Next Tuesday, January 15th, Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will hold a press conference at Legislative Hall to announce a weighted funding system for Delaware students. Luckily, this blogger got the details of it this evening. The devil, as they say, is in the details.
From the official press release announced by Governor Carney’s office today:
Delaware Governor John Carney
TUESDAY: Governor Carney To Announce Education Initiative
WILMINGTON, Del. – At 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 15, Governor Carney, Secretary of Education Susan Bunting, and education advocates will announce an education initiative to provide support for English learners and low-income students statewide.
WHAT: Governor Carney will announce a new education initiative.
WHO: Governor John Carney
Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary,
Dr. Tony Allen
Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald
Heath Chasanov, Superintendent
Patricia Riveria, Board President La Esperanza
WHEN: Tuesday, January 15
WHERE: Governor’s Office
411 Legislative Avenue
Dover, DE 19901
The plan calls for a $20 million a year addition to the education budget in Delaware for three years. English Language Learner students will receive an additional $500 a year while low-income students will get an additional $300 a year. This is, apparently, just the beginning of a new weighted funding apparatus in Delaware. Carney and Bunting will tell the people this is not a pilot but rather “phase one” of a long-term plan.
This will not be for both Delaware school districts and charter schools. For larger districts, this could mean upwards of $2 million or more in additional state funding. But the devil is in the details. Where will this influx of money come from? That has yet to be revealed. It could also mean funding could be taken away from other areas in education to make up the difference. We simply don’t know yet. Will this prevent other areas from receiving additional state funding, such as students with disabilities? Last year the General Assembly added some additional funding for basic Kindergarten to 3rd grade special education. While it was a step, it was not the full amount that is needed for these students.
So a school district or charter school receives these additional funds. What happens then? Where does the money go? Will it provide lower class sizes? Will it give teachers more pay if they have classrooms with a larger percentage of those students? Will it mean more money going to outside vendors? Once again, the full details of this have not been revealed yet but it looks like schools will provide plans. It does not appear to be an automatic hand-out for all students in those categories.
Districts and charter schools will have until July 1st to submit plans to the Delaware Department of Education. At that point, they will receive 50% of the funding with the rest contingent upon approval of their plans on how to use the funding. This seems more like a grant system for schools to get the money. We all know there are always winners and losers in that game. It will put some schools at a distinct advantage over other schools. We still haven’t learned this lesson yet in Delaware. Perhaps we never will.
This initiative will also be one of the highlights of Governor Carney’s State of the State speech that will be given to the General Assembly on Thursday, January 17th.
I am firmly against any education plans that rob Peter to pay Paul. If that is what this ultimately becomes, it is fraught with danger right out of the gate. Also, what happens after the three years? What if the state has an economic downturn and they have to cut those funds? Does the money just go away or do they dump it on the districts? These are the kind of questions everyone should be asking in the days ahead.
One of my concerns is the huge increase in English Language Learner students in Delaware. These numbers have skyrocketed in recent years. But I do question the validity of those increases. I wonder whether some of those numbers have gone up due to anticipated funding coming for ELL students. I have heard many tales where a student is Asian-American and they must be counted as an ELL student. I found it very ironic that every single school district with the exception of Smyrna had huge increases in their ELL populations. Is Smyrna a fluke or did they not want to play the game?
A weighted funding system for Delaware education has been talked about for a long time. It is at the heart of the education funding lawsuit against the State of Delaware. Given some of the parties involved behind the scenes in that lawsuit, all of this just seems to be too contrived. I believe these plans were made a long time ago and this is just the culmination of those plans. I am not against extra funding for students in need. I welcome that. I question where the money actually goes. If it does not directly benefit those students it is pointless. I question any initiative that is pushed by the Rodel Foundation and those who comfortably join them or sit on the fence while they direct Delaware education. This also makes the timing of the Vision Coalition presenting to the House Education Committee even more suspect.
This is going to be a huge topic, along with property reassessments, in the coming months of the General Assembly. Property assessment formulas in the three counties of Delaware haven’t changed since the 70s and 80s depending on the county. The current method means someone living in Laurel with an average home pays more than a mansion in Rehoboth. The home in Rehoboth is worth considerably more than the home in Laurel, but the assessment is much less.
I believe the lawsuit came about as an apparatus to force these changes. If the state doesn’t do it (which they very much want to but don’t want voters crying foul come election time) than a judge will force them to do it. So why now, after years of advocates pushing for this. This is a guess on my part, but I don’t think Governor Carney will run again in 2020. So with him being the one pushing all this, there will be no fallback against him if he doesn’t run. Susan Bunting will go away by the time Carney leaves office (maybe before if some rumors are true). The legislators will say “We have to approve this otherwise a judge is going to tell us we have to.” So it leaves everyone looking nice come election time in 2020. This is going to be a very crazy first leg of the 150th General Assembly. But the sticker shock to Delaware could have a huge impact on elderly populations moving to the state which will have a long-term negative effect on the state’s economy.
Time will tell what becomes of this. I could be wrong on all my theories. Or I could be right. Or a little of both.