Opt Out supporters attend rally to try and override veto of HB50

The scene outside Legislative Hall today was one of frustration. Opt Out supporters shared stories highlighting their reasons for challenging Gov. Jack Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, which made it easier for parents to keep their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment test. Led by members of the Delaware PTA, residents spoke in front of about two dozen concerned citizens.

Bear resident Jill Shilling said she was surprised by the amount of backlash she received.

“Last year, I opted two of my children out of the Smarter Balanced test and was challenged by the school district in a certified letter asking me to acknowledge within five days, that I was aware it goes against the state code,” she said. “That sort of intimidation and threat was not necessary and disrespectful as I was merely exercising my parental rights.”

The opt out movement has been a constant source of statewide debate. Teachers expressed frustration with teaching to the test. Parents were tired of dealing with stressed out children and facing repercussions from their school districts.

Ashley Sabo, a parent from Red Clay Consolidated School District, wasn’t asking for dropping the test entirely—only the right to opt out.

“As a parent it’s my right and my responsibility to raise my child the way that my family sees fit,” she said. “We’re not saying that no child should take the test, we’re saying it’s the parents’ responsibility to carry out what they were entrusted to as parents and raising their child the way they see fit.”

Parents weren’t alone. Steve Fackenthall, a music teacher with Red Clay Consolidated School District, read a list of reasons to override the governor’s veto.

Fackenthall said the Red Clay schools “are tired of being labeled a priority or a focus especially when there isn’t more offered to directly impact change,” he said. “Many of our schools lack the social services needed to serve the whole child but we judge our teachers and our schools on a test.”

Fackenthall believes other subjects, such as the arts, gym and recess suffer because so much energy is put into the Smarter Balanced Assessment Test.

Rep. John Kowalko, a sponsor of the bill, said he wants legislators to make the right decision.

“Parents are watching and listening. Let’s not forsake their desires or their dependence on us to do the right thing,” he said.

However, if the veto isn’t successful, he believes it will be result of “pressure from the administration to have their own sense of authority challenged.”