Earlier this month, members of the Rodel Teacher Council took a field trip to Legislative Hall in Dover, where they spoke to some of Delaware’s most prominent lawmakers—from Gov. John Carney, to Chief Information Officer Sec. James Collins, to a handful of state congressional leaders.
On the agenda were discussions around school broadband connectivity, personalized learning, and the state’s tight education budget.
We spoke to Luke Crossan, a teacher at Alfred G. Waters Middle School and a first-year member of the RTC, about his experience.
Q: What was the overall experience like?
Luke: I had never been to Legislative Hall, so I just loved walking around and talking to everybody. It was great to get in front of policymakers and hear their viewpoints, since teachers don’t always get that opportunity. We met as a big group with Gov. Carney, Sec. Susan Bunting, Sec. Collins, Sen. David Sokola, and Rep. Earl Jaques. In my smaller breakout group we chatted with Rep. Harvey Kenton, Rep. Charles Postles Jr., and Sen. Gary Simpson.
Q: What did you talk to legislators about?
Luke: One was emphasizing the importance of strong education policy and personalized learning. For the legislators who were less familiar with those topics, we gave them some of the basics of personalized learning. Some legislators knew more, so we could discuss more specifics like waivers or content mastery.
One big thing we talked about was increasing the broadband capacity for all schools. We did dive in deep with Sec. Collins on that, and we were able to share stories from our classrooms that underscore the need for better broadband connectivity. He was super receptive to our stories, and he told us that his job is to increase that connectivity and he shared with us some of his plan for making those improvements.
Q: What was your impression of Gov. Carney and the members of the Legislature?
Luke: Gov. Carney seems super supportive of education—but tempered that by talking about the tight budget situation. He really does seem to understand that education needs to grow and change if we want Delaware students to thrive and for our system to keep up with the rest of the country.
He also focused heavily on local decisions, the idea that need to shift more decision-making to local schools and districts instead of state mandates.
Sen. Simpson had great knowledge of education issues and was inquisitive. He kept asking us for our ideas, and even our thoughts on how to trim the budget, for example, since my school has 1-to-1 devices, do we really still need textbooks?
Q: What were some of your takeaways looking back on the experience?
Luke: My takeaway is that it needs to happen more—educators engaging with policymakers. Districts should try to get in front of these lawmakers more.
The whole day was unique to me. Being face-to-the face with the leader of the state is a huge moment for me. It’s great to have that accessibility in Delaware, but sitting down with the governor around the table was an awesome experience. I’m definitely sending him an email asking him to come stop by my classroom sometime for a visit.