Why Governor Carney’s $60 Million Plan Will Fail & Why Opt Out Is More Important Than Ever

Delaware State News said everything you need to know about Delaware Governor Carney’s plan to use $60 million dollars and why parents hold the key to stopping this madness: Continue reading

A Conversation With Earl Jaques Yesterday & How He Wants Me To Betray The Opt-Out Movement

After running some errands yesterday, I stopped by Legislative Hall in Dover.  There was no particular reason for going.  As the House Education Committee came out of their meeting, I was approached by State Rep. Earl Jaques.  He asked if he could speak with me in his office.  I immediately thought he was going to blast me for blasting him on this blog.  This wasn’t the case.

Last Spring, right before the House voted on HB50 for the first time on May 7th, Earl approached me about changing provisions for students with disabilities when it comes to the state assessment.  In 2014, Senator Nicole Poore brought Senate Bill 229 forward.  Her bill, which passed, allowed for the most cognitively impaired students to take an alternate assessment in lieu of the state assessment.  It was a bill I fully supported.  It passed within days of the HB334, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The law states this is for students who are “clinically incapable of producing valid results on a standardized assessment”.  This is for a very limited number of students, usually 1%.  These are children who don’t even have the ability to hold a pencil, or they are so challenged they can’t put words together.  Earl told me he wanted to add more disabilities to that list.  I advised him right then and there it doesn’t work like that.  You can’t just pick disabilities and say this child has to take a test and this one doesn’t.   He told me he wants to help out kids like my own.  I advised Earl my son is very smart, but I don’t want him taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He told me to think about it and let him know.

A couple days later, I received an email from Earl:

Additions to SB 229

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Schwartzkopf Peter (LegHall) <peter.schwartzkopf@state.de.us>; Markell Jack <jmarkell@comcast.net>; Godowsky Steven (K12) <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; “John.King@ed.gov” <john.king@ed.gov>; Johnson Donna R. <donna.johnson@doe.k12.de.us>; “David.Sokola@state.de.us” <david.sokola@state.de.us>
Sent:
Thursday, January 28, 2016 10:24 PM
Subject:
Opt-Out Clauses For Students With Disabilities

Good evening all.
Most of you know me, but for John King, please allow me to introduce myself.  I am one of, if not the, most vocal proponents of opt-out in the State of Delaware.  I supported Delaware’s House Bill 50 before it was even filed.  This was a legitimate bill, aimed at honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Our House and Senate passed it, but Governor Markell vetoed it.  I’m sure you know all of this and what has happened since.
According to our State Representative Earl Jaques, he had a conversation with you last Friday during your visit to Wilmington. About his idea to add disabilities for students who take the alternative assessment.  He made it sound like you were encouraged by this and you asked him to send you information on it.  At least that’s what he told me…
Getting to the root of this email, Earl approached me yesterday about adding disabilities to Senate Bill 229.  Mr. King, this was Delaware’s bill which would allow the most severe cognitively impaired students to take an alternate test. Either Rep. Jaques truly thinks disabilities can be added to this bill like a specific disability defines what a child can or can’t do, or he was playing me.  I believe he was trying to weaken opt-out by getting one of it’s biggest advocates to slow down the cause.  He wants me to give up the fight and cave.  I just have to offer labels to him.  As a father of a student with disabilities who is very intelligent and smart, and no longer attends public school in Delaware because of the insanity that has become public education, I find it disgusting and reprehensible that Jaques would think I would even think about participating in his sick game.
Rep. Schwartzkopf: You made a very big mistake putting Earl as the Chair of the Delaware House Education Committee.  Is this how State Reps behave?  Playing on what they perceive to be an Achilles heel of someone who opposes them?  And then uses students with disabilities to accomplish this?  This is some sick stuff, and I hope you take action on this immediately.
I sincerely hope none of you in this email put Jaques up to this.  I truly hope none of you would stoop that low.  I can promise you though, my resolve with opt-out has never been stronger and thanks to Earl I am more determined than ever to educate every single parent of a child in a Delaware public school on opt-out.  We could have done this clean without all of this.  Oregon passed an opt-out bill Governor Markell, but you had to stick to your guns and look out for business interests over the rights of parents.  We can stop with the charades here.  It is what it is.  We all know what Smarter Balanced truly is and what it’s true goals are.  I would have to be a morally bankrupt human being, with what I know, to not encourage every single parent in this state to say no to SBAC.
But I’m not done there, because as we all know there are many parts to this machine in Delaware.  I am going to tear the whole thing apart.  Don’t believe me?  You don’t think I can do it?  Watch me!
Mr. King, since you aren’t really a part of all this, but I feel you should bear witness, I do have a boon to ask of you: Call off your participation rate attack dogs with their threatening letters about cutting Federal funding because of a parental choice.  Schools have no control over opt-out.  There is nothing they can do to stop a parent from making this choice.  And there is nothing you can do against a parent.  If you want to be helpful, stop with all this assessment inventory nonsense you are pushing and encourage states to get rid of the very tests parents are opting out of: the standardized test.  The jig is up.  Parents are only going to opt out more which renders the test useless.  We don’t want it for our children.  It is designed for data to track our children and to sell them to the lowest bidder.  We don’t even want it embedded into the personalized learning competency-based education widgets.  We don’t want our children to be investor’s little playthings.  Look me in the eye and tell me that isn’t what this is all about.  You can “personalize” and “standardize” all you want.  But leave our kids alone.  We aren’t stupid.  And the charter love, that is going to go down like the Titanic more and more every day as the cracks are exposed and the rot festers through the foundations behind that movement.
Governor Markell… Jack… I’ll bet you didn’t even think twice about not putting the basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to third grade into your neat little budget.  But you made damn sure to get the $11.35 million in for all the early childhood education.  Let me ask you this though: what happens to those children, who got all that extra support when they were a toddler with disabilities, when they go to school and become a student with disabilities?  In an oversized classroom with limited resources?  I’m sure we would blame the teacher then, right?  It’s almost like you want students with disabilities to fail.  But they can’t just fail, they have to fail spectacularly well!  And we will stretch that proficiency gap so hard it snaps!  But hot damn, if we can get them a low-paying job when they graduate, then by golly, we did our job!  And we will continue to pay University of Delaware millions and millions of dollars to come up with “behavior” programs to deal with those neurologically-based special education kids!  But hey, we have money to throw around.  Let’s allocate $3 million for bike trails…
If any of you need more information on all of this and more detail about Earl, please read my article about this on Exceptional Delaware.  This email will be included in it.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt

 

 

 

A Warning For All Delaware Legislators of the 148th General Assembly

In 11 days, students in Delaware will begin the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This was voted into law through House Bill 334 last June by both the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate, and then signed by Governor Markell.  I believe some of you thought you were doing the right thing.  Others didn’t want to tick off the Governor who has made education his top priority.  Some of you are actually a part of the corporate education reform movement in Delaware.  A few of you felt manipulated and trapped because Secretary of Education Mark Murphy already bought the assessment for Delaware.  And some of you wisely voted no, in both rounds of voting.

We now face another bill in the 148th General Assembly, closely tied to this assessment.  A Parent Opt Out bill would legally allow parents to opt their child out of the state assessment.  Many parents, including myself, feel this law would not change our Constitutional rights at all.  But we are in agreement this would allow parents who are either too afraid to opt their child out or aren’t even aware of the possibility the ability to do so.

One of you publicly stated two nights ago to a room full of teachers this bill will not pass and you will not allow Delaware to give up Federal money.  What this legislator fails to realize is Federal funds did not put him in his current position.  Governor Markell didn’t put him there either.  It was the people of Delaware, within his own district, who believed this man would rightfully serve their will and their needs.

In the coming months, children will take this test.  Most of them will fail.  This is not to say they won’t try their best, but the actual test is designed for this.  It is intentionally supposed to be hard.  This will continue for the next three years.  Some parents in our state don’t even know what this test is.  These are the parents who will be shouting at the top of their lungs in about four to five months when the scores come in.  When their child’s scores come in and they are no longer proficient when they have been for the past few years.  This is when all of you will be faced with a very large challenge.

Some will say “I never voted for this in the first place.”  Others will say “I voted for it, and I’m sorry, but I realized the danger signs and voted for the parent opt out bill.”  Then there are the rest of you.  You are the ones who will be held accountable.  It will be well-known at this point in time who allowed this to happen.  Even the beloved charter school parents whom you have catered to with your legislative votes will no longer be patient with you.

2016 is not that far away.  Some of you will be content, not facing re-election.  For those of you who are hoping to stay in the General Assembly, or have aspirations for higher office, you need to make some choices now.  The vast majority of your votes will comes from parents.  They will remember the annual suffering their children had inflicted upon them.  They will want to make a change.  Nothing will cause parents to rise up more than watching their children suffer.  They will not sit back and do nothing.

You should really watch what is happening in other states.  Parents are outright refusing this test.  Opt out are two words no longer said, it is REFUSE.  They are angry, and going on TV, and putting up billboards.  They are saying “No more!”  While Delaware’s opt out movement may be seen as small and a temporary annoyance, I can assure you it is not.  It is gaining traction every single day, every hour.  It is spreading from Wilmington to the beaches.  This is not civil disobedience.  This is not parents flaunting the law and becoming activists.  We are parents who care about our children and refuse to let them be guinea pigs.

You all need to remember this when you make blanket statements about parent opt out.  You need to choose your words very carefully.  You need to also realize saying nothing is the same as speaking out against it.  This is not a subject you can sit on the fence about.  If you truly believe this test is good for students, this is fair warning: those who put you in power can assuredly take you out.  If you enjoy serving your constituents and helping to make laws for the citizens of the First State, remember this simple fact.