15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: State Rep. Kim Williams

KimWilliams

As I started blogging, I heard a ton of people telling me I should talk to Kim Williams.  I didn’t even know it was possible to talk to a State Representative who wasn’t in your district.  Of course now I know how silly that is, but at the time I didn’t.  Kim Williams and I think a lot alike.  Many of the things I am passionate about in education Kim is as well.  At the end of the day, it is about equality and equity.

To say Kim had a busy year at Legislative Hall would be the understatement of the year.  She started the 148th General Assembly by submitting education legislation that not only made sense but was a long time coming.  House Bill #28 would make sure charters send funds if a student transfers out of a charter school after September 30th.  One of my favorite bills of the year, House Bill #30, would ensure students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade who qualify as basic special education through their IEP would get the additional funding that has long been denied them.  In an effort to make sure “priority schools” do not lose control at the local level in picking their leaders, Kim introduced House Bill #107.  In another attempt at trying to mitigate the power of the Delaware Department of Education, HB #108 would have given the General Assembly the ability to vote on any ESEA waiver prior to their sending it to the US DOE (now a moot point as the Every Student Succeeds Act kicks ESEA waivers to the curb).  #130 dealt with fees for educator licensure.

Kim also serves as the Vice-Chair of the House Education Committee.  With all of the legislation coming through Legislative Hall pertaining to education, she does an admirable job helping to get through it all.  She was a huge supporter of the parent opt-out legislation, House Bill 50.

Perhaps her most controversial, but also a much needed bill, was House Bill #186.  This bill passed the House of Representatives on June 30th, and is now in the Senate Education Committee.  This bill was actually the third dealing with charter school audits.  HB #53 and #154 set the stage, but were both combined to become House Bill #186.  With fierce opposition from the Delaware Charter Schools Network, Kim had to fight tooth and nail to get this bill as far as it has.  This bill mandates charters have their post-audits done through the Delaware Auditor of Accounts.  Watching Kim fight for this bill was a wonder to behold.

I have talked to Kim on many occasions.  When there is a hotbed issue going on in Delaware education, she is there.  Whether it is at a troubled charter school, a school board meeting, the State Board of Education, a WEIC meeting, or the Delaware DOE.  Her dedication to improving the lives of Delaware students is unparalleled in the General Assembly.  She is not afraid to ask the tough questions.  Her dedication to her family is amazing as well and they support her 100%.  I look forward to watching Kim in the coming years, and I know she will continue to look out for Delaware education.

16 To Watch In 2016: State Rep. David Bentz

Back in September, Democrat David Bentz won in a special election that determined who would take over from the resigning State Rep. Michael Barbieri.  Both candidates ran a clean campaign.  Since he won the election to serve the 18th district of Delaware, Bentz won some plum assignments with the various House committees in the 148th General Assembly.  He will be serving on the Education, Energy, Labor and Natural Resources.  But a big surprise was his assignment as Vice-Chair of the Health and Human Services Committees.  Barbieri served as the Chair of that committee, a role which State Rep. Deb Heffernan will take on.

I am very curious how Bentz will do in the General Assembly.  As a former legislative aide to Barbieri, I’m sure he gained a great deal of insight on the legislative process.  What kind of legislation will he introduce?  How will his votes land in the Education Committee?  If the General Assembly attempts to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, what vote will Bentz cast?  He will definitely be a legislator to watch in the 2nd half of the 148th General Assembly.

In looking at various issues he has written about, I think we can expect to see some definite education, criminal justice, student loan defaults and issues with the homeless in Bentz’s future.  As the only “rookie” legislator introduced this term, I expect a learning curve but I think Bentz will rise to the challenge.  The most important thing for him to do will be to emerge out of Barbieri’s shadow.  He will need to become his own legislator.  Which means I certainly hope he won’t follow in Barbieri’s footsteps on House Bill 50!  I look forward to seeing what the “rookie” does during his first, albeit shortened, term.