The Delaware General Assembly returns today! It was supposed to happen yesterday, but the impending doom of the snowstorm that didn’t quite live up to its potential postponed the return. Today is Committee day! House Bill 50 WILL be heard in the House Education Committee today. Say what? Didn’t former Governor Jack Markell veto that bill? Continue reading “House Bill 50 To Be Heard In House Education Committee Today…. Say What?”
Let it be known, throughout the State of Delaware, that I proudly endorse John Marino for the 10th Senate District special election on February 25th.
Wait a minute, some of you might be thinking, aren’t you a dye in the wool Democrat? Hardly. I am an issues guy. And I also value consistency and someone knowing what they are talking about. I’ve known John Marino’s stances on public education for years now, since the 2014 election. He supports opt out, wants more resources in the class-room, is not a big fan of top-down education mandates, and supports local control and teachers. He is against Common Core and wants our students to succeed.
There will be DSEA members who will be screaming for my head right about now because of the fear of the Delaware Senate going under Republican control if Marino wins. Right to Work could come to Delaware, but that kind of bill would need to pass the House and get Governor Carney’s signature. The Senate could play games with the budget as well trying to get Right to Work in Delaware. I can picture Delaware Dems sitting in Legislative Hall well into July to prevent that. So I am not as scared of that notion as some left-leaning teachers are. As well, I am not a teacher. I’m a parent, and I am disgusted by many of the stunts I’ve seen when it comes to Delaware education and government.
But let’s take a look at what Democrat control has done for teachers: DPAS-II and Component V. Smarter Balanced Assessment. Not to mention far too many of them cowering to Jack Markell. It is all about a balance of power. Delaware is ripe for change, and it starts with our government. One party control has given us far too many special interest items tucked into the state budget over the years. Money that could and should be going to far more pressing needs in this state. We need a balance of power, and if the Delaware Senate goes red, so be it.
As far as Hansen, she seems to change her education beliefs by the day. She even did that on her website between January 28th and January 29th.
If I want to see flipping, I’ll go on Netflix and watch some old episodes of Flipper! In terms of a DSEA endorsement, keep in mind what that really is. The DSEA Executive Board decides endorsements and it is not an accurate representation of all Delaware teachers. It is a handful of people. What I don’t appreciate is someone not knowing the issues, like Hansen, then getting schooled on them and acting like she knows what the hell she is talking about. Marino has always felt the same way. I won’t even get into the bizarre issues with Hansen and New Castle County government. I will just say it some very surreal stuff.
So how does Marino feel (and consistently) about education in Delaware?
State government has broken our school system. Due to over-testing, heavy-handed bureaucracy and a lack of support for our teachers, our local schools have to work twice as hard to provide a quality education for our young people. I support legislation to reign in and minimize burdensome state tests, as well as an unequivocal policy that parents are the only authority to decide what tests their children take. A parent has the natural right to remove their child from any test or school activity — anytime, anywhere. No government should be given even the smallest opportunity to infringe on parental rights.
I also support letting teachers teach. I support building-level control and more money in the classroom. Our education bureaucracy has only grown and grown. It’s hurting our children, costing more taxpayer money and the people in power in the Senate have encouraged that growth at every turn. We can’t get the schools we deserve unless we change the people making the decisions and restore balance to state government.
I’ve been around Legislative Hall enough to see how the one-party system is not good for our state. We need to end the legislator locks on the budget that allow funds to go towards programs that benefit members of the Joint Finance Committee. We need to stop the political games and get back to governing Delaware and making laws that make sense for ALL Delawareans. We need John Marino to win this election.
This is one of the things I can’t stand about Delaware. Weeks will go by without anything momentous going on and then BOOM! Everything all at once on the same night. Tonight is no exception!
The biggest, which will likely draw a great deal of media attention, is the debate between Republican John Marino and Democrat Stephanie Hansen for the 10th Senate District seat. The winner of this special election will dictate who holds the power in the Delaware Senate. There is a lot of heat on this election already and it will only ramp up until the February 25th voting day. Hosted by Allan Loudell with WDEL, this debate at Middletown High School begins at 7pm. As well, Libertarian candidate Joseph Lanzendorfer will be a part of the debate.
The State Board of Education has their first Joint Sunset Committee review tonight in the Joint Finance Committee room at Legislative Hall, 7pm. The State Board of Education was put on review last Spring by this committee. There could be big changes coming out of this review and this will be one to watch.
Capital School District is holding a forum on “potential building configurations” at the William Henry Middle School Auditorium, 6pm. Many in the district have felt their current grade configuration doesn’t work. Coming out of their ongoing Strategic Plan, this could draw a lot of attention for Senator Citizens in Dover. This part of their strategic plan is under the long-range master facilities plan. I say make it K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. But there is also a potential of pre-school and Kindergartners getting their own building.
The Progressive Democrats for Delaware are holding a pot-luck dinner tonight at the New Castle Democrat Headquarters over on 19 Commons Blvd. in New Castle from 7pm to 9pm.
The Down Syndrome Association of Delaware is holding a forum with state legislators covering topics such as education, Medicaid, and employment. This event, sponsored by Eventbrite, will be held from 7pm to 9pm at State Troop 2 in Newark, DE.
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is holding a meeting for the Meeting the Needs of Students in Poverty at United Way of Delaware, 625 Orange St. at the Linden Building, 3rd Floor, in Wilmington from 4pm to 6pm.
Earlier today, the Joint Finance Committee heard opening remarks for Public Education as well as the Chief School Officers down in Dover. After that, the JFC got to hear the Delaware Department of Education’s FY2018 budget request which is still going on until 4pm.
Busy day with no ability for everyone to get to all these things. I will be attending the debate tonight. Let’s see who wins this one!
Once upon a holiday season, in the land of Delaware, there lived a man who would become Governor. He was promised the throne eight years ago, but another man took his seat. In this land, the people chose their Governor every four years. The man who would be Governor finally won the seat and 58.34% of the people rejoiced. As he sat in his car one day after returning from his job in D.C., he looked out the window. He saw the sun setting in the distance.
John was anxious to get things going in Delaware. He had to officially wait until January 17th, 2017. “Only 47 days,” John said to himself. He had been so busy for so long. Things wouldn’t slow down for him in the next four years, and hopefully the four after that. His day was filled with phone calls, texts, and emails. Everyone wanted a piece of Delaware. He knew not everyone could get a piece. He called his wife from the driveway and told her he was going to go for a walk to clear his head. Always supportive, she knew John needed this and told him to take all the time he needed. John drove to the nearby park. As he walked out of his car, he put on his hat. It was rare he could get away from his security detail but at the same time he didn’t want to be bothered. John walked down the trail…
Meanwhile, 3,529.75 miles away, the jolly one was settling into his favorite chair. The elves were busy preparing for the big day. Santa was happy he had an extra day to prepare this year. As a tradition, during these leap years, he would pick one day off each leap year to do whatever he wanted. Mrs. Claus always forgot about it, but Santa didn’t. Today was his day off! Santa picked up his laptop and on his favorites bar was the website he enjoyed going to the most: Exceptional Delaware. Ever since Santa learned about Common Core and opt out, he found himself checking back in to see what was happening with the children of Delaware and the rest of the country. Santa was not happy when he found out what happened a few weeks after Christmas earlier this year. The people of Delaware wanted the lawmakers to override Governor Jack’s veto of the opt out bill, but it got hung up in some silly rule business. He knew exactly which of those lawmakers would be getting coal this year, led by their Speaker and the leaders below him. Santa heard there was a new Governor in Delaware so he decided he would pay him a visit. While he didn’t usually venture so far south during the busy month, it was his day off and he could do whatever he wanted. At least the things Mrs. Claus wouldn’t have cause to file for divorce over.
As hard as he tried, John couldn’t stop thinking about his plans. He didn’t count on the new President actually winning the election. All his plans were contingent on the Hill winning. But the Tower Man won and he had to plan around it. The Tower Man was picking people who John couldn’t picture running things down in D.C. His office was frantic over the mess. John had to strategize very carefully how he moved forward with everything. Not only did the Tower Man win, but the two bodies of Congress won a majority in the election as well. John’s Delaware was still blue, but a shocking election there threatened to turn the Delaware Senate red too. The state he was to lead had some peculiar problems in it and at the top of that list was the economy and education. Governor Jack treated the two as if they were symbiotic with each other and made some poor choices along the way. John knew if he was going to improve both he would have to find a way to draw everyone in. It was a difficult maze and John knew he wouldn’t please everyone. Governor Jack chose a particular route but John knew if he did the same it would not be good.
Santa knew John’s mind was heavy. As his sleigh crossed the border between Pennsylvania and Delaware, Santa could feel the weight on John’s shoulders. Leadership always carries a heavy burden. Santa knew that better than anyone. Santa knew John ever since he was a little boy. He always knew John would become a leader. John didn’t have the same political sharpness so many politicians had but this also made him more relatable to the people. He watched John’s humble beginnings in the town of Claymont. Carney was one of those tough kids who excelled in football which helped him out at St. Mark’s High School and then Dartmouth College. Santa remembers John’s awards. As John was teaching freshmen football at the University of Delaware, he was also studying public administration. From there, John began his political career working for the county he lived in and then for Governor Tom. From there, John’s political ladder kept getting bigger and bigger. He became the Lieutenant Governor for eight years and decided to run for Governor. But the future “education” Governor Jack beat him in a close race. Others told Jack to wait his turn, it was John’s turn, but Jack ignored them. A couple of years later, John ran for Congress and won. For six years, having to run every two years for a total of three Congressional terms, John worked in D.C. and learned how the game of politics really works. But he never gave up on getting back to Delaware to win as Governor. After Governor Jack was expected to end his tenure, many thought Vice-President Joe’s son Beau would run, but tragically Beau passed away after a long illness. It was then that John decided he would run but wished it had been under better circumstances.
John walked down the path. There was a crisp wind in the air but the moon was bright. He used to walk down this path many times. It hadn’t changed much over time and he remembered it like the back of his hand. John tripped on a branch and fell to the ground. As he looked up, he saw a bright light in the sky above him. A voice cried out “John, we need to talk.” John reached for his phone but he had left it in the car. He thought to himself, “This is it, all alone in the woods with no one to help.” He began to picture the headline in the News Journal the next day. “Who are you?” John asked. “Someone you haven’t thought about in a long time John.” Santa gracefully landed the sleigh on the path in front of John. His lights were still on so John couldn’t tell who it was. “I do have security watching me right now. They are watching you right now. So I wouldn’t try anything They will find you if anything happens to me.” “No they won’t,” Santa said. “Remember you let all of them have the night off and you so conveniently told each one there was coverage?” John wondered how this guy would know that. “It’s me, John. Santa.”
John couldn’t believe his eyes. As a child, he always believed. But as children grew older, that magic disappeared. John saw Santa everywhere this time of year. He began seeing him in stores as early as October. But it wasn’t the same as the man who just walked off a sleigh that came down in the middle of the woods. John took that early childhood magic for granted, as every adult does. John wondered what in the world Santa Claus wanted with him. Did he visit all the new leaders? “John,” Santa said, “We have to talk about the kids. Come with me.” John felt the world spin beneath him. Santa’s words captured him. They weren’t words demanding John obey him, but those of comfort and a calm John hadn’t felt for a long time. John looked at his watch. It was 6:30pm.
Santa and John got in the sleigh. The reindeer, who John hadn’t noticed before, began running down the path. John felt the sleigh lift up into the December night. “John, did you read my letter last year?” Santa asked. John read letters every day. There were some days he couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast he was so busy. John shook his head. “Did you send it to me?” John asked. He knew he probably had not seen it unless it was an issue of critical importance. He was sure if one of his staffers opened it and saw a letter from Santa Claus it would go in the circular bin next to their desk. “No, I let Exceptional Delaware put it up. I thought everyone in Delaware reads it.” That was a name John was familiar with the past six months. The blogger. “You mean the crazy education blogger from Dover? That guy wants to meet with me but I don’t know…” Santa abruptly interrupted John “Watch yourself,” Santa warned. “I have the utmost respect for the blogger. He helped me out last year and he knows what he is talking about.” John responded to Santa. “But he tends to tick off a lot of people. People I’m going to have to work with. I was warned to stay away from him.” Santa’s eyes widened. “Oh really? Would that have been Senator So-coal-A,” Santa carefully empathized. “And all those other adults who don’t have the first clue about what education really is? Let me tell you something John. You will be a leader of Delaware. Any state has a foundation from which it must build on. That foundation is the kids. Not the adults, and especially not the adults who try to make money and get power from kids. There are those out there who will pretend to speak the truth. You surround yourself with them. But there are those who speak uncomfortable truths that people don’t always want to hear. But they do so out of an innate need for change, in the hopes someone with the ability to hear will actually listen.”
John was familiar with what was going on in education. He was told of the long-range plans and how education would be reformed so all kids can succeed. The children would be trained to become the workforce of tomorrow. As he began his campaign, he knew many people in Delaware were hurting. When he ran for Governor the first time, the economy of the whole country was collapsing. Even though Delaware recovered from this, not all of the citizens did. Some never got the jobs back that made them more money. The cities were becoming too violent again. Drug use was up and children were getting shot in the street. But still, Delaware did the one thing it knows how to do best- spend money. John knew all that money wasn’t going to the right places. He also knew that when he became the leader he would have to fix a lot of these problems. Many of his advisors told him that education was going to fix all these problems. Not now, but down the road. But if he didn’t help follow the same paths Governor Jack made, nothing would ever get fixed. This was happening all over the country. There were critics, like the damn blogger, but they were just a whisper in the wind. They didn’t see the big picture and how this was for the good of the state and the country.
“Santa, where are we going?” John asked. “To see the children John.”
“Uhm, Santa. We are flying into downtown Wilmington. No offense sir, but I can’t be seen riding around in a sleigh with someone people don’t believe in along with eight reindeer.” Santa pulled out a pouch from his pocket. “Thanks for reminding me John, I almost forgot.” Santa took out a handful of dust and blew it all around him and John. “They won’t see us now.” Santa parked the sleigh on top of the Community Education Building. The duo went down through the building and to the streets below. They walked over to the playground next to the building.
In a dark corner, an African-American boy was reading with a flashlight. The boy was shivering as he turned a page. “Why is this boy out here Santa? Why doesn’t he go home?” Santa sighed. “This is his home John. He lives on the streets. During the really cold months he goes to a shelter with his aunt. She is at work right now.” John saw a grocery cart a few feet away from the boy. Covering it was a blue tarp. John could see some clothes in there and a few boxes. As John looked away for a moment in horror, he saw a hypodermic needle on the ground. The boy was reading a worn-out copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with a flashlight between his yellow teeth. He saw the boy lift a crumpled up bag out of his coat pocket. The boy began eating the few crumbs left in the bag of potato chips. Santa told John about how his father went to prison a few years ago. He belonged to one of the gangs. During a shoot-out in front of their apartment building, a bullet missed hitting the boy but instead lodged itself in his mother’s brain. He told John this is the first thing the boy sees when he wakes up in the morning and the last thing he sees at night. “Come on John, we have more stops to make tonight.” John walked to the sleigh but kept looking back at the boy.
Santa and John flew once more into the night. It was very quiet between them. They landed in a very wealthy neighborhood with mansions all around them. John wasn’t sure if he had been on this street when he was campaigning. Many houses were decked out in Christmas lights and he even saw Santas made up in lights. “This is never what Christmas was supposed to be John,” as Santa looked down at his belly. They got out of the sleigh and went into one of the houses. A girl was on her computer playing the latest version of Minecraft. Her mom asked her if she finished her homework. “I sure did,” the girl said. “You can check it on Schoology.” “Did you finish all the stuff on iReady?” the mother asked. “Yes Mom,” as the girl rolled her eyes. She had just finished eating the steak and shrimp but she was still hungry. “Can you turn the heat down Mom?” she yelled. As her hand grabbed the ice cream bowl, Santa and John left. As Sarah pulled the spoon to her mouth, she wondered if she had to be at the school in her cheerleader’s outfit by 9am tomorrow or 9:15.
They flew down to Georgetown. John was last there on Return Day in November. All the candidates who run for office, whether they win or not, participate in this event to “bury the hatchet”. But they flew away from the town to a trailer park. Inside, a Hispanic girl was kicking a ball around with her little brother. A man came into the room. “Hicerion sus deberes?” the man asked. “No podríamos papá. No sabíamos lo que significaban las palabras,” the boy answered. The man watched as his children did what they do after school almost every day. Kicking around the same ball. “Sorry Santa, my Spanish is very rusty. What did they say?” John asked. “The father asked if his children did their homework. They couldn’t because they can’t read the words. They don’t know English very well. They know enough for very basic things, but not enough to learn what they need to know. Their mother is still at the chicken farm working her shift. One of them always has to be with the kids. They aren’t here legally. The father is afraid all the time that his kids will be taken from him and he and his wife will have to go back to their country. He doesn’t know English at all.”
John felt his mind stir as they flew north. He was very troubled by what he saw. When he was campaigning, he tended to see the best of Delaware. In the daylight or early evening when many of his “Meet and Chews” with people were attended by those who had the means and the desire to see him. When he went to schools, he could tell the kids were on their best behavior because “an important man” was coming to visit. He didn’t see people in their homes or on the streets the way he did tonight. He felt uncomfortable, like he was seeing a side of the world he heard about but didn’t see first-hand. “Santa, I should really be getting back. It’s getting late and my wife is probably worrying about me.” Santa laughed so hard the sleigh shook. “Look at your watch John. What time is it?” John looked at his watch in bewilderment. It was still 6:30pm. No time had passed since he first got in the sleigh with Santa back on the trail. “Let me guess, another bit of your magic?” Santa smiled at John as they flew into a middle-class neighborhood in Dover.
The odd couple went into the house. Inside, a boy was crying on the couch. His parents were arguing in the kitchen. “What do you mean he was suspended again?” the father asked. “I got a call from school. They said he was acting out in class again and when the teacher told him to stop he ran out of the room. When another teacher found him, he pushed her away. The Principal came down the hall and yelled at him to come with him. David yelled back at him and Dr. Smith called two teachers to help bring him to the office,” the mother explained. “I didn’t get the call until two hours later. By the time I got there he was so upset.” “Did they give him any work to do when he was in there for two hours?” the boy’s father asked. “I don’t know. But this is not what his IEP says. They aren’t supposed to drag him down the hall and yell at him. He isn’t learning anything there. He’s depressed all the time. He can’t learn in a class with thirty kids.” John knelt down in front of the boy. He saw such pain and sadness in the boy’s eyes. “This boy has no friends John. The things you had growing up, kids to play with and throw a football around, running around in the woods, even going to the amusement park, David can’t do those things.” Santa explained how David was labeled as high-functioning Autism. He could do the work, but only under certain conditions. If there was a lot of activity in the classroom, people talking, moving around, David couldn’t handle that. His brain couldn’t filter out all the stimuli. Some days it worked, but for David, it was an endless litany of suspensions and leaving school early. “Special education John. If you don’t know what is going on with a child, and everyone is different, how can we put all kids in the same box?” Santa asked him.
John could see what Santa was doing. He understood that not every kid is the same. But if they didn’t try to help all the kids nothing would change. The two flew to the building where John was destined to spend many of his days in the next four years. Legislative Hall. Where all the laws in Delaware happened. John didn’t think there would be any kids there at 6:30pm, and he was right. Inside, a meeting was taking place. John knew about half the people at the large table in the House Majority Caucus room. There were some from the Department of Education, a couple from the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the usual Delaware State Education Association contingent, some Superintendents, a few teachers, Delaware PTA, some of the disability advocates, the lady from the Delaware Charter Schools Network, four legislators, and a couple of State Board members. He knew them. A few people sat in the chairs outside of the table. A woman from the Delaware DOE was giving a presentation on the Every Student Succeeds Act. Delaware had to come up with a state plan so all students can succeed. She was talking about the Delaware School Success Framework and the measurements they wanted included in their state accountability system. It was all about proficiency and growth. Which John knew was based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. All these adults, sitting there talking about kids and how they can make education better. John knew a few of the people there had the best of intentions but this was what they do in Delaware. They sit around a table and talk. This was how things got done. They even had a name for it, The Delaware Way.
“You don’t get it!” John cried out. “We can’t keep testing these kids. They aren’t the same. We can’t keep doing this. Their lives mean so much more than these tests.” Santa looked at John. “They can’t hear you. Even if they could, too many of them wouldn’t listen. They think they know what is best. They forget what it was like when they were kids. Even that man over there.” Santa pointed to a man from Wilmington. “He kept fighting for the kids in Wilmington and how the teachers need to be better,” Santa explained. “The man believed what he said but he didn’t realize how much these children don’t have outside of school. The man didn’t understand that you can’t just wave a magic wand and make teachers better. And the best teachers, they were the ones already in those classrooms in Wilmington. They were the ones who came to school every day, knowing the problems these kids brought to the classroom. The look of hunger in their eyes as they wore the same clothes for the third day in a row. They dedicated their lives to helping these kids in the hardest classrooms in the state. In return, they were shamed by many of the people in this room. The little boy we saw on the playground tonight? He goes to the poorest school in the state. Most of the people in this room have never walked into his school. They don’t understand what he needs. That legislator over there? She sponsored a bill so special education would get better in the state. In their eyes, it did. Students went from 21% proficiency on the ELA part of Smarter Balanced to 23%. To them, that is growth. The Superintendent over there? She runs the district where the two kids from Georgetown go to school. She has a lot of students who can’t speak or read English. She hasn’t said one word tonight about how to help them. See the man over there? He runs a charter school in Newark. They just settled on a lawsuit against the Christina School District. In return they will get more money in the future. Remember the girl in the mansion? She goes to that charter school. That money will be taken from the homeless boy’s school. He will get less than he has today at school. The man over there? He sits on the board at the Rodel Foundation. He sees opportunity. He sees how the business leaders in the state can profit from all this. He is hoping they will start talking about more career pathway programs in our high schools. He knows that some will go to the coding school he sits on the board of. He talks with other business leaders and the graduates of that program do internships at their companies. Sometimes they get jobs. While they are learning, these coding students are building the network of tomorrow. They develop algorithms that will go into the education technology in all the schools. All that data, all that blessed data. They store it all. They keep everything, these futurists and visionaries. They have the money and influence to make sure what they want becomes policy and law. It is the way the modern world works John. Perhaps they know, and don’t care, that what they are setting up now will only make those children who struggle the most even further apart from any true opportunity to succeed. And them, over there, they work for the Department of Education. They are the middlemen between the schools and the business community. They make sure the business community gets what they want in the schools. They do this through regulations and conversations you will never hear about. That woman there, she runs the accountability section of the Department. Her job is to make sure all children in certain grades take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. When she sees the results come in, she doesn’t see the faces of the children who took the test. She sees numbers. Results. Scores. Her job is to understand why all the children we saw tonight got a 1 on the test last Spring except for the girl in the mansion who got a 4. She doesn’t see David’s disability. Or the two siblings who can’t read the instructions for the test in English much less understand the context of a passage in Spanish about the stock market. She doesn’t know that the African-American boy in Wilmington has slept in 124 different beds in the past year alone and the other 241 nights were outside with blankets. But she actually thinks they can close the achievement gaps and these children will grow into prosperity. How does she know this? It’s what her bosses tell her every single day. She hears the lie so much she believes it.”
John and Santa left the building. As the two flew north, they talked about what John had to do. What he needed to change. They talked about the blogger and the parents, teachers, legislators, advocates, and citizens who thought like Santa did. “Those are the ones you really need to talk to John. I’m sure you have heard from many of the people who were in that meeting tonight. If you haven’t, I have no doubt your advisors have.” John knew this to be true. “You need to understand the other side of the coin John, where the real world lives. These aren’t pleasant realities you saw tonight. For those fighting for the kids, even opting out of the test isn’t as easy as it once was. They are fighting for these kids, their kids. And their grandchildren. They are fighting for their jobs. They see beyond the results and the growth. They see what needs to change but no one listens. No one who can really make a difference. Some do, but not enough to make the changes. When they do speak, they are shunned by their peers. Given less importance. It isn’t right John. What the people in that room wanted, it won’t change anything. It will only cause more damage. You can’t incorporate education. These are children. You need to change all this.”
John walked out of the sleigh. He thanked Santa for showing him so much of the Delaware he didn’t see before. The two shook hands. “Santa, I don’t know if I can change all of this by myself. You know if I try I will make enemies. Those enemies won’t make my job any easier.” Santa put his hand on John’s shoulder. “That is what all leaders who understand what is right and just have to face. Some succeed and some fail. Some do it alone and some have support. All I can say is this John- remember what you saw tonight. Every single time you make a decision. Remember the children’s faces before you see the adults. You know in your heart who is really in this for the kids and who isn’t. When you hear that voice in your head, questioning what the true motives are, listen to that. Let that be your shield against your enemies John.” John hugged Santa. “Merry Christmas Santa.” “And to you as well Governor Carney.” Santa walked toward his sleigh and turned around. “John, find those who speak the uncomfortable truths.”
John looked down at his watch. It was 6:31pm. Santa was gone.
Eight days after the 2016 elections are over (Thank God!) the Delaware Department of Education will discuss their FY2018 budget with the Office of Management and Budget. This is open to the public, but I recommend getting there early so you can get a seat. The budget for the next fiscal year is going to get crazy. First off, we have the Every Student Succeeds Act. In Delaware’s first draft plan, you can see that a lot of areas in the law will be depending on state funding. Which means the feds will have to decide on our state plan assuming these items would pass in our budget. Delaware is submitting their final plan to the U.S. Dept. of Education on March 6th. That is 116 days before the Delaware General Assembly would even pass the FY2018 budget. So what happens if the feds approve our plan but we don’t have the necessary funding allocations for our plan? The feds would presumably pass (or reject) our plan within 120 days of submission. That puts Delaware in the position of getting the approval after the end of legislative session. Not to mention the fact we will have a new Governor (presumably John Carney) with his own ideas on education. By the time this hearing comes, the next Governor will have been elected. But further complicating matters is the exiting Governor, Jack Markell. His administration will work up the proposed budget which won’t be released until January 2017. And if I know Jack Jack, he will attempt to get all his friends some last-minute goodies! Add in the fact that pretty much everyone in the state wants to trim down the Delaware Dept. of Education and make it less of a bureaucratic nightmare. This will be a must-attend meeting if you can make it. But, of course, it is at 10am in the morning when the true stakeholders in education… students, parents and teachers… are busy doing what they do best.
Sunday evening I put up a post about a political ad for Delaware Senator David Sokola. You would have thought I sent a cannonball into a church picnic with the reaction this post got. In a nutshell, the Delaware State Education Association did not endorse the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, David Sokola. He has been the chair of this committee for decades. This was a very clear statement that DSEA no longer has faith in Senator David Sokola when it comes to education. But unbeknownst to many, DSEA is also part of a PAC with various other Delaware unions that paid for an advertisement for Sokola’s 8th District Senate campaign. I wasn’t happy to see this and many others weren’t as well. I linked Frederika Jenner, the President of DSEA, to this PAC because her name appears on their website.
Before I knew it, teachers who are very supportive of DSEA jumped to their defense. One of them, Mike Matthews, who used to be President of the Red Clay Educations Association and is currently campaigning for Jenner’s spot next January, wrote a very long comment about why Right To Work is dangerous in the current Delaware political landscape.
Before I get to Matthews’ comment, I want to briefly explain what Right To Work is. Basically, it would prevent a worker from paying union dues but they would get the union benefits. This has been implemented in some states but the Delaware General Assembly has thwarted this from happening here. Delaware Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle has been very supportive of Right To Work in Delaware. Not every Delaware Republican is 100% behind a complete Right To Work state, much less with DSEA. Matthews’ comment suggests that Right To Work is a bigger danger than very bad Dave Sokola education policy.
Here’s where I stand on this and, as always, I thank Kevin for providing the forum to discuss!
DSEA did not vote to endorse Sen. Sokola for his re-election campaign. As someone who has consistently received DSEA’s endorsement in years’ past, this is obviously big news. I have had many concerns — and shared them publicly — with Sen. Sokola’s positions on education. I think many others have, as well. And that’s why DSEA chose the route it did during the election season this year.
But — and this really is a big BUT — folks need to realize that we are a union whose main goal is to activate and organize its membership. We have seen union membership in many states decrease dramatically because of nasty Right to Work laws. These laws severely weaken the ability of local unions to do the work they need to do — advocate for members and students.
The threat of Right to Work is very much real here in Delaware. If the Democrats lose just two seats in the Senate, then it’s very likely that Republicans will demand legislation that could repress labor rights in exchange for getting YES votes on the budget. If the Republican Senate REFUSES to pass a budget because they are demanding more restrictions on organized labor, then my guess is the Democrats in the House will cave so they can get a budget passed. That’s the reality of the situation that we’re dealing with.
DSEA’s membership in the Delawareans First PAC is borne out of the need to fight back any effort for Right to Work to land in Delaware. DSEA’s participation in this PAC is very much about ensuring our own survival SO WE CAN continue to advocate for our members, students, and schools.
And there are some very clear differences between the two major-party candidates in the 8th Senate District when it comes to labor rights. Sen. Sokola is vehemently anti-Right to Work. Meredith Chapman has stated her support of the collective bargaining process, but can’t say unequivocally that she would be anti-Right to Work. And, as I’ve said to her, should she get elected and the GOP take the Senate, her ability to negotiate with a newly-emboldened GOP leadership will be severely diminished and she will have to walk lock-step with the caucus on these issues.
So, while many of our members — and myself included — have serious issues with Sen. Sokola’s education positions, we have to realize that we are still a union. And it’s our business to maintain our membership and attempt to stave off any threats to that membership. I am completely able to see both sides here and while Sen. Sokola hasn’t been the best friend on education issues, he’s unwaveringly a friend on the topic of Right to Work. To condemn him from all angles because of his education positions (no matter how large those issues are) would be unfair.
DSEA’s membership in this PAC is voluntary, of course, but in the interest of solidarity, it’s imperative that we union brothers and sisters come together and support candidates who will repel Right to Work — even if it means supporting a candidate we oppose on other issues. Because if Right to Work comes to Delaware — which could happen if the Senate swings GOP — then our ability to be an effective agent for change will be severely dampened. And that could have consequences that hasten all the negative things we know have been coming down the education pike for years that you have thankfully been reporting on with such fervor.
I just think it’s important to realize that I think it’s completely within bounds to have severe disagreements with candidates on certain issues, but to find common ground on others, especially issues that relate to the survival of organizations that I would hope are seen as positive players in the education arena like DSEA.
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.
So suppose the Republicans gain control of the Delaware Senate and there is a budget impasse next year (as there seems to be almost every year). Does that automatically make Delaware a Right To Work state? We just don’t know. I can picture a scenario where, if it were that bad, certain concessions could take place. Last week at the Carney-Bonini debate, the subject of Right To Work zones was brought up. That would not make the whole state a Right To Work place, but for certain companies. Auto manufacturing was brought up as an example. But I personally don’t believe the General Assembly would make DSEA a Right To Work organization. If they did gain control of the Senate, that would last as long as one General Assembly if they did that. The General Assembly is always on a cycle of campaigning every two years. Any legislator who voted for Right To Work would automatically lose any future endorsement from DSEA. Many do not want to face that prospect in the coming years. Delaware is a small state and its citizens have more access to their Senators and State Representatives than they do in other states. A Republican controlled Senate would also have to contend with a Democrat controlled House and, by all indications, Democrat Governor John Carney. Would the Republicans wait around all summer in an attempt to get Right To Work passed if a budget was held up? I highly doubt it. Most legislators are at the point of collapse after an all-night session bridging June 30th to July 1st.
While I will certainly say I do not know how many teacher jobs DSEA has actively protected over the years, I imagine it is quite a bit. Charter school teachers, which are supported heavily by Delaware Republicans, do not presently have teacher unions. But I firmly believe Senator Sokola is, at a much greater degree, a bigger threat to Delaware teachers than a potential Right To Work law in Delaware. He has 25 years of experience showing exactly what he has done to Delaware education and the teaching profession. And judging by the first draft of Delaware’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t see that situation changing any time soon.
I firmly believe Sokola serves interests much bigger than any Democrat platform. He serves those who profit immensely off students and teachers. He represents the corporations who want to reform education so they can make more money. But more dangerous, is the very real threat of how these changes in education will eventually transform society as a whole. It is my contention that whether Right To Work happened or not, the teaching profession union members across the country fight for every day will be gone one day. At the rate where are going, everything will be online instruction and teachers will just be glorified moderators if those classrooms are even in brick and mortar schools. The more we let outside organizations into our schools, the ability for decisions to be decided at a local level diminishes greatly. That is what Sokola represents. He takes the side of a particular charter school in his district and he will do whatever is necessary to make sure they look good at the expense of the district around him. If he didn’t have the power he currently has as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, that would be one thing. But that taint in his decision-making policy affects every single public school in the state.
In my eyes, as a parent and a Delaware citizen, David Sokola needs to go. By any means necessary. I fully endorse Meredith Chapman for the 8th Senate District. Even if I was a die-hard Democrat and never voted out of party lines, I would make this one exception. He is that bad. Do I trust David Sokola to be anti-Right To Work because he truly believes it would be bad for unions or because he knows if he isn’t he would have a hard time getting re-elected in his district with various unions supporting him? I would go with the latter. But there comes a time when you have to weed out the rot. That time is now. We have had enough Sokola Ebola in Delaware education. This is a guy who lied in a debate last week. How can anyone trust him to do the right thing when he lies when the truth would be far better for him? That is how desperate he has become. For the first time in 25 years, he knows he may not enter Legislative Hall as a FOIA-protected legislator. He is scared. In a microscopic way, down to the molecular level, I feel bad for him in that respect. But it stops there. In politics, you reap what you sow. And what David Sokola has sown over a quarter of a century is dangerous for every single citizen of Delaware.
As I am writing this, the AFLCIO President, James Maravelias just wrote a comment supporting Matthews’ stance on this issue. To this I can only reply with the following: by allowing Right To Work in Delaware, the unions believe they will lose all their collective bargaining rights. As a parent, we didn’t seem to have a choice when Senator Sokola, the corporate education reformer led Delaware DOE, and Governor Markell brought Common Core to Delaware. When a once a year test became the measurement for all Delaware schools. When our General Assembly passed laws allowing for more charter schools in the state which drained resources out of many school districts. When special education took a back-seat to standards. When teachers spent an exorbitant amount of time on professional development during school days. When our collective voice said “We don’t want our children to take this test”, the DSEA supported an assessment inventory that ultimately led to no real change. Even when I begged them not to and that it would weaken the parent voice for opt out legislation. And it worked. DSEA sheepishly and almost after the fact supported an override of the Governor’s veto but not without my having a tirade of epic proportions that actually caused me to burn some bridges. I didn’t see DSEA’s collective bargaining power at play when disaster happened at the hands of David Sokola with their own teacher evaluation bill. One man was able to turn the wishes of the entire DSEA into his playground and he got what he wanted.
Parents are consistently left out of the equation when it comes to education. Sure, we get our placards on this committee or that task force, but we don’t have the ability to collectively bargain our way out of things we know are bad for our kids. The majority of the decisions are made those who represent some type of profession in education or a company that will somehow profit off it. I’m not saying this to bash unions, but to illustrate a point. Any union is, on its face, going to have a priority of protecting their membership. I get that. Just as a baked bean company would be all about making great baked beans. But when one guy wants to branch off and make different kind of baked bean products that diminish the entire line, that is a big problem. Even when the research comes back that fully states: this new product isn’t worth a hill of beans, the one guy makes it happen. That is Senator Sokola in Delaware.
As a final thought, in June of 2015, a Delaware parent openly questioned and challenged Sokola during a Senate Education Committee meeting on opt out. When Sokola lost his cool and showed the true David Sokola, he told the parent that if she thought she could do a better job herself to run for office. While this citizen was not able to run for Sokola’s seat, another citizen rose up to the challenge. Would she have run if Sokola didn’t make a mockery out of parents over opt out? We will never know. But perhaps it planted a seed that could begin to bloom next week. We may not know what kind of plant will grow next year, but it has to be better than the out of control and choking poison ivy that tarnishes every facet of education Sokola touches. This is why I can’t personally stomach the thought of Sokola sitting in Legislative Hall in 2017. And nothing, not even a potential threat of Right To Work, could get me to change my mind on that. Perhaps Frederika Jenner wasn’t fully supportive of paying for a Sokola political ad as a member of the board of Delawarean’s First PAC. But attaching her name to it sent ripple effects throughout the state in the past 44 hours. Delaware education won’t change for the better until David Sokola is gone.
As a parent, my top priority is to make sure my child gets the best education possible. As a parent, I can clearly see how Sokola policy has affected my child and 133,000 other children in Delaware. I don’t see how a threat of Right To Work has affected these kids. Perhaps it could become a future danger, but the Defcon-4 danger to education that is happening right now, in real-time, is David Sokola. He must go. I understand Mike Matthews and his perception of a Republican Senate as a danger. But it is not something that would automatically come to pass. We have years and years of watching Sokola operate. I’m not running out telling every Delaware citizen to vote Republican in the Senate. Nor am I doing that for any election this year. But I would be remiss as a parent, a father, a husband, a supporter of public education, a supporter of teachers, a supporter of transparency, and a supporter of hope by thinking it is okay to give Sokola any possible edge in this election. I can’t support the triumvirate of Democrat control in Delaware if it means keeping a guy like David Sokola in power. I will support DSEA and other unions in a lot of areas, but not on David Sokola. There is no balance in education as long as he retains his Senate seat.
I like coming to Legislative Hall when the General Assembly isn’t in session. It is very quiet and peaceful. It is 5:28pm and the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Governor’s Advisory Committee’s first meeting will begin at 6pm. DE Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, DOE Deputy Secretary Karen Field-Rogers, Alex Paolano, a teacher at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, and myself are the only ones here so far. The House Majority Hearing Room is nice and cool. 23 chairs are set up around a bunch of tables, a screen is up to show what will most likely be the 5 billionth presentation on ESSA I’ve heard, and more people are coming in. Deb Stevens with DSEA just walked in. A couple of people I’ve never seen before came in as well. I have my public comment all written out. I plan on saying exactly what I wrote with a calm and level-headed delivery. Hopefully the committee won’t provide any information that shocks me, but this is Delaware education!
I may just ramble on here until I stop. I will be live blogging during the meeting unless they kick me out. But public comment isn’t until the end of the meeting so I should be good. There are no microphones hanging from the ceiling like there are at the ESSA Discussion Groups. I have a feeling this meeting will be recorded though…
Governor Markell just launched the Delaware Open Data Portal up at some tech company in Wilmington. Unless he is taking a helicopter, I don’t anticipate him coming to give opening remarks. Unless his driver goes really fast.
Okay, been chatting with people coming in. The room is filling up. Lots of new and old faces. This is getting boring. Be back in a few when the show starts!
The Delaware Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee will meet tonight at Legislative Hall in the House Majority Hearing Room. The fun starts at 6pm. Will Jack Markell show up? It would be very tight. At 5pm he will be in Wilmington for the Delaware Open Data Launch, and then he has to be at Dover Downs for the 2016 Volunteer Awards ceremony.
I can’t believe there has been no announcement concerning who is actually on this committee. I know State Rep. Kim Williams, Deb Stevens from DSEA, and Appo Superintendent Matt Burrows are on it. If I were a betting man, I’m sure Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network is on it. She rarely gives up a spot on any committee for a designee. Someone from Rodel. Perhaps Kevin Carson from the Delaware Association of School Administrators. John Marinucci from the Delaware School Boards Association. I have a feeling I will know most of this crowd. See you tonight!
The Every Student Succeeds Act state planning is in full swing in Delaware. After having community conversations in each county, the Delaware Department of Education formed two discussion groups, one for Measures of School Success and Public Reporting and the other for Students and School Supports. The groups met together for the first time on October 5th in a joint meeting for introduction purposes. The first solo meetings for both groups was on October 10th. The next meeting will be tonight at the Collette Center in Dover, at 6pm.
Below are the minutes for each meeting. Full disclosure, I am on the Students and School Supports Discussion Group. The Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee will meet Wednesday evening in the House Majority Hearing Room at Legislative Hall, from 6pm to 8pm.
As David reached out his hand, the woman said, “No David. You mustn’t. You must never harm your grandfather.” David knew what a father was but what made someone grand as a father? The elderly man had bright blue eyes and white hair. David had blue eyes as well. But the lines on the old man’s face were deep, as if each year left a mark on the man. The woman was young. She had long red hair and deep green eyes. She didn’t speak the same language as the man did at first, but he sensed some of it in her normal language.
“David, my name is Astrid. And this is your grandfather, Jacob,” the woman said. It was dark outside. The streets were not normal. Instead of being flat, they had round rocks. David looked down at them, questioning why. “These are cobblestones David,” Jacob said. “From a time long before you and I. We are in a country called Sweden. And now we are in their city called Stockholm. And this is one of the oldest parts of the city still standing. We are in Gamla Stan, which means Old Town in our language.”
David looked at Jacob with a puzzled look. He still didn’t comprehend this “grandfather” thing. Jacob pulled out a picture of his father, when he was 14 years old. “This is my son, William. He is your father. That makes me your grandfather.” Jacob understood. This old man was his father’s father.
The earliest memory David had been one of the magic place. It was like a place with constant evolution. One minute it would be snowing and the next it would be bright and sunny and warm. This is where David lived most days. He was comfortable there and it filled him with happiness. The adventures he had in this place were beyond the imagining. This was David’s home. He didn’t like it when he dreamed of the real world. He was in this real world dream now. There were always questions and nothing made sense.
David heard of this man Jacob. When he dreamed of the real world, he would hear his mom and dad talking about him. His mother would tell his father he needed to let it go and they had to concentrate on David. He remembered one time when his mother told him, “David, one day you will need to wake up. You will have to become one with the world and survive.” When David got to the mountain, he dreamed about the real world the whole time. He wasn’t able to be home, in the land where nothing stayed the same. To dream was to survive.
“Astrid,” said Jacob. “David looks very confused. He needs to eat. We need to take him down to the bistro before the roll call begins. He may look normal now, but if anyone sees the number on him, they will know. We didn’t do all of this just to lose him now.”
Astrid reached out her hand to David. David trusted her for some reason. She seemed familiar to him but he couldn’t place it. He touched her fingers as they curled around his. David looked up at her. An empty stare with no emotion. He wanted to tell her how he felt. That she was okay to him. But he couldn’t. Not unless he was home. When he dreamed of this place, he could never talk. Just watch. And listen. And absorb. And react. He felt trapped, like the Beast of Leaftear at home when the creature was defeated in the Battle of Leaftear Ending. The Beast threatened them all. He wanted to take over the city of Leaftear and kill them all. David saved the day when he beat the Beast at a game of Kaleidoscope. The Leaftearians knew they didn’t have the physical strength to beat The Beast so they relied on their greatest hero in a game of wits. Afterwards, the Beast sat in his cage for all time and never made a sound. It ate food, it breathed, and it would even snore at night sometimes, but no words ever came out of his mouth. That was how David felt when he dreamed of the real world.
William woke up to a loud pounding on his door. “MEF #313056, you have ten minutes to get dressed and shower. Breakfast at 0500.” William grabbed the towel and uniform and made his way to the showers. They smelled like ancient mildew but the water coming out of the showers felt like hot on a warm summer day. He got dressed and went to the Convening Room on the sub-levels. The Colonel gave the daily orders to the MEF. William received his: “Disinfectant Recognition”. Inside the packet was a list of instructions for the duty. William felt his stomach turn inside out. He remembered this technique from an old television show he watched on something called YouTube. Some show called Breaking Bad. The body would be placed in a barrel with acid. It removed any trace of identity from the victim. The 12 families called this “extra assurance”. Not that any parent of one of the Specials could ever claim the body or sue the MEF. Most of them didn’t even know about the Mountain.
William didn’t know if he could go through with this. He had to find David in here, or find out if… the thought was too much for William to handle. At times like this, William’s self-instinct took over with a fight or flight mechanism. To escape the impending feeling of a loss too terrible to cope with, William would count to 32. He came this far and he knew if he couldn’t find the location of his son here he never would. One of the guards came into the room and whispered to the Colonel. William couldn’t hear it, but he heard the letters AU at the end of it. The Colonel shouted “That is impossible. What do you mean he is gone? That doesn’t happen. Not here. Find him. NOW!”
“We have a new problem,” claimed the Colonel. “One of the Specials is missing. An autistic boy, 12 years old, blonde hair, blue eyes. #112877AU. He disappeared two days ago. There will be no disposal today. All non-molding staff are to actively search for this boy and find him. The first person to find him will get an extra hour for lunch or dinner. The first daughter of the Markell family is coming to the Mountain later today and we are ruined if word gets out we can’t account for one of them.”
Jax sipped the water very slowly. At 103 years old, she knew she didn’t have much time left. She had to make sure they understood. There wasn’t much time left before the purging videos came out. She carefully placed agents into the Mountain to show the world what was happening there. Even though the people couldn’t see them, the word would spread. Fifty-five percent of the population, either dead or on a timetable for execution. She looked out the window to see what used to be Legislative Hall. Spread out over the entirety of the Green, it was home to the Markell family of Delaware. One of the Twelve. The rulers of the world. She missed her friends, those who fought so gallantly to prevent this. She remembered the dying breath of the unions when President Markell signed the order. By that point, the unions were just minions of the Twelve anyways. She had been kicked out years before it was official. During the Red Clay-Christina riot, she watched as the Markell guards beat her friends into submission. She did not escape unscathed. A bullet tore into her left kneecap with such velocity it would never be the same again.
Delaware became an island unto itself during the Great Icescape Melt of 2042. The Markell family built the polymer walls stopping the waters from taking over. It was too late for Southern Sussex County. The wall stood south of Milford with nothing but a liquid graveyard to the south of it. That was the last time she saw her friend, the blogger. He went down there to find someone, but no one ever saw him after that. But he left very careful instructions for her. About what to do if anything ever happened to William, his grandson. It was Jax who supplied William with the knowledge of what came before. The device was a treasure trove that explained everything. All the information the people in power conveniently laughed at and ignored until it was too late. She missed the resistance. They came so close. It would have stopped everything that came to pass. They let him in thinking he had changed, that he was no longer brainwashed by the Markells. They were wrong. Trusting Earl was the worst mistake Jax ever made…
Editor’s note: I began this story last fall. It became very dark, very quickly. Faster than I could take. As the Every Student Succeeds Act became a reality, I saw this potential future unfolding right in front of me. A system designed to offer so much promise to the unsuspecting, but laced with poison. Right now, regulations coming from ESSA are being discussed by politicians, policy-makers, educators, and corporate education reformers throughout the country. For those who have followed this blog, some of the names in here are very familiar. But the reality is that every single state has those who opposed what is happening to public education. This is a story of the last heroes of Delaware in a potential future. It is meant to be a warning sign of grossly exaggerated proportions. One hundred years ago, someone could have written a similar story of a whole group of European Jews who were summarily executed just for their faith. Many would have laughed and ridiculed such a notion. Not in our time… history is filled with such apathy towards itself. It is merely a cycle of cascading events with a rise and fall, over and over again. It is also filled with those who try to fight the future and prevent the same cycle from repeating itself.
Summer. The time of year when you cut loose and have some fun! Even at the Delaware Department of Education. So what are those rascals up to now? Continue reading “Hot Fun In The Summertime… At The DOE? What The…”
We are down to the homestretch on the 148th General Assembly. It is the bottom of the ninth with two outs. The next batter is up. This will be Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s last sphere of influence with Delaware legislation as Governor of the First State. For that, we should all have reason to celebrate. As of July 1st, all eyes will turn towards elections in Delaware and the USA. But there is a bit of unfinished business in Legislative Hall. We will know by about 4am on Friday, July 1st what happened.
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting resolution is ready for a Senate vote. The Executive Committee will clear it for a full vote. But then, it gets very interesting. I reported a few days ago that one Senate Democrat was a no and another was on the fence. Now we can make that three Senate Dems as a no. And the Senate Republicans which gives Senate Joint Resolution #12 a vote of 9 yes and 12 no. But, I’m also hearing from the cracked walls of the basement of Legislative Hall that there might be new legislation kicking the can on this down the road into the 149th General Assembly. Will Red Clay and Christina say “Enough” and get out of the whole thing? Or will we have another year of “will they or won’t they” speculation? In the chance SJR #12 does pass, the question then becomes “what happened to $6 million dollars”? The Senate passed the budget today and WEIC was not in it. I did find out the answer to this. The funds are in reserve but they don’t want to put it in the budget without an affirmative vote on SJR #12. What happens to the $6 million if SJR #12 doesn’t pass? It goes to the Bond Bill. For those who don’t know what the heck a bond bill is, in a nutshell it is a capital improvements bill. Here is an example from FY2013. We should see the FY2017 bond bill in the next 24 hours.
The Basic Special Education Funding for K-3 students, House Bill 30, has not received the full House vote yet. I hope we will see it, and then a rush to the Senate, but I am not optimistic. I did hear today that the Education Funding Improvement Committee may ask for an extension, but then that they may not. We will know if a final report is issued to the General Assembly in the next 27 hours.
House Bill 399, the teacher evaluation bill, has become a very odd bill with a great deal of power. As the story goes, State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola’s tiff is still going on. Today in the House Education Committee, Jaques pulled Sokola’s teacher certification legislation, Senate Bill 199, from the agenda. House Bill 399 is on the Senate Education Committee agenda for tomorrow. Apparently a deal was reached whereby House Bill 399 will get to be heard in the Senate Education Committee and will most likely be released for a full Senate vote. In exchange, Jaques will “walk” Senate Bill 199 for signatures from the House Education Committee members. But then House Bill 399 has to go before the full Senate. Which is a toss-up for how it could go there. I’m hearing different things from different people. Honestly, if anyone is still concerned about defying the will of Governor Markell, I would think twice before using that empty-handed justification. Did you hear that quacking sound? It is the sound of a lame-duck desperately grasping for power in a vacuum.
There is more at stake here than current bills. Election season is coming fast and broken alliances and grudge matches could make things real ugly for the Delaware Democrats. I’m pretty sure if WEIC fails in the Senate, Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Reps. Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and Helene Keeley will have a lot to say about that! They say Wilmington wins elections for state-wide positions in Delaware, but the reality is that Jack Markell would not have become Governor if he didn’t win crucial votes in Kent and Sussex County when he beat John Carney in the primary in 2008.
Speaking of Carney, it looks like he is finally getting around to reaching out to different groups and state agencies in Delaware to firm up support for the Gubernatorial election in November. He still hasn’t officially filed for the 2016 election yet, but he has until July 12 to do so. We also have filings from Republican Lacey Lafferty and Libertarian Sean Goward. Nothing from Republican and current State Senator Colin Bonini. Goward and Lafferty have been the most visible on Facebook. In my mind, you have to work for my vote and get your name out there. I want to know your original ideas, not more of the same-old I hear now. Many Delawareans are in this mindset. If I had to vote today, Carney would not get my vote. The only candidate who has reached out to me and presented many ideas I agree with is Sean Goward. And not just about education either. I would reach out to him and hear what he has to say!
The Congressional race in Delaware is going to amp up big time as well. The News Journal declared Townsend as the “front-runner” a couple of weeks ago, but it is still a long ways off. Townsend has massive support over at Delaware Liberal with some calling him one of Delaware’s best legislators. He does certainly get a plethora of bills passed. But Lisa Blunt-Rochester also has a great deal of support from the African-American community which could change this tale. In terms of signage, I can’t speak for what is popping up in New Castle or Sussex County, but I can say Hans Reigle signs are all over the place in Kent County. And not just roadside ones, but also property signs as well. I have seen Mike Miller and Sean Barney popping up a bit more on the Democrat side. While Townsend may have amassed the biggest war chest thus far, how much of that will be spent on the primary between five candidates? I’m sure some will drop out between now and then. This will be a contest between Townsend and Blunt-Rochester when it comes down to it. Assuming no one else files on the Republican side, Hans Reigle will have an all-clear until the General Election. After the primary, we will see massive competition between Reigle and the Democrat candidate. With a growing feeling of disillusionment with the Democrat party in Delaware, especially in an environment with more in-fighting among themselves, I wouldn’t count Reigle out. Delaware might be a “blue state”, but this year could change things. Look at how much traction Trump has gotten in the past year. I would like to hear more from Scott Gesty as I think he has some very interesting ideas as a Libertarian candidate.
In terms of the State Rep and State Senate races, we may see a mad rush of filings in the next couple weeks. While some are already saying the Republicans don’t have a chance of changing the power structure in Dover, I wouldn’t be too sure. At least in one House of the Delaware General Assembly. People don’t like what is going on. They see a lot of the egregious glad-handling and deals being made in Dover and they don’t like it one bit. This is becoming a more vocal community, especially on social media. I’m going to go ahead and predict many new faces in Dover come January. I think the citizens of Delaware deserve a more balanced legislature. Too much on one side has not been a good thing for the middle-class and lower-income families of the state. I don’t like the assumption that certain people should win office because they are Democrat, or that certain bills will pass because they have Democrat support. I like to hear both sides of the issues, but all too often some voices are drowned out by the high-fives and fist-bumping going on. By the same token, there are some Republicans who need to realize they could be on the cutting line as well come November, or even September. They should stop thinking of this as a frat club. If you want respect, you have to show respect. Especially as an elected official. For those who are about to call me a hypocrite, bloggers don’t count!
Things are going to get very interesting over the next 55 hours and in the next four months. This is Delaware. Anything can happen! The crazy action will take place on Thursday night in the General Assembly. I’m not sure about the Senate yet, but the House begins their legislative session at 7pm.
Oh yeah, what about House Bill 50? And the Autism bills, Senate Bills 92 and 93 with their assorted amendments? To be continued…
Today, the Delaware Youth in Government, sponsored by the Delaware YMCA, took over Legislative Hall! One of the representatives, Natalie Walton, interviewed Delaware Governor Jack Markell.
This is kind of funny to watch. When asked about what the most important thing a Governor needs to do, Markell’s answer is very interesting. Especially given his education agendas the past seven plus years. He did give good advice for anyone that wants to get into public office.
And State Reps Kim Williams and Valerie Longhurst got to address the Delaware Youth in Government as well!
My number one question for the folks at First State Liberty: Do you pay the same amount for guns that you did twenty years ago? I’m not asking this to be smart. My reasoning is very simple: you pay for things every single day that cost more than it did five years ago, ten years ago, and twenty years ago. Education is no different. Perhaps you don’t have children in the Christina School District. Perhaps you don’t want to pay taxes for schools your children don’t go to. I can see your point with that. But here’s the thing. You pay taxes every single time you work. You pay for programs that don’t affect anyone in your household. Your state and federal taxes, which go up and down, go towards things I’m sure you don’t agree with. But yet, you still pay them. If not, you would go to jail.
You have a choice with a referendum. You can say no. That is certainly your right. But I also have to believe that you care about children. All children. I’ve been to your website and how you completely blast the district as if it is your moral obligation to deny children the services they need. I do take offense to that. But you would also be surprised at something we agree on. I know First State Liberty is against Common Core. I know you didn’t support the opt out bill, House Bill 50, because parents already own that right. What parents don’t own the right to, no matter how we may wish otherwise, is how to run a school district. We can get involved, and do our best. We can go to meetings (not just one or two before a referendum) and make our voices heard. We can run for the district school board. There are many ways to get involved. I encourage all citizens to do that.
With Common Core and Race To The Top forced on every single Delaware school district and all charter schools, things changed in education. Basically, Delaware took a $119 million dollar bribe from the US Government. In exchange for a financial gift equal to approximately 3% of our education budget spread out over three years, offered to us during a recession, our Governor sold out Delaware education. But the true crime didn’t stop there, because he allowed the Department of Education to keep half of it. Meanwhile, he cut out reading programs that were actually working for our kids. The results were disastrous. Especially for a district like Christina. When Christina did the same thing First State Liberty is doing now, speaking up about what has come to be seen as a failed program called the Delaware Talent Cooperative, the Delaware Department of Education took Christina’s Race To The Top money away. For the sole reason that they dared to challenge big government. Something your group has as their central theme.
As I’m sure you know, urban districts like Christina don’t tend to fare well overall on standardized tests. These are not truly tests of a student’s achievement. They are set up for children to do poorly on them. They set the achievement levels at a point where it would be impossible for all students to score proficient. As a result, Christina and Red Clay got the test, label and shame status thrown on them in the guise of “priority schools”. Here is a newsflash for you: all school districts have high administrative costs. Because of Race To The Top, districts had to hire people to oversee all of these programs that were forced on them. As a result of Common Core implementation and changes to teacher evaluations, the pressure put on districts was greater than ever. This happened with charter schools as well. Some schools overcame these challenges. They also tended to be schools that didn’t have as many low-income students, minority students, or students with disabilities. These schools were given the spotlight while whole districts like Christina and Red Clay were given the “we are going to fix your horrible schools even if we have to take them over” treatment. And all of this was based on the standardized test scores. The ones that are now fully aligned with the same Common Core your group loathes.
But are you aware, or willing to share with your entire membership and on your robo-calls about the referendum, that the ratio of administrators to students results in Christina administrators overseeing more students than any other district in New Castle County? These jobs you so desperately want to be gone or have their salaries shrunk, that are necessary based on the very mandates forced on them by the Delaware Department of Education…
From the CSD Paving The Way website:
Please note (as stated in the fine print on this image) this graph does NOT include student enrollment and administrator totals for the Delaware Autism Program or the Delaware School for the Deaf which would elevate those numbers.
Christina has cut admins and several teachers. They are on bare bones. If this referendum doesn’t pass, it has the potential of getting very ugly, very fast. More cuts, more jobs gone. And next year, you will be looking at the same thing only they will have to ask for MORE money in their referendum to make up for what they didn’t get from this one. Guess what happens to all of you who live in the Christina School District? Higher unemployment, your neighbor’s children not getting what they need to survive (yes, survive) in public education. People won’t want to move to the Christina School District. They will look on the Delaware DOE’s really horrible school report card and say “we shouldn’t move there”. Without new people moving into the district, your property values will go down. The equity you have built up over the years will slowly vanish. Perhaps one of you will come to a new opportunity or crisis point in your life. You may want to sell that home with the reduced equity. How did that work out for you?
If you think Delaware school taxes are high, have you talked to anyone in Pennsylvania? I’m pretty sure anyone in Chester, Montgomery, or Delaware County in Pennsylvania would laugh when you told them how much your school taxes are going up by. Many folks in Maryland might say the same. And both of those states have sales tax, something you have never paid in Delaware.
If we are going to go by figures from 2014, let’s take a look at these, from the Zero Hedge website:
What these figures don’t include are the portion of property tax that goes towards school taxes. All are much higher in those states. With this information clearly visible, I really have a hard time with your group’s efforts to squash referendums in our state. But yet I don’t hear boo from First State Liberty about Markell giving more tax breaks to corporations while every single citizen in the state pays for it. I didn’t hear anything from any of you when it was announced yesterday that Title I funding, which is supposed to help districts with low-income students, is going to wind up giving more for the state (aka, the DOE) to keep than the school districts will receive.
I think you have the right idea, wanting to curb expenses for citizens. I have no problem with that. But you have the wrong target. Why isn’t the State of Delaware in your crosshairs? Why aren’t you sending robo-calls to every Delawarean about the absolute corruption and fraud going on before our very eyes? Is Christina just an easy target? Step up your game. Come to Legislative Hall when they are doing these corporate gift bills (and I’m sure there will be more by the time June 30th rolls around) and protest that. But all you are doing now is hurting students. Your numbers don’t add up and all the information is available to you if you really look for it. But telling your followers that Christina is non-transparent is completely false. The referendum has been talked about on the radio, in the News Journal, and in the local newspaper for well over a month.
I would seriously question where you are getting your information from and what the true motivations are here. It’s very easy to rile up a crowd. What isn’t easy is admitting you were wrong. I saw the kind-of sort-of owning up to that on your website, but it was followed by “give us information now”. My advice to you: if you really want to know what is happening with district funds, go to all their Citizen Budget Oversight Committee meetings. Not just the one a week before a referendum. Going to one meeting a year and complaining about transparency isn’t exactly what I would call a marketing strategy for your cause. It’s like arriving late at a dinner party and getting upset all the food is gone. But then you tell everyone there was no food! Go to all their board meetings. Find out what is going on. Look at all their monthly financial reports. If you are relying on Delaware DOE data, don’t be shocked if it isn’t exactly accurate.
In terms of the comparison between Christina to Smyrna School District letter, Christina gets more federal funds because there are more at-risk students. Whoever read that financial document admits they don’t know the difference between local, state, and federal funds. If a district has more at-risk students, they get more federal money. The bigger a district is, the more admins you have. As well, their properties are assessed at a higher rate in Smyrna than in Christina. So that 2/3rds number? It doesn’t exactly mesh with reality and solid math. This isn’t rocket science.
You want to blame a district for what is clearly the state’s fault. But in the end, all you are really doing is making it worse for the kids. The future of Delaware. The future of America. Your kids. Your grandkids. If Christina loses with the referendum, the charters in the district lose as well. They get their proportion of the local tax based on students in the district that go to their schools. All you are doing is hurting the whole education system. Who wins when we all lose?
I encourage all of you to look into your hearts and ask yourselves “What exactly are we fighting here? Why are we going after David when Goliath is the one doing all this?” These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. First State Liberty and recipients of your robo-calls: Vote YES for the Christina referendum!
It turns out Rodel is having a Personalized Learning Workshop on February 27th. Because I “liked” the Rodel Foundation on Facebook, I get to see all their ads. Every. Day. I only did it so I could see what they are doing. Honest. But one thing is for sure: I have never been in one of their advertisements. Mike Matthews, the President of the Red Clay Education Association… that’s a different story:
The big question: Is Mike going to this Personalized Learning Workshop? Is he indeed a double agent? The clues are all there. I have seen Mike at Legislative Hall the same time as Rodel lobbyists. I even saw him there the same time as Paul Herdman, the CEO of Rodel. As for me, I won’t be attending this event. For me, it’s about as exciting as a fart in a spacesuit.
If you are friends with Mike Matthews on Facebook, get the real story.
The never-ending saga of House Bill 50 and opt out marches on. Since a couple of days before Christmas, it has grabbed a lot of headlines. When the US DOE issued letters to states about potential funding cuts for opt-out, I knew the conversation would heat up fast. Here is a chronology of links to the latest on the override of Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 in Delaware, with a few other kernels thrown in:
Dr. Steven Godowsky, Secretary of Education for Delaware. Are you really telling people “Don’t worry about the override, schools are okay with opt-out. They understand.” Have you lost your mind? We ALL know you are Governor Markell’s education puppet, dancing on his string. Do you really think people don’t get what you are trying to do? I could name twenty things that happened last year in Delaware schools without even looking back at my notes and the messages parents sent me about what schools did to prevent opt-out. Campus Community School’s Board of Directors issued a policy mandating ALL STUDENTS SHALL TAKE THE TEST. Appoquinimink sent out highly questionable letters asking parents if they understand the law. Charter schools flat-out told parents no. The endless litany of funding threats. Students asked to lie to other students when they are opted out. Moms brought to tears due to weeks of fighting with a school district. “You have to bring in a doctor’s note” came up a lot last year. School boards that pass resolutions and policies that are ignored by administration in the district. Your Department has publicly stated parents can opt out but they have done everything they possibly can to prevent it behind the scenes. Do you really think parents are that stupid? Maybe we weren’t rigorously brought up with Common Core and career and college ready standards, but I think it’s safe to say we did some pretty important things in the past twenty to thirty years.
Why are people trusting this guy? He is NOT a breath of fresh air. He is just a more experienced and polished Mark Murphy. It doesn’t matter who wears the suit, it is still Governor Markell’s words coming out of their mouth. If any legislators actually believe this complete and utter nonsense which was all I heard about today from tons of people, you need to wake up. There are many reasons why we are at this point of utter stupidity. I take back what I said the other day, Markell has not used up his bag of tricks. I fully expect to hear some brand new bizarre “talking point” to come out of the Governor’s mouth or one of his other puppets.
Secretary Godowsky, we have bomb threats in multiple schools across our state and guns going off in the Central Middle School bathroom, and you are cluelessly (yes, I made up that word) walking around telling people “don’t worry about opt-out, don’t worry about the override. We don’t need it.” Are you serious? There is NOTHING better you could be doing right now? Like working with the FBI to find out why all these schools are getting automated messages with bomb threats? You are the Secretary of Education Sir! Get with the program and stop fumbling around Dover doing the Governor’s last-minute desperate pleas to stop the override. If you want to fight the parents, at least come up with something tangible and real. Stop making up stuff!
Delaware legislators, this is a VETO OVERRIDE. This isn’t a regular bill. If this bill winds up going back to committee, during the long months stretching until the end of the 148th General Assembly, with parents basically lining up with pitchforks at Legislative Hall demanding this bill be heard, sucking up all the oxygen in the room, as you are trying to gear up for your upcoming elections, and you voted no for a suspension of rules…you are asking for all of what comes next. We know Earl Jaques will keep this bill dangling and will let it just sit there. It will never be heard. And in the off chance that it does, and the House passes it, then we have Sokola over in the Senate. And it starts all over again. Opt out of saying no to the suspension of the rules. This bill was ALREADY heard in committee. It was voted on twice by both chambers. If I hear about one more person saying “I’m voting no on suspension of rules but I support the override” I’m really going to lose my mind. I don’t care if you are a Democrat or Republican. Do the right thing for parents and students. Let it be heard in the House without this endless committee crap. And that goes for the Senate too! Parents and your constituents deserve better than that. The voting public does not care about any of these political games of one-upmanship and bi-partisan revenge tactics. A no is a no, whether it is a vote against suspension of rules or a vote against the override. In other situations, yes, this could be an issue. But not this time. You guys had your day of fun today and bringing your dog to smile for the camera (sorry Rep. Paradee)! Now it is time to show the parents and students of Delaware where you stand: with us or with the Governor!
The second leg of the 148th General Assembly officially convenes at 2pm today at Legislative Hall in Dover. It remains to be seen what will come out of this. My hopes and the reality will most likely be different. I sincerely hope they are able to pass legislation that will help all citizens of Delaware. While I have incessantly beat the drum on the veto override of House Bill 50, there is a lot of legislation for them to get through. The biggest of them all, the budget bill, will cast a long shadow over pretty much any legislation with a fiscal note attached to it. We will find out what our state finances look like in a couple weeks when Governor Markell presents his Fiscal Year 2017 budget.
I wish the General Assembly can get along in the next six months. I hope party politics doesn’t become the headlines. We have some great legislators in Dover with the capability of doing great things. This will be a very unique legislative session. With over 3/4 of the General Assembly up for re-election in the last year of a two term Governor who has been controversial on his best days. I have an odd feeling much of what we are about to see is pre-determined. But there will be surprises along the way as well.
I want to wish all the legislators in Delaware a welcome back and a special notes goes to newly anointed State Rep. David Bentz. We will know by the end of June what becomes of the next six months. You are all representatives of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Both of the Seans in the Delaware House of Representatives have a lot in common. They are both Democrat, they are both named Sean, they both voted against the budget last June, and they both began their first terms as State Representatives this year. They both supported House Bill 50 in a big way. They brought in a much-needed amount of fresh young blood to the General Assembly. They are both up for re-election this year. Both of them dealt with some controversial issues in 2015.
Sean Lynn’s biggest moment came during the debate of Senate Bill 40, the legislation designed to repeal the death penalty in Delaware. According to Delaware Liberal, Lynn plans to attempt a suspension of House rules to bring the bill back from its own form of death: not coming out of the Judiciary Committee. This could happen as early as January according to the article. The death penalty is one of those issues in Delaware that keeps coming back, draws the ire of both sides, and doesn’t move forward. Will Lynn’s attempt to reanimate the bill be the difference? Time will tell.
Sean Matthews sponsored or co-sponsored many education bills in the General Assembly. He enjoyed moderate success with these bills, which helped to land him a slot on the assessment inventory task force stemming from Senate Joint Resolution #2. As one of the key players in this group, Matthews will be the voice of reason in a group filled with many who lean toward Governor Markell’s way of thinking with state assessments. Time will tell if this group can get rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, but I doubt it.
Both of the Seans will have their hands full with the rest of their own party. As part of the “Six” who voted against the budget last year, along with State Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Kowalko and Williams, many in their party felt it was a mighty bold move for two legislative rookies. It was. I would rather see legislators vote with conviction and belief than going along to get along. I fear there could be retribution of a political sort this year by the House leadership. The easiest targets are the new guys. But both Seans are a mighty stock and I have faith they will deal with any fallout from their decision last year with grace.
With an election year looming, many are assuming no matter what the Democrats will keep their power in Legislative Hall. But there is a growing feeling of discontent in Delaware. After years of questioned policies and agendas coming from Governor Markell and the leadership in Legislative Hall, many Delawareans are willing to vote out of party this year. I predict both of the Seans will be safe because they are among those questioning what is really going on in Delaware. The key to all of this will come in January when Governor Markell releases his budget proposal for Delaware. We will get a very firm idea on where Delaware stands in terms of a budget deficit.
The Delaware PTA is hosting a parent rally at Legislative Hall in Dover on January 14th, at 2pm. This event is changed from January 12th. Please make every effort to attend: parents, students, citizens, teachers, administrators, superintendents, charter heads, and anyone else you can think of. The latest bomb from the US DOE about opt-out is a slap in the face of every single parent of a child in public school America. We need to make this standardized high-stakes testing madness stop. Take off work that day, bring your kids, and support the God-given, fundamental and constitutional rights of parents. This is YOUR moment. Do not let it pass. For school employees, bring the students on a field trip that day and show them how democracy in America works best. This is about parents rights, pure and simple. This is not a civil rights issue. If anything, the Smarter Balanced Assessment has proven how disgusting and vile one test can cause illusions and perceptions about students who have the most needs for instruction. And if you are the parent of a brilliant child who did great on the test, that is excellent. Your child is going to be brilliant either way and doesn’t need this money-wasting time-consuming test to tell you what you already know.
I’VE HEARD FROM SEVERAL FOLKS THAT GOVERNOR MARKELL IS CALLING ALL OF THE HOUSE REPS AND ASKING FOR THEIR SUPPORT IN NOT VOTING YES TO THE OVERRIDE OF HOUSE BILL 50. While everyone who told me this asked me not to share it, and I pretended with each one this was the first time I heard it, it is far too many for my comfort zone. Jack Markell is telling legislators about how it would be so disrespectful to his office if they override HIS veto. Sorry Jack, this is not YOUR bill. This is not YOUR decision. Our legislators sided with parents over your diabolically insane testing mentality. You are a bully. You do not care about parents. How many of your children took the Smarter Balanced Assessment? We both know the answer to that one!
FOR OUR DELAWARE LEGISLATORS: If you vote no to the veto, you are nothing more than a bully. You are a pawn of Governor Markell and you care more about disrespecting one already disrespectful person than thousands of your constituents. You serve Delaware. The People of Delaware. Not Jack Alan Markell. The people. A no vote on the veto could very well cost you your re-election if you are up again next year. And if you aren’t running or don’t face the ballot until a later date, good luck getting any support from the thousands of Delaware parents who have been spit on, disrespected, bullied and intimidated. I know for a fact some of you have already given your support to Jack on this issue. I would think long and hard about that costly mistake if I were you. Republicans and Democrats alike. This is not the time for you to lend support to a failed Governor on education. Seven out of twelve states who received the latest US DOE threat letter were Smarter Balanced Assessment states. Do more than override the veto. Get rid of Smarter Balanced, and come up with a meaningful and productive assessment for our students without all the strings attached. We don’t need to hire outside consultants and companies to do this. We don’t need to spend tens of millions of dollars to do this. We have the teachers and educators in our very own state to come up with something better for our children. And as for you John Carney, you need to get your head out of the clouds and oppose Markell’s bullying tactics. Loudly and clearly. Stop being quiet on everything and just assuming you are a shoe-in on Election Day. That is weak and tiring, and Delaware deserves better than that.
FOR GOVERNOR MARKELL: Do you hear that? That is the sound of parents becoming more important than you. That is the sound of the legislators in your state supporting those same parents and honoring their rights. It rang like a bell on June 25th when the Delaware Senate cleared the final passage of House Bill 50, and it will ring again when they override your veto. This is your legacy. This is your thumbprint on Delaware: causing parents to rise in opposition to a tyrannical eight years of you. We are done with you. We are casting you aside and praying the next one is infinitely better. For all the talk you had about education, you are no better than a school yard bully taunting those you believe are weaker than you. We are stronger than you and we will show you once and for all how much stronger we are. We know you taunt and tease our legislators with threats about not supporting this bill or that bill, or how you use your executive power to make promises when it comes to the budget. We know you allowed Rodel to use their influence so you could hand-pick your leaders in the Delaware DOE and your unelected members of the State Board of Education. We know which legislators are in your pocket. No more. Your power is waning and you know it. Instead of succumbing to the will of the people you actually think exerting more power will make people listen. No. You are done.
As a state, we need to STOP making every single education decision that is surrounded by the measurements of standardized assessments. The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is doing it. Our schools do it. Our DOE certainly does it. Our businesses aligned with Markell and Rodel do it. Enough. What about YOUR child. What about their INDIVIDUAL rights? Do they mean anything anymore?