DOE Requests 5% Budget Increase in FY 2013

November 23rd, 2011

Category: News

The Department of Education presented its FY 2013 budget to the Office of Management and Budget yesterday, requesting a 5% increase over current year spending levels. Of the $55.4 million new requests:

  • $33.6 million, or 60%, is for a proposed Educational Sustainment Fund, intended to compensate for the loss of significant federal funding next year.
  • $8.7 million will pay for salaries and other costs incidental to projected enrollment increases.
  •  $8.3 million would fund longevity-based pay increases or “steps”.
  • $1.5 million in one-time funds would support the development of appropriate student growth measures needed to implement a new teacher assessment system.
  • $2.5 million will support school improvement costs related to Delaware’s anticipated application for a waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
  • And $1.9 million would go to increase SEED, INSPIRE and other higher education scholarship programs.

In their presentations, Education Secretary Lillian Lowery and Associate Secretary for Financial Reform and Resource Management Karen Field Rogers emphasized that the Educational Sustainment Fund is necessary to ensure that school districts and charter schools are held harmless for the loss of substantial federal funding in FY 2013. New net funding from this line item would only represent a $6 million increase in district budgets, or less than one half of one percent of total district spending. Moreover, the entire $33.6 million makes up for only between two-thirds and one half of the $50-$60 million in ongoing education cuts that districts have incurred since FY 2009 for programs as varied as school security, transportation and extra time.

Ms. Field Rogers recommended that Educational Sustainment Fund be allocated to districts based on their respective Division I unit counts (as background, districts generally earn 1 unit for every 16.2 Kindergarten – Grade 3 students and 20 Grade 4- Grade 12 students they enroll; in addition, fewer special needs students are needed to generate a unit than non-special needs students). However, she also proposed that the restored funding be as flexible as possible, allowing superintendents and school boards maximum discretion in determining how best to spend their allotted funds.

Indeed, “flexibility” was frequently mentioned throughout hearing. OMB Director Ann Visalli recognizing that some school leaders may want more local discretion in how they can spend state aid, expressed an interest in hearing proposals from district superintendents about funding flexibility over the coming months. Central to Vision 2015’s roadmap for educational excellence is that school districts have the flexibility they need to positively impact student outcomes at the local level, and we look forward to supporting the development of flexibility over the coming months.

DOE’s presentation to OMB is merely the first step in the state budget process. The Governor’s proposed budget will be submitted to the General Assembly in late January, which will then be “marked up” by the Joint Finance Committee  to be taken to a full House and Senate vote in late June.

Finally, DOE also circulated a fact sheet summarizing the highlights of the September 30th enrollment count for district and charter schools. Overall, 130,102 students are enrolled in Delaware public schools this year, a 1% increase over last year. Eleven districts experienced net increases in enrollment—most notably Cape Henlopen and Woodbridge with increases of 4.6% and 3.7% respectively—while seven districts experienced net decreases, with Christina’s 2.0% decline being the most dramatic.

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Jon Altshul