From WHYY: Delaware unlikely to make major changes to school funding formula this legislative session


By Sarah Mueller

This story was supported by a statehouse coverage grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Many education advocates cheered the release of recommendations from a blockbuster report last year showing Delaware was underfunding high-needs students by $500 million to $1 billion.

But it is unlikely that lawmakers will dramatically overhaul state school funding this legislative session.

“I do not think in this budget year we’re going to see the kinds of investments that the report is talking about, but I do think this is a good year to start talking about it,” said Democratic state Sen. Laura Sturgeon, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “When you’re talking about a sea change in possibly how we fund education and in how much we invest in education, that is going to take time.”


The independent report, a direct result of a settlement from a lawsuit brought by civil rights groups that alleged the state was underfunding disadvantaged public school students, was presented to the public in December. Sturgeon said the General Assembly’s next step in changing how the state funds school districts will be to hold a hearing on the report next month.

That’s not good enough for Dwayne Bensing, legal director of the ACLU of Delaware, who helped litigate the case.

He wants the legislature to add substantially more money to the state’s education budget than Gov. John Carney has proposed. The governor has recommended $10 million more in Opportunity Funding for fiscal year 2025 to go to disadvantaged students, which includes those who are low-income, have a disability or speak English as a second language. Those weighted dollars were codified into law as part of the lawsuit settlement. Carney is also pushing to increase starting teacher salaries to $60,000 and to add more than $56 million to cover an increase in the state’s student population.

Bensing said Carney’s recommended spending doesn’t provide the investment in education that the report calls for.

“It would be increasing the education funding appropriation, which the governor’s proposed budget does not do,” he said. “I think since the report, they have increased by tens of millions of dollars, but the report’s saying that what we really need is an appropriation that’s much greater than what has been proposed in past administrations and what needs to be the operating budget for our school districts moving forward.”

During the report presentation in December, Delaware Education Secretary Mark Holodick said lawmakers should think about equity in developing legislation, especially when looking at how neighboring states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, dole out money to school districts.

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