Governor Recommends 5.6% Increase in State Education Budget
On Thursday, Governor Markell unveiled his FY 2013 proposed budget, which recommends increasing the state’s investment in public education by roughly $63 million, or 5.7% over current year funding levels. In particular, the governor recommends appropriating:
- $27.4 million for an Educational Sustainment Fund, an unrestricted pot of money intended to compensate for the loss of a commensurate amount of federal funding next year. While substantial, this funding level is still $6.2 million less than what DDOE had originally requested in November.
- $747.7 million in Division I funding for district personnel costs, a $29.1 million increase over the current year, reflecting nearly $9 million for regular salary increases—or steps—and $8.7 million for costs incidental to projected enrollment increases. Presumably, the remaining $11-$12 million increase is primarily related to higher state contributions for other employment costs.
- An additional $1.5 million in school improvement funds, intended to help turnaround schools as part of Delaware’s application for a waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
- An additional $700,000 for the INSPIRE scholarship for qualified in-state students at Delaware State University. This increase is needed to absorb the second cohort of eligible students.
- Additionally, the governor’s proposed FY 2013 capital budget recommends $116.1 million for major capital funding for school districts—a slight increase over the current year—and $7.3 million for minor capital expenses, down from $10.0 million this year.
The proposed budget bill would also allow school districts to enter into memoranda of understanding to share central services across districts, similar to the agreement that the Laurel and Delmar school districts recently entered into. While modest in scope, this is a very welcome proposal that reflects a key recommendation from the 2008 LEAD Committee Report on Cost Efficiency and, if implemented successfully, may result in meaningful cost savings and more flexibility in how state funds can be spent.
That said, in its current form, the governor’s budget proposal would force districts to continue to make financial sacrifices. The budget does not restore as much as $30 million in funding cuts that districts have incurred since FY 2009 for programs as varied as school security, transportation and extra time. Moreover, while the combination of the Educational Sustainment Fund and the central service sharing proposal represent significant first steps in providing districts with more funding flexibility, taken as a whole, the governor’s proposal stops well short of embracing a truly flexible funding system, as we’ve previously advocated.
The Joint Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the Governor’s education proposals on February 14th. Check back on the Rodel blog for more updates as the budget season unfolds.