The Alex Eldreth Autism Education Law Would Bring Big Changes To Delaware Autism Program

It must be education legislation pre-file day today!  State Representative Earl Jaques with a Senate sponsorship by Senator Margaret Rose Henry pre-filed House Bill #292.  This legislation is very similar to the 148th General Assembly’s Senate Bill #92 which failed to get out of the Appropriations Committee due to state budget constraints.  The key difference between HB #292 and SB #92 is the fiscal note was lowered for the new bill.  I love that Alex Eldreth, a longtime advocate for students with Autism in Delaware, is honored with this bill.  Eldreth, from Autism Delaware, passed away in November of 2017.

This Act implements the recommendations of the March 2015 Autism Educational Task Force report regarding § 1332 of Title 14, the Program for Children with Autism and its Special Staff. Enacted nearly three decades ago, this law established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. However, the current model does not reflect current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education, and parents’ desire to have their children educated in their local communities. In addition, the increase in students with an educational classification of autism spectrum disorder (“ASD”) has made it difficult for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services and support that once was offered. This Act establishes the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director and enhances the current mandatory committee structure to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review Board, to increase family input, monitoring, and protections. This Act creates a 3 year pilot program that revises the concept of DAP toward a system in which the statewide Director will work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. It allows for and provides adequate resources for all students with ASD in Delaware by eliminating the distinction between DAP-approved programs and other in-district options and by providing in-state experts at a lower cost than out-of-state residential treatment and consultants. The pilot program created under this Act makes changes that recognize and support the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students who attend them. The pilot program created under this Act establishes a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions). The fiscal mechanism to support the pilot program will be accomplished through mandated district participation that is consistent with the current needs-based funding system in Delaware and by redirecting state spending towards lower cost, community-based supports from out-of-state residential placements. The number of training specialists will be phased in over several years or until the pilot program ends. Finally, this Act is known as “The Alex Eldreth Autism Education Law” in memory Alex Eldreth, who passed away unexpectedly on November 24, 2017, and his dedication to this work.
To read the full legislation, please go here.

Governor Markell To Sign Autism Legislation On 9/14

Autism advocates fought for this bill.  Now, after a long summer, Delaware Governor Jack Markell will finally sign Senate Bill 93 at Autism Delaware, 924 Old Harmony Rd., Ste. 201 on Wednesday at 9am.

An act to amend Title 16 of the Delaware Code related to creating an interagency committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism

markellsigningsb93

Senate Bill 93 was one of two Autism bills sponsored by Delaware Senator Margaret Rose-Henry which were introduced on May 12th, 2015.  After more than a year, Senate Bill 92 died as the 148th General Assembly ended on July 1st.  But Senate Bill 93, with its amendments, finally passed in the House in the late hours of June 30th after amendments passed.  Senate Bill 93 will give hope for better coordination of Autism services for the many parents of children and adults with Autism in the First State.

The history behind this legislation goes back a few years.  In 2013, Autism Delaware, with the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies and the Delaware Department of Education, released The Blueprint for Collective Action.  In the last days of the 147th General Assembly, an Autism Task Force was created.  Led by Senator Rose-Henry, the Autism Task Force created what eventually became the original bills, Senate Bill 92 and 93.  Senate Bill 93 was co-sponsored by Senators Catherine Cloutier and Bryan Townsend and State Representative Earl Jaques.

Delaware Autism has been the leading organization in Delaware for decades to help those with Autism.  To see a copy of their most recent newsletter, click here.

To see exactly what this bill will do for people with Autism, please see the below engrossment of the legislation which is exactly how it will be signed by Governor Markell.

Teacher Evaluation, Charter School Audits, & WEIC Extension Pass The General Assembly

It was a wild and crazy night-morning at Legislative Hall in Dover.  I can honestly say I have never bounced back between the Senate and the House as much as I did in the past six hours.  But some of my “must list” legislation passed.  Some with changes and some intact.

House Bill 399 passed but not without some amendments and an odd conversation about teachers and a comment Jack Markell made years ago in the Senate.  Senator Colin Bonini talked about how Governor Markell gave a speech on the Senate floor many years ago and told everyone only 19% of students in Delaware were college and career ready.  But yet our teachers were rated 99% effective.  He couldn’t grasp these facts.  He said he would support the bill.  But then Senator Dave Lawson spoke against the bill and said the system isn’t working.  The bill passed with 19 yes and 2 no votes.  The no votes were from Senators Lawson and Henry.  The amendments added on can be seen here and here.  Apparently, this was the only way it was going to pass.  In looking at the first amendment, they changed a lot and many teachers won’t be happy about those changes.  But this was the compromise reached.  Will Governor Markell sign the bill?  We shall see.  I did speak briefly with Secretary of Education Godowsky and asked him if he thought they were good amendments and he said yes.

After four previous bills, the Kumbaya compromise charter school audit bill, House Bill 435, passed the Senate in the wee hours of the morning.  It hadn’t been on the agenda for the Senate.  I emailed Senator Sokola, and it appeared on there a few minutes later.  It passed soon after.

And the WEIC redistricting plan.  I thought rigor mortis was setting in on this plan, but it rose from the ashes.  A crucial amendment by State Rep. Kim Williams which deleted some of the unnecessary language in Senate Bill #300 seemed to be what is going to keep that train chugging.  This is what happened: WEIC is still alive, and they will plan for another year.  The $7.5 million initially requested in the final recommendations has been appropriated for FY2018.  But I will get to more of that after a message from Tony Allen, the Chair of WEIC:

Delaware General Assembly Affirms the Commission’s Plan
Governor commits the “necessary and sufficient funds” for next year
Commission suspends timeline

Tonight, an older African American woman stopped me on the Senate Floor and said “if you believe in this, you keep fighting on.” We did!

As the 148th Delaware General Assembly legislative session ended, the House and Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 17, an interim affirmation of the Delaware State Board of Education’s approval of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan and Senate Bill 300, which clarifies the funding implications and supports further analysis by the Commission.

In a related action, Governor Markell committed to put no less than $7.5 million in his FY 2018 plan to support the Commission’s plan, specifically to begin to change the 70-year old student funding formula. In a letter to the Wilmington delegation, Markell said, “I am proud to have worked alongside you in these efforts and pleased to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of the funds necessary and sufficient to fund the first year of implementation of the proposals of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, specifically an amendment to the unit count that would carry additional support for low-income students, English Language Learners and students with special needs statewide.”

Earlier this morning, I noted that because the “necessary and sufficient” funding has not yet been provided that we will immediately call on the Commission to suspend the timetable for implementing its plan.

While I am disappointed with several aspects of this legislative season, SJR17 allows the Commission to fight another day. After 62 years of waiting, fight on we will. The Commission is wholly committed to reducing the fragmentation and dysfunction caused by 23 different school systems currently serving Wilmington children, less than 10% of Delaware’s student population. In addition, the Commission will continue to focus attention on the needs of low-income students, English language learners, and other students with special needs in Wilmington and throughout Delaware. That includes meeting the non-instructional needs of these students, engaging empowered parents in school reform, and changing the antiquated funding system for students and schools that has for many years created sustained inequities dating back to well before Brown v Board of Education (1954). I am grateful to the 22 other commissioners, the previous members of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, and the more than 10,000 community members who have been participating in this process.

I urge your continued resolve.

There are some key words in this, especially Markell saying “to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of funds…  That isn’t a guarantee that the next Governor will do the same or that the 149th General Assembly will either.  We don’t know what the state’s financial picture will be a year from now.  But for now, WEIC lives after most thought it was dead and buried.  I find it odd that Allen talks about how 23 different school systems serve Wilmington students but the WEIC plan would only reduce that to 22.  Granted, Christina has a lot of Wilmington students, but that is still a lot students going to other districts or charters.  I will see what this additional year of planning will produce.  But it looks like I am not done writing about WEIC despite what I wrote earlier today.   I talked to Rep. Charles Potter after the vote and he said this isn’t what he wanted, but it keeps WEIC alive and it is about the students.

Senate Bill 93 passed, one of two Autism bills introduced last year.  Senate Bill 92, however, was another victim of funding issues in the state.  An amendment was added to Senate Bill 93 in the House which got rid of the Senate Amendment that had the DOE getting involved.  The Autism community in Delaware felt that was an unwelcome presence.  Good for them!

It was a long second half of the 148th General Assembly.  House Bill 50 had two shots to override the Governor’s veto in the House of Representatives and it failed both times.  But I want to thank Rep. John Kowalko for trying and standing up for parents.  I respect and admire him for doing that.  Had the House ever been able to actually vote on the override, I believe it would have passed.  The fact that they were never able to get to that point shows the will of the Governor influencing certain members of the House in very inappropriate ways.  My other “dream legislation”, House Bill 30, which would have finally given students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade considered to be “basic special education” students, never received a full House vote despite coming out of the House Appropriations Committee weeks ago.  I know Rep. Kim Williams fought hard for that bill.  I still remember when she first told me about it a year and a half ago and I truly felt it was a no-brainer.  For both of those bills, the 149th General Assembly will tell the tale on opt out and special education funding.

I will write more over the next few days about all the bills that passed and those that are now dead.  In the meantime, Happy Fiscal New Year 2017!

Comment Rescue Regarding Rodel, Autism, & Special Education

Well, this is mighty interesting.  Marie-Anne Aghazadian, the former Executive Director for the Parent Information Center of Delaware from 1989-2014, a former member of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, and the founding President of the Delaware Autism Program, wrote a comment on an article I published over a year ago about the introduction of Senate Bill 92.

I, too, find it highly suspicious that Paul Herdman is now interested in improving special education. A group of students he had disdained for years. But then things have been rather quiet for Rodel since the demise of the RTT grant and the unsuccessful Mark Murphy reign.

And what better way to get into the fray again than to suggest interest in special education. Really?

I have found that Matt Korobkin (with whom I have worked on the Autism Advancement Package aka SB92/93), although well-intentioned, has indeed little spec. ed. background and seems to be pushing Delaware to replicate the education collaborative model prevalent in Massachusetts and other states.

Until society values students with disabilities as much as their AP students and is willing to pay forward to ensure their success as productive and self-sufficient adults, we will continue to waste time, money and children’s lives on costly, trivial pursuits such as studies and lawsuits brought on by legitimately frustrated parents.

Aghazadian raised several talking points.  Why is Rodel, in the past couple of years, dabbling in special education.  Dr. Paul Herdman, the Executive Director of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, did teach special education once upon a time.  But the policies Rodel pushed over the past ten years seem to be special education killers and not helpers.  I agree 100% with what she wrote.  I would love to chat more with her about all of this as she seems to know the history and education of Delaware education better than most based on her vast history in the system.

This is what we need more of: those in a position to speak out and actually doing it!  Nothing will change if more people don’t speak up.  Use your voice.  You have it for a reason!

Delaware House Education Committee Releases Two Autism Bills But Kills Controversial Amendment

The Delaware House Education Committee released Senate Bills 92 and 93 yesterday at their weekly meeting.  The unanimous release was expected, but an amendment on Senate Bill 93 was taken off by the committee.  If the full House passes Senate Bill 93, it will go back to the Delaware Senate since the amendment previously approved by the Senate was taken off.  Since there is a fiscal note for both bills, they are going to the House Appropriations Committee.  The amendment that was removed by the House Education Committee states the following:

AMEND Senate Bill No. 93 by deleting lines 58 through 60 and substituting in lieu thereof the following:

14) A representative from the Delaware Collaborative for Educational Services (DCES) or, until DCES is created, the Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation at the Delaware Department of Education;

15)  A representative appointed by the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services;

16)  A parent or caregiver of a child or adult with ASD from each  county in Delaware;

17)  An individual with ASD.

FURTHER AMEND Senate Bill No. 93 by inserting the following after line 102:

(t) The Network and the Network Director shall collaborate with the Delaware Collaborative for Education Services (DCES), an entity to be created out of recommendations from the Special Education Strategic Plan, a plan directed by language in the FY15 Budget, Section 307 Epilogue.    The collaboration shall begin after the DCES is formed.  In particular, the Network shall collaborate  with DCES to develop coaching, professional development, and technical assistance in areas where there is overlap with services provided to people with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well low incidence disabilities, including but not limited to visual or hearing impairments, or simultaneous visual and hearing impairments; significant cognitive impairments; or  any impairment for which a small number of personnel with highly specialized skills and knowledge are needed in order for children with that impairment to receive early intervention services or a free appropriate public education. 

 

SYNOPSIS

           This amendment adds a representative from the Delaware Collaborative for Educational Services (DCES) or, until DCES is created, the Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation at the Delaware Department of Education as a voting member of the Interagency Committee on Autism (ICA).  It also adds a new paragraph (t) at the end of the bill containing provisions for the collaboration between the Network and the Network Director and the DCES, after it is created.

Many members of the Delaware Autism community did not like this amendment and felt the Delaware Department of Education was overstepping quite a bit.  I wrote about this a few weeks ago.  Apparently the legislators in the House Education Committee agreed.

Live From The Delaware House Education Committee

First up, House Bill 161, the Parent Empowerment Savings Account.  State Rep. Deb Hudson is talking about the bill.  She said it would not be a tidal wave of students that would be able to participate in the program.  She said there are only 12 students eligible for the program in Delaware right now.  She said the funds would be put on a debit card for parents to choose for whatever education program they wanted for their exceptional child.  She said the parents would almost become like a contractor in the state.  There are restrictions on what the parent could use the debit card for.  WaWa is out, Hudson said.

State Rep. and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques asked if there is a fiscal note for the bill.  Hudson said no.  She is explaining the money follows the child.  Jaques is saying it could be very labor-intensive for school districts.  These funds would only be used from state funds.  The local share of funding would stay in the district according to Hudson.  She wants the child’s name to stay in the district.  State Rep. Sean Matthews asked if this includes all children.  She said that was deleted and the description is included in the amendment.  Matthews said it seems like this bill would be in conflict with the State Constitution if funds were used in a religious school.  Hudson said it could also be used for tutoring and not just a religious school.  She said this would stand up in a court of law like it did in Arizona.  She didn’t want to write a bill that would wind up in the courts.  Matthews is asking if ALEC was the initiator of the legislation.  She said no, it was the Goldwater Institute.

State Controller Mike Jackson said the fiscal note is indeterminate based on the small amount of students.  He said the impact would be there since much of the state funding goes towards enrollment and affects teacher salaries.  She said the districts get to keep the local funding so it evens out.  State Rep. Kim Williams asked about the debit card policy with a pre-determined amount of money.  She said it isn’t a Visa card.  It would be put out by the State Treasurer’s office.  It wouldn’t be able to be used at a WaWa according to Hudson since it is illegal.  She said there would be accountability behind it.  Williams said nothing could stop someone from using the debit card at WaWa.  A gentleman with the Goldwater Institute said there are merchant codes on the card that would prevent the user from using the card for non-educational purposes.  The card would be rejected if it didn’t match the merchant codes.  Williams said the State is already obligated to pay for speech therapists for all students up to age 5.  She said this could overlap and would cause problems.  Hudson said it is neutral and would be paid from either source.  Williams stressed the state already pays for it so why would they make parents pay for it?  Williams asked how additional resources would be given to families if funds can be sent to college savings plan.  Hudson said she hasn’t read the synopsis lately and she is more focused on K-12 students.  The Goldwater Institute gentleman said parents spend the funds based on the resources and additional services needed for each child.  Williams asked if a parent could put all the money into a college plan.  Hudson said if she were leaving it up to the Delaware Dept. of Education, they would weigh in on the decision.

State Rep. Kevin Hensley said the education of students with disabilities is near and dear to him.  He said IDEA is administered by the school districts.  He asked how IDEA would be able to factor into this if a student goes to a private school.  The Goldwater man said a student would have to already be on an IEP to be able to qualify for the program.  Then Hensley asked about the IEP team.  Would the IEP team come to an outside school if a parent uses this program.  He said in Arizona some parents went back to the district and others did not.  He also said there are private providers that can develop the IEPs in Arizona as well.  Jaques said private schools don’t have to follow IDEA or even grant IEPs.  Goldwater man said the private provider could develop the IEP.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan said IDEA provides Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is provided for any student w/a disability up to age 21.  She said if FAPE cannot be provided for a student a parent has a legal right to file for due process to have school district fund private education if funds cannot be met at a public school.  She said this bill is a voucher system to fund private schools because their enrollment is down 35% in Delaware.  She is in opposition to the bill.  Hudson said she doesn’t care where the child goes to school.  She just wants parents to have a choice on where they send their school in order to meet the needs of the child.  She said this is not a voucher system but a savings account.  Hudson said she does not agree with the voucher system herself.  Heffernan stressed the part about FAPE and that a parent would sue the charter school or district to be able to get FAPE for their child.  She said this bill is, her fear, that it will become a voucher system.

Jaques asked about the several mentions of the Delaware DOE in the bill and if she coordinated with them.  She said she didn’t and believes they are capable of handling it.  Hudson said the DOE would get 3% of the savings account funds for administrative purposes.  Jaques said in addition to the student not getting the local funding, now they are getting even less.  Williams said the State Treasurer would also get a percentage of funds.  Hudson said they would get 3% as well.  Williams said we have a system in place where these students get additional funds for their IEPs based on the need.  Hudson said it would be determined based on the existing IEP.  Williams asked who is going to determine that funding.  She said a student could already be in a private school.  Hudson said the DOE would determine that.  Hudson said she doesn’t visualize a student already in a private school being able to use these funds.  Williams said she appreciates the intent of the bill but she is very confused.  Hudson stressed the DOE is capable of handling this.  If she never met with the DOE how in the world would she be able to determine that?  She said the DOE is able to meet the needs of all children.  Williams expressed disappointment that collaboration with the DOE didn’t occur.  Hudson said she doesn’t mean to give a Smart Alec answer but we institute policy all the time as legislators and then work out the details later.  Williams said it is her job to understand the bill and to make sure all the resources are in place.

State Rep. Harvey Kenton asked how many teachers would lose their jobs because of this bill.  He said he has family that are teachers and he thinks this is a step to destroy public education.  He stressed it is federal and state mandated but he can’t support it.  He said all 19 school districts have contacted him and none are in favor of the bill.  Matthews said the definition of participating schools is non-governmental school and he is looking at the allowable expenses for the bill.  He asked what it means about “allowable curriculum”.  He said he never heard of anyone having to buy a curriculum.  She said that is more for homeschool students where parents sometimes have to buy a curriculum.  Goldwater man said all those expenses don’t have to be bought once a year.  Heffernan asked if any other state agencies would be involved in this private school initiative.  She said the state and the school districts have the obligation to provide FAPE.  She said the DOE can’t get the private school to do anything.  Who would the parents sue if a student doesn’t get FAPE at the private school?  Would the public school still get sued if they can’t get the private school to do anything?  Hudson said the DOE would have to approve the curriculum.  Hudson said the DOE would be able to oversee the curriculum at the private school and if it changed they could let the private school know.  She fails to realize how public education versus private schools work.  Matthews asked if the DOE is currently able to tell private schools what to do?  Hudson said no.  Matthews said this would expand the DOE’s authority and they don’t have this authority.  Matthews asked if the DOE could deny which school a student with disabilities goes to?  He looked at several DOE employees who said no.  Goldwater man said the object of the language here is to protect the private school autonomy so the DOE can’t change it.  Goldwater man said there are a lot of possibilities.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked what the Blaine Amendment is.  Goldwater man said there are 37-38 states that have language in their constitutions that allow for these programs.  Baumbach said the law in Delaware’s constitution would not allow for this bill to be used since we would be breaking the law.  Baumbach said:

The State Constitution forbids this legislation so I would recommend the committee not release this bill.

Secretary of Education Godowsky said he would be willing to work with Hudson on the bill but he can’t commit to the resources needed for the bill.  Bill Doolittle gave public comment said protections under IDEA are safeguards for our children.  He said giving up those safeguards is something that shouldn’t be done.  He said if it isn’t choice for everybody, it isn’t choice.  He said most parents cannot afford a private school placement even after this savings plan.  He said it is not equitable for low-income families.  Sandra Spence with the League of Women Voters opposes the bill and said the bill would take more money out of public education.  John Marinucci with the DE School Boards Association echoed the previous sentiment and said they don’t support taking more money out of education especially to pay administrative fees.  He said they oppose this being tied to a blurring of state and religious schools.  He mentioned equalization funds which would affect the fiscal note of the bill.

Mary O’Connell, a teacher at Concord High School, talked about her own son with a disability.  She said her son was supported by the Bush School but wasn’t at Carrcroft.  She said they were denied the services he needed.  Her son’s anxiety level was so high and their psychologist recommended he be removed from the school.  He wound up in a regular class with 26 students.  Whenever his teacher was out the substitute would call and she would have to pick him up.  He is now at the College School and she has never had to pick him up.  She stated he is thriving at the school now.  She said she is not a strong supporter of inclusion programs.  She said public schools cannot always help these students.  She is here to support the needs of the students.  A young girl who attended a public school but now attends a private school said she doesn’t think she could read at the level she reads at now if she had to go to public school.  She gets nervous about testing and public speaking.  She attends the College School.  Another student who also attends the College School, a bit older than the previous student, said she has dyslexia.  She said she learns better in small classrooms.  She just started there in January.  A public commenter named Laurie Smith said her children attended the Northstar school.  She begged for help and she didn’t get it.  The mother was very upset.  She didn’t qualify for occupational therapy and had to pay out of her pocket.  She said the speech therapy her child gets is better than what the public school system is able to give.  She said that is where she needs to be able to pay for these services.  She said many parents are paying out of pocket for services for their disabled children.  She saved money for college for her daughter but she has spent all those funds already.  Her daughter is going into 5th grade and she doesn’t know how they can afford the expenses.  Another commenter said she has children in the Pilot School who are thriving.  She said the small classroom sizes allow for a better environment for her children.  She is in favor of this bill.   Martha Henley, another commenter, said she is in support of the bill.  She hears the concern of private vs. public schools.  She said she started out in private schools and that school was not able to meet the needs.  She is talking about the costs involved and how students sometimes have to go to more than four years of college.  A gentleman who gave public comment said his son doesn’t fit into any category and that the category of FAPE just doesn’t work in public education.  A little boy came up to the podium who said “I’m scared”.  His mother said her son is autistic and that he attended the Brandywine School District.  The teacher said it was not the right place for her child.  She had to get an evaluation out of pocket and had to use all their savings.  She said this is about the parents and working with the teachers and all the counselors.  Her son goes to Centreville now and they are able to accommodate his needs and has a very small class.  She said there about 20 kids in Delaware that are intelligent and high-functioning that fit into this category.  Another parent said her child’s learning differences are very rare and she is the mom that is always there and is pushing the school to get the services her child needs.  She supports this bill and she knows he will do better in a small classroom.  She needs to be able to help him and he needs a chance.  Cathy Morris said she is in favor of the bill.  Her grandson has multiple learning disabilities, a numbers type of dyslexia, attention-deficit, and other disabilities.  When he was in public school they were told he chose not to learn.  He is now at the College School and repeated 4th grade and has made tremendous strides.  He had to get out of the mindset where he felt like he was failing.  She wants other parents to be able to have the choice.  She wants to transfer him into a vocational school but also have options to have supplemental vocational training or services.  Martha Durham with Garnett Valley PTA said she had to move to Garnett Valley to get the services her son married.  She spent her whole life in Delaware.  Her son has multiple diagnoses.  Her son was put into public school and started having suicidal thoughts in weeks.  She said Delaware has great schools but there are some kids who just can’t make it.  Her son is important to her.

Kevin Carson with Delaware Association of School Administrators and also on behalf of the Delaware State Education Association said the funding mechanisms already in place cause both to stand opposed to the bill.

Jaques put forth a motion to table the bill.  8 in favor.  The bill is tabled.  Hudson said she wants to continue working on this bill and said it shouldn’t be about well-to-do parents being able to get these kinds of services.

Unfortunately, I had to leave at this point.  The meeting didn’t even start until 3:30 or so.  I will update or write another article when I find out what happened with the other four bills on the agenda.  But I will say this.  What I witnessed at this meeting broke my heart.  I saw many desperate parents, some spending their entire savings to get their children special education services they should be entitled to by law, speak from the heart today.  Whether I agree with the bill or not, it is more painfully obvious than ever that Delaware is not doing the right thing for special needs children.  Something has to change…

 

 

Delaware House Education Committee Today Promises To Be VERY Controversial

The House Education Committee has been updated and will include the following: House Bills 161, 333 and 349 and Senate Bills 92 and 93.

houseedcommagenda5416

Vouchers, Autism, Student Loans and School Boards!  I am hearing from several different sources that there will be fireworks over a few of these bills.  I can’t believe they crammed all these in for one meeting.  If you plan on going, I would get there early!  The meeting starts in less than an hour folks!

15 Who Made On Impact On 2015 AND 16 To Watch In 2016: The Parents of Delaware Students

2015 had something happen that hasn’t happened in a long time.  Parents voices were heard loud and clear with education, and the Delaware General Assembly acted on their behalf with House Bill 50.  Parents also spoke out about bullying at Skyline Middle School in the Red Clay Consolidated School District and made a difference.  I expect this trend to not only continue in 2016, but also to increase.

The General Assembly has a big choice in front of them when they return to session on January 12th.  House Bill 50 WILL come up for a veto override.  Will they listen to parents or will they stick with Governor Markell?  Let’s be crystal clear: he has no intention of getting rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The key to this will be the parents.  They need to start emailing and calling their state senators and state representatives in their district NOW.  On January 14th (not January 12th as previously reported), parents will rally at Legislative Hall in support of the veto override.  Sponsored by the Delaware PTA, this will be big.

Democrat Governor hopeful John Carney has kept mum on his position with opt-out.  Colin Bonini, the main Republican contender voted yes both times the bill came before the Delaware Senate.  I’m hoping you have a hat trick on this one Senator Bonini!

I have a feeling as more and more parents become upset with the way special education is going for many of their kids across the state more and more of them will speak up.  Many want to act but don’t know how or even if they can.  It only takes one person helping another.  Reach out to them and let them know there is no reason to be afraid to advocate for your child.

I’ve heard many parents tell me they won’t opt their child out unless a law is passed.  There is NO law that could pass that could give or take away your constitutional and fundamental right to opt your child out.  Know that, and act on it.

I personally want to thank all the parents who came to make their voice heard at Legislative Hall this year.  No matter which side of the fence you were on, the important thing is you were acting in the best interest of your children.  That is something to be proud of!  Whether it was bills on Autism, or teen suicide prevention, or opt-out, your voices were heard.  We will have a lot to fight for next year!  And really stepping forward to help parents was the Delaware PTA.  House Bill 50 would not have become the success it was had it not been for them.  Let’s stop the Governor from disrespecting parents!

Generous Delaware Family Donates $4 Million For Autism Program At Nemours/A.I. duPont

The News Journal just reported that the Katzin family of Greenville donated $4 million to enhance an autism section of the Nemours/A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington.  This is incredibly awesome!

Although Nemours has treated children with autism for decades, the Katzins hope their gift will serve as seed money to make the hospital and Delaware a major center for the understanding and treatment of autism. Their son Jack was diagnosed in 2002.

The donation will help neurologists and doctors better understand how autism works in the human mind and will allow them to research more effective treatments for the disability that has seen a spike in diagnosed cases in the past twenty years.

“We have a chance to put together something unique to better understand the scientific causes of autism and to work toward better treatments and better support,” said Diane Chugani, who has been director of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Autism Center.

Any additional funding for disabilities is great.  This could certainly help Senate Bills 92 and 93 in Delaware which face a steep price tag in a coming fiscal year budget deficit battle where everyone will be fighting for funding.

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!

House Bill 50 & Senate Joint Resol. #2 To Collide At Senate Education Committee on 6/3

Here we go.  The agenda for the Senate Education Committee meeting on 6/3 at 3pm has been officially announced.  Here’s where it’s going to get real crazy, very fast.  Both House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill, and Senate Joint Resolution #2, what the DOE feels is an alternative to opt-out with the assessment inventory, will go head-to-head in this committee.  Start emailing them now, cause this one is going to be a doozy!  Further complicating this is Senate Bills #92 and #93.  They are great bills dealing with Autism, but they will demand a lot of conversation.  Or, the committee will say these are awesome bills and pass them fast.  You never know.  Either way, this is going to be a packed chamber.  Opt-out parents, DOE, State Board of Education, lobbyists, parents of children with Autism, school officials, other government agencies, and so forth.  Get there early!

Chamber: Senate

Chairman: Sokola

Location/Room: Senate Hearing Room

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

Revision Num: 1

Agenda

SB 92 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION AND AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER.
Sponsor : Henry

SB 93 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 16 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATED TO CREATING AN INTERAGENCY COMMITTEE ON AUTISM AND THE DELAWARE NETWORK FOR EXCELLENCE IN AUTISM.
Sponsor : Henry

SB 94 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO A MILITARY CONNECTED IDENTIFIER IN DELAWARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Sponsor : Bushweller

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