This article is for ALL Delaware public education students. This is what you need to do NOW to make a difference for YOUR school.
Last night, I attended an Education Forum at Newark High School. As members of the audience stated they didn’t know who their legislators even are, State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked me to put up a post on my blog about this in front of the whole audience. It is my pleasure to do so Paul!
Even though students (unless you are 18 or over) are not registered voters, your voice is important. I will go so far as to say it is the most important voice in the state. You can get involved, and I would ask your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, friends, and neighbors to get involved in this year’s budget, especially when it comes to public education. But first, you have to know who to contact!
The first thing to do is go to the General Assembly website, found here: http://legis.delaware.gov/
The easiest way to find out “Who is My Legislator” is to go that section of their website and put in your address or go on the “Find by Map” option. I did that using my address, and it came up with this:
Another way to find out what Senator or State Rep covers your district, go to the tabs that say “Senate” or “House”.
I will use the House as an example. Go to the tab that says “Members & Districts” and click that. Now I have to sacrifice one of our State Reps as an example, so I chose my own State Rep, Trey Paradee of the 29th Rep. District.
What a big smile for your constituents Trey! It has other information on the page, but if you want to contact them, it provides their phone number at Legislative Hall or their email address. You will get a legislative aide or an answering machine when you call them. An email might shoot you an automatic reply if they aren’t there that day. Some legislators are brave enough to put their home or cell phone numbers on their contact information. I would ALWAYS call that phone number first since the likelihood of them getting back to you SHOULD improve. Another way is to look for them on social media. Send them a friend request if they offer that option. I would shoot them a message stating who you are and possibly an issue or topic you would like to discuss with them.
Once you know what they look like, and if you have the time, go down to Legislative Hall and introduce yourself. Don’t do it while they are in session in their respective chamber though because they can’t really stop that time to talk to you. Be respectful and courteous. Ask for THEIR cell number if you don’t have it already.
If you find your legislator isn’t getting back to you, keep at it! I’m not saying to stalk them, but keep calling, emailing, or texting. As a professional courtesy, I would give them at least three days to get back to you.
As the General Assembly prepares their version of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, they need to hear from their constituents NOW. Not later. Not on June 30th. NOW!!!!
Here is how it goes for the next five weeks down in Dover. The General Assembly is on a two-week recess right now and will return on June 6th. In the meantime, the Joint Finance Committee, which is a group of legislators, are doing what is known as the “budget mark-up”. They go through Governor Carney’s proposed budget and make changes. This group needs to hear from you NOW!
I would email ALL of them in one email and tell them what you are looking for. For those who are against all these cuts in education, some suggested wording could consist of this:
Please remove the cuts to education from the state budget. It is unfair to balance the state’s budget on the backs of our students. Schools are already under-resourced and our children need our commitment to their future. Thank you.
The public can attend the Joint Finance Committee meetings, but seating is limited. And considering most of you students will be in school, DON’T CUT SCHOOL to come to Dover to go to a JFC meeting. There will be plenty of time for that when school gets out because the General Assembly continues to meet until June 30th. If you want to see some real craziness going on, come down (or up) to Dover on June 30th. The fun usually starts around 6 or 7pm in the evening. Bills pass on the fly, left and right and they suspend a ton of rules to get bills passed. You see bodies passing by you like the Flash. I’ve gone the past two years and didn’t get home until the sun was coming up. That’s right. They MUST pass the budget or they don’t get to go home until they do. They can go home, but their legislative session isn’t over until the State Budget passes. By State Law, the Governor must either sign or veto (not sign it) the budget once the General Assembly passes it. If the Governor passes it, the General Assembly has to keep meeting until it passes or they can attempt to override the Governor’s veto. This year, June 30th falls on a Friday so I have no doubt they will want to get in and get out so they can have their 4th of July weekend last as long as possible.
If students truly want to make a huge difference with this budget, if you don’t want teachers cut and you don’t want your school board to be put in a position where they are forced to raise more taxes without a referendum, your State Rep, Senator and the Joint Finance Committee need to hear from you TODAY! They may give you a reason why they support this or don’t support that, but make sure YOUR feelings are heard.
If you want to make a HUGE impact, organize a group of your friends and classmates and come down to Legislative Hall in Dover (but don’t cut school to do it). You are NOT allowed to carry signs into the building, but you can wear t-shirts as long as they don’t have curse words or are inappropriate. It could say something as simple as “No Education Cuts” or have fun with it and write “Forced Match Tax Without A Referendum Is Horrible” . I would NOT recommend t-shirts like “John Carney is bad” or “Mike Ramone loves Donald Trump….Eeeew!” (neither of them do, just making a point here). You can even write legislator letters but make sure you go to their office in Legislative Hall and give it to the receptionist or legislative aide to give to the legislator. Don’t try to put letters or correspondence on their desk in the House or Senate chamber. I did that once and it is NOT allowed. Don’t yell at anyone or interrupt anyone either. And whatever you do, when the House or Senate is in session, just sit and listen. You do NOT want that gavel coming down on you by Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long or Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf!
You CAN make a difference this year. If you want to preserve what you have and not lose out next year, there is nothing wrong with a peaceful protest. Make sure you get Mom, Dad, or your Guardian’s permission first, but make it something you can tell your grandchildren about one day. How you told our legislators what your schools need and you helped to make a difference. Let’s call it “Swarm The Hall”. Share hashtag #swarmthehall on Twitter and Facebook and let’s make it a thing Delaware students!
As an education blogger, I’ve met most of our State Reps and State Senators. I want to believe they want to do the right thing for everyone in the state, but sometimes political issues happen. If you are a dye-in-the-wool Democrat and your State Rep or Senator is a Republican, or vice-versa, don’t get into the whole “us vs. them” mentality. They will listen to you, but it could cause them to tune out whatever you are saying. Make it about the issues, not about the politics. No one wants to hear about the whole Trump/Hillary thing or “Dems Stink” or “Republicans Lie” kind of stuff. This is about YOU, and YOUR education. And this isn’t just about school districts, it’s also about charters. Because if districts have to make cuts and force a match tax on their residents, they will have a hard time getting referenda passed in the future. Which means less money for charter schools as well.
Below is a list of ALL the Delaware State Reps and Senators. The Senate has 21 members and the House has 41 members. Don’t get confused by the district numbers. I live in State Rep District 29 but State Senate District 15.
If you are a Delaware public school teacher, please share this article with your students and their parents. It can also be a valuable lesson for current events or helping children become more aware of how the political process in Delaware works.
Updated: Some libraries are holding events called “Postcard Party for Education Funding”. Details can be found here. This is a brilliant idea! Reach out to the sponsors and see if you can get these events in your local libraries if they aren’t in your area!