If The Delaware General Election Were Held Today… Take The Polls!

Carper & Blunt-Rochester Do Not Like Proposed Federal Education Budget

A couple of weeks ago, I sent emails to the Delaware members of Congress regarding President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposed education cuts.  I received responses from U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt-Rochester and U.S. Senator Tom Carper.  To date, U.S. Senator Chris Coons has been silent.  Betsy DeVos’ education budget promises to give more money to charter schools and plants funds for a nationwide school voucher system.  I am opposed to both.

 

The 2016 Anti-Endorsements

I see so many endorsements these days based on nothing but vapor.  I thought I would do the opposite.  An anti-endorsement.  Those who I wouldn’t vote for even if they were in my district and they were the only ones running.  These are candidates who have either done some really dumb things or are very clueless about what is going on.  And then there are the elite candidates who think their name is sufficient enough to stay in office.  Sorry, but I see right through you on many issues.  As for my Presidential anti-endorsements, it is a matter of choosing evil either way.  While we can certainly argue all day long about who is more evil, evil is as evil does…

David Sokola, 8th Senate District, incumbent, Democrat: If ever there were someone I would want to disappear from Legislative Hall, it would be Sokola.  It seems like every day I find out more about the damage Sokola has done over the past 25 years.  Enough.  If the 8th Senate District votes this guy in again, they are making a very big mistake.  I will be coming out with something in the next few days that will even cause Newark Charter School parents to rethink any support they may have for him.

Melanie George Smith, 5th Rep District, incumbent, unopposed, Democrat: She is a slippery one, this co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.  Using that kind of pulpit for dubious allocations of state funds is a big no-no in my book.  She has power down at Legislative Hall… too much.  Her recent home purchase in the Newark Charter School 5 mile radius is an transparent as Saran wrap.  I have to wonder what else she has done in the past couple of months in regards to that 5 mile radius…

John Carney, Delaware Governor, Democrat: I’ve heard John is a really nice guy.  He speaks from the heart, but what I worry about is his mind.  In a come from behind primary victory in 2008, Jack Markell beat John Carney.  I believe Carney remembers that very well.  Instead of looking at how bad Markell has been for Delaware over the past eight years, Carney is embracing the Markell mindset and forming the very same allegiances Jack had.  Carney’s “we all have to get along” doesn’t work for me.  It is easy to say that AFTER things have been set in place.  Stacking the deck with certain people and then saying “Let’s get together and talk” is pure politics and that is NOT the change I’m looking for.

Donald Trump, U.S. President, Republican: I lived in New York growing up.  Trump has been around a long time.  I still remember the controversy and shenanigans this guy has pulled going back to the 1980’s.  How he got this far is something I will always wonder about.  He is a bully, pure and simple.  A clown in a suit.  I firmly believe, should he win, he won’t sit long in the Oval Office.  And that will give us a President Mike Pence.  Another corporate education reform lover.  No thanks!

Hillary Clinton, U.S. President, Democrat: When Hillary was running for the New York Senate, an incident happened at Westchester County Airport.  It was covered up.  Someone died.  I wasn’t a big fan of her before that, and I’m not now.  She is the embodiment of all that is wrong with this country.  Corporate interests rule the day for her.  The will of the people will be sapped and broken if she wins.  Not right away.  But it will happen.  She knows damn well exactly what she is doing.  While not as transparent an evil as Donald Trump, it is the snake that is coiled up and hissing behind a rock you have to watch out for.

Colin Bonini, Delaware Governor, Republican: He ran for Governor but every time I hear him talk it sounds like a concession speech to John Carney.  He pretends to hate standardized test scores, but he blasts traditional school districts while thinking charter schools are a worthy replacement.  He forgets that test scores are the apparatus that damages high-need schools in Delaware.  And Colin, slavery apologies don’t change history, but it is a gesture of good faith.  It is not a crutch.

Harris McDowell, 1st Senate District, incumbent: You have long outlived your purpose in Legislative Hall Senator.  I wasn’t a big fan of McDowell before I saw this old post on Delaware Liberal the other night.  He was one of the four flippers on House Bill #334 which made the wretched Smarter Balanced Assessment the law of the land in Delaware.  He also voted no not once, but twice on House Bill 50, the parent opt out bill.  As the Senate co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, it is more than obvious he has used that pulpit for his own purposes.  Shady as shady gets…

Anthony Delcollo, 7th Senate District, candidate, Republican: This candidate did one thing to earn an anti-endorsement.  I attended a fund-raiser for State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Patti Blevins a couple of weeks ago.  Kim Williams will always have my support.  That is a no-brainer.  But Delcollo actually thought it was a good idea to ride around the restaurant where the fundraiser was being held with smears against Blevins on his truck.  This is extremely bad taste and gave me a gross feeling about him.  No thanks…

Pete Schwartzkopf, 14th Rep. District, incumbent, Democrat: A Jack Markell water carrier thick and thin.  It wasn’t just his appalling tactics with his desk-drawer veto of House Bill 50.  It was the disrespect he showed to members of the House.  As Speaker of the House, he has abused that role to further certain interests while using the big chair as a bully pulpit.  But all that pales to his behavior in caucus…  There is a very good reason many in Delaware refer to him as “Sneaky Pete”.

Joe Miro, 22nd Rep. District, incumbent, Republican: The one who brought the VERY WEAK opt out legislation forward when the House could have suspended the rules and overturned Jack Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  Nothing happened with that legislation and it was a way for Miro and other House Republicans make it look like they supported parental rights but instead brought it a crushing defeat that actually made parents feel like legislators don’t care about their rights.

Mike Ramone, 21st Rep. District, incumbent, Republican: See above.  But add to that, his telling me he can’t support the override because of John Kowalko…  not a good thing to tell me at all.  Add in his fervent support of charter school legislation that would have benefited charters for nothing but pleasing the charter crowd.

Bethany Hall-Long, Lieutenant Governor, Democrat: When I saw Hall-Long at the Del. State debate the other night, I saw someone who was pandering to a crowd.  I know, that’s what politicians do in many cases.  But it was thick as mud.  She was overdoing it.  She talks and talks and I don’t know if she truly understand what is coming out.  Her very quick plug for Teach For America the other night, after getting an endorsement from DSEA, spoke volumes.

Lisa Blunt-Rochester, U.S. Congress, Democrat: Her refusal to support parental rights in regards to standardized testing is a big reason I can’t support her.  But her Delaware Way of thinking, where everyone has to hash it out, hasn’t worked for Delaware.  And it is not going to work in Congress.  None of our Delaware reps in Congress have done anything really good for Delaware the past few years.  All of them voted no on an opt out amendment prior to the ESEA reauthorization.  I don’t see her supporting public education the way I would expect her to.  She seems far too connected with the Rodel crowd.  Those connections have been very bad for Delaware education.  While I think it would be great to have a female African-American Delaware Representative in Congress, I don’t think it should be her.

There are a few others who, a year ago, would have easily made this list.  But they earned some points for me in the last year.  It doesn’t mean I’m not watching them like a hawk though.  Some who I easily supported a year ago actually took a turn for the worse but they haven’t completely fallen into the pit.  Their conduct in the 149th General Assembly will tell the tale.  Not every anti-endorsement means I am 100% behind their challenger if they have one.  But my real endorsements are coming soon.

Lisa Blunt Rochester STILL Can’t Say “I Support A Parent’s Right To Opt Out”, She Is A Vote For Rodel

lowvdebate102616

At a League of Women Voter’s candidate forum tonight at Delaware State University, Delaware candidates for Congress and Insurance Commissioner debated about many topics.  Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini was unable to make it, so John Carney didn’t come, even though the Green candidate for Governor showed up.  La Mar Gunn wasn’t able to make it, to Bethany Hall-Long left shortly after the debate began.

But Lisa Blunt Rochester… she still can’t say the words: “I support a parent’s right to opt out.”  A question came up about abolishing Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment (and it, surprisingly, didn’t come from me).  I will be (no pun intended) blunt and admit my question was “Yes or No, do you support a parent’s right to opt out of standardized testing.”  But the Common Core/SBAC one had Republican candidate Hans Reigle and Libertarian candidate Scott Gesty both openly admit their loathing of Common Core and Smarter Balanced and that they support a parent’s right to opt out.  She snuck in towards the end that she supports parental rights, but it’s not the same thing and she knows it.

I have no doubt the Insurance Commissioner candidates, Republican Jeff Cragg and Democrat Trinidad Navarro thought to themselves, “I’m an insurance guy, I’m not answering that political hot potato.”  Can’t say I blame them, but Blunt-Rochester knows it is a big topic in Delaware.  And she either insults parents who do opt their kids out or just ignores it.  But I don’t think she understands what Markell and the Delaware DOE have done to students in this state.

“For me, as I look at the whole issue of testing, I don’t think we should be teaching to a test.  We should be looking at measuring growth for that additional child so that teachers are empowered to really help that child…one of the issues in terms of tests and opting out is the fact that what we would hope is our education system would be equal and equitable and high quality so that no one would want to opt out.”

So in the meantime, we keep the crappy test that will lead to stealth tests in a personalized learning/competency-based education arena.  And this growth she wants us to measure?  What does she think the feds and the Delaware DOE measure that growth by?  The standardized test.  Hello!  And equal and equitable aren’t the same thing.  High quality based on what?  Common Core and SBAC?  Or do you have a better idea that we haven’t heard.  The other candidates recommended bringing this back to the local level.  I didn’t hear that from you tonight.

They did ask one of my questions about restoring FERPA to pre-2008 levels.  In 2008 and 2011, the US DOE had FERPA changed which allowed student data to go out to third-party companies, sometimes without any parental consent for the data collecting procedures to begin with.  Once again, Gesty and Reigle nailed it and said they would support those changes.  Blunt-Rochester (if she even knows what FERPA is), talked about HIPAA and cell phone tracking apps.  Her response to changing FERPA?

“I would want to know more about why that exchange happens.”

Uhm, it happens so private student information can go out to companies and massive troves of data are collected on our kids.  That was the whole point of the question.  Gesty and Reigle got it.  Not sure why you can’t.  Blunt-Rochester talked about her time as the Delaware Secretary of Labor and constituents complained about filling out multiple forms to different state agencies.  She did say privacy is a concern, but she missed the point of the question.  There is a BIG difference.

She is well aware I blasted her in August for calling opt out a “leisure for some parents” at a Congressional debate in Wilmington.  Afterwards, I asked her point blank on her Facebook page if she supports a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  She said nothing.  Didn’t respond.  And I’ve seen her a few times since (along with John Carney), and they treat me as if I were a ghost.  You can think it is okay to be completely rude and not respond if I smile at you or say hi, but don’t think for one minute that I’m not hip to the Rodel influence on both of you.  I have no doubt I will be writing more about both of them the next four years, and it won’t be pleasant at this rate.  My take when this happens: you are drinking someone else’s Kool-Aid and really don’t know enough about the issue.  You are told what to say and what not to say.  And I’m sure one of the cardinal rules is don’t engage with the blogger.  Which just makes me jump all over you.  Funny how that works out.  Some may say I attack first and ask questions later.  I will own that.  But as most who bother to take the time to actually talk to me know, I am willing to listen.  I may not agree, but if you treat me like a leper, you reap what you sow.  I’m not in it this for politicians or administrators or for whatever state association you have.  I’m in this for the kids.  For my own son.  And for this entire generation of students who have been subjected to pure and utter crap from adults who should REALLY know better than to think it is okay to profit off kids.

I will say I endorsed Scott Gesty for Congress last month.  Ideologically, we agree on many issues.  With that being said, if he wasn’t in the race, I would support Hans Reigle.  Blunt-Rochester is just spend, spend, spend, and economy this and economy that with the same script we’ve read for the past eight years under Governor Rodel, er, uhm, Markell.  And Carney is the same thing.  Enough.  I can say Blunt-Rochester will not be getting a vote from my household as my wife supports Hans.  We are a divided household, what can I say.  I am a firm believer you get what you vote for.  And the way this state votes “blue or die”, we will get the same.  And all those who preach doom and gloom every single political season, those of the same party who can’t stand each other but will support their peer because of a political label, they will be the first ones complaining over the next four years and public education will continue to go down a dark path as we try to spend our way to prosperity.  Many see me as a Democrat, while others see me as a Republican or Libertarian.  I’m just a dad.  Concerned about my son’s future as a citizen of Delaware and America.  I see between the lines of all the crap being slung at us.  The lies, the manipulation, the fraud.  It is not red or blue or any other party.  It’s greed, pure and simple.  People who are so used to hanging out with people who are, at heart, glorified salespeople, who promise great things as they spin their shit into gold.

I can’t support Hillary or Donald either for those same reasons.  Hillary is the godmother of corporate education reform.  Trump is just Trump, all bark and no bite.  But when he gets impeached (which I can easily see happening), we will be left with Mike Pence who is a big corporate education reform kind of guy.  So either way we are screwed.  I think Hillary’s plans are exactly what we see happening in education.  Don’t be fooled by her.  She will stab all students, teachers, and parents in the back.  And her minions in each state, including Delaware, will make damn sure it happens at the state level.  The wheels are already in motion.  We call this the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Don’t think for one minute she isn’t banking on winning and has been planning accordingly.  And just in case, we have Mike Pence waiting in the wings.  And Delaware will automatically cave if we keep the current power structure and say “Yes, we have to do this.”  And the cycle goes on and on and on…

As for Lisa Blunt-Rochester and her need to have us find “common ground” as she put it tonight, we will never find that common ground until some candidates and existing legislators don’t return to the ground.  I don’t vote on smiles.  I vote on words.  And the words I was looking for tonight did come out.  Just not from you.

 

 

Lisa Blunt-Rochester: “To Be Able To Have The Luxury To Opt Out Is A Luxury”

At the Delaware Congressional education debate last evening, a question concerning state testing led to some very offensive comments from candidate Lisa Blunt-Rochester.  Senator Bryan Townsend was asked a question by a member of the audience concerning his fights with state testing at Legislative Hall and his endorsement by DSEA (the Delaware teachers union).  The question was confusing but it alleged that since civil rights groups stand by testing as an accurate way to measure the progress of African-American students, and he fought against the state testing, how would he respond to that? The question was read by one of the moderators, Nichole Dobo.  Townsend defended his stance on testing because the testing was being used for purposes it was not meant for.

By the time candidate Lisa Blunt-Rochester answered, the subject of opt out had already come up by candidate Scott Walker.  He indicated he does not support opt out, especially for students with disabilities and feels it is illegal.  I’m assuming Walker didn’t see the very atrocious scores students with disabilities had on the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year.  But I digress.  By the time the question came back to Rochester, this was her response, as I understood it, while I typed it as I was live blogging:

The original question was about civil rights.  She understands why some folks would opt out, but as a person coming from the Civil Rights movement, to not measure anything is a problem.  Opting out isn’t the issue.  We need to measure to know where we are discriminating.  We need to put our money where our mouth is.

This is what she actually said, thanks to videos shown on the DelaCore Leaders Facebook page:

So the original question was about civil rights organizations and their positions on state testing and the concern that you can’t have it, kind of, both ways.  I understand why some folks would want to opt out, but for myself, as a parent, also as a person who comes from a Civil Rights background, you have to measure growth.  Maybe that’s part of what the challenges folks were concerned about, what we were measuring.  To not measure anything is a problem, to be able to have the luxury to opt out is a luxury.  If we need to fix the test, let’s fix the testing.  But we do have to hold ourselves accountable.  In all the conversation about discrimination, we need to be able to measure, so that we know we are being discriminated against.  So, I think, you put your money where your mouth is.

This statement could be taken a lot of ways.  I see it as the same argument as other folks defending the civil rights groups statements as “it doesn’t matter how bad the test is, we still need that measurement.”  I’m sorry, but I can’t, won’t, and never will buy that logic.  First off, there is a cultural bias with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It wasn’t written for African-Americans, English Language learners, or students with disabilities.  It was written for white kids.  We see this with every single score release of standardized tests.  This isn’t new.  It has been going on for decades.

If Blunt-Rochester feels opting out is a “luxury”, an option that is truly open and is not illegal under any circumstances in Delaware, then by her logic we can all enjoy that luxury.  Parents don’t opt out because it is a luxury.  They opt their kids out of the state assessment, which in Delaware’s case is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They don’t opt out of MAPS, or SRI, or SMI, or final exams.  They opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The test is long.  Parents and teachers don’t get the scores back on time.  Students aren’t even given the exact same test.  It is a test for accountability for schools.  This was said by Jon Cohen, who runs the American Institutes for Research (AIR), which just so happens to be the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment:

When you use a test for accountability, you’re not really using it to measure the kid.  You’re using it to measure the school, or the teacher, or the district.  And you want that school or teacher or district to have an incentive to teach the full range of curriculum.

This statement was taken from a video that used to appear in an article about AIR on this very blog, but AIR changed the settings on it so it could not be embedded outside of their reach.  It is my contention they don’t want people seeing this video.  When talking about the computer adaptability of the assessment, Cohen very frighteningly tells viewers students are not receiving the same test.  The questions aren’t the same for every student.  I wrote in greater detail about this a few weeks ago.  For all the talk about resources and funding we need for schools in Delaware, the one question many candidates aren’t asking is where is the existing funding going?  In Delaware, we have given AIR well over $40 million dollars over a five year period.  That is $8 million a year.  For results that really haven’t changed much when looking at this measurement.  I don’t know about you, but I’m sure our schools would be more than happy to be able to use that money towards lower class-room sizes or more support for students who are at-risk.

While I respect your right to choose whether or not your child takes the Smarter Balanced Assessment, what I don’t respect is you’re telling me that my choice is a luxury.  I actually found this extremely offensive.  I have a child with disabilities.  For these students, who score much lower than African-Americans, it frequently takes them two to three times longer to take this test with accommodations than their peers.  And yes, non-disabled African-Americans are their peers.  They are easily frustrated being forced to take a test for this long.  Because at the same time, their neurological disabilities are manifesting.  Whether it is high-functioning Autism, or Tourette Syndrome, or ADHD, or OCD, or in some cases (as it is with my child) a combination of co-morbidities.

I would like anyone reading this to try something.  Grab a piece of paper and start writing the Pledge of Allegiance.  While you are writing with your hand of choice, take your other hand and start swinging it out.  Keep writing.  At the same time you are doing both of these, start making humming noises.  Do all three at once.  How far did you get on the Pledge of Allegiance?  Now put that in a scenario where you are taking the state assessment on a computer.

Now, imagine you are a low-income African-American student with disabilities taking this test.

I’m sorry Lisa Blunt-Rochester, but you don’t get the luxury of telling me it is a luxury for me to opt my son out.  I respect your choice, but if you want to talk about discrimination, we can do that.  I can talk about how my son was denied an IEP at a charter school in Delaware because of a poorly-trained special education staff who were not even aware of the classification for disabilities of “other-health impaired” until my wife told them.  I can talk about how they treated his disability as behavior issues and wanted to punish him when they wouldn’t give him the accommodations he deserved under federal law.  And when things got so bad there, over a dropped cookie in the lunchroom, he ran to a confined space because he was so scared of their behavior interventionist who told him he would be suspended if he didn’t pick it up.  When they found him, he wanted to get out of that confined space.  And as my son sat there screaming to be let out of that confined space for half an hour, while I was in the school substituting that day and they never bothered to come get me knowing I was there, I found my son in a state I had never seen him in before.  I also found the behavior interventionist sitting in the hallway eating a sandwich and the head of school sitting there as well.  His face was the only face my son could see as they ignored his cries for help.  As I managed to coax my son out, who was crying, embarrassed, and afraid, the head of school and I took him to a conference room.  He explained I should take him home and talk about this the following Monday.  My son, who was in a very distraught state, said to the Head of School, “I’m going to get revenge on you.”  He didn’t specify what kind of revenge or anything he would do.  He just blurted it out.  The Head of School yelled, “That is duly noted”.

As I drove home with my son, my wife called the school.  She was unaware of what had just gone down.  She spoke with the Head of School.  When my wife asked him what he knew about Tourette Syndrome, he started making a tapping noise and said “I know there is a meeting on Concord Pike next week about it.”  He wound up yelling at my wife and hanging up on her.  When we brought my son back into school the next Monday, we were told my son was suspended for three days and when he came back he had to meet with a police officer to discuss “terroristic threats”.  That was the last time my son was in that school.  He was nine years old.

We pulled him out and took him to the local school district.  He got an IEP… after five long months.  It was the end of the school year.  The way my district is set up, he went to 5th grade in a middle school.  We were told by the new IEP team that his IEP was too complicated and we should rework it.  Over the next four months, my son was physically assaulted nine times.  The last of which gave him a severe concussion two days before Christmas.  That was the last time my son was in that school.  He was on homebound instruction for the rest of the year, along with months of physical therapy, headaches, and a very real fear that if he stepped out of the house he would get beat up.  He was ten years old.

We tried a local private school who would only take him on a probationary status because of his disabilities.  He received hours upon hours of homework each day which he had not received in the other two schools.  It was too much for him, so we pulled him out.  He was eleven years old.

We found a good school for him now, far away from Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He is receiving the best instruction he ever has.  He is twelve years old.

So we can sit here and talk about equity and discrimination.  But I can tell you I have lived it through my son.  So I’m sorry you see it as a luxury that I opted him out at the school where he got his concussion.  The ironic truth is that even though I opted him out, he didn’t have to take the test because he was released from the obligation by the school due to his medical issues, received at the school.  While all this was going on that year, I spent a considerable amount of time at Legislative Hall fighting for the rights of other parents to opt their child out.  In all the conversations about opt out, I never heard it referred to as a luxury.  Until last night.

The odds of your child having greater success at life are greater than mine.  This is a fact for persons with disabilities.  So if I make a choice to opt my son out of a test, that has nothing to do with your child, or someone else’s child.  It has nothing to do with civil rights.  I chose not to have my son be used as a guinea pig for results that have stated the same measurements you so vigorously defended last night.  A person can defend civil rights and be against state assessments.  They can have it both ways.  Many civil rights groups do this already, without financial backing from the Gates Foundation.  I am a staunch supporter of civil rights.  But I refuse to let my child be a part of your measuring stick for a test that is horrible to begin with so we can endlessly compare where your child is against mine.  You are a pawn to a money-making scheme that has been going on far longer than you realize.  All our children are being used.  It has nothing to do with proficiency.  The tests are rigged so there will always be winners and losers.  I don’t need my son to take a test to know he has been a victim of disability discrimination.  He didn’t even have to log onto a computer for me to realize that.

I have a very strong suspicion why Senator Townsend was asked such a specific question about state testing, civil rights, and DSEA.  It was meant to trip him up.  It was very carefully worded.  There was only one person in that audience who would have asked him a question like that.  You may or may not know who it is.  I doubt he would ever own up to it.  But he now knows I know.  I’ve seen his manipulation at play before.  But it backfired and most likely forced you to address something that may end up hurting your campaign.

As a candidate for Congress, you need to be aware of how you can be used and how other people’s agendas can backfire on you.  There were hundreds of people in that audience last night.  How is that was the only question asked by a member of the audience at an education debate?  I invite you to think about that.  But in the meantime, let’s stop talking about measurements.  When I cast my vote in the primary, I will be choosing a candidate who looks at all sides of the issues, for all Delawareans, and what is best for us as a state.  I support civil rights and equity.  But I don’t think constantly measuring students so we can hold schools, teachers, and districts accountable is moving forward.  As long as some support this mistaken belief about measuring students against each other while ignoring the individual student and their individual needs, we will continue to have this conversation while testing companies and hedge fund managers make tons of money that isn’t going into our schools.  I am unable to support you as a candidate based on what I heard tonight.  And yes, one word left a very big impression on me.  I respect your choice to put your money where your mouth is.  Please respect my choice to put my voting finger where my beliefs are.  Because the only gap I saw tonight was how far away you and a couple of other candidates are to the reality of what is truly happening with Delaware education.

Federal representatives voted for the No Child Left Behind Act.  Federal representatives stood back while Race To The Top bribed and coerced our states into accepting dubious state standards, tied to a state assessment, and put our highest needs schools into a deplorable cycle of test, label, punish and shame.  Federal representatives (from Delaware) voted no for a clause that would have honored a parent’s right to opt their children out of the state assessment.  Federal representatives (from Delaware) voted yes for the Every Student Succeeds Act which reversed the other two but essentially kept the very worst from what came before but promises vast amounts of money for other things.  We have once again, been duped.  Many of you won’t know it until it is too late.  So yes, opt out is just as much a federal issue as it is a state issue.  But one thing will not change: my unwavering belief that all parents have the constitutional, God-given, and fundamental right to decide what is best for their child.  Education is only one part of what an elected U.S. representative faces.  But education, which is the foundation for our children, is also the foundation for our democracy.  It is our way of instilling hope for the future.  It isn’t a measurement, or accountability.  It is about what is best for each child based on their own unique and beautiful mind.  When we constantly compare, there are always going to be winners and losers.  This creates an environment of discrimination.  I don’t care what any candidate looks like, the color of their skin, or their gender.  I don’t care where they come from.  I care about what they are going to do.

I’ve been hearing a lot of people say, even before it came out, that we need to fix the test.  And yet, Smarter Balanced is still here.  With no indication of it disappearing anytime soon.  Our United States Secretary of Education just okayed illegal flexibility waivers for Delaware under the condition we use the Smarter Balanced Assessment until June 30th, 2019.  We can talk about the importance of “growth”, but for students with disabilities, their “growth” requires two to three times more “growth” than their peers according to the Delaware Department of Education.  But yeah, let’s keep using a flawed test to measure students.  But you don’t have to be an elected federal Congresswoman to speak up against the Smarter Balanced Assessment and “fix the testing”.  Please put your money where your mouth is.

Live From The Delaware Congressional Education Debate Forum At The Christina Cultural Arts Center

The Congressional Education Debate in Wilmington is about to start.  Candidates Sean Barney, Lisa Blunt-Rochester, Scott Gesty, Mike Miller, Bryan Townsend, and Scott Walker are the candidates.  The debate moderators are Nathan Durant from Thomas Edison Charter School and Nichole Dobo with the Hechinger Report, formerly with the News Journal.

Dobo is giving the rules.  Candidates will have one minute to respond and thirty seconds for rebuttal.  Each candidate gets a 3 minute introduction.  Up first is Scott Walker.  He graduated from Brandywine High School in the largest graduating class in Delaware history.  He got an MBA from University of Delaware.  He helps to prosecute discrimination lawsuits. He is not a lawyer.  He said the skills he obtained at University of Delaware allowed him to become an entrepreneur.  He wants all students to have equal funding.  He wants to deregulate the teaching profession.  He ran out of time.

Sean Barney is up.  He is thanking all the sponsors.  He lives in Wilmington with his family.  They just got a puppy.  His daughter goes to First State Montessori Charter School.  He has been working in education policy for over ten years.  He said he worked with Governor Markell’s office on education policy.  He said segregation is an affront to our educational values.  “Nothing is more important than the education of our children.”

Delaware State Senator Bryan Townsend is up.  He thinks education is the most important topic we need to talk about.  He is running for Congress because our federal government and the congressional seat are important to education.  It is why he ran for State Senator, largely because of education issues.  Many in his family are Delaware educators.  He learned about a large emphasis on test scores and inadequate funding while children went hungry.  He has been a part of the conversations about test scores, data, and educator engagement.  He mentioned how DSEA endorsed him because of his efforts in the General Assembly.  He said it would be an honor to represent Delaware in Washington D.C.

Scott Gesty is up.  He is the Libertarian candidate. (All other candidates are Democrat).  He graduated high school in 1988 (so did I!).  He works for a global financial servicing firm.  He will be an adjunct professor at Goldey-Beacom in the fall.  He is running to get us out of the two party system.  He said the first thing he would do, if elected, is introduce term limits for Senators.

Now we have Mike Miller.  He is asking for his support if they like what he says today.  He hails from Lewes.  He said he is a family man, a successful business man, and a community man.  He is a five generation Delaware native who graduated from Cape Henlopen.  He is a tax accountant and owns a landscaping company.  “People are hurting, and we need to do better.  We’ve been kicking education down the road…”.  He said it is time to stop kicking the can in many areas.  He said we need a livable wage of at least $11/hr.  We need to fix the port, which we keep saying we will do, but the funds that went to corporate greed could have gone to education.

Lisa Blunt-Rochester is the final candidate to give an introduction.  It is big for her to say she is running for Congress.  She said education is why she is running.  There are important roles for the federal government with education.  She wants to take what we’ve learned in Delaware to D.C. and help Delaware to get the funds they need.  She grew up during the era of de-segregation in Delaware.  Her children graduated from Delaware public schools but had issues with college affordability and student loans.  She worked for the Metropolitan Urban League and worked with neighborhoods and talked with the Wilmington communities to work with students and families.  She knows the importance of a well-trained work force and a thriving economy.  She said we need education and everyone needs to get an opportunity.

The first question is for Sean Barney: With the Every Student Succeeds Act, what change do you think this will bring to Delaware?

Barney: This will be great change for Delaware.  He said we have great players unlike other states.  We have great leaders who organized this debate.  He thinks this is an opportunity for the state.  He said this is a devolution to the states with guard rails.  But he said it isn’t anything goes.

Rochester: We always have to be careful with block grants and grants to the state.  It is important that we recognize this flexibility comes with responsibility and this must come with accountability.   We have to engage stakeholders, especially parent involvement and that we are holding ourselves accountable.

Gesty: It is a step in the right direction.  He doesn’t like the idea of mandatory testing or jumping through hoops to get federal funding.  He doesn’t think the U.S. Dept. of Education should exist.  He believes in firm local control.

Miller: He believes the secondary education act gives more accountability.  He said it makes sure are schools aren’t cookie-cutters, it challenges the students, and puts money where it needs to be.  It puts the money where it needs to go with flexibility.

Townsend: Delaware wasn’t able to use the previous law correctly.  We have a diverse set of schools but we don’t fund our schools with enough flexibility.  He wants to see how Delaware uses that flexibility.  We have a uniquely-structured education assessment.

Walker: Is not in favor of this act.  We have too much discrimination and segregation.  We need the strong stroke of the federal government to take over these schools and give equal opportunity.  Federalism has to be enacted and come in like the 1960s and clean it up.

Wow!

Dobo is giving a quotes about low-income students and minority students graduating at lower rates and with less results than their peers.  How do we ensure equitable distribution?

Rochester: ESSA presents opportunities.  WEIC gave us strong opportunities.  There are real opportunities to bring people together to demand change.

Gesty: If he were a Congressman, he would have trust in our local educators to make sure discrimination doesn’t exist.  He said the feds track record isn’t great.  We are $20 trillion in debt.  He doesn’t have confidence in federal government, but he does in the state and local.

Miller: The Governor has to make changes in the 19 school dsitricts.  We need more resources in our schools and for our staff.  He believes we need to distribute the money equitably and we need more minorities sitting at the table.

Townsend: Delaware was battling testing and inequity and higher poverty in regards to state test scores.  There is a unique split in Delaware.  We know which schools are struggling.  The role of this position would give more resources for college.

Walker: We have a serious, serious problem in Delaware with education.  He is a father of four kids and had problems getting his last one through school.  We have to be honest with ourselves: more money is not going to fix education.  We had politicians hijack the education system and we need to return education to the schools and teachers.

Barney: At the federal level it is essential to provide transparency for how our students are doing.  And how they can succeed in the work world.  We need more actors to recognize where children aren’t being served the way they should be.

Next question: How are you going to make early education better?

Gesty: He doesn’t think dumping money into early education and universalize something, quality goes down and prices go up.  He said that is how market forces work.  He thinks the people should get block grants for this type of thing.

Miller: Believes in preschool and thinks it should be taxpayer funded.  He is giving statistics that it is a proven scientific fact that the more Pre K they get the better their outcomes.

Nate reworded the question.

Townsend: “Our children aren’t affected by market forces.”  It comes down to funding.  By supporting them at a younger age, they will have more opportunity.  We need qualified educators and change the way we look at early education, especially for the most vulnerable children.

Walker: We need to deregulate the early education industry.  He is a big advocate for the rights of the disabled.  We won’t have the funding for these things until we tax, not the 1%, but the 4%.  We need to develop our tax base.

Barney: If we ever hope to have equity, we need to address this.  He knows the science having worked in D.C.  The Governor’s focus on quality is important.  We need to make the investments in training for early educators to get the most of our time and do the best by our children.

Rochester: When you go to other countries, this isn’t even a debate.  She supports this.  It is a federal and state issue.  We need to make sure the wages are sufficient so people aren’t living in poverty while raising their children.  As Secretary of Labor, she understands all this.

Miller gave a rebuttal indicating he does support funding for early education.

Next question from Dobo: What do you think the federal role of school resource officers should be?  She is defining SROs as uniformed police officers who don’t have to go to a principal to arrest someone.

Miller: He doesn’t believe in security officers like that.  He thinks there is nothing wrong with security in our schools.  The principals and the administrators are still in charge.  He is talking about cruisers that are in impound.  We need to put those police patrols at the schools.  He thinks that would detract from those issues at our school because we respect the law.

Townsend: We have seen African-Americans suspended at higher rates than their peers.  We need culture accountability, but the key thing is to use grant money and flexibility from ESSA to have more community schools.  This is a key from ESSA and would be a driver that would get to the root of the issue instead of having law enforcement in our schools.

Walker: Having law enforcement in our schools is a horrible idea.  We need community program.  The child in Howard High School would be alive today if we had these programs.  SRO’s are an environment of fear and students can’t learn with fear.  Is against it, period.

Barney: The federal government should not be encouraging this.  There should be training for these officers and should be sensitive to suspensions and the criminal justice system create a path to prison.  We need needs-based funding for resources and health issues.

Rochester: We need to have more social workers and mental health providers in our schools.  Too many of our kids are coming to school traumatized and hungry.  We need to be looking outside of the school and inside the school.  We need to stand up to the NRA.  We need to have more pay for teachers to deal with these traumas.

Gesty: I don’t think the NRA has funded guns into our schools.  We need to empower teachers to get firearm training to take care of things until law enforcement gets there.  He agrees with Mr. Walker on these issues.

Rochester asked if the teachers should have guns and not the officers?  Gesty answered that the massacres in our schools, if they know they have resistance, it won’t happen.  Miller feels our schools are safe.  We need more minorities and educators who are black so children can have someone they can relate to.  Townsend empathized that he doesn’t feel schools would be safer by having more guns in our schools.  He doesn’t think these issues should be going on in our schools.  Gesty asked Townsend if he doesn’t think voluntary training could be given?  Townsend asked all educators in the room to clap if they don’t think more guns should be in their school.  Many clapped.

Nate asked what are some examples of excellence in education in Delaware?

Townsend: There are great after-school programs but we need to find a way to replicate the success to spread it across all Delaware schools.

Walker: We have great teachers.  They are under paid and over worked.  We need to pay them for what they are doing.  We have the greatest teachers in Delaware.  We need to fix the economy first.

Barney: Pilot grants are great and we need those for district-charter collaboration.  He said he stayed back in 9th grade.  He said he sends his kids to First State Montessori because they provide that edge to get students to learn.

Rochester: She said there are great things happening in our schools.  She would advocate for World-Language Immersion where students are learning Chinese and Spanish.  We need good global citizens.  We need more focus on STEM like schools in Sussex County.  She loves the STEAM program (an arts program).

Gesty: He doesn’t think the federal government should be involved.  His daughter is in public education and her teachers are incredible and go the extra mile.  Teachers give extra help to get them where they need to be.  Delaware schools are a role model for the rest of the country.

Miller: He doesn’t think the feds should provide more money for education.  No child is going to learn the same.  The monies coming in, some of them should be put aside for afterschool programs.  There is no cookie-cutter program.  That is what he would like to see.

Dobo is asking audience questions.

Is there a crisis with college affordability?

Walker: There is no such thing as free college.  Our taxes will go up.  Our economy is flat-lining.  We need something to get the private sector on their feet.   We have to have the money to do this first.  The money comes from the private sector: business, free enterprise, the American Way.  It is the only way we will get our schools through.

Barney: He was on Senator Carper’s board for service academies.  He wants more students serving AmeriCorps or Peace Corps.  He thinks students should give service and in exchange get funding for college.

Rochester: There are 40 million people in debt from student loans.  That is a crisis.  Many people have done the right thing.  They went to school but they are now in debt.  She thinks the ability to refinance those loans is important.  We need to bring back Pell grants.  That is an opportunity at the federal level.  There are great programs like TeenSharp.  These programs prepare kids for college and help them to apply for funds.  She believes in “cradle to career”.

Gesty: He doesn’t think college should be free.  We are $1.3 trillion in student debt.  This isn’t a free ride program, we need a getting our economy right program.

Miller: He thinks college should be more affordable but it shouldn’t be free.  He said the living at college expenses are what is really rising.  He is saying we need to look at how we train carpenters and mechanics: do we not pay for their training?

Townsend: If we value education we need to make sure we have educational opportunities available.  People take on debt and drop out of college which is even worse.  President Obama’s Community College Plan is what most people are talking about, not a free four-year degree.  We need interest rate reduction.  Government shouldn’t profit off students futures.

Miller added that we have the SEED program and the INSPIRE program.  He doesn’t understand the change in grades between University of Delaware where you need a 2.5 but with Del State you need a 2.75.  He said that is an African-American school.

Nate asked about charter school enrollment preferences and segregation:

Barney: This is an issue in Delaware.  We have too many schools being private in their admissions and have factors in their admissions they shouldn’t be allowed to have.  We need to create opportunity for more schools but schools should be equitable in their admission practices.

Rochester: The original charter law was supposed to be based on replicating success but we got away from that.  She said we have questions of equity and excellence.  Funds are being taken from local schools.  As a state we need to take a look at how we are addressing them.

Gesty: Charter schools are a state problem.  There is nothing we can do at a federal level.  But with discrimination, that is a federal issue and a violation of civil rights.  Feels this should stay at the state and local level.

Miller: When you look at this at a federal level, 80% of the money follows a student and goes from a district to a charter school if they choice out.  If there is segregation, the federal government should get involved.  Students with disabilities are released from school districts and the charters take them.  He said all the money doesn’t go to charter schools.

Townsend: A big bill he dealt with in 2013 was the charter school reauthorization bill.  We have funds through ESSA and we need to make sure we are rewarding all our schools and using funds equitably.  He talked about when Markell and Arne Duncan came to Hodgson and Townsend invited them to Stubbs to see the great work they are doing.  They declined because it wasn’t in the script.

Walker:  The charter experiment has failed.  Students with disabilities are left in public schools.  It is the role of a congressman to address these issues.

Barney: The federal government provides funding.  Federal dollars need to be used in a non-discriminatory manner.  If anything is a federal issue it is also a civil rights issue.

Rochester: She agreed with Barney

Dobo asked about state testing.  A question was directed to Senator Townsend.  The question is concerning how he fought testing and civil rights groups have defended these tests.  If DSEA has endorsed him, how does he respond to that?

Townsend: He said he ran based on civil rights issues.  He doesn’t feel the focus on test scores looked at what was going on the night before.  He addressed these issues to bring sanity to the conversation.

Walker: You have to have testing.  How do you know if a child is going to learn?  This isn’t the law of gravity or the speed of light.  Human behavior has to be tested.  We need to make the tests fair that measure.  He doesn’t think students with disabilities should be opted out of testing.  That will not help them.

Barney: We need to look at funds addressing testing.  Testing should be used for statistics on how our kids are doing.  We all know we aren’t where we need to be with the achievement gap.  We need to make sure we aren’t using testing to punish.

Rochester: The original question was about civil rights.  She understands why some folks would doubt, but as a person coming from the Civil Rights movement, to not measure anything is a problem.  Opting out isn’t the issue.  We need to measure to know where we are discriminating.  We need to put our money where our mouth is.

Gesty: He strongly opposes Smarter Balanced.  He opposes Common Core.  We passed a bill and Markell thumbed his nose at parents.  We need tests that will actually benefit students.

Miller: He applauds Markell for vetoing the bill but he did sign SJR #2 (assessment inventory bill).  We have too many tests.  He goes into the schools.  He doesn’t think there should just be one test because of the grade.

Townsend: What he felt was the debate last year was make sure you have the curriculum that is agreed to and make sure students have a meal that morning of the test.  Students didn’t have a stake in this.  It isn’t about accountability, it’s about how we do it.

Miller: If students aren’t doing well on those tests, there is something wrong.

Townsend: Mike, I’m not arguing against accountability.

Rochester: We are talking about some individuals having the opportunity to opt out.  Many poor children have a sense of urgency so it is important that testing, maybe not that test, but there has to be growth.

Townsend: This is why we sponsored bill for free breakfast for kids with Rep. Osienski.  We need broadband access in rural areas.  The civil rights groups vs. teachers represented a frustration.

Miller: We are teaching to take the test.  He wants to see good instruction throughout the school year.

Gesty: I believe a parent should have the right to opt out.  The federal government shouldn’t put down a heavy hand when it doesn’t really help his child get into college.

 

 

 

Come To The Congressional Education Debate On August 18th!

On August 18th, the candidates for the Delaware U.S. Representative for Congress will meet at the Christina Cultural Arts Center for a debate on education.  From 6pm to 8pm, the candidates will field questions about their stance on education in Delaware and the USA.  Admission is free, but you do need to register through Eventbrite at this link.  As well, you can submit questions for the candidates at this link.  You can even submit a specific question for a specific candidate!

Confirmed to attend at this point are Democrat candidates Sean Barney, Lisa Blunt-Rochester, Mike Miller, Bryan Townsend and Scott Walker.  A tentative yes has been provided by Libertarian candidate Scott Gesty.  As of this writing, Republican candidate Hans Reigle has not responded.

I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen.  We need this for all candidates running for office: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the House and Senate candidates.  I put up a hail Mary thing last week about getting an “Education Forum on the Green” debate going, but to be honest, I don’t have the pull to make that happen on the fly.  I know my limitations!

The event will be sponsored by DelaCORE Leaders, with the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, League Young Professionals, and the PACE Network.  The event will be moderated by WHYY reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent and Nate Durant from Thomas Edison Charter School.

WEIC Needs To Make Sure Current Education Funding Is Legit First & A Message For Candidates

As I plow head-first into Delaware education funding, I am finding inconsistencies galore!  Now that the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission has “officially” voted to suspend the timeline based on the Delaware General Assembly crafting legislation which essentially kicks the can for just another year, they have also been charged with taking another look at the fiscal impact.  The News Journal came out with an article on this today.  My advice to WEIC: make sure the education funding we already have is being used properly before you dive into weighted funding formulas for Delaware at-risk students.

Dan Rich, the policy advisor for WEIC from the University of Delaware, had this to say about weighted funding:

“That’s a key piece,” Rich said. “The top priority for funding is not for redistricting, per se, but for providing funding for the kids at greatest risk.”

It is a key piece of a puzzle that has thousands of pieces and no one has made sure the pieces fit together.  Some districts and charters are not spending money wisely, or even ethically.  We all know this, but in Delaware we have become a “hear nothing, do nothing” state.  With the simple art of just not listening and ignoring the people of the state, our leaders in Government look the other way.  They don’t want to deal with the corruption and fraud, and not just in education.

But according to Rich, he wants to bring outside organizations into this convoluted mess in our schools.  Saranac Hale Spencer from the News Journal wrote:

While the commission examines the fiscal impact of the plan in the coming months, it will also be working on other things, Rich said, explaining that it has begun mapping out the kinds of educational services offered by Wilmington institutions. A number of organizations offer resources to students and schools, but they aren’t necessarily in communication with each other.

It will also be looking to other communities to see how they have connected those assets to support schools and, in a similar project, it will be looking at the various state and local policies that affect poor families and children to see how they align and how they are funded.

Let me be crystal clear: I am all for better schools.  I think every student deserves a chance at success, even the most at-risk students.  But when the system is already broken, through federal, state and district mandates, and a funding system that has no checks and balances already, why the hell would we try something new and unproven (for Delaware)?  If we can’t control education funding now with proper oversight and audits of our districts and charters, why would we add to the existing mess?  We can’t guarantee funding is going to the right places now.  And some (many in power) want to add more funding to that?

This is the biggest problem in Delaware.  Everyone always has a solution to move forward, but they leave the old wreckage behind and try to cover it up.  It’s still there, rotting under the surface.  If the foundation is rotten, nothing anyone says or does will fix anything.  We all know this, but nothing changes.  Until we take the current system apart and find the cracks in the foundations and fix them, no new funding mechanism is going to change anything.  I know what it means if this happened.  It takes courage for this to happen.  It takes courage for enough of us to step up and demand this from our state.  Sending emails with everyone and their mother cc’ed on it doesn’t work.  We know this.  We need to take this to the next level.  Some of us are taking those next steps.  But if you are reading this, comment.  Come up with ideas.  Beyond the “request a meeting and talk about it behind closed doors when nothing ever gets accomplished”.  Beyond the next task force that will come up empty-handed.  We need to start asking the big questions, but more importantly, the right questions.  This is not a teacher issue.  This is not a student issue.  These are administration issues.  Financial issues.  That go way beyond a miscoding here and there.  We can pretend this isn’t really going on, but it is.  Our state knows about it.  The DOE knows a lot of this.  And our State Auditor most certainly knows about it.  It isn’t just a district or a charter thing.  It is all of it.  It is time to rip the Band-Aides off the rotting flesh and expose.  Who is in?

In the meantime, John Carney weighed in on the whole WEIC thing with what amounts to his usual hum-drum responses with absolutely no backbone behind anything.

His likely successor, U.S. Rep. John Carney, who is running on the Democratic ticket for governor, hasn’t committed to keeping that money in the budget.

He said in a prepared statement, “I am, however, committed to doing whatever is necessary to give every child the quality education they deserve, particularly those facing the kinds of obstacles WEIC is most concerned about.”

I’m sorry Mr. Carney, but at this point in the game, you should be coming up with ideas of your own and not relying on others to come up with them.  You are running for Governor!  Not the school student council.

So with that being said, I am offering an invitation to all the candidates running for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Congress.  I am inviting you all to an education forum on The Green, in front of Legislative Hall.  There will be no admission for the public.  Please commit a few hours for this.  I’ll do the legwork and get the people there.  We need to hear from all of you about what your plans are for education in our state.  My email address is kevino3670@yahoo.com.  Let’s all coordinate a date so ALL of you can make it, before the primary.  And let’s do this soon.  Let’s also do this before school starts.  Do your homework, formulate your positions.  And know that we are going to ask the tough questions without any easy answers.  You won’t know what they are beforehand.  Education is too important to have your staff come up with the answers for you.  If you want to lead, then know what you are leading.  If any of you email me and say “I can’t make it but I would love to sit down with you and discuss education with you”, then in my mind you aren’t willing to go that extra step for the people of this state.

So if the following candidates could email me with five possible dates, in the early evening, between now and August 19th.  Yes, time is short.  It is less than two months before the primaries.  And less than four months until the General Election.  But I want to hear from ALL of you.  The people do as well.  And Mr. Carney, please do not ignore this.  As the front-runner for Governor, you are who I want to hear from the most.  We need to know you won’t be a rubber stamp for Jack Markell’s very damaging policies.  We also don’t want you thinking this is going to be an easy ride for you.  And Jack Markell, I would respectfully ask you to please stay out of this.  You had your time.  It’s ending.  It is time for new and better ideas.

John Carney

Colin Bonini

Lacey Lafferty

Sean Goward

Lisa Blunt Rochester

Mike Miller

Bryan Townsend

Elias Weir

Hans Reigle

Scott Gesty

Sherry Dorsey-Walker

Brad Eaby

Greg Fuller

Bethany Hall-Long

Kathleen McGuiness

Ciro Poppiti

La Mar Gunn

I can tell you right now, weekends and Mondays are out.  This could be your chance to truly leave a mark on this election.  Your audience will want to hear what you are going to do, not what you have done.  Yes, your many accomplishments are important.  But we need a change for the future.  This is your chance to shine.  Not in front of a group of wealthy people who can afford an expensive plate.  This is you getting real, with real people.  This debate is not sponsored by anyone.  It is a grassroots gathering, outside.  No microphones.  Just people talking.  I encourage as many Delaware residents who can make it to attend.

I won’t assume all of you read this article, so I will be emailing you and contacting all of you tomorrow.

 

The Next 55 Hours Will Determine WEIC, HB399, HB30, The Budget, The Bond Bill, & Possibly The Election Season

We are down to the homestretch on the 148th General Assembly.  It is the bottom of the ninth with two outs.  The next batter is up.  This will be Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s last sphere of influence with Delaware legislation as Governor of the First State.  For that, we should all have reason to celebrate.  As of July 1st, all eyes will turn towards elections in Delaware and the USA.  But there is a bit of unfinished business in Legislative Hall.  We will know by about 4am on Friday, July 1st what happened.

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting resolution is ready for a Senate vote.  The Executive Committee will clear it for a full vote.  But then, it gets very interesting.  I reported a few days ago that one Senate Democrat was a no and another was on the fence.  Now we can make that three Senate Dems as a no.  And the Senate Republicans which gives Senate Joint Resolution #12 a vote of 9 yes and 12 no.  But, I’m also hearing from the cracked walls of the basement of Legislative Hall that there might be new legislation kicking the can on this down the road into the 149th General Assembly.  Will Red Clay and Christina say “Enough” and get out of the whole thing?  Or will we have another year of “will they or won’t they” speculation?  In the chance SJR #12 does pass, the question then becomes “what happened to $6 million dollars”?  The Senate passed the budget today and WEIC was not in it.  I did find out the answer to this.  The funds are in reserve but they don’t want to put it in the budget without an affirmative vote on SJR #12.  What happens to the $6 million if SJR #12 doesn’t pass?  It goes to the Bond Bill.  For those who don’t know what the heck a bond bill is, in a nutshell it is a capital improvements bill.  Here is an example from FY2013.  We should see the FY2017 bond bill in the next 24 hours.

The Basic Special Education Funding for K-3 students, House Bill 30, has not received the full House vote yet.  I hope we will see it, and then a rush to the Senate, but I am not optimistic.  I did hear today that the Education Funding Improvement Committee may ask for an extension, but then that they may not.  We will know if a final report is issued to the General Assembly in the next 27 hours.

House Bill 399, the teacher evaluation bill, has become a very odd bill with a great deal of power.  As the story goes, State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola’s tiff is still going on.  Today in the House Education Committee, Jaques pulled Sokola’s teacher certification legislation, Senate Bill 199, from the agenda.  House Bill 399 is on the Senate Education Committee agenda for tomorrow.  Apparently a deal was reached whereby House Bill 399 will get to be heard in the Senate Education Committee and will most likely be released for a full Senate vote.  In exchange, Jaques will “walk” Senate Bill 199 for signatures from the House Education Committee members.  But then House Bill 399 has to go before the full Senate.  Which is a toss-up for how it could go there.  I’m hearing different things from different people.  Honestly, if anyone is still concerned about defying the will of Governor Markell, I would think twice before using that empty-handed justification.  Did you hear that quacking sound?  It is the sound of a lame-duck desperately grasping for power in a vacuum.

There is more at stake here than current bills.  Election season is coming fast and broken alliances and grudge matches could make things real ugly for the Delaware Democrats.  I’m pretty sure if WEIC fails in the Senate, Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Reps. Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and Helene Keeley will have a lot to say about that!  They say Wilmington wins elections for state-wide positions in Delaware, but the reality is that Jack Markell would not have become Governor if he didn’t win crucial votes in Kent and Sussex County when he beat John Carney in the primary in 2008.

Speaking of Carney, it looks like he is finally getting around to reaching out to different groups and state agencies in Delaware to firm up support for the Gubernatorial election in November.  He still hasn’t officially filed for the 2016 election yet, but he has until July 12 to do so.  We also have filings from Republican Lacey Lafferty and Libertarian Sean Goward.  Nothing from Republican and current State Senator Colin Bonini.  Goward and Lafferty have been the most visible on Facebook.  In my mind, you have to work for my vote and get your name out there.  I want to know your original ideas, not more of the same-old I hear now.  Many Delawareans are in this mindset.  If I had to vote today, Carney would not get my vote.  The only candidate who has reached out to me and presented many ideas I agree with is Sean Goward.  And not just about education either.  I would reach out to him and hear what he has to say!

The Congressional race in Delaware is going to amp up big time as well.  The News Journal declared Townsend as the “front-runner” a couple of weeks ago, but it is still a long ways off.  Townsend has massive support over at Delaware Liberal with some calling him one of Delaware’s best legislators.  He does certainly get a plethora of bills passed.  But Lisa Blunt-Rochester also has a great deal of support from the African-American community which could change this tale.  In terms of signage, I can’t speak for what is popping up in New Castle or Sussex County, but I can say Hans Reigle signs are all over the place in Kent County.  And not just roadside ones, but also property signs as well.  I have seen Mike Miller and Sean Barney popping up a bit more on the Democrat side.  While Townsend may have amassed the biggest war chest thus far, how much of that will be spent on the primary between five candidates?  I’m sure some will drop out between now and then.  This will be a contest between Townsend and Blunt-Rochester when it comes down to it.  Assuming no one else files on the Republican side, Hans Reigle will have an all-clear until the General Election.  After the primary, we will see massive competition between Reigle and the Democrat candidate.  With a growing feeling of disillusionment with the Democrat party in Delaware, especially in an environment with more in-fighting among themselves, I wouldn’t count Reigle out.  Delaware might be a “blue state”, but this year could change things.  Look at how much traction Trump has gotten in the past year.  I would like to hear more from Scott Gesty as I think he has some very interesting ideas as a Libertarian candidate.

In terms of the State Rep and State Senate races, we may see a mad rush of filings in the next couple weeks.  While some are already saying the Republicans don’t have a chance of changing the power structure in Dover, I wouldn’t be too sure.  At least in one House of the Delaware General Assembly.  People don’t like what is going on.  They see a lot of the egregious glad-handling and deals being made in Dover and they don’t like it one bit.  This is becoming a more vocal community, especially on social media.  I’m going to go ahead and predict many new faces in Dover come January.  I think the citizens of Delaware deserve a more balanced legislature.  Too much on one side has not been a good thing for the middle-class and lower-income families of the state.  I don’t like the assumption that certain people should win office because they are Democrat, or that certain bills will pass because they have Democrat support.  I like to hear both sides of the issues, but all too often some voices are drowned out by the high-fives and fist-bumping going on.  By the same token, there are some Republicans who need to realize they could be on the cutting line as well come November, or even September.  They should stop thinking of this as a frat club.  If you want respect, you have to show respect.  Especially as an elected official.  For those who are about to call me a hypocrite, bloggers don’t count!

Things are going to get very interesting over the next 55 hours and in the next four months.  This is Delaware.  Anything can happen!  The crazy action will take place on Thursday night in the General Assembly.  I’m not sure about the Senate yet, but the House begins their legislative session at 7pm.

Oh yeah, what about House Bill 50?  And the Autism bills, Senate Bills 92 and 93 with their assorted amendments?  To be continued…