General Assembly Passes Budget But No Room For Congratulations

The Delaware General Assembly did what they could.  They did their best to ensure they wouldn’t spend their 4th of July week at the beck and call of Governor Carney.  They passed the budget, the bond bill, and Grant-In-Aid last night.  With no changes to personal income tax.  $190 million in cuts and $175 million in revenue.  Actions have consequences.  I have no doubt many of them will find that out in 2018 during the next election cycle.  By going after education and the elderly they have proven, once again, far too many of them are heartless bastards who exist to protect the rich more than supporting the poor.

The hand-slapping and high fives will continue.  I’ve seen it already on social media.  In many of their minds, the job is done and they saved the day.  Now they can enjoy the rest of the summer.  As an added bonus, they had the time to work a ton of bills so they can rest assured that when they come back in January their plate won’t be as full.

Now what?  We will see school districts lay off teachers.  The elderly, middle class, and poor will have less than they had before.  Smokers and drinkers will pay more beginning in September.  Any real estate transaction will fill the state coffers.  Charter schools will breath a sigh of relief they didn’t lose their transportation slush fund.  By the way, thank you to the 16 state representatives that voted for doing away with that monstrosity.  Hopefully next year we can abolish it for good.

This is not a victory by any means.  This was a bitter defeat.  It was a surrender, to all that is wrong with Delaware.  The oppressed will rise and make their voice heard in larger numbers.  You reap what you sow.  Shared sacrifice my ass.  This was a slaughter.

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As JFC Sacrifices The Sick, The Children, and The Poor, General Assembly Leadership Drops The Ball

I am getting very sick of the political games in Dover.  Very sick.  We have the Joint Finance Committee cutting programs left and right, with House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle continuing to bicker over raising taxes or having more cuts.  We elect these people to do what is right for Delaware, not to kick the can until the next election.  They continue to use the most vulnerable citizens of Delaware in their political football games: the students, those who are sick or rely on state assistance, and those who live in poverty.  Enough.

In a Delaware State news article, JFC Co-Chair Melanie Smith brags about needing only $60 million in “soft cuts” while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf says further cuts would be “drastic“.  Do these two even talk to each other?  They are in the same damn party.  Meanwhile, we have Senator Greg Lavelle preaching from his pulpit wanting the state to have even more cuts.  But both sides are not giving serious thought to State Rep. John Kowalko’s bills which would raise taxes on the wealthy of Delaware.  Hell, they spit in our faces in the House by passing the very ridiculous estate tax appeal last month.

Delaware Republicans, let’s get one thing straight: prevailing wage will NEVER happen as long as the Democrats hold power in the House and Senate.  It is a pipe dream.  Delaware Democrats, the Republicans will NEVER allow you to raise taxes on the wealthy.  Delaware citizens, we are screwed.

I believe they are making these “drastic” cuts in the JFC to cut to the heart of Delaware.  By going after the most vulnerable of Delaware citizens, they are hoping the legislators will cave and come up with some sort of short-term compromise to fix the budget.  Governor Markell left the station, but not without spending our way to prosperity.  But guess what, the bill came in for that spending and we have treated the state wallet like an ATM without any limits.

In Delaware, we have this insane tendency to vote the SAME people into office every election.  While there are some very good State Reps and Senators filling the halls in Dover, I fear we have reached a stalemate in Dover.  For far too many of our legislators it is about one thing: holding on to power and the next election.  The Delaware Way has become a steaming pile of horse manure.

Governor Carney and his office have shown no sign of getting rid of this stink in Delaware.  My recent FOIA complaint against Carney’s office over the Family Services Cabinet Council generated a response from his office.  Because the Attorney General’s office is still working on the legal opinion for this, all I can say is the response is one of the most insulting things I’ve read in my entire life.  It reeks of corruption and deals made behind closed doors.  The solution, which is Carney’s way of saying “Don’t mess with me Ohlandt, cause I will do what I want no matter what” screams of the very thing I have grown to expect in Delaware.  It evaporates hope and replaces it with a bad taste that no mouthwash could replace.  I can’t wait until this legal opinion comes out to the public so they can see firsthand what I am talking about.

Our children, poor, and sick should not be held hostage because these lawmakers think they can do what they want.  In the State News article, Matt Bittle discussed the decision by the JFC to hold off on meeting until later in June.  Bittle writes:

The move, an atypical one, minimizes public backlash and concern in response to spending reductions and gives the caucuses more time to come to an agreement on tax increases.

I disagree with this.  The public backlash is just beginning.  I see more discussion about what is going on with the budget this year than I’ve seen in years.  The very ugly move by the JFC yesterday on not allowing the cut sheets from yesterday to be released to the media or the public is the shadiest thing I’ve seen in my entire time blogging.  In response to cuts already made, I’m sure their phones and emails were lighting up like a Christmas tree.  Get over it.  It is your job to listen to your constituents, not to stifle their voices.  When you play games with people, don’t get upset when they voice their concerns over it.  Last I heard, freedom of speech was still a real thing.  Last I heard, we elected you to balance the budget, not to keep it from us.

Because of loop holes in state code, there are no-brainer ways to raise revenue in this state that are impossible because of budget allocations.  We could raise the gas tax but that would only go towards the transportation fund.  How about shifting that in state code so it would go to the general fund?  I would support a ten cent raise in the gas tax if it would dig us out of this mess that the General Assembly created in the first place.  It is things like that which make it impossible for me to give the General Assembly more than a shrug when this time of year comes around.  They need to think outside of their very small boxes and get creative.  Because I am sure they will get the same salary, benefits, and pensions.  Meanwhile, I know I am going to have to pay more for getting less in Delaware as will every single citizen in this state.  Except some of those really rich people who will bully legislators into making sure their shared sacrifice is palatable to their over-stuffed bank accounts.

I believe in Delaware.  I believe in the people of Delaware.  I don’t believe in our very corrupt state government who throws away their conscience in favor of lobbyists and back-door deals.  I don’t care if you are Democrat or Republican.  The very second you replace a moral with some incentive, you have failed in your duty as an elected official.  That isn’t integrity.  It isn’t honesty.  It is the Delaware Way.

 

Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum In Newark Taken Over By Students And Teachers

Delaware’s budget deficit hit a new stage last night when Christina School District students took over State Rep. Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum at Newark High School. As well, Senator David Sokola said the issue with the 5 mile radius bill was about transportation. It was an evening full of dodged questions and skirting around the issues.  It was a night when things were as confusing as Twin Peaks and the Mighty Thor put her hammer down! Continue reading “Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum In Newark Taken Over By Students And Teachers”

My No Holds Barred Response To Governor Carney’s Letter To Delaware Teachers As Districts Prepare Layoffs

Governor Carney sent a letter to all Delaware public school teachers this morning for Teacher Appreciation Week.  The irony of this letter, as several Delaware school districts are getting ready to layoff teachers, is astounding.  Because of Carney’s proposed budget for FY2018, Delaware school districts are put in a no-win situation.  School boards can either raise property taxes with the match tax or reduce their own budgets (of which they have to do anyways).  Carney shifted the onus of the budget deficit away from his office with his “shared sacrifice” language.  What he did was attempt to make damn sure the taxpayers of the state shift their anger at Delaware school boards when their taxes go up or see their children suffocate in huge classrooms with less teachers and programs.

I have this to say to Governor Carney: what you have done is shady and despicable.  It is the ultimate in political posturing, but your muscle flex is going to backfire on you.  You won’t get away with playing the budgetary Darth Vader where others do the dirty work for you if you want to survive past 2020.  Your opponents are most likely salivating over all this because you exposed a major Achilles heel very early in the game.  And you better believe if charters somehow benefit over all this, I won’t be the only one protesting.  Many will join me.  As an example, will the General Assembly get rid of the very useless charter school transportation slush fund?  Will charter schools also have teacher layoffs?  Will they actually lose some of their transportation budget like all the local school districts will?  If the answer to any of these is a no, I don’t see much “shared” sacrifice.

If any members of our General Assembly think they can sneak in the usual perks into the epilogue language of the budget in the final hours of this legislative session (I’m talking to you most of all Mrs. Death Penalty flipper), it will cause a ruckus unseen in Legislative Hall for some time.

It is past time Delaware stopped using students and teachers as sacrificial lambs.  It isn’t just Carney and the General Assembly who are doing this, it is also the school districts.  I have yet to see any school district cutting administrative positions.  So far, I am fairly sure Indian River, Christina, Caesar Rodney, and Colonial will be cutting teachers.  That list will grow.

Below is Carney’s letter to teachers.  Like I said, this is almost insulting.  I have no doubt students said many things about their teachers, but Carney (or whichever staff member wrote this letter) seems to cherry-pick certain things to further his Rodel’s own agenda.  Can we just stop pretending John Carney?  Just come out and rename the state Rodelaware.  You aren’t fooling anyone.  This letter demands the famous “John Young redline edition”…

From: Carney, Governor (Governor) <Governor.Carney@state.de.us>
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2017 8:34:32 AM
To: K12 Employees
Subject: Thank you

 

As the nation recognizes National Teacher Appreciation Week, we in Delaware have a lot to celebrate. Secretary of Education Susan Bunting joins me in thanking all of you for helping our students succeed in school and in life.

When you say “celebrate”, who is celebrating?  Of course Bunting is going to join you.  She will do whatever you want!  Nothing against Dr. Bunting, but if I have learned one thing about a Governor’s Cabinet, they follow whatever the Governor says, which usually translates to what Rodel wants.  Please don’t use words like celebrate at the same time teachers are facing unemployment.  It is the ultimate insult.

If I needed any help remembering how lucky we are in Delaware to have such great educators, I got it Monday morning. Secretary Bunting and I visited Capital School District’s Hartly Elementary School and I asked the students why their teachers are special. Their rapid-fire answers were right on point:

What were the other answers provided by students?  I have a very hard time believing that the majority of answers given by students in an elementary school were geared towards post-secondary education plans.  But I’m sure the Rodel and Delaware Business Roundtable business types love these answers.  Feed the beast!

“They make sure we’re ready for college.”

See above.

“Without them we wouldn’t know how to use decimal points.”

Okay, that’s a good answer.

“They’re helping us get good jobs some day.”

By standardize testing the hell out of these kids and forcing them to learn in digital technology classrooms, the state is robbing children of a true educational experience.  This data collecting of children, geared towards shifting the workforce to select jobs for the future, is social engineering at its absolute worst Governor Carney.  Please stop with the Markellian way of thinking and be your own man.

And my favorite:

“They teach us to care about each other.”

Awwww, that is so cute.  Reminding teachers, as many prepare to get pink slips, that it is about the students and they should just shut up and share the sacrifice for the good of the state.  And just so you know, many Delaware parents teach their children to care about each other.  That isn’t solely owned by teachers.  For many students, it is.  But parents across the state play the main part in raising their children.  So let’s not even get into the plans to transform education into a “public-private partnership”.  Kids need to be in brick and mortar schools, not the local non-profits at younger ages. 

Our kids get it. They know just how much you do and how invested you are in them.

Yeah, too bad our state isn’t invested in them.  Too bad they aren’t invested in our students either.  Unless you like having over 35 kids in a classroom.  Tell me Governor Carney, how many kids were in YOUR classrooms when you went to school back in the day?  But let’s keep paying for Smarter Balanced and all the Common Core bullshit.  Let’s keep our classrooms wired at all times so corporations get those nice bottom line numbers at the expense of students.  Let’s let the data whores continue to collect private information on our students through their iPhones and Google Chrome.  Schools, teachers, and students are not “investments”.  Those are corporate education reform words.  Yes, the children are the future, but by putting them in terms of financial gain, you insult every single child in this state.

I hope you were able to join us on April 27, when we hosted a Telephone Town Hall with Delaware educators to discuss issues around public education in Delaware. Specifically, we discussed education and our state budget.

I was on that call.  Most town halls end when the questions run out.  But not on your schedule Governor Carney. 

This is an important discussion, and I will continue to listen to educators during school visits across Delaware. We face a $400 million budget shortfall, but I remain dedicated to each of you and your students.

Dedication is more than “listening”.  It means making damn sure any sacrifice stays the hell out of the classroom.  But you can’t do that, can you?  Let’s pray our General Assembly finally and collectively says NO to your horrible budget proposal.

Our plan is to fix our structural deficit, and get to a place where we can again invest in areas that will move our state forward: early childhood education, arts, additional supports for at-risk students, health and wellness, and after-school programing, to name a few.

The key wording is “get to a place”.  That means you want to kick the can down the road, which Delaware is fantastic at doing.  Your predecessor was excellent in that regard.  “Invest now” all too often means “pay the price later”.  No child should pay the price for adult decisions.  If you want to fix the structural deficit, how about you actually go after delinquent property taxes?  Sign an Executive Order demanding the counties exert pressure on those who feel they don’t have to pay at all!  Like the Chinese company that owes Red Clay over a million bucks in back property taxes.  Or the golf club in Middletown that likes to play games with Appoquinimink.  Make sure our State Auditor has the ability to properly audit our schools and see where every single penny in Delaware education funding is REALLY going.  Cause we both know there is foul play going on in some circumstances.  But turning a blind eye to that has helped to lead us to where we are at now.

All Delaware students deserve a quality education, and an equal opportunity to succeed. And I know you work hard every day to deliver on that promise. Thank you for all you do.

All Delaware students do deserve a quality education.  But not your definition of it.  And let’s not even get into this “weighted funding” nonsense.  We both know what that is really about Governor Carney, don’t we.  If I were you, I would give considerable thought in the next week to revising your proposed budget.  Because if you truly care about students, this is not the way to go.  I tried to give you a chance and have faith in you.  I have yet to see you live up to that promise.  Tax the rich more.  Seriously.  That is the best way to start. 

Sincerely,

Governor John Carney

John Carney

Sincerely,

Kevin Ohlandt, the blogger who is getting sick of public education being a sacrificial lamb to the likes of Rodel and the Delaware Business Roundtable in the name of corporate profit and social engineering.

Carney & Bunting Tackle Education Funding But The Red Herring Fooling Everyone Lurks Around The Corner

Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will talk to educators, parents, and citizens tonight about education funding and the state budget tonight at 7:45pm.  To be included on the call, you had to sign up yesterday by 2pm.  I signed up on Tuesday.  I will be reporting live from the Town Hall.  What concerns me the most is not what Carney is saying.  It is what he isn’t talking about… Continue reading “Carney & Bunting Tackle Education Funding But The Red Herring Fooling Everyone Lurks Around The Corner”

Carney’s Budget Reset Will Put The Hurt On School Districts, Charters And Citizens Of Delaware

Delaware Governor John Carney released his FY2018 Budget “Reset”.  He is calling for a ton of cuts across Delaware programs as well as increase revenue by increasing taxes.  The extremely wealthy won’t get the tax increases many have been calling for in this proposed budget.  But property owners will feel it.  Here comes the Delaware sink hole!

In education, the match tax will switch over to the local side, to be raised by school boards without a referendum.  Which is all well and good if you don’t own property.  But if you do, expect to pay more in school taxes.  As well, $15 million will be cut from district and charter operation budgets doled out by the state.  I don’t see the funding for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade but I see $4.7 million more for early childhood education.  We poured $18 million into that last year.  I don’t see any proposed cuts to the Department of Education even though Carney ran around during his campaign saying he was going to streamline the Department.  Carney is allowing for $25.1 million for new teachers and $1 million for his “opportunity grants”.  $22 million would be cut from the education sustainment fund (thus the district boards getting to get more school taxes without a referendum like they do with the tuition tax).

In the below document, we see absolutely nothing about marijuana revenue or an increase to the gax tax.  But smokers will be gouged another buck a pack.  The retirement age for additional personal credit will rise from 60 to 65 while all senior citizens will see their Senior Citizen Property Credit reduced by a hundred dollars.

I get that you have to make up for a $385 million dollar deficit by making cuts but it is important to know how we got there.  Former Governor Jack Markell came on board as the Great Recession of 2008 spread its wings.  After that, Markell just spent and spent and spent without really getting enough revenue to stick around in the state.  Our population grew as special education services grew at a much higher rate.  Something disability communities have been saying will happen for years.   I am not a big fan of this budget proposal.  Carney, like his predecessor, refuses to make the rich pay more.  I don’t see a lot of “shared sacrifice” going on here.  If it was truly shared, it would hurt everyone.  To someone making a million bucks a year, a nominal increase in taxes isn’t going to hurt them as much as it will to a family living off $30,000 a year.  Granted, this is assuming the General Assembly approves this and the budget deficit stays the same.  It could (and I predict it will) increase between now and June 30th.

I don’t envy Carney.  He inherited most of this from Markell.  But with all his “coffee klatches” as the folks over at Delaware Liberal call them, I would have expected something a lot more different than what Markell gave us back in January.  I’ve told Carney’s people exactly what he needs to do in terms of education funding.  The response from them?  Crickets.  They hear me out and then nothing.  Just because I haven’t written as much about district and charter funding shenanigans doesn’t mean it hasn’t been foremost in my mind.  I was counting on the new administration to do the right thing here.  Looks like I’m going to have to do this the hard way and start REALLY ticking people off.