Delaware Legislature Makes Progress in Education; More Work Ahead
The first year of the 146th General Assembly concluded last week; several bills and budget actions made progress toward education goals and positioned Delaware as a national leader. As always, more remains to be done, both on the issues addressed this year and others that remain unaddressed.
In a year when most states faced budget deficits, perhaps the most significant actions were the Governor’s targeted budget investments: the $22M early childhood investment and a $1.3M increase in higher education scholarships. The early childhood investment will increase Purchase of Care subsidies for child care by $9M, provide $10M in incentives for child care providers that achieve high quality ratings, and support these initiatives through $3M in infrastructure and merit awards. This investment positions Delaware competitively for the federal Early Learning Challenge Fund.
Charter school issues came to the fore and are targeted with HB 205, which provides greater oversight and accountability, and establishes an initial solution for turning around low-performing charters without having to close schools and disrupt communities. However, more remains to be done to create an environment that provides equitable funding for charters and an attractive policy environment, when other states are passing Delaware by.
Delaware began progress toward a Race to the Top commitment to improve data governance by passing HB 213, which adds members to the P-20 Council that will oversee the longitudinal, cross-agency data system. It also instructs the Department of Education to conduct audits and evaluations, including studies for improving instruction and complying with state and federal accountability measures; to collect data to effectuate those activities; and to promulgate regulations to govern the collection and use of educational records.
Another year has passed without attention to our 62-year old funding system, one of the most restrictive in the country. Until we provide more flexibility in how schools and districts use resources, we will continue to face challenges such as late teacher hiring and the inability to target resources to meet students’ needs.
We anticipate several other issues coming up again next year, including HB 107, which would raise the entry bar for teachers gaining initial licensure, and (as it seems to every year) school district consolidation, which was proposed in SB 5 and SJR 4.