Delaware State Board of Education Interfering With IEP Process & Matt Denn Is Not Happy About It

Regulation 926 is up for a vote on Thursday at the State Board of Education meeting.  Dealing with IEPs and the Procedural Safeguards pamphlet parents or guardians receive prior to an IEP meeting, Regulation 926 actually attempts to water down the Procedural Safeguards.  Attorney General Matt Denn is NOT happy about this.

Under state and federal law, it is mandatory for parents to get the Procedural Safeguards prior to an IEP meeting.  The language in the pamphlet is very specific in defining the rights for a parent or guardian of a student with disabilities.  Instead, the DOE wants to make sure it is “available” and gives a summary instead of parents actually receiving the legal document when a notice of an IEP meeting goes out.

Denn cites the concern that some parents or guardians may not have access to the internet or email.  This isn’t the first time Denn has challenged the State Board of Education over IEP concerns.  As the Chair of the IEP Task Force a couple years ago, Denn was adamant about making sure parents’ rights with IEP meetings were the central focus.  This was one of the central tenants of the legislation that came out of the task force, Senate Bill 33.

I can’t understand why the State Board, as directed by the Delaware Department of Education continues to change what doesn’t need to be changed.  When it comes to special education, they are silent over the lack of basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Special Education has very strict laws in Delaware State Code and federal law under IDEA.  But it almost seems like they purposely try to change the law any chance they get because they think they can.  Last week, the State Board of Education was put on Sunset Review by the Delaware General Assembly members of the Joint Sunset Committee.

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A Message From Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn About IEPs And DOE Surveys

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn wants all parents of students with disabilities with an IEP to read this message!  As part of the IEP Task Force recommendations back in 2014 which became part of Senate Bill 33 last year, the Delaware DOE is required to send surveys out to a representative number of families where a child has an IEP.  The goal of the survey is to see how our schools are doing with the IEP process and implementation.  I strongly urge all parents in Delaware who  have a child with an IEP to take this survey.  Thank you.

“Dear Friends,

I am writing to ask for your assistance in ensuring that our schools are complying with their legal responsibilities to provide appropriate services to students with disabilities. One of the recommendations of the IEP Improvement Task Force that I chaired was to survey families specifically about their experience with the IEP process, so the state could determine if particular schools or districts were failing to comply with their legal responsibilities to children with disabilities. The General Assembly enacted legislation last year requiring the Department of Education to conduct this survey. The Department of Education, through the Center for Disabilities Studies at the University of Delaware, is mailing such a survey out to the homes of a randomized group of approximately 5,000 students with IEPs. In addition to these mailed surveys, we have also created an online version which will allow families who do not receive the mailed survey to share their experience. While we request permission to contact the responding families if there are concerns about their responses, they may choose to participate anonymously.

I ask you to share the web address for this online survey with the families of children you serve and encourage their participation, so we can try to ensure that all children with disabilities in our state receive the support to which they are entitled.”

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2T789KW

Sincerely,

Matt Denn

Exciting News About The IEP Task Force in Delaware!

In my conversation with Attorney General Matt Denn the other night, we also talked about the possibility of the IEP Task Force in Delaware reconvening.  This group dealt with issues surrounding Individualized Education Programs and special education in Delaware.  This culminated with Senate Bill 33, signed into law by Delaware Governor Jack Markell a couple weeks ago, which will launch a multitude of new laws concerning special education in Delaware.

Denn said Senator Nicole Poore was planning on introducing legislation that evening/morning to get the IEP Task Force going again, but with the very hectic schedule due to the budget issues, he wasn’t sure if it was going to happen.  I looked on the Delaware General Assembly website yesterday to see if anything did happen, and I didn’t find anything.

I contacted Senator Poore, and she did confirm what Denn told me, but she said it was absolutely crazy that last day and was not able to get it in for a vote.  However, she did state that herself and State Rep. Deb Heffernan have discussed this at length about getting the IEP Task Force going again, and they will be working during the next 6 months to examine ideas and issues to tackle when they introduce legislation in January 2016 to get the IEP Task Force reconvened.  Attorney General Denn will not be the Chair, but Poore and Heffernan would be co-running the task force.

Poore recognized that while the original IEP Task Force tackled a lot of issues, there are certainly many more matters to tackle.  While the make-up of the group may be a bit different, I look forward to this group getting together again and discussing these issues!  Recently, Delaware was rated as “needs assistance” by the Office of Special Education Programs based on their 17 part indicators for compliance and results, but this blogger does not believe this paints a full picture of the issues facing special education in Delaware.

Charter Schools Must Really Think Parents Are Complete Idiots…This Time It Blew Up In Their Face!

Yesterday, a charter school set to open in the fall had an open house.  A citizen of Delaware went to check it out, and talked with a special education director.  She asked the director if she was familiar with the laws that will come out of Senate Bill 33, the IEP Task Force legislation that Governor Markell is signing in a couple days.  The special ed director said yes, and she was on the task force.  The citizen was very shocked, and explained to the director that she was not on the task force because she was and had never seen the director at any of the meetings.  The director insisted and told the citizen she must not have gone to all of the meetings.  She informed her she went to every single one.  Then the director asked her what she was doing there and got very snooty.

When I heard this I laughed hysterically.  Really?  Do they think we are that stupid?

IEP Task Force Legislation Clears The House With 40-0 Vote, Governor Markell Needs To Sign & It Is Law!

Senate Bill 33, the IEP Task Force bill, cleared the Delaware House of Representatives with a unanimous 40-0 vote, with one representative absent.  Short and sweet.  No one had any questions about it, just went straight to roll call.  Now the bill goes to Governor Markell’s desk for signing.

IEP Task Force Bill To Get Delaware Senate Vote Later Today

Senate Bill 33 is on it’s last stop before Governor Markell’s desk.  Nicknamed the “IEP Task Force Bill”, the Delaware House of Representatives will vote on the bill today.  This long journey began June 24th last year when the US Department of Education labeled Delaware as one of three states needing intervention in Special Education.  Then Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn put together Senate Concurrent Resolution #63 which created the IEP Task Force.

The group met from September to December last year, and a report was issued to Governor Markell in January.  Senate Bill 33 went through some rough patches on the way, but once that was done, it sailed through the Delaware Senate and the House Education Committee.  For those who haven’t seen it, this is what Senate Bill 33 will do for special education and IEPs in Delaware:

And also Amendment #3

This Week At Legislative Hall: IEP Task Force Bill, Parent Opt-Out, Assessment Inventory & More!!!!

This will be one busy education week at Legislative Hall in Dover, DE.  Many education bills are moving to their next phase in the legislative process.  Here is what’s on the docket:

Senate Bill 33 w/Senate Amendment #3: This is the legislation that came out of the IEP Task Force.  It is up for a House vote, and if it passes, it goes to Governor Markell’s desk.  I like this bill with one exception: they took out a part about parent groups at schools.  Originally, it was supposed to be parents who first ask for an IEP will have an opportunity to meet with newly constructed parent groups at each charter school or district.  Now it is only for “existing” groups.  Even if Jack signs it, it won’t go into effect right away, so I would suggest parents get these “existing” groups going now.  No one knows what to look for in IEPs more than parents who have been through the process.

At the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, June 3rd, at 2:30, the following bills will be discussed: Senate Bill 62: regarding transportation of students, House Bill 144: another transportation bill dealing with appropriations, House Bill 146: Kim Williams bill dealing w/waiving of teacher licensure fees, and House Bill 148: Helene Keeley’s bill creating the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.

And last, but certainly not least, we have the Senate Education Committee meeting at Wednesday at 3pm.  House Bill 50!!! Parent Opt-Out!  Also Senate Joint Resolution #2: the evil assessment inventory resolution the DOE thinks will stop House Bill 50.  Also Senate Bills #92 and 93, dealing with Autism, and Senate Bill #94, dealing with military identification for students w/military ties in their family.

If you plan on coming Wednesday, GET THERE EARLY and wait for the doors to open up if you want a halfway decent seat!

Delaware IEP Task Force Bill Unanimously Released From House Education Committee

The mood in the Delaware House Education Committee meeting this week was a great deal lighter than last week.  Delaware Senator Nicole Poore’s Senate Bill 33, otherwise known as the IEP Task Force bill, cleared through the House Education Committee with no “nay” votes.

The biggest topic of conversation surrounded teachers or contractors in IEP meetings.  Several individuals commented at the IEP Task Force meetings held last fall that they felt intimidated or in some cases, threatened, about advocating for a student during an IEP meeting.  Part of the legislation of Senate Bill 33 would put into state law that this practice would not be legal.  Opponents of this one section were worried about teachers or contractors speaking out without enough knowledge to help the student, which could lead to many complications according to these individuals.  Members of the task force gave public comment explaining why this was included, and that while some districts may not have these issues, others have.  Although a representative from the Delaware State Educators Association was present, they had no public comment on this matter.

Delaware State Rep. Sean Lynn was concerned about the exact wording for parent or guardian as some people may legally be assigned those rules from the court.  He suggested a potential amendment, but Attorney General Matt Denn, who also chaired the IEP Task Force, explained this definition of “parent” is already written into State and Federal law.  No amendment was introduced by Lynn upon hearing this.

State Rep. Kim Williams asked when the Procedural Safeguards parents receive when they ask for an IEP or 504 plan was last updated.  Maryann Mieczkowski, Director of the Exceptional Childrens Resources group with the Delaware DOE  and an IEP Task Force member answered 2009 when the law was last changed, but it would be updated to reflect the new law if Senate Bill 33 becomes law.

A few individuals, including myself, expressed a desire to see the IEP Task Force continue, which Denn hinted may happen during the task force meetings last fall.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan wanted this, but she wanted the group to focus more on student outcome going forward.  She didn’t clarify what this meant, if it was about standards-based IEPs, or transition issues for students who become adults with disabilities.  Many Delaware agencies gave full support of the bill in public comment.

Delaware IEP Task Force Legislation To Be Heard At House Education Committee Tomorrow

Senate Bill 33, sponsored by Delaware Senator Nicole Poore, will be heard in the Delaware House Education Committee tomorrow at 2:30pm at Legislative Hall in Dover.  While this bill is not nearly as controversial as House Bill 50, there is some controversy surrounding it.  Just search Senate Bill 33 on this blog for past articles.  From the legis.delaware.gov website which thankfully has fixed the linking issues since they redesigned the site last month:

Chamber: House

Chairman: Jaques

Location/Room: House Chamber

Date/Time: 04/29/2015 02:30:00 PM

Revision Num:

Agenda

SB 33 w/SA 3 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION AND THE INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM.
Sponsor : Poore

HB 52 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS.
Sponsor : Hudson

HB 81 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION PROFILE REPORTS.
Sponsor : M. Smith


Comment:

Meeting Minutes:

Delaware Senate Bill 33, The IEP Task Force Bill, Clears the Senate With 19-1 Vote

A week ago, the IEP Task Force Bill was left on the table after proposed changes on charter schools in the bill caused a firestorm of controversy on the Delaware Senate floor.  Now, the bill has passed the Delaware Senate and will go to the House Education Committee.  With all the hoopla about the charter school changes, the bill is essentially the same as its original format, with the following overview of Senate Amendment #3:

This Amendment makes a number of changes to better implement the recommendations of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Improvement Task Force. It adds new emphasis to the law requiring that notices to parents must be in writing. It clarifies that charter schools and school districts have similar obligations in educating students with disabilities and that charter schools have an ongoing obligation to have a designated staff person trained in the legal requirements of educating students with disabilities. It provides clearer protections to those advocating for students with disabilities by adding the protections existing under Delaware’s whistleblower laws. Finally, it adds a specific task force recommendation that progress on transition-related goals be regularly reported.

The sole nay vote rests on the shoulders of Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson, of Milford.  While I don’t think this will cure-all of the special education woes in Delaware, I think it’s definitely a good start.  But what is happening with extending the task force?  Matt Denn, the Chair of the task force, has seamlessly transitioned from Lieutenant Governor to Attorney General.  While his new role is certainly larger and more challenging, perhaps he could nominate a new chair and get this ball rolling again.  The momentum and attention are there!

To take a look at ALL the education bills and resolutions in the Delaware 148th General Assembly, please go here: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/delaware-education-bills-148th-general-assembly/

IEP Task Force Bill Tabled Due To Delaware Charter Schools Network Interference

Senate Bill 33, sponsored by Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore, was tabled today in the Delaware Senate.  This legislation came about due to the hard work of 24 individuals on the IEP Task Force.  How does a bill, which passed through the Senate Education Committee, become LOT (left on table) when it is presented to the Senate?  Two words: Kendall Massett.  The director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network herself.

After the bill went through the Senate Education Committee with no unfavorable votes, with an amendment to clear up some of the language, Massett got involved and demanded the amendment to the bill be put in Title 31, which is the part of Delaware code covering welfare.  Why she was insistent on this being put there I can’t fathom because an IEP is an education issue which would belong in Title 14.  Unfortunately with the new General Assembly website, amendments to bills can’t be read.

Apparently, she didn’t like the fact that charter schools would be required to have one employee from each charter school getting specialized training from the Delaware Department of Education on the legal rules for Individualized Education Programs as well as access to resources available in helping students with disabilities.  Having attended every single one of the IEP Task Force meetings, I can say the subject of charter schools came up more than once.  I am not saying ALL charter schools, but many don’t have a clue in how to handle special education.  Many children have been denied IEPs at Delaware charters, “counseled out”, or denied entrance to charters because parents were told by charter school officials they don’t have the “resources” to help those children.

Any time this charter lobbyist gets her hooks into legislators, bills get screwed up in the General Assembly.  I would think the charters would want the extra assistance instead of paying out extra costs to special education attorneys and education funds for students.  But no, they want traditional schools to have this caveat as well.  Here’s a news flash Kendall: traditional schools can’t counsel students out and they can’t say “we can’t take your child”.  So if you don’t like the charters getting some heat, tell all your charters to do their job!

Do you want to take a wild guess why the task force didn’t include any charter school representatives?  Maybe it’s because the Delaware DOE picked the task force with approval from the legislators involved and knew who would be able to give expert advice on special education in Delaware schools.  When the DOE doesn’t think charters can give experts on a task force, you know something has to be seriously wrong.  If it was such a concern of yours during the task force, how come you didn’t show up to any meetings Kendall?  And now you want to stick your nose into a special education bill that is meant to help these disadvantaged students?  Just because your beloved charters got called out on actions they have themselves brought upon themselves for years?

Delaware legislators: this charter lobbyist is wielding WAY too much influence on your decisions for the good of ALL Delaware children.  The charter problem in this state is getting worse by the day, and many of you will do nothing but defend these schools and the money behind them.  You have allowed them to operate under very little scrutiny and when they are caught, you grow silent.  I am not saying ALL charters or ALL legislators.  But we all know who they are and far too many of you could care less.  As long as you keep the Governor happy you are content with segregation, discrimination and denial of services.  And while all this is going on, traditional schools are losing funding and resources while the DOE pumps money into companies that provide all these corporate education reform “services” and then turn around and fund other companies for more charters.  Wake up!  It’s seconds before midnight and you are still operating under the belief that charters are the next great thing.

Senators Brian Bushweller and Greg Lavelle must have received a mouthful from Kendall on this because they were the ones who initiated the discussion today that got this bill tabled.  In a Delawareonline article today, Bushweller stated the fact that charters weren’t represented on the task force was “very disappointing”.  And Lavelle, don’t even get me started.  He said he wasn’t aware of the amendment on the bill, but his wife was on the IEP Task Force.  This bill was introduced in January.  The IEP Task Force ran from September to December.  Did Bushweller or Lavelle, both of which voted yes for Senate Concurrent Resolution #63 in the 147th General Assembly which created the task force, even bother to read the recommendations or listen to the digital audio recordings from the task force?

It is a shameful day in Delaware when legislation that can and will help special needs students is tabled because the charter lobbyist decided she didn’t like some wording.  Shame on those who sided with her during discussion of this important bill.  Once again, everything has to be about the charters in Delaware.  Enough.

To read about Delawareonline’s take on this, which included NO mention whatsoever of the sneaky, crafty maneuvering of Kendall Massett, please go to:

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/firststatepolitics/2015/03/24/debate-delayed-disabilities-legislation/70401932/

Delaware Senate Bill 33 To Implement Findings of IEP Task Force

Senator Nicole Poore submitted legislation yesterday to turn the recommendations of the IEP Task Force into law.  House Bill 33 is now in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.  I think the most important change will be from paragraph 3131, section d.

148th General Assembly
Senate Bill # 33
Primary Sponsor: Poore Additional Sponsor(s):    & Sen. Lawson & Rep. Heffernan & Rep. Miro & Rep. Hudson
CoSponsors: Sens. Blevins, Hall-Long, Hocker, Lavelle, Sokola, Townsend; Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Hensley, Jaques, Q. Johnson, Kenton, Mulrooney, Paradee, Ramone, M. Smith, Viola, K. Williams, Wilson
Introduced on : 01/29/2015
Long Title: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION AND THE INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM.
Synopsis of Orginal Bill:
(without Amendments)
 
Current Status: Senate Education Committee   On   01/29/2015
Full text of Legislation:
(in HTML format)
Legis.html Email this Bill to a friend
Full text of Legislation:
(in MS Word format)
Legis.Docx   (Microsoft Word is required to view this document.)
Fiscal Notes/Fee Impact: Not Required

Actions History:

Jan 29, 2015 – Assigned to Education Committee in Senate