What’s New with Delaware’s Education Funding System?
The long march to modernize Delaware’s school funding system continues on, as the state continues to see changes stemming from recent actions by Gov. John Carney’s administration and the General Assembly.
One of the major drivers of these changes was the Delawareans for Educational Opportunity v Carney lawsuit settlement from October 2020. The settlement comprises two broad portions: a set of requirements for the state related to school funding—and requirements for counties related to property reassessment. The full timeline for the settlement and the requirements can be found here.
Several of these requirements are underway. County reassessments have begun, Opportunity Funding has been codified and increased year over year since the settlement, and other funds have been allocated as required by the settlement.
Additional actions taken by the General Assembly this session continue to advance equity and support Delaware students. These include counting—and funding—students more than one time per year, which has been approved in the FY23 Budget. Other policies under consideration include adopting rolling property reassessments and decreasing child-to-adult ratios in special education pre-K classrooms.
Settlement Updates: State
Approved for FY23
- Opportunity Funding: minimum $35 million, a $4.5 million proposed increase over FY22. $5 million of these funds are allocated for mental health and reading supports for students.
- Teacher Recruitment and Retention: $4 million additional commitment over FY21 allocations to enhance recruitment and retention, with ongoing monetary commitment.
- Opportunity Funding: a minimum of $50 million must be allocated in the budget ($12 million increase over FY23), the $5 million allocation for mental health and reading supports remains.
- K-3 Basic Special Education: codify funding structure to be the same as structure for Basic Special Education students in grades four through 12 going forward.
- Early Education: ECAP (state funded pre-k) funding doubles to $12.2 million.
- Independent Assessment of Delaware funding system (RFP for vendors with requirements is here) must be completed by January 2024, including an analysis of the system, including comparisons to other states, and recommendations for improvements to equity and efficiency.
- Opportunity Funding: minimum $60 million must be allocated in the budget ($10 million increase over the minimum requirement for FY 24), the $5 million allocation for mental health and reading supports remains.
Settlement Updates: County
Properties in Delaware have not been assessed in decades for tax purposes, which has created issues of fairness and adequacy for Delaware schools. As of 2022, all counties have contracted with Tyler Technologies to conduct property reassessments, and these reassessments are underway.
- New Castle County agreed to reassess all properties for tax purposes by July 2023. In the spring of 2021, they began conducting aerial imaging and data collection. Valuation is not anticipated for at least another year, with another year before any impact would be adopted.
- Kent County has committed to reassessing properties by 2024. Data collection began in October 2021. Valuation analysis will begin in fall 2022, as well as valuation review. The effective date of the new values will be July 1, 2023.
- Sussex County started their data collection in September 2021, and continued through November 2021. They anticipate to have the project completed by February 15, 2024.
Other Legislative Activity
Efforts are underway at the legislative level beyond just compliance with the lawsuit settlement requirements. Several bills have been introduced to address funding issues and inequities.
HS 1 for HB 54 was introduced to institute an optional mid-year student count to supplement the initial student count normally held at the beginning of every school year to determine school year funding. $2 million has been allocated in the budget to fund these additional needs.
HB 252 would implement rolling property reassessment every five years to ensure that property taxes (from which school taxes are determined) are up to date and accurate.
HS 1 for HB 144 would lower pre-K special education child-to-teacher ratios to align with K-three and four-12 grades as agreed upon by the lawsuit.