General Assembly Post-Game Wrap-Up/Pre-Game Show: Weds., June 26, 2013

Filed in Delaware by on June 26, 2013

Let us talk about claustrophobia. Went for an MRI this morning (shoulder pain from carrying this blog on my back, if you must know). Had no problem with the tube, hell, they give you a mask (or is it a blindfold?), fer cryin’ out loud. I was fine. Until they asked me if I wanted music. I thought, “I like music, why not?” On go the headphones, I’m sucked into the maw of the tube, and sucked into 25 minutes of the worst music and radio imaginable. Does anyone here listen to WJBR? I hope not. The supposed music of  ‘the eighties, the nineties, and today’. Which I suppose would be true if drums and actual, what’s the word I’m looking for…instruments, had been banned from music back in the eighties. Swear to Allah, not one real instrument in 25 minutes. Except for a power ballad piano, that might have been a real piano. Or not. Probably not one real voice, just autotuned melismatics.  And nothing but songs from American Idol winners and losers. Plus, of course, Madonna, to keep it real. Oh, and every commercial was run at Chipmunk Warp Speed. Ladies and gentlemen, that was 25 minutes of claustrophobia. I dared not scream “Change the station, Al’s on!” b/c you’re not supposed to move anything, including your gums.

The above submitted as a plausible explanation as to why this post is late today. (Deep cleansing breaths.)

The House passed the Budget Bill yesterday. Did any of you kiddies do your assigned homework this weekend and actually read the bill? I know, I didn’t either. What to do? What to do? I’ve got it. Nancy, why don’tcha take a few days off from calling radio stations, and read the bill and report back to us? Problems solved. BTW, Rep. Ruth Briggs King was the only ‘no’ vote, something about ‘with so many people out of work, we shouldn’t be increasing the budget’. Because, you know, cutting the budget will put people back to work. Idiot.

Otherwise, things went pretty much as predicted. Here is the Session Activity Report,  Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m disappointed that HB165(Jaques) passed, and will be signed by the Governor today. But the Senate also passed two bills sponsored by Sen. Townsend that will make that passage at least a little more palatable. SB 147 creates more of a partnership between charters and public schools, including the sharing of ‘best practices’. Here is the 17-4 roll call. SB 148:

promotes transparency in government spending relating to competitive grants administered by the Department of Education by requiring that the Department publish on its website the eligibility requirements, criteria and successful applications for every competitive grant it administers.

I believe that the Markell Administration has signed off on both bills. Seriously, you don’t see legislating of this quality very often in Dover.  A lesson to legislators: If you know you’re gonna lose on an issue, at least try to get something positive out of it. Sometimes you succeed. And thanks to the Markell Administration for working with Sen. Townsend on this.

SS1/SB33(Ennis) got final Senate approval and heads to the Governor. Yay!! The two bitter holdouts who voted no were Bloviator Bonini and, wait for it, Pope Pompous I, formerly Monsignor Lavelle. To quote the parrot from ‘Aladdin’, “Why am I not surprised?”

The House passed HB 193(Mitchell), which “promotes the safety and welfare of the State’s citizens by making failure to wear a seat belt an independent civil violation. It would no longer be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing on other violations. There are still no motor vehicle points assessed and no entry on the persons driving record.”  While I expected the bill to pass, I confess I’m surprised that it passed unanimously. No ‘Big Brother’ism?

The House defeated a bill that would have permitted the sale of ‘unpasteurized raw milk to a final consumer’. Here’s the roll call.  As you can see, the votes were all over the map here. If anyone has insight, let us know. I, for one, did not find this legislation to be udderly absurd.

Another huge legislative day is in store. The Bond Bill tops the Senate Agenda. Nancy, should you get your review of the Budget Bill done in time, put down that phone and peruse this one. Folks, here’s what you need to know about the Bond Bill: It requires a 3/4 vote in each house. You can only get to 3/4 if you have something in there for everybody. Or, at least 3/4 of everybody.  The rest of the Senate Agenda generally reflects what was on yesterday’s agenda. Which I discussed yesterday.

Two bills of interest have been added to today’s House Agenda. For anyone who thinks that it’s easy for government to resolve messy family situations, check out HB 125(M. Smith). The bill “allows for the reinstatement of parental rights where a child remains in the custody of the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families, despite reasonable efforts to secure a permanent plan of adoption. Where it is in the best interests of the child, this bill allows for the legal relationship between the child and his or her biological family to be reinstated.”  That’s pretty much the definition of an imperfect solution, but have any of us got anything better? I strongly support HB 178(Barbieri), which does away with one of the worst of the exclusionary professional practices remaining in Delaware, the requirement that applicants for licensure as physicians in Delaware undergo a personal interview with a member of the Board of Medical Practice. Again, good legislating by one of Delaware’s best legislators. (And don’t give me any HB 165 crap with Barbieri. This is a year where every single legislator will have at least one black mark next to their name from progressive purists. But, anybody who pays attention to the kind of legislation that Barbieri works on will recognize that he’s one of the best and most knowledgeable that we’ve got. And he’s a lot more effective than most of the legislative ‘purists’.)

Hey, some important committee meetings today. The Senate Executive Committee considers a spate, or is it a slew, of nominations. The House Education Committee considers SB 27(Sokola), which I like, but seems to be disdained by some self-professed educational experts. If someone can explain to me why providing accelerated programs that challenge public school students is a bad thing, I might be willing to change my mind.

We have some substantive substance bills in the House Health & Human Development Committee. The House Judiciary, Public Safety & Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs committees also meet. Only item on the all-important Veterans’ Affairs agenda, and I quote verbatim from said agenda:

HJR 8 PROCLAIMIING THE STATE AS A PURPLE HEART STATE HONORING THE SERVICE AND SACRIFICE OF OUR NATION’S MEN AND WOMEN IN UNFORM WHO WERE WOUNDED OR KILLED DURING ENEMY COMBAT WHILE SERVING TO PROTECT THE FREEDOMS ENJOYED BY ALL AMERICANS.

Sponsor : Brady

No question that the bill makes it out of committee. Just wonder whether any, or all, of the typos make it out as well.

Well, the hands of time are closing in on me (who says that I can’t create a quality mixed metaphor?), as are the walls. Time to put on my blindfold and crawl into my tube.

 

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  1. Mike Matthews says:

    Your reasoning is right on SB 27, but you’re missing a key piece. This is a “competitive grant.” What else was a competitive grant? The boondoggle hot mess Race to the Top. You are correct. We need these accelerated programs in our schools, but it shouldn’t be left up to a competitive grant process that could leave out a large swath of our schools. This programming needs to be inserted into the budget as a line item and it needs to be sustained for all of our schools.

  2. Why the weird characterization of me (2ce) ‘on the phone to radio programs’ vs. reading legislation up for a vote?

    I think I was given 2 minutes of time yesterday to correct the record by mentioning what I witnessed directly – in person – of Rep. Kim Williams testimony in the Chamber about access to the Charter School law revision working group.

    You can’t talk about the hours I spend looking at legislation on the GA website…..I mean, how would you know either way? Right?

    Please refrain from commentary of that which you have not one iota of knowledge. :-)

  3. Citizen says:

    I assume SB 27 pits all public schools against each other, incl. charter? So is there likely to be a scenario in which charters already permitted to “filter” higher performing students through a variety of mechanisms (tests, lack of key services for low-income and special needs students) can then claim that their higher-achieving students require additional funds for accelerated programming? I think DE public schools certainly need more programs for kids with above-average academic ability, but I’d be concerned about any bill likely to further concentrate public resources in schools serving more privileged kids to the exclusion of the less advantaged. We’re doing a lot of that in DE’s public ed sector already.

    Sokola is the sponsor, and he is deeply pro-charter–that’s a red flag, in my book.

  4. I have plenty of knowledge about your coming on the radio.

    Not sure what the technology at the station is telling me, but it’s either that cicadas get aroused by the sound of your voice, or that radios are clicking off en masse.

  5. Citizen says:

    In relation to my comment above, there is an encouraging line in SB 27 :

    (5) Preference shall be given to programs that explicitly provide for the encouragement of participation by students from diverse backgrounds.

    A senate amendment adds “and students with disabilities,” I THINK to this line (I can’t see the line enumeration in HTML format).

    Still, we’re in a tricky situation now that we’ve allowed a number of public schools to discriminate against low-income and special needs kids; once you introduce “competition” between public schools in such a landscape, those exclusionary institutions have an innate advantage. Nothing in the DOE’s recent behavior suggests that they will even acknowledge this problem, let alone take it into consideration when weighing grant proposals.

    Yet another reason why it would have been smart to curtail such disparities across public schools from the outset (or in HB 165, passed yesterday without attending to any of these significant issues). If SB 27 passes, I hope district schools serving a diverse range of students get good support for their enrichment grant proposals.

  6. WTF are you talking about El Som? The implication appears to be that people turn off the radio when I call.

    I can tell you that I have people everywhere I go tell me what fans they are of me on WDEL radio when I do call which isn’t very often. I mean it is funny how many people recognize my voice in conversation and remark that they listen to me on the radio and really appreciate what I have to say. So I respectfully challenge whatever bullshit you are implying based on what information I am getting ‘in the field’ so to speak.

    WOW. I am going to be taking this up with the radio station for some confirmation of your contention. I don’t believe a word of it.

  7. That was not an implication, Nancy.

  8. A little more on SB 27. You might want to check out SA1, which was added to the bill when it passed the Senate:

    http://www.legis.delaware.gov/LIS/lis147.nsf/vwLegislation/SA+1+to+SB+27/$file/legis.html?open

    Citizen alluded to it, but this amendment is designed to make the process fair and equitable.

    I was in contact with a well-informed proponent of the bill. In response to Mike’s concerns, they explained the reason that they are grants rather than line items is (a) there is not money in the budget to give money to every school and there has to be some rational way of deciding how to allocate the money, and (b) a lot of the costs involved in these programs are one-time costs (books, professional development, etc.) that don’t require annual funding. Brandywine School District runs a robust and very popular gifted/talented program in four of its schools with nothing other than existing unit funds.

    Just passing along the info. Please feel free to continue to comment on this, as it’s a good conversation.

  9. SussexWatcher says:

    No radio station can track how many people are listening at a particular moment.

  10. Steve Newton says:

    El Som–here is my problem with SB 27 and also the other earlier bill (number I have forgotten) about school security improvement grants:

    1. As you said, there is not sufficient money to go around, therefore the distribution has to prioritized in some way. As with the general concept of Race to the Top, SB 27 assigns the money to the districts or schools that write the best grants, rather than the ones that have the highest need. Take Brandywine for an example: yes BSD runs a wonderful program (and believe me, pandora, I’m not trying to get into a fight over this) but it is also important to know that relative to the other New Castle County districts BSD starts with a stronger tax base (they spend almost $3K more per child than the average of the rest of the districts) and a lower percentage of low SES students. So any comparison using Brandywine versus, say, Colonial or Christina needs to weight in those two factors.

    2. Should need be assessed as more important than the ability to write a grant? Christina has a majority poor population in its school district, the only district in the north end of the state that has that, and it is always either the largest or second largest (to Red Clay) of the school districts. It has more high schools in need of some special attractor, something to raise the standards, than Red Clay or Brandywine, but in a competitive rather than a needs-based mode CSD is going to lose out almost every time (the past is prologue here).

    3. So my general argument is that if public schools are not a “free market” then they should not be managed by what seem to be Darwinian principles of “survival of the fittest.” It seems to me that the reason for the existence of public schools is supposed to be universal access to equal opportunity for the benefits of education. Consistently doling out the goodies from either the Federal or State level based on a competitive process is going to guarantee that CSD still struggles and that Mississippi has one of the worst school systems in the nation.

    So my problem (and it is large enough that I would have voted against this bill) is not with the concept of stimulating such programs, but with the concept that the awards are based on competition rather than need.

  11. I gotcha, Steve. I’m pretty sure that supporters are arguing that the ability to write the best grants will not be the criteria, rather the need. BSD doesn’t need it so, assuming that the proponents are correct, they wouldn’t get it for that purpose.

    As to Race To The Top, which I firmly believe is simply a jumping through artificial hoops for cash, well, there are competitions and there are competitions. Having said that, if your premise about the quality of the grant request determining winners and losers is correct, I would be with you in voting no.

    Just don’t think that that’s the case. In this case, I trust who I’ve talked to.

    Yeah, yeah, I know. You don’t even have to say it.

  12. Steve Newton says:

    El Som–in this case I probably trust the legislators’ intent further than I trust either (a) their oversight and follow through once the law is in action; or (b) the good faith of bureaucrats at DOE who play the revolving door game of positions between the upstate districts and Dover.

    Trust but verify: if the intent is to take need into account, it should have been in the bill.

  13. I believe that the amendment moved the bill in that direction.

    BTW, didn’t say that the proponent with whom I spoke was a legislator. Not that they couldn’t be, but…

  14. John Manifold says:

    I’m having trouble getting used to Lavelle’s new name. I keep saying “Pope Pompatus.”

  15. Maybe we should just call him ‘Maurice':

  16. Steve Newton says:

    Only if you can figure out a way to do the sound effects

  17. Hey, there’s a REASON why Steve Miller is Homer Simpson’s favorite artist.