In Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s weekly message to the citizens of Delaware for July 4th, he showed a series of video clips to highlight his bragging about how great education is in Delaware. Included was a clip from the 9/4/14 priority schools announcement at Warner Elementary School in Wilmington. I find this to be pretty disgusting and vile considering what that announcement meant to so many educators, students, parents, legislators, leaders in Wilmington, and the citizens of Delaware. I wouldn’t consider that a proud moment Governor Markell.
To the above people, this was a shocking announcement, and this began the end of your reign as the supreme education watchdog in this state. You showed the people of Delaware, that no matter who questioned your wisdom on this decision, you were going to be a bully about it. Until that moment you couldn’t anymore. That day in January you and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy received two letters. The first was the letter from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee asking you to hold off on any decision for the priority schools in the Christina School District. The second was the letter and petition from Parents & Teachers for Public Education. The one with well over 600 signatures protesting the priority schools initiative.
Everything changed after that. The legislators started hammering out bills that would limit the power of the DOE. Parents started opting their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in force. Charter schools lost their veil of secrecy as first Family Foundations Academy and then Academy of Dover had their dirty secrets brought to light. Your appointed Secretary got multiple votes of no confidence and you actually kept him, weakening you from many citizen’s viewpoint. Since then, a lot of your plans haven’t gone the way you wanted them to.
But one did, and we both know what that is. The way those bills flew through the General Assembly you would think it was for the welfare and security of the state. It will be very interesting to see how this all comes out in the end. I have a very good idea, and I know you know that. I foresee some radical power player changes in the next year and a half. Yes Senator Sokola and Representative Jaques, I’m talking about you. I will be keeping a very close eye on any who have engineered this redistricting of Wilmington and how they land when all is said and done.
What is even more puzzling is your choice of a weekly address. Delaware balanced the budget, but not without a lot of consequences. Instead of going into detail about that, you babbled on and on about education. Like we haven’t heard it all a million times. What I took extreme offense with was your statement about children with disabilities. I think it’s great that you want to make sure they get jobs when they are adults, but I never hear you talk about special education in the schools. I imagine your advisors would have a cow if you praised it because pretty much everyone in the state knows how bad it is for most special needs students. There is so much more to these children’s lives than savings accounts and transition into the adult world. They need that solid foundation. Something your standards and assessments and rigor have prevented from happening. I fear for these children every day. I fear for their general well-being and their future. It is YOU who allowed this to happen.
I would think you would have talked about the economy, and legislation that will make it better. Wait, there wasn’t much of that during this legislative session. Instead we saw deals and compromises made behind closed doors with no public transparency. So much for letting the sun shine!
My best guess, and I have nothing to base this on, would be that you needed to get another pumped up message about Delaware’s education out there before you need to make a big decision this week. Yes, House Bill 50. Your decision is eagerly awaited by the parents and advocates who fought tooth and nail to get it passed by a majority in the House and Senate with lots of issues along the way. We find out this week if you will honor us. If you will let the voice of the constituents mean more to you than your glorified standardized assessment, the Smarter Balanced. As I told you in my email to you, this is the KEY legislation of your tenure as Governor of Delaware. This is the one you will be remembered by. House Bill 50 is your legacy. You may not even realize this yet, but it will determine how the people of Delaware remember you. While other state governments are wisely questioning the usefulness of education reform that includes high-stakes assessments, you are actually going around saying “Smarter Balanced is the best test we ever made.” Somewhere along the way I think you forgot the definition of “we”. When you are a Governor, “we” is the people you serve, who voted you into power. Not the corporate interests that have you in their back pocket.