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…