Education Heating Up in the Delaware Legislature

May 7th, 2012

Category: Early Childhood Education

After an evening hearing on charter schools last Tuesday, the House Education Committee tackled HB 317, which will authorize a statewide Kindergarten readiness tool, and HB 273, which would require all high school students to take financial literacy coursework. Both were tabled for future discussion, and this week’s agenda also includes HB 211, requiring admission to vocational-technical high schools be determined through a lottery system only.

The state Kindergarten entry assessment is part of Delaware’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge plan, onto which the Kids’ Caucus (as well as many others) signed. Once approved by the legislature, it will be launched fall 2012 with 100 teachers and phased in statewide by 2015, with the purpose of informing teachers’ instruction and providing data for research and policymaking. It will cover five domains: language and literacy development; cognition and general knowledge; approaches toward learning; physical well-being and motor development; and social and emotional development. Legislators’ discussion and questions addressed issues including:

  • how can the data appropriately be used to inform providers of child care that cared for children before Kindergarten, which is under development and will be supported by Kindergarten Readiness Teams of elementary school and child care personnel, as well as parents and community members;
  • if there is any cost to the state, not until 2017, when the state’s bill will be about $87,000 per year, because the the Early Learning Challenge funds will cover the assessment and support needed;
  • how we ensure the assessment doesn’t infringe on valuable instructional time that teachers have with students, which is being addressed by districts and teachers who will submit plans for implementation that will be supported by ELC funds.

The districts, DSEA, Vision 2015, and many other community partners are supportive of this initiative. Lake Forest Kindergarten Team Leader Chris Barrett said “Kindergarten teachers across the state are really excited about this. This will give us what we need to understand what to do for each child, and we appreciate the support being given to teachers.”

In early childhood news, HB 266 was released by the Sunset committee, which would remove exemptions from child care licensing for public and private programs, including programs operated by school districts and private schools, which have long been exempted. While public school programs operate under Delaware Department of Education regulations, their facilities are not always up to the standards for child care licensing because they weren’t built to serve children under the age of 5. And private schools have been able to skirt regulations as long as they serve students in 6th grade or higher along with young children. While most believe that licensing are minimum standards that all child care providers should meet, there could be a large price tag for schools to bring their facilities up to code (think lower sinks, smaller toilets, fenced in playgrounds). The fiscal note has not been calculated but could be cause for reconsideration.

HB 273 (financial literacy requirement) joins several other bills that address the purview of the State Board of Education in terms of the standards schools are required to teach: HB 299, requiring CPR; SB 214 requiring 150 minutes of physical activity in elementary schools; and SB 191, requiring instruction in public schools on the history of organized labor in America and the collective bargaining process.

Madeleine Bayard



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