Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Meeting Tonight At Legislative Hall

Thanks for State Rep. Kim Williams for getting the word out on this.  Yes, this task force is meeting tonight.  At Legislative Hall in the House Hearing Room on the 2nd floor.  From 6:30 to 8:00pm.  Come, give public comment.

I don’t know who the members are except for the following State Reps and Senators: State Reps. Earl Jaques and Joe Miro and Senator David Sokola and Brian Pettyjohn.  I’m guessing since Dave is biking somewhere in Illinois or Ohio at this point, he won’t be there.  That is an interesting group right there.  I’m assuming Earl is the Chair of this cabal since he is the one funning the meeting.  Come, or be square!  We know the Delaware Charter Schools Network won’t have a membership because of Rep. Williams last minute amendment on the bill.

Seriously, whose idea was it to have meetings in the middle of the Summer?  The Dept. of Education is the coordinator.  So I just answered my own question, duh!  Sorry for the late notice folks, but I literally just found out about this myself!

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Colin Bonini Causes State Budget To Rise & An Update On That Whole Budget Thing

I hope the Delaware General Assembly doesn’t use prevailing wage for the folks that print legislation because Colin Bonini most likely caused them to get VERY busy.  Today, during an extension of their session which should have ended yesterday morning, Senator Colin Bonini added 20 amendments to a bill.  Not sure why he didn’t make it one huge amendment, but I digress.  For each amendment, the legislative aides have to print up each one and give it to each legislator.  Not just in the Senate, but also the House.  And then the archives as well.  That is a hell of a lot of paper!

To put this in perspective, there were so many amendments I couldn’t get them all in one screenshot.  So it is impacting my work as well.  Thanks for that Colin!

I have no doubt Colin knows this is in jest.  If not, Colin, this is in jest.  If you want to read about this bill, please go here.  But there is other news at below.

Meanwhile, the legislators have been at Legislative Hall since 1:oo.  Still no actual budget to vote on.  Seven hours later.  If anything changes, I will do my best to keep you updated.  I will most likely be sleeping.  I was interviewed on Friday by the Delaware State News.  The article showed up yesterday and it was awesome.  The title alone is worth the read!  A Sham-Wow Moment While You Were Sleeping

Updated 8:18pm: WDEL is reporting the Delaware Joint Finance Committee restored the Grant-In Aid funding at 80%.  I am not sure if this means some type of deal for the entire budget is happening.

Updated 8:34pm: Speaking of printers, I’m hearing a new budget is coming off them now and a possible deal was struck.

Updated 8:37pm: Apparently this session is called an “Extraordinary Session” based on the General Assembly website: An Extraordinary Session of the 149th General Assembly has been called by Governor John C. Carney, for Sunday afternoon, the 2nd of July, 2017 at one o’clock.

Updated 8:48pm: It takes hours for a budget to print.  By the Governor’s decress, this “Extraordinary Session” is only for budget purposes.  Which means non-budget legislation is NOT being worked on by the House or Senate.

Updated 9:11pm: It is still coming out of the printer…

Updated 9:16pm: My son is listening to a horrible remix of Twenty-One Pilots “Heavy Dirty Soul”.  I hope that isn’t an omen…

Updated 9:18pm: The budget bill is a House Bill this year.  It rotates every year.  Which means the House will vote on the budget first.  But the bond bill will come from the Senate.

 

Happy Fiscal Year 2018 In Delaware… Or Are We Still FY2017?

Can anyone tell me what fiscal year it is?  Are we still FY2017 here in Delaware?  Because our legislators got a 72 hour extension to pass a budget.  Having seen the action last night/this morning, it seems like insurmountable odds.  But compromise they must.  Or they ALL face the wrath of Delaware citizens.  Especially if the state winds up closing like New Jersey did today.

The mood was VERY somber over there yesterday.  I spent more time in the House than the Senate, but even that was minimal.  Most of the evening both parties were in Caucus chewing the fat about the budget.  Governor Carney stayed in his office for the most part.  I did see him grabbing a smoothie in front of Legislative Hall.  But if we want to talk about waste, how about not leaving about 30 boxes of uneaten pizza in the meeting room next to the House chamber!  I did snag a couple of pieces.  I didn’t wait in the HUGE line for ice cream though.  What else do lobbyists and legislators have to do while their leaders are

So the legislators have to come in tomorrow, on a Sunday.  And I will predict Monday as well.  On social media, the blame game is getting tossed around on both sides.  Lots of folks want to throw darts at Andria Bennett for voting no on the personal income tax bill but everyone knows it doesn’t matter because it was NEVER going to pass in the Senate.  I understand her intent and respect her for that.  But with ten Republicans in the Senate that baby wasn’t going anywhere!

Saw tons of people there.  Had lots of good conversations.  Lots of laughs and joking around.  But for the most part, it was an endless night of waiting.  And hearing the bell to get the legislators back in their chambers.  An endless ring.  It almost drove one of my friends insane.  She wasn’t used to it.  You become numb to it after a while.  Ding.  Ding.  Ding.  Anyone who has spent even a bit of time there knows exactly what I’m talking about.

I won’t be heading over there while they hash all this out.  It is anyone’s guess what happens next.  I heard many times, from many people “I think they got a deal”, but until it is written down and voted on it means squat.  So while the rest of the state waits in breathless anticipation of when we are going to get a budget, I’m going to kick back and relax.  Watch the sunset, take walks, have some fun, and just breathe.  I’m still blogging, just not spending more time than I have to watching elected officials figure it out.

There Are NO, I Repeat, NO State Employee Salary Cuts In Delaware’s Budget Bill

Blogging is funny sometimes.  You can get things wrong.  When multiple sources tell you the same thing, you assume it is gold.  But for the end of June in Delaware you have to be a bit cautious.  That is my situation right now.  I want to apologize for anyone who had angst over this.  I thought, based on sources, that it was going to happen.  While eating dinner tonight, I was informed there was a 1.45% deduction in state employee salaries, but this was a misread of the appropriations bill.  It is NEVER my intention to put bad information out there.

I’m sitting in the lobby at Legislative Hall to a packed house.  Even the House Republicans are here!  Below is the current appropriations bill, House Bill #275.  I haven’t had time yet to take a deep dive into it yet.  Far too much going on.  I’m running into people I haven’t seen in a while and catching up with the usual suspects.  But I felt it was important, in the face of this budget crisis, to at least get this information out there as soon as possible.

 

As House Republicans Storm Out Of Their Chamber, Delaware Citizens Held Hostage To Party Antics

Last night.  The walkout.  The fury.

I missed it.  I got in my car and drove to Legislative Hall once the Grant-In-Aid bill was introduced and went to committee around 11pm last night.  I arrived at Legislative Hall as the Capital police officer, the same one I see every single time I go there, told me it was over.  He also said “They aren’t happy.”  I went in anyways and got the scoop from Reps. John Kowalko and Andria Bennett. Continue reading “As House Republicans Storm Out Of Their Chamber, Delaware Citizens Held Hostage To Party Antics”

Behind The Scenes Discussion At Legislative Hall Could Result In 2% Pay Cut Or Major Increase In Healthcare Costs For ALL State Employees

*Please go to the end of the article for an update on this developing situation.

While it has not been “officially” confirmed, I am hearing leadership in our state government is talking about giving ALL Delaware state employees a 2% cut in pay for FY2018.  The only exception would be prison guards due to the negotiated agreement with them.  The other possible option is increasing health insurance premiums by 50%.  This is going on behind closed doors folks with ZERO transparency.  None.  It is the day before they are supposed to be passing a budget and it has not been released to the public at all.  There is NO option to get your voice heard.

The House and Senate are taking a break to eat dinner.  They should be back on the floor around 8:30pm.  Longhurst’s House Bill #240 which could gut itemized deductions in Delaware and raise YOUR taxes will get a vote.  From the legislators and folks down there I’ve been talking to, the legislators are in a panic mode with Governor Carney seemingly clueless.  No budget has been written.  This is not good folks.  At all.  I’ve heard the cuts in the budget referred to as a “bloodbath”.  We have school boards able to raise taxes through the match tax scam.  We have charters keeping their transportation slush fund.  We axed the estate tax.  There is ZERO organization here folks.  And I won’t even get into the damn bickering between the Dems and the Republicans.  Grow up.  We don’t care.  Do the right thing for our state!

So this is what you need to do citizens of Delaware: get to Legislative Hall tomorrow night around 5pm and swarm every single legislator you can.  Show up IN PERSON.

Ironically, the “Find Your Legislator” portion of the Delaware General Assembly website appears to be not working.  At least for me.  But you view a full list in the blue links here:

Delaware Senators

Delaware State Representatives

This absolute crap and farce of a state government has been operating in the shadows for far too long.  They know this is going to hurt every single state employee but they want to rush this budget and then head off on Summer vacation.  This is shady and it is happening now.  We have State Reps joking around about last names, taking up time when there could be meaningful conversation that the public can here about all this.  I heard one state rep ask for a bill to be tabled until January because of the public’s need to know more about the budget.  Schwartzkopf shot him down.  I don’t know which rep it was, but we need to hear more of that.

Remember, tomorrow.  Make YOUR voice heard LOUD and CLEAR!

Updated 6/30/17, 1:24pm: David Burris, the Chief of Staff for the Delaware Senate Republicans put a response up on Facebook that there has been zero discussion about pay cuts on their side of the aisle.

Chaos At Legislative Hall In Dover

Legislative Hall was a very odd place this afternoon around 4pm.  Usually the place is bustling on a Wednesday afternoon, but since yesterday’s announcement by party leadership that no “controversial” bills would be heard until the budget is passed, it was eerily quiet.  Of course the lobbyists were milling around, but the tone was very subdued.

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee met today and added $51 million in cuts to education and healthcare for a total of $88 million cuts.  Rumors were swirling that Democrats in the House were turning on their own because they won’t vote for the budget if it includes House Bill 240, State Rep. Val Longhurst’s very weak revenue bill.  Turns out the Democrat leadership sent those legislators to the Principal’s office (aka Governor Carney) over the past couple of days.  Way to turn on your own!  And they even got a few of the Delaware labor organizations (including DSEA) to rattle those legislators cages.

The Republicans introduced a resolution to extend state services for 30 days during July if the budget doesn’t pass.  I saw Mike Jackson who runs the Office of Management and Budget briefly and asked if we had a budget.  His response…  “For now.”  Which doesn’t mean much given no one has voted on it yet.  But the epilogue language is being written.  Grant-in-aid got slashed from $51 million to $8 million so good luck to those non-profits!

Meanwhile, the House voted on House Joint Resolution #6, directing the DOE to come up with regulations surrounding gender identity issues in Delaware schools.  Reps. Dukes and Smyk asked questions about it which basically meant they were opposed to the bills.  As one observer put it, there was definitely some “transhomophobia” in the House chamber.  The bill passed the House.  Expect similar resistance in the Senate.

Two Senators were there today who hadn’t been in the latter part of last week.  Senator Bryan Townsend’s wife had a baby boy last week.  Meanwhile Senator Brian Pettyjohn had some other stuff to straighten out.

I had some good chats with some folks.  Asked some pointed questions to a few so I am hoping to find out some answers on those in the next few days.  One of them has to do with the series of articles I’ve been writing about Smyrna.  It’s kind of putting a delay on Part 6.  I am hoping the answer is positive.

Some of us talking were in agreement the State Board of Education isn’t going anywhere.  The Delaware Dept. of Education will pick up the $213,000 tab for them.  Today the Senate confirmed former Delaware Senator Liane Sorenson as an at-large member of the State Board of Education.  I met her briefly and enjoyed our conversation.  She did confirm she reads Exceptional Delaware so that is always a plus in my book!

The next two days are going to be absolutely crazy down there.  If I’m not there tomorrow, I definitely will be on Friday.  That is an education blogger MUST!  I am hoping to get more of the Smyrna series up tomorrow.  But it depends on that one answer on how I move forward with this.

Oh yeah, the Blockchain legislation, House Bill #226, passed the Delaware Senate.  I anticipate Governor Carney will sign that faster than the Flash.  And so it begins…

I can’t for the life of me figure out why they aren’t moving forward with State Rep. John Kowalko’s franchise tax for companies incorporated in Delaware.  It would raise the fee from $300 to $325.00 and would raise $43 million in revenue.  Sounds like a no-brainer, right?  The last time that happened, there were 500,000 companies incorporated in Delaware when they raised it from $275 to $300.  Opponents feared it would cause companies to leave Delaware.  Now we have around 800,000 companies incorporated in Delaware.  Bills that make common sense should sail through, but we aren’t dealing with common sense in leadership at Legislative Hall these days, so once again, I digress…

It is late June in Dover, Delaware.  62 elected officials will attempt to decide how our state is run.  I trust a handful of them.  Pray for us, rest of the United States of America.  We need your prayers more than ever!

Updated with essential article from Delaware Public Media: http://delawarepublic.org/post/jfc-eliminates-grants-nonprofits-fire-companies-senior-centers-balance-budget

Updated again, 3:29pm, 6/29/2017: This article has been corrected to reflect that there were zero no votes for Liane Sorenson’s confirmation on the State Board of Education.

No Cuts To Education Funding Rally Draws A Crowd

 

Teachers, parents, and even kids gathered on the East side of Legislative Hall for a No Cuts To Education Funding Rally.  All told, I would estimate there were somewhere in the ballpark of 50-75 participants in the rally.  Speakers included Eugene Young with Network Delaware, income President-elect of DSEA Mike Matthews, Christina PTA representative Mary Schorse, incoming Christina Board of Education Member Eugene Griffith Jr., PACE of Wilmington representative Swiyah Whittington, Christina CBOC member and Blue Delaware writer Brian Stephan, and Senator Bryan Townsend.

All of the speakers do not want any cuts to education funding and favored more state revenue in the form of higher taxes.  They urged folks to get involved in education and speak up.  They said the best way to do that is by letting their legislators know their thoughts on this.  Senator Townsend referred to Delaware’s teachers as “magicians” in that he believes they do great things for Delaware’s students.  Instead of writing about what will surely be covered by the major media in Delaware, I am presenting a photo gallery of the event.  This event leaned toward the Democrat way of thinking as the Republicans tend to favor large cuts as opposed to increasing revenue by increasing taxes.  The only legislator who attended the rally was Senator Townsend.

Save The Date: June 20th, Rally For Education- No Cuts To Education Funding

When legislators and Delaware Governor Carney proposed massive cuts to public education, the people responded with a loud voice.  As a result, there will be a rally at Legislative Hall on June 20th from 1pm to 3pm, rain or shine.  This event, hosted by Network Delaware, is going to draw a huge crowd.  I know several educators will taking a bus (or two) from New Castle County.  This is YOUR chance to make sure your voice is heard.  If you are tired of bloated classrooms and teacher cuts, I would make sure you are there.  From the press release on the rally:

We need to stand up and show support for Delaware legislators who are resisting cuts to education. We need to unite and show them we’ll have their backs in their fight for educators, students, and school staff as they oppose proposed budget cuts to education funding for FY18.

All are welcome. Come with creative posters! Speakers to be announced. The rally will take place on the East Side Steps of Legislative Hall. Parking is available in the Delaware Public Archives parking lot.

This event is co-sponsored by PACE Network, Delaware PTA and Network Delaware.

If you haven’t filled out our form to have postcards and letters sent to your legislators opposing the budget cuts to education, please do so now! https://goo.gl/UM6cis

I will be there, front and center.  The legislators work for us, we the people, not the other way around.  Bring your kids!  Most educators should be done with school so there are no excuses!  The Delaware 149th General Assembly ends the first half of their legislative session on June 30th/July 1st.  Time IS running out.  It is now or never!

Delaware Senate Passes Blockchain Bill With Unanimous Vote & Things I Heard At Legislative Hall Today

My question is how many of these Senators even know what this bill means.  Do they know what they are opening the door to?  To be fair, all this bill does is allow Blockchain technology into Delaware corporate law.  The word “education” does not even appear in the bill.  Blockchain would allow for secure transactions.  It also allows for secure dataflow.  But who owns that data?  If it is meant for one business or one person, does that business or that person own that data?

What happens when a student’s standardized test data, medical information, discipline record, and attendance become a part of this permanent record?  What happens if that information is wrong?  How do you go about correcting it?  Who puts information in this distributed ledger?  There are so many unanswered questions about this technology.  For businesses and corporations, I get it.  But when it comes to the eventual distribution to ALL people, my red flags go way up.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 69 with 20 yes and 1 not voting (Senator Bryant Richardson).  I’m not sure why he chose not to vote.  There was hardly anyone else during this vote.  A handful of lobbyists and that was about it.  I did see the primary sponsor, Senator Bryan Townsend, leaving Governor Carney’s office shortly before the Senate convened.

There was a flurry of activity at Legislative Hall today.  Pro-lifers and some pro-choicers caused a long line to get in.  I guess nobody told them that arriving at 2pm does nothing because the House doesn’t vote on bills until after they go to Caucus.  Which they are still in since the House isn’t back in session yet.  I went for the SB69 vote and got back home a little while ago.  Many of the pro-lifers left.

I did have some chats down here.  I heard some rumblings about a few things.  One of them being a school district consolidation bill that is floating around.  I haven’t seen it yet.

I did have this conversation:

I just wanted to let you know your analysis is always right.  I read every article you put on your blog.

Yeah, but does HE read it? (pointing to Governor Carney’s office)

He doesn’t read your stuff.  He doesn’t have time for that.  But I know his education policy advisor does.

That is always a comforting thought.  The most powerful political guy in the state doesn’t read my stuff.  How assuring!  I know Jack did.  Jack read everything that had his name on it, good or bad.  This led to a conversation about the time I sang for Jack Markell.  When asked if I was going to make a song for John Carney, I answered my singing days are over.  But you never know…

State Rep. Earl Jaques’ new tax ’em without a referendum bill was officially introduced today.  House Bill 213 was assigned to the House Education Committee.

I heard some people having extreme agita about Senate Bill 50, Senator Harris McDowell’s love fest for Del-Tech.  Which would mimic how vocational school districts are funded for minor and major capital projects.  It would also give Del-Tech’s board the, you guessed it, ability to raise property taxes without a referendum for these projects.  Yes folks, they want us taxpayers to now fund community colleges and their pet projects as well!

State Rep. John Kowalko introduced House Bill #209 which would prevent the abuse of epilogue language in the state budget.  Kowalko’s bill would prevent the “waivers” that occur every single year which go against Delaware state code.  Think of the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund as just one example of this abuse.

I can’t imagine what State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman was thinking when he introduced House Bill #194 which would eliminate the senior tax credit for anyone born after 1967.  I can’t imagine too many Republicans would be on board with this, but they are all Republican sponsors on the bill.  That tax credit was something I was looking forward to.  Thanks for that Jeff!  It still has to pass.  Can’t imagine that happening with all this talk about budget deficits and “shared sacrifice”… insert sarcasm here…

I saw some faces from yesteryear as well.  Always good to chat with people I didn’t think I would see again.  I see on social media that some people I know were there today and I didn’t even see them.  Maybe next time.

That’s it for now folks.  In the coming days I’m going to have to list ALL the Delaware education legislation floating around.  I used to keep track of this stuff daily but it is a lot of work.

As Deep Budget Cuts Loom, Will New Tax Bills Save The Day In Delaware?

Fiscal Year 2018 will involve a lot of pain if the Joint Finance Committee’s marked-up state budget continues down the same dark path it is on now.  While some cuts seem like a good idea, others will make children go without desperately needed services.  The State Board of Education is kaput if everything stays the same.  But could new tax bills, which would bring in more revenue to the state, cause some of those cuts to disappear?

In Delaware, the General Assembly needs a 3/5 vote to pass any revenue bills.  In the House, that requires 25 yes votes and in the Senate, 13.  This is where it gets very tricky.  The House has 25 Democrats and 16 Republicans.  The Senate has 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans.  The House could conceivably pass the budget just on their Democrat base, but complications could easily arise.  Some Dems in the House will not favor certain perks in the epilogue language, such as the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund.  There is at least one Democrat, State Rep. John Kowalko, who will not say yes to the budget if that is in there.  The Republicans in both houses want something: prevailing wage.  They have wanted this for years, but this could be the year where they get what they want, or at least make some inroads towards it.

The Joint Finance Committee has to make the cuts until they see more revenue.  Are they going after some of the programs that help people the most?  Not yet.  But today is another day and is expected to be uglier than yesterday.  The JFC does not meet again until Tuesday, June 6th.  I expect a whirlwind of activity at Legislative Hall every single day someone is there between now and July 1st.

In Governor Carney’s proposed budget, the local share of student transportation costs went from 10% to 15%.  Yesterday, the Joint Finance Committee raised that to 20% with the expectation the school districts can recoup those costs from this mythological one-time Match Tax.  Carney proposed the district school boards utilize this option without a referendum.  Let’s be very clear on this: if this happens, do not expect taxpayers to pass referenda any time soon.

No matter how this plays out, John Carney’s vision of shared sacrifice will have winners and losers.  If the uber-wealthy get more perks like the estate tax repeal, it will become very obvious who is pulling the strings behind the curtain at Legislative Hall in Dover.

Who Is My Delaware State Rep & Senator? Which District Do I Live In? A Primer For Delaware Students! #swarmthehall

This article is for ALL Delaware public education students.  This is what you need to do NOW to make a difference for YOUR school.

Last night, I attended an Education Forum at Newark High School.  As members of the audience stated they didn’t know who their legislators even are, State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked me to put up a post on my blog about this in front of the whole audience.  It is my pleasure to do so Paul!

Even though students (unless you are 18 or over) are not registered voters, your voice is important.  I will go so far as to say it is the most important voice in the state.  You can get involved, and I would ask your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, friends, and neighbors to get involved in this year’s budget, especially when it comes to public education.  But first, you have to know who to contact!

The first thing to do is go to the General Assembly website, found here: http://legis.delaware.gov/

The easiest way to find out “Who is My Legislator” is to go that section of their website and put in your address or go on the “Find by Map” option.  I did that using my address, and it came up with this:

Another way to find out what Senator or State Rep covers your district, go to the tabs that say “Senate” or “House”.

I will use the House as an example.  Go to the tab that says “Members & Districts” and click that.  Now I have to sacrifice one of our State Reps as an example, so I chose my own State Rep, Trey Paradee of the 29th Rep. District.

What a big smile for your constituents Trey!  It has other information on the page, but if you want to contact them, it provides their phone number at Legislative Hall or their email address.  You will get a legislative aide or an answering machine when you call them.  An email might shoot you an automatic reply if they aren’t there that day.  Some legislators are brave enough to put their home or cell phone numbers on their contact information.  I would ALWAYS call that phone number first since the likelihood of them getting back to you SHOULD improve.  Another way is to look for them on social media.  Send them a friend request if they offer that option.  I would shoot them a message stating who you are and possibly an issue or topic you would like to discuss with them.

Once you know what they look like, and if you have the time, go down to Legislative Hall and introduce yourself.  Don’t do it while they are in session in their respective chamber though because they can’t really stop that time to talk to you.  Be respectful and courteous.  Ask for THEIR cell number if you don’t have it already.

If you find your legislator isn’t getting back to you, keep at it!  I’m not saying to stalk them, but keep calling, emailing, or texting.  As a professional courtesy, I would give them at least three days to get back to you.

As the General Assembly prepares their version of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, they need to hear from their constituents NOW.  Not later.  Not on June 30th.  NOW!!!!

Here is how it goes for the next five weeks down in Dover.  The General Assembly is on a two-week recess right now and will return on June 6th.  In the meantime, the Joint Finance Committee, which is a group of legislators, are doing what is known as the “budget mark-up”.  They go through Governor Carney’s proposed budget and make changes.  This group needs to hear from you NOW!

I would email ALL of them in one email and tell them what you are looking for.  For those who are against all these cuts in education, some suggested wording could consist of this:

Please remove the cuts to education from the state budget.  It is unfair to balance the state’s budget on the backs of our students.  Schools are already under-resourced and our children need our commitment to their future.  Thank you.

The public can attend the Joint Finance Committee meetings, but seating is limited.  And considering most of you students will be in school, DON’T CUT SCHOOL to come to Dover to go to a JFC meeting.  There will be plenty of time for that when school gets out because the General Assembly continues to meet until June 30th.  If you want to see some real craziness going on, come down (or up) to Dover on June 30th.  The fun usually starts around 6 or 7pm in the evening.  Bills pass on the fly, left and right and they suspend a ton of rules to get bills passed.  You see bodies passing by you like the Flash.  I’ve gone the past two years and didn’t get home until the sun was coming up.  That’s right.  They MUST pass the budget or they don’t get to go home until they do.  They can go home, but their legislative session isn’t over until the State Budget passes.  By State Law, the Governor must either sign or veto (not sign it) the budget once the General Assembly passes it.  If the Governor passes it, the General Assembly has to keep meeting until it passes or they can attempt to override the Governor’s veto.  This year, June 30th falls on a Friday so I have no doubt they will want to get in and get out so they can have their 4th of July weekend last as long as possible.

If students truly want to make a huge difference with this budget, if you don’t want teachers cut and you don’t want your school board to be put in a position where they are forced to raise more taxes without a referendum, your State Rep, Senator and the Joint Finance Committee need to hear from you TODAY!  They may give you a reason why they support this or don’t support that, but make sure YOUR feelings are heard.

If you want to make a HUGE impact, organize a group of your friends and classmates and come down to Legislative Hall in Dover (but don’t cut school to do it).  You are NOT allowed to carry signs into the building, but you can wear t-shirts as long as they don’t have curse words or are inappropriate.  It could say something as simple as “No Education Cuts” or have fun with it and write “Forced Match Tax Without A Referendum Is Horrible” .  I would NOT recommend t-shirts like “John Carney is bad” or “Mike Ramone loves Donald Trump….Eeeew!” (neither of them do, just making a point here).  You can even write legislator letters but make sure you go to their office in Legislative Hall and give it to the receptionist or legislative aide to give to the legislator.  Don’t try to put letters or correspondence on their desk in the House or Senate chamber.  I did that once and it is NOT allowed.  Don’t yell at anyone or interrupt anyone either.  And whatever you do, when the House or Senate is in session, just sit and listen.  You do NOT want that gavel coming down on you by Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long or Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf!

You CAN make a difference this year.  If you want to preserve what you have and not lose out next year, there is nothing wrong with a peaceful protest.  Make sure you get Mom, Dad, or your Guardian’s permission first, but make it something you can tell your grandchildren about one day.  How you told our legislators what your schools need and you helped to make a difference.  Let’s call it “Swarm The Hall”.  Share hashtag #swarmthehall on Twitter and Facebook and let’s make it a thing Delaware students!

As an education blogger, I’ve met most of our State Reps and State Senators.  I want to believe they want to do the right thing for everyone in the state, but sometimes political issues happen.  If you are a dye-in-the-wool Democrat and your State Rep or Senator is a Republican, or vice-versa, don’t get into the whole “us vs. them” mentality.  They will listen to you, but it could cause them to tune out whatever you are saying.  Make it about the issues, not about the politics.  No one wants to hear about the whole Trump/Hillary thing or “Dems Stink” or “Republicans Lie” kind of stuff.  This is about YOU, and YOUR education.  And this isn’t just about school districts, it’s also about charters.  Because if districts have to make cuts and force a match tax on their residents, they will have a hard time getting referenda passed in the future.  Which means less money for charter schools as well.

Below is a list of ALL the Delaware State Reps and Senators.  The Senate has 21 members and the House has 41 members.  Don’t get confused by the district numbers.  I live in State Rep District 29 but State Senate District 15.

If you are a Delaware public school teacher, please share this article with your students and their parents.  It can also be a valuable lesson for current events or helping children become more aware of how the political process in Delaware works.

Updated: Some libraries are holding events called “Postcard Party for Education Funding”.  Details can be found here.  This is a brilliant idea!  Reach out to the sponsors and see if you can get these events in your local libraries if they aren’t in your area!

House Bill 50 To Be Heard In House Education Committee Today…. Say What?

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?”

Exceptional Delaware Endorses John Marino For The 10th Senate District

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.

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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.

 

Big Events Tonight In Delaware! Marino vs Hansen, State Board Of Ed Sunset Review and More!

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!

 

Santa And John

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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 DoverThat 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 kidsThere 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.

Save The Date: November 16th

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.

educbudgetpublichearing111616

 

Sokola Ebola Vs. Right To Work: Which Is The Bigger Danger To Education?

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.

The ESSA Advisory Committee Pre-Game Show

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!

 

Don’t Forget: Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee Meeting Tonight

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!