Kowalko Gives Markell The Knockout Punch Over NY Times Op/Ed Piece

Former Delaware Governor Jack Markell wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times this week called “Let’s Stop Government Giveaways To Corporations”.  In it, he urged states not to get sucked into giving away the farm for huge corporations.  Something, even Markell noted, he did himself during his tenure as Delaware Governor from 2009-2017.  I found the irony behind Markell’s piece astounding as I felt he sold Delaware public education students down the river with his insane Race To The Top and Common Core antics.  State Rep. John Kowalko takes it a step further n an open letter to Markell.  Some of Markell’s many corporate giveaways in Delaware still haunt us to this day.

AN OPEN LETTER TO FORMER GOVERNOR MARKELL

Dear Jack,

I’ve just finished reading your N.Y. Times op-ed and I feel it’s my obligation to Delaware’s taxpayers to respond. I’d like to think that your most recent missive has merely added to my disappointment in you but I think I’ve already passed the minimum expectations level in regard to your performance and legacy. I will try to be objective in my analysis and critique.

First, I find it unbecoming for you to use “revisionist history” as a crutch to support your crippling economic decisions. That pejorative explanation has become the trademark of Trumpism and the Republican Conservative ideologues and should be an embarrassing reference for any legitimate public servant who wears a “D” after his title. I’d suggest that you cease evading responsibilities, casting blame and rewriting reality or remove that “D”.

Your statement that “I was as guilty as any elected official at playing this game” fails to adequately express the reality that you were much more “guilty” then other Delaware elected officials. You blithely dismiss the seriousness of this ongoing “economic/corporate welfare” threat by writing “And I don’t blame public officials, either, for their efforts to attract businesses with enticements, since they otherwise would risk losing out on new jobs, the transfer of old ones elsewhere and the bad publicity that could come with abandoning efforts to entice or retain companies”. That attitude and admission would be better relegated to a confessional for your personal “mea culpa” and forgiveness ask.

In your article some of the revisions you make to your economic tenure as Governor are merely omissions, others are misrepresentative of reality and others seem to be deliberate distortions. So I will attempt to briefly summarize what you’ve conveniently forgotten. During your 8 years as Chief Executive your DEDO/Strategic Fund doled out over $250 million (in grants and subsidies) in taxpayer money. Approximately 37% of the recipients were huge fortune 400 companies. This number does not include the more than $80 million in lost corporate revenue from your hastily contrived “Delaware Competes Act” (House Bill 235 quickly ushered through the Delaware General Assembly during the first few weeks of 2016 session) along with the “Commitment to Innovation Act” (SB 200). You mention the failed Fisker debacle but choose to ignore/deny your other expensive yet failed economic enterprise the “Bloom” subsidy. Not only has the cash grant/subsidy failed to produce the promised jobs but you’ve ensured that 300,000 individual and commercial Delmarva ratepayers would be burdened with an additional 20 years of subsidies to a private speculator/entrepreneur at a cost of $12-$15 million per year. Your remarkably optimistic speculation that the two of three Dow/DuPont spinoffs was a victory belies the reality that a preponderance of the research jobs are gone and Delaware is left with a comparative handful of jobs at the two headquarters. This type of Pyrrhic victory should not be heralded as the sign of an economic boon to Delaware. You also failed to mention the layoffs of 1700 (six-figure) DuPont researchers especially in light of your Secretary of Finance Tom Cook’s testimony on the House floor in response to my query that those jobs are gone and not coming back despite the Competes/Innovates corporate tax cuts and the 13 million cash giveaways that Ed Breen publicly said would not affect DuPont’s plans for job cuts. To paraphrase Mr. Breen’s remarks in the News Journal article “that money won’t make a difference in our plans but I’m not going to turn it down”. And lest we forget Jack, $10 million to JP Morgan (declared $24 billion in profit the year before), $2.5 million to Sallie Mae ($71 million profit 2nd qtr. 2017), $70 million infrastructure improvements to the Astra Zeneca campus (dramatically improving the value of their property now being sold) housing an ever dwindling workforce.

I do agree with your sentiments expressed as such but it would be better for taxpayers if these kinds of cash incentives could be invested instead in such things as schools and infrastructure”. Maybe that will happen under your successor’s tutelage via the newly minted taxpayer giveaway mechanism named the “Delaware Prosperity Partnership”. Perhaps that corporate dominated cabal will accept applications for funding to restore the $27 million in cuts to education you made in 2009 that have continued to date (under the guise of flexible spending block grants) or the additional $31 million in cuts to public education in this year’s budget or maybe some of those poor and elderly former pharmaceutical assistance recipients could make their anguished cries heard.

Wow! Kowalko nailed it!  Jack Markell, you had your time as leader of Delaware.  I know you like to pontificate over your imagined “success” as Delaware Governor but far too many of us see past your hypocrisy.  And for the most recent news on the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the following happened this week with that:

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Friday announced that John Riley, a former state Director of Business Development, will serve as interim CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership – the newly-established public-private partnership that will lead the state’s economic development efforts.

In the position, Riley will help launch operations, develop a strategic plan for the new nonprofit, and conduct a search for a permanent chief executive.

“John is well-known and respected across our state, and has significant experience in economic development,” said Governor Carney, who will serve as co-chair of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board. “I’m pleased he has agreed to help us launch the partnership. We are committed to changing the way we do business, fostering innovation, and growing our economy. I’m confident John will help position the partnership to succeed.”

“Establishment of this entity was a critical step to enhance the state’s ability to attract, grow and retain companies; to build a stronger entrepreneurial culture and to support private employers in identifying, recruiting and developing talent,” said Rod Ward, President of CSC and co-chair of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board. “As Interim CEO, John will work with the board on the recruitment of a permanent CEO and development of a strategic plan for Delaware.”

“Thank you to Governor Carney and the entire board of the partnership for this opportunity,” said John Riley. “Delaware has great assets – a talented workforce, a strategic location along I-95, responsive leadership, and great communities up and down our state. I look forward to doing everything I can to attract investment and additional good-paying jobs to our state, and setting up this new partnership to succeed in helping grow our economy.”

Riley served as Director of Business Development under then-Governor Thomas R. Carper. He retired from Ashland where he was Director of Government Relations and previously served as Director of Public Affairs for Hercules Incorporated. Riley has continued to be active in economic development and assisted Governor Jack Markell’s Administration with Delaware’s strategy in responding to the DuPont-Dow merger.

Members of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board approved the hiring of Riley at an organizational meeting this week.

Governor Carney, who took office in January, has made it a top priority to restructure Delaware’s economic development efforts, and strategically partnering with the private sector on economic growth was a key recommendation of the Governor’s Action Plan for Delaware. Last month, Governor Carney signed House Bill 226, creating the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and a new division within the Department of State to support small business growth.

The Delaware Prosperity Partnership will be run day-to-day by the chief executive officer and a full-time staff. The nonprofit will lead business marketing efforts for the state, with a focus on attracting early-stage and technology-focused businesses, recruitment of large employers, and expansion of international business opportunities for Delaware companies. Its leaders also will work with employers and Delaware educators to fill key talent gaps in the state. The state will jointly fund the partnership’s operations with private business.

 

State Rep. John Kowalko Weighs In On Delaware Taxpayer Money Getting Flushed Down The Toilet

In my article on our Non-Transparent Delaware, State Rep. John Kowalko left a comment that deserved its own post.

As regards the “Commitment (of taxpayer money) To Innovation Act” please read the following:

I certainly have not and will not support any of these corporate tax welfare bills. DuPont/Dow moved the majority of research and other jobs in the agricultural spinoff to Iowa and Delaware taxpayers are left with some extremely costly crumbs (headquarters only) in Wilmington. Let me point out to all that there was and will continue to be opposition to this ravaging of the taxpayers’ wallet and I certainly will do my best to expose my colleagues to the illegitimacy of such policies that offer no return on investment for Delaware taxpayers.

My point is that making a product (Oreos for instance), moving 600 jobs from Chicago to Mexico across the border for dirt cheap wages and rueful working conditions benefits only those multi-billion dollar corporations and their CEOs (see DuPont/Dow $80 million bonuses) while idling thousands of American workers who no longer have spendable income to support the consumer spending that is needed for local businesses to survive. Ross Perot was right about that sucking sound. For example: DuPont $200 million factory built in China (recently opened) employing thousands of Chinese workers manufacturing solar panels for sale back here, or Johnson Controls recently constructed and opened battery manufacturing facility ($150 million) in China for distribution from the Delaware distribution center in Middletown that taxpayers invested millions in infrastructural and road improvements. For example DuPont spinoff headquarters staying in Wilmington while a significant majority of the actual jobs of the agricultural research branch goes to Iowa leaving Delaware with 1700 layoffs of well-paid positions and only a potential for job growth with a price tag of $16 million for Delaware taxpayers. The list goes on and on.

The “Corporate Welfare” policies of this Administration have cost the Delaware taxpayers $250 million during Governor Markell’s term. This irresponsible wasting of the taxpayer dollars has resulted in no discernible return on investment and has stopped absolutely no job losses from these wealthy corporations. Further compounding this administration’s erroneous economic missteps is the recent policy that was passed, despite my and Representative Williams objections, labelled the Delaware Competes Act. This corporate giveaway will cost over $48 million in lost revenue to Delaware with absolutely no appreciable effect to retain or grow jobs. Now the Administration has filed more legislation branded as “The Commitment to Innovation Act” that will further erode necessary revenue that provides basic, necessary services to Delawareans. Neither of these misguided economic policies will reinforce local business growth or stability and will leave a gaping hole in Delaware’s budget that this Administration will attempt to fill on the backs of state employees, seniors and the poorer families in Delaware.

Adding to the insult of these types of corporate giveaways is the actual statistical proof that these types of bribes and irresponsible economic policies have been marked by failure after failure at an unaffordable expense. Read the linked article and please note that $22 million went to JPMorgan which profited to the tune of $24.5 billion last year with “promises” of job growth that would inevitably have occurred without this taxpayer outlay. Note also the proposed $14.16 million to DuPont which totally dismisses the fact that there has been 1700 well-paid jobs recently and irretrievably cut by DuPont in Delaware. And the bulk of its future jobs with the newly created agricultural spinoff (Pioneer) will be lost to Iowa. Consider the $11 million gift to Incyte Corp. with the promise of creating 130 jobs in the future on the heels of the announcement by Incyte that they were laying off 137 Delawareans. The Fisker and Bloom debacles speak for themselves as monuments to irrational and irresponsible wastes of taxpayer dollars. One tenth of that $250 million diverted to supporting locally based businesses for job growth, infrastructural investments and production improvements via tax credits and subsidies would ensure a healthy and robust growth in our local communities and not end up in the pockets of corporate profiteers. Call your legislators and demand that they resist this callous and flawed attempt to redistribute and divert revenues from Delaware families into the coffers of wealthy corporations.

Non-Transparent Delaware

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

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

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

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>

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

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

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

Subject: The Chip Flowers FOIA Legal Opinion

Good morning Danielle,

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

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

Here is the link to the FOIAs: 

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

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

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

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

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

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

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

State Rep. Joe Miro : Doesn’t Care About Parental Rights But Loves Big Business

Do you trust Secretary Godowsky?

This question was posed to me yesterday after the Delaware House of Representatives voted down the suspension of rules on the veto override of House Bill 50.  Asked by State Rep. Joe Miro, I immediately responded: “I’m sure he’s a nice person, but it doesn’t matter who holds that title.  Santa Claus could be the Secretary of Education, but they would still be a puppet to Governor Markell.”

Miro

The latest trumpeter to actually think they were instrumental in Mark Murphy’s “resignation” is Miro.  His warped belief that most legislators voted in favor of House Bill 50 last spring as a protest of Mark Murphy is filled with delusions of grandeur.  If he is correct, than I would like the names of all those legislators who voted yes for a bill supporting student and parent rights.  Put your money where your mouth is Joe…

Meanwhile, the Delaware House Republicans issued their latest weekly newsletter with some very interesting thoughts in here, which I will be redlining in the Transparent Christina tradition.

Veto Stands on Opt-Out Bill, but Issue Moves Forward 
with New Proposals

An effort to override Gov. Jack Markell’s veto of a bill that sought to codify parents’ right to remove their children from academic assessment testing failed in the House of Representatives Thursday.

Because of cowards like Bolden, Brady, Briggs-King, Carson, Dukes, Gray, Heffernan, Hudson, Jaques, J. Johnson, Q. Johnson, Kenton, Longhurst, Miro, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Outten, Peterman, Potter, D. Short, Smith, Smyk, Viola, Wilson, Yearick, and Schwartzkopf.  And Ramone, can’t forget the cowardly not voting.

Last July, the governor vetoed House Bill 50, as amended.  The measure sought to allow parents and guardians to opt their children out of the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment and any district-level assessment.

Did you people even read the bill?  “Sought to allow” is a complete lie and you know it.  In the previous paragraph you used the word “codify“.  It can’t be both.  This intentional misuse of the wording in the bill serves to demean parents even more than most of you did yesterday, with the exception of three who truly knew better than the rest of you.  Or did they?  More on that later.

In vetoing the bill, the governor said the legislation would weaken “the only objective tool we have to understand whether our children are learning and our schools are improving.”

The only “tool” I see is the one talking in that last sentence.

Opponents of the bill, including the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, also noted the legislation could have resulted in the potential loss of millions of dollars of federal education funding if enough children refused to take the test.

Yes, let’s quote the Chamber of Commerce but absolutely no parents.  It shows where the House Republicans loyalties lie.  Can’t wait to see the campaign donor lists for ALL of you in the next eight months…

Teachers’ and parents’ groups had supported the bill citing classroom time lost to testing; increased stress on students and teachers; and questions about its usefulness in helping educators identify and address students’ needs.

And yet absolutely nothing about the bullying, intimidation, and pressure put on parents about this test, and the repercussions inflicted on students and parents.  That must not have been discussed at all.  Maybe if any of you bothered to go to the rally yesterday to hear parents speak instead of trying to get your crappy legislation going you would have realized the difference between reality and fantasy.

As promised last week, House Bill 50’s prime sponsor, State Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, attempted to override the veto.  The two-step process first required a vote on a motion to bring the bill to the House floor.  That would have been followed by the override vote.

But you were too weak to allow that to happen.  So you used the cowards way out, even though many of you did the complete opposite three hours later over a corporate tax bill.  Guess that worked out well for you… paging big business!

Despite the bill getting overwhelming support last year, few legislators appeared to relish the prospect of a veto override attempt and its potential for damaging relations between the executive and legislative branches.  The motion to suspend rules failed on a vote of 13 to 26, with one absent and one not voting.

Here is where you start to lose it.  Because all who voted no didn’t think about their constituents at all, only how it made YOU look to the Governor.  Pathetic.  But not as bad as what comes next…

State Rep. Joe Miro, R-Pike Creek, said many lawmakers initially voted for House Bill 50 last year as a means of expressing their displeasure with then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  Sec. Murphy announced his resignation in August and was replaced last fall.

So you won’t override a veto of a bill YOU passed in your supposed effort to make Mark Murphy look bad, which in a very real sense, would cause “potential damaging relations between the executive and legislative branches”, but then you won’t vote on the override of the veto of that bill cause you don’t want to tick off Jack Markell?  Are you out of your mind Miro?  You sound like a complete hypocrite.  What color is the sky in your world?

Still, many of the factors that inspired the bill remained and lawmakers moved quickly on Thursday to introduce new legislation to address those issues: House Resolution 22 and House Bill 243.

But in your infinite wisdom none of you thought about actually sitting down with Rep. Kowalko or Senator Lawson (a member of your own party mind you) a year ago to discuss those issues?  Instead you wait until the day of a veto override to be Superman to Lex Luthor (I knew Markell reminded me of someone)?  We know what your efforts entailed, but you have more to say on it, so I will comment then.

The former measure calls for the new Secretary of Education to propose legislative options for implementing a uniform process for notifying parents of their existing right to opt their children out of testing and a standard procedure for accomplishing it.  The resolution also makes clear any such option would prohibit education officials from penalizing any student opting-out.

The two key words in this paragraph are “calls” and “option“.  I think most parents know of their “existing right to opt their children out of testing“.  So if House Bill 50 was accused of “allowing parents to opt-out“, what the hell does your Resolution say?  We are going to make sure they know and we will even mail it to them.  And once again, a resolution is not enforceable which is why you had to use the words “calls” and “option“.  Nowhere are the words “shall“, “mandates” and “law” used.  And what are “legislative options“?  Aren’t you clowns the ones people elect to come up with “legislative options“?  And Godowsky’s reaction to this?  “We will have to take a look at that resolution.”  How did your Hail Mary pass work out for you?

The latter measure would hold harmless from state action any school that has more than five percent of its students opting-out of an assessment.  Current state and federal laws call for potential sanctions against schools with less than 95 percent of their students taking certain assessments.  The proposed bill would not have any impact on federal repercussions from falling below the participation threshold.

Yeah, screw the parents but save the schools.  What are these state sanctions you speak of?  Cause last I looked and spent a considerable amount of time investigating, any sanctions were federally driven through ESEA flexibility waivers.  That our ass-kissing DOE and State Board caved on, which were based on federal “guidance” that was not congressionally approved or tied to existing law.  The Every Student Succeeds Act indicates states decide on these things, not the feds.  But the feds are trying to threaten funding cuts again over opt-out with no enforceable means of doing so.  Are you sure your Republican House attorney looked at this?

On Thursday, both measures were garnering broad bipartisan support and are expected to quickly move forward.

Passing an unenforceable resolution means as much as the hair on Jack Markell’s head!  And this “broad bipartisan support“… would that be with the House Democrats who also screwed parents over?  Bolden, Brady, Carson, Heffernan, Jaques, J. Johnson, Q. Johnson, Longhurst, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Potter, Smith, Viola and Schwartzkopf?  Added with the Repubs who voted no to student rights if they are opted out?  Briggs-King, Dukes, Gray, Hudson, Kenton, Miro, Outten, Peterman, D. Short, Smyk, Wilson & Yearick?  And the most cowardly of all, Rep. Ramone who actually thought not voting would prevent the wrath of parents and bloggers everywhere?  And for that matter, I saw this legislation RIGHT after the vote.  I was given copies of it in the Republican office.  It already had Reps. Spiegelman and Hensley on it.  Which means the attempt to “file it” before the vote on the suspension of rules would show Reps Spiegelman and Hensley already signed onto it.  But they still voted yes on the suspension of rules knowing other members of their party were going to vote no based on legislation they already signed onto?  Or was the broad bi-partisan support the deal you guys made with the Governor for the corporate tax bill in return for your Judas votes?  Sorry, the only broad bi-partisan support I see is the lack of support two thirds of our General Assembly provided to students and parents yesterday.  Possibly higher due to this latest find…

I have to say, I was really hoping to play my daily pin the tail on the state rep on one of the House Democrats who voted no on the suspension of rules, but after reading this House Republican newsletter, I really couldn’t resist.  Thank you Rep. Joe Miro, for making it easy!

Delaware PTA, House Bill 50, House Resolution 22, House Bill 243: What Happened Today

Chaos.  There is no other word for it.  The rally went great, we got a good turnout, and there was a lot of media there.  By the time Rep. Kowalko brought the suspension of rules motion to the floor, I had an ominous feeling.  Too many of the reps, who know who I am, were not looking at me.  The suspension of the rules was seconded, and a voice vote was called.  13 yes, 26 no, 1 no vote, and 1 absent.  I can say Rep. Bennett, who was absent, reached out to me a couple weeks ago giving her support for this.  Unfortunately she was not able to attend today.

State Rep. Byron Short gave a long talk about standardized testing and how he wants a valid look at what we are doing with state assessments.  He indicated this last Spring, but he felt he wasn’t heard.  Short was NOT talking about the assessment inventory currently going on, but the state assessment.

State Rep. Debbie Hudson indicated she had brought two bills to be filed regarding opt-out, but they were not filed before today’s session.  She indicated that they had “wasted their time” on House Bill 50.  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf indicated the bills would be filed today.  Rep. Kowalko indicated he wanted House Bill 50 put on the ready list.  This means it would come to a full House vote… if Schwartzkopf puts it on the agenda.  If anyone wants to know what this means, Kilroy got Hudson to introduce legislation in the 147th AND 148th General Assembly.  Both times it went out of the education committee, but Schwartzkopf NEVER put it out for a full House vote.

I made a point to thank as many of the legislators who voted yes on the suspension of rules that I could.  I went up to Rep. Hudson and told her flat-out, “I’ll be sure to tell my son who was physically assaulted nine times after I opted him out that you thought this was a worthless bill.”  She came up to me and Yvonne Johnson, Teri Hodges, and Ashley Sabo and indicated she wanted to show us the new bills.  As we ventured down into the Republican office, I had a bad feeling in my stomach again.  This feeling was soon realized when State Rep. Mike Ramone, with a huge smile, showed me House Resolution #22.

While this certainly looks good, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, a House Resolution in Delaware is not enforceable and it is only passed by one chamber.  So while it looks like the answer, I knew it was not.  Then I was given a copy of the as-yet unnumbered House Bill 243.

HB243

Again, it looks great and it stops the DOE from implementing opt-out penalties against schools on the Delaware School Success Framework, or the school report card.  Fantastic!  NOT!  Here is the fatal flaw.  The DOE already submitted their ESEA waiver at the end of November.  They will most likely get that back in the next few weeks.  That is then tied to Federal Law, ESEA, which does not expire until the end of this year.

So the unenforceable House Resolution and the bill that would get tied up in education committees and protects schools more than parents and students, is not a win at all.  I don’t view either of these as good solutions to House Bill 50.  But the very bizarre nature of today is yet to come.  While all this is going on, there was a corporate tax bill introduced by Valerie Longhurst the other day.  It gets fast-tracked out of the appropriations committee, but it still requires a suspension of rules to get to a vote today.  Now this is a bill, who many legislators told me, would NEVER be introduced by a Democrat.  Longhurst is a Democrat.  Longhurst is very loyal to the Governor, who suggested this last week.  So it is more than obvious this bill is coming from Governor Markell.

As the legislators were in caucus discussing all of this I’m sure, I sat with the PTA and legislators slowly drifted out.  The Republicans two bills were talked about, and originally Reps. Williams and Kowalko were willing to be co-sponsors on it.  However, two other legislators informed us the House Resolution does nothing, and the House Bill does nothing for parents.  It protects the schools.  As well, without support from the Senate, House Resolution #22 is just a piece of paper.  To get something with strong support from both sides that would not require the Governor’s signature and is enforceable would be a concurrent resolution.  Legislative Hall is a funny place.  If you are at the right place, at the right time, you can hear people talking.  There are enough columns and stairs and hallways on the first floor of that building.  I heard folks talking about HB50.  And HB235.  And how the Republicans will get that.  It is more than obvious there was a deal made.  Most likely from Governor Markell himself.

Back to legislative session.  Secretary Godowsky, Susan Haberstroh (from the DOE), Lindsay O’Mara (Markell’s Education Policy Advisor), and State Rep. Earl Jaques are huddled around each other.  To be a fly on that wall!  I made a point to talk to Rep. Charles Potter about House Bill 56, the charter school “freeze” bill where no new applications for charters in Wilmington could be submitted until the state figured out what to do with all this transition.  I advised him of the Wilmington charters that are submitting modifications to increase their enrollment and add grades.  He said he would take a look at that.  House Resolution #22 was introduced and floated around to the legislators.  Rep. Joe Miro is the primary sponsor.  Which told me the House Republicans behind this were still going through with their idea.  Schwartzkopf said House Bill 50 is now on the ready list.  But once again, the ready list can either be a full House vote or the limbo list like Kilroy’s bills.  State Rep. Stephanie Bolden talked about House Joint Resolution #10 which is a bill whereby Delaware officially apologizes for slavery.  I fully support that bill, however the discussion that ensued from some legislators, especially the one who talked about honoring the rights of people and the other who talked about the Bible and scripture, you know, the book that actually does go into parental rights quite a bit, I found it all to be a little hypocritical given their earlier votes.  After that ended (which passed), House Bill 235 came up.  The corporate tax bill.  The suspension of rules was put forth by Longhurst, and seconded by a few voices in the chamber.  Kowalko asked for a roll call.  And it came, numerous yes votes.  Many who VOTED NO ON THE SUSPENSION OF RULES FOR HOUSE BILL 50.  I kept track of all of them and published it right away.  Aside from the one Yearick vote I messed up, they are all here.  As I was getting ready to walk out the door, Rep. Mike Ramone whispered to me about how Kowalko goes on and on and their bills are better.  I whispered back to him, “I don’t trust any of you.”  As I walked out of Legislative Hall today, with House Bill 50 in limbo, crappy bills trying to take its place from Republicans so desperate not to get publicly thrashed over their vote today they would thrown anything to the wall to see if it sticks, a clear indication of who in the Delaware House cares an iota about parents and who doesn’t, and knowing the PTA would support these upcoming bills, I just smiled.

After a nice dinner with my wife and son and a trip to Toys R Us, I came home to a billion Facebook notifications, tons of emails, and knowing I had to write this.  House Resolution #22 passed after I left.  So did House Bill 235.  The Delaware PTA issued a statement on today’s events, which once again, looks good to read…

All Is Not Lost With The Parent Opt-Out- Discussion Still On The Table

It is important to remember that we had 3 primary goals with HB 50:

  1. Protections in place for parents that chose to opt their student(s) out of the state assessment
  2. Alternate academic instruction for students not taking the assessment
  3. A clear and consistent opt out process implemented statewide

Even with all the events that took place today at Legislative Hall, we are still primed to meet those goals, and it is looking like that is going to happen! Interestingly enough, we spoke with enough legislators today to see that they are definitely not supporting the Governor’s agenda and firmly believe that parents and schools should be protected during the opt out process.

As a recap to the events today at Legislative Hall, the House voted against a suspension of House rules on HB 50. While we are disappointed in our legislator’s actions, we do not see this as a loss. After conversations with multiple legislators with regards to their vote, we were informed that if HB 50 and been voted down under a suspension of the House Rules, the bill would have been dead. Given the mood in Legislative Hall today, it is likely that the bill would not have passed. HB 50 has been placed on the House Ready list.

In an unexpected turn of events, the House Republicans informed us of their intent to introduce legislation that would prohibit the state from using participation rates against a school or district. Delaware PTA supports this. The bill has been filed as HB 243. (See Below)

They also introduced a Resolution that prohibits schools and/or districts from penalizing students/parents from opting out. In addition, it requests that the Department of Education develop several options that outline a uniform opt out process. (See Below). Although a Resolution cannot mandate action from the Delaware Department of Education, Representatives Miro and Jaques both confirmed that they had spoken with interim Secretary of Education Dr. Godowsky and that he has committed to following the resolution and developing several options for a statewide process on parent opt out. In addition, our Vice President of Advocacy spoke with Dr. Godowsky to request parent input on the development of these options. We were informed that even though the Secretary cannot be compelled to act under this resolution, he has indicated that he will do so and he has the authority to mandate compliance from the schools/districts.

Everyone should be very proud of the energy that they put into advocating for parent rights, but our work is not done. We have never seen so many parents and teachers come together on a single issue as we have with the Parent Opt Out. We realize that sometimes compromise is necessary to achieve the ultimate goal. Our goal is to ensure that neither schools nor districts can send threatening letters to parents choosing to opt their child out of the assessment. We want to make sure that every district respects a parent’s decision and that they clearly communicate the parent’s options with regards to opting out of the state assessment.  Our message was definitely received. We will continue with our advocacy with the same amount of fervor that you have seen over the last several weeks. We must keep the pressure on, so please keep sending those emails to your representative. We will be reevaluating and disseminating the next steps in our advocacy plan in the coming days and weeks.

Thank you to everyone that has supported parent’s rights and our advocacy efforts.

 Delaware PTA

I truly have to think this one through.  Our legislators could have passed HB50 in the House today.  They could have overridden the veto in their chamber.  They chose not to.  So now we have Republicans, obviously working with Earl Jaques of all people and the DOE and the Secretary of Education, and not telling anyone about this, for weeks (I know this because Mike Ramone told me they have been working on this for a while.  When I said you could have given me a heads up, he said “We couldn’t.”  Makes sense, get the crowd to show up for the rally, stick the knife in parents and students backs, and then try riding in on the cavalry saying “We have something better!”  Nice try.  First off, I don’t trust Dr. Godowsky.  This is the man who said “looks like harsh opt-out penalties won’t rule the day” and then said he is recommending those very same opt-out penalties with no logical justification as to why.  Second of all, he indicated he “has the authority to mandate compliance from the schools/districts”.  If he has this magic wand, why hasn’t it been used already?  Why didn’t Mark Murphy use this all of a sudden too great to be true authority?  Why does it take all of this for them to get it?  And would I ever trust anyone at the DOE to determine opt-out policies for our schools and districts?  Furthermore, the PTA newsletter indicates a request was made to Godowsky to have parents as part of this process.  There is no answer from Godowsky on that very important issue.  Many parents who have opted their children out do not belong to the Delaware PTA and do not believe everything the Delaware PTA believes in.  And the due date for these “policies” is “on or before May 1st”, well into the testing window for Smarter Balanced when most students have already taken it or are finishing up.  Not a lot of protection for parents.  Not a lot to protect students.  Nothing to indicate schools will honor the spirit of this.

So where do we stand with opt-out in Delaware?  Pretty much the exact same place we were a year ago.  So once again Delaware parents, I beseech you to search within your hearts to do the right thing, and make the right choice for your child like I did with mine.  And I pray none of you have to experience what happened as a result of my decision.  As always, I am here to help and guide, and call out any school who gives you a hard time if that is what you wish.

For the citizens of Delaware, I would take a very strong look at my post about the votes today.  I would look at those districts, and if you know anyone who wants to run, tell them to do it.  If they are on the fence, explain how those House reps went against parents.

For the House Reps who voted yes today on the suspension of rules: thank you.  For those who voted no on those rules for HB50 and yes on the rules for HB235, everyone will know.  I will make sure of it, every day if need be.  You betrayed parents today.  We heard you, loud and clear.  And don’t think for one second that your “rescue legislation” means anything.  It is tied to the DOE, Markell, and tainted in legislative blood money.  This is not solely directed towards Republicans, but Democrats as well.  All of you who did this today.  The 13 who voted yes are safe.  Rep. Bennett is safe.  The rest… I have no words…

These are the things revolutions are made of.  This is how America was made.  When the rights of the people are violated, they will demand change.  And it will come.  Nothing stinks more than betrayal.  I told all of you, a vote of no on a suspension of rules is the same as a no vote on the override.  You lost the right to say “I would have voted yes” because you hid behind another vote.  Your motivations and affirmations are gone.  They don’t matter.  You played cards with the devil and now you are on the table.  You are all cowards and weak, all 27 of you.  And trust, that is gone with me and MANY others.

One last thing, for those who mock John Kowalko, I want to make something clear.  Don’t whisper in my ear about him.  Don’t talk about how he shouldn’t be in that chamber.  This is an honorable man.  He has conviction and passion.  He will fight like a dog, but he will do it with honesty.  Compared to what I saw from many of you today, I would take that any day of the year.  House Bill 50 was NOT a waste of time.  It was a simple bill, grounded in what is best for students and parents.  It wasn’t based on what the DOE wanted to do.  It wasn’t based on what was best for the districts and charter schools.  It was about parental rights and students.  I believe you all knew this.  Which makes what you did today so horrible, and morally wrong.

And Jack, don’t think you are slipping away.  As the rumor mill talks about your upcoming job at Alliance for Excellent Education, a corporate education reform company that has more Kool-Aid coming out of each word in its website than I have ever seen before, and the rumor mill talks about a crazy thought about you actually getting a payout to make sure House Bill 50 didn’t go through, be assured I will find out the truth to ALL of that.  You and I aren’t done yet.  You may be fooling people into thinking you are done in a year and you are just winding down, I know you are at your most dangerous now.  I know you fear opt-out more than anything that has ever come before your desk.  We both know what opt-out does.  How it undermines what you and your buddies have planned.  For our children.  I know.  I am not fooled.  Everything you touch is tainted with this plan.  Delaware children are not your children.  And tell your buddies, America’s children are not their children.  You will all be hearing from us VERY soon, you can take that to the bank.