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The art of persuasion

June 16, 2013

At 10:23 on the morning of the House vote on HB 165, Dr. Michael Thomas, President of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association (superintendents), announced the superintendents’ opposition to HB 165. It was a good letter of opposition, voicing many of the objections other public-school advocates would have voiced, had they been permitted to attend the meetings of the Governor’s Working Group on Charter Schools. Despite denials, this charter group was where the outline of the bill was developed.

Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Thomas’s letter of opposition:

The establishment of a charter school performance fund of $2 million is misguided and one of which the Chiefs Association is in direct opposition. We do not believe this fund is appropriate given the fact that many charter schools are selecting students and creating very much a form of re-segregation.

I had been wondering when public education was going to speak up for itself and its silent majority, after the abdication of DSEA. Dr. Thomas’s letter was like rain after a dry season. It was like seeing the cavalry coming over the hill. It was like watching Rocky get up off the mat.

But at around 4:00 pm the same day, apparently nursing a pair of freshly broken thumbs, Dr. Thomas sent another message reversing the supers’ opposition to the bill. Notwithstanding the retraction, this one was also a good message:

From: Thomas Michael
Date: June 11, 2013, 3:51:08 PM EDT
To: McDowell Harris , Henry Margaret Rose , Marshall Robert , Lavelle Greg , Cloutier Catherine , Lopez Ernesto B , Blevins Patricia , Sokola David , Peterson Karen , Hall-Long Bethany , Townsend Bryan , Poore Nicole , McBride David , Ennis Bruce , “Lawson Dave” , “senator-colin@prodigy.net” , Bushweller Brian , “gsimpson@udel.edu” , Pettyjohn Brian , Hocker Gerald , Venables Robert
Subject: HB 165 Charter Legislation

Dear Legislator:

I forwarded to you earlier today concerns and subsequent position of the School Chiefs regarding House Bill 165. This bill possesses some components which address concerns regarding the current legislation and regulation of charter schools. Some of these components will serve to produce better clarity and accountability for the development and operation of charter schools. The particular issues that were defined in my earlier email were:
1. The $2 million performance fund
2. DOE authority to transfer funds from public school districts to charter schools
3. The extension of a renewal term for a charter school for ten years

In voicing these concerns, this was not to assert that the bill is without merit, but was to emphasize the concern of the School Chiefs on the matters cited above. Certainly we believe parts of the bill are a step forward and hopefully can be a platform for subsequent changes in the future. Further, we believe the establishment of the proposed task force can address not only concerns with admission preferences, but also a number of other critical items that deserve consideration. There has been a commitment provided and reinforced in conversation today that the matters cited above will be looked at in a critical analysis along with the impact on a community and its public schools for future charter approvals. Therefore, based on these conversations and commitments, the School Chiefs Association will support the charter legislation and work diligently with appropriate agency designees for continued improvements and refinements.

Respectfully submitted,
Michael D. Thomas, Ed. D.
President, Delaware Chief School Officers Association

Reading behind the lines, this letter is telling us HB 165 is probably inevitable because the backroom forces behind it are too strong and will lie, cheat, or steamroll anything or anyone in their way. Instead, we should fall back on organizing to influence the HB 90 task force, which will meet to advise on reforming choice admissions including charters and TPS, and which the charter lobbyists want almost as badly.

Charter lobbyists are no doubt counting on this task force producing another victory that will further enable the oncoming uncontrolled charter expansion, which again might have something to do with CEB. How do you reconcile 4 charters in 1 building with potentially different admission preferences?

The retraction is not credible and reeks of coercion. I am certain it was meant to be taken that way. Dr. Thomas is practically blinking S-O-S with his eyelids as he sends the retraction.

And if you think about it, after you charge the charter schools with resegregation, how do you take back something like that? You can’t. The original criticism stands.

There was apparently some deal struck or at least some assurances given to Dr Thomas regarding the choice task force. I wish Dr. Thomas had stood his ground, but then again I’m not the one between the hammer and the anvil. And I wouldn’t trust any deal offered by the mysterious broker in this case.

Don’t worry Dr. Thomas; I am sure your dog will be released in good health just as soon as HB 165 passes the Senate.

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  1. June 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks. This is important.

  2. June 17, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Today’s ridiculously flawed steno job from Albright is the public arm of the Markell HB 165 thuggery. Read Steve Newton’s Pimp Hat piece.

  3. mediawatch
    June 17, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Right on, Nancy. More than half the increased spending is required by law. Of the $31 million, the only spending I see that’s likely to go directly to classrooms is $2 million for Indian River all-day kindergarten (a benefit to only one district) and a piddling $300,000 for gifted and talented programs.

  4. John Young
    June 19, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Reblogged this on Transparent Christina.

  5. John Young
    June 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    …But at around 4:00 pm the same day, apparently nursing a pair of freshly broken thumbs…

    one of the funniest blog lines I have ever read, practically drove off the road, being the ne’er-do-well that I am…handsfree of course.

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