Tag Archives: House Education Committee

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

In the House Education Committee, House Bill 234 Will Be Heard

House Bill 234 (wellness center bill) will be heard in the House Education Committee today–I am the prime sponsor of this bill. Below is a letter that I submitted to JFC members with respect to the missing wellness centers at our three public high schools. I have been advocating for  wellness centers since I was first elected. There were four high schools in the state that did not have wellness centers when I was first elected–those schools were AI High School, Conrad Schools of Science, St. Georges Votech, and Appo High School–AI High School received their wellness center in 2014.

Series of Posts: How the State Bailed Out Sussex Tech High School – Part 1

Rumors were flying around Legislative Hall this January about Sussex Tech, they were supposedly strapped for cash. In April, House Bill 100 was filed, giving Sussex Tech High School a new tax rate ceiling for the next two years and then the tax rate is suppose to sunset to its original level in three years. House Bill 100 was amended, to view the bill click here. Here is the amendment that was added. I voted “NO” on this bill.

  • 23.50 original tax rate
  • 29.00 tax rate for 2016
  • 30.00 tax rate for 2017

School districts have to go to referendum in order to get approval for additional funding. School districts have to work for months to educate and convince their residents why the districts need a tax increase. The taxpayers then decide whether or not to support the tax increase, Votechs do not. Votechs, they just come to the General Assembly and ask for their increases.  They lobby the General Assembly members to get their increases. This bill was filed in April and was signed by the Governor on May 28, 2015, it was fast-tracked.

It is so interesting how we allow certain public schools to have selective admissions and allow schools to send students back (don’t necessarily fit-in as one Delaware Met charter board member stated recently) to their feeder schools. We fund all our schools in different ways. Yet, traditional public schools are always criticized for their state assessments and how they are failing our kids. You can’t compare a school that accepts a student based on grades or test schools to a school who accepts everyone, it is just not right!

It is interesting, when this bill came before the House Education Committee, I asked the bill sponsors, Rep. Schwartzkopf and D. Short, if Sussex Tech’s superintendent had a change in heart about Sussex Tech using grades as part of their admission process. In the bill it states that they can no longer use grades as part of denying a student entrance into Sussex Tech.  Dr. A.J. Lathbury was a member of the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, which I co-chaired. (We are currently working on the draft report.)  Lathbury voted “YES” during the task force meeting to keep grades as part of the admission process for votechs, magnets and charters. I asked Rep. Schwartzkopf and D. Short if they would support this as well for New Castle County Votech and PolyTech.  Below are their responses from the House Education Committee meeting on April 22, 2015.

Rep. D. Short said that this bill addresses the tax rate ceiling for Sussex Vocational-Technical School District (SVTSD) in Sussex County by increasing the ceiling for two years and then sun-setting the ceiling to its original level. He said that this bill also helps to address the enrollment increases in SVTSD by creating an enrollment cap, lowering the enrollment over a period of time. He said the funding dilemma in SVTSD was caused partly by the tax ceiling issue, but also due to the lull in the economy. He said the bill also addresses some admission restrictions, including sibling applicants and those with a GPA below the seventieth percentile to be eligible for the lottery.

Rep. Schwartzkopf said that all Sussex County legislators have worked on this bill and they are unified, mostly. He said that this bill is not a panacea, but it is a reasonable path forward and gives the superintendent and board of education time to bring expenses in line with revenues. He said there will be a forthcoming amendment to this bill to deal with expulsion policies and said the bill will not run without the amendment.

Rep. Williams asked if the sponsors of the bill supported the provision for GPAs below the seventieth percentile policy to be applicable to all vocational-technical schools in Delaware.

Rep. D. Short said he would defer to the representatives of those counties, but it is something to be considered. He said that consistency is a good thing, in his personal opinion. He also said that it is not an issue for this bill and the bill should remain as is for passage.

Rep. Williams questioned why Superintendent Lathbury voted against that provision previously in a task force meeting, but now supports the policy in HB 100.

Rep. D. Short said that Superintendent Lathbury is in full support of HB 100; the superintendent was present, but did not testify on behalf of the bill. Reps. D. Short and Schwartzkopf requested that the issue be debated on another day and requested that an amendment addressing that issue not be added to HB 100.

Rep. Kowalko echoed the concern of Rep. Williams and said the bill should be amended to include New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District.

How many Delaware students with disabilities are also low income students?

In 2014, the Department of Education reported on DOE’s School Profile Page 35% of our Delaware public school students are low income and another 13.9% are students with disabilities. The September 30th Enrollment number for the 2014-2015 school year reported that 134,932 students were enrolled in Delaware public schools.

The total number of students attending public school in Delaware is reported to be 134,932 with 47,226 being low income students and 18,756 students being students with disabilities.

graph 1

I asked the Department of Education how many of the 18,756 students with disabilities are low income and their answer was 45% of the students with disabilities are also low income students 8,440.

graph (1)

Delaware provides additional funding for students with disabilities, there are three categories: Basic Special Education, Intensive Special Education, and Complex Special Education. Currently, Delaware does not fund a Basic Special Education student who is enrolled in Kindergarten through 3rd grade, go to § 1703 Unit of pupils for more details.

  • Preschool — 12.8
  • K-3 — 16.2
  • 4-12 Regular Education — 20
  • 4-12 Basic Special Education (Basic) — 8.4
  • Pre K-12 Intensive Special Education (Intensive) — 6
  • Pre K-12 Complex Special Education (Complex) — 2.6

January 2015, I introduced a bill, House Bill 30, which would add Basic Special Education funding for grades Kindergarten to 3rd grade. The House Education Committee released it and it was assigned to the House Appropriations Committee in March.

This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.
  • 81% of our enrolled pre-k students were identified with a disability.
  • There are currently 5,843 students (pre-k thru 3) identified last year in special education.
  • In 2013-2014 67.89% of 3rd grade special education students were below standards compared to 24.34% of general education 3rd grade students.
  • US DOE issued a report in June 2014 stating that Delaware was one of three states that was identified as “Needs Intervention” with respect to special education. The US DOE has targeted Delaware for federal intervention.
  • 3rd grade is an important year for reading; this is the year that students move from learning to read, decoding words using their knowledge of the alphabet – to reading to learn.
  • 3rd grade students who lack proficiency in reading are four times more likely to become high school dropouts.
  • 3rd grade proficiency is crucial for continued academic success.
  • House Bill 30 would add 136 more special education teachers to charters and district schools.
  • Delaware school districts every year have to apply for a class size waiver Title 14 – Chapter § 1705A (c) if their Kindergarten thru 3rd grade classrooms exceeds 22 students on the last school day in October in ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies. The local school board may vote to waive this at a public meeting before December 1st of each year. This bill would help to reduce class size in grades Kindergarten through 3rd grades.
  • The extra teachers will also help with Response to Intervention.
  • RTI is a practice of providing high quality instruction and interventions matched to a student’s need.
    • Tier 1 includes all students,
    • Tier 2 students with insufficient progress in Tier 1 in reading.
    • Tier 3 students are students who have not made progress in Tier 1 or Tier 2.
  • I surveyed the 5 school districts with regards to their RTI numbers. A total of 23,550 RTI students including 3,346 students with a disability are either in Tier 1, 2 or 3. No additional resources are given to the districts in order to support this initiative.