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148th General Assembly Education Report

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On June 30th, the Delaware Legislature concluded the second half of the 148th General Assembly. This year legislators faced a challenging budget cycle with a significant revenue shortfall for Fiscal Year 2017. This follows a difficult cycle from FY16 when there was a shortfall of $27 million. The Markell Administration and the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) led a number of initiatives aligned with and supported by the Rodel Foundation, including dedicating new state funds to early learning, creating a provisional license for educators, and upholding our statewide assessment system.

Forward movement. Several specific legislative priorities supported by Rodel were favorably acted upon this session, related to:

  • Strengthening new teachers. SB 199 (Sokola) creates a one-year “provisional” license for teacher applicants who have not met the performance assessment requirement, increasing the time an educator is considered to be a “novice,” from a three-year time period to a four-year time period. This will allow additional mentoring supports for Delaware’s early career educators, and will enable more high-quality teachers to enter our local workforce through other states and alternative teacher training models.
  • Improving charter school fiscal oversight. Given concerns about charter schools confronting financial management issues, HB 435 (Williams) creates a clear charter school audit process. This legislation is the result of a compromise between Representative Kim Williams, Senator David Sokola, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, and the State Auditor’s Office.
  • Increasing supports for older students with disabilities. To address the concern that young people with disabilities were leaving school without the appropriate supports in place, SB180 (Poore) ensures that each child with a disability who has reached age 18 has an identified educational decision-maker.
  • Expanding health care supports. HB 234 w/ HA 1 (Williams) responds to the growing need to holistically address children’s physical and mental health by requiring all public high schools, including vocational-technical schools, but not including charter schools, have a school-based health center. The act requires the state to fund start-up costs for each center as well as fund the operational costs of each center for at least one school per fiscal year until all public high schools have a school-based health center.

Important work that did not move (or move enough). Rodel worked with partners throughout the state to advocate for priorities that did not make it through the legislative process this year, including funding to support infrastructure for Delaware Pathways, expansion of the SEED/Inspire scholarship programs, efforts to secure scholarship funds for students with disabilities to attend the University of Delaware’s CLSC program, and changes to strengthen the ability of DDOE to investigate and take action against educators who pose a threat to children. Rodel was also one of 22 organizations to sign a letter calling for updates to the state education funding system in order to make it more responsive to the needs of students.

Several pieces of legislation were also introduced this session to expand and support the work of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC). WEIC was created last year through code and charged with developing a transition, resource, and implementation plan for reorganizing school districts in the City of Wilmington.

Ultimately, SJR 17 affirms the State Board of Education’s decision to approve the plan put forth by WEIC, and supports the continued work of the commission to the develop details of implementation. It should be noted that action on the implementation of redistricting is conditional on the allocation of funding. Additionally, SB 300 with House Amendment 1 authorizes the State Board to proceed with redistricting, but WEIC intends to suspend the redistricting plan pending necessary and sufficient funding. The bill does not provide for any revenue or spending measure proposed by WEIC. However, it does provide transition funds in the amount of $200,000 to continue analysis.

The General Assembly considered many other pieces of legislation pertaining to education. For a complete list of tracked legislation, please see the appendix.

 

BUDGET UPDATE

                                                                                                                           

The state once again faced significant economic challenges this year.

Key funding that was retained or added

Funding to support existing teachers getting a 1.5 percent salary increase and to support new teacher and principal training was retained. Additional funding also went to stipends for educators who obtain National Board Certification and to pilot teacher-leadership roles—which will allow teachers to receive additional compensation while continuing to stay in the classroom.

Educational priorities with reduced funding

Early Childhood Education Initiatives

Governor Markell requested $11.4 million in his proposed budget to sustain the work that sprang from the federal Early Learning Challenge grant in 2011. Thanks to the grant money, more high-need children receive high-quality care, more early learning teachers are earning scholarships, and more kids are getting ready and screened for kindergarten. These funds were critical to supporting working parents and our highest need young children at the level we do today.

Early learning initiatives were eventually cut by $2 million, which means that the early learning community will have some tough decisions to make about where to eliminate programs and resources for working families and young children. As more high-need children are served in higher quality care, more resources are needed, just as they are when more students enter the K-12 system.

Other cuts from the governor’s recommended budget

Existing funding streams that were not sustained or increased as proposed include:

  • Charter School Performance Fund. The competitive fund for charter schools serving high-need populations has dwindled from $2 million over the last few years to this year’s recommended $500,000, which the JFC has now completely eliminated. This was a step to make charter funding more equitable—as charters don’t receive some funds that districts do, such as capital funding. Without these resources, high-performing schools serving high-need students will struggle to expand.
  • Technology Block Grants. The $1 million proposed increase to technology block grant for schools—a priority for school districts—did not make the cut. The cut dampens schools’ ability to update and purchase electronic devices for educators and students. It also eliminates the opportunity to use funds to deepen professional development and technology support staff—an area that is not directly supported by the unit count funding system and something districts must fund creatively or locally.

Proposed new investments that will not be funded include:

  • Increased bandwidth. The $3 million cut for expanding internet bandwidth in public schools, another priority for districts, is especially difficult as schools shift toward technology based platforms. Many schools already face challenges administering assessments electronically. And many educators utilize web-based platforms like Schoology to connect with other educators to develop lesson plans, share best practices, or pursue valuable professional development. Until we can meet basic needs, like reliable and sufficient broadband access, schools can’t offer access to modern education equitably.
  • Higher starting teacher salaries. The governor’s recommended budget included $3 million to offer higher starting salaries for new educators. Without these funds, Delaware remains non-competitive with surrounding states who can offer more and who often hire earlier in the calendar year.
  • Expanded college scholarships. SB 228 proposed expansion to the SEED Scholarships that would’ve allowed students to drop below full-time or take time off during their college experience without putting their scholarship dollars in jeopardy. The expansion would have cost the state $500,000. With this cut, we lost a great opportunity to supports students who are performing academically, but also have competing life responsibilities like family or job obligations.
  • Strengthened Career Pathways. As part of our state’s focus on preparing students for life beyond high school and the desire to support a healthy Delaware economy, Delaware Pathways has been working to allow students to take courses in high-demand fields, earn college credits and industry recognized credentials, and gain valuable work experience while in high school. About $600,000 is needed to establish the structure to convene businesses and schools to provide students with work-based learning opportunities intended to support their classroom experience. Without funding, this project will be delayed and may not expand as planned.


 

APPENDIX

All Education Legislation acted upon in 2016[i]

 

Legislation Sponsor Synopsis Status Fiscal Note
Afterschool Learning
HR 39 Longhurst This resolution creates the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Task Force. 6/29/2016 Passed by the House Not required
HB 240 Longhurst This bill establishes the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Program (“Program”). The program will provide grants to public schools, that qualify as Title I schools, to develop afterschool engagement of students that will provide extended learning, homework assistance, enrichment, and nutrition. The amendment would provide that the program is not meant to replace existing afterschool programs but is meant to have more students participate in afterschool programs; provides that the three superintendents and principals on the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Council must be from different counties and adds the president of the Delaware PTA and a private afterschool provider to the Council; changes the reporting date for the Council to September 30th; limits the program to kindergarten through eighth grade; allows for a school’s afterschool program to be less than 3 hours based on good cause shown by a school; encourages community based nonprofit organizations to be part of the Program; gives the Council more discretion in developing performance measures to measure the benefits of the Program; designates the Program as a pilot program and provides that there shall be no more than one elementary and middle school from each school district; and, finally, limits the amount of students participating in the program to 20% of a school’s student population. 1/14/2016 Assigned to House Appropriations Committee $7.4M for every 10% of students participating (equivalent to a $50,000 grant per school & a 4 day/week program)
Charter Schools
HB 435 Williams This act seeks to strengthen certain aspects of Title 14 of the Delaware Code with respect to charter school audits and seeks to improve the relevant sections of the Title for consistency and cross-reference of terms. The act allows charter schools to contract for an audit, unless the State Auditor has to perform the audit due to any of the specified circumstances. 7/01/2016 Passed the Senate Not required
HB 261 Ramone Under existing law, when a child applies to enter a charter school, the burden is placed upon that charter school to contact the child’s previous school district or charter to determine if the child was subject to expulsion. This bill seeks to close a loophole by also allowing the charter school to determine if the child was placed in alternative schools programs for discipline reasons without expulsion. This bill also seeks to remove the disincentive for school districts to respond to these requests. If the previous school district or charter fails to respond to a request, they will now have to resume responsibility for the costs of the child. Finally, upon later discovering that a student has been expelled or placed in an alternative program, the charter school is required to disenroll the student. 1/28/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the House Education Committee Not required
HB 231 Matthews This bill requires that charter schools participate in the state retirement system. 1/27/2016 Reported out of the House Education Committee Not required
SB 171 Sokola Currently, all regular school districts, charter schools, and vocational schools are subject to audit by the Auditor of Accounts. This legislative authority is granted to the Auditor of Accounts in multiple sections of the Delaware Code which must be considered together. This act seeks to strengthen certain aspects of Title 14 of the Delaware Code with respect to charter school audits and seeks to improve the relevant sections of the Title for consistency and cross-reference of terms. 1/21/2016 Reported out of the Senate Education Committee Not required
HB 186 Williams This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct post audits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015. 1/14/2016 Reported out of the Senate Education Committee Not required
HB 229 Wilson Under the current School Choice program, there are certain students who may receive priority consideration for enrollment in the school of their choice. This bill adds a new priority consideration for students who have a medical condition or disability that carries an ongoing risk of a sudden medical emergency. If the parent, relative, guardian or caregiver can demonstrate that they would be able to respond quicker to an emergency at the selected school, the student will receive a priority consideration. 1/07/2016 Introduced and Assigned to House Education Committee Not required
Governance
HB 374 Baumbach This act changes the term of a school board member from five years to four years. 6/28/2016 Reported out of the House Education Committee Not required
SB 26 Peterson This bill provides for recording and maintaining a record of all deliberations made by public bodies during public hearings, including any discussion made “off the record.” 6/23/2016 House Passed Not required
SB 161 Hocker This act requires public schools to begin their school year after Labor Day. 6/16/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the House Education Committee Not required
HB 61 Hudson This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes. Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites. The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website. 5/25/2016 Signed by the Governor $200 to $1,000 for each district/charter school depending on implementation
HB 34 w/ HA 2 + SA 1 Spiegelman This bill will allow a local school district board to delay new or changed rules, regulations, or administrative procedures from becoming effective during a school year once the school year has started. This will allow the rules, regulations, and procedures to be consistent for the whole school year. The House amendment allows the Department of Education to make changes to rules, regulations, or administrative procedures if required to do so by federal law or if necessary to address an emergency situation, public health, or safety matter. It further defines the terms “administrative procedure.” The Senate amendment requires that the restriction only applies when there is a direct financial impact created by the new or amended rule, regulation or administrative procedure. This amendment also clarifies that charter schools are included in the restriction. 4/20/2016 Signed by the Governor Not required
HB 333 Baumbach This bill changes the term of a school board member from five years to a three-year term. 4/19/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the House Education Committee Not required
HB 232 Williams This act will require the State Board of Education to accept public comment on all agenda items at its meetings, including charter school applications and changes to regulations. The Board will retain discretion to limit the manner, length, and timing of public comment at its meetings and is not required to accept public comment concerning student disciplinary appeals. 4/13/2016 Reported out of the House Education Committee Not required
HB 279 Williams This bill would require that public comment be permitted at all open meetings of any board, bureau, commission, department, agency, committee, ad hoc committee, special committee, temporary committee, advisory board and committee, subcommittee, legislative committee, association, group, panel or council. The minimum time will be one minute. Maximum time and procedural rules are left to the discretion of the meeting body. 3/08/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the House Administration Committee Not required
SB 172 Simpson This act reduces the at-large membership of the Milford School Board from four to three as of June 30, 2016. The current at-large member holding that seat will continue to do so until the end of his term on June 30, 2016. 2/03/2016 Signed by the Governor Not required
HB 260 Williams This bill requires State Board of Education to hold all of its meetings at 5:30 p.m. or after, in order to facilitate the attendance of interested teachers, parents, and community members. 1/27/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the House Education Committee Not required
Postsecondary
HB 358 w/ HA 1 Paradee Currently, the voluntary defined contribution retirement programs for State employees are overseen by the Deferred Compensation Council (“DCC”), the voluntary savings plan for higher education expenses through 529 accounts are overseen by the Delaware College Investment Plan Board (“CIB”), and the ABLE savings accounts for individuals with disabilities are to be overseen by a new “ABLE Board.” This act will merge the oversight of these three different state-sponsored investment plans that hold non-state monies into a single new “Plans Management Board.” 6/30/2016 Passed by the Senate Not required
HB 348 Baumbach This bill expands the list of persons eligible to participate in the Ada Leigh Soles Memorial Professional Librarian and Archivist Incentive Scholarship Program to include employees of non-public libraries in Delaware that join the Delaware Library Consortium. 6/15/2016 Reported out of the Senate Education Committee Not required
SB 277 Sokola This bill establishes a permanent steering committee for the Pathways to Prosperity initiative, in order to ensure the long term sustainability and adaptability of the program. The committee is comprised of a broad spectrum of representation across different phases of the educational, workforce development, and professional landscape. Pathways to Prosperity is a workforce development initiative aimed at increasing career readiness amongst high school students. It combines career focused skill development with work based learning, while giving participants the ability to earn college credit and industry certifications while still in high school, giving them the ability to accelerate their career trajectory and improving educational outcomes. The amendment would add two members to the Pathways steering committee, one member from a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities and one member of the public who is a parent of a Delaware public school student. 6/15/2016 Reported out of the Senate Committee Not required
SB 193 McDowell This act will create a three-year pilot program for disadvantaged students in primary grades in Delaware public schools. The state will provide $1 million in grant funding per year, over a three year period, to support the pilot program. Under the act, Delaware State University, Delaware Technical and Community College, and the University of Delaware are invited to help collect and analyze data to assess the program. 6/07/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the Senate Education Committee $1.0 million annually for three years
HB 349 Bentz This bill would create a Student Loan Ombudsman within the Office of the State Bank Commissioner as a modest step towards protecting Delawareans from predatory student loan servicing practices. The Student Loan Ombudsman would be responsible for receiving, investigating, and attempting to assist with complaints and questions about student loan borrowers. The Ombudsman would also analyze data trends from the complaints and questions received, analyze federal, state, and local developments and make recommendations about further steps that could be taken to address the student loan crisis. The Ombudsman would also create a student loan education course to ensure potential and current borrowers have complete information. 5/05/2016 Assigned to the House Appropriations Committee $96K annually
SB 204 Bushweller This bill would allow for a student to participate in the Inspire Scholarship Program for eight continuous semesters instead of the current six. This would allow a student to use Inspire Scholarships for each of the semesters during a traditional college program. 3/10/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the Senate Finance Committee $300-430K annually
HB 273 Bentz This bill creates the Career Readiness Exploration Credit Pilot Program, providing tax credits to certain employers for hiring qualified Delaware high school students as interns. 3/03/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the House Revenue & Finance Committee Up to $1M per tax year
School Finance
HB 438 B. Short Since 1999, residential developers in New Castle County have been required to seek either a certificate from the Department of Education declaring that the local school district has the capacity to absorb additional students from the new development, or alternatively pay a Voluntary School Assessment which is held in trust for the local school district to be used for new construction and expansion projects. This bill attempts to improve the process by taking into account the size of new dwellings, and making the fee standard across each school district. 6/21/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance/Commerce Committee Not required
HB 117 w/ HA 1 Heffernan This act will create a low-income unit by providing one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12 where the funding can be used for such purposes as providing additional teachers and paraprofessionals for classroom instruction; additional counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and intervention specialists; Response to Intervention Services; and before and after school programs providing homework assistance, and for support for English language learners. To ensure the low-income resources reach the schools where they are most needed, this act requires that at least 98 percent of the units be directed toward the schools that generate the funding unless otherwise waived by a local board of education during a public meeting. This amendment clarifies that the Department of Education’s definition of a low-income student must be based on federal guidance. In addition, this amendment provides that appropriations made for units for low-income students must require a local district contribution and allows a school district to use a match tax in accordance with § 1902(b) of Title 14 to assist in meeting the local district contribution. A second amendment makes the bill contingent upon appropriation of funds. 6/16/2016 Reported out of the House Appropriations Committee $12M state and $5M local
HB 418 Mulrooney This bill adjusts the special assessment rate which creates funds for the Delaware Workforce Development Board to provide ongoing training services to Delaware residents through a combination of state and federal grant money. The assessment increases are calculated to restore the annual training tax funds of the Delaware Workforce Development Board to their previous levels. A reduction in these taxes cost the Board approximately $900,000 of its operating revenue, adversely impacting the ability of the Board to provide needed training services. 6/15/2016 Reported out of the House Labor Committee Not required
HB 236 Miro This bill will allow for a school property tax exemption for a person of any age who has been designated as a disabled veteran by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The first amendment places a cap of $500 on the credit allowed for those qualifying veterans under the age of 65. The second amendment clarifies that a “qualified person” based upon a veteran’s disability requires a “full” disability, not partial. 5/03/2016 Assigned to the House Appropriations Committee $269K annually
HB 85 D. Short This bill allows school taxes and property taxes to be collected by tax intercept. 3/17/2016 Signed by the Governor Not required
HB 282 Mulrooney This bill is the Veterans, Skilled Workers, and Community Workforce Act. It requires that on all state-funded construction, public works, or improvement projects that contractors and subcontractors must draw 30 percent of their workforce from the Representative District where the project is located, and five percent of their workforce from eligible Delaware veterans. Such projects are to be governed by a Project Labor Agreement with the Delaware Building and Construction Trades Council to provide structure and stability and promote efficient completion. An amendment would change the local hiring policy of the bill to require that 30% of workers reside within a county as opposed to a Representative district for a public works project, among other changes. 3/16/2016 Reported out of the House Labor Committee Incomplete
Special Education
SB 93 w/SA 1 and HA 1 Henry This bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism. The Interagency Committee on Autism is charged with a) utilizing evidence-based practices and programs to improve outcomes for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in Delaware by sharing information, initiatives, data and communications among both public and private agencies providing services and supports for individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in Delaware; and b) implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2013 Delaware Strategic Plan entitled “Blueprint for Collective Action: Final Report of the Delaware Strategic Plan to Improve Services and Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism is to provide training and technical assistance for Delaware state agencies, organizations and other private entities operating in Delaware who serve and support individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Network is to support the operations of the Interagency Committee on Autism. The amendment requires the Network and the Network Director to collaborate with the Delaware Collaborative for Education Services (DCES), an entity to be created out of recommendations from the Special Education Strategic Plan.

The amendments add a provision that the services will be provided via a contract between the University of Delaware and the appropriate state agency.

6/30/2016 Passed by the House $637K first year; $867K second year; $884K third year
HB 30 Williams 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. An amendment would make the provisions of the bill contingent upon funding and phases in the increased funding for K-3 basic special education over 4 years. A second amendment would This amendment delays implementation of the bill by one year and phase in the increased funding for K-3 basic special education over 4 years. 6/16/2016 Reported out of the House Appropriations Committee $10.8M state share; $4M local share for FY16, before amendments.
SB 180 Poore This act provides procedures to ensure that each child with a disability who has reached age 18 has an identified educational decision-maker to exercise rights under this chapter. A child with a disability who has capacity may exercise his own rights or appoint an agent to exercise educational rights. A child with a disability who does not have capacity to provide informed consent with respect to educational programming will have an educational representative appointed, with a parent receiving priority for that role. The Department of Education, with the approval of the State Board of Education, shall promulgate regulations to implement this section. The act shall be in effect 180 days from the date of enactment to allow regulations to be developed and provide school districts and charter schools time to receive training. 6/09/2016 Signed by Governor Not required
HB 161 Hudson This bill provides opportunities to parents of special needs students to select the most appropriate and productive educational pathway for their children by using funds otherwise allocated to their residential school district. The goal of the Parent Empowerment Educational Savings Account Act is to increase educational opportunities for special needs students. The funds will be administered and audited by the State Treasurer.

Funds for this experimental project would transfer from those monies allocated or otherwise obligated by the State for each Special Need student and would therefore not require any new, unbudgeted, or unanticipated funds from the State. Management of these funds would be done by the State Treasurer, which would also be responsible for compliance audits.

This amendment simplifies the definitions of “Parent” and “Eligible student” and what the parent of an eligible student must agree to receive the requested grant.

6/03/2016 Tabled in the House Education Committee Assumed $12,815 state aid per pupil. Indeterminable impact on districts, but it’s assumed for approx. every 6.0 students taking advantage of the Accounts, a school district will lose 1.0 teaching unit.
SB 92 w/SA 1 Henry These code changes will revise the concept of The Delaware Autism Program (DAP) toward a system in which the Statewide Director would work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities, neutralizing the current distinction between DAP approved programs and other in-district options. The number of technical training experts has been identified as one expert per 100 students statewide. It is suggested that the fiscal mechanism to support these changes should be through mandated district participation that is congruent with the current needs based funding system in Delaware. Lastly, the current mandatory committee structure is enhanced to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review board. The amendment moves training and technical assistance to be housed on behalf of students with ASD from the State Department of Education to in the University of Delaware’s Center for Disability Studies. 5/05/2016 Assigned to House Appropriations Committee $842K state share and      $429K local share
Standards, Curriculum and Assessments
HB 355 w/ HA 1 Heffernan This bill creates a requirement that all public high schools, including charter schools, shall offer at least one computer science course at the high school level by the 2020-21 school year. As amended, this bill directs the Department of Education to develop standards for computer science and requires the State Board of Education to adopt the standards. The amendment clarifies that by the 2018-2019 school year, a computer science course may satisfy one year of the total credit graduation requirements in mathematics excluding Algebra I, Geometry, or Algebra II, or the equivalent courses. 6/28/2016 Reported out of the Senate Education Committee Not required
SB 292 Lawson This act sets the minimum educational courses for each grade. It does not set the curriculum for these courses or how they will be presented within the classrooms. 6/23/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the House Education Committee Not required
HB 243 Miro This bill would require the Department not to use the percentage of students in any district or school that participated in state assessment as a factor in determining ratings for accountability or progress or as a basis for qualification for any safe harbor provision. 1/19/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the House Education Committee Not required
HB 50 w/HA 1 + SA 1, SA 2 + HA 2 Kowalko & Lawson This bill creates the right for the parent or guardian of a child to opt out of the statewide or district-wide assessments. The current statewide assessment is the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The amendments clarify clarify that the parent or guardian must give written notice at least two school days prior to the start of the assessment, and clarify what information should be included in the notice sent from districts and charters to parents and guardians. 1/14/2016 Placed on the House Ready List Not required
HR 22 Miro This resolution calls for the Delaware Secretary of Education to propose options for the General Assembly to consider for adoption as Delaware law as it pertains to the decision by parents to opt their children out of statewide assessments. The Secretary shall provide options for implementation of a uniform procedure for all schools and school districts within this state to notify parents of their right to opt out, along with a standard procedure for parents to opt out. 1/14/2016 Passed by the House Not required
Student Health, Discipline, and Safety
HB 234 w/ HA 1 Williams This bill requires all public high schools, including vocational-technical schools, but not including charter schools, to have a school-based health center. The act requires the State to funds start-up costs for each center as well as fund the operational costs of each center for at least one school per fiscal year until all public high schools have a school-based health center. 7/01/2016 Passed the Senate $1.2M from tobacco funds over three years to cover Conrad School of Science ($195K), St. Georges ($370K) and Appoquinimink ($600K).
HB 408 w/HA 2 Osienski This Act, as amended, requires every public school site, including charter schools, participating in the Community Eligibility Provision to offer a breakfast at no cost to every student in the school through an Alternative Service Model, which may be in addition to their traditional breakfast meal service. The Alternative Service Model would not begin until school year 2017-2018. 7/01/2016  Passed Senate Indeterminable cost for the 27 public schools and 3 charter schools currently not using an alternative service model
HS 1 for HB 1 w/HA 1 Williams This bill establishes sexual assault policies for institutions of higher education. The bill will designate “responsible employees” at Delaware’s institutions of higher education who, when given a report of sexual violence, must take certain steps to ensure the victim is aware of their rights, as well as the confidential support services available to them. A “responsible employee” would also be required to offer to report a victim’s case to police, if the victim so wishes. In the original bill, a report to police was mandatory.

The bill will require law enforcement agencies to make reasonable efforts to ensure a victim’s privacy and inform the victim of their rights and available services. This bill also establishes requirements of institutions of higher education for training staff and students, and for reporting of sexual assaults on campus. The bill empowers the Department of Justice to fine academic institutions for failure to comply with the reporting and training requirements. Any penalty collected will go toward sexual assault awareness and prevention programs or funds. The amendment makes technical and clarifying changes and makes the following adjustments.

6/30/2016 Signed by the Governor Not required
HB 250 Williams In 2014, the Legislature passed a bill adding instances of “reported and recorded” bullying to the list of reasons why a child could be withdrawn from a choice or charter school before the expiration of the statutory minimum enrollment period or why an application for admission or withdrawal could be accepted outside of the statutory timeframe for submission. This bill seeks to clarify and strengthen that law by adding a requirement that the instance of bullying must also be substantiated. This will ensure the integrity of the law by limiting its exploitation by persons who wish to change schools for unrelated reasons, but preserving the exception for children truly in need of special consideration due to school bullying. 6/30/2016 Passed by the Senate Not required
SB 208 w/SA 1 Blevins This act makes technical corrections to two online privacy protection bills passed during the General Assembly’s 2015 session. 6/30/2016 Passed by the House Not required
SB 246 Sokola This bill will amend the deadline of the annual yearly progress report under the Omnibus School Safety Program from May 31 to September 1 of each year. This would enable the report to accurately reflect all schools that have completed all requirements and are in compliance. 6/30/2016 Passed by the House Not required
SB 207 w/HA 1 Henry This act would improve the state’s response to incidents of school bullying by better informing parents of the availability of intervention by the Department of Justice’s School Ombudsperson, and clarify that the Ombudsperson has authority to intervene in both incidents of criminal activity and incidents that meet the statutory definition of bullying but do not constitute criminal activity. Finally, the act would ensure that parents of students involved in bullying incidents are informed that such incidents are reported to the Department of Education, and are informed when such reports occur. The amendment removes the proposed change to give schools and victims’ families’ discretion whether to report misdemeanor assault incidents between juveniles to law enforcement agencies. The current Code language requiring mandatory reporting of misdemeanor assaults will remain unchanged under this amendment. The amendment instead adds a more detailed reporting requirement for the Department of Education. 6/30/2016 Passed by the Senate Not required
SB 213 w/ SA 1 Henry This act, named Erin’s Law, requires the Child Protection Accountability Commission and the Division of Family Services of the Department of Health and Social Services, with the support of the Department of Education (“Department”), to develop and maintain a curriculum about personal body safety and child sexual abuse. Once developed, this act requires public schools to implement the curriculum to educate employees who are employed at schools with any of the grades pre-kindergarten through six, students in grades pre-kindergarten through six, and parents of a child in grades pre-kindergarten through six. The act provides for parental notification of the curriculum. In addition, the act requires the school districts to report annually to the Department, and the Department to report annually to the Governor and General Assembly on the curriculum and its implementation. The amendment delays the school districts’ mandatory use of the curriculum required by this Act until the 2017 to 2018 school year, 6/29/2016 Passed by the House The cost of developing curriculum is indeterminable as its unknown whether pre-existing curriculum will be used or if new, state specific curriculum will be developed
HB 292 Williams This bill requires schools to post the toll-free telephone report line number for child abuse and neglect in a conspicuous location, where it may be viewed by students. Currently the number is 1-800-292-9582. 6/09/2016 Signed by Governor Not required
SB 228 McDowell This act allows SEED scholarship recipients to maintain their scholarships when personal circumstances require them to take a semester off or attend part-time, as long as they continue to meet the other eligibility requirements for the program. The amendment would allow SEED funds to be used for programs to provide workforce training skills. 5/13/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the Senate Finance Committee $432K for FY17 to cover 182 students.
HB 350 Schwartzkopf This act revises the Delaware Code relating to the limitation, suspension and revocation of educator licenses. This act will strengthen the ability of the Department of Education to investigate and take action against the licenses of educators who pose a threat to children. 5/03/2016 Re-assigned to the House Administration Committee Not required
SB 239 Henry This act furthers replacing out-of-school suspensions with more effective and restorative interventions, and require school districts and charter schools that suspend defined numbers of students or suspensions disparities to take meaningful corrective action by implementing restorative justice practices and smart discipline advisory committees. The schools in need of intervention are defined schools with high rates of suspension overall, or between subgroups based on race and disability. 5/03/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the Senate Education Committee Not required
SB 62 Sokola This act updates the minimum insurance coverage requirements for school transportation to reflect current industry standards. Also requires charter school buses to have coverage. 4/22/2016 Signed by the Governor Not required
SB 202 w/SA 1 Sokola This act excludes buses operated by the Department of Education, any public school district, or any charter school from the requirements for minimum insurance coverage contained in § 2904, Title 14 of the Delaware Code. The amendment makes clear that the insurance required by § 2904, Title 14 is for buses that are used, owned, leased, or operated by a person with a contract the Department of Education, any public school district, or any charter school. This act is a follow-up to Senate Bill No. 62, which was passed by the General Assembly during the first session of the 148th General Assembly. 4/20/2016 Signed by the Governor Not required
HB 265 Hensley This bill will add licensed child care centers within the definition of “school” as it applies to the section of the code making it a crime for any person who is a sex offender to reside or loiter within 500 feet of a “school.” This amendment would clarify that a resident residing at the specific location prior to the locating of the daycare facility or enactment of this bill does not have to vacate or sell their property to avoid a criminal charge. 3/03/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee Not required
Task Forces
SCR 56 Sokola This resolution extends the due date of the findings and recommendations report of the Education Funding Improvement Commission from March 31, 2016 to June 30, 2016. 3/24/2016 House Passed Not required
HJR 4 w/HA 1 Briggs King This joint resolution is designed to establish a task force to study and make findings concerning financial literacy education in Delaware. The task force will also make policy and program recommendations that will help increase the financial literacy of our students. The amendment clarifies that the two teachers are to be appointed by the President of the Delaware State Education Association and adds two representatives from the Delaware Bankers Association. 2/01/2016 Signed by the Governor Not required
Teachers and School Staffing
HB 399 w/HA 1 and SA 1 and SA 2  Jaques Based on the recommendations of the DPAS II Advisory Committee, this act, with amendments, establishes a pilot program in three local education agencies for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years to make changes to the DPAS II educator evaluation system which include weighing all evaluation components equally. In this pilot, administrators maintain discretion to determine whether the state standardized assessment should be used as part of an educator’s evaluation. An evaluation will be conducted of the pilot and of the alternative evaluation systems used in school districts and charters throughout the state that includes educator perceptions and surveys of parent and students. 7/01/2016 Passed by the House Indeterminable
SB 199 Sokola This act creates a four-tiered licensure structure for Delaware educators. Through Senate Bill 51, the State of Delaware has significantly improved educator preparation in Delaware. This act will continue this critical work. The act will: 1) Creating a one-year “provisional” license for applicants who have not met the performance assessment requirement; 2) Redefining the length of time an educator is considered to be a “novice,” from a three-year time period to a four-year time period; 3) Expanding the mentoring program for novice educators, thus strengthening the support provided to Delaware’s early career educators; 4) Ensuring Delaware’s school districts and charter schools can continue to hire high-quality out-of-state candidates and support them as they meet performance assessment requirements in their first year of teaching; and 5) Requiring the completion of an impact study designed to assess the correlation between the aforementioned revisions and the state’s ongoing efforts to elevate the profession, improve educator preparation, and increase student growth and achievement. 6/30/2016 Passed by the House Not required
HB 307 w/ HA 1 Williams In 2015, the Legislature enacted the one-time fee of no more than $100 for an educator’s first license in Delaware. This bill, as amended, provides a reimbursement for applicant once they becoming a teacher in a Delaware public school. 6/09/2016 Signed by Governor Complete, but not posted.
HB 165 Heffernan This legislation requires that all full-time employees of the state, including employees of school districts, continuously in the employ of the state for at least one year, shall be eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child six years of age or younger. Both parents would be eligible for such leave. Employees shall continue to have the right, as they do under current law, to use accrued sick leave for maternity and paternity purposes. This legislation leaves intact the rights of persons adopting a child over six years of age to take unpaid leave. Amendments delay the bill’s effective date to January 1, 2017, to allow government agencies and schools to prepare and implement the new policy. 3/24/2016 Assigned to the House Appropriations Committee $1.9M annually
HB 107 Williams This bill articulates the principle that local school districts and school boards should have the authority to select their own leaders and staff from a pool of qualified applicants. These are decisions best left at the local level rather than imposed by a central authority. 1/20/2016 Reported out of the House Education Committee Not required
Wilmington Education
SJR 17 Blevins This Senate joint resolution affirms the decision of the State Board of Education to approve the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s Plan (“the Plan”) and supports the continued work of the Commission in developing details of implementation of the Plan. It resolves that redistricting is conditional on allocation of funding and recognizes that final approval of the Plan is still required since necessary and sufficient funding is not provided in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget. 7/01/2016 Passed by the House Not required
SB 300 w/ HA 1 Blevins This act clarifies that a vote by the General Assembly in support of redistricting serves to authorize the State Board to proceed with the redistricting, but does not constitute approval of any particular revenue or spending measure proposed in the Plan of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.

This act provides a $200,000 supplemental appropriation to establish the Wilmington Redistricting Transition Fund, which shall be used to assess the fiscal impact of transitioning City of Wilmington students from the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. This act establishes a working group to review the assessment of those fiscal impacts.

The amendment removes language obligating the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and affected school districts to develop, before February 2017, a detailed assessment of the impact of transitioning City of Wilmington Students from the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. Such detailed assessment would require development of school- and student-level changes that require public input and facility analysis that cannot be completed in the timeframes in the original bill. Instead, they should be undertaken as part of the planning phase for redistricting upon commitment of necessary and sufficient funding. The amendment preserves appropriation of $200,000 to continue the work related to the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, including analysis of fiscal impacts, and language clarifying and ensuring that any additional state funding requires further action of the General Assembly.

7/01/2016 Passed the Senate $200K
HJR 12 Potter This House joint resolution fulfills the condition of 14 Del C. § 1026(d)(1) that the General Assembly must pass and the governor must sign a joint resolution supporting the proposed changes to school district boundaries in New Castle County. It also recognizes that the plan presented by the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and approved by the Board of Education will require necessary and sufficient funding to achieve the goals laid out therein for redistricting and improving student outcomes. This joint resolution also constitutes final approval of the transition and resource plan required under 14 Del. C. § 1008(g). 6/30/2016 Defeated by the Senate Not required
HB 424 Lynn This bill clarifies that a vote by the General Assembly as required in 14 Del C. §§ 1008(g) and 1026(d) in support of redistricting serves to authorize the State Board to proceed with the redistricting, but does not constitute approval of any particular revenue or spending measure proposed in the Plan of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission. 6/22/2016 Assigned to the Senate Executive Committee Not required
HB 425 Bolden This bill clarifies that a vote by the General Assembly as required in 14 Del. C. §§ 1008(g) and 1026(d) in support of redistricting serves to authorize the State Board to proceed with the redistricting, but does not constitute approval of any particular revenue or spending measure proposed in the plan of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.
It also sets forth the intent of the General Assembly with respect to education funding. Funding will be provided for a Wilmington Redistricting Transition Fund to implement the redistricting plan. Statewide funding will be initiated for students of low socio-economic status, English Language Learner and basic special education, K-3, and shall be provided initially to the Red Clay School District, Capital School District, and Indian River School District, with the intention that at least one school district from each county will also receive additional funding in subsequent years. School districts are encouraged, but not required, to match up to 30 percent of said funding.
6/09/2016 Introduced and Assigned to the House Education Committee Incomplete

 

[i] Synopses include all amendments that have passed or been placed with the bill. This language may summarize the official synopsis of the legislation.

All bills are sorted by policy area, and then by date of most recent action.

Updated on July 1st, 2016. Some legislation is pending action by the governor.

Education is Front and Center at Legislative Hall

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Exterior of Dover Legislative Building in Delaware

One look at our Legislative Monitor says it all: Education was front and center this year in the Delaware General Assembly.

It was also a tough financial year, one plagued by continued revenue shortfalls. In this space Wednesday, we recapped the proposed budget cuts put forth by the Joint Finance Committee and the implications on Delaware teachers and students. It wasn’t a pretty picture.

But the news wasn’t all bad. On the early childhood education front, around $9.4 million will go to support programs and initiatives spurred by the federal Early Learning Challenge Grant awarded to Delaware in 2011. While still short of Governor Jack Markell’s recommended $11.4 million, the funds will help pay for tiered reimbursement and onsite support and assessment of providers in the Stars program, professional development activities for practitioners in early care and education, early childhood mental health consultation, developmental screenings and surveys, community readiness teams, and more. Money was also set aside for an inclusive teaching model at the Laboratory Preschool at the University of Delaware.

Proposed salary increases for teachers found their way to the cutting room floor, but the legislature added $1 million to help support educators, including stipends for those who obtain National Board Certification (restoring a program that was formerly funded), and funding to pilot teacher-leadership roles, which will allow teachers to receive additional compensation while continuing to stay in the classroom of several districts and charters starting this fall.

The troubling financial picture grabbed most of the headlines, but there were many other hot-topic issues emanating from Dover this session.

Standardized assessments remained hotly contested, and in January, a veto override attempt of HB 50—a bill that would allow parents to “opt out” of the Smarter Balanced Assessment—failed to gain traction. The bill passed through both chambers last session, but Gov. Markell vetoed it last July, saying the legislation “would undermine the only objective tool we have to understand whether our children are learning and our schools are improving.”

This session gave rise to two new task forces: one focused on financial literacy education (HJR 4) and another, the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Task Force (HR 39), to study and make recommendations related to afterschool programs.

DPAS II, Delaware’s statewide educator evaluation system, could also see some changes soon. The DPAS II Advisory Subcommittee was established last year to review and make recommendations for changes to the current system. The resulting legislation, HB 399 w/ HA 1, SA 1, and SA 2, establishes that all components of the system are weighted equally (these include instruction, professional responsibility, and student achievement)—and a pilot in three local education agencies to evaluate the pilot’s effectiveness, beginning this fall for two years. The amendments clarify the roles of administrators and school leaders in setting goals for their faculty, while also requiring a survey of parents, and students, and ed professionals to be incorporated into feedback.

SB 51, which passed in 2013, required that all teacher candidates pass a performance assessment before graduating from a teacher preparation program and enter the classroom. SB 199 creates a one-year provisional license for applicants who have not completed the performance assessment requirement, such as those who are from out-of-state and are prepared by alternative routes programs. With this policy, which will take effect next year, we join several other states in adopting nationally standardized assessments to help ensure new teachers enter the classroom ready.

Research tells us that students’ health can be linked to their academic achievement, as noted in Student Success 2025. With that in mind, HB 234 requires all public high schools, including vocational-technical schools (but not including charter schools), to have a school-based health center. The act requires the state to funds start-up costs for each center (at the three high schools that do not currently have one) as well the operational costs for at least one school per fiscal year until all public high schools have a health center. Tobacco settlement funds were used to financially support this effort this year.

SB 180 ensures that each child with a disability has been assigned an educational decision-maker by age 18.

Over the course of the legislative session, multiple bills were drafted in attempt to strengthen the audit process for charter schools, and the role of the State Auditor’s Office in their finances.  After much discussion, HB 435, which creates a clear charter school audit process, represents a compromise between Representative Kim Williams, Senator David Sokola, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, and the State Auditor’s Office. The provision creates clear requirements and a process for the audits of charter schools, while allowing schools to contract directly with independent auditors for services. It’s also a win for charter schools and taxpayers alike, because it offers transparency and oversight of school finances, while allowing charter schools to select their own auditors and negotiate rates – resulting in taxpayer savings.

Finally, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC), which was created last year through code and charged with developing a transition, resource, and implementation plan for reorganizing school districts in the City of Wilmington, introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at redistricting and providing necessary financial backing to support weighted unit funding for impacted districts.

Ultimately, SJR 17 affirms the decision of the State Board of Education to approve WEIC’s plan and supports the continued work of the commission with an eye toward implementation. It should be noted that redistricting is conditional on allocation of funding. Additionally, SB 300 with HA 1 authorizes the State Board to proceed with the redistricting, but WEIC intends to suspend the redistricting plan pending necessary and sufficient funding. The bill does not provide for any revenue or spending measure proposed by WEIC. The bill does provide transition funds in the amount of $200,000 to fund continued analysis.

These issues were only the tip of the iceberg in a very busy legislative session—which concluded at 5 a.m. Friday morning. As always, you can reference our Legislative Monitor for a full list of education-related bills. We also encourage you to join the conversation and become an advocate in Delaware public education. Attend a meeting of one of the many education-related committees mentioned above, or search for others in the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.

What do Budget Cuts Mean for Students and Schools?

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The Joint Finance Committee has already made and continues to face difficult decisions this year—especially as revenue projections trend downward and significant gaps remain in our state budget. Some of these decisions involved education funds: some to new proposals in the governor’s budget, some to continue existing programs. What will these cuts mean to students and educators?

Existing funding streams that were not increased as proposed include:

  • The $1 million proposed increase to the technology block grant for schools, a priority for school districts, did not make the cut—which will dampen their ability to update and purchase electronic devices for educators and students. It also eliminates the opportunity to use the funds to support professional development and technology support staff—an area that is not directly supported by the unit count funding system and something districts must fund creatively or locally.
  • The competitive fund for charter schools serving high-need populations has dwindled from $2 million over the last few years to this year’s recommended $500,000, which the JFC has completely eliminated. This funding was a step to make charter funding more equitable—as charters don’t receive some funds that districts do, such as capital funding. Without these resources, high-performing schools serving high-need students will struggle to expand to serve more students.
  • Finally, $11.3 million was requested to sustain the work underway in our state as a result of the Federal Early Learning Challenge Grant, which has increased the access of high-need children to high-quality care, provided scholarships to professionals, diagnostic screenings, supported community-led initiatives to get kids ready for kindergarten, and more. In order to continue to serve working parents and our highest need young children at the level we do today, these funds are required. Early learning initiatives were cut by $2 million, which means that the early learning community will have some tough decisions to make about where to eliminate programs and resources for working families and young children. And, we have more challenges ahead—as more high-need children are served in higher quality care, more resources are needed, just as they are when more students enter the K-12 system. But instead of having a “door opener” like the K-12 system does, as well as contingency funds for more teaching units, the early learning field has to come back and ask for more resources each time. This system must be fixed if we truly want to invest our dollars where they can make the most difference.

Proposed new investments that will not be funded include:

  • The $3 million cut for expanding internet bandwidth in public schools, another priority for districts, is especially difficult as schools (like the rest of the world) shift toward technology based platforms. Many schools face challenges administering assessments electronically. And many educators utilize web-based platforms like Schoology to connect with other educators to develop lesson plans, share best practices, or pursue valuable professional development. The web also allows our students to connect with people and resources from around the world, like Rodel Teacher Council member Lisa Mims, who conducts ‘Mystery Skype’ sessions with fourth grade classrooms around the map. Until we can meet basic needs, like reliable and sufficient broadband access, schools can’t offer access to modern education equitably.
  • The governor’s recommended budget included $3 million to offer higher starting salaries for new educators. Without these funds, Delaware remains non-competitive with surrounding states who can offer more and who often hire earlier in the calendar year.
  • With its $500,000 price tag, SB 228 proposed expansion to the SEED Scholarships that would’ve allowed students to drop below full-time or take time off during their college experience without putting their scholarship dollars in jeopardy. With this cut, we lost a  great bill that could have  supported  students who are competing  academically,  but also have competing life responsibilities like family or job obligations. As someone who worked my way through college with a full-time job, taking classes part-time, this is a difficult cut to bear.
  • As part of our state’s focus on preparing students for life beyond high school and the desire to support a healthy Delaware economy, Delaware Pathways allows students to take courses in high-demand fields, earn college credits and industry recognized credentials while gaining valuable employment experience while in high school. About $600,000 is needed to establish Delaware Technical Community College as the convener between businesses and schools to provide students with work-based employment opportunities intended to support their classroom experience. Without this, this project will be delayed and may not expand as planned.

Times are difficult and I certainly don’t envy the decisions that our lawmakers have to make when prioritizing spending. As the final week of General Assembly concludes, we’ll be watching how the final funding decisions will impact the lives of Delaware students and educators.

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