LEGISLATIVE SPOTLIGHT

DelwareCAN Action Fund compiles a list of key legislation that we have identified as having a significant impact on education in the state of Delaware. Below, you can find a list of proposed legislation for the current year that has the most potential to affect our policies and values in a negative or positive way. This is done in an effort to be transparent about the policies inherent to DelawareCAN Action’s mission and make clear to legislators that their votes on these issues are of utmost importance.

 

We will track the votes of legislators as the session progresses, and following the culmination of the session, will assign “scores” to legislators based on their votes. DelawareCAN Action’s top legislative priorities will be weighted at a higher level and will be noted on the legislative tracker.DelawareCAN Action’s top legislative priorities will be weighted at a higher level and will be noted on the legislative tracker.

 

As the session moves forward we will add additional bills as they are introduced into committee. We are continuing to work closely with Delaware lawmakers to roll out some of our most important priorities for the session and expect to add those and any other bills making a significant impact on education in Delaware.

Votes will be listed once the bills have been voted on. Check back at a later date. 

LEGISLATION WE SUPPORT

House Bill 300 (HB300)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware Code relating to free public Schools.

This Act establishes a mental health services unit for Delaware middle schools. The unit is phased in over 3 years, beginning in FY2023, to arrive at a final ratio of 250 full-time equivalent students grades 6-8 for a full-time school counselor, school social worker, or licensed clinical social worker. Additionally a unit ratio of 700 full time equivalent students for grades 6-8 for employment of a full-time school psychologist. This Act defines “mental health services” as prevention, response, and coordination services delivered to students in elementary schools. Mental Health disorders are the most common health problem for school aged youth. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in five youth are affected by a mental health disorder. Additionally, 50% of lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14. Untreated mental illness leads to negative outcomes including increased risk of dropout, homelessness, substance abuse, other chronic illnesses, incarceration, and possibly suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, ninety percent of people who have taken their own life have had an underlying mental health condition, and suicides are on the rise. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicides are now the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-14. Delaware schools need trained and experienced mental health professionals to provide prevention and support programs and services to students. This bill will lower ratios of students to counselors and increase access to mental health services for middle school students.

WHY: Mental health is a major issue in education, especially after two years of a worldwide pandemic and remote learning. This bill would establish a mental health services unit requirement for middle school students in Delaware law.

House Bill 304 (HB304)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware code relating to reading competency.

This Act recognizes advancements in the science of reading and literacy instruction by requiring that all public school students in kindergarten through grade 3 participate in a universal reading screening 3 times each year to identify potential reading deficiencies, including dyslexia, and allow for early intervention and prevention. The Department is tasked with compiling a list of reading screeners as well as literacy intervention approaches that are aligned with the science of reading that charter schools and districts may use. The Department will take into account the science of reading and evidence-based research in creating the list as well as the alignment of screeners and interventions with a multi-tiered system of support. The Department is also required to consider the burden on schools to administer screeners and the amenability of the screener to being incorporated into ongoing instruction. Charter schools and districts are additionally required to provide the results of each screening to a student’s parent – which may be done by adding it to existing communications such as report cards or progress reports. Finally, charter schools and districts must report, by grade, the number of students in kindergarten through grade 3 determined to have potential reading deficiencies and what intervention approach is being used, as well as the number of students receiving dyslexia specific interventions. The Department of Education is tasked with compiling this information into a report for the General Assembly, the State Board of Education, and the Governor.

WHY: By screening students early and often, we can identify deficiencies at an early stage and implement programs to improve their skills. This bill allows for more accountability at the student and teacher levels. Additionally, the bill incorporates the science of reading methods that have been proven to work nationally.

House Bill 315 (HB315)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware Code relating to free public Schools.

This bill provides unit funding for full time employees who shall be hired to provide permanent substitute teaching support in Delaware schools. The bill also provides professional development requirements for those hired into these positions and creates a pathway to teaching to those individuals who meet the requirements for an emergency certificate.

WHY: A lack of teachers has been a primary concern for many districts since the pandemic. This bill provides a clear pathway for more teachers in a quick manner and provides continuity for schools and students.

House Bill 254 (HB254)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware code relating to pupil and student identification cards.

This Act requires all public schools that serve pupils in grades 7-12 that issue pupil identification cards to have printed on the identification cards the telephone or text numbers for the National Suicide Prevention and National Domestic Violence Hotlines and allows them to add the National Sexual Assault, Teen Dating Violence and Bullying Hotlines. The Act requires all public institutions of higher learning in Delaware, which issue student identification cards, to print on the student identification cards the telephone or text numbers for National Suicide Prevention, Domestic Violence Hotlines and local campus police or campus security telephone numbers and allows the institutions to add the National Sexual Assault Hotline number. This Act will be implemented for the 2022-2023 school year.

WHY: DelawareCAN supports this bill in its attempt to provide students with mental health resources. We are a firm believer that in order to ensure students receive a quality education, we must care for the ENTIRE student, including their mental well-being.

House Bill 291 (HB291)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware code relating to educator evaluations and procedures for the termination of services of professional employees.

This Act continues the changes made to the Delaware Performance Appraisal System II created under Senate Bill 42 of the 151st General Assembly, with modifications. In order to maintain an evaluation system under current operational challenges, this bill modifies Senate Bill 42 by allowing evidence collected during the observation and feedback cycle to be used a part of the evaluation cycle, to assign a summative rating, and to place educators on improvement plans, if needed. Additionally, this bill extends the pilot for the Delaware Teacher Growth and Support System, created under House Bill 133 of the 151st General Assembly, to the 2022-2023 school year, moving the start date for statewide implementation to the 2023-2024 school year. This bill also reconciles inconsistencies that have arisen with educators’ hearing rights as outlined in Chapter 14 of Title 14 due to the suspension of the state assessment in 2019-2020 school year and low participation in the 2020-2021 school year. Additionally, this bill aligns Chapter 14 with the new educator evaluation system, the Delaware Teacher Growth and Support System, by placing the emphasis on building a culture of professionalism and learning within every school, which is measured in a summative evaluation, rather than one component of an evaluation.

WHY: This bill streamlines the teacher evaluation process and assists in the implementation of the Delaware Teacher Growth and Support System which broadens the areas in which teachers are evaluated. The new evaluation cycle allows for increased transparency.

SS1 for Senate Bill 4 (SS1 for SB4 )

The Delaware code relating to evidence-based reading curricula.
For SB4 – AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14

Like Senate Bill No. 4, Senate Substitute No. 1 for Senate Bill No. 4 requires the Department of Education (Department) to maintain and publish a list of evidence-based, reading instruction curricula for grades kindergarten through 3. Each curriculum on this list must align with the essential components of literacy, known as the “science of reading” and use high-quality instructional materials. School districts and charter schools must provide an annual report to the Department regarding the implementation of these requirements and the Department must produce an annual report summarizing this information. The information required in the Department’s report may be consolidated into a single report with the requirements under § 158 of Title 14, if House Bill No. 304 is also enacted this year. Like Senate Bill No. 4, Senate Substitute No. 1 for Senate Bill No. 4 also requires that by the beginning of the 2027-2028 school year, school districts and charter schools serving students in grades kindergarten through 3 do all of the following: 1. Adopt a reading instruction curriculum from the Department list. 2. Demonstrate that all educators who teach reading successfully complete professional development aligned with the essential components of evidence-based reading instruction. 3. Identify a school-based supervisory position responsible for assisting with the implementation of the adopted curriculum. Senate Substitute No. 1 for Senate Bill No. 4 differs from Senate Bill No. 4 by doing all of the following: 1. Requires the Department to maintain, on its website, the criteria and rubric used to identify high-quality curriculum. 2. Allows school districts and charter schools to apply to have alternative curriculum that meet these criteria approved. 3. Clarifies the requirements. 4. Adds to the list of positions that are responsible for reading instruction and coaching. 5. Makes technical corrections.

WHY: This bill requires the science of reading curricula be incorporated into Delaware reading instruction. This program has been proven nationally to improve literacy rates at all levels of instruction. It also requires that the curricula be published on the state website in order to be accessible to parents, thus increasing levels of curriculum transparency.

Senate Bill 26 (SB26)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware code relating to livestreaming Board Meetings of the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and Delaware Technical and Community College.

This Act requires that meetings of the Board of Trustees for the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and Delaware Technical and Community College must be livestreamed using technology that permits the public to hear all participants contemporaneously. This Act also requires that recordings of the livestreamed meetings must be maintained on a public website. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual. This Act requires a greater than majority vote for passage because § 1 of Article IX of the Delaware Constitution requires the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly to amend a charter issued to a corporation for educational purposes sustained in whole or part by the State, including the University of Delaware and Delaware State University.

WHY: Livestreaming of board meetings increases transparency and accountability.

Senate Bill 71 (SB71)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware code relating to nonacademic training.

In almost every mass murder that has occurred in the United States over the past 2 decades, subsequent investigations have revealed that the perpetrator had displayed what have become known as “red flag indicators” which, if known, identified, and reported, might have allowed trained professionals to intervene. In far too many cases, these red flag indicators were observed, but because of a lack of training or inadequate reporting, tracking, or referral policies in schools, no action was taken to stop the perpetrator before the attack. This Act requires red flag indicator training for teachers, school principals, counselors, school nurses, and other school district or charter school employees who interact with students, the people most likely to exhibit red flag indicators during the school day. This Act also requires that each school district and charter school establish and implement red flag indicator reporting, tracking, and referral policies. These policies will allow for the timely referral of at-risk students for needed mental health evaluation or treatment or law enforcement action. To protect teachers, administrators, and other school district or charter school employees, this Act provides immunity from criminal liability, civil liability, or professional discipline for employees who follow school district or charter school red flag indicator policies to report a student’s red flag behavior. Finally, Section 2 of this Act makes a technical correction by redesignating § 4168 of Title 14, regarding the Department of Education’s regulatory authority, to be § 4161A of Title 14 to avoid repeatedly moving this provision as Subchapter II of Chapter 41 of Title 14 grows. Section 4168 was previously designated § 4167 until 2019 when Chapter 212 of Volume 82 of the Laws of Delaware redesignated the provision.

WHY: By providing teacher training for red flag indicators, we increase the safety of our students. It is only through training that a problem so complex and unique may be understood at an earlier stage.

Senate Bill 99 (SB99)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware code relating to High Needs Educator Student Loans.

This Act makes minority educators eligible for the High Needs Educator Student Loan Repayment Program. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.

WHY: Increasing the diversity of the education system helps lead to a more equitable system. This act encourages minorities to choose education as their profession.

Senate Bill 195 (SB195)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware code relating to media literacy. The Digital Citizenship Act

The societal implications of technological developments are pervasive, and the reach and influence of digital media platforms continue to expand. Media literacy skills are necessary for citizens to safely, responsibly, and critically consume and use social media and other forms of media. In addition, media literacy education prepares students to make informed civic decisions that affect them, their families, their communities, and the world. This Act requires the Department of Education to develop and maintain evidence-based media literacy standards for use by school districts and charter schools serving students in grades kindergarten through 12. The standards and materials must be age-appropriate and must address appropriate, responsible, and healthy online behavior. This Act is known as “The Digital Citizenship Education Act”.

WHY: High-quality education means ensuring that students are informed and able to serve as responsible members of society. This bill broadens the literacy standards learned in traditional research to include the digital age of social media.

House Bill 129 (HB129)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware code relating to education.

This Act requires high needs elementary schools, including high needs elementary charter schools, to have school-based health centers. The State will pay the start-up costs for each school-based health center at 2 high needs elementary schools per year until each high needs elementary school has a center. High needs elementary schools are defined as any elementary school in the top quartile of 3 or more in percentage of low-income students, percentage of English learners, percentage of students with disabilities, percentage of minority students, or having 90% of its students classified as low-income, English learners, or minority. This Act also allows high needs elementary schools having pre-existing school-based health centers to apply for reimbursement of previously expended funds necessary to establish said health center. To the extent that there are any public high schools without a school-based health center upon the effective date of this Act, the State will fund start-up costs for a center at such a public high school.

WHY: Access to a high-quality public education includes ensuring that students are healthy. This act helps to protect our most at risk student populations.

House Bill 144 (HS1 for HB144)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware code relating to funding for Prekindergarten Special Education.

This Act increases funding for preschool children with disabilities who are not counted in either “intensive” or “complex” special education units by revising the current ratio of 12.8 students per unit to 8.4 students per unit for children 3 years of age and older enrolled in a preschool program. This is the same ratio that will be in effect for K-3 basic special education after the passage of HB86 in 2021. The Act also creates a new “preschool 2” unit with a ratio of 7 students per unit. This is to accommodate 2-year-olds with disabilities who are enrolled in school district programs. The Office of Child Care Licensing requires a 1:7 ratio for classrooms that have 2-year-olds in them. The preschool funding change is effective July 1, 2022.

WHY: This act increases the resources allotted to our special education units and allows for more 1:1 connection between children and educators or caregivers.

LEGISLATION WE OPPOSE

House Bill 353 (HB353)

An act to amend the laws of Delaware relating to Charter Schools in New Castle county.

This Act pauses the granting of new school charters and modifications to charters in New Castle County and creates a New Castle County Charter School Reform Advisory Group (Advisory Group), to review the process and criteria for granting new charter schools and modifications to charters, and to recommend process improvements and new criteria that will improve equity and better integrate charter schools into the overall public school system for children in kindergarten through grade 12 in New Castle County. The Advisory Group’s final report is due by December 1, 2022. In addition, under this Act, effective March 1, 2022, the Department of Education may not, for a school in New Castle County, grant a new school charter or a modification to a charter until January 1, 2024. This moratorium provides an opportunity to review how the current process and criteria for granting charters can be improved for New Castle County and for decisions on future charter applications to be based upon changes implemented based on the recommendations of the Advisory Group.

WHY: Passage of this bill is a threat to school choice as it disallows the expansion of charter schools in New Castle County for a set period of time. Furthermore, this bill does nothing to address the real issues with many of our district schools and misguidedly makes charter schools the scapegoat for failing district schools.

House Bill 238 (HB238)

An act to amend Title 14 of the Delaware code relating to preference in Student Admission to Charter Schools.

This Act repeals the ability of a charter school to give preference in student admissions to students residing within a 5-mile radius of the school. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.

WHY: The five-mile radius preference allows charter schools in our most needy areas to serve the students of the community they represent. Removing this preference would damage the relationship between schools and communities and threaten the services provided to our most deserving students.