend on the final approved ESSA state plan.  Even though ESSA was meant to eliminate a lot of the federal oversight, accountability regulations won’t change things that much.  And if history is an indicator, the Delaware DOE loves accountability.  The role of teacher evaluations will always be a major issue with DSEA.  Other potential factors affecting them, depending on the state budget, could be the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan or the possibility of consolidating districts around the state becoming more than a discussion point.