18 Who Will Make An Impact In 2018: Bill Bush

The name is familiar to folks associated with Legislative Hall or Caesar Rodney’s Board of Education.  Bill Bush filed to run for Trey Paradee’s seat in the 29th Representative district.  Bush, who serves as a House of Representatives attorney, also has his own law firm.  As well, he is the Vice-President of the Caesar Rodney School District Board of Education.  Can the Democrat win?

He has no challengers… yet!  I expect that to change in the coming months.  Paradee usually had challengers for this seat so I don’t expect anything different this time.  This is a seat that typically goes blue.  Bush has a lot of clout in Dover and at Legislative Hall as a House Attorney.  But many folks don’t want to see another “insider” at Legislative Hall and Dover Republicans are hungry for change.  The 29th district includes parts of Wyoming, Dover, and Smyrna.

I’ve seen him in action down there.  He knows his stuff and what they can and can’t do.  I don’t always agree with him 100%, such as what happened with the opt out veto override.  The way it all went down could have and should have been handled differently from a legal perspective.  When State Rep. John Kowalko talked to Bush about bringing it up again at the end of the 148th General Assembly, it was found the procedural rules for the override should have been handled differently. But at the end of the day, there was no way in hell Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf was going to let Kowalko do anything with it.

From Caesar Rodney’s website:

William Bush is the vice president for the Caesar Rodney School Board. He and his wife Carrie reside in Wyoming and have three children. Mr. Bush received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Finance from the University of Delaware and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Widener University School of Law. He currently works as an attorney in private practice.

 

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16 Who Defined 2016: Dr. Steven Godowsky

Dr. Steven Godowsky had quite a year as the Delaware Secretary of Education!  As he sails off to distant shores (across the canal), away from the Townsend Building in Dover, Delaware, let’s look back on 2016.  And stay tuned for the end of this article where I may or may not reveal a VERY BIG secret about Godowsky.

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Continue reading “16 Who Defined 2016: Dr. Steven Godowsky”

Delaware DOE Ignored Allegations Of SAT Fraud & Deception

Manuel Alfaro, the former College Board employee, contacted several state departments of education to inform them of potential fraud coming from the College Board with the restructured SAT.  Yesterday, Alfaro’s home was raided by the FBI due to the College Board claiming Alfaro published confidential information according to an article from Breitbart.

In May, Alfaro wrote to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, along with six other state Secretaries.  When he didn’t hear back from any of them, he posted an open letter on his LinkedIn account on Sunday.  He wrote:

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

But it gets worse…

On May 7, 2016, I wrote a letter to the heads of the Department of Education in CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH to let them know that the College Board has committed global fraud against their states and the federal government. In that letter, I offered to meet with their legal teams to expose the fraud. Instead of meeting with me (or asking me for additional information), they approached the College Board about my statements and allegations.

The Delaware Department of Education announced in May 2015 that the SAT was going to become realigned for the Common Core.  As juniors in the state opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that Spring, Secretary Godowsky and Governor Markell replaced the Smarter Balanced Assessment with the new SAT for the 2015-2016 school year.  Students in Delaware already had the test paid for them by the state, but this made the SAT the official state assessment for high school juniors.  Markell and Godowsky acted unilaterally on this with no legislation or executive order backing this up.  Many legislators changed their mind on the veto override because of this announcement on 12/31/15.

Alfaro appears to be under a lot of pressure from his former employer.  It remains to be seen if he will be granted whistle-blower protection or if the College Board will prosecute him in this matter.  In the same article linked above, it mentions a Reuters article from Friday which talks about the different states response to Alfaro’s allegations.  Delaware was not one of them.

A New Hampshire official said the state had no immediate comment. Officials in Delaware, Illinois and Maine didn’t respond to requests for comment.

But the matter has caught the attention of one member of Congress according to the Reuters article.

A member of Congress, meanwhile, has asked federal regulators to look into Alfaro’s allegations. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, has “been in touch with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” according to a July 28 letter she wrote to Alfaro.

I alleged back in January this was done to prevent high school juniors from opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  At one school in the Red Clay Consolidated school district, 60% of students were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment by their parents.  Including Delaware State Representative Kim Williams’ son which she announced on social media.  It appeared to be a very rushed decision by Godowsky and Markell.  In early November last year, the U.S. Department of Education issued warning letters to states with high opt out numbers.  In January, the Delaware House of Representatives failed to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, an opt out law that passed the House and Senate with a massive majority earlier in 2015.

I find it interesting this matter was not brought up by Secretary Godowsky or the State Board of Education last month when they discussed the SAT results and the scoring method for the test.  In my opinion, the College Board is trying to protect themselves in a massive cover-up and will prosecute Alfaro to prevent this matter from moving forward.  I believe Alfaro should be granted whistle-blower protection and an investigation needs to take place immediately.  As well, all the states involved with their SAT decisions need to come clean if they knew anything about this potential fraud.

Why does Delaware always come up in these kind of matters?  As I wrote last week, Delaware is the capital of corporate education reform.  Governor Markell has been the biggest proponent of every single bad education idea that has come out since he took office in January, 2009.  This decision with the SAT saved many “high-performing” high schools in Delaware from devastating participation rate numbers, including Newark Charter School, Charter School of Wilmington, Conrad, and Cab Calloway, and the vocational school districts in Delaware which only have high schools.  Markell has been pumping them up with his incessant Pathways To Prosperity declarations for all high schools.  With the highly controversial charter school payments story still unfolding, it is more than obvious there are levels of corruption and deceit at extremely high levels at the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Governor Markell’s office.

 

 

Breaking News: Freire Charter School Gave Students A’s On Final Exams If Parents Didn’t Opt Them Out

At least five students at Freire Charter School in Wilmington were given A’s on their final examinations in exchange for their parents not opting them out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this spring.  One parent was notified by the school that the Delaware Department of Education claimed all schools had to have a participation rate of 100%.  When the parent challenged them on the federal and state laws which require 95% participation, the school agreed on that figure.  They also told the parent the school was already under the 95% participation rate threshold.  All five parents agreed to this deal.  The school lured parents who wanted to prevent parents from opting their child out into this “deal” with false pretenses.  Furthermore, the students didn’t even take their final exams but they were automatically given A’s because of this.

Can someone please tell me when this madness is going to stop?  Aside from all the bullying issues at this “zero tolerance” school, we now have test fraud?  How much does the Delaware Department of Education know about this?  If they don’t, what are they going to do about it?  This is exactly why the veto on House Bill 50 needed to have the override by the Delaware General Assembly.  But our legislators were too scared to tick off the “education Governor” and do the right thing for parents.  Now we have this going on.  No one in Legislative Hall who voted no on the fake “suspension of rules” to bring the override to a vote probably doesn’t care that our schools play games like this.  How many situations like this have played out in other Delaware charters or districts?  I would call for the Delaware Department of Education and the Delaware State Board of Education to render all scores from the Spring 2016 Smarter Balanced Assessment as invalid due to corruption and fraud.  We don’t know how many students and parents were given choices like this.  And the results are meaningless.

One parent notified me the only reason she didn’t opt her child out, even though this deal was offered, was because she was choicing their child out of Freire into another district.  That district had a requirement for Smarter Balanced results in order for the student to enter their honors program.  While I may not agree with that requirement from the other district, it is their right to require it until a law is set in stone for them not to.  But Freire proceeded to not have the student take the final exam and gave the student an A for both their Math and English/Language Arts final exams.  Also against policy with the Delaware DOE, parents and students were given the scores when they were “encumbered” which means they couldn’t reveal them at that point.  I would have to imagine no schools are able to give out this information until the Delaware State Board of Education discusses them at their board meeting in two days.  In fact, scores aren’t even going out to

As for Freire, are you trying to send the message that the Smarter Balanced Assessment is more important than a parent’s Constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment?  That it is okay, from a “zero tolerance” school to trick parents and then deliver false scores on final exams to prevent them from exercising that right?  Parents chose to send their child to your school because they believed in your “zero tolerance” edicts.  While I don’t agree with zero tolerance, it was also a parent’s right to make that choice.  But since you have no interest in applying “zero tolerance” to your own school,  I would strongly suggest the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office immediately conducts a thorough investigation into these allegations through the formal review process.  For a school that hasn’t even been open a year and Governor Markell attended your ribbon-cutting ceremony, these egregious actions are unconscionable.  This is why these standardized tests bring out the worst in schools.

I would also urge our General Assembly, upon reconvening on January 7th, 2017, to immediately draft legislation in regards to opt out, similar to House Bill 50, and also addressing immediate consequences for schools that use lies and false pretenses toward parents and students have anyone involved in those situations immediately terminated and criminal charges pressed against them.  And if a new Governor should veto such legislation, I would expect an immediate override of that veto.  Those who voted no on January 14th, 2016: this is on you!  Please don’t play political games for political favors when you aren’t the ones who are being toyed with by those who should know better.

If any other Delaware parent out there, at any charter school or district was offered similar “deals” or promises in exchange for not opting your child out, I can be reached at kevino3670@yahoo.com and I give you my assurance all will be confidential.  Thank you.

 

Exclusive: Secretary Godowsky’s Willful Misconduct Against A General Assembly Directive

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Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky has violated a directive issued to him by the law-making body of the State of Delaware, the Delaware General Assembly. Continue reading “Exclusive: Secretary Godowsky’s Willful Misconduct Against A General Assembly Directive”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I urge your continued resolve.

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

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

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

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

A Time For Promises Fulfilled And A Restoration Of Honor: The General Assembly’s True Test This Week

The worst time I ever had blogging was last January.  Once I heard the Governor was rounding up his posse of legislators to vote no on the override of his veto on House Bill 50, I knew it wasn’t going to happen.  There were events that day I didn’t count on, but they happened.  But it is time for State Rep. Mike Ramone to live up to the promise he made to me that day.

To give a quick refresher, the Delaware House and Senate passed House Bill 50 last year, a parent opt out bill honoring their right and preventing schools from giving parents a hard time.  Governor Markell vetoed the bill.  On the third day the General Assembly was back in session this year, State Rep. John Kowalko brought HB50 back.  But first, a suspension of rules had to happen to get it on the agenda for a full House vote.  The majority of the legislators voted no on the suspension of rules.  For whatever reason, many of them didn’t want to vote on overriding the veto.  To make matters worse, many House Republicans introduced new opt out legislation.  One was a House Resolution, which passed, directing Secretary Godowsky to come up with uniform policies for opt out.  This report was due by May 1st.   Another was a bill to remove opt out from any accountability ratings.  The accountability bill was never heard from the House Education Committee.

Secretary Godowsky did honor the resolution.  I’ve heard two different stories with this report.  One was that it was submitted to State Rep. Joe Miro, the sponsor of the resolution.  The other was that it was submitted to State Rep. Earl Jaques, who is also the Chair of the House Education Committee.  That would mean Jaques has been sitting on this for well over a month and a half with no intention of doing anything with it.  Either way, this was never made public.  Miro told me well over a month ago the report was “vanilla”, meaning it didn’t do anything.  I’m not sure what the real story is, but I don’t really care.  Nothing happened with either of the bills the House Republicans introduced.  And now it is time for State Rep. Mike Ramone to keep his word.  On January 14th, when the House refused to suspend the rules, Ramone promised me they would bring back House Bill 50 if nothing happened with the new legislation they introduced that day.  Guess what Ramone?  Nothing happened.  And I don’t want to hear one word about next January.  You made a deal with me and I expect you to honor it.  There were enough people that overheard you say this.  Now only Kowalko can put forth a suspension of rules for it as the bill’s sponsor in the House.  But I expect Ramone and the House Republicans to fully support the suspension of rules and the override of the veto.  House Bill 50 is on the ready list.  But this can happen.  It has to.  It is time.  There is no more House Bill 50 after June 30th.

The Senate can’t vote on an override of a veto on the same day, but I hope if the House does the right thing, the Senate will have it up for a vote the next day.  If not, I fully hope Senator Dave Lawson will request a suspension of rules as the Senate co-sponsor of the bill.  I’ve waited patiently, along with countless other parents, for our General Assembly to do the right thing here.  They unanimously passed a bill in the House that would make the Smarter Balanced an option in teacher evaluations.  This is it General Assembly.  You have three days to do this.  Elections are coming up for a lot of you.  Parents and teachers are a large portion of your voters.  Are you really going to keep disrespecting parents like this?  This is your chance to make up for past mistakes.  It’s up to you.  The only reason the Delaware PTA isn’t pushing this is because they were cut off at the knees by National PTA.  But trust me, the people still want this.  All you have to do is truly listen.

 

Kowalko Talks House Bill 50, Opt Out, & The Will Of The People On Delaware Way With Larry Mendte

Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko appeared on “The Delaware Way” with host Larry Mendte last week to discuss parent opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and  the veto override of House Bill 50 and the bill’s chances.  Citing the bill sits on the House Ready List, Kowalko blamed State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, the Delaware Speaker of the House, for letting the bill just sit there.  Even Mendte said polling in the state suggests the people overwhelmingly want this bill.  Kowalko felt it wasn’t right for the Governor to usurp the will of the people and the General Assembly with his veto.

Appoquinimink Taking The Hard Line On Opt Out! General Assembly, You Could Have Stopped This…

An Appoquinimink parent just told me they received the Appo opt out threat letter I wrote about last year.  Two parents from Appo have informed me their child would not receive academic instruction when their peers took the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The Delaware General Assembly could have stopped this nonsense in January by overriding Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  Now they are going to have to deal with ticked off parents.  I personally sent each and every one of them an email letting them know this would happen.  The vast majority of the Delaware House of Representatives ignored this.

One parent was very confused by the wording of the letter and was very upset.  Is this really a repeat of last year?  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, I demand you put House Bill 50 off of the ready list and let the Delaware House give it a vote.  Let’s see how these “representatives of the people” vote when they can’t hide behind a suspension of rules!

Capital’s Board Of Education’s House Bill 50 Veto Override Letter To Legislators Is Amazing!!!!!

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Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: If John or Jane have to worry about if there is going to be food on the table for dinner tonight, worry about if they will have a roof over their head, or worry about being hit by a stray bullet within their neighborhoods, the self-actualization required to succeed on these tests, or for that matter, school, is made even more difficult for these students.  This translates into schools that service large high-need populations facing a difficult climb to reach accountability targets.

I was curious why the Capital School District Board of Education did not pass an official policy on opt-out the way Christina and Red Clay did.  They were the first Delaware school board to pass a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of high-stakes state assessments way before anyone else did, back in October 2014.  The answer to that question is included in the below letter.  It was introduced at their January meeting and will be voted on at their meeting next Wednesday, February 17th.  This is the best letter I think I’ve ever seen written about opt-out, anywhere!  And I have seen some awesome letters!  Kudos to Board President Matt Lindell, Vice-President Sean Christiansen, John Martin, Nauleen Perry, and Ralph Taylor for this letter that says more about Delaware education than anything I have seen in a long time!  Thank you!

SAT Development Shows Delaware DOE & Markell Have No Clue What They Are Doing, Opt-Out Has Them Flustered

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The Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell are finding the very traps they set to stop the opt-out movement are coming back to bite them in the ass.  Irony is an awesome thing sometimes.  At the beginning of 2015, the DOE was riding high.  They thought they had Christina and Red Clay in their crosshairs, the Smarter Balanced Assessment was coming out, and they were winning.  A funny thing happened on the way to their victory lap.  Parents.  They said no to the almighty DOE and Markell.  This set off a litany of announcements from the DOE and Markell.

The Governor announced the Assessment Inventory as opt-out was gaining a lot of traction.  He foolishly believed that parents wouldn’t opt-out if they just reduced the amount of tests students take.  In April, the DOE and Markell announced University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and Wilmington University were going to accept Smarter Balanced scores in lieu of students taking remedial classes.  Meanwhile, the SAT was retooled to align with Common Core.  In December, the Governor and Secretary Godowsky announced the SAT would replace Smarter Balanced for high school juniors, which killed the press announcement in April about Smarter Balanced.  Yesterday, https://delawarefirststate.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/university-of-de-faculty-senate-will-vote-on-an-admission-requirement-making-sat-scores-optional/ revealed the University of Delaware will be voting on whether or not to make SAT scores a factor in their admission process.  Several universities around the USA have already cut the SAT out entirely.

This whole experiment of Governor Markell’s to try to squelch the opt-out movement has been a miserable failure.  It was so obvious to myself and others that each move he was making was from a clumsy and defensive posture against parents.  In a way, his whole assessment inventory plan helped to set up a national argument against too much testing.  As a result of that, Delaware is now postponing their new science and social studies assessments because of the whole assessment inventory.  Another example of “be careful what you wish for”.  These were the unintended consequences of opt-out.  The DOE and Markell looking like fools on the Delaware stage.  By switching from the Smarter Balanced to SAT, the “best test Delaware ever made” has now become much less than what Markell professed it to be.  And now the SAT, with all the insanity the College Board has gone through switching the test to Smarter Balanced Junior, is redundant as well.

Meanwhile, parents are still opting their kids out of Smarter Balanced and there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.  The 148th General Assembly still has a shot at redemption with parents by allowing a vote for the veto override of House Bill 50.  Will Schwartzkopf continue to ride the Markell train that is about to derail and fly off a cliff?  Or will he do the right thing and put it up for a vote?  In the meantime, we can put the pressure on Schwartzkopf by gaining over 20,000 signatures on the Change.org petition: https://www.change.org/p/delaware-speaker-of-the-house-pete-schwartzkopf-put-hb50-on-the-agenda-for-a-full-house-vote-on-the-veto-override

House Bill 50 Is Not Dead! Sign The Petition To Pete Schwartzkopf For A Full House Vote On The Veto Override

SchwartzkopfPetition

Despite what others have said, House Bill 50, the opt-out legislation in Delaware, is not dead.  It isn’t finished.  It is merely hiding in Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf’s desk drawer.  It is on the ready list, but Schwartzkopf has not put it on the agenda for a full House vote.  What is he afraid of?  That the House and Senate will pass the veto override?  That the lame-duck Governor Markell will be upset if his veto is overturned?  We the people demand House Bill 50 gets a full vote for the veto override in the Delaware House and Senate.

I am giving this petition a long time to breathe because the General Assembly doesn’t return until March 8th.  I need all your help to make this happen.  I need you to share this petition with every single person you know in Delaware.  I want Schwartzkopf to see this with no less than 20,000 signatures from Delaware citizens.  We have a month to make this happen! Let’s Do It!!!!! To go to the Change.org petition, please click the link:

Pete Schwartzkopf: Put HB50 On The Agenda For A Full House Vote On The Veto Override!

State Rep. Joe Miro : Doesn’t Care About Parental Rights But Loves Big Business

Do you trust Secretary Godowsky?

This question was posed to me yesterday after the Delaware House of Representatives voted down the suspension of rules on the veto override of House Bill 50.  Asked by State Rep. Joe Miro, I immediately responded: “I’m sure he’s a nice person, but it doesn’t matter who holds that title.  Santa Claus could be the Secretary of Education, but they would still be a puppet to Governor Markell.”

Miro

The latest trumpeter to actually think they were instrumental in Mark Murphy’s “resignation” is Miro.  His warped belief that most legislators voted in favor of House Bill 50 last spring as a protest of Mark Murphy is filled with delusions of grandeur.  If he is correct, than I would like the names of all those legislators who voted yes for a bill supporting student and parent rights.  Put your money where your mouth is Joe…

Meanwhile, the Delaware House Republicans issued their latest weekly newsletter with some very interesting thoughts in here, which I will be redlining in the Transparent Christina tradition.

Veto Stands on Opt-Out Bill, but Issue Moves Forward 
with New Proposals

An effort to override Gov. Jack Markell’s veto of a bill that sought to codify parents’ right to remove their children from academic assessment testing failed in the House of Representatives Thursday.

Because of cowards like Bolden, Brady, Briggs-King, Carson, Dukes, Gray, Heffernan, Hudson, Jaques, J. Johnson, Q. Johnson, Kenton, Longhurst, Miro, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Outten, Peterman, Potter, D. Short, Smith, Smyk, Viola, Wilson, Yearick, and Schwartzkopf.  And Ramone, can’t forget the cowardly not voting.

Last July, the governor vetoed House Bill 50, as amended.  The measure sought to allow parents and guardians to opt their children out of the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment and any district-level assessment.

Did you people even read the bill?  “Sought to allow” is a complete lie and you know it.  In the previous paragraph you used the word “codify“.  It can’t be both.  This intentional misuse of the wording in the bill serves to demean parents even more than most of you did yesterday, with the exception of three who truly knew better than the rest of you.  Or did they?  More on that later.

In vetoing the bill, the governor said the legislation would weaken “the only objective tool we have to understand whether our children are learning and our schools are improving.”

The only “tool” I see is the one talking in that last sentence.

Opponents of the bill, including the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, also noted the legislation could have resulted in the potential loss of millions of dollars of federal education funding if enough children refused to take the test.

Yes, let’s quote the Chamber of Commerce but absolutely no parents.  It shows where the House Republicans loyalties lie.  Can’t wait to see the campaign donor lists for ALL of you in the next eight months…

Teachers’ and parents’ groups had supported the bill citing classroom time lost to testing; increased stress on students and teachers; and questions about its usefulness in helping educators identify and address students’ needs.

And yet absolutely nothing about the bullying, intimidation, and pressure put on parents about this test, and the repercussions inflicted on students and parents.  That must not have been discussed at all.  Maybe if any of you bothered to go to the rally yesterday to hear parents speak instead of trying to get your crappy legislation going you would have realized the difference between reality and fantasy.

As promised last week, House Bill 50’s prime sponsor, State Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, attempted to override the veto.  The two-step process first required a vote on a motion to bring the bill to the House floor.  That would have been followed by the override vote.

But you were too weak to allow that to happen.  So you used the cowards way out, even though many of you did the complete opposite three hours later over a corporate tax bill.  Guess that worked out well for you… paging big business!

Despite the bill getting overwhelming support last year, few legislators appeared to relish the prospect of a veto override attempt and its potential for damaging relations between the executive and legislative branches.  The motion to suspend rules failed on a vote of 13 to 26, with one absent and one not voting.

Here is where you start to lose it.  Because all who voted no didn’t think about their constituents at all, only how it made YOU look to the Governor.  Pathetic.  But not as bad as what comes next…

State Rep. Joe Miro, R-Pike Creek, said many lawmakers initially voted for House Bill 50 last year as a means of expressing their displeasure with then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  Sec. Murphy announced his resignation in August and was replaced last fall.

So you won’t override a veto of a bill YOU passed in your supposed effort to make Mark Murphy look bad, which in a very real sense, would cause “potential damaging relations between the executive and legislative branches”, but then you won’t vote on the override of the veto of that bill cause you don’t want to tick off Jack Markell?  Are you out of your mind Miro?  You sound like a complete hypocrite.  What color is the sky in your world?

Still, many of the factors that inspired the bill remained and lawmakers moved quickly on Thursday to introduce new legislation to address those issues: House Resolution 22 and House Bill 243.

But in your infinite wisdom none of you thought about actually sitting down with Rep. Kowalko or Senator Lawson (a member of your own party mind you) a year ago to discuss those issues?  Instead you wait until the day of a veto override to be Superman to Lex Luthor (I knew Markell reminded me of someone)?  We know what your efforts entailed, but you have more to say on it, so I will comment then.

The former measure calls for the new Secretary of Education to propose legislative options for implementing a uniform process for notifying parents of their existing right to opt their children out of testing and a standard procedure for accomplishing it.  The resolution also makes clear any such option would prohibit education officials from penalizing any student opting-out.

The two key words in this paragraph are “calls” and “option“.  I think most parents know of their “existing right to opt their children out of testing“.  So if House Bill 50 was accused of “allowing parents to opt-out“, what the hell does your Resolution say?  We are going to make sure they know and we will even mail it to them.  And once again, a resolution is not enforceable which is why you had to use the words “calls” and “option“.  Nowhere are the words “shall“, “mandates” and “law” used.  And what are “legislative options“?  Aren’t you clowns the ones people elect to come up with “legislative options“?  And Godowsky’s reaction to this?  “We will have to take a look at that resolution.”  How did your Hail Mary pass work out for you?

The latter measure would hold harmless from state action any school that has more than five percent of its students opting-out of an assessment.  Current state and federal laws call for potential sanctions against schools with less than 95 percent of their students taking certain assessments.  The proposed bill would not have any impact on federal repercussions from falling below the participation threshold.

Yeah, screw the parents but save the schools.  What are these state sanctions you speak of?  Cause last I looked and spent a considerable amount of time investigating, any sanctions were federally driven through ESEA flexibility waivers.  That our ass-kissing DOE and State Board caved on, which were based on federal “guidance” that was not congressionally approved or tied to existing law.  The Every Student Succeeds Act indicates states decide on these things, not the feds.  But the feds are trying to threaten funding cuts again over opt-out with no enforceable means of doing so.  Are you sure your Republican House attorney looked at this?

On Thursday, both measures were garnering broad bipartisan support and are expected to quickly move forward.

Passing an unenforceable resolution means as much as the hair on Jack Markell’s head!  And this “broad bipartisan support“… would that be with the House Democrats who also screwed parents over?  Bolden, Brady, Carson, Heffernan, Jaques, J. Johnson, Q. Johnson, Longhurst, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Potter, Smith, Viola and Schwartzkopf?  Added with the Repubs who voted no to student rights if they are opted out?  Briggs-King, Dukes, Gray, Hudson, Kenton, Miro, Outten, Peterman, D. Short, Smyk, Wilson & Yearick?  And the most cowardly of all, Rep. Ramone who actually thought not voting would prevent the wrath of parents and bloggers everywhere?  And for that matter, I saw this legislation RIGHT after the vote.  I was given copies of it in the Republican office.  It already had Reps. Spiegelman and Hensley on it.  Which means the attempt to “file it” before the vote on the suspension of rules would show Reps Spiegelman and Hensley already signed onto it.  But they still voted yes on the suspension of rules knowing other members of their party were going to vote no based on legislation they already signed onto?  Or was the broad bi-partisan support the deal you guys made with the Governor for the corporate tax bill in return for your Judas votes?  Sorry, the only broad bi-partisan support I see is the lack of support two thirds of our General Assembly provided to students and parents yesterday.  Possibly higher due to this latest find…

I have to say, I was really hoping to play my daily pin the tail on the state rep on one of the House Democrats who voted no on the suspension of rules, but after reading this House Republican newsletter, I really couldn’t resist.  Thank you Rep. Joe Miro, for making it easy!

State Rep. Briggs-King : The Serial Flipper For Student & Parental Rights

BriggsKing

In keeping to my word in my December 29th article, I need to show how one State Representative in Delaware completely went back on her word to me on the House Bill 50 Veto Override.  She can sit there and say she never votes yes on a suspension of rules, but I find that to be completely irrelevant since she plotted behind the scenes with the ridiculous alternatives to House Bill 50.

On January 1st, Rep. Briggs-King responded to my request for support on the veto override, knowing it would be made public.

From: “BriggsKing, Ruth (LegHall)” <Ruth.BriggsKing@state.de.us> To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com> Sent: Friday, January 1, 2016 7:21 PM Subject: Re: House Bill 50 Veto Override

I supported the original legislation and my position is firm.  I will not waiver

Thanks

Ruth 

Ruth. Sent from my iPhone

*Bolded for emphasis

I graciously thanked her for her support:

On Jan 1, 2016, at 7:28 PM, Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com> wrote:

Ruth,

Thank you very much for your support!  It is much appreciated!  Happy New Year, and I have a funny feeling you will be seeing me lurking around Legislative Hall in the next six months.  Take care,

Kevin

Not even a week later, she did a complete 180 degree turnaround based on the SAT announcement.  So much for a firm position she would not waiver from…

From: “BriggsKing, Ruth (LegHall)” <Ruth.BriggsKing@state.de.us> To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com> Sent: Friday, January 7, 2016 6:29PM Subject: Re: House Bill 50 Veto Override

Kevin

As you can imagine there has been much activity regarding the override this week. I am pleased with the new Secretary of education as well as the recent announcement of dropping the smarter balance test and using the SAT for juniors

I want you to know I’m considering the options on this potential veto.

Thanks

Ruth 

Ruth. Sent from my iPhone

*bolded for emphasis

Two emails, two different positions, one flip, one result.  Keep in mind Rep. Briggs-King originally said “not voting” on the suspension of rules for House Bill 50 yesterday.  And then, since she is early in the alphabet and upon hearing most of her Republican Housemates voting no, she changed her “not voting” to “no”.  Let us also keep in mind she voted yes for House Bill 50 twice last spring.  She is a serial flipper…

For any opponent choosing to run against Rep. Briggs-King this year, I will gladly forward you the actual email on this.

 

Delaware PTA, House Bill 50, House Resolution 22, House Bill 243: What Happened Today

Chaos.  There is no other word for it.  The rally went great, we got a good turnout, and there was a lot of media there.  By the time Rep. Kowalko brought the suspension of rules motion to the floor, I had an ominous feeling.  Too many of the reps, who know who I am, were not looking at me.  The suspension of the rules was seconded, and a voice vote was called.  13 yes, 26 no, 1 no vote, and 1 absent.  I can say Rep. Bennett, who was absent, reached out to me a couple weeks ago giving her support for this.  Unfortunately she was not able to attend today.

State Rep. Byron Short gave a long talk about standardized testing and how he wants a valid look at what we are doing with state assessments.  He indicated this last Spring, but he felt he wasn’t heard.  Short was NOT talking about the assessment inventory currently going on, but the state assessment.

State Rep. Debbie Hudson indicated she had brought two bills to be filed regarding opt-out, but they were not filed before today’s session.  She indicated that they had “wasted their time” on House Bill 50.  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf indicated the bills would be filed today.  Rep. Kowalko indicated he wanted House Bill 50 put on the ready list.  This means it would come to a full House vote… if Schwartzkopf puts it on the agenda.  If anyone wants to know what this means, Kilroy got Hudson to introduce legislation in the 147th AND 148th General Assembly.  Both times it went out of the education committee, but Schwartzkopf NEVER put it out for a full House vote.

I made a point to thank as many of the legislators who voted yes on the suspension of rules that I could.  I went up to Rep. Hudson and told her flat-out, “I’ll be sure to tell my son who was physically assaulted nine times after I opted him out that you thought this was a worthless bill.”  She came up to me and Yvonne Johnson, Teri Hodges, and Ashley Sabo and indicated she wanted to show us the new bills.  As we ventured down into the Republican office, I had a bad feeling in my stomach again.  This feeling was soon realized when State Rep. Mike Ramone, with a huge smile, showed me House Resolution #22.

While this certainly looks good, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, a House Resolution in Delaware is not enforceable and it is only passed by one chamber.  So while it looks like the answer, I knew it was not.  Then I was given a copy of the as-yet unnumbered House Bill 243.

HB243

Again, it looks great and it stops the DOE from implementing opt-out penalties against schools on the Delaware School Success Framework, or the school report card.  Fantastic!  NOT!  Here is the fatal flaw.  The DOE already submitted their ESEA waiver at the end of November.  They will most likely get that back in the next few weeks.  That is then tied to Federal Law, ESEA, which does not expire until the end of this year.

So the unenforceable House Resolution and the bill that would get tied up in education committees and protects schools more than parents and students, is not a win at all.  I don’t view either of these as good solutions to House Bill 50.  But the very bizarre nature of today is yet to come.  While all this is going on, there was a corporate tax bill introduced by Valerie Longhurst the other day.  It gets fast-tracked out of the appropriations committee, but it still requires a suspension of rules to get to a vote today.  Now this is a bill, who many legislators told me, would NEVER be introduced by a Democrat.  Longhurst is a Democrat.  Longhurst is very loyal to the Governor, who suggested this last week.  So it is more than obvious this bill is coming from Governor Markell.

As the legislators were in caucus discussing all of this I’m sure, I sat with the PTA and legislators slowly drifted out.  The Republicans two bills were talked about, and originally Reps. Williams and Kowalko were willing to be co-sponsors on it.  However, two other legislators informed us the House Resolution does nothing, and the House Bill does nothing for parents.  It protects the schools.  As well, without support from the Senate, House Resolution #22 is just a piece of paper.  To get something with strong support from both sides that would not require the Governor’s signature and is enforceable would be a concurrent resolution.  Legislative Hall is a funny place.  If you are at the right place, at the right time, you can hear people talking.  There are enough columns and stairs and hallways on the first floor of that building.  I heard folks talking about HB50.  And HB235.  And how the Republicans will get that.  It is more than obvious there was a deal made.  Most likely from Governor Markell himself.

Back to legislative session.  Secretary Godowsky, Susan Haberstroh (from the DOE), Lindsay O’Mara (Markell’s Education Policy Advisor), and State Rep. Earl Jaques are huddled around each other.  To be a fly on that wall!  I made a point to talk to Rep. Charles Potter about House Bill 56, the charter school “freeze” bill where no new applications for charters in Wilmington could be submitted until the state figured out what to do with all this transition.  I advised him of the Wilmington charters that are submitting modifications to increase their enrollment and add grades.  He said he would take a look at that.  House Resolution #22 was introduced and floated around to the legislators.  Rep. Joe Miro is the primary sponsor.  Which told me the House Republicans behind this were still going through with their idea.  Schwartzkopf said House Bill 50 is now on the ready list.  But once again, the ready list can either be a full House vote or the limbo list like Kilroy’s bills.  State Rep. Stephanie Bolden talked about House Joint Resolution #10 which is a bill whereby Delaware officially apologizes for slavery.  I fully support that bill, however the discussion that ensued from some legislators, especially the one who talked about honoring the rights of people and the other who talked about the Bible and scripture, you know, the book that actually does go into parental rights quite a bit, I found it all to be a little hypocritical given their earlier votes.  After that ended (which passed), House Bill 235 came up.  The corporate tax bill.  The suspension of rules was put forth by Longhurst, and seconded by a few voices in the chamber.  Kowalko asked for a roll call.  And it came, numerous yes votes.  Many who VOTED NO ON THE SUSPENSION OF RULES FOR HOUSE BILL 50.  I kept track of all of them and published it right away.  Aside from the one Yearick vote I messed up, they are all here.  As I was getting ready to walk out the door, Rep. Mike Ramone whispered to me about how Kowalko goes on and on and their bills are better.  I whispered back to him, “I don’t trust any of you.”  As I walked out of Legislative Hall today, with House Bill 50 in limbo, crappy bills trying to take its place from Republicans so desperate not to get publicly thrashed over their vote today they would thrown anything to the wall to see if it sticks, a clear indication of who in the Delaware House cares an iota about parents and who doesn’t, and knowing the PTA would support these upcoming bills, I just smiled.

After a nice dinner with my wife and son and a trip to Toys R Us, I came home to a billion Facebook notifications, tons of emails, and knowing I had to write this.  House Resolution #22 passed after I left.  So did House Bill 235.  The Delaware PTA issued a statement on today’s events, which once again, looks good to read…

All Is Not Lost With The Parent Opt-Out- Discussion Still On The Table

It is important to remember that we had 3 primary goals with HB 50:

  1. Protections in place for parents that chose to opt their student(s) out of the state assessment
  2. Alternate academic instruction for students not taking the assessment
  3. A clear and consistent opt out process implemented statewide

Even with all the events that took place today at Legislative Hall, we are still primed to meet those goals, and it is looking like that is going to happen! Interestingly enough, we spoke with enough legislators today to see that they are definitely not supporting the Governor’s agenda and firmly believe that parents and schools should be protected during the opt out process.

As a recap to the events today at Legislative Hall, the House voted against a suspension of House rules on HB 50. While we are disappointed in our legislator’s actions, we do not see this as a loss. After conversations with multiple legislators with regards to their vote, we were informed that if HB 50 and been voted down under a suspension of the House Rules, the bill would have been dead. Given the mood in Legislative Hall today, it is likely that the bill would not have passed. HB 50 has been placed on the House Ready list.

In an unexpected turn of events, the House Republicans informed us of their intent to introduce legislation that would prohibit the state from using participation rates against a school or district. Delaware PTA supports this. The bill has been filed as HB 243. (See Below)

They also introduced a Resolution that prohibits schools and/or districts from penalizing students/parents from opting out. In addition, it requests that the Department of Education develop several options that outline a uniform opt out process. (See Below). Although a Resolution cannot mandate action from the Delaware Department of Education, Representatives Miro and Jaques both confirmed that they had spoken with interim Secretary of Education Dr. Godowsky and that he has committed to following the resolution and developing several options for a statewide process on parent opt out. In addition, our Vice President of Advocacy spoke with Dr. Godowsky to request parent input on the development of these options. We were informed that even though the Secretary cannot be compelled to act under this resolution, he has indicated that he will do so and he has the authority to mandate compliance from the schools/districts.

Everyone should be very proud of the energy that they put into advocating for parent rights, but our work is not done. We have never seen so many parents and teachers come together on a single issue as we have with the Parent Opt Out. We realize that sometimes compromise is necessary to achieve the ultimate goal. Our goal is to ensure that neither schools nor districts can send threatening letters to parents choosing to opt their child out of the assessment. We want to make sure that every district respects a parent’s decision and that they clearly communicate the parent’s options with regards to opting out of the state assessment.  Our message was definitely received. We will continue with our advocacy with the same amount of fervor that you have seen over the last several weeks. We must keep the pressure on, so please keep sending those emails to your representative. We will be reevaluating and disseminating the next steps in our advocacy plan in the coming days and weeks.

Thank you to everyone that has supported parent’s rights and our advocacy efforts.

 Delaware PTA

I truly have to think this one through.  Our legislators could have passed HB50 in the House today.  They could have overridden the veto in their chamber.  They chose not to.  So now we have Republicans, obviously working with Earl Jaques of all people and the DOE and the Secretary of Education, and not telling anyone about this, for weeks (I know this because Mike Ramone told me they have been working on this for a while.  When I said you could have given me a heads up, he said “We couldn’t.”  Makes sense, get the crowd to show up for the rally, stick the knife in parents and students backs, and then try riding in on the cavalry saying “We have something better!”  Nice try.  First off, I don’t trust Dr. Godowsky.  This is the man who said “looks like harsh opt-out penalties won’t rule the day” and then said he is recommending those very same opt-out penalties with no logical justification as to why.  Second of all, he indicated he “has the authority to mandate compliance from the schools/districts”.  If he has this magic wand, why hasn’t it been used already?  Why didn’t Mark Murphy use this all of a sudden too great to be true authority?  Why does it take all of this for them to get it?  And would I ever trust anyone at the DOE to determine opt-out policies for our schools and districts?  Furthermore, the PTA newsletter indicates a request was made to Godowsky to have parents as part of this process.  There is no answer from Godowsky on that very important issue.  Many parents who have opted their children out do not belong to the Delaware PTA and do not believe everything the Delaware PTA believes in.  And the due date for these “policies” is “on or before May 1st”, well into the testing window for Smarter Balanced when most students have already taken it or are finishing up.  Not a lot of protection for parents.  Not a lot to protect students.  Nothing to indicate schools will honor the spirit of this.

So where do we stand with opt-out in Delaware?  Pretty much the exact same place we were a year ago.  So once again Delaware parents, I beseech you to search within your hearts to do the right thing, and make the right choice for your child like I did with mine.  And I pray none of you have to experience what happened as a result of my decision.  As always, I am here to help and guide, and call out any school who gives you a hard time if that is what you wish.

For the citizens of Delaware, I would take a very strong look at my post about the votes today.  I would look at those districts, and if you know anyone who wants to run, tell them to do it.  If they are on the fence, explain how those House reps went against parents.

For the House Reps who voted yes today on the suspension of rules: thank you.  For those who voted no on those rules for HB50 and yes on the rules for HB235, everyone will know.  I will make sure of it, every day if need be.  You betrayed parents today.  We heard you, loud and clear.  And don’t think for one second that your “rescue legislation” means anything.  It is tied to the DOE, Markell, and tainted in legislative blood money.  This is not solely directed towards Republicans, but Democrats as well.  All of you who did this today.  The 13 who voted yes are safe.  Rep. Bennett is safe.  The rest… I have no words…

These are the things revolutions are made of.  This is how America was made.  When the rights of the people are violated, they will demand change.  And it will come.  Nothing stinks more than betrayal.  I told all of you, a vote of no on a suspension of rules is the same as a no vote on the override.  You lost the right to say “I would have voted yes” because you hid behind another vote.  Your motivations and affirmations are gone.  They don’t matter.  You played cards with the devil and now you are on the table.  You are all cowards and weak, all 27 of you.  And trust, that is gone with me and MANY others.

One last thing, for those who mock John Kowalko, I want to make something clear.  Don’t whisper in my ear about him.  Don’t talk about how he shouldn’t be in that chamber.  This is an honorable man.  He has conviction and passion.  He will fight like a dog, but he will do it with honesty.  Compared to what I saw from many of you today, I would take that any day of the year.  House Bill 50 was NOT a waste of time.  It was a simple bill, grounded in what is best for students and parents.  It wasn’t based on what the DOE wanted to do.  It wasn’t based on what was best for the districts and charter schools.  It was about parental rights and students.  I believe you all knew this.  Which makes what you did today so horrible, and morally wrong.

And Jack, don’t think you are slipping away.  As the rumor mill talks about your upcoming job at Alliance for Excellent Education, a corporate education reform company that has more Kool-Aid coming out of each word in its website than I have ever seen before, and the rumor mill talks about a crazy thought about you actually getting a payout to make sure House Bill 50 didn’t go through, be assured I will find out the truth to ALL of that.  You and I aren’t done yet.  You may be fooling people into thinking you are done in a year and you are just winding down, I know you are at your most dangerous now.  I know you fear opt-out more than anything that has ever come before your desk.  We both know what opt-out does.  How it undermines what you and your buddies have planned.  For our children.  I know.  I am not fooled.  Everything you touch is tainted with this plan.  Delaware children are not your children.  And tell your buddies, America’s children are not their children.  You will all be hearing from us VERY soon, you can take that to the bank.

Jacob’s Opt-Out

Right now, I am sitting in a coffee shop while my son is at school.  The Delaware PTA sponsored rally to override the veto of House Bill 50 is going to happen today outside Legislative Hall in Dover at 1pm.  I hope to attend and speak.  Below is what I will be saying and what I emailed to the Delaware House of Representatives today.  Should circumstances not allow me to be present at the rally (as I am writing this at 10am), I wanted to make sure this got out there.  This is the heart of my personal reasons why I have fought so hard for House Bill 50 and a parent’s choice to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Jacob’s Opt-Out

I want to thank everyone who could make it today. Thank you to Yvonne Johnson, Terri Hodges, and the Delaware PTA for their incredible and outstanding support on House Bill 50.  Thank you to the DSEA for their support of a parent’s right to opt their child out of standardized testing.  Thank you to Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson for seeing the wisdom in bringing this bill forward in support of student and parental rights.  Thank you to all the legislators who voted yes for the bill last Spring, and I pray you will find it in your hearts to echo your votes today.

While all of this has been going on for the past year, I have been unable to talk about my personal experience with opting my son out. Many have asked me what kind of response I received, and I said that I didn’t believe there was any.  Now that matters have been resolved with my son Jacob’s former district, I feel it is important to let folks know what happened to him and my family when we opted him out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

My son had an IEP at his school. It was a very difficult IEP process as my son’s disabilities are very unique.  There was a great deal of conflict with some of the members of his IEP team, I will not shy away from that.  But we were always at the table and able to work through the issues.  Until I opted my son out in a letter to the Delaware State News on October 7th, 2014.  Immediately afterwards, my son’s situation at his school deteriorated.  We received a very threatening letter from the district superintendent within days of the article posting, even going so far as advising us we would not be allowed to be involved in our son’s IEP process unless we “behaved”.  While the letter did not mention opt out, it became more than obvious the school was not in the same collaborative mood they had been previously.  At the end of October that year, my son was denied social skills services that were a part of his signed IEP.  Accommodations were not being followed with fidelity.  Communication over things going on with my son came to a stop.  The principal would not address me at all.  On December 23rd, after eight physical assaults against my son at his school, he received a concussion.  He went on homebound instruction for the rest of the school year, and we had no choice but to pull him out of his district and send him to a private school, at great personal pain and expense to my family.

I love my son more than anything in this world. He suffered immensely, I believe, due to my decision to opt him out.  I wrestle with guilt over that every single day, but I stand firm in my belief that I made the right decision for him.  My son is not a test score.  He is not data.  He is a human being.  I support House Bill 50 because it is about protecting a parent’s choice and it gives protection to students.  I firmly believe, with every fiber of my being, that if House Bill 50 was put into law in October 2014, my son’s life would be completely different.  This is Jacob’s story, and I hope and pray no student ever has to go through the pain, loneliness, and depression my son went through.  No parent should ever have to question decisions they make for their child when it is supported by something they feel is right for their child after careful research and consideration.  This is something I haven’t shared with anyone until now because of how personal it is, but I believe now is the time.

To the Delaware House of Representatives: Please vote yes for both the suspension of rules and the override of House Bill 50 today. Please put aside the political bickering over suspension of rules for this one issue today and vote for what is right for the students and parents of Delaware.  The people of Delaware are watching you and they want their voices to be heard.

How The Legislators Vote Today Will Determine How The People Vote In November

2016Election

You are an everyday normal Delaware citizen.  You have two kids in school.  One of them does well, the other struggles.  You usually vote Democrat in elections, but you are on the fence with some issues this year.  In your district, a Republican and a Democrat are running.  You aren’t sure who to vote for.  You get a flyer in the mail from one of the candidates.  It talks about how their opponent decided not to vote yes for a bill about parental rights.  You look into the issue and see it was a bill about parents opting out of standardized tests.  Your one child came home stressed and miserable during those testing days.  You thought about opting him out but the school pressured you into having him take it.  That bill would have prevented that.  You make up your mind: You are now firmly on the side of the candidate that sent the flyer.

For those legislators who are big on not voting yes for a suspension of rules, this could result in you being suspended from office: permanently.  For those who wish to side with a departing Governor who WILL profit off education and the very policies he had a hand in after he leaves office, I would think twice about that.  Jack Markell is a very shrewd man and he doesn’t care what happens after he gets his very excellent education job a year from now.  Education is a fickle beast.  It changes and morphs constantly in cycles.  Todays big changes will be gone in ten years.  But todays changes are things Jack Markell has been working on for the past ten years.  He is a futurist.  He plots and schemes with American dreams and uses people, legislators most of all.  He isn’t a true Democrat.  He is a corporatist through and through.  He even said so during the 2012 Democratic Convention.  It is his job to be against opt-out.  Because for Jack, it is NOT about the students.  It is NOT about the parents.  It IS about the money and big business.

There may be issues among all of us about education and how to best serve the students of Delaware.  But selling them out to the highest bidders and their alliance of thieves is NOT the way the students of Delaware will succeed.  It is how the businesses succeed.  Our children are more than test scores.  Remember that today and vote with your conscience.

DSEA’s Official Statement On The House Bill 50 Veto Override

The Delaware State Education Association’s executive board voted on an official stance on the House Bill 50 Veto Override and released this information today publicly:

DSEA’s position on opt-out is the same as it has always been, we support a parent’s right to opt their child out of excessive state mandated standardized testing. At the same time, we believe that the state, with direction from parents and educators, must reduce the time dedicated to standardized testing. More importantly the state must ensure the tests that are taken are valid measures of student progress in the given subject area, and provide clear direction on how to improve student growth.  As an organization, DSEA will continue the push to eliminate excessive, invalid testing and tying the results of these tests to educator evaluations. With that being said, we will respect the individual decisions made by legislators regarding whether or not to override the Governor’s veto of House Bill 50.

Opt Out And The House Bill 50 Veto Override Hits The Blogs & Major Media!!!

The never-ending saga of House Bill 50 and opt out marches on.  Since a couple of days before Christmas, it has grabbed a lot of headlines.  When the US DOE issued letters to states about potential funding cuts for opt-out, I knew the conversation would heat up fast.  Here is a chronology of links to the latest on the override of Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 in Delaware, with a few other kernels thrown in:

12/23/15

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/parent-opt-out-veto-override-rally-11416-i-know-what-you-have-been-up-to-governor-markell/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/us-does-threat-letter-to-delaware-doe-about-opt-out-is-ridiculous/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/us-doe-promises-funding-cuts-to-states-who-miss-participation-rates-two-years-in-a-row-contact-president-obama-now/

12/24/15

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/secretary-godowsky-had-no-choice-with-opt-out-penalties/

12/29/15

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/governor-markells-secret-weapon-against-house-bill-50-veto-override-exposed/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/delaware-house-reps-and-senators-who-support-the-house-bill-50-veto-override-and-those-who-dont/

12/30/15

http://www.doverpost.com/news/20151230/update-opt-out-supporters-rally-jan-14–to-override-veto

12/31/15

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/house-democrats-letter-to-governor-markell-to-remove-smarter-balanced-for-11th-grade/

1/1/16

http://www.sussexcountian.com/article/20160101/NEWS/160109972

1/2/16

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/education-everybodys-got-a-price-stand-up-and-refuse-awesome-video-about-data-mining-sharing/

1/3/16

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/predicting-delawares-assessment-inventory-report/

1/4/16

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/delaware-pta-pokes-finger-in-eye-of-delaware-governor-markell/

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/education/2016/01/04/opt-out-veto/78270050/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/opt-out-heats-up-again-during-arctic-chill/

1/5/16

https://kavips.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/the-pros-and-cons-of-opting-out-of-the-smarter-balanced-assessment/

http://elizabethscheinberg.blogspot.com/2016/01/dear-rep-jaques-youre-wrong-but-its-not.html

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/breaking-news-delaware-state-rep-jaques-masturbates-gov-markell-in-public/

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/rep-mike-ramone-playing-the-political-fence-re-testing-opt-out/

http://delawarestatenews.net/schools/15006/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/dsea-supports-opt-out-all-dsea-members-need-to-support-the-override-of-markells-veto/

1/6/16

https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/my-daughter-is-not-a-widget/

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/01/06/importance-overriding-veto/78361916/

http://delawarepublic.org/post/smarter-balanced-opt-out-supporters-aim-push-bill-past-governors-veto#stream/0

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/african-american-opt-out-in-delaware-part-1-the-lomax-factor/

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/01/06/opt-out-veto-override-vote-students-teachers/78362468/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/governor-markell-gives-godowsky-authority-to-replace-sbac-with-sat-without-general-assembly-approval-or-an-executive-order/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/kowalko-to-ask-for-suspension-of-rules-to-override-markells-veto-of-house-bill-50-this-is-the-minefield-legislators-are-stuck-in/

https://delawarefirststate.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/sat-to-replace-smarter-in-11th-grade-in-delaware-less-testing-is-a-good-thing-but-are-there-unintended-consequences/

http://delawarepublic.org/post/state-will-drop-smarter-balanced-sat-official-11th-grade-test#stream/0

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2016/01/06/juniors-wont-have-take-smarter-balanced-exam/78367630/

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/delaware-governor-markell-chokes-on-his-soap-on-the-rope-re-student-testing/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/delaware-scraps-state-assessment-for-high-school-juniors/2016/01/06/3f7c8c6a-b4cf-11e5-8abc-d09392edc612_story.html

1/7/16

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/readers/2016/01/07/letters-editor-greedy-dupont/78410616/

http://www.delawareliberal.net/2016/01/07/the-general-assembly-needs-to-override-the-governors-veto-of-opt-out-bill/

http://delawareway.blogspot.com/2016/01/will-legislature-stand-up-for-their.html

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/secretary-godowsky-and-governor-markell-recklessly-whitewash-the-satsbac-debacle-while-violating-state-federal-law/

http://www.doverpost.com/news/20160107/sat-replacing-smarter-balanced-assessment-for-high-school-juniors-

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/delaware-governor-markell-should-be-required-to-register-as-a-child-abuser/

https://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/warning-gates-is-infiltrating-opt-out/

1/8/16

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/one-mother-to-another-mother-governor-markell-re-test-op-out/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/delaware-should-not-make-it-okay-for-parents-to-opt-their-kids-out-of-testing/2016/01/08/36cd6410-b586-11e5-a76a-0b5145e8679a_story.html

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/governor-markell-sends-the-washington-post-editorial-hit-squad-to-disrespect-delaware-parents-even-more/

1/9/16

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/house-bill-50-gives-protection-for-student-rights-and-honors-parental-rights/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/delaware-house-republicans-weigh-in-on-veto-override-of-house-bill-50/

https://delawarefirststate.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/the-washington-post-article-chimes-in-about-de-parents-opting-out-and-the-needed-data/

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/washington-post-throws-gov-markell-a-rope-as-it-slap-de-pta/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/frederika-jenner-jeff-taschner-dsea-needs-to-side-with-parents-on-the-veto-override-of-house-bill-50/

1/10/16

https://delawarefirststate.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/letter-from-state-pta-to-delaware-legislators-asking-them-to-support-house-bill-50-veto-override/

https://www.facebook.com/GovernorMarkell/?fref=ts

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/governor-markell-takes-it-to-facebook-and-receives-the-beat-down-of-his-life/

1/11/16

http://www.wdel.com/story/72793-education-budget-city-crime-top-priorities-in-upcoming-legislative-session

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/red-clay-education-association-officially-supporting-house-bill-50-veto-override-and-more/

1/12/16

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/for-the-love-of-god-godowski-what-are-you-even-talking-about-and-general-assembly-a-no-is-a-no-to-your-constituents/

http://www.wrdetv.com/index.cfm?&ref=60200&ref2=3461

http://www.wboc.com/story/30948519/2016-legislative-session-begins-in-delaware

http://www.wmdt.com/news/more-local-news/de-rep-senators-explain-their-points-of-emphasis-for-148th-gen-assembly/37399824

1/13/16

http://www.doverpost.com/article/20160113/NEWS/160119913

 

148th General Assembly 2.0 Begins Today!

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The second leg of the 148th General Assembly officially convenes at 2pm today at Legislative Hall in Dover.  It remains to be seen what will come out of this.  My hopes and the reality will most likely be different.  I sincerely hope they are able to pass legislation that will help all citizens of Delaware.  While I have incessantly beat the drum on the veto override of House Bill 50, there is a lot of legislation for them to get through.  The biggest of them all, the budget bill, will cast a long shadow over pretty much any legislation with a fiscal note attached to it.  We will find out what our state finances look like in a couple weeks when Governor Markell presents his Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

I wish the General Assembly can get along in the next six months.  I hope party politics doesn’t become the headlines.  We have some great legislators in Dover with the capability of doing great things.  This will be a very unique legislative session.  With over 3/4 of the General Assembly up for re-election in the last year of a two term Governor who has been controversial on his best days.  I have an odd feeling much of what we are about to see is pre-determined.  But there will be surprises along the way as well.

I want to wish all the legislators in Delaware a welcome back and a special notes goes to newly anointed State Rep. David Bentz.  We will know by  the end of June what becomes of the next six months.  You are all representatives of the people, by the people, and for the people.