Delaware’s School Finance System Turns 62
Unfortunately, for the second year, the General Assembly did not approve a pilot enabling up to eight districts to use state education funds more flexibly, which was part of Delaware’s winning Race to the Top application. It was included in the draft budget after markup and the Grant-in-Aid draft, but did not receive support late on June 30. The pilot would have enabled districts to earn funding based on the current formula, but choose to spend it efficiently to target the needs of their students. Strengthening our 62-year old system to be more flexible and equitable has been recommended by Vision 2015, the LEAD Committee, Governor Markell’s Blueprint, and numerous national experts. It’s unclear how Partnership Zone schools will be provided additional flexibility over budgeting, as required by regulation, without the participation in a program such as this pilot or other legislative action.
Not only would more flexible funds enable greater equity, so that students’ needs could be targeted by those closest to students, but it would provide greater efficiency. Providing funds in larger blocks rather than as units (or the right to hire a teacher), districts and schools would have incentives to spend smarter. And efficiency would be welcome in a state that is still at the top in per pupil spending (11th among states in 2008, data released this week).