Attorney General Opinion On Delaware Pathways Steering Committee Issued Today Is Sloppy, Inconsistent, & Incorrect

On October 7th, the Delaware Pathways Steering Committee held their first meeting with no public notice or an agenda put up 7 days prior to the meeting as required by Delaware state code.  In August, Delaware Governor Jack Markell issued an Executive Order creating this public body.  The only reason I found out about it was due to tweets from the Rodel Foundation and Mark Brainard of Delaware Tech.  I promptly filed a FOIA complaint on October 11th.  Seventeen days later, the Delaware Attorney General’s office has already responded to the FOIA complaint.  To put this in perspective, I filed a FOIA complaint last March which just had the Attorney General opinion issued last week.  BI submitted another FOIA complaint around that same time period and there has been no official opinion released from the Attorney General’s office.  But Alison May from the Delaware DOE did respond in record time with their side of the complaint, but she has before.  So why was this FOIA complaint rushed?

Below is my original request, the acknowledgment from the Attorney General’s office, the Delaware DOE’s response to the complaint, and the opinion on the FOIA complaint issued today.  As well, I am including an email that was still in draft form disputing the facts provided by Alison May in the Delaware DOE’s response.  I truly believed I had more time given the turnaround time on FOIA complaints coming out of the AG’s office but this one had a lightning fast response.  Given the below findings and other inconsistencies with their opinion, I believe this was a very rushed job they wanted to put to bed fast.  But that opens up a whole other can of worms…

Original FOIA Complaint, issued 10/11/16

From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2016 9:23 AM
To: OpenGovernment (DOJ) <OpenGovernment@state.de.us>
Subject: FOIA Complaint

 

 Good morning,

I am submitting a FOIA complaint in regards to the newly created Pathways Steering Committee.  This body came out of Executive Order #61, issued by Governor Markell on Thursday, August 11th, 2016.  While there was nothing anywhere indicating they were holding a meeting, tweets appeared on October 7th suggesting the body met as a group.  This is a state group, created by an elected official.  Yet there was no posting of the meeting or an agenda.  Attached are screen shots of the tweets posted by Mark Brainard and the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  

I take this violation very seriously.  For a group that is supposed to be all about students, I find it ironic they would operate in secrecy with no ability for the public to attend.  This does not translate into anything close to an open government.  

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

9 Crosley Court

Dover, DE 19904

On October 12th, the Delaware Attorney General acknowledged receipt of my FOIA Complaint

October 11, 2016 Correspondence Regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

VIA EMAIL

 

Mr. Kevin Ohlandt

9 Crosley Ct.
Dover, DE 19904
kevino@yahoo.com

RE:     October 11, 2016 Correspondence Regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

Dear Mr. Ohlandt:

            This will acknowledge receipt of your correspondence regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee (the “Committee”), received on October 11, 2016, alleging certain violations of the open meetings provisions of Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act, 29 Del. C. §§ 10001-10007 (“FOIA”). We treat your correspondence as a petition for determination pursuant to 29 Del. C. § 10005.  We are forwarding your correspondence to the Committee’s counsel, asking that they respond to your allegations by October 19, 2016.  When we have received the Committee’s response, we will determine whether additional information from either party is required and decide what further action, if any, is appropriate.

Very truly yours, 

                                                                        /s/ Kim Siegel

                                                                        Kim Siegel

                                                                        FOIA Coordinator

KS/ks

cc:        Danielle Gibbs, Chief Deputy Attorney General (via email)

            Michelle E. Whalen, Deputy Attorney General (via email)

            Meredith S. Tweedie, Esq. (via email)

The Delaware Department of Education’s Response to the FOIA Complaint, 10/19/16

Issued today was the official opinion from the Delaware Attorney General’s office:

16-IB23 10/28/2016 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Kevin Ohlandt re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

This is the draft I was working on to send to the Attorney General’s office that I believed I had more time to formulate:

October 26th, 2016

Good afternoon Ms. Siegel,

In reviewing Alison May from the Dept. of Education’s response to my FOIA complaint from October 11th, in the letter provided from her on October 19th, she states the following:

…and the draft minutes of the October 7th meeting (attached hereto, along with the other documents discussed at the meeting) will be posted online by the end of this week.
In doing an extensive search this afternoon, I have not been able to see anywhere in the State of Delaware, on the Delawarepathways.org website, or any such place on the World Wide Web where Alison May’s assurance of transparency actually took place.
This attempt at a good-faith effort on the Dept. of Education’s response to the complaint seems a bit odd considering this does not exist.  And while I know the Governor is not obligated to publicly report on where he speaks publicly, the fact that no documentation exists anywhere in regards to this meeting on the internet aside from I wrote about it on Exceptional Delaware and a few tweets from those associated with this group, I find that to be very suspect.  While Ms. May states “this was an oversight on the part of the involved State agencies and organizations and not an intentional effort to circumvent FOIA requirements” in her response, the very minutes she attached to the DOE’s response indicate Luke Rhine from the Department of Education would be in charge of coordinating staffing.  And since Alison May from the Dept. of Education was the responding party for the response to the complaint, that leads me to the belief that the Delaware Dept. of Education would have been the State Agency to fulfill FOIA requirements for a public body.  Since they did not, I take issue with Ms. May’s response about not coordinating with other state agencies and do not believe that to be a true statement. In regards to the reasoning for not making this meeting public to the citizens of Delaware, a statement of “oversight” bears little meaning in the contextual framework of following state code.
In a prior FOIA complaint of mine against the Delaware Dept. of Education, #15-IB12, Danielle Gibbs, the Chief Deputy Attorney General wrote:
The DOE provided no explanation as to why the notices and agendas were posted less than seven days in advance of the meetings, and it concedes that the postings did not comply with FOIA.  The DOE also explained that no action was taken by the AFWG at either meeting.  The DOE apologized and said it would “endeavor to determine the agenda of any future AFWG meetings as of the time of any required public notice of them, and include the agenda in any such required notice.
The notices and agendas for the AFWG meetings held in September violated FOIA because they were not posted at least seven days in advance of the meeting as required by 29 Del. C. §10004(e)(2).  We find that these errors were technical violations that did not negatively affect substantial public rights.[17]  Therefore, we find that no remediation is required.”
Given that the words “substantial public rights” means no action was taken at those meetings, it was during a regulatory process for Regulation 103 where key issues concerning that regulation would have been discussed at the AFWG meetings.  So in a finding that “substantial public rights” did not apply in that situation with pending legislative action, I take issue with that.  As well, in the attached minutes from the minutes for the Pathways Steering Committee, there is talk of legislative action and a discussion with the Delaware General Assembly.
In FOIA Complaint #13-IB05, issued October 1st, 2013, citizens filed a complaint against the Charter School Reform Working Group in regards to having closed-door meetings not open to the public.  In that Attorney General opinion, it states the following:
By letters dated July 31 and August 1, 2012, the Governor extended invitations to a number of individuals to participate in the Working Group as representatives of several public bodies, including the General Assembly, the Department of Education and the State Board of Education, and various private stakeholder groups (the “Invitations”).
While that opinion was an appeal to an earlier complaint, it states the following:
On June 10, 2013, you filed this appeal seeking access to the Working Group’s meeting minutes.  We received a response on July 11, 2013.  The response indicates that the Working Group did not consider itself to be a “public body” within the meaning of section 10002(h), due primarily to the informal nature of the Working Group.

FOIA, with certain exceptions not relevant here, establishes a public right to inspect all “public records” and requires that all meetings of public bodies be open to the public.4   FOIA’s “open meeting” provisions call for advance notice to the public of all public meetings and require public bodies to prepare and make available to the public agendas for and minutes of their public meetings.5

Section 10002(h) provides substantial guidance as to the types of entities and bodies encompassed within the phrase “body of the State.”  That concept, as used in FOIA, includes, among other things, any “group . . . appointed by any . . . public official of the State” that was “impliedly or specifically charged” with making recommendations.9   The Working Group was a “body of the State” within the meaning of section 10002(h).

But the key part from this opinion rests on the following and is key to my own FOIA complaint:

First, this Office consistently has rejected arguments that FOIA’s applicability hinges on adherence to formalities in the creation of a public body, lest FOIA’s goals of openness and government accountability be subverted.14

This was where my draft ended which I fully intended on doing further research on in the next week.

Now here are my issues with the Attorney General’s response to the FOIA complaint.  First off, in Alison May’s response from the Delaware DOE, she said it was under the Delaware Dept. of Education’s control to issue the agenda.  However, in the link on the FOIA complaint, we see an Agenda created on 10/17/16, ten days after the meeting, and it was issued from Governor Markell’s office, not the Delaware DOE.  Furthermore, if this was indeed a public body, why was there no agenda item for public comment?  As well, the minutes submitted by Alison May in the DOE’s response to the FOIA complaint are actually different than those that appear on the Googledrive website.

In the original minutes, submitted with Alison May in the Delaware DOE response to my FOIA complaint, it states the following:

Dr. Brainard charged Mr. Rhine to conduct outreach to Steering Committee members to review the draft strategic plan and collect additional input;

Dr. Brainard charged Mr. Rhine to develop a transition report for partnering state agencies to be used as a transitional tool in planning for the next executive administration;

But in the minutes on the Googledrive for the steering committee, it said this:
Mr. Rhine will conduct outreach to Steering Committee members to review the draft strategic plan and collect additional input;
Mr. Rhine will develop a transition report for partnering state agencies to be used as a transitional tool in planning for the next executive administration;
While the two items look very similar on the surface, the action of taking out Dr. Brainard from the updated minutes which were created on October 24th by Luke Rhine, which the Googledrive suggests that no action was directed to Luke Rhine, the main Delaware Dept. of Education representative, when in reality it was.  This change is substantial.  The opinion issued today states that no action was taken at this meeting so the perception that no “substantial public rights” violations occurred by not making a public body meeting public is visibly changed between the two meeting minutes.  As well, if the Delaware DOE is the state entity that answered the FOIA complaint and is in charge of posting information about it, why is there absolutely nothing on the Career and Technical Education portion of their website?
We are also expected to believe the minutes and agenda they presented are accurate when they were created at the earliest, six days after the meeting, and at the latest, seventeen days after the meeting:
dtccgoogledrivepathways
As well, the response from the Attorney General’s response today shows a link to a website that was not included in the original DOE response to the complaint which means there was further communication between the Attorney General’s office and the parties to which I issued the FOIA complaint against.  In all other FOIA complaints I have submitted, I have been a party to those communications every single step of the way but not with this one.
The Deputy Attorney General who wrote this opinion, Danielle Gibbs, handled a FOIA opinion from a complaint I submitted in 2015.  She made sure I received all communication from the Delaware DOE on that every single step of the way.  But this time I guess I wasn’t so blessed.  She actually wrote in the FOIA opinion issued today:

Moreover, as you note in your Petition, certain members of the Committee published photographs of its meeting on social media either, contemporaneously or immediately following the meeting. We find this to be inconsistent with an intentional failure to adhere to FOIA’s open meetings provisions. We see no evidence of an intent – by the Governor or any other Committee member – to circumvent FOIA. Nor do we see an ongoing pattern of FOIA non-compliance which might warrant extreme remedy.

Here is a newsflash for the Attorney General’s office: having a non-profit foundation and a member of the committee post tweets about a non-transparent meeting of a public body issued by a Governor’s Executive Order, does not point either way towards an intentional failure to adhere to FOIA’s open meetings provisions.  What it shows is someone tweeting.  So to give this extra bearing in a legal opinion about something that was already established to be under the Delaware Dept. of Education’s responsibility is misleading at best.

When you go to this website, there are also extensive plans and reports, involving millions upon millions of dollars of funding.  I would think that would be crucial for the public to see.
pathwaysstrategicplan
To see these large amounts of funds being talked about over the next three fiscal years, please go here: DE Pathways Priority 4 Funding Plan 10/6/16.  Feast your eyes on this document, created on October 6th, one day prior to the Steering Committee meeting.  Furthermore, the two entities planning this funding are not even state agencies, they are 3rd party non-profit companies: United Way of Delaware and the Rodel Foundation.
We have three entities involved with this FOIA complaint: the Delaware Dept. of Education, Governor Markell’s office, and Delaware Technical Community College.  How did the college get involved?  If you look at the Googledrive, the website is listed as:
This is a Del Tech website.  Why is Del Tech storing the minutes for this when it is supposed to be under the authority of the DOE?  And why is Markell’s office issuing the agenda (ten days after the fact)?  When I do a Google search for the past month using “pathways” “steering committee” “dtcc” and “minutes”, nothing comes up on the search.  So how would anyone be able to find these minutes without seeing them in a response to a FOIA complaint?  Even if I take out “dtcc” and replace it with “Delaware” nothing comes up.  Furthermore, there is nothing in the meeting minutes even discussing minutes or where these minutes were to be stored for public consumption.  I believe this to be a very sloppy response from all parties involved and further contend this Pathways Steering Committee is not making a good faith effort with transparency.  By allowing this public body to be open to the public, all three parties involved seemed to have communicated extensively with each other after I filed a FOIA complaint.  I will also add that additional communication provided by the other parties to the Delaware Attorney General’s office needs to be provided to me by the Delaware Attorney General’s office post haste.  The Attorney General opinion states it reviewed the website of the Steering Committee but the only way they would have been able to review that was by getting a link for it.  Since there is no viable way to search for this Steering Committee through internet search engines, I contend they were given this website by someone involved with it.
This Pathways Steering Committee, that is making gigantic decisions about students, in secondary and post-secondary setting, with plans for huge amounts of money at state and local levels, is all about substantial public rights.  When the General Assembly decided not to move forward with the Pathways Steering Committee as sponsored by Senator David Sokola with Senate Bill 277, Governor Markell took it upon himself to issue an Executive Order to create this committee.  When our Governor doesn’t get his way with the General Assembly, it seems he has the authority to bypass that with Executive Orders.
What is the point of a FOIA complaint if the Delaware Department of Justice, under the control of the Delaware Attorney General, has no ability to do anything substantial or with any consequences in regards to a FOIA complaint?  Why did they rush through the opinion on this FOIA Complaint without really checking into everything?  Why was there (in my view) an intentional attempt to lock me out of communication concerning this FOIA complaint when that has not happened in the past?  These are the things I want answers for, as well as Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn himself to issue a statement that this public body has to reconvene their October 7th meeting so the public is well aware of this Steering Committee that is deciding the future of thousands of Delaware students with significant amounts of taxpayer funds.
Updated, 4:53pm, 10/28/16: Since I finished this article, I can now see on the Delaware DOE website where they did a link to this on their website.  But it is filled with completely wrong information, as seen below.  First off, this is not a “task force”, it is a “steering committee”.  Second, it was not passed into law on June 14th, 2016 through Senate Bill 277.  It became law through Governor Markell’s Executive Order #61, issued on August 11th, 2016.  Senate Bill 277 was released from the Senate Education Committee on June 15th, 2016, but it never came up for a vote with the full Senate and the bill died as of the end of the 148th General Assembly on July 1st, 2016.
dedoetaskforces

Governor Markell Gives Two Big Middle Fingers To Legislators With Latest Executive Order

Delaware Governor Jack Markell sure was a busy guy yesterday.  In the morning he was pimping the Rodelian Teacher Leader Project.   But then he decided to defy the Delaware Senate and signed Executive Order #61.  What did Jack do this time?

A couple of months ago, Markell’s Chief Ass-Kisser, Delaware Senator David Sokola, tried to get a bill going that would create a permanent steering committee for the Pathways to Prosperity program in Delaware schools.  The bill made it out of committee, but never made it to the Senate floor in June.  From what I hear, it wouldn’t have passed.  It was not considered a priority and legislators weren’t fully sold on this idea.

So what does Jack do?  He goes and says “screw you Delaware Senate.  If you won’t do my bidding, I’ll just make it happen!”  He did that yesterday with Executive Order #61.  But not only did he give two very big screw yous to the Delaware Senate, but also disability advocates and Delaware parents (again).  Because even though Senate Bill 277 didn’t make it to the Senate floor, an amendment was added which would have had two other members on this steering committee:

This amendment adds two members to the Pathways steering committee, one member from a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities and one member of the public who is a parent of a Delaware public school student.

I was at the Senate Education Committee meeting when this bill was discussed.  I was the one who questioned why there were no parents on this steering committee.  Sokola pretended it was a mistake parents weren’t on the steering committee with his obviously fake “Oh my gosh” face.  As well, the Chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens noted there was no one representing students with disabilities on it.  Thus, the amendment.

Look at the test of Jack’s “I can out-trump Trump” Executive Order and then compare it to the original language in Senate Bill 277:

Text of Executive Order 61

TO: HEADS OF ALL STATE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

RE: ESTABLISHING A DELAWARE PATHWAYS STEERING COMMITTEE

WHEREAS, in 2015, Governor Markell established the Delaware Promise, a commitment that the state will combine education and workforce efforts to provide opportunities for our students as they prepare to enter and advance in a career;

WHEREAS, Governor Markell’s administration has established “Delaware Pathways”, a collaborative workforce development partnership which will create a fluid relationship between our public education system, post-secondary education, non-profit, and employer communities to ensure that the pathway to college and a well-paying job is accessible for every Delawarean, and to help the state fulfill the “Delaware Promise” of ensuring that 65% of our workforce earns a college degree or professional certificate by 2025, and that all of our students graduate high school;

WHEREAS, a Steering Committee is necessary to ensure that the program’s long term sustainability and adaptation proceeds in a manner that aligns its offerings to the needs of the workforce and to the students and parents who participate, along with ensuring that the budgetary priorities of the program are identified and outlined in a transparent and collaborative manner;

WHEREAS, we must work to continue to expand access to these programs in order to provide Delaware students with the opportunity to earn an industry-recognized credential, early college credit, and relevant work experience in high-demand fields in our state and regional economies.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JACK A. MARKELL, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Delaware, do hereby declare and order the following:

1. The Delaware Pathways Steering Committee (“Steering Committee”) is hereby established to set the strategic direction of the Delaware Pathways work and provide recommendations for future development and growth of the program, and ensure that program offerings are properly aligned with current and expected employer demand.

2. The Steering Committee shall consist of 14 members as follows:
a. The Secretary of the Department of Education.
b. The Secretary of the Department of Labor.
c. The Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services.
d. The Director of Economic Development Office.
e. Chair of the Delaware Workforce Development Board.
f. The President of the Delaware State Board of Education.
g. The President of Delaware Technical Community College.
h. One superintendent of a public school district appointed by the Governor.
i. One superintendent of a vocational technical school district appointed by the Governor.
j. Two business representatives appointed by the Governor.
k. Three members of community or non-profit organizations appointed by the Governor.

3. Members serving by virtue of position may appoint, in writing and in advance of a particular scheduled meeting or on a permanent basis, a designee to serve in their stead and at their pleasure. Members appointed by the Governor shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.

4. The Steering Committee shall, at least annually, and no later than January 15th of each calendar year perform at least the following:
a. Advise the Governor on the priorities, policy issues, and specific plans for the ongoing implementation of Delaware Pathways.
b. Review the policies of existing statewide programs and funding streams to make recommendations and take actions that align education, higher education, and workforce development programs in the state.
c. Provide guidance and leadership to agency staff involved in implementing this work for the development, expansion, and improvement of Delaware Pathways.
d. Set and track annual goals for Delaware Pathways.
e. Assist in convening stakeholders and increasing participation in Delaware Pathways programs throughout the state.

5. The Governor shall designate from the members one Chairperson of the Steering Committee. The chairperson will be appointed biennially.

6. Members appointed to the Steering Committee shall serve renewable terms of 2 years, except in the case of public employees who are not school district superintendents and who are continuing in the same designated position, and in the case of initial appointment terms, which shall be either one or two years.

7. The initial appointment terms of non-public employees and school district superintendents shall be either one or two years, such that three of the appointed non-public or school district superintendents shall serve a one year term, and the other four shall serve a two year term. The terms of each individual appointment shall be at the discretion of the Governor, but after the initial term is served the position shall be for a renewable term of 2 years.

8. The Steering Committee shall meet at the call of the Chairperson, but not less than semiannually.

9. Any vacancy occurring in the appointed membership must be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.

10. Administrative support shall be provided by the Department of Education.

11. Nothing in this Order is to be construed to create a private right of action to enforce its terms.

This Executive Order shall take effect immediately.

Now, if I were a betting man, Markell is doing a few things here.  One, he is laughing at the Delaware Senate.  Two, he is setting things up for John Carney who is a big Pathways cheerleader.  Three, he is fulfilling his Rodel promise (as well as whatever promise Rodel made to the Lumina Foundation).  Four, he is padding up his own resume for his post-Governor job.  And Five, he is fulfilling the “Dear Hillary” letter by setting Delaware up as a pilot state for the Pathways portion of this agenda.  I underestimated Markell.  I really thought he would start to quiet down in his final days.  He is busier than ever.  He is also a backstabbing and conniving jackass.

As for you Mr. John “I don’t respond to you little blogger” Carney, I have a feeling I’m going to have to start looking into you.  A lot.  I don’t think you are who you appear to be…  You are running out of time to prove me wrong…  It’s going to be a loooooooooong four years if this continues…

Hey Jack, Why Are You Deleting Tweets?

Delaware Governor Jack Markell was caught red-handed deleting a tweet!  On Friday, at 4:29 pm, Markell put up a tweet from a conference in Washington D.C. sponsored by a group called Select USA.  Delaware had a booth there.  Two seconds after he posted the tweet, he deleted it.  Apparently there is a group called the Sunlight Foundation that monitors when politicians delete tweets.  They put it up on their website.  When you click on the link in Markell’s tweet, nothing comes up.  So even a website link appears to have been deleted as well.  But I looked to find out what @DelawareGlobal is.  They are actually called Global Delaware.  Global Delaware is a part of our state government.  They are located in the Carvel building in Wilmington at 820 N. French St.

But just cause Jack retweeted a tweet from Global Delaware, does that mean he was even at this thing?

Yeah, he was there!  This conference was so big, even the President went!

So why would a Governor attend a conference with a state organization and delete the tweet about it?  What’s the big secret here Jack?  Global Delaware promotes financial investment in Delaware from other countries.  On their website blog, you can see posts about The Delaware Blockchain Initiative, the Whitehouse Business Council, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Global Cities Initiative, among others.  I don’t usually get too involved in economic events with the State of Delaware, but when the Governor closes the blinds on letting the sunshine in, I have to write about it.  Especially when it involves education!  Wait a minute, how does foreign investment play into Delaware education?

For years, we have been told by the Governor that we have to fix education to fix the economy.  Because our economy is so bad and our students aren’t college and career ready.  But yet, even Select USA states on their website that the USA is the number one country in the world for foreign investment:

The United States is the largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world because companies recognize the United States as an innovative and stable market, as well as the world’s largest economy. As global investment continues to evolve, SelectUSA showcases the advantages of the U.S. market to an increasingly diverse range of investors.

So if our education system is soooo bad, and other countries are soooo far ahead of us, why would they bother to invest in the good old USA?  Perhaps the farce that our public education system is horrible is just that, a carefully designed illusion driving the corporate education reform agenda.  In Delaware, this is highlighted by Markell’s best buddies at the Delaware DOE and the Rodel Foundation.

As a reader, you are probably very confused by now.  Still not getting the education connection yet?  By bringing all these foreign companies to Delaware, the state will have lots of new jobs.  That’s good, right?  Not if it deters students from going on to a four-year college.  This is the plan: get students to do the “Pathways to Prosperity” thing, get certificates in high school, do apprenticeships, perhaps attend a two-year community college like Del-Tech (which the Governor has been talking about a lot in 2016).  That way, when these foreign companies come to Delaware, the students are ready to start their jobs.  These jobs that are most likely lower-paying jobs than they could get if they did attend a four-year college.  Cause that option, in the future, will be reserved for the more advantaged students.  The ones who aren’t low-income or poverty, don’t have disabilities, and so forth.

Now how on earth could a Governor get the public to buy this hook, line, and sinker?  By constantly talking about how we need to “fix” education and incessantly chatting about his Pathways to Prosperity.  Ironically, Senate Bill 277 which would create a permanent steering committee for Pathways to Prosperity, has been on the Senate agenda for a full vote twice, yesterday and last Thursday, but the Senate has not voted on it.  An amendment was added to the bill to include a Delaware parent as well as “one member from a non-profit corporation that advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities“.  How much do you want to bet that advocate will have ties to the Rodel Foundation?  Any takers?  Is the General Assembly less than enthralled with this Markell push?

But he doesn’t just want Delaware students to be a part of this global initiative, he even wants Delawareans to invest in it!  There is already pending legislation to lure the citizens of Delaware into taking part in start-up companies in the state.  All those tax credit bills that swept through the General Assembly so fast?  A boon to companies coming to Delaware!  Why do you think so many companies invest in Delaware?  Cause of the tax breaks.  But when it comes to giving relief to the taxpaying citizens of the state?  Forget about it!  When it comes to ending the corporate workforce education reform agendas that changed public education without any concern for what it does to students and their future?  Forget about it!  For Markell, it is all about bottom line, the almighty dollar.

We will know exactly what kind of man Jack Markell is when House Bill 399 comes to his desk.  Assuming Sokola allows it on the Senate Education Committee agenda in the next week.  If the Governor vetoes the bill, we will know once and for all that he does not care about students, parents, or teachers.  He already proved this last summer when he vetoed House Bill 50, the opt out bill, showing he doesn’t care one iota for parental rights.  For Markell, it is all about “the best test Delaware ever made”, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He can’t permit any legislation that would somehow diminish the test.  Because the Smarter Balanced Assessment, whether it is given once a year or eventually segmented into smaller chunks through end of unit personalized learning assessments, is the key to everything.  All the data and tracking will lead to students being tracked into certain career paths based on their scores on SBAC.  Which is the direct link between education and this deleted tweet.  Markell posts about these kind of things all the time, so I am not sure why he would delete a tweet based on a conference that nobody in their right mind would write about as much as I am today.  But he did.  Did he not want people to know he was there?  Did he not put it on his travel itinerary?

Of course, all of this plays directly into the “future guide” that was so carefully written… 24 years ago…

Teacher Evaluation Bill Unanimously Released While WEIC Bill Tabled In House Education Committee

It was a mixed bag of results at the Delaware House Education Committee.  A teacher evaluation bill, House Bill 399, was released unanimously from the committee.  But a Wilmington Education Improvement Commission bill, concerning the redistricting of Wilmington students in the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District, designed to make clear a school board can not raise taxes without a referendum, was not released.  It was immediately tabled after in the chance the bill can get enough votes to be lifted from that designation.  None of the House Republicans on the House Education Committee voted to release the bill, nor did Democrat Reps. Sean Matthews or Deb Heffernan.  While this doesn’t kill the WEIC redistricting plan (the main legislation for this is House Joint Resolution #12), it certainly doesn’t help.  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf attended the meeting in support of the bill.

With the teacher evaluation bill, House Bill 399, this came after years of back and forth conversation between Delaware teachers and the Department of Education.  The bill deals with how Component V, the major sticking point for teachers, is measured in teacher evaluations.  The major part of that section deals with the state assessment scores, currently the Smarter Balanced Assesssment.  This bill would make it so both the administrator and the teacher would have to agree on what to use for this section, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be the state assessment.  There are some restrictions with this based on a teacher’s prior rating through the DPAS-II evaluation system.  This wouldn’t kick in if they were rated below effective.  House Bill 399 will go on the House Ready list and awaits a vote by the full House.  If it passes there, it would have to go to the Senate Education Committee, and if released, to a full Senate vote, and ultimately the Governor for signature.  Teachers have been fighting this component for years ever since Senate Bill 51 was signed into law during the 2013-2014 legislative session.

Executive Director of the State Board of Education, Donna Johnson, expressed concern during public comment concerning an administrator still having the final word in an evaluation.  Kristin Dwyer, speaking on behalf of the Delaware State Education Association, was in support of House Bill 399.  One public speaker (I did not catch her name so I apologize) spoke about a lack of diversity on the sub-committee of the DPAS-II Advisory Group that came up with the recommendations.  Dr. Mark Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, spoke on behalf of the Chief State School Officers, spoke in support of the bill.

The slow climb to a House vote for the WEIC bill met with resistance by half the House Education Committee today.  Seven voted yes to release while seven voted no.  For a bill to be released from the committee in the House, it must have a majority.  A lot of the discussion concerned what House Bill 424 means in terms of a school board being able to raise taxes without a referendum.  State Rep. Sean Lynn deferred to the House Attorney who said it would not give school boards this right.  That was not enough to sway the half of the committee who voted no on release of the bill.

Over in the Senate Education Committee, House Bill 277 was heard.  This bill would give the Pathways to Prosperity program a permanent steering committee.  Questions were asked to DOE representatives by State Senator Nicole Poore concerning funding for the program.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee cut $250,000 Governor Markell earmarked to go towards this program.  Michael Watson and Luke Rhine from the Delaware DOE shared the funds for this mostly come from federal Perkins funds.  I gave public comment concerning a lack of parent representation on the proposed committee.  State Senator David Sokola thought that was in there and made it a point to make sure this was corrected.  A comment was made to Sokola’s question about this to the effect of “We can talk about this.”

As well, Senate Bill 278, dealing with the Freedom of Information Act at Delaware universities and proposed to make committees and sub-committees subject to FOIA, was heard in the Senate Education Committee.  Drs. Morgan and Galileo from the University of Delaware were in support of the bill as they met with stiff resistance in trying to find out what was even discussed at committee meetings.  They also shared that public comment is not allowed at committee meetings at University of Delaware.  Representatives from University of Delaware and Delaware State University were in opposition of the bill.

With the Senate, the results are not known right away if a bill is released or not.

While not officially on the agenda list yet, House Joint Resolution #12 will most likely be voted on tomorrow in the full House of Representatives.  This could either advance the WEIC redistricting forward or end it.  Senate Bill 277 is already on the agenda for a full Senate vote tomorrow as well.

Updated, 8:09pm: House Joint Resolution #12 is NOT on the House Agenda for tomorrow…