Tag Archives: 19th District

What Will Happen during the Next Seven Legislative Days

We have seven legislative days left – we are looking to cut expenses and raise revenue to balance our budget – looking to cut/raise about $400 million. As I have said at my civic association meetings over the last months, I am not supporting any revenue bill that raises personal income tax on the lower and middle class, I support adding two additional tax brackets. Rep. John Kowalko introduced House Bill 109 and it was released from committee. Rep. Kowalko’s bill lowers tax rates slightly on the current 6 tax brackets which include anyone making $125,000 or less and adds two additional brackets – one bracket for folks making more than $125,000 and $250,000. Currently, Delaware’s highest tax bracket is $60,000 – a millionaire pays the same tax rate as someone who is making $60,000 a year, it has been like this for about two decades.

Delaware’s top revenue sources are Personal Income Tax, Corporate Franchise Tax, Abandoned Property, Casinos and Lottery, and Gross Receipt Tax – Delaware needs more reliable revenue. Delaware is one of only five states in the nation with no sales tax and ranked 4th in the nation with the lowest property taxes.

Delaware’s personal income tax highest bracket back in the 70’s was $100,000 and taxed at 19.8%, I had to do a double-take just to make sure I was reading it right. Back in the 70’s we had at one point 17 tax brackets and the brackets were taxed at 1.6% (lowest wage earners) to 19.8% (highest wage earners).

In the late 70’s the highest tax bracket went from $100,000 to $50,000 and then in the 80’s the highest tax bracket went to $40,000. In the mid 90’s the highest tax bracket dropped to $30,000 and then increased to $60,000 in 1999.

A study claims Delaware has nation’s lowest tax burden, click here to read the article.

It makes sense adding two additional brackets to stabilize our revenue and it maintains the quality of the services that make our state such a desirable place to live and retire. Delaware is ranked in the top ten states where millionaires live and we were ranked 3rd for best state to retire a combo of low taxes and a great lifestyle.

June 30th will be here soon, I guess we will see if we will we raise taxes on all or add the two additional tax brackets.

Special Education Ratings for DE School Districts and Charter Schools an Unfair Rating System

I just wanted to state how much I hate school ratings and how these ratings are always used to label our schools.

DE DOE recently released Special Education Ratings for all of our school districts and charters, Exceptional Delaware posted about this. Exceptional Delaware listed which school districts and charter schools met the requirements, which ones needed assistance and which ones needed intervention. I am told this is a federal regulation but I do not care if it is a local, state or federal regulation or law – they are just useless.

As everyone knows, many of our schools have enrollment preferences and these enrollment preferences have a tendency to exclude special education students. We are holding all of our schools to the same accountability system but many of our schools admit students differently. Our traditional school district doors are always open – welcoming everyone! Other schools or districts open their doors on a crack and only some are welcomed in.

Charter School of Wilmington received 100%, they scored 6 out of a possible 6 points. The Red Clay School District received 46.51%  –  scored 20 out of 43 points – tell me how this is fair? CSW needed 6 points to score a perfect score and Red Clay needed 43 points to get a perfect score. Charter School of Wilmington has the ability to select their students and has a total enrollment of 971 students compared to the Red Clay School District which has over 17,000 students. How about the feds or state give some type of rating to Charter School of Wilmington on the lack of special education students enrolled in the school since the state’s overall percentage of special education students is 14.9%? If a school does not come close to the state’s overall special education percentages than their overall score is lowered.

The DE Department of Education letter which accompanied the ratings to each school district and charter school starts out by thanking the Charter School of Wilmington for their ongoing dedication and commitment to educating students with disabilities – there are SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS in Charter School of Wilmington compared to the Red Clay School District which has over 2,000 special education students how is that a commitment? Please do not take this as an attack on Charter School of Wilmington, I am just so tired of these unrealistic labels and comparisons that are meaningless that are placed on our school districts and schools.

I was looking through the various letters and I noticed Delaware Military Academy received a 60% scored 6 out of a possible 10 points. DMA has 584 students and 20 special education students and only scored 13.49 percent higher than Red Clay School District who serves over 17,000 students and over 2,000 special education students, I would think the state would be really concerned about that. DMA only needed to score 10 points compared to Red Clay needing 43 points.

First, we need to fund basic special education for kindergarten through 3rd grades, we all know the schools could use the resources. Secondly, we need to get out of the business of labeling and rating our schools – we keep testing and assessing and we always come up with the same results, we know what needs to be done.

Let’s get back to educating our students and move away from testing, evaluating and labeling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump, St. Andrew’s School in Florida, school choice and state vouchers – the appearance of helping disadvantage students – Fake News!

On February 28, President Trump addressed Congress, speaking briefly about school choice for disadvantaged youth, breaking the cycle of poverty.  He talked about how families should be able to choose the schools that are right for them, whether they be public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home schools.

On Friday, President Trump visited a private school in Florida  – St. Andrew Catholic School – Florida is one of 14 states and DC, which has a state-funded school voucher program to qualifying students.

If you look at St. Andrew’s admission requirements you must provide most recent report card and state assessment, which would be ok since it is a private school. But President Trump though is pushing for school choice and vouchers. There is a $250 registration fee (non-refundable) per child is assessed. There is an admission test for students 2nd through 8th grades.  A parent needs three teacher recommendations.  There is a list of priorities, one being you must attend church on a regular basis and ENVELOPE USE AS DEFINED BY THE PASTOR.  

How are policies like this going to help break the cycle of poverty?  Folks living in poverty cannot afford a $250 non-refundable registration fee, $25 application fee or financially supporting any church every week? How are they going to pay for the balance of the tuition that is owed after using their voucher?

It is very interesting when you look through the qualifying student requirements for school-funded voucher programs, because most states require that a student has an IEP, certain disability or specific income level tied into the federal poverty level.  THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART – In Delaware, most students who have an IEP or disability, and leave a private or charter schools, do so because the school does not provide the necessary special education services or the school tells a family that they cannot provide these services for the child – this school is not a good fit.

We have people creating policy that really have no idea as to what is really going on in our public schools, because if they did, they would understand that they are not helping disadvantage students.

DE Republicans you operate multiple PAC’s, please do not act like you are the victims!

I was reading a Delaware Online article this morning titled: Biden, Democrats pull out stops for state Senate race.  The Republicans and Copeland blasted the spending through the First State Strong PAC. He called the group “shadowy” noting that Delawareans won’t know who donated until next year. Please give me a break! I watched you guys during the last general election, the Republicans here in Delaware operate many “shadowy” third party PAC’s and used these PAC’s during the last general election. I saw the third party advertisers who sent multiple mailers out against former Sen. Blevins. Below are the third party PAC’s that are run by our local Republicans and used in the last Delaware election -lots of money here. You can view more of these PAC’s by clicking here.

 

 

Sunset Joint Committee Reviews Delaware State Board of Education

The Sunset Committee reviewed the State Board of Education, they met on February 1, 2017. You can see all the documents that the State Board of Education submitted to the Sunset committee members, I have highlighted a few of the documents below. I sat in during the review, here are a few things that I took away from the review. I found former Rep. Scott’s comments supporting the State Board of Education interesting, I believe former Rep. Scott  was the enabler with respect to the State Board of Education when he chaired the House Education committee. I was also surprised by Dr. Allen’s letter of support, the State Board of Education would not allow Dr. Allen or Dr. Rich to speak at certain times during the WEIC presentations.

  • School districts do not feel that the State Board of Education is an ally.
  • They do not hold meetings in the evening; teachers, community members, parents, and legislators cannot make their meetings.
  • They do not allow for public comment for all items on the agenda.
  • They are not accountable to anyone.
  • Their meetings are too long.
  • They do not take a formal vote when they oppose or support legislation, the executive director attends House/Senate Education Meetings and gives comments.
  • Sunset Committee requested a list of State Board of Education members and the committees/task forces etc. that they have served on.
  • Charters go to the State Board of Education first instead of the local boards.
  • One person who came out and offered a positive comment with respect to the State Board of Education was former State Representative Darryl Scott.
  • A few charter school leaders were there as well.
  • No school districts were present or to my knowledge sent in any comments about the State Board of Education.
  • Dr. Tony Allen sent in a letter of support as well.

State Board of Education Questionnaire

State Board of Education FOIA Complaints

State Board of Education – Executive Directors Job Description

1 to 5 Star Ratings Are Being Pushed by Some Members of the State’s ESSA Advisory Committee

star

I was a member of the ESSA Advisory Committee and our last ESSA meeting was last week. I read the entire updated draft ESSA Plan, 90 + pages, and there are a few things that are very troubling – one being the state would like to move forward with the continued labeling of our public schools with a 1 to 5 star rating – similar to a hotel rating. There were members of the ESSA Advisory Committee who support the 1 to 5 star rating but there were members who opposed it. 

There are schools in Delaware that are allowed to select their students based on grades, attendance, behavior, a test, an interview, or a state assessment. There are schools in Delaware that have low percentages of ELL, Spec Ed and Low Income students compared to other schools in our state. How can we compare our schools when some schools can admit students based on academics? How can we compare schools when certain public schools are “Counseling out” students with disabilities  – other schools enrollment practices limits access to certain student populations? How can we compare schools when certain schools can say to a family this school is not the right fit for your child? How can we compare schools when some schools are testing in March compared to those schools that test in April or May? Our bigger schools will have to test earlier so they can test all the students to meet the 95% participation rate so they are not penalized and the smaller schools can afford more classroom time because the size of their school.

Recently, I wrote to the Department of Education, asking why Family Foundation Charter School was approved for a name change. DOE’s response was: Family Foundations Academy stated its rational for the name change was, “There have been many changes in the last two years for Family Foundations.  These changes have included new leadership, new curriculum and a new focus for our future.  With all of these changes we have been focusing on the impact we wish to have in New Castle County as well as the city of New Castle. We are deeply committed to seeing the children of New Castle actualize into adults that make a deep and positive impact on our future.   We want our name to reflect our focus on our community.

Family Foundations Charter School has had plenty of bad press during the last few years. Two of their former leaders were accused of misspending school funds and Federal prosecutors have charged one of the former leaders with theft. According to a Delaware Online article from January 2015, one leader made $73,956.02 in purchases with the cards, while the other leader spent a total of $20,673.85. I have provided a link to the Delaware Auditor’s Office audit on Family Foundation.  The Department of Education and the State Board of Education supported Family Foundations name change but is pushing for the 1 to 5 Star rating – so there is a different set of standards in place when it comes to some of our public schools. The state approved two/three name changes for Moyer Academy Charter School which eventually closed. Changing the name of a charter school attempts to conceal the issues, which in the end hurts the students and community. These schools should to keep their names so we can make sure they are actually improving and that they are transparent. How can our State Board of Education hold some of our public schools to a higher standard than others?  

House Democrats Send Letter to Sen. Coons and Carper Urging Them to Oppose Betsy DeVos

The House Democrats sent a letter to Sen. Coons and Carper urging them to oppose Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Secretary of Education.

Specifically, we are concerned about Ms. DeVos’ lack of knowledge of basic education policy, her advocacy for private school vouchers, her views on guns in schools and her positions on civil rights.

Teachers, students and parents deserve a Secretary of Education who will push for the improvements to strengthen our public education system, not weaken it.

Below is the letter that was sent to the Senators.

A Few Delaware Legislators Sign onto a Letter in Support of Betsy DeVos Appointment as Secretary of Education

Below is the letter that was sent to Senator Alexander, Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. I thought it was interesting to see a few Delaware State Senators signed onto the letter.

Delaware General Assembly has a new bill tracking system

The Delaware General Assembly has a new bill tracking system, you will be able to view new legislation that has been recently filed. You will also be able to track all legislation and easily view which legislator has sponsored or co-sponsored legislation.

Click here to visit the site. Go to the tabs at the top of the page and click on Bills and Resolutions.