The Delaware Joint Finance Committee listened to the Delaware Department of Education present their FY2020 budget presentation today. The Delaware State Education Association made their public comment open to the public today. Given by DSEA’s Director of Legislation, Kristin Dwyer, the public comment hit home on some areas. In particular, the very heavy lift we are asking of our educators. It is more apparent than ever that teachers can’t do it alone.
Good Afternoon, I am Kristin Dwyer, Director of Legislation for the Delaware State Education Association.
I am honored to appear today on behalf of our over 12,000 active and retired members. I want to thank the members of this committee for your past support for Delaware educators and community public schools across the state. DSEA members stand strong for student success.
Standing strong for student success means meeting the state’s financial commitments to education. Over time, the Joint Finance Committee has supported funding for additional units, as well as for educator step increases. I thank you. I know how challenging these efforts have been. Today, I ask you to fund past commitments while addressing new priorities.
Funding for annual step increases is a clear demonstration of confidence in the work educators do in support of Delaware’s students. We ask for your continued support of these valued school employees.
For many years, DSEA has fought for funding for more resources dedicated to students with greater needs. Now, with your support, Delaware can start to address the inequities of our school funding system through Opportunity Funding and the Student Success Block Grant.
Governor Carney’s proposed opportunity funding provides additional support for students living in poverty and with language challenges, without disrupting services for students without these challenges.
However, we do ask that Joint Finance members take a serious look at what this funding will provide. As written, planning and implementation is a conversation between the district and the Department, neither budget epilogue or HB 51 require collaboration or oversight by and with educators, parents or the local school community.
We believe decisions on the use of funding should factor in the feedback from those working with our students. Our educators want to be heard. Up and down the state I hear educators say students are not prepared to learn when they come into their classrooms. That addressing emotional and behavioral displays caused by trauma takes time away from their ability to plan, instruct and assess. They feel it is unrealistic to assume that children can reach proficiency if they are coming to class focused on their next meal or if it is safe to go home.
Today I heard the department suggest giving the teacher more responsibilities, at this point our members are becoming jacks of all trades and masters of none, how much is too much- how can they still be effective?
When an educator identifies a student struggling, typically referrals for assistance go unmet, simply because there aren’t enough personnel to address the issue. These students need more counselors, social workers and other mental health supports, to prepare them for instruction
provided by their teacher. Current language simply suggests hiring these critical positions, there is no guarantee that students will receive services educators know they need.
Lastly, we ask members of the Joint Finance Committee to increase appropriations to the Student Success Block Grant, particularly for students for K-3 special education basic. Last year’s funding was a much-needed start, but only scratched the surface for many of our districts.
Meeting the demands of parents in a student’s IEP and 504’s plan places incredible responsibilities on our educators, who when they do it all themselves leave students’ need unmet, themselves open to dismissal, and their districts open to lawsuits. Instead, our educators are choosing to leave the profession, creating critical shortages in our special education workforce. Increased funding will provide the personnel needed to ensure the growing number of children in need of early intervention are getting it.