Joint Senate & House Education Committee Meeting To Hear Special Education Strategic Plan Tomorrow

**Updated, 4:22pm, 1/9/18: I spoke with State Rep. Earl Jaques and he okayed putting this joint committee session on the live audio feed.  The meeting is scheduled to start at 2:30pm tomorrow, but meetings sometimes start late down at Legislative Hall so be patient!  To listen, go to the General Assembly website and go to the “Listen Now” link.

The second leg of the Delaware 149th General Assembly starts today, but tomorrow the House and Senate Education Committees will meet together to hear the Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Counsel’s ideas on how to improve special education in The First State.  The meeting begins at 2:30pm, but here is a primer: what is the plan? Who is on the committee? Who is on the sub-committees?

To read the entire Strategic Plan, please see below.  But here is a summary as per the Delaware Department of Education website:

The goal of the Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Council is to develop a statewide plan that addresses the delivery of special education within Delaware through a review of existing evidence and within the context of a representative stakeholder process.

All children with disabilities can reach their full potential through a student-centered, individualized education system using a collaborative and supportive model. By asking stakeholders to lead collaboration between schools, families, and communities, Delaware will create inclusive education to ensure student success and growth, and equity of special education and related services across Delaware.

The members of the Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Council:

  • Co-chair – Dr. Michele Marinucci , Woodbridge School District
  • Co-chair – Bill Doolittle , Parent Advocate
  • Dafne Carnright, Autism Delaware
  • Edward Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School
  • Katheryn Herel, PIC of Delaware
  • Jon Cooper, Colonial School District
  • Kendall Massett, Delaware Charter School Rep.
  • Rep. Kim Williams, Legislator
  • Kristin Dwyer, DSEA
  • Kristin Pidgeon, Down Syndrome Association
  • Dr. Lisa Lawson, Brandywine School District
  • Mary Ann Mieczkowski, Department of Education
  • Dr. Sarah Celestin, Red Clay Consolidated School District
  • Dr. Vincent Winterling, Delaware Autism Program
  • Wendy Strauss, GACEC
  • Annalisa Ekbladh, University of Delaware CDS
  • Dr. John Marinucci, DASB
  • Sonya Lawrence, Parent Advocate
  • Teresa Avery, Autism Delaware
  • Laurie Kettle-Rivera, Delaware School for the Deaf
  • Mark Campano, Delaware Statewide Programs
  • Dr. Josette McCullough, Appoquinimink School District
  • Mondaria Batchelor, Woodbridge School District

The sub-committees:

Students: To increase the success of students with disabilities by improving their ability to become active, valued, and participating members of their community, today and in the future, Members: Ed Emmett-Lead, Lisa Lawson, Bill Doolittle,  Sonya Lawrence, Wendy Strauss

Staff/Partners: To have a highly engaged and effective workforce with appropriate values, skills, and knowledge for today – and tomorrow’s – work, Members: Elisha Jenkins-Lead, Mark Campano, Annalisa Ekbladh, Josette McCullough, Kristin Dwyer, Kathie Herel

Delivery/Structure Systems: 1) To make available the same array of evidence based practices and models of service deliveries regardless of a student’s placement. 2) To modify delivery system to facilitate the achievement of other goals, Members: Mark Campano-Lead , Vince Winterling, Dafne Carnwright, Sarah Celestin, Jon Cooper, Kristin Pidgeon, Sonya Lawrence

Parents/Families: To increase the engagement with parents and families as partners in collaboration to support their children at home and at school with access and knowledge of the resources they need, Members: Josette McCullough-Lead, Annalisa Ekbladh, Kristin Pidgeon, Kathie Herel

Resources: To acquire more resources as needed and maximize the efficiency in use of our existing resources, Members: Kristin Dwyer-Lead , Michele Marinucci, Teresa Avery, Laurie Kettle-Rivera, Mary Ann Mieczkowski

Policy/Regulations: To add, delete, and modify policies and regulations to support our current and future goals and objectives, Members: Dafne Carnright-Lead, John Marinucci, Mondaria Batchelor, Michele Marinucci, Kim Williams, Bill Doolittle, Mary Ann Mieczkowski

The group has met since the fall of 2016.  Last year, they finalized the plan but I will add this is a fluid plan.  It will constantly evolve as matters come up.  So it is NOT set in stone.  It is a living document.  I strongly encourage all Delaware parents of students with disabilities read the below document.  As well, any educator in the state should read it as well.  I would hope every single member of the House and Senate Education Committees have read it by this point.

In addition to the Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Council, the joint session of the House & Senate Education Committee will also hear from the Delaware Association of School Librarians tomorrow.

 

Members Of U.S. Senate & Congress Tell John King To Kill Supplement Not Supplant Regulation!

Today, twenty-five Republicans in both the U.S. Senate and House Education committees told U.S. Secretary of Education to kill the “supplement not supplant” regulation that has drawn the ire of the majority of the teaching profession in America.  In a nutshell, this regulation would completely change the way Title I funds are disbursed to schools, would cause severe damage to the teaching profession, and would grant Title I funds to schools that are not Title I schools.  I wish some Democrat members of these committees would speak up!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Press Office
November 7, 2016 (202) 226-9440
25 Senate, House Education Committee Members: Education Department Should Withdraw Rule That Violates “the Unambiguously Expressed
Intent of Congress”
Proposed “supplement not supplant” regulation could harm
students, schools, and teachers


WASHINGTON, D.C. –
Twenty-five Republican members of the Senate and House education committees today urged the Department of Education to withdraw its proposed “supplement not supplant” regulation, saying it “violates the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress,” and called on the department to instead work with Congress to implement the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act as it is written.

The regulatory proposal would change the longstanding requirement that prevents school districts from using federal Title I funds as a replacement for state and local funds in low-income schools.

In comments submitted to Education Secretary John King, the members said the rule “draws broad and inaccurate conclusions about what Congress intended when amending the [‘supplement not supplant’] provision that are not supported by the statutory text and violate clear and unambiguous limitations on the Secretary’s authority.”

The members said certain provisions of the rule are “unlawful, unnecessary and could result in harmful consequences to [local educational agencies], schools, teachers, and students.”

Specifically, the rule dictates to states and local school districts how they should distribute state and local funds, which violates the law and its prohibitions on the Secretary. They write:

In Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. Supreme Court established that the test for reviewing an agency’s interpretation of a statute consists of two related questions. First, the question is “whether Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue. If the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter” because the court and agency must “give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.” Second, if “Congress has not directly addressed the precise question at issue” or “if the statute is silent or ambiguous” the question is “whether the agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.”

They continue:

The intent of Congress in amending the SNS requirements under Title I of ESEA is clear and unambiguous in directly speaking to the issue of how LEAs must demonstrate compliance. As the Court has held, that should be “the end of the matter” for the Department, which through rulemaking should “give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.” Instead, the NPRM violates this principle in imposing new requirements that reflect the Department’s own construction of the statute. We therefore strongly urge the Department to rescind this additional language and work with Congress in a bipartisan, bicameral way to implement ESSA as Congress clearly intended. The following outlines areas of agreement, and then describes the ways in which the Department’s proposal violates the letter and intent of the statute and could lead to negative results for low-income students and schools if it were implemented.

The letter was signed by Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN), along with Senate committee members Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R- ME), Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and House committee members Mike Bishop (R-MI), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Joe Heck (R-NV), Luke Messer (R-IN), Phil Roe (R-TN), Todd Rokita (R-IN), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Joe Wilson (R-SC).

To read the letter, click here.

You don’t have to click on the link, you can read the entire letter below:

Delaware United And “Video Gate”

*Editor’s Note: The Sokola Videos are back up now.  Apparently, Delaware United didn’t announce the videos yet but forgot to put it on private when they uploaded them to Youtube.  And of course the Sneaky Snake Blogger stumbled on them (which is how I find a ton of stuff… shhhhhh!).  I was a bit rough on the rookie political grassroots group.  They are new, and they will make mistakes.  Growing pains of any new organization.  I know I never make mistakes on here (stop laughing).  And I never overreact (seriously, stop laughing).

This morning, I put up a series of videos between Delaware United and Delaware Senator David Sokola.  I found these three videos on Youtube last night.  At the request of one of the parties involved in the videos (not David Sokola), I was asked me to take the post down. I honored the request. I soon found the videos were made private on Youtube.  I felt the interview was excellent and gave voters in the 8th Senate District a good vantage point on David Sokola’s views on education. Many topics were covered: the Charter School vs. Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education lawsuit, the WEIC redistricting plan and what happened in the General Assembly, education funding, Newark Charter School, parent engagement, teacher unions in charter schools, and so on.  But apparently, since Delaware United does not slam candidates, the perception of posting the videos on a blog that is very critical of David Sokola would be seen as the group slamming Sokola.

Delaware United has been around for a few months now. After Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the Presidential Democrat primary, many upper Delaware Bernie supporters created Delaware United. Since their creation, they have reached out to candidates in Delaware at a state and federal level.  While Delaware United claims to not be affiliated with any political party, every single one of their endorsements have been Democrat candidates.  While I agree with some of their choices, I have serious issues with a group that claims to be non-partisan but every single one of their goals and endorsements are Democrat leaning.  The group describes themselves as the following on their Facebook page:

Welcome to Delaware United, a proactive group of Delaware voters and volunteers from various backgrounds, all united to change the course of Delaware local politics.

But what is even odder is their rules for their Facebook page:

Policies and Practices for Delaware United Online Activity

Delaware United·Thursday, September 22, 2016 .

Policies and Practices for Delaware United Online Activity
Updated: September 22, 2016

*All rules are subject to change at the discretion of Delaware United’s Administrators
Rules for Facebook posts for Those Who Like, Visit or Follow Delaware United’s Page

  1. No posting on, commenting on, or tagging/hashtagging Delaware United regarding Presidential Politics. This is a locally-organized group, and we need to come together to change Delaware. That will not happen by subdividing on presidential politics, it will happen by getting involved locally and making a difference in Delaware specific issues.
  2. No posting on, commenting on, or tagging/hashtagging Delaware United in attack posts about any candidates. We are all adults, and you don’t need to pick on anyone or drag anyone down to prove your point. If you want to lift up a candidate and explain reasonably and maturely voice your opinion about any candidate, you are certainly free to do so. However, we do not attack other candidates, we are nonpartisan, we use positive press because we do not need to further propagate the disrespectful division in our political process. This state belongs to all of us, and we need to work together to make a difference.
  3. No attacking each other via posting, commenting, or tagging/hashtagging. When you see something you don’t agree with, there is the option to keep scrolling. Please do not attack other people because they have different opinions on a topic or person. If you can respectfully voice your opposing opinion and wish to open a dialogue GREAT; we encourage that, but please be respectful of each other. Again, we need to work together.
  4. No spam posts or comments. If you are repeatedly posting the same long, drawn out comments it will be removed each time, after which you will first receive a warning message or comment, and then you will be banned from commenting and/or blocked. Open a dialogue, talk to each other, voice your opinions, but no one wants to read the same 1200 word post that you have pasted in every comment for the past week, or see that you are using a page with an engaged audience for your own purpose.
  5. Please try to post comments relevant to the post. We have all seen someone try to post a completely unrelated article or copy paste a comment in every post on a page, but we have also seen comments stray way off topic, despite whether or not the commenters realize this. An open dialogue is great, and it is encouraged, but this is about creating community, so please if you want to talk to someone about an issue privately message them or friend request them, and chat elsewhere. Build friendships, build dialogues, and community; we need to come together in Delaware, and who knows maybe we can create some in person relationships instead of just cyber ones. We aren’t going to block anyone, or delete comments for straying off topic, but rather we are encouraging you to become a community.
  6. Refrain from using certain language to describe our group. Please do not refer to Delaware United directly using all or any part of the following terms: “Democrats”, “Progressive.” “Liberal,” “Watchdog;” We don’t need labels, and not everyone in this group falls under any of these terms, so please be respectful of them. Please keep in mind the nature of our group is one that is all-inclusive, regardless of political party or past voting history, and even those who cannot vote in Delaware are still welcomed and useful volunteers, as long as they believe in our platform.

When a supposed non-partisan group begins telling people HOW TO VOTE, I have serious issues with that.  Any citizen’s right to vote is their choice.  How a person formulates who they want to vote for and why is their own business.  It gives a vibe of “if you don’t agree with us then you can’t be a part of our group.”  By telling people we welcome everyone as long as you believe in our platform, that sends a very mixed message.  But this October 15th post on their Facebook page really pissed me off:

Hey everybody, I just want to share this message of caution when it comes to some of the rhetoric that’s affecting the hardest working candidates in this election cycle.

One thing I have to say, that I forgot to mention in the video, is that we have people fighting for some of the most forward thinking policies in our nation, right here in Delaware, and they need your help to get re-elected to continue fighting that fight. Please consider volunteering and help us help Delaware. We need people to remain in the house and senate that have fought for living wage policies, public option health care, pay equity, campaign finance reform, and all the other issues we care about most. This clean out the house, and burn it down in the process rhetoric is not only dangerous, but it is also detrimental to our goals across the country.

You have to consider what the other option is in the general election, would we be going from a person with one policy position you don’t agree with, to a person with even worse positions? Is that a trade you really want to make? Additionally, please be aware that you can not just vote based on positions on one issue, that is dangerous and short sighted. If you agree with 90% of the candidates policies, but 10% you disagree with, on one side of the ticket, but on the other you disagree with 90% but agree with 10%, is that a trade you really want to make as well? Please vote, but please vote educated.

What percentage of a person’s issues that factor into how they vote is their own business.  There is no formula to this.  It is all an individual decision.  This is just one of the many reasons I can’t wait until this damn election is over.

I never participated in any of Delaware United’s events.  I did share their video series with Sokola’s Republican opponent, Meredith Chapman.  I just realized while linking to that article, the 2nd out of the three videos no longer exists.  For a group that promotes transparency, I am having a very difficult time with their back and forth on what can be said, what views a person is supposed to have, what percentage of their mind should vote for a candidate, deleting of public posts, their very biased endorsements based on their overarching goal of the group, and the very bizarre handling of the Sokola/Chapman contest.  What does it even mean when you post videos with one candidate in a contest but not the other candidate?  I think this group has bitten off more than they can chew.  I have no doubt Delaware Democrats love them to death.  But this is not Delaware United.  This is Delaware Democrats United.  If you want to claim to be a non-partisan group, then stick with the original title.  But their actions suggest something altogether different.  I deplore any type of censorship.  Their very strict rules in regards to what people can or can’t say goes against the most basic foundations of a democracy.  If this is “Delaware United”, then count me out.

I will attempt to recollect to the best of my ability the highlights of the Sokola interviews.  The first video was about Delaware education.  The first question dealt with the charter school lawsuit against the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Sokola said there were inconsistencies with the formula but he laid the blame on the Delaware DOE for what happened.  When asked if he would pick a side in the battle: charters or school districts, Sokola flat-out said his side is “the money follows the kid”.  He made it look like the General Assembly will still attempt to bring all the sides together on this issue and hopes to have many parents attend.  But he said “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” in regards to getting parents involved.  One question dealt with Newark Charter School and the lack of an organized PTA or PTO.  As well, the question also touched on teacher unions in charter schools.  Sokola said he will not write legislation forcing union membership as he believes that is a choice for each teacher to make in filling out a union card and collectively creating a union.  He said the idea of charter schools creating innovative schools was written into the original charter law (which he wrote and took full credit for), but he claimed it is a two-way street and both sides need to come together to collaborate.  He cited Kuumba Charter School having a Singapore Math program and how Brandywine reached out to them and came together.  One Delaware United member said she asked NCS Head of School Greg Meece about this issue to which Meece said something to the effect of throwing out an olive branch and no one took him up on it.  In regards to WEIC, Sokola said it came down to funding.  When told the funding could have been made available, Sokola replied with a nonchalant answer about the original WEAC plan giving certain recommendations but when the WEIC redistricting plan came out it became much more with no clear way of knowing if those recommendations would work in the long run for students.  A suggestion was made to Sokola that if legislation comes up in the Senate Education Committee where parents come to support an issue, that legislation should happen first on the agenda so parents can get back to their families.

When I first heard about Delaware United, a citizen approached me about it.  This person said they were concerned about how the group was forming.  I checked them out.  I liked their Facebook page.  But I made it very clear to this group I would not support all of their endorsements and I felt their censorship regarding certain things flew against what they stood for.  Apparently that advice wasn’t taken seriously.  I am putting up the Sokola interview article again.  I am now seeing the 2nd Sokola video is still up.  Read from that what you will.  This blog will no longer play Ping-Pong over another group’s internal strife.

 

Secretary Godowsky Walks Out Of Back Door To Governor’s Offices At Leg. Hall As Native Americans Wait To Meet The Governor

The Senate Education Committee just ended their 2:30 meeting about half an hour ago.  House Bill 399 was discussed with many proponents and a few opponents.  The opponents were Secretary Godowsky, Donna Johnson, and Atnre Alleyne (former DOE employee who has become very active in trying to stop meaningful teacher evaluation reform).  Senator David Sokola expressed more than once his feelings of “heartburn” with the bill.  I recorded the whole thing.  Excellent comments were provided by Mike Matthews, Kristen Dwyer with DSEA, Jackie Kook, a teacher from Caesar Rodney (I will have to get his name later), and others.  Hopefully the other members of the Senate Education Committee will see through the obvious smoke and mirrors.  But a few thoughts here.  Godowsky and Johnson were not this vocal during the House Education Committee.  Judging by the fact Godowsky just left from meeting with Governor Markell’s office in conjunction with Godowsky’s adamant opposition of the bill, I think we can all safely assume who is calling the shots here.

As the lead Senate Sponsor, I felt Senator Bryan Townsend could have supported the bill more than he did.  I have found he tends to play to both sides on education issues.  During his second “round” so to speak on the bill, he did defend Delaware teachers and appeared to be more on their side.  As usual, Sokola played it up for the audience.  At one point he made a comment about how there is good news in education and something to the effect of not being able to see that on the blogs.  So I made a point in my public comment, as well as supporting the bill, to point out the DOE can get the “good” news out and I’ll do my thing.  Perhaps he didn’t like that but I truly don’t care.  He can stare daggers into me until the general election if he wants.

I don’t know if it will be released from the committee.  I hope it will.  New York is already getting out of the kind of teacher evaluations Delaware’s DPAS-II is similar to.  In regards to my comment about the Native Americans waiting to meet the Governor, Governor Markell literally just walked past me and we greeted each other.  I am assuming the Governor was out of the building.  I don’t see the Native Americans now, but the Delaware House did pass House Concurrent Resolution #97 recognizing November, 2016 as “Native American Heritage Month” in Delaware.  Yes, it is going to be one of those days!  Or possibly one of those lifetimes!

General Assembly Faces Bottom Of The 9th With Crucial & Bad Education Legislation

Two weeks.  If you asked a legislator in the Delaware Assembly what two weeks means at the end of June, they would most likely say it is a lifetime.  It’s crunch time, and not all bills will make the cut.  This is a guide to what education legislation has recently passed, what is ready for a vote, what still has to face a committee, and what will most likely get the chopping block.  I don’t anticipate any new education legislation coming out in the next 10 days, but Delaware in the last two weeks of the General Assembly is like the Wild West.  Anything can happen.  And with all the committees that are supposed to have reports out by the 30th (Assessment Inventory Committee and Education Funding Improvement Committee), anything could very easily happen.  It is very important to watch everything that goes down in the next 10 days and INSTANTLY make your voice heard if you support or oppose a sneak bill.

House Bill #435: The fifth Delaware charter school audit bill, faces the House Education Committee on Wednesday at 1:30pm.  The House Republicans hate bills like these, but once again, the votes are not in their favor.  I expect it will be released from both committees and it will pass the House and Senate on it’s way to Governor Markell for signature.

Senate Bill #161: The underdog of the 148th General Assembly!  The no school until after Labor Day passed the Senate with an 11-10 vote.  I could actually envision a suspension of rules behind closed doors deal on this bill.  If this gets a full House vote based on that, I think it will pass.  New Castle County will complain for the next five years about it, Sussex County will cheer, and Kent County will be in the middle.

House Joint Resolution #12/House Bill #424/House Bill 425: HJR #12 is the actual Wilmington Redistricting legislation.  HB #424 states school boards can’t arbitrarily raise taxes.  The latter faces the House Education Committee at 2:30pm for a very special meeting designed solely to lift this from tabled status.  Once that hurdle is done, I expect it will either be subject to a suspension of rules for a full House vote tomorrow (and the chaos that will ensue if that happens!) or it will be on the agenda for Thursday this week.  The reason I think it will get a suspension of rules vote tomorrow is because it still has to go through the Senate Education Committee, which will most likely have their last meeting on Wednesday.  The same goes for HB #424 if it is released from the House education committee tomorrow (which I expect it will).  HB #425 has been non-existent in terms of conversation so I think it will drift off in the summer sky.  For the full votes, I have no idea how the other two bills are going to do.  It has a lot of Democrat Wilmington support.  But downstate and with Wilmington Republicans, that is another matter.  This could go either way.

House Bill #399: The redesigning of Component V in the Delaware teacher evaluation system.  I expect it will pass the House.  Sokola would have to be a complete idiot to not put it on the Senate Education Committee agenda for Wednesday.  It reminds me a bit of the opt out bill last year.  It has overwhelming support, Sokola hates it, and the Governor will most likely veto the bill.  But there is no Hail Mary for Sokola if he does veto it.  I will predict now that if Markell vetoes this bill, Sokola will be doing a lot of biking next year while has peers are making bills.

Senate Bill #199: This is a Sokola bill, so I don’t necessarily trust it.  Come on Kev!  The guy has to do something good for education!  I have yet to see it in the long-term.  This one fell under the radar for me, but it wasn’t introduced until June 7th, flew out of the Senate Education Committee the next day, and got a full Senate vote where it unanimously passed on June 14th.  The odd part is the low numbering of the bill which is unusual.  All the other bills around this one were introduced in March.  As if it was intentionally hidden.  When Sokola bills take flight, I worry.  This looks to me like it opens the door for more Teach For America and Relay Graduate Schools.  This one could suffer due to the Sokola/Jaques spat.  You can read the full text of the bill here (and I recommend all teachers do so): Senate Bill 199

House Bill #30: The basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade was finally released from the House Appropriations Committee last week.  But it is not on the agenda for a full House vote tomorrow.  Things happen very fast when the legislators are on the homestretch, but I fear HB #30 will not survive its way out of the 148th General Assembly.

Senate Bill #92/#93: The autism bills haven’t been heard in the House Appropriations Committee yet.  Why is that?  They aren’t on the agenda for the meeting on Wednesday either.  Hmm…

Senate Bill #207: The school discipline reporting bill by Senator Margaret Rose-Henry.  Do the police have to be called every time a student gets into a fight?  This bill would say no to that practice.  Come on, like all of our schools are actively doing this?  It passed the Senate and it is on the House Education Committee agenda for Wednesday.  I suspect this will pass, but I have a lot of concerns with this bill in terms of implementation of the law.

Senate Bill #213: Another Senator Rose-Henry bill which would make it mandatory for school staff, students AND parents to get personal body safety and children sexual assault prevention training for students in Kindergarten to 6th grade.  It’s up for a Senate vote tomorrow…

House Bill #408 w/Amendment #2: Passed the House, Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday.  An amendment was added to include charter schools in this school breakfast legislation, even though Kendall Massett doesn’t want it.  Most of the House Republicans voted no on this bill.  I suspect it will pass the Senate, but stranger things have happened.

Senate Bill #277: The Dave Sokola “Pathways To Prosperity” steering committee.  This is going to happen.  This is Jack Herdman’s baby!  Paul Markell has talked about Pathways to Prosperity more this year than anything else!  This gets the full Senate vote tomorrow.  Yes, I know what I did there…

House Bill #374: The former bill for this which limits school board seats to 3 years was not popular.  So State Rep. Paul Baumbach brought forth a new one limiting school board seats to four years.  House Education Committee on Wednesday.  If this passes, it is going to throw the typical school board election cycle into chaos in coming years.  This bill is a response to the Christina School District Board of Education, and nothing else.  I don’t like it.

House Bill #355: As Delaware blazes forward (with a lot of blinders on) with technology, this bill makes it so a computer science class is mandatory and that it can be used as a credit for either math or science.  This gets a full House vote tomorrow.  It will pass.  Jack loves bills like this.

House Bill #250: The charter school bullying choice bill passed the House and is on the Senate Education Committee agenda for Wednesday.  This will pass.  Add anther notch to State Rep. Kim Williams’ many education bills in the 148th General Assembly for this one!  This bill makes it so any bullying must be substantiated for a student to obtain good cause to choice out of a traditional school district or other choice school.  My one concern with this bill is what happens if the bullying is NOT substantiated even though it should be?  That never happens in Delaware, right?

House Bill #350: The “let’s ignore due process and publish when teachers get investigated bill” is dead.  This bill isn’t going anywhere.  What was the point of this Mr. Delaware Speaker of the House?

House Bill #236: The “tax exemption for full disabled vets” bill was released by the House Education Committee and sits in House Appropriations.  I like this bill, but with the current budget deficit, this isn’t one of those mandatory bills that should be a no-brainer.  But it could pass.  This one will be a wait and see.

House Bill #232: This bill is so easy it isn’t even funny.  It would allow the State Board of Education to accept public comment on items that are going to have action at one of their State Board meetings.  Released from the House.  With opposition from Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett.  One of those bills where the Johnson effect sends it swirling into the abyss…

THE DEAD ZONE

House Bill #261: The charter school records bill sponsored by State Rep. Mike Ramone.  Seeks to punish school districts if the records aren’t sent as soon as possible or schools don’t notify the charter when a student was placed in an alternative setting when a student choices to a charter.  No mention of a vice versa in this bill.  This was dead on arrival Mike!

House Bill #260: The “have the State Board of Education hold their meetings at 5:30 bill” is an awesome bill, but it is one of those ones that probably causes Donna Johnson to complain A LOT, thus this bill gets the Johnson effect!  Sadly, this bill won’t go anywhere.

House Bill #243/House Resolution #22: The House Republicans very odd reaction to a potential override of Markell’s veto on House Bill #50.  Hey State Rep. Miro, what were Godowsky’s recommendations?  The only thing you told me was that he did send them to you.  What now?  And Ramone: I still remember what you promised me that day.  I am holding you to it!  If not, everyone will know what you told me.

House Bill #240: The “Come SAIL Away” bill dealing with afterschool school for students drifted off to sea after the Joint Finance Committee said nope.  Barring some huge windfall from DEFAC (who determines the state’s revenue) at the last minute, this bill is driftwood.

House Bill #234: The school-based health center would provide funding for the remaining schools in Delaware that don’t have these.  Once again, the budget deficit kills this bill.

House Bill #231: This bill would make it mandatory for charter school teachers to participate in the state pension system.  The Kendall and Johnson effect is in FULL swing here…

House Bill #117: This bill which would designate funding for low-income students on a level consistent with special education funding is a good bill, but it is tied to so many other education funding issues with WEIC and the Education Funding Improvement Committee it was drowned out by other things going on.  It’s a shame cause I supported it.

House Bill #107: The “only local school districts and local boards” can choose their own leaders bill is fantastic.  This came out of the priority schools saga when the DOE wanted to pick leaders for the priority schools.  This bill has been ignored since it was introduced.

House Bill #52: The State Rep. Deb Hudson cursive bill isn’t going anywhere.  It’s been on the House Ready list for well over a year.

House Bill #28: This bill never had a chance with the Kendall factor.  It would make it so charters have to give up their funding for a student if they leave the charter in the middle of the year.  This was one of my favorite bills last year, but nothing EVER happened with it.  Like I said, the Kendall factor…

Senate Bill #239: The restorative justice in lieu of school suspensions bill got a lot of media mentions in Delaware.  But that appears to be it…

Senate Bill #228: Another victim of the Joint Finance Committee, no, we won’t see more funding for the Delaware SEED scholarship program.

Senate Bill #193: The Senator McDowell sponsored “let’s do a study on disadvantaged students in Delaware and get the colleges and universities to participate” bill.  Harris, I think we have enough studies and reports.

Senate Bill #72: The Senator Bryan Townsend “I hate Mark Murphy bill” doesn’t have the luster it had when everyone’s favorite joke was the Secretary of Education.  Buh-bye!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…

Delaware Education Legislation Introduced Since January: Pending & Signed, Updates On Holdover Legislation

LegislativeHall

I just updated the Delaware “Education Legislation” page on here, but I haven’t been posting new legislation as faithfully as I did last year.  I thought it would be a good idea to give an overall update.  If it states it is on a ready list, that means it is up for a full vote by either the House or the Senate.  And embedded in this article is news Kilroy will be VERY happy about!

House Bill 229: Under the current School Choice program, there are certain students who may receive priority consideration for enrollment in the school of their choice. This Bill adds a new priority consideration for students who have a medical condition or disability that carries an ongoing risk of a sudden medical emergency. If the parent, relative, guardian or caregiver can demonstrate that they would be able to respond quicker to an emergency at the selected school, the student will receive a priority consideration.” Status: House Education Committee 1/7/16, Sponsor: Rep. Wilson

House Bill 231: This bill requires that charter schools participate in the state retirement system.” Status: released from House Education Committee 1/27/16, on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Matthews

House Bill 232: This Act will require the State Board of Education to accept public comment on all agenda items at its meetings, including charter school applications and changes to regulations. The Board is not required to accept public comment concerning student disciplinary appeals. The Board retains discretion to limit the manner, length, and timing of public comment at its meetings.” Status: House Education Committee 1/7/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams

House Bill 234 This bill requires all public secondary schools, including vocational-technical schools, but not including charter schools, to have a school-based health center. The state is required to fund start-up costs at the rate of one school per year for secondary schools that currently lack such a health center. Wellness centers are an important means of providing preventative and primary medical care to teens and overcoming obstacles to care such as lack of transportation and cost. Pursuant to House Bill No. 303, approved in June of 2012, insurers are required to reimburse for services provided at school-based health centers recognized by Delaware’s Division of Public Health. Under DPH regulations students under 18 must enroll for service by having a parent or guardian sign a consent form.” Status: released from House Education Committee 3/9/16, assigned to House Appropriations Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams

House Bill 236: This bill will allow for a school property tax exemption for a person of any age who has been designated as a disabled veteran by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs.” Status: House Education Committee 1/12/16, Sponsor: Rep. Miro

House Bill 240: This bill establishes the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Program. The Program will provide grants to public schools, that qualify as Title I schools, to develop afterschool engagement of students that will provide extended learning, homework assistance, enrichment, and nutrition.
Quality afterschool programs have been proven to enhance student engagement, improve likelihood that students will stay in school, and graduate on time. High quality programs can improve participating students school attendance, enhance literacy and help to apply classroom learning in fun and enriching ways to boost students attitudes toward various academic subjects.
After school hours, from 3-6pm, is the most dangerous time for youth and crime, accounting for the peak time for youth to commit crimes or become victims of crimes. 11.3 million children are unsupervised in the United States after school. 28,292 kids in Delaware are on their own during the hours after school.
According to the Afterschool Alliance’s 2014 ‘America After 3PM’ state survey, of all Delaware children not currently enrolled in afterschool, 40% (48,140) would be likely to participate if an afterschool program were available in their community.
” Status: released from House Education Committee 1/13/16, assigned to House Appropriations Committee 1/14/16, Sponsor: Rep. Longhurst

House Bill 243: Under current federal and state regulations implementing the statewide assessment program, if a school or district has less than 95% of their students taking the state assessment, this can be used against the school or district as it pertains to accountability or progress ratings, and further may disqualify the school or district from safe harbor provisions. As the decision to opt out of state assessments is made by parents, and not the school or district, this bill will prohibit the state from using the rate of participation against a school or district.” Status: House Education Committee 1/19/16, Sponsor: Rep. Miro

House Bill 250: In 2014, the Legislature passed a bill adding instances of “reported and recorded” bullying to the list of reasons why a child could be withdrawn from a choice or charter school before the expiration of the statutory minimum enrollment period or why an application for admission or withdrawal could be accepted outside of the statutory timeframe for submission. This bill seeks to clarify and strengthen that law by adding a requirement that the instance of bullying must also be substantiated. This will ensure the integrity of the law by limiting its exploitation by persons who wish to change schools for unrelated reasons, but preserving the exception for children truly in need of special consideration due to school bullying.” Status: released from House Education Committee 3/16/16, on House ready list,Sponsor: Rep. Williams

House Bill 261: Under existing law, when a child applies to enter a charter school, the burden is placed upon that charter school to contact the previous school district of the child to determine if the child was subject to expulsion. There are also children who are placed in alternative schools programs for discipline reasons who were not expelled. It has become more common for parents of these children to apply for enrollment in charter schools in order to circumvent the expulsion or discipline program. This has been made possible because some school districts have not responded to the requests made by charter schools for these discipline or expulsion records. If the Charter school enrolls the student and later discovers this issue, the Charter school is not permitted to disenroll the student and is thereafter responsible for that child’s cost. The previous school district thus benefits financially from its failure to respond as it is no longer responsible for the cost of that child. The changes in this bill close this loophole for parents and remove the disincentive for school districts to respond to these requests. If the previous school district fails to respond to a request, they will now have to resume responsibility for the costs of the child. The loophole should be closed for many of these parents as the charter schools will have this information available to it when deciding whether to enroll a child, and they are required to disenroll the student upon discovery of this information.” Status: House Education Committee 1/28/16, Sponsor: Rep. Ramone

House Bill 279: This bill would require that public comment be permitted at all open meetings of any board, bureau, commission, department, agency, committee, ad hoc committee, special committee, temporary committee, advisory board and committee, subcommittee, legislative committee, association, group, panel or council. The minimum time will be one minute. Maximum time and procedural rules are left to the discretion of the meeting body.” Status: House Administration Committee 3/8/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams

House Bill 292: This bill requires schools to post the toll-free telephone report line number for child abuse and neglect in a conspicuous location, where it may be viewed by students.  Currently the number is 1-800-292-9582. Status: House Education Committee 3/17/16, Sponsor: Rep. Williams  ***On House Education Committee agenda for 3/23/16, 3pm

Senate Bill #171:Currently, all regular school districts, charter schools, and vocational schools are subject to audit by the Auditor of Accounts. This legislative authority is granted to the Auditor of Accounts in multiple sections of the Delaware Code which must be considered together.
This Act seeks to strengthen certain aspects of Title 14 of the Delaware Code with respect to charter school audits and seeks to improve the relevant sections of the Title for consistency and cross-reference of terms.
Status: released from Senate Education Committee 1/21/16, on Senate ready list, Sponsor: Senator Sokola

Senate Bill #180:This Act provides procedures to ensure that each child with a disability who has reached age 18 has an identified educational decision-maker to exercise rights under this chapter. A child with a disability who has capacity may exercise his own rights or appoint an agent to exercise educational rights. A child with a disability who does not have capacity to provide informed consent with respect to educational programming will have an educational representative appointed, with a parent receiving priority for that role. The Department of Education, with the approval of the State Board of Education, shall promulgate regulations to implement this section. The Act shall be in effect 180 days from the date of enactment to allow regulations to be developed and provide school districts and charter schools time to receive training.Status: Senate passed 1/27/16, released from House Education Committee 3/16/16, on House ready list, Sponsor: Senator Poore

Senate Bill #186:This Act creates a Disabled Veteran School Tax Refund Fund to provide property tax refunds of up to $500 to individuals who are disabled veterans of the Unites States Armed Forces with a disability rating as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
This Act provides that an individual eligible for a refund under this Act and a credit based on being over 65 years of age may receive only the greater of the refund or the credit, not both.
Status: Assigned to Senate Finance Committee 1/28/16, Sponsor: Senator Townsend

Senate Bill #202 w/SA#1:This Act excludes buses operated by the Department of Education, any public school district, or any charter school from the requirements for minimum insurance coverage contained in § 2904, Title 14 of the Delaware Code.  This Act is a follow-up to Senate Bill No. 62, which was passed by the General Assembly during the first session of the 148th General Assembly.” SA #1: “This Amendment makes clear that the insurance required by § 2904, Title 14 is for buses that are used, owned, leased, or operated by a person with a contract the Department of Education, any public school district, or any charter school. In addition, this Amendment makes clear that the changes made by Senate Bill No. 202, as amended, take effect upon the enactment of Senate Bill No. 62 of the 148th General Assembly.”Status: Senate passed 3/15/16, assigned House Education Committee 3/16/16, Sponsor: Senator Sokola ***On House Education Committee agenda for 3/23/16, 3pm

Senate Bill #204:This bill would allow for a student to participate in the Inspire Scholarship Program for eight continuous semesters instead of the current six. This would allow a student to use Inspire Scholarships for each of the semesters during a traditional college program.Status: Assigned to Senate Finance Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Senator Bushweller

Senate Bill #207:This Act would improve the state’s response to incidents of school bullying by better informing parents of the availability of intervention by the Department of Justice’s School Ombudsperson, and clarify that the Ombudsperson has authority to intervene in both incidents of criminal activity and incidents that meet the statutory definition of bullying but do not constitute criminal activity. This Act would also give schools and victims’ families discretion whether to report misdemeanor assault incidents between juveniles to law enforcement agencies, rather than mandating the involvement of the criminal justice system in all such incidents. Finally, the Act would ensure that parents of students involved in bullying incidents are informed that such incidents are reported to the Department of Education, and are informed when such reports occur.Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary  Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Senator Rose-Henry

Senate Bill #208 w/SA #1:This Act makes the following technical corrections to two online privacy protection bills passed during the General Assembly’s 2015 session: (i) the Act amends Section 1204C of the Delaware Online Privacy Protection Act, Chapter 12C, Title 6, to insert language that was inadvertently omitted from the bill as enacted; (ii) the Act amends Section 8105A of the Student Data Privacy Protection Act, Chapter 81A, Title 14, to correct a typographical error; and (iii) the Act amends Section 5 of the enacting bill, Chapter 149, Volume 80 of the Laws of Delaware, to correct a misinterpretation of the effective date of new Chapter 81A, Title 14 of the Code.” SA #1:This amendment clarifies that the term “sexually-oriented” has the meaning set forth in § 1602(18) of Title 24. Status: released from Senate Education Committee 3/16/16, on Senate Ready List, Sponsor: Senator Blevins 

 

The following bills were either introduced and passed this session or were carry-overs from the first part of the 148th General Assembly and passed this year:

House Bill #85:This bill allows school taxes and property taxes to be collected by tax intercept.” Status: Passed House of Representatives 1/26/16, Passed Senate 3/10/16, Signed by Governor Markell 3/17/16, Sponsor: Rep. D. Short

House Joint Resolution #4 w/House Amendments #1,2,3:Many students in Delaware schools are failing to receive the education and training that is required to achieve the financial literacy required to be productive citizens.  This joint resolution is designed to establish a task force to study and make findings concerning financial literacy education in Delaware. The task force will also make policy and program recommendations that will help increase the financial literacy of our students.” HA #1: This amendment clarifies that the 2 teachers to be appointed by the President of the Delaware State Education Association and adds two representatives from the Delaware Bankers Association.” HA #2: This amendment changes the report due date to June 30, 2016.” HA #3:This amendment requires that the representatives from the State Board of Education must themselves be members of the Board.” Status: House passed 1/19/16, Senate Passed 1/28/16, signed by Governor Markell 2/1/16, Sponsor: Rep. Briggs-King

House Resolution #22: This Resolution will require the Delaware Secretary of Education to propose options for the General Assembly to consider for adoption as Delaware law as it pertains to the decision by parents to opt their children out of statewide assessments. The Secretary shall provide options for implementation of a uniform procedure and process by which all schools and school districts within this State notify parents of their right to opt out, along with a standard procedure to accomplish the same.   This joint resolution also prohibits the Department and schools from penalizing any student deciding to opt out. It is intended that such prohibition be incorporated within any legislation adopting a procedure offered by the Secretary. Status: House Passed 1/14/16, Sponsor: Rep. Dukes *this House Resolution is not enforceable by law and the Delaware Department of Education has not acted on this at all.

Senate Bill #172: This Act reduces the at-large membership of the Milford School Board from 4 to 3 as of June 30, 2016. The current at-large member holding that seat will continue to do so until the end of his term on June 30, 2016. Status: Passed Senate 1/21/16, Passed House 1/18/16, Signed by Governor Markell 2/3/16, Sponsor: Senator Simpson

 

I would be remiss without giving the official 2016 update on House Bill 50, the opt out bill:

House Bill #50 w/House Amendments #1 and #2, w/Senate Amendments #1 and #2: This bill creates the right for the parent or guardian of a child to opt out of the annual assessment, currently the Smarter Balanced Assessment System. House Amendment #1: This amendment clarifies that the bill only applies to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The amendment also clarifies that the parent or guardian must give written notice at least two school days prior to the start of the assessment. Finally, the amendment includes an effective date of August 1, 2015″, Senate Amendment #1:This amendment adds “district-wide” to the assessment. This amendment also clarifies what information should be included in the notice.” Senate Amendment #2: “This amendment affords eleventh grade students the opportunity to elect not to participate in the statewide assessment.” House Amendment #2: “This amendment removes the provision that allows eleventh grade students the opportunity to elect not to participate in the statewide assessment.” Status: Passed House 5/22/15 (Senate Amendment #2 stricken that date), Passed Senate 6/25/15, Vetoed by Governor Markell 7/15/15, Placed on House Ready List for potential veto override: 1/14/16, Sponsor: Rep. John Kowalko

 

These bills are leftovers from the 1st part of the 148th General Assembly Session but have moved forward in some way this year:

House Bill #34:This bill will allow a local school district board to delay new or changed rules, regulations, or administrative procedures from becoming effective during a school year once the school year has started. This will allow the rules, regulations, and procedures to be consistent for the whole school year.” With HA #2: “This amendment allows the Department of Education to make changes to rules, regulations, or administrative procedures if required to do so by law or if necessary to address an emergency situation, public health, or safety matter. It further defines the terms administrative procedure.”  With SA#1: This Amendment requires that the restriction only applies when there is a direct financial impact created by the new or amended rule, regulation or administrative procedure. This Amendment also clarifies that Charter Schools are included in the restriction. Status: Passed House 6/30/15, Passed Senate 3/15/16, Passed House w/SA#1: 3/17/15, went to Governor for signature, Sponsor: Rep. Spiegelman

House Bill #61:This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes.  Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites.
The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.” Status: Passed House of Representatives 3/10/16, Assigned to Senate Education Committee 3/10/16, Sponsor: Rep. Hudson ***On Senate Education Committee agenda for 3/23/16, 3pm

House Bill #107:This bill articulates the principle that local school districts and school boards should have the authority to select their own leaders and staff from a pool of qualified applicants. These are decisions best left at the local level rather than imposed by a central authority.” Status: Released from House Education Committee 1/20/16, On House Ready List, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams

House Bill 165:This legislation requires that all full-time employees of the State, including employees of school districts, continuously in the employ of the state for at least one year, shall be eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child 6 years of age or younger. Both parents would be eligible for such leave. Employees shall continue to have the right, as they do under current law, to use accrued sick leave for maternity and paternity purposes. This legislation leaves intact the rights of persons adopting a child over 6 years of age to take unpaid leave. Due to lack of adequate paid family leave policies, many parents must return to work sooner than is optimal for the health of mothers (in the case of biological birth) and children. Granting paid leave will contribute to the establishment of parent-child bonds, breastfeeding establishment, and allow infants to receive vaccines and develop stronger immune systems prior to entering daycare. Further, a more generous leave policy will increase the productivity of workers and reduce employee turnover.” Status: released from House Administration Committee 1/27/16, on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Debra Heffernan

House Bill 186:Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct post-audits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.” Status: Passed House 6/30/15, released From Senate Education Committee 1/14/16, On Senate Ready List, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams

Senate Bill #161:This Act requires public schools to begin their school year after Labor Day. There have been many economic impact reports done that show a positive impact from starting public schools after Labor Day. A report by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association estimates that $369 million would be lost if schools were not required to start after Labor Day. This includes $104 million in wages and $21 million in state and local taxes. Maryland is considering similar legislation. A study of Maryland found that pushing the start of school back would generate $74.3 million in economic activity and $7.7 million in new state and local tax revenue.” Status: released from Senate Education Committee 3/16/16, on Senate ready list, Sponsor: Senator Gerald Hocker

 

And last, but not least, these are holdover bills that SHOULD move forward but they haven’t been heard in committee or are sitting on a ready list waiting for a full vote and have been there since last year:

House Bill #30:This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.” Status: Released from House Education Committee 3/25/15, Assigned to House Appropriations Committee 3/26/15, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams

House Bill #117: This Act will create a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income according to the Department of Education. This funding source will be in addition to the normal enrollment based funding provided to school districts and charter schools. The low-income unit will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12 where the funding can be used for such purposes as providing additional teachers and paraprofessionals for classroom instruction; additional counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and intervention specialists; Response to Intervention Services; and before and after school programs providing homework assistance, and for support for English language learners. To ensure the low-income resources reach the schools where they are most needed, this Act requires that at least 98% of the units be directed towards the schools that generate the funding unless otherwise waived by a local board of education during a public meeting.” Status: Tabled in House Education Committee 5/13/15, Released from House Education Committee 6/3/15, Assigned to House Appropriations Committee 6/18/15, Sponsor: Rep. Debra Heffernan

House Bill 173:The Department of Education often implements policies and educational requirements based upon directives issued by the United States Department of Education. This Bill will require that any directive received by the Department of Education from the Federal Government be automatically disclosed on the Department of Education website without the necessity for making a Freedom of Information Request.” Status: Assigned to House Education Committee 6/10/15, Sponsor: Rep. Richard Collins

Senate Bill #72:This bill increases the teaching and administrative experience qualifications for the Secretary of Education from 5 years to 10 years. The Bill also clarifies that at least 6 years must be of teaching experience and at least 2 years must be of administrative experience.” Status: Released from Senate Education Committee, on Senate Ready List 5/6/15, Sponsor: Senator Bryan Townsend

Senate Bill #92:Delaware Code Title 14§1332 addresses the Program for Children with Autism and its “Special Staff.” Enacted nearly three decades ago, these regulations 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. In addition, the code designates a Statewide Director who primarily has provided direction, training, and technical assistance within the DAP. However, current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education and parents’ desire to have their children educated within their local communities, seem to be incongruent with this older model of service delivery. In addition, the magnitude of the increase in students identified with ASD has clearly created difficulty for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services/support that once was offered. Therefore, the recommended code changes also revise the concept of DAP toward a system in which the Statewide Director would work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. This recommendation reconstitutes the regulations to neutralize the distinction between DAP approved programs and other in-district options, thereby, allowing and providing adequate resources to serve on behalf of all student with ASD in Delaware. The number of technical/ training experts has been identified as one expert per 100 students statewide. It is suggested that the fiscal mechanism to support these changes should be through mandated district participation that is congruent with the current needs based funding system in Delaware. Lastly, the current mandatory committee structure is enhanced to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review board. These changes include articulation of the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director for Students with ASD; the addition of a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions); and the further clarification / additions to the committee structure for family input, monitoring, and protections under human rights. This recommendation recognizes and supports 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 essentially expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students within them.” Status: Released from Senate Education Committee 6/3/15, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose Henry

Senate Bill #93:This bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism.  Among other things, the Interagency Committee on Autism is charged with a) utilizing evidence-based practices and programs to improve outcomes for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in Delaware by sharing information, initiatives, data and communications among both public and private agencies providing services and supports for individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in the State of Delaware; and b) implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2013 Delaware Strategic Plan entitled “Blueprint for Collective Action: Final Report of the Delaware Strategic Plan to Improve Services and Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”  The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism is to provide a resource for training and technical assistance for Delaware state agencies, organizations and other private entities operating in the State of Delaware that provide services and support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The Network is to support the operations of the Interagency Committee on Autism through the maintenance of the website, maintenance of reports created by the Interagency Committee on Autism and maintenance of meeting minutes, as well as other support as needed by the Interagency Committee on Autism.” Status: Released from Senate Education Committee 6/3/15, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose Henry

 

 

And So It Begins…Again…Education Committee Agendas For Next Week

The second half of the 148th General Assembly begins next Tuesday, January 12th.  While a great deal of focus is on the veto override of House Bill 50, there are actually several important bills about education that deserve to pass.  The House and Senate Education Committees meet weekly, usually on Wednesdays.

House Education Committee Meeting, 1/13/16, 2:30pm, House Chamber

Agenda: Presentation by Vicki Innes with Reading Assist, additional items to be determine

Senate Education Committee Meeting, 1/13/16, 3:00pm, Senate Hearing Room (2nd floor)

Agenda: Senate Bill 165, House Bill 186

To view all the education legislation, the status of each bill, and who the sponsor is, please go here.

For any committees in the Senate or the House, public comment is allowed.

Senator Dave Lawson’s House Bill 50 Introduction

More from the Senate Education Committee.  The following is Senator Dave Lawson’s introductory comments on House Bill 50 from last Wednesday.  I’ve always like Lawson.  He is a very calm speaker, and he gets down to the nuts and bolts very fast!

Thank you very much.  I appreciate the opportunity, cause the bill boils down to a simple parent obligation.  Parents are obligated to look after the best interest of their children.  And they will opt out, and I think it is one of those things parents have a right to do.  They have a right to do a lot of things.  To go to private school, or homeschool.  There is no opt-out method, but this lays it out so that parents have the right under Delaware law to pull their children from Smarter Balanced.  (I think Mark Murphy said “Until when” to Senator Lawson, or someone near him).  Until what? Senator Townshend said the test has not been proven.  So we will test out?  Until the point it’s not of any value.  So just to continue to hammer our children with more and more tests, more stress, is unjust and should not be allowed.

John Radell Tears Apart Common Core & Smarter Balanced Assessment

I thought this was one of the best parts of the Senate Education Committee meeting last Wednesday.  One of the speakers, John Radell with the Mid-Atlantic Education Alliance, effectively eviscerated the very curriculum, and yes I will call it a curriculum Governor Markell, that the Smarter Balanced Assessment is based on.  Well done John Radell!

I’m John Radell, I’m with Mid-Atlantic Education Alliance.  And what we know about Smarter Balanced.  It’s not a measure of academic achievement.  It’s a measure of how a child responds to stressful situations.  This test does not measure accountability of academic change.  Every professional in the country, and we have a DVD here we certainly invite you to watch, by Dr. Peg Luksik and Sandra Stosky, who helped design Common Core.  And Kathy Jasper who was a vice-principal at a Florida high school.  All different parties, all different persuasions, have said this is an absolute disaster.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is designed to fortify whether they are teaching Common Core, not academic standards.  So last time I looked, our children are not lab rats or guinea pigs that we experiment on.  This is an experiment.  Bill Gates helped design the system, has now said it will take ten years to determine if it works or not.  Well guess what, our kids don’t have ten years.  What you’re telling me, is a child going into 2nd grade now that’s a failure, has wasted those whole ten years.  This test is so bad, the curriculum is so bad, that the President of Princeton University just said “Any child that goes through ten years of Common Core and Smarter Balanced will not be able to get into Princeton University.  We’re hurting our children, not helping them.  We don’t need more gimmicks.  If you want something that works, and you need standardized testing, then look at the Massachusetts Education Law of 1993.  That was designed by Sandra Stosky, the one who I said was on Common Core, who resigned from Common Core cause she called it empty skillsets.  So were testing a test based on empty skillsets.  So what we need to do is start bringing experts here to talk about what the best way is to educate our children, test it, and implement it.  We’re testing this on our children.  These kids don’t have time.  And were not going to be able to go back in five or six years and go “Oh, this didn’t work, our kids are really dumb now.  Sorry about this.”  What are you going to do with those kids?  Are you telling me your willing to sacrifice a whole generation of children to find out this thing didn’t work? It’s wrong. It’s wrong for our children, and that’s why parents deserve the right to opt out.

Delaware Business Roundtable’s Die-Hard Opt-Out Opposition Is Worrisome, Should Lobbyists Be Allowed To Give Public Comment Like This?

To be fair, this was not the only registered lobbyist at the Senate Education Committee to give public comment in opposition to opt-out, but it was definitely the most biased in my opinion.  Below is Bob Byrd’s public comment, who introduces himself first as a member of his lobbyist firm and not the organization he is representing.

Bob Byrd, Delaware Business Roundtable 27:54-28:55

Thank you Chairman.  My name is Bob Byrd, of the Byrd Group.  I’m here today representing the Delaware Business Roundtable.  I’ve had the privilege to represent the roundtable education reform for more years than I want to tell you.  And we are very much opposed to House Bill 50.  We think it goes in the wrong direction.  We are very much in favor of your joint resolution.  We feel the pain of the parents out there, we understand there’s always questions about testing.  But we think this is the wrong thing to do at this particular time.  We totally agree that we ought to do an analysis of testing and see what’s out there and then come back with legislation next year, maybe doing something else.  And we understand that a lot of people are opposed to the current testing.  But were opposed to House Bill 50 at this time.  I have a letter from our chairman, Ernie Dianastasis.  I’d rather read it, and take up a lot of time but I’m just gonna put it in the record.  But the Roundtable, they’re much opposed to House Bill 50.

I’m sorry, but this guy is a registered lobbyist. If the Delaware Business Roundtable truly felt the pain of parents, they would do much more than oppose a bill that gives them dignity in the face of brutal opposition. These guys are all about the money. Don’t believe a word they say. Of course big business would be against something that wouldn’t provide more money to big business. That’s what it’s all about!

Mark Murphy And His Magical Educational Journey To Excellence

I’ve seen Mark Murphy speak a few times and he was definitely playing it up a bit for the news cameras on him at the Senate Education Committee meeting a few days ago.  If there is one thing you can say about the former gym teacher, he is certainly consistent.

Thank you Senator.  We are all, all of us, appreciative of Senator Townsend’s sentiment that we are all supporting our children as they take this educational journey to excellence. And hopefully that will lead into success not just in 4th grade or 5th grade, but obviously success well into high school and beyond high school years.  In order to help deliver our children into a place where they are successful in the world we have to measure their progress along the way.  And to understand whether they’re on track to be successful in those middle school years, in those high school years, and beyond.  So that’s what this is about, this is about measuring progress.  When we use that progress, when we use that measurement, in order to understand what’s working.  Our pedalogical approach is working, our curriculum is working, the way that we organize our schools, the way that we allocate budgets, the way we resource schools and which schools need additional resources.  If we do not have measurement of how our students are doing against the standards that their teachers are teaching to them, then we are unable to make well-informed great decisions.  Certainly at this level, also at a school and district level.  Measurement matters.  We also agree, that we are testing too much.  We have said that a number of times over these recent months and we have launched an initiative to take a look at how many assessments our children are taking.  And more importantly than the number of assessments they are taking, is the quality, whether these are redundant assessments.  If they test the same thing the child was assessed on a week ago.  Are they relevant assessments for what the child needs to be learning to be successful later? Are they high quality?  Do they give us good data in order to make informed decisions?  And so while we recognize that we are in the middle of that process, we are asking that we allow that process to take hold, before we start making major decisions about opting out of important measurement tools.  Finally, these assessments help to unlock doors for us, the decision-makers, for our kids, for our parents, for our educators, in regards to decisions they can make to support the children better.  And that information is available at the student level, the teacher level, the school level, and the state level.  And we all need this information to move forward.

Is it just me, or does it kind of creep you out when he keeps referring to “our” children?  Not my kid Mark!  The information available Mark, does that mean we can ALL see the tests and the answers and the actual questions?  Sorry buddy, but a lot of parents have jumped off your train trip to la la land.  Cue the Puff the Magic Dragon music, we are out of here!

Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman & His Vehement Opposition To Parent Opt-Out Speech

Dr. Paul Herdman with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware gave a very long oppositional speech to parent opt-out and House Bill 50 the other day at the Senate Education Committee.  I’m going to post his full comment, and then I will react to it.  I will be posting various public comments over the next two to three days, and I will include the time stamps from my recording of the meeting to show how much time each speaker was allotted.

Paul Herdman, Rodel Foundation of Delaware, 32:49-38:28

So, my name is Paul Herdman, I’m with the Rodel Foundation. I’ve got three kids in Delaware schools.  I was a teacher myself for seven years.  I’ve worked for two governors in Massachusetts on education policy and I’ve been here for the past eleven years trying to actually bring public and private players together on accommodation around education.  And frankly, this is the first time I’ve actually come and spoken in front of this in eleven years.  And I oppose HB50.  I support the resolution.  What I want to try and to do is two things.  One, clarify the issue.  And then speak to some unintended consequences.  So to touch the issue, I think there is a lot of frustration around testing.  And I think this has become the focal point for a lot of different issues.  You have some folks who just don’t like Common Core, and they are supportive of this because it seems like it’s against Common Core.  You have some who see this as truly a parent’s rights issue.  That’s true, but I think one of the challenges is that some people are concerned about the Smarter Balanced test itself, but there are some who looking at this as a way to invalidate the test overall.  Senator Matthews, who was a sponsor, I mean Representative Matthews, who was a sponsor of the bill in the House, said to the News Journal a couple of different times, one, a teacher, legislator and a member of the House Education committee encouraged all parents to consider exercising their right to opt out of the Smarter Balanced test, and he says further, in a subsequent article, “Kowalko and I are hoping that enough parents are getting out of the Smarter Balanced test, that the data becomes invalid.” (at this point Rep Kowalko interrupts at 34:30)

State Rep. John Kowalko: Excuse me Mr. Chairman, I never made that quote and I never made that statement and I find it unfair that you’re going to quote out of a paper what I said I never said.

Herdman: No, I, Senator…

Kowalko: You said it…

Herdman: Yes, and I’m saying that’s inaccurate.

(little bit of back and forth between Herdman and Kowalko, Senator Sokola steps in, ends at 35:02)

Herdman: Representative Matthews said, I’m just quoting what was in the paper, but, so Representative Matthews, who was a sponsor of this, let’s leave Representative Kowalko out of this issue, Matthews says, that he hopes enough parents are getting out of the test that the data becomes invalid.  Now, the concern with that is that what do you do next?  Right?  So maybe we don’t like this particular test, who’s going to pay for and design the new test?  It takes, right, so how would that play out, because it costs millions of dollars to actually design a test, it takes year to actually do the pilot testing, etcetera etcetera, what’s next?  And the other piece is maybe you don’t want a test at all in terms of math and reading, but that doesn’t seem to work either.  The three unintended consequences that I would just like to point out are 1) virtually every civil rights group in the country and in Delaware have come out to say they oppose opt-out.  So you’ve got everybody in the United Negro College Fund (someone in the audience is heard saying “That’s not true.”), You’ve got the NAACP, you’ve got the Urban League, Latin Community Center, have said they do not support opt-out, and the reasons for that are if you make the test invalid for some students, it makes it invalid for all students.  And the concern is that, for civil rights groups on particular, they’ve been working a long time to make sure those students are counted, and there have been dark days when kids were encouraged to opt out to raise overall test scores.  So they don’t want to return to those days.  The second thing that is an unintended consequence is that if the test becomes invalid, that you undermine the trust in the public school system.  Now we spend a fill third of our budget on education, that’s over a billion dollars.  So the concern is that, that particularly in the business community, that if we do not have a valid test, you’re going to lose trusts amongst them.  In particular, there are folks who are concerned that they just may walk away, that they may not have enough confidence in the system, that in terms of passing referendums and things like that, it’s going to become more and more difficult.  We don’t have a valid test.  Trust in the system is the second piece.  The third pieces that I’ll just leave you with is that we get $90 million a year, in federal funds, for Title I students.  We get those dollars, with the commitment, that we will show how those kids are doing.  These are for low-income kids.  Now, the U.S. Department of Education has written letters to say that those dollars could be at risk.  And when we are facing a $100 million dollar deficit this year, it’s going to be worse next year, we can’t afford to risk losing any of those dollars going into the next year and there’s no, I guess my concern is that the current bill is more than a parents rights issue.  They could have broad implications for our most vulnerable students and could undermine the thing they trust in the public education system if we don’t have a consistent and comparable assessment over time.  So that’s my concern, and I do believe that the resolution could be a more thoughtful way to look at all of our tests and how they are used, cause I believe there needs to be some course corrections but I don’t believe House Bill 50 is the right way to go.  Thank you.

The first thing I want to say is Dr. Herdman is a very good public speaker in the respect that he can be very persuasive with an audience.  I have seem him speak on YouTube, and he masters the use of his hands in luring an audience to effectively listen to him.  During this speech, he used the word “Right?” after several of his points, as if to reaffirm his statements to which most people would say “Yes” in their head.  I didn’t because I have super powers to render myself immune to that sort of thing, but many people could fall under that spell.

I disagree with most of Dr. Herdman’s comments.  I don’t believe trying to link public and private players has provided a good outcome for education in general.  It has brought more inequity than not.  Dr. Herdman is paid very handsomely to promote the Rodel Foundation’s agendas for education, more than any state, district, or charter employee in Delaware, and by a very wide margin.

The very same civil rights groups Herdman talks about are the same ones that represent vulnerable students the Rodel Foundation of Delaware has helped to put in a position of segregation in Delaware with their constant advocating for more charter schools.

I’ve already gone through the financial funding threats so many times, but for the record, one more time, that’s if the schools opt kids out, not parents.  But let’s bring that old chestnut out one more time.  In regards to returning to those “dark days”, Rodel’s actions have brought much more of the actions of those days than anything parent opt-out (not school opt-out) could ever do.

I have no qualms with Rep. Matthews quote in the News Journal, which he did say.  If a parent is going to go to all the trouble of opting their child out of a three day test, it would stand to reason it is because they don’t like the test.  If someone doesn’t like a test, of course they would want it to go away.  It is also very logical to assume if enough students are opted out the data the Rodel Foundation and the DOE want so badly would be rendered inert.  This isn’t a leap in science, and I fail to understand why Herdman would paint Rep. Matthews as the bad guy here.  I guess every side needs a villain, right Paul?

“Virtually every civil rights group in the country…”  This is completely false Dr. Herdman, and you know it.  28 national groups wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress in regards to the ESEA reauthorization in January and touched very briefly on the importance of these tests for the minorities, special needs, and low-income children they represent.  But in the beginning of April, only 12 remained to voice opposition of parent opt-out.  And as Kilroy pointed out so brilliantly, how many of those very same organizations are at the exact same physical address where your office is?

“If the test becomes invalid, you will undermine the trust in the public school system.”  If the test becomes invalid, this would validate the complete lack of trust we have in the test-makers, the DOE, and Governor Markell in terms of education.  And yes, it would invalidate your 11 years of work in Delaware as well, and that is your biggest fear in my opinion.  If Rodel and the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce are so concerned about potential deficits in Delaware, perhaps they could cash in their numerous hedge funds and actually fully support education, not just the ones they support for their own financial benefit.

House Bill 50 Has Officially Been Released From Senate Education Commitee #supportHB50

According to Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks, House Bill 50 will be released tonight from the Senate Education Committee.

With that being said, please email the entire Senate not to pass Senator Sokola’s proposed amendment adding district-wide assessments to this bill!!!!  Please ask for President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins to put this bill on the agenda as soon as possible and for the Senate to vote yes!  We are soooo close on this, and this has been a true team effort!

Harris.McDowell@state.de.us MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us robert.marshall@state.de.us greg.lavelle@state.de.us catherine.cloutier@state.de.us Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us David.Sokola@state.de.us Karen.Peterson@state.de.us bethany.hall-long@state.de.us Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us Nicole.Poore@state.de.us David.McBride@state.de.us bruce.ennis@state.de.us Dave.Lawson@state.de.us senator-colin@prodigy.net brian.bushweller@state.de.us gsimpson@udel.edu Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us Gerald.Hocker@state.de.us Bryant.Richardson@state.de.us

**TITLE HAS BEEN CHANGED, OFFICIALLY RELEASED**

And it has been officially been released on the legis.delaware.gov website as well:

148th General Assembly
House Bill 50 w/HA 1
Primary Sponsor(s): Kowalko Additional Sponsor(s):    Sen. Lawson

Co-Sponsors: Reps. Bennett, Baumbach, Keeley, Matthews, Spiegelman, K. Williams, Yearick; Sen. Henry

Introduced On: 03/12/2015

Long Title: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT.

Synopsis of Bill: This bill creates the right for the parent or guardian of a child to opt out of the annual assessment, currently the Smarter Balanced Assessment System.

Current Status: Out of Committee   On  06/11/15

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

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

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

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

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

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

David.Sokola@state.de.us

Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us

My Son & I Will Be On NBC Philadelphia News This Afternoon Discussing Parent Opt-Out

Tim Furlong with NBC Philadelphia Channel 10 left my house about half an hour ago after filming a segment on parent opt-out of standardized testing for the afternoon news.  This news story will also include Tim covering the Senate Education Committee meeting today at Legislative Hall in Dover at 3pm.  With numerous articles appearing today from WDEL and WDDE on House Bill 50, this will be THE place to be at Legislative Hall today.

Another bill has been added to the agenda, Senator Margaret Rose Henry’s Senate Bill 122, which is described as:

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14, CHAPTER 10 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION AND THE REORGANIZATION AND CHANGING OF SCHOOL DISTRICT BOUNDARIES.

I did hear Senator Sokola promise State Rep. John Kowalko House Bill 50 would be heard first today after it was postponed during last week’s meeting.  I sincerely hope the Senator lives up to his promise.

Appoquinimink Mom’s Letter To Senate Education Committee In Support Of House Bill 50

An Appoquinimink mother, Tara Greathouse, asked me to share her letter to the Senate Education Committee in support of House Bill 50.  Way to go Tara! The letter speaks for itself.

Dear Senator Robert Marshall, Senator Bethany Hall-Long, Senator Margaret Rose Henry, Senator Ernesto Lopez, Senator Nicole Poore, Senator Bryan Townsend and Senator Brian Pettyjohn,

It is an honor and a great privilege to have the opportunity to write to you today regarding HB 50. I believe we can all agree that education is a top priority and should be a constant moving build first between parents and teachers to ensure the foundation and principles needed for the success of our young learners. This relationship and engagement will help lead them into how to be compassionate and driven leaders to enable college and career readiness in an ever changing world.  I am confident that we will get there; however, with the absence of teacher and parent involvement and education being driven by non-teacher and non-parent agendas of the state and federal government, the current strategic model will only destruct their educational experience and will affect their generation and future generations to come. The cascade effect of that will be felt by all of us decades later.

I would like to give you some background on how I was able to make an informed decision for the best interest of our 5th grader, whom we opted out of the Smarter Balanced assessment this past March. We have two other children and one day they will be faced with Smarter Balanced if we don’t do something about this dangerous path now.

In December 2014, right before Christmas break, my son brought home his agenda book like he does every day. We review and discuss the agenda book together daily. I noticed he wrote “Smarter Balanced reviewing and practicing” as an agenda item with no other details or information to support it. I asked him what Smarter Balanced was and he shared that it was going to be a test he would have to do soon. This test was scheduled the week of March 16-20, 2015. I became very concerned because this was the first I had heard of these words, Smarter Balanced. What does that mean?

I began searching for answers starting with his teacher. I asked her some questions and she shared that it was a state assessment but that it is does not affect nor is it written in his school performance and results of the test would not be back until after school year end which is after he moves on to the next grade.  Right away, as I mom, I felt something was terribly wrong.  I went directly to the DOE website and found no evidence of research and data to support this assessment nor was there an academic growth measurement model to confirm whether or not this assessment would be beneficial for our son. This is when I began digging and took to the internet looking for facts, not opinions.

On January 24, 2015, I attended a town hall debate at UD Clayton Hall. I learned about this event via Facebook. I was informed through this invitation that our very own DOE would be there with other speakers on both aisles of the debate and knew right away this would be it to gain a clearer picture and understanding of the facts behind Smarter Balanced. There was only one problem, DOE never showed up as they had confirmed they would attend this event to the event host. Then I noticed the House Education Committee Chair was there, Earl Jacques, and looked forward to hearing from him on this topic but not a word from him. Instead of our own Delaware leaders and educators speaking to us on this topic, I learned that the four panelists that did show up were from other states; Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Nebraska and they were:  Sandra Stotsky, Peg Luksik, Kathleen Jasper and Judy Short. Delaware leadership had an opportunity to have a conversation about this with teachers and parents; however, they failed to attend to bring transparency, knowledge sharing and understanding to the people of Delaware. I learned some facts in this town hall that enabled me to then re-confirm the facts through other various reliable resources noted at the end of this letter about Smarter Balanced and the following facts remain:

  • SBAC was not driven, written and implemented by experienced educators nor was teacher and parent input considered
  • SBAC is not an accurate measurement of a student’s academic achievement
  • SBAC did not go through a research and data channel to confirm the validity and accuracy of measurement
  • SBAC was designed not for the sole benefit and purpose of a child; rather the child is used in this experiment to label and punish schools and teachers and quite frankly, this is morally wrong
  • SBAC is to help continue the pattern of removing traditional education that have sent men to the moon and it will continue to remove local district community control
  • SBAC is costing our state a fortune and removes critical funding needed inside the classroom. We don’t need ineffective funding outside of the classroom where SBAC is being housed.
  • SBAC requires a minimum preparation of three months of teacher and student classroom time. Therefore, taking more critical time away from the classroom to educate our children.
  • SBAC district knowledge sharing sessions happened after most of the children participated in the SBAC assessment in March.
  • SBAC has been noted by our DOE that there will be a 70% failure rate. How do we help our children of our future understand that one?

I have always been in support of standardized assessments; however, given the facts above is where I reside and stand today as a concerned parent of public school education in our state.

I ask that you please allow for teachers and parents to be heard and to not let this bill rest. The majority of our House of Representatives message is very clear to every parent and teacher. Please let those voices be heard just as they did. Please be open to hearing from those that you serve that have elected and placed their trust in you. Please consider supporting this bill with the same compassion and commitment you had when you first began serving the people of Delaware. God bless.

Respectfully,

Tara Greathouse

Below are resources that I utilized to do my due diligence on SBAC.

Founded on Truth

http://foundedontruth.com/ 

Common Core and Associated High Stakes Assessments Town Hall at University of Delaware Clayton Hall 1/24/15

https://youtu.be/qVn1y7jqTcA 

University of Arkansas – The Department of Education Reform

http://www.uaedreform.org/sandra-stotsky/

Truth in American Education

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/tag/duke-pesta/

https://youtu.be/Si-kx5-MKSE

ConversationEd

http://conversationed.com/

Diane Ravitch

http://dianeravitch.net/

NY Teacher Speaks for Kids: Strongly Objects to Common Core Testing

https://youtu.be/PV6HoDLsnH8

United Opt Out: The Movement to End Corporate Education Reform

http://unitedoptout.com/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/

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

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

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

Chamber: Senate

Chairman: Sokola

Location/Room: Senate Hearing Room

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

Revision Num:

Agenda

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


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


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

Meeting Minutes:

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

Why The Timetable For SJR #2 Guarentees Another Year (or more) Of Smarter Balanced

Senate Joint Resolution #2 in Delaware calls for recognition of the assessment inventory currently going on in all our public schools.  As well, with the amendment added on 6/3, it gives the General Assembly more ability to make recommendations on it.  According to Lindsey O’Mara, Markell’s education policy advisor, Smarter Balanced will be a part of the discussion.  But what this will not do is get rid of Smarter Balanced, if it even could, until the 2016-2017 school year.

I don’t think Smarter Balanced can be removed from the assessment equation in this assessment inventory.  State law is very clear there has to be a state assessment, and the law is for Smarter Balanced.  This is required by Federal law currently.  O’Mara said this, very fast mind you, at the Senate Education Committee meeting.  Furthermore, any legislation coming out of this discussion group, would still have to be signed by Markell if it passes the General Assembly.  He is a lame duck.  There is no way in hell he will sign legislation getting rid of Smarter Balanced.  Even if it passed unanimously through the House and Senate.

If a veto process carried past June 30th 2015, this would guarantee Smarter Balanced for the 2016-2017 school year.  Yes, there would be a new Governor and a new General Assembly starting in January 2017, and they would have to start from scratch all over again.  Which then brings us to the 2017-2018 school year.  Over two years from now…

If the only reasons DSEA is supporting SJR #2 is because Smarter Balanced was included in the discussion and the fact that it gives the General Assembly more abilities in the process, this is a weak argument.  I am still sticking with my original articles on this the past couple days.  I do not think the actions of DSEA and the RCEA President are intentional in deriding HB 50.  But I firmly believe they have been duped, and as a commenter wrote yesterday, DSEA is still trying to differentiate between a “seat at the table” and “being on the table”.  They are very eager for change, as we all are.  But if they fall over the cliff on this one and something happens with House Bill 50 as a result, the relationship between parents and the DSEA may never be repaired.

Senator Sokola Purposely Runs Down The Clock So House Bill 50 Not Heard

Today at the Delaware Senate Education Committee meeting, House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill was NOT HEARD.  There were five bills on the agenda, and the chair, Senator David Sokola, came strolling in very late.  As well, there were numerous public speakers, and he made NO effort to limit their speaking time.  In fact, he let them talk as long as they wanted to.  But he did get to have his Senate Joint Resolution #2 heard, which has now been amended to give the General Assembly more authority in the process of the State conducting an assessment inventory.

Sokola did say House Bill 50 will be heard first at next week’s Senate Education Committee meeting, but this was purposely done, make NO mistake about that.  The Senate was requested at 4pm to come downstairs for their session.  The most disgusting part of the whole thing was Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy smiling and giggling on his way out, like some demented freak.  This is a disturbing man, and he should not be around any children whatsoever, much less leading education in our state.

Senator Sokola obviously is at the beck and call of the DOE and Governor Markell.  He is not fit to lead any matters in education.  He is in the back pocket of the Governor, who is in the back pocket of all the corporate interests.

Contradicting what the DOE said in April at the State Board meeting, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is now included in the statewide assessment inventory but DO NOT BE FOOLED for one second this is to be taken seriously, despite what Governor Markell’s education policy advisor, Lindsey O’Mara said at the meeting, because that is also up to “state and federal regulations” as she said.

This is an obvious stall on the Governor’s part.  I could feel it in the air.  There were too many smug faces in that room.  No consideration whatsoever was given to members of the public who showed up for the meeting to hear House Bill 50.  Far too much time was allotted for public comment, and that was done with one goal in mind: to keep pushing this off.  In the meantime, we will see more useless editorials coming out and more ridiculous links and commentaries on the DOE’s Facebook page.

This is the Delaware Way at it’s finest and most appalling.  Parents, this is WAR!  Our Governor and DOE does not give a rats ass about any of us.  We are just little bugs to them.  It’s time to swarm.