Hodges & Johnson is not the latest detective show hitting television. But it is an appropriate name for the powerhouse behind the Delaware PTA. They really stepped up this year for parent rights. President Dr. Terri Hodges and Vice-President of Advocacy Yvonne Johnson started the year off with a bang by announcing two town halls for those interested in opting their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I will fully admit to being blown away when I heard this but I quickly got in touch with Dr. H and let her know I was in full support of this.
In March, the duo held the first opt out town hall in New Castle County. To say the first town hall on opt-out was controversial would be an understatement. Confession time again: I truly thought I was advocating on my own for opt-out. I knew others in the state who supported it and a couple school boards were behind it, but in terms of rallying the troops I thought it was going to be a solo act. With that first town hall I knew there was massive support for the rising movement in Delaware. Around the same time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was introduced in the General Assembly, State Rep. Earl Jaques was blasting opt-out parents, and Governor Markell was taking steps in his failed effort to squash the movement.
By the time the second opt-out town hall in Kent County happened a couple weeks later in early March, Brian Touchette from the DOE and Donna Johnson with the State Board of Education were forced to admit there was no law preventing parents from opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. This was a major breakthrough in the opt-out movement and cleared the path for everything that went down at Legislative Hall over the next four months.
Johnson & Hodges, or at least one of their carefully chosen representatives, were present for every single opt-out meeting or vote at Legislative Hall. By the time the Delaware Senate finally passed the bill on June 25th, summer was here and everyone who supported the bill needed a well-earned break. But not even a month later, Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed House Bill 50 and spit on parental rights everywhere. Immediately the talk went towards overriding the Governor’s veto, but the General Assembly went out of legislative session for six months. Since then, Hodges & Johnson, with the PTA membership, have been gearing up for next month when the legislators return.
In the past few months, the Delaware PTA again stepped up to help prevent the harsh opt-out penalties as part of Delaware’s new state accountability system. Unfortunately, Secretary Godowsky caved in to pressure and recommended the opt-out multiplier penalty as opposed to districts and schools having to come up with a plan to prevent opt-out. The State Board of Education approved the final part of their ESEA Flexibility Waiver last month and they are awaiting word from the US DOE on final approval.
I have no doubt that will happen, especially given the stab in the back from the US DOE announced today about definitive funding cuts for states who dip below the 95% participation rate two years in a row. But the Delaware PTA is on it, and the recently announced House Bill Veto Override Parent Rally at Legislative Hall on January 14th will show the legislators parents should not be underestimated. In the thick of it will be Yvonne and Terri, Delaware’s own Hodges & Johnson!
Both of them truly believe parents have a voice in education, and they have proved it time and time again. While I don’t agree with 100% of everything the PTA endorses, I respect their ability to draw consensus from a large group of parents for whatever they decide as a group. That is how it should be in education, but we have too many Markells and Rodels in our country.