Additional info on HB # 328

Normally, if I find a topic on a fellow bloggers page I think needs comment on I would go to their site and leave it there, but I tried that with no success. Elizabeth Scheinberg at Children & Educators First recently posted a story about house bill # 328 which was introduced in the Delaware legislature to improve education for special needs students. The bill has been championed by the Lt. Governor as the state looks to meet the language coming out of a Circuit Court case that was just decided. Ms. Scheinberg took the words out of context of a recent news article in the Dover Post, in which the DSBA executive expressed concerns for the legislation. As a member of the DSBA, Board of Directors, I have worked with Ms. Francis on many issues, and was offended by the inference that Ms Francis and the DSBA were opposed to this bills intent! What was left out of the blog post and news article was the actual language the DSBA has asked legislators to better define before the state finds itself in a law suit. The two new pieces added to existing Title 14 language were:
1. Provides significant learning to the handicapped person; and
2. Confers meaningful benefit on the handicapped person that is gauged to the handicapped person’s potential.

The words bolder above were part of the Circuit Courts final recommendations, but in the courts documents they were left vague as the court did not feel they were the experts to offer opinion on how to measure for each individual. What the DSBA has asked the legislators to do is define the terms and add a measuring device to each so that educators and parents speak the same language. Time and dollars wasted on law suits would be better spent bringing both parties together to find ways to increase all students potential! I stated these same comments on the blog mentioned earlier, but I guess my words did not go in line with the message the owner wanted.

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About Gary M Wolfe

The Author spent 10 years as a member of the Milford Delaware Board Of Education, and is currently seeking the 18th Senatorial seat in the Delaware Legislature.
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10 Responses to Additional info on HB # 328

  1. John Young says:

    Gary,

    I appreciate the parsing, but as the parent of a special needs child, and a school board member who was not polled by the DSBA prior to Ms. Francis expression of opposition, opposing HB328 is untenable to me. Citing fiscal impacts when there is just a strong a likelihood that streamlining due process and getting districts to behave better in the first place would save that same money as writing the bill to make the obstacles to special needs students higher. As a board member and de facto member of DSBA not by choice, I support Matt Denn and this bill, because it is the morally correct and fiscally correct approach to special needs that Delaware needs to embrace so badly.

    As for Ms. Francis and the DSBA, if you oppose the bill, then you oppose it’s intent, because you seek to stop it from becoming law. That seems like a pretty clear couple of dots to connect…for me anyway.

    Finally, having not spoken to Elizabeth in several days as she is at the NSBA in Chicago, I do not know her to censor comments other than for profanity, so I suspect she will post your comment with a response sometime this week (but don’t hold me to that….)

    • Wolfe Gary says:

      John,
      The legislative committee of the DSBA meets as a group and has respresentation from every district member so I would say your representative did not poll his district if there was questions on supporting or opposing this bill, and that’s my first thought. Now I’ve read Elizabeth’s comments and thank her for the full article, but if i read Sue’s comments, “Certainly we are supporting an appropriate and strong education for all children, we approve of that concept,” she said. “We oppose parts of the bill as written.” Then again its the vague language used by non-education specialist, legislators that she is questioning. As a point the article states, “The legislation would make sure we are following the 3rd Circuit,” Denn said. “We’re already under this jurisdiction, but we’re not following it.” That tells me that yes there are districts not following the rules and action needs to be taken, but the bills language does not clearerly state a measurement of what is needed nor consequences! A bill is needed but lets make it a bill that actually helps those its intended to help, not just leads to more needless legal battles.

      • John Young says:

        I see a few of your points but just do not see the connection from this bill as written to the legal battles that DSBA is concerned will occur. As for the committee reflecting each board, I can certify that I was not polled by my representative to that committee and to me, that is a dysfunction of the DSBA.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Gary,

    I have not received any comment from you regarding this topic on my blog. If I had, regardless of content, I would have posted it.

    Sincerely,

    Elizabeth Scheinberg

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Gary, I have posted the article in the Dover Post below. As you can clearly see, Ms. Francis’s comments were not taken out of context as you assert.

    She was clearly concerned with the possibility of lawsuits. And I find that reason ludicrous given the current state of special education in some of Delaware’s districts. DSBA can hide behind semantics, but its motivation of opposition is clear. This is about money. And some well-meaning folks are reasoning with false logic : If we do for one, we must do for all. Sadly, we’ve been doing for one for decades. It’s about time we removed the barriers to education for special needs students. The fact remains that under our current system, special needs children who warrant an alternative assessment, cannot receive a high school diploma. At the end of day, we give these kids meaningless certificates for working harder and longer than their typical peers. If DSBA wants to champion special education students, then DSBA needs to sit down with their families and start talking about what changes they really need. I’d be happy to arrange that opportunity for you and any other DSBA member who has an interest in truly serving these kids.

    Parents praise bill to raise standard for services to disabled students

    Posted Mar 31, 2010 @ 06:00 PM
    Dover, Del. — The House Education Committee approved a bill March 31 that would raise the standard to which school districts must adhere when providing educational services to disabled children.

    Introduced by Rep. S. Quinton Johnson, D-Middletown, with support from Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, House Bill 328 would abandon a standard articulated by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which states that school do not have to provide disabled students with a “Cadillac” education, only one that equates to a “serviceable Chevrolet.”

    Instead, the bill would require Delaware schools to adhere to a standard established by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which states that disabled children are entitled to a “free and appropriate” public education.

    Johnson and Denn said at a hearing on the bill that, aside from being a higher standard, the 3rd Circuit’s definition is more applicable to Delaware, since that court has direct jurisdiction over the state.

    “The legislation would make sure we are following the 3rd Circuit,” Denn said. “We’re already under this jurisdiction, but we’re not following it.”

    Denn also made a point of saying this bill is not directed at all Delaware’s school districts, since many already do a good job of ensuring they do everything within their power to provide the services disabled children need to excel.

    However, several parents testified that, in their cases, school districts haven’t done all they can to help their disabled students.

    Newark resident Terri Hancharick said she’s fought the Colonial School District to provide better services to her daughter, Brigitte, who attends the John G. Leach School in New Castle.

    “At the district level, I’ve seen a lot of push-back. They wanted to cut staffing,” she said. “I was told Colonial was the model of fiscal responsibility. To what end?”

    Kathy Willis said her son Tyler’s autism was ignored and marginalized by school officials so they would not be required to provide him with specialized instruction.

    Even though she paid for evaluations of her son’s condition from physicians and specialists confirming the diagnosis, Tyler remained in conventional classes.

    Willis eventually sued the school district, which she wouldn’t name.

    “A lot of teachers and schools are denying [conditions], saying they don’t see it in school,” she said. “Schools are the only place where they’re allowed to second guess a doctor’s opinion.”

    Though none spoke at the hearing, the bill is not without opponents.

    Susan Francis, executive director of the Delaware School Boards Association, said her membership has expressed concerns over the financial impact of the higher standard, particularly related to possible legal proceedings parents of disabled children may initiate with school districts if they feel their children’s educational needs aren’t being met.

    These so-called “due process” proceedings allow parents to challenge school district policies with respect to their children.

    Francis said school boards are concerned that the language of HB 328 would lead to more due process grievances being filed by parents and cost the district money for attorneys’ fees.

    “Certainly we are supporting an appropriate and strong education for all children, we approve of that concept,” she said. “We oppose parts of the bill as written.”

    Sponsor Johnson said he thinks districts won’t have to worry about legal action if they do what’s best for disabled students.

    “People might say, ‘We’re afraid of what parents may ask for,’” he said. “I think parents should ask for the moon.”

    Email Doug Denison at doug.denison@doverpost.com.

    Copyright 2010 Dover Post. Some rights reserved.

  4. joanne Christian says:

    Gary,

    I too responded to Ms. Scheinberg’s reply to me, and have not seen the post–although it did read it was in moderation. That was about a week ago. I don’t know if moderation is for profanity or censure–but it has yet to appear. I addressed Mr. Young’s concern about a board “polling”–and his board’s need to communicate pending legislation to members. We had discussion per workshop. I responded on other matters also.

    Also, I too will defend the GREAT work again that Sue Francis has done on behalf of children first–as an educator,and board member. THEN, thankfully we were able to snag her as the Executive Director for DSBA as a competent, experted, advisory, nationally reknown, GO TO person on all issues impacting boards and their responsibilities moving forward. She has been put in some crosshairs on a very emotional topic, that deserves scrutiny and not just a “feel good” pass of legislation. It is unfortunate, that difficult decisions require some difficult, yet uncomfortable questions. The legislative committee understood that in addressing the “potential” of all students in Delaware–and voted unaminously w/ one abstention for those clarifications. To villianize a group for doing a contemplative inquiry, is just plain wrong. These legislators took the easy way out–while unpaid community volunteers, and educational advocates walked a plank. Guess how much courage that took? And we don’t collect a check. So don’t ever say this was about money–it was about the POTENTIAL of POTENTIAL never being defined, recognized, actualized, or discovered in a parents’ eyes and the conundrum we will be faced, when we are mandated “free and APPROPRIATE” elsewhere for all children. So yes, this bill screams for a fiscal note–because “use of DOE contingency funds”, just isn’t going to cut it.

  5. John Young says:

    Joanne,

    I respectfully disagree and feel that DSBA’s support is not plank walking whatsoever. It is a tragically common response by traditional school boards to keep special education children as second class citizens. I am not impugning the work effort to come to the conclusion, I am against the conclusion. Ironically, my main objection is based on the same fiscal soundness that DSBA is citing, only in reverse. Passing this bill and forcing school districts to confront the the special education population in this framework will save money in my opinion. No one is attacking Sure Francis’ body of work, just expressing two things: this opinion is disagreeable to some within the DSBA and our concerns were not heard and not everyone shares a rosy opinion of all that DSBA does and does not do for its members.

  6. John Young says:

    Joanne,

    Also, I think when you attack the legislators for taking “the easy way out” you are engagingin a form of the same behavior you loathe when applied to the DSBA. Are you suggesting that Matt Denn was not contemplative in his authoring or all those that voted to support it were equally non-contemplative…or even more so that DSBA is the only contemplative resource? Did DSBA or the DSBA legislative committee consult with disability advocacy groups?

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Joanne and Gary, I have no idea why your comments are not showing up. Please email me directly at montagnebeau@aol.com and I will publish your comments uncensored on my blog.

    Sincerely,

    Elizabeth

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Joanne,
    I find your response quite curious — you defend the “GREAT work” of the DSBA lobbyist as if I had disparaged her character or reputation. I did not. I actually only referenced her comments which were quoted in the Dover Post, the result of DSBA’s Legislative Committee’s decision to withold support of HB 328. But, let’s be clear here: DSBA consists of unpaid elected officials who are local school board Members. DSBA does employ an Executive Director who is paid to abide by and implement the directives of the organization.

    You write that “To villianize a group for doing a contemplative inquiry, is just plain wrong.” Yet, you immediately turn around and devalue the expertise of parents when you (DSBA) assumes that parents cannot recognize or over-estimate the true potential of their child. In your eyes, I am wrong for performing the same contemplative inquiry and arriving at a counter opinion simply because I am the parent of a special education student.

    Here’s the hard truth — The very first time a child walks through the doors of a school, the school/teacher looks upon that child as a blank canvass, full of untapped potential. Yet, on that same day, a child with an evident disability walks through those same doors and school/teacher immediately anticipate that this second child will attain only limited accomplishments. DSBA has fallen into this same trap, and they have quickly dismissed the value of parents and potential of students. I can assure that while I am not an expert on disabilities, I am THE expert when it comes to my daughter and the manifestation of her disabilities. And such is the case with most parents of children with special needs.

    I am fascinated by the supposed basis of DSBA’s objection, the definition of “POTENTIAL.” I am compelled to refer DSBA to Merriam-Webster for a definition, “capable of development into actuality.” If it exists that a particular student may develop a skill to actuality, then there is little question — the intervention should be provided. It’s far better to try, fail, and move onto something else, than to never try at all. Yes, parents are filled with hopes and dreams for their children, but they are also brimming with knowledge of the inner-experiences of their child. We must cease in devaluing the role that parents play as part of their IEP team.

    Finally, the vast majority of due process hearings occur because parents do not believe that theirIEP teams are being responsive to them. To put it another way, this bill has the tremendous potential of saving districts money, by legislating that they provide a more comprehensive level of customer service. IF, and it’s a big “if” we did it right the first time around, there would in fact be a decreased need for due process.

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