Markell Issues Tone Deaf Veto of Parental Opt Out Bill

Governor Markell issued a veto message with his veto of HB 50 in spite of the fact it passed with veto proof majorities. Part of which is below.

“HB 50 would undermine the only objective tool we have to understand whether our children are learning and our schools are improving. It has the potential to marginalize our highest need students, threaten tens of millions of dollars of federal funding, and undermine our state’s economic competitiveness – all without adequately addressing the issues that motivated many to support the legislation. That is why educators and school leaders have joined the civil rights community and business leaders in opposing the legislation, and why I am returning the bill unsigned,” wrote the Governor in a statement delivered to the House of Representatives.

“I have heard the concerns of some parents and teachers that our students are experiencing too much testing. I agree… And that is why I have signed Senate Joint Resolution 2, which will bring together teachers, parents, civil rights leaders, and legislators to help us review our required assessments and eliminate those that are unnecessary, ineffective, or redundant.”

Senator Dave Lawson said this to the Delaware State News in response, “This action by Gov. Markell proves, without a doubt, that he and the ‘We know best’ bunch have NO regard for what parents and the legislature approve. It is sad that the Governor decided to veto a piece of legislation supporting parents’ rights.”

Dr. Terri Hodges of the Delaware PTA had this call to action.

We are deeply disappointed in the Governor’s decision to veto HB 50. Even more so, we are disappointed with the reasoning outlined in his letter to the General Assembly. His statements clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding of not only HB 50, but also of the motivations behind parent support of this Bill. We are deeply saddened that the Governor has chosen to defend his right to exercise his veto power on the backs of our minority and at risk student populations. Many national civil rights organizations have clearly shown that these types of high stakes tests only serve to widen the achievement gap. As such, Delaware PTA denounces the Governor’s arguments. Furthermore, the argument that this assessment is the “only objective” tool we have to measure student growth and school performance is categorically false.

As we have stated before, this Bill is very straight forward, in that it codifies a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. However, opponents of the bill and subsequent amendments took the argument down a very convoluted and confusing path. Even those that are well versed on the subject and familiar with the bill were confused at times. To help alleviate any confusion or misconceptions with regard to parent motivation and interest in HB 50, Delaware PTA attempted to meet with the Governor on numerous occasions, but he did not acknowledge our requests or attempt to meet with us. In fairness, his Education Policy Advisor did agree to speak with me for about 10 minutes via phone towards the end of the legislative session. Out of fairness to the thousands of members we represent and given the enormity of what was at stake, we felt a more genuine conversation was warranted.

HB 50 passed both the chambers with more than a 3/5 majority. Your legislators worked very hard and fought for your rights as parents. They listened to you. For that they should be commended.

Although the Governor has vetoed this bill, it is not dead. Our legislators still have the right to override his veto when the general assembly resumes in January 2016. This is an election year and we know the legislators will continue to work hard to represent their constituents.

During the last 24 hours, we have heard from many of you asking “what’s next?”, and many more have taken to social media to express their discontent with the Governor’s decision. We came together before to get the bill this far, and we are asking for your support once again.

1. We need each and every one of you to contact the legislators and thank them for their support on HB 50. Ask them to stand firm in their convictions, support their constituents and honor their first vote by overriding the Governor’s veto of HB 50.

2.Sign this petition to override the Governor’s veto of HB 50

Here you will find the HB 50 Roll Call listing all the legislators and how they voted. In addition, here is the contact information for the Delaware Legislators 2015.

I agree with the Delaware PTA. This test is the wrong test. It is unproven and worse, it forces people to methods not standards. Knowing the right answer can be wrong if you don’t follow their convoluted techniques, but knowing the “right” method can get you points even with the wrong answer. This test will hurt students by forcing them into methods that parents don’t know. It will force teachers to go back to school themselves. Yet the result will be no better in terms of actual skills. This movement has united Delawareans of all incomes, ethnicities, male and female, and all political parties. This is a face off between the people and the establishment lobby that has spent big time on defeating this bill. It will be heard or their will be changes next year.