My Email To Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf & Senator Patricia Blevins About House Bills 186 & 61

After seeing the stunts pulled by the Earl Jaques with House Bill 186, the Academy of Dover State Auditor report, and the very deliberate attempts by the Delaware Charter Schools Network to kill the bill, I decided to start digging into charter school board minutes yesterday which is how I found out the information on Odyssey Charter and Thomas Edison Charter School.  By the time I published that information, I was pretty livid and disgusted, so I emailed the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate to get both House Bill 186 AND House Bill 61.  This is what I wrote:

Good Evening Rep. Schwartzkopf and Senator Blevins,

I wrote two articles on Exceptional Delaware tonight about two Delaware charter schools, Odyssey and Thomas Edison.  All my information was obtained from their own board minutes.  These charters, along with Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy and Providence Creek Academy and two other unnamed charters are all having huge financial issues as well as investigations by Tom Wagner’s office.

Rep. Kim Williams has been monitoring these situations since last December when Family Foundations Academy was revealed to have fraud and waste going on with spending by their two heads of schools.  She very wisely introduced House Bill 53, then House Bill 154, both of which were folded into House Bill 186.  After a week of being in limbo, the bill was finally released from committee today.  I am asking you both a huge favor here, and I know I have no position to make this request.

I am asking Rep. Schwartzkopf to place this, as well as House Bill 61 (allows for recording of all school board meetings) on the agenda for a House vote tomorrow, and if it passes, that Senator Blevins suspends Delaware Senate rules and petition these bills out of the education committee and have them on the agenda for a Senate vote before midnight on June 30th. 

While we are cutting funds from services that desperately need funds, our charter schools are running amok.  And these are only the ones we KNOW are doing stuff to warrant an investigation by Wagner’s office.  For some reason, they are protected by organizations like the Delaware Charter Schools Network who may or may not know about many of these financial improprieties. 

If we truly want to make Delaware education a top priority, it starts with oversight of our schools.  This is beyond the point of absurdity.  Thank you very much for your consideration on this matter and I pray you will make the right decisions here for the good of Delaware students.

Kevin Ohlandt

If you would also like to see this action taken, please call Schwartkopf at (302) 744-4531 or email him at Peter.Schwartzokpf@state.de.us and call Blevins at (302) 744-4133 or email her at Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us and let them know you want votes on both of these very important bills.  And I strongly recommend doing this prior to 2pm today!

Senator Sokola Is Disgracing Parents With His Foul & Disgusting Games On House Bill 50, Email Him Now!!!! #supportHB50

Delaware Senate Joint Resolution #2, directing the Department of Education to do an inventory of assessments and to form a “discussion group” surrounding these issues unanimously passed the full Delaware Senate today.  As well, Senate Bill 122, directing the State Board of Education to look at reorganizing school boundaries and district lines passed the Senate 19-1 with one member not voting.

What is interesting about this is these two bills, along with House Bill 50, were all part of the agenda for the Senate Education Committee yesterday.  House Bill 50 took up most of the meeting, Senate Bill 122 was given public comment by Tony Allen with no other members of the committee present except for Senator Sokola, and SJR #2 was not even discussed except as a counter to HB50 by opponents of the opt-out bill.  But Senate Bill 122 and SJR #2 were both released from the committee in time for the Senate Legislative Session yesterday, put on the agenda for a full Senate vote today and passed.  Meanwhile, no word on House Bill 50 being released from the committee.

At this point, I do not believe anything coming from Senator Sokola.  He is railroading this bill.  I know others will vouch for him, but this is deliberate.  I am not going to be patient, nor should any parent who has endured the disrespect and intolerance by the heads of both education committees in our General Assembly who will side with corporate interests and the DOE over fundamental parent rights.  I had a long conversation with Sokola last evening, and at no point did he come out in support of HB50 or did he state why he wanted district assessments added to HB50 as an amendment.

These people do not want parents to exercise their rights for their children, and they have bought off legislators to continue to peddle their outright lies and intimidation.  We all know who they are: Rodel, the Delaware Business Roundtable, the Delaware Chamber of Commerce, and more.  NO MORE!

We need as many people as humanly possible to email Senator Sokola and cc the Speaker of the House, Patti Blevins, and feel free to unleash your displeasure with the Senator who would care more about data and rigor than the best interest of children and parental rights.  This is ALL on Senator Sokola’s dirty hands right now, and the Speaker of the House needs to see this.  Their emails are as follows:

David.Sokola@state.de.us

Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us

House Bill 50 Back In The Saddle For Senate Education Committee Meeting 6/10/15, 3pm

As committee meetings were posted on the legis.delaware.gov website today, I kept waiting to see the Senate Education Committee meeting posting.  It is finally up, and it is just House Bill 50 and Senate Joint Resolution #2.  I expect, to borrow some words from the Delaware DOE, a lot of robust and rigorous conversation around these two educational matters.  I did hear Senator David Sokola tell State Rep. John Kowalko House Bill 50 would be heard first the other day, so I fully expect Sokola to keep his word.

I have not received a response to my request for House Bill 50 to be petitioned out of committee by any member of the Senate leadership, but given that the past couple days have been about Beau Biden’s viewing, I didn’t expect to.  Here is the official agenda:

Chamber: Senate

Chairman: Sokola

Location/Room: Senate Hearing Room

Date/Time: 06/10/2015 03:00:00 PM

Revision Num:

Agenda

SJR 2 DIRECTING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO STUDY STUDENT ASSESSMENT TESTING.
Sponsor : Sokola


HB 50 w/HA 1 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT.
Sponsor : Kowalko


Comment: Introduction, Approval of Meeting Minutes, Agenda, Other items that appear before the Committee, Adjournment *Agenda Subject to change

Meeting Minutes:

I have to wonder if the same folks will show up.  I imagine there will be a lot more parents there since the agenda is lighter.  From what I understand, there were several parents outside of the meeting room the other day but were unable to come in because the room was at capacity.  I know Dr. Paul Herdman from the Rodel Foundation of Delaware was going to give public comment on House Bill 50 the other day, so it will be interesting to see if he returns and what he has to say about all this…

Email To Delaware Senate Leaders Requesting House Bill 50 To Be Petitioned Out Of Committee

I just sent the following email to Delaware Senators Patricia Blevins, David McBride, and Margaret Rose-Henry, who form the majority Senate leadership.  I also forwarded the email to the Senate Minority leaders, Gary Simpson and Gregory Lavelle.

Senators Blevins, McBride and Henry,

My name is Kevin Ohlandt and I am a parent advocate for the parent opt-out movement in Delaware.  Today, House Bill 50 was finally scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee.  Many parents traveled to Dover to hear the bill, and many more were eagerly awaiting the results.  Some arranged for babysitters, or took time off of work.  I fully understand that agendas are subject to change, but it was painfully obvious to all in attendance what was going on during the meeting.  House Bill 50 was the oldest bill on the agenda.  While I in no way mean to disparage the importance of the others bills, because they are all equally important, I found the meeting to be very disorganized.    Senator Sokola arrived ten minutes late for what he knew was a very full agenda.  The room was filled with people, and I understand it is customary in a situation like that to limit public comment.  As the meeting went on, many members of the public gave public comment which was not limited in any way whatsoever.  As well, Senator Sokola gave prominence to Senate Joint Resolution #2 over House Bill 50.  To give some background here, Senator Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques both sponsored this resolution, with the collaboration of Lindsey O’Mara from the Governor’s office and the Delaware Department of Education.  I published a document circulated by the DOE labeling SJR #2 as an alternative to House Bill 50, the same day SJR #2 was formally introduced.  As well, I have seen an email sent out by Shana Young with the DOE indicating that SJR #2 would not give the General Assembly any “formal authority” over the assessment inventory.  Today, at the meeting, time was spent on an amendment giving the General Assembly more authority.  It was also announced the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the very test parents are opting out of, could be included in this supposed “assessment inventory”.

To give an idea of the manipulation being perpetrated by the DOE, I submitted a FOIA request to the DOE for this exact email.  I was told today it does not exist.  So either the DOE employee is using personal email for state business, the email was deleted, or there is a cover-up.  I have already called out the DOE on their outright lie in response to their FOIA response, and I will submit yet another complaint with the Department of Justice in regards to these matters. It is my contention, and that of many concerned parents, this has all been done under the watchful eye of Senator Sokola.  The Delaware Department of Education, including Secretary Murphy, were very smug and condescending as the meeting abruptly ended without House Bill 50 even being heard and I was receiving texts it would not be heard before the meeting was only 1/4 done.  At no point during the meeting did Senator Sokola attempt to limit public comment, or even advise parents who came for House Bill 50 the bill would not be heard.  It is also many parents contention around Delaware that certain legislators are more tied to Governor Markell’s education agendas than serving their constituents and the citizens of Delaware.  Unfortunately, this includes both Chairs of the Education Committees in the General Assembly.  This is a bill that was passed by the House with a 36-3 vote, and it is disrespectful to let it fall prey to these types of political games.  It is disrespectful to the parents, students, teachers, and supporters of this bill who have fought for so long to have their voice finally be heard in education matters. Therefore, I would like to ask you, Senator Blevins, to suspend Senate rules and petition House Bill 50 out of committee prior to its 12th legislative day based on the following Senate rules:

RULE 16. PETITION OUT OF COMMITTEE.

Upon written request signed by the majority of the members elected to the Senate and directed to the Presiding Officer, any bill, joint resolution, or other business that has been in a committee for a period exceeding 12 legislative days, except those assigned to the Bond Bill or Finance Committees, shall be reported to the Senate.

Delaware parents need this bill to be heard.  The abuse, intimidation, and outright lies stemming from the Department of Education and the Governor’s office is very damaging to the integrity of Delaware.  Many parents have seen and felt the manipulation and abuse of power in education matters in our state, and it is becoming more transparent every single day.  The stall tactics on this legislation, first very smugly done by State Rep. Jaques in the House Education Committee, and now more overtly done by Senator Sokola, do not paint a nice picture for the legislative process in Delaware.  It shows a level of corruption and maneuvering that brings shame on the Delaware General Assembly.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Respectfully,

Kevin Ohlandt