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Monday, September 22, 2014

Time to make some changes in Dover: here they are

You deserve to know how candidates stand.

OK, here it is--in detail.  You may or may not like any specific point, but ask yourself:  who else is willing to be this honest and this detailed about what they'd like to do?

Public Education

1.  Let's change the State Board of Education from a politically appointed into an elected body.  Then let's return to having a State Superintendent of Schools who is hired and fired by that board based on his/her professional qualifications and performance.

2.  Let's change the overall mission of the Delaware Department of Education into a primary emphasis on service and support of our schools rather than being a junior-varsity co-regulatory agency that wants to be the US Department of Education.

3.  Let's create a statewide commission of teachers, higher education professionals, school administrators, parents, students, and community partners to review the Common Core State Standards for ELA and Math (the only ones that actually exist), to adapt them as necessary for Delaware use, and to become involved in the process of defining standards for Science, Social Studies, Fine Arts and other content areas.

4.  Let's change the model of state assessments in Delaware from a high-stakes model with draconian consequences (that makes passing this test literally the only thing that matters) into an information-gathering process that is used to inform rather than drive instruction and curriculum.  We could actually just use NAEP for most of that, saving the State large piles of money that could be funneled into our classroom.  We would also include a parental opt-out of testing in the package, but you know what?  If the tests were for information-gathering purposes, I bet not that may parents would resist them.

5.  Let's make some real changes in public education funding in Delaware.  We know that for a whole variety of reasons it costs more to educate poor children, so let's face that fact in a manner that makes sense.  We'll change the state funding formula so that low SES kids count as 1.5-2.0 students for the unit count and State funding.  School-community advisory boards in each school would have complete control of how the additional money is spent (more teachers, more tech, more programs).  The additional funds would follow children to charter schools, with the proviso that any charter that expelled or counseled out a low SES child during or immediately after the school year would have to repay all the additional funds to the state.

6.  Let's pay for it all by dramatically reducing the testing expenses at DOE and eliminating most of the intrusive "teacher effectiveness" types of offices there in favor of sending the money directly into the classrooms.  Let's also extend the legally permissible life of school buses to twenty years (they are safe; where do you think our private schools get their buses?), saving us up to 63% per year on bus replacement costs statewide.

7.  Let's make school districts the primary approvers of charter schools, so that we can build a more decentralized system of traditional, magnet, charter, and voc-ed schools that are actually innovating separately but working together to achieve student success.  The level of cooperation and integration between the Red Clay Consolidated School District and charters like CSW and DMA (as well as the experience with RCCSD magnets like Conrad, Cab Calloway, and the IB program at Dickinson) suggests that this is a very workable strategy.

8.  Let's finally address the education of special needs children in this State, starting with the provision of a parent advocate in every IEP meeting, and holding the Parent Information Center's feet to the fire to do its job (the PIC receives substantial Federal funding, after all).  Let's create an effective mechanism for due process complaints and mediation (which, despite official propaganda to the contrary) does not exist right now.  Let's concentrate on getting our teachers the training and resources necessary to improve the lives of these kids (including the idea that we stop raiding their funding), rather than locking them into hours of pointless minutiae of the new, excessively bureaucratized (and arguably illegal) "standards-based" IEPs.

Corporate Welfare

1.  Businesses, I am often told, want predictability and low tax rates.  Delaware's corporate tax rate is 8.7% with no brackets, but a whole boatload of exemptions and credits that the average voter never sees or hears about.  Our nominal rate is comparable to those of California and Connecticut; significantly higher than Maryland's and significantly lower than Pennsylvania's.  Here's the deal:  let's create a Corporate Flat Tax in Delaware:  8.25% (same as Maryland) with NO exemptions or credits.

2.  Next, let's take the lion's share of the money we are scheduled to waste on future corporate incentives and do three things (A) put about 85% of it to work on our roads, bridges, schools, and waterways; (B) save about 15% to be used ONLY for small businesses; and (C) let's require a "public checkbook" online for all State and local government corporate subsidies, tax breaks, abatements, land-use deals, and other subsidies so that voters can actually see where their money is going.

Our Environment

1.  Let's make the polluters--whether they are private enterprises or government facilities (and about 40% of the installations commonly cited by the EPA for groundwater pollution are owned by some level of government) pay to remediate the pollution they've caused.  It is a quite ludicrous contention on the part of our current administration that they cannot easily identify and/or locate polluters, since a major portion of the Governor's original plan called for giving out our tax dollars as grant money to the same corporations to help them clean up their own messes.  If we can find them to send them money, we can find them to pay for the clean-up.

2.  Let's actually enforce the Coastal Zone Act instead of handing out exemptions and variances as political patronage.


1.  Let's stop raiding the Transportation Fund.  You'd think that would be simple.  They all say we shouldn't do that, and then they all vote for budgets that steal the money.  It's this simple:  I will not vote for any budget that raids the Transportation Fund.

2.  See Number 2 under "Corporate Welfare" above.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs (I learned from the career politicians that you have to say it three times)

1.  Let's start by eliminating as many licensing requirements as possible, especially within the City of Wilmington, so that people are more free to start their own micro-businesses.  If you want to pay somebody to cut your hair who does not have a barber's license, of if you want to "ride-share" in a gypsy cab--guess what?  It is not the government's responsibility to protect certain trade groups by stifling competition.

2.  Let's start giving away property to small business owners and entrepreneurs.  Wilmington has hundreds of abandoned properties, for many of which the city actually holds the title.  Let's let anybody who walks in the door with a plan walk out the door with a ten-year tax free lease, and a guarantee that if s/he has put up a going business on the property it becomes theirs at the end of the decade.  That's not corporate welfare, by the way--it's handing out a currently completely useless piece of property on the chance it turns into something.  And I'd always give preference to people and businesses who were already established in the area.

Fighting poverty

1.  Let's enact a "living wage" into the tax code, with the State of Delaware refusing to take income taxes from any individual or family until they are actually earning enough money to survive.  What we lose in tax revenue (not that much) we will more than make up in reduced use of social services.

2.  While we're at it, let's make the Delaware Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers refundable, and require the State of Delaware to actually pay its full-time workers better than fast-food wages.  If the State is going to tell private industry how to pay workers, then the State should first be walking the walk and not forcing its own employees onto public assistance because they don't earn enough.

Our Freedoms

1.  Let's decriminalize home birth attended by Certified Professional Midwives.  While we're at it, let's get rid of the restrictions that keep Nurse Practitioners and other medical professionals who don't happen to be doctors from practicing independently.

2.  Let's finally end the War on Drugs in Delaware by first decriminalizing and then legalizing marijuana, and by taking a default stance that serious drug dependence is a medical issue, not a crime.  Let's also get all of our non-violent drug offenders out of jail, and expunge the records of non-violent drug offenders at least for all offensive committed before age 18.

3.  Let's not fall prey to the idea that we can end violence in our urban areas by restricting the Second Amendment rights of all of our citizens.

4.  Let's make government more transparent by (a) real campaign finance reform; (b) ending "secret" Attorney General's opinions; (c) expanding Freedom of Information Act access to more fully include our state universities (as occurs in 48 other states).

5.  Let's start meaningful citizen oversight of law enforcement in Delaware.  Surveillance of law-abiding citizens needs to be stopped, the Delaware "fusion" center (DIAC) needs to be brought under civilian control (and have its budget brought into the light), and allegations of police misconduct must be investigated by civilian oversight boards, supported as necessary by officers with necessary expertise.  We've got to stop letting police departments investigate each other.

6.  Let's pass a "right to farm" law in Delaware that gives small and hobby farmers the ability to sell their products without having to comply with onerous regulations required of massive commercial enterprises.

7.  Let's change the rules that have kept everybody except Republicans and Democrats from having equal access to the political system.  This is critical:  the reason I'm not running as a candidate for either of the major parties is that both of them appear more interested in harvesting contributions, passing out political patronage, and staying in power than making tough decisions for our State.  That's not to say that there aren't some really fine legislators in the General Assembly, but--sadly--they are very much in the minority, regardless of their party affiliations.

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