Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, under the policies of Delaware Governor John Carney, has transformed the Delaware Department of Education into a support organization. Before Bunting, Carney recognized the DOE as an enforcement organization during former Governor Jack Markell’s two terms. Carney put it on Bunting to make that transformation. Did she succeed? Continue reading
I’m stuck. I want to help the citizens of Delaware. I want FULL transparency, especially when it comes to education. But we aren’t getting it. That has become painfully obvious in the four years I’ve been blogging. We have been lied to and manipulated. It has to end. I need YOUR help. Continue reading
No one stood up for parents more than Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko in the 148th General Assembly. As the prime House sponsor on House Bill 50, the opt out bill, Rep. Kowalko fought for months to ensure that a parent’s fundamental rights to opt their child out of the state assessment was honored. Furthermore, it would have stopped schools or the state from punishing a child for having a parent opt them out. Ultimately, the bill overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate but Governor Markell vetoed the bill. An attempt to override the veto failed when the legislators came back in 2016.
John Kowalko is the rake at the gates of hell when it comes to standing up to Jack Markell on education. He is not afraid to go against the establishment when he knows in his heart those choices are not good for kids. He has always been about looking out for the little guy. He will not vote yes on the state budget if it means those with the highest needs will do without. I respect that immensely. Because of his stances and how he makes noise, he runs into opposition constantly in the General Assembly. We need more legislators who can be vocal and won’t bow down to leadership.
Kowalko’s opponent has failed to give me any reason to support him. If anything, he sounds a lot like John Kowalko but much less experienced. I have never subscribed to this Delaware Way theory of “getting along to go along.” I compare it to being a part of the race without realizing you are being dragged by the horse on the way to the finish line. We don’t need more of that in Dover. We need more like Kowalko! Some will call me crazy and believe that John Kowalko is unable to get along with his peers. I think it is the other way around. Too many are unwilling to get along with Kowalko because they know he is right and that if they allied themselves with him it wouldn’t be the best for their own personal agendas. The will of the people in Delaware should be the biggest priority of our General Assembly. But private interests and political power rule the day. Until we get more John Kowalkos in the General Assembly, we will continue to play this status quo game. And that is NOT good for Delaware.
At the end of the day, Kowalko is about doing what is right. Yes, he utilizes the press every chance he can to get his message out to the people. It is not self-serving. It is so enough people can hear what he is saying to help the people. I endorse John Kowalko for the 25th Rep. District in Newark. I urge citizens in this district to re-elect John Kowalko so we have another voice of reason in the Delaware 149th General Assembly.
While it isn’t the DSEA, the Red Clay Education Association officially voted tonight to support the House Bill 50 Veto Override. Thank you the members of the RCEA for doing this. The Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education passed a board policy honoring opt-out a couple months ago, so it looks like Red Clay supports opt-out all over the district.
Mike Matthews, the President of RCEA, just posted this on Facebook:
At tonight’s Representative Council, the Red Clay Education Association took an official position of support for the legislature to override Gov. Jack Markell‘s veto of HB 50, the Parent Opt Out Bill.
The rally the Delaware PTA is sponsoring will be held on Thursday, 1/14, at 1pm on the steps of Legislative Hall in Dover. All parents and students are encouraged to attend to lend support. As well, the Delaware PTA petition is still live:
State Rep. John Kowalko will be asking for a suspension of rules when the Delaware House of Representatives meets in legislative session on Thursday. A suspension of rules, which would prevent House Bill 50 from going back to the House Education Committee led by State Rep. Earl Jaques, would open up House Bill 50 for a vote by the State Representatives. If the suspension of rules doesn’t go through, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. It would be up to Jaques to allow the bill to be heard in the House Education Committee. It would go through the same process as last Spring if it progresses from there: House Education Committee to Full House Vote to Senate Education Committee to full Senate vote, assuming it passed each step along the way.
This has been a very long journey for many of us supporting this bill, and probably for those who oppose it as well. While some may question the importance of it, and why it is such a big deal, I would hope those people understand this bill is about student and parent rights. I have heard someone say it is a waste of “political capital”. I wouldn’t say that at all. Every bill in the General Assembly is important to someone. To myself, there are certainly matters (like the state budget) that take on more public importance than House Bill 50, but this one that hits very close to home for a lot of parents.
The Delaware State Education Association needs to speak up. Many parents have fought for teachers rights for many years. It is past time you stepped up and did the same for parents. We thank you for supporting House Bill 50, but as I’m sure you are well aware, the battle is not over. The Governor vetoed the bill. I know I ticked you off when I didn’t agree with your support for the assessment inventory legislation, and we are seeing exactly why I didn’t support it now. Legislators, the Governor, and testing supporters are using this as a defense against the override. The plan isn’t even due until June 30th which does nothing for parents this year. We both know Smarter Balanced won’t be a serious part of this conversation. We both know House Bill 50 and opt-out are parent’s reaction to the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Delaware Parents need your full support in our effort to have Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50. Please help us to make this happen. Thank you.
Last Monday, December 7th, the Delaware Met had their final formal review public hearing. Numerous students spoke out in support of the school, along with teachers, board members, staff, and parents. Upon reading the transcript, I could not find one negative comment about the school. Every single speaker, and there were many, wanted the school to stay open. Many acknowledged the issues but said those situations are getting better. Do you think the Delaware Met should close or stay open?
The public comment period ending at 11:59pm last evening. To read through the entire 82 page transcript from the public hearing, please read below:
Delaware Liberal wrote about this half an hour ago. I woke up and wasn’t sure what to write about today (yes, there are days like that). And then I read their article. Senator David McBride has colorectal cancer. This is a man who has faithfully served in the Delaware legislature since 1978. Ever since he defeated former State Rep. Robert Byrd, McBride has represented Delaware. To give some perspective here, I was eight years old when he was elected. That was 37 years ago.
Senator McBride wrote a letter to his friends and constituents on his Facebook page about his diagnosis. It was very intimate and personal, but he wants to get the word out. I admire this long-standing Delaware State Senator for his conviction and courage in what will be a difficult time. No matter what your politics are, we will all be praying and rooting for Senator McBride in the year ahead.
Friends and Colleagues,
“How are you doing?”
“I’m great, thanks.”
It’s a simple greeting and reply – so automatic it’s almost rhetorical.
And, if you’d asked me that two months ago, it’s exactly the reply you would have gotten. I was exercising, eating well and never felt better.
Then last month, came the words no one ever wants to hear: “Dave, you have cancer.”
Fortunately because my colorectal cancer was detected during a regular screening, I was able to receive prompt treatment. And there’s a road to recovery that my wonderful doctors have put in place. I just have to follow it.
And in some ways, that’s the biggest challenge – dealing with the mental and physical toll of cancer treatment. In part, that’s why I’m writing you today, to ask for your encouragement and your prayers.
Most of you know that I tend keep my private life just that – private – so getting to the point where I could tell you this has been tough. At the same time, I’ve spent my career being honest and forthright. It’s who I am as a Senator and as a man, and it quickly became apparent to me that I must be true to those values, even in the face of this new challenge.
You deserve the truth, but even more than that, you deserve to hear the truth from me.
The truth is, I can’t help but smile at what I see as some real irony in all of this. During my Senate career, I’ve been proud to count myself as a leader in Delaware’s war against cancer. I sponsored the indoor smoking ban and supported efforts to use money from our share of the national settlement with Big Tobacco to fund the state’s Health Fund. Among other things, that fund helps provide money to support cancer screenings for people who couldn’t afford them otherwise. I also sponsored the legislation setting up the Delaware Cancer Consortium, which helps coordinate and guide our state’s ongoing battle with cancer. I really believe those efforts have saved some lives here in Delaware.
And it’s my hope that sharing my story with you today might save some more.
Early on, the Cancer Consortium decided to make colorectal cancer a priority not only because it’s so prevalent, but also because if it’s caught soon enough, it’s treatable and beatable.
Like most of you who are old enough to start the screening process, it’s not something I look forward to. Anyone who has had to take those two doses of the laxative from hell before screenings can easily think of a thousand other things we’d rather do.
In my case, three years ago, it was determined I would undergo annual screenings.
That decision saved my life.
As many of you know all too well, cancer begins as a stealthy disease. Until I heard those words from my doctor, I had no clue I was ill. I thought I was in incredibly good health and was doing all the things I usually did.
Thank God I followed my doctor’s advice and had my screening. And in turn, I hope you’ll take my advice and do the same.
As I write this, I’ve had surgery to remove the cancer and am about to embark on a regimen of chemotherapy to ensure that the disease has been fully defeated. I know that means I’ve got a fight on my hands. It’s a fight I’m ready for now.
I wasn’t so sure just a few weeks ago. As many of you know from first-hand experience or by being at the side of a family member or friend who’s had cancer, the pain has been beyond description. And as upbeat as you all know me to be, the discomfort, coupled with the mental anguish of coming to terms with my experience had plunged me into some real despair.
But I’ve really turned the corner over the last several days, and it’s because of the outpouring of love and support I’ve received from so many.
My wife, Margaret, and my family have helped bolster my spirits, as have the amazing staff at Christiana Care. Words cannot begin to describe the care and support that everyone – from the doctors and nurses to the technicians (who always seem to be checking your vital statistics) and even the friendly cleaning staff – has offered.
Then, there’s all of you.
Serving you as your senator has been one of the great privileges and passions of my life. I care deeply for all of you and my desire to continue serving you and doing the important work that lies ahead has, more than anything, picked me up and pushed me forward.
To be sure, I have a journey ahead of me. There’s six months of chemotherapy to come. But, come Jan. 12, I’ll be on the Senate floor, ready to go to work. There are big challenges ahead of us and I want to be a part of the solution. I look forward to:
• Continue my work with Chief Justice Leo Strine to revise and modernize our criminal sentencing laws as we’ve done over the past couple of years with a wide range of environmental crimes;
• Continue my work as chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Control Committee to preserve and protect Delaware’s fragile and scarred environment;
• Lend my experience and leadership to our state’s efforts to create jobs and grow our economy, while overcoming some tough financial challenges;
• Continue my tireless and passionate advocacy for you, my friends and neighbors in the 13th Senatorial District.
While I intend to continue my record of perfect attendance at regular Senate sessions and to keep up my community involvement, there may be times when my treatment will necessitate sending a member of our amazing Senate staff out to community meetings in my stead. They’ll give me full reports and will be able to reach out to me electronically on the spot if there’s something they think demands my immediate attention. Be assured that my resolve to serve you and my energy are undiminished.
In closing, I want to thank my friends for their well wishes and prayers of support.
More than anything, your support will be the thing that helps me beat this. And down the road, we’ll all get together for one heck of a victory party when I beat this disease.
I may be an old Air Force guy, but I’ve always loved the Navy SEALS creed: “I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength…to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”
Santa Claus was getting pictures at the Dover Mall with young children. He always asks the kids what they want for Christmas. He acknowledged hearing very strange requests over the years. But he reported to me recently about a very unusual request he got on Black Friday. A little boy who was 8 years old told Santa he only wanted one thing for Christmas. He wanted his mother to opt him out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Santa had never heard of such an odd thing before, so he asked the boy what it was. “I’m in 3rd grade Santa, and all they talk about is some test we have to take next Spring. All my teachers talk about it. And we have to take something called an intrum test after we come back from Christmas break. Every day teachers say ‘this could be on the test. Make sure you know it.’ I’m getting tired of it Santa. Nobody cares about my actual grades, and I’m a smart kid Santa.”
Santa asked the boy what “opting out” means? The boy said some parents actually told the school they didn’t want their kid taking the Smarter Balanced test. The school gave them a rough time, but the parents fought back. “If they can do it, can you make sure my mom does it too?” Santa pondered this for a moment. “I think,” Santa said, “That would be up to your Mom.” “Good, she is right over there,” the boy said and pointed to his mother. “Mom, can you come over here? Santa wants to ask you something!” the boy shouted.
The boy’s mother walked over and Santa said “Your son wants you to opt him out of the Smarter something test. It’s all he wants for Christmas.” The boy’s mother explained she had never heard of the test. “That’s cause this is the first year we take it Mom. I heard some teachers say it doesn’t actually mean anything and it only lets the state know how we are doing. And I heard something about some evil Psycho Metric guy.” The boy’s mother explained, “I will have to look into this.” The boy shouted “But I want you to opt me out!” The crowd heard the words “opt-out” and all of a sudden, parents were yelling “Opt him out! Opt him out!” Santa explained how he had to get to the next kid as the line to visit him was getting longer. “Let me make some calls on this! Can I call your mom about this when I get more information?” The boy’s mother gave Santa their phone number.
After a very long three days, Santa Claus dove into the subject of opt-out. He ran across this blog, so he gave me a call. I explained to Santa Claus how opt-out works and that it is a parental right. He asked me why schools fight it and want the kids to take a test that is bad for them. I told Santa that the schools get threats and they are intimidated by the Delaware Department of Education. I told him about House Bill 50, how some of the legislators like Jaques and Sokola tried to block it, how it passed the Delaware House and Senate, but then Governor Markell vetoed it. But I also explained how the House and Senate might override his veto when they come back to make laws. Santa laughed. “It sounds like someone should be called Senator So-coal-a!” I explained to Santa how kids did worse on this test than the one that came before it and all the nasty tricks the DOE was trying to come out with because of the test. Santa got very upset about the DOE and Secretary Godowsky blowing off the Accountability Framework Working Group’s recommendations about no harsh opt-out penalties for schools. “Sounds to me like this Secretary and these DOE people want schools to be punished for a parent’s decision. That isn’t honorable. I might have to order some more coal this year…”
Santa’s cheeks got very red as he became more flustered about the Smarter Balanced Assessment. “This just isn’t right! Now I am understanding why so many kids have looked different and sad the past few years. I thought this Common Core stuff would go away when they talked about all that nonsense with kids needing to compete with the kids in China. I go there every year, and most of those kids don’t even take those tests!” I told Santa how they got rid of that reason, and now it is so kids can be college and career ready! Santa laughed so hard I could hear his belly jiggling over the phone. “How in the world can a kid in 3rd grade, or even 8th grade be ‘college and career ready’? Kids need to play and have fun. School is important, don’t get me wrong, but there is so much other stuff that makes them grow up.”
Santa called the boy’s mother last night and had a long talk with her. She agreed that opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best choice for her son. That night, she wrote a letter to her son’s school opting her son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. This morning, she gave it to the principal and kept a copy for herself. She asked the principal to sign a piece of paper recognizing he received the letter. She said I could share it but for the sake of her son’s privacy to take out her name. It said:
I am letting you know that I am opting my son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that will be administered in 2016. I am requesting my son not be punished for my decision and that he is given instruction while the other children are taking the test. I understand schools have to give the test, but I also know this is a parent’s right and there is no law stating I can’t. I do not wish to have any meetings or calls about this. Please respect my decision.
The boy’s mom
Santa was very proud of the boy for having the courage to ask for something so simple. It gave him hope that other parents would see the wisdom in the boy and his mother’s decision. Santa doesn’t usually interfere with the workings of the people, but he thought in this case he should issue some type of proclamation about this whole opt-out thing. So he asked me to give the exclusive on his proclamation to which I happily agreed. So without further ado, here is Santa’s official stance on opt-out!
Gateway. Priority Schools. Smarter Balanced. Standards Based IEPs. Common Core. Personalized Learning. Rodel. Vision. Relay Graduate School. Teach For America. Governor Markell.
These are the ways Governor Markell, under the long-term strategic plans of Rodel, using the DOE as his shadow puppets, has systematically and methodically destroyed education as we know it in our state. Some of us know this, and others are still living in the haze.
Sometimes, to move forward, you have to look back. Last night, I journeyed back to last April. My family’s situation with my son’s former charter school was starting to end and we were laboriously working on an IEP for my son at his new public elementary school. But it felt like it wasn’t enough. I started to research what led to all this. I contacted a blogger named Kilroy, and we had many sidebar chats. One day, I emailed him and advised him I figured it all out: Rodel ran education in this state. They didn’t care what you or I thought, they had their vision, and to hell with anyone that got in their way.
We have allowed this to happen. Because we haven’t spoken as one voice. It’s hard being a special needs parent. We all know this. If it isn’t impacting my child, then we just don’t make the time to help. Well guess what, everything is impacting your child now. I’m sure a few weeks ago all the parents at Gateway thought they were secure. I’m sure last summer some of the parents at the Priority schools thought their children were in good hands. We have a standardized test coming up next Spring that a lot of our kids are rigorously prepped for every day. This test is so bad the company that made it doesn’t even know how to set proficiency levels. Our teachers are being held at bay, getting screwed over left and right, held with a gun to their head every day with the threat of lower pay and the future of their already low-paying job on the line. None of our schools are safe anymore. Our educators aren’t safe. And our children aren’t safe.
When I was chatting with Kilroy, he told me this state needs a unified special needs parent group. Like a PTA for special needs parents. As pieces, we can make some noise, ruffle some feathers, but at the end of the day nothing changes. As a whole, a large unified group, representing 13.5% of children in this state, we can make a difference. When one of our schools is threatened, we stand up. When one of our kids is being mistreated, we stand up. When legislation is introduced that can impact our kids, we stand up. This is the only way we can make true and lasting change in Delaware.
We can NOT be a part of a government group. Not PIC. Not GACEC. Not the DOE. Not the Delaware PTA. Or a PTO. Once you are in the matrix, you don’t leave. Don’t get me wrong, some individuals have made great changes to the system by being in these groups. Some have gone on to become legislators. That’s a good thing. However, for the services and supports we need now, we need each other. We can no longer rely on a Governor who really doesn’t care about what our kids need. Gateway has proven that numbers on a piece of paper are more important than our children’s needs.
I would like to see this group start in January 2015. Or sooner. We can all go to the public comment meeting for Gateway on December 10th at the Delaware DOE. They need our support. We can protest the priority schools. Because the state DOE has said nothing about the needs of those special needs children. It hasn’t even been a part of the conversation.
Please leave comment and let’s start planning together. This isn’t impossible. It only takes a few people to unite and start spreading the word. Reading this and agreeing is not enough. Many of us have had our differences. So we talk about them, we hash them out. Maybe you think your kid is doing fine and everything is alright. Great, let’s talk and see if that’s really the case. We cannot live in a bubble anymore. Because if you think for one minute all of this Common Core and standardized testing is going to lead to a greater future for your child, you are very wrong.