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Natalie D.

Ganc

April 29, 2015

Dear Delaware Legislator:


I am writing to you with regard to House Bill 50, which would explicitly allow Delaware
parents to opt-out their children from the statewide assessment and prevent any
consequences to students, teachers, schools, and districts due to non-participation.
I write this letter as not only a parent with a daughter ready to start kindergarten in the
Fall, and a VIP member of the Delaware PTA, but also as a teacher of exceptional
children (special education) with 14 years of experience, reading specialist, and highly
qualified/highly effective educator who is continually rated as distinguished and
exceeds expectations. In fact, for the past two years, I have received a letter from
Stefun Hawkins at the Delaware Talent Co-Op commending me for my work in the
classroom and offering me a $10,000 bonus to leave my present school to work in a
low-income school in Delaware. I have both a bachelors and a masters degree.
Having laid out both my stake in this legislation and qualifications to speak about it, I
urge you to support House Bill 50 for many reasons. I will attempt to condense the
three main reasons as to why you should support it unquestionably.
1.)

House Bill 50 will simply codify what is already a parents right, as per the
14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Therefore, not supporting this legislation is equal to saying, The State of
Delaware has more rights over a child than his/her own parent. In other
words, the child is owned by the state.
According to the U.S Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, parental rights
are broadly protected by Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially
in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents
possess the fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their

children. Furthermore, the Court declared that the child is not the mere creature
of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled
with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations. (Pierce
v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state
legislature for trying to interfere with the power of parents to control the education
of their own. (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme
Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable
state interferences is one of the unwritten liberties protected by the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399). In recognition of both the
right and responsibility of parents to control their childrens education, the Court
has stated, It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child
reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation
for the obligations the State can neither supply nor hinder. (Prince v.
Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158).
One might argue that if parents have this right, then they will have the right to optout their children from other educational things. Well, guess what? They already
do! As a teacher, I consistently get requests from different religious groups and
other groups to allow their children to read a different book than what Ive chosen.
I have parents opt-out their children from participating in class parties, physical
education, and other classes. I have parents opt-out their children from saying the
Pledge of Allegiance. These are all parental rights.

2.)

House Bill 50 would put all the school districts and charter schools in the
state on the same level playing field based on a clear and distinct law.
Right now, Delawares many districts and charter schools each have their own
protocol for how a parent may opt-out their children from the statewide
assessment. This poses a problem for parents who have children in local district
schools as well as having children in charter schools. For example, a member of
the Delaware PTA stated that she had children in both Polytech High School and
Smyrna High School. Each school had its own protocol for giving parents
information regarding this. Having ambiguous policies/protocols across districts
and charter schools would be rectified by this legislation.

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3.)

House Bill 50 would prevent non-participation from adversely affecting


students, teachers, schools, and districts.
Students are already protected, as there are no high stakes consequences
attached to student performance or responsibility. Therefore, many students dont
take the statewide assessment seriously to begin with. When students have no
stake in the test, it skews any data that could be gained to evaluate them, as well
as teachers, schools, and districts.
Because of what I explained above, if a student does not take the test, it should
NOT be a part of the evaluation process for teachers, schools, or districts. Some
may argue that non-participation would adversely affect funding from the federal
government to the tune of a loss of $90 million. This is simply not true.
Kevin Ohlandt, writer of the Exceptional Delaware blog, shared the U.S. Dept. of
Educations letter to Mark Murphy regarding this, and I have attached it to this
email. Mr. Ohlandt further explains the rationale in this statement:

Nowhere in this letter are any dollar amounts referenced. Nowhere is an


indication this WILL happen to any schools or districts. But the most
important part, and this is crucial, the entire letter is about what the schools
and districts have to do. I dont know of any school or district not ensuring
that the state assessment is provided for every student. No school in
Delaware has said We arent giving this test to students. This is the key to
the 95% game the US DOE and the Delaware DOE have been playing. If the
SCHOOL or DISTRICT fails to administer the test, or in simple terms, if they
dont give the option to every student, then they are out of compliance. If a
parent opts out after the school has ensured they will give the tests to all
students, that is not on the school. They have already provided their due
diligence in allowing all students to take the test. Nowhere in this letter does
it state a parent cannot opt their child out of the state assessment in ANY
state. Nowhere in this letter does it state that due to opt out would a state
lose Federal funding. If the school, district or state DOE tells students, you
dont have to take the test and they go below 95%, that is when the law
kicks in. As for a law a state may have in regards to allowing parents to
make this decision, this letter states nothing about that. So all the threats of
funding cuts from the Feds have been easily thwarted thanks to a letter from
the US DOE! Thank you!
It is interesting and incredibly ironic to point out that NO schools across the nation have
been closed or had a reduction in funding due to students opting out of the test. No, in
fact, schools are being closed and funding is being cut due to students participation in
the test.
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As a teacher, I could go on and on about the fallacies and injustices associated with this
test, as Ive just given the English Language Arts portion to my 5 th grade students this
week, and its taken each student, on average, about 6 hours to complete. However,
that is another battle for another time.
In conclusion, if you believe that parents know what is best for their children and have
the right to make informed decisions for them, then you MUST support this bill. Both
the Delaware PTA and the DSEA support this bill. Your stakeholders and constituents
have spoken! Now, please represent our voice with your support for this bill.
Respectfully,

Natalie D. Ganc
Natalie D. Ganc
VIP Member of Delaware PTA
Delaware Teacher of Exceptional Children
DSEA Member

ATTACHMENTS

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HB 50 in a Nutshell:

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