From “Jon’s Loving Father” To Absolute Insanity: The Exceptional Delaware Story

As I delve into year five on this blog, sometimes it is healthy to take a look back at my humble beginnings.  From the crazy legislation I proposed in 2014 to my modern-day attempt to get a Secretary of Education removed from power, it has been a crazy four plus years!  It started out with a plan and turned into so much more! Continue reading

Advertisements

Red Clay Letter To Parents Has Many Gasping About Education Cuts

Yesterday, Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty sent a letter to parents advising them of all the education cuts since 2008.  He also urged them to attend the Delaware PTA rally outside Legislative Hall next week to support basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

I agree with a lot of what Merv said but then again I have to wonder about some of his logic.  After all, Red Clay did purchase one-to-one devices for all their students which costs a pretty penny.  As well, they are one of the few districts that still has Race To The Top administrators even though the funding for that horrible federal initiative ended years ago.

His language in the letter confused me a bit though because he asks parents to vote with public education funding in mind.  Yes, the General Assembly decides the budget.  But who is Merv asking these parents to vote for?  State legislators?  School board candidates?  Should a school Superintendent be pushing parents toward certain votes? And that’s what happens when I don’t have my morning coffee before I write!

In terms of special education, I have supported any bill that gives that funding.  This is the foundation of special education for these kids.  It baffles me that our legislators will fund pre-school as much as they do but not provide this necessary and vital funding.  They really don’t have any more excuses to justify their cowardice with special education funding.  I highly salute the legislators who consistently support State Rep. Kim William’s bills to get this going.  If you have the means, come down to Legislative Hall next Wednesday, May 9th, at 1:30pm, on the East steps.

I fully support public education funding but I also support the ability to properly audit those funds if need be.  Last year, the State Auditor’s office released a report on education funds but since so many school districts code expenditures different the auditor couldn’t make heads or tails of the funding.  So perhaps we should be making sure our vote for State Auditor is a sound one and not based on a popularity contest among certain legislators.  If you are going to vote for a Kathy in September, make sure it is for Davies!

Things I like that are going on?  Senator Dave Sokola’s bill for education funding transparency which could go a bit further than what it has in it now.  I love the fact that people are waking up to education issues and speaking out.  We may not always agree, but the discussion is healthy.

To read Merv’s letter to parents, please see below:

Final School District Consolidation Meeting Tonight With Big Votes! All Recommendations Are Here!

Tonight is the final meeting of the Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force.  The meeting will be held at 5pm at Legislative Hall in Dover, in the House Chamber.  This is the big one folks!  All the subcommittees issued recommendations last week and the entire task force will be voting on each one.  That doesn’t mean they are a done deal.  It typically means legislation could be forthcoming to address those recommendations.  All the recommendations from each committee appear below.  Come down (or up) to Dover and check it out!  We will see if this mysterious oddity State Rep. Earl Jaques dropped last month concerning a recommendation to have the State Board of Education get the authorization to have the state takeover “failing” school districts resurfaces.  It wasn’t popular when I reported it and many thought Earl slipped on a banana peel or something.

Academic & Student Needs Sub-Committee Recommendations:

Structure Sub-Committee:

Finance Subcommittee:

Teachers And Staff Subcommittee:

 

All Schools Smyrna And Up Are Closed Today! Legislative Hall Cancels Committee Meetings As A Result!

Families from Smyrna to Brandywine got the early morning robo-call today- Snow Day!  Last night’s nor’easter hit New Castle County with anywhere from 1-3 inches of snow.  Because of this, the legislators canceled any committee meetings scheduled for today.  Meanwhile, all districts Capital and south have school!  So… New Castle teachers and students… what are you doing today?  Have fun!

Delaware DOE To Face Joint Finance Committee Tomorrow

The Delaware Department of Education will present their FY2019 budget to the Delaware Joint Finance Committee tomorrow on Thursday, February 8th at 1pm.  With a projected budget surplus for the next fiscal year, the Delaware DOE will assuredly want more of that money.  The problem is everyone and their mother wants a chunk of that change!  Will they get it?

Last year, in the midst of the budget crisis of 2017, the Joint Finance Committee had tons of questions for Secretary Bunting.  Will history repeat itself or will the JFC relax a bit with a projected surplus?  I will be there, reporting live from Legislative Hall!

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!

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

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

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.

hanseneducationold

hanseneducationnew

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!