Last week, the Delaware Senate passed both Senate Bill 92 and 93. The legislation, dealing with Autism, passed unanimously in the Delaware Senate. I wholeheartedly support this legislation as originally written, and I hope the House of Representatives passes it very soon. The children and adults with Autism of Delaware have waited long enough for more support. But what concerns me are the amendments added to both bills during the Senate vote last week. Below are the original bills and the amendments.
With the amendment on Senate Bill 92, this takes away the authority of the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education to provide training and technical assistance for students with autism. This will shift to the University of Delaware’s Center for Disability Studies. The funding for the training specialists comes from the appropriations act AND possible tuition fees from the local school district.
The amendment for Senate Bill 93 references things that aren’t even in existence at present. Upon doing a Google search, there is no established entity called “Delaware Collaborative for Educational Services”. I did find reference to similar groups in New Hampshire and Massachusetts but none for Delaware. How can legislation provide for an organization that doesn’t exist anywhere in the public domain? But while we are waiting for the creation of this mythical initiative, the representative on the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism will be the Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation at the Delaware DOE. Who is this person? That would be Matthew Korobkin.
Korobkin came to the Secretary of Education’s office in March of 2015. I first found out about him last summer when I was discussing special education with Melissa Hopkins from the Rodel Foundation. She mentioned Korobkin and how he was going all over Delaware to find out best practices with Delaware special education. She suggested I reach out to him to discuss my concerns with special education. I emailed him but never received a response. I found out soon after where Korobkin came from: the Rodel Foundation.
This is where things get very strange with this bill. Korobkin’s history shows more of a slant towards special education technology. How does someone who has a very brief tenure as a special education data teachers and an administrator position that is more a Technology Curriculum role than a true administrator become the key person in Delaware’s special education strategic plan? Simple: he came from Rodel. If you do a Google search on Korobkin in Delaware, you see many links to his functions at Rodel. But for the DOE, you see his role as a member of the Statewide Educational Data Task Force come up the most. He appears somewhere in the below picture.
I find it somewhat frightening that a data person would be put in charge of a statewide special education plan, much less someone who came from Rodel. During his time at Rodel, he ran the Rodel Teacher Council. He even gave his own biography in 2012 after he joined Rodel. I can think of hundreds of other people in Delaware who are immensely more qualified than Korobkin for this key role that was snuck into the Fiscal Year 2015 budget epilogue:
I did find a link to the minutes of the February 2016 meeting of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens. Korobkin gave a presentation on the progress of this special education strategic plan. Even more interesting was the attendees part of the minutes. Both Hopkins and CEO Dr. Paul Herdman with Rodel attended this meeting. I would imagine it was to see their former employee/current DOE plant give his big presentation.
I also linked to this Korobkin’s proposed Strategic Plan when he gave a presentation to the State Board of Education at their Spring Retreat last Friday.
Like I said in the first paragraph of this article, this legislation is a must. But why do we have Rodel poking around in special education? This non-profit organization doesn’t support a parent’s right to opt their child out of high-stakes testing, helped Governor Markell and the DOE win our first-round win in the Race To The Top competition, supports Common Core and personalized learning, and heavily supports charter schools at the expense of traditional school districts. And now they want to get involved in special education? Sorry, I’m not buying it. Their activity in Delaware education is not good for any student, much less students with disabilities.
It will be interesting to see what comes out of the House Education Committee meeting on these bills. And I plan on viewing this Strategic Plan due in May of 2016 the second it comes out! Parents of children with Autism should have concern about some of the language in these amendments, specifically Senate Bill 93.