Governor announces effort to aid English learners, low income students

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Gov. John Carney, joined by legislators and education officials announced a $60 million plan aimed at improving the academic performance of English learners and low-income students.

The three-year,$60 million Opportunity Funding initiative earmarks resources toward Delaware’s most disadvantaged students.

The program, for the first time in Delaware, will provide weighted funding for low-income and English learner students inschools across the state. Every Delaware school district will receive a per-pupil appropriation for each English learner and low-income student.

Over the next three years, the Delaware Department of Education will work with district and school leaders, community representatives, parents and educators to evaluate how districts are using the funding, and to measure progress.

“Delaware is one of only a handful of states that does not target additional resources for low-income and English learner students – students who we know need additional resources to reach their fullest potential. This Opportunity Funding initiative will change that,” statedCarney. “Despite the efforts of committed educators and school leaders, many of these students are not getting the education they deserve. If we expect all Delaware children to have access to a world-class education, this is an issue that we can’t afford to ignore.Every child, regardless of their background, can learn and deserves every opportunity to succeed.”

The program will be funded with a mix of ongoing and one-time funding in Carney’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal. The $20 million annually could be used by districts to fund additional reading and math specialists, counselors, trauma-informed training, after-school programming and smaller class sizes, among other potential uses. District spending plans must be approved by the Department of Education, and spending authorized under the initiative must directly benefit low-income and English learner students, a release stated.

The Department of Education will work with an independent entity to evaluate results under the new initiative, and a separate commission of community leaders, parents and educators will help evaluate the program’s success and spotlight best practices.

“As a former superintendent, I can tell you how valued this extra funding will be by our schools.Our English learners and our students from low-income families need more support,” said Bunting. “We long have been one of only a handful of states that doesn’t give additional funding for these students. Thank you to Governor Carney for making sure that changes today.”

“All good public policy starts with an objective look at the facts, and the fact is that many of our students who need the most help have, in one way or another, received the least for far too long,” said stateSen. Elizabeth Lockman, D-Wilmington.“Today’s announcement is a major step toward fixing that imbalance. Over the next three years, we have a chance to learn what works in order to establish the kind of broad equity and equal opportunity that will guide future investments in education and put Delaware families of all backgrounds ahead for generations to come.”

“We know that children who are identified as low income or those who don’t speak English as their first language are more likely to have experienced trauma in their young lives or face unique challenges that need special attention from their educators,” said Stephanie Ingram, president of the Delaware State Education Association. “They need time with a teacher or a specialist to help navigate these challenges. And, we finally have a governor who is willing to acknowledge and fund this.”

The program comes as a controversy continues to has been build over funding of school districts with low-income students in need of additional assistance.

Under the Delaware school funding formula, districts get a set amount of money per student regardless of income levels.

That has placed wealthier districts with higher performing students in a position to provide more programs, while poorer districts struggle with aging buildings and students in need of more help.

A lawsuit is currently in Chancery Court that claims the current formula violates the State Constitution.

Efforts by the Carney Administration and county officials to quash the suit have been denied.

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