Home > Uncategorized > An open letter to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy on the HB 90 task force

An open letter to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy on the HB 90 task force

July 6, 2013

To Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy:

Dear Secretary Murphy,

Soon this month you have the obligation to appoint five parents to the HB 90 task force, if you haven’t done so already:

Section 8. An “Enrollment Preferences Task Force” is hereby established to consider the current landscape of enrollment preferences and practices used by magnet, vocational technical, and charter schools and develop recommendations, if necessary.

By now we are all familiar with the embarrassing debacle of the Governor’s Working Group on Charters, which among other issues was packed with charter supporters and featured no strong parent advocates of public schools. I strongly urge you to avoid that mistake when naming the five HB 90 parents, to avoid the taint of bias and help make sure this task force is operating in good faith. Since the task force has five parents, you do have the opportunity to make sure traditional district schools have a fair and proportionate voice.

With approximately 85% of Delaware students attending traditional public schools and fewer than 15% in charters, I suggest you appoint parents according to their representation in the school population: One charter parent/advocate, one VoTech parent/advocate, and three from traditional district schools.

And when you do make the appointments, it would be another expression of good faith to announce the appointments within days after they are made. These appointments will be highly visible and will by closely watched by a community of public-school supporters who, to say the least, were sensitized and appalled by the way the Governor’s charter group operated.

Reports are that during the HB 165 debate, the HB 90 task force was presented as a way to correct the accountability deficiencies of HB 165, in order to win support from the school superintendents (and probably some legislators).

Public school advocates are now determined to make sure this committee completes the unfinished vision of charter reform by adding accountability for diversity, accountability for equity, accountability for local control, accountability for impact, and accountability for transparency. All of these issues are affected by enrollment and are well within the scope of a consideration of enrollment practices.

  1. July 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    excellent post! I will bring this up at Monday’s DelCOG meeting.

    They have two education agenda items. The Markell secret working group and the charter law revision itself will be discussed.


  2. July 6, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks to Kim Williams for her amendment increasing the parent representation on the task force from one to five parents.

    Also, the charter group had several violations. One, they failed to post the meetings in advance. Two, they refused lawful FOIA requests. But the third one is usually forgotten but is probably the most serious: As an executive branch entity, they were required to keep and publish minutes, but they deliberately did not as a way to keep anyone from knowing what they were up to.

  3. July 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Also, as far as DelCOG goes, the risk is that the members will be appointed without being publicly named (like the charter group) or that the meetings will begin without public notice (like the charter group).

    The two co-chairmen of the task force will be a senator named by Blevins, and a representative named by Schwarzkopf. We will have to keep after them to make sure the meetings have proper public notice.

    Unlike the governor’s group, this one is NOT required to keep minutes – but we should insist that minutes be kept and published anyway. If not we will have to see if we can cover each meeting and take minutes.

    Kim Williams will be looking out for transparency issues, but she will need our help just in case.

  4. delawareway
    July 7, 2013 at 8:23 am

    AGREED! I will take your recommendations and comments to the meeting tomorrow.

  5. openaccess
    July 7, 2013 at 9:49 pm


    Nice letter. After the charter working group, I would be suspect of how the parent representatives are labeled. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a parent representing traditional district schools to have 3 kids in charter schools and one kid in a TPS that he/she is trying to get into a charter school ASAP. Parents sometimes where many hats and groups can be made to suggest diversity that isn’t really there.

  6. July 7, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    I get your point but I would hate to label people in advance. We can note where their children attend and see if that is reflected in their task force discussion. If nobody speaks up strongly from the viewpoint of traditional district schools, or if everyone is using charter talking points, that might be the first sign of a problem.

  7. Citizen
    July 10, 2013 at 11:27 am

    New Orleans is apparently a nearly all-choice public school zone at this point (post-Katrina), and this detailed blog post by a teacher there about how such “choice” works is unbelievable:

    Rep. Williams & DE Choice Task Force, please do not let a nightmare like this unfold in Delaware!

  8. July 15, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Williams just told me that she was notified today that she has been appointed to the HB 90 task force and will be a co-chair. She also said she will let me know when they plan on meeting! refreshing!

    I asked if I could share this info and she hasn’t answered but I can’t imagine she would want to hold back on the info. I guess the entire membership has been notified today and it should hit the papers soon.

  9. concerned parent
    September 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Hi Mike – did we ever find out who the parents are on the task force and who/what school/District their kids are in? Or if they actually have kids currently in the K-12 state system.

  10. September 19, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I posted the names of the committee members a few days ago: https://seventhtype.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/hb-90-task-force-members-named-first-meeting-september-26/

    I have some ideas about where their kids go to school but I’m not planning to write about it. But talking about the parents’ board memberships, for example, or their public statements is fair game.

    Also, nobody caught the mistake I made in this post: Kim WIlliams’s amendment raised the parent reps ffrom one to three (not five as I said here).

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