Understanding Education Funding Cuts

Delaware education funding is overly convoluted and complex. I'd like to try and help with understanding it.

Shameless plug for tonight’s meeting of Christina’s Citizens Budget Oversight Committee Meeting: 6:30pm @ Gauger-Cobbs Middle School 50 Gender Rd, Newark, DE.

It’s a rough time right now in public education. Massive cuts in state funding have sent Districts into a panicked frenzy trying to figure out how to mitigate the cuts, if it’s even possible. Governor Carney’s proposal would see $37 million in funding for public education be scrapped as one of the measures to help balance Delaware’s lopsided budget. Current projections put the State $395 million in the hole. We still have a couple DEFAC and JFC meetings to go and it’s entirely possible that number could change.

What’s not going to change though is the fact that the budget and any proposed cuts are now in the hands of the General Assembly. The members of which are considerably easier to approach and communicate with than our Governor or anyone in OMB. Importantly, you should arm yourself with some knowledge on what’s going on, or being proposed.

Delaware education funding is overly convoluted and complex and when any changes are proposed, such as are found in the Governor’s proposals, it makes it that much more challenging to grasp what’s going on and what could be going on tomorrow.

I’d like to try and help with getting to know what the Governor’s proposals mean in terms of education funding reductions. I’ll preface this by stating that I’m not an accountant, auditor, or financial manager. I’m a dad of two kids in a public school district in Delaware who, for unbeknownst reasons, spends a lot of time trying to figure out just how in the hell education funding works (or doesn’t work) here. I think I’ve put this together accurately as of today (5/17/17).

I’ve been working on this for quite a while, and as of today I’m mostly comfortable with what I’ve researched and believe to be an accurate (and as simplified as possible) presentation of what’s going on, sprinkled with my sense of humor in some places. Which, if you know me, is pretty…bad.

Any updates from DEFAC or JFC will require revision, of course. So let’s call this Version 1.0.

Comments, questions, concerns are welcome. Click the screengrab below to open the PDF:



About Brian Ess

Taking it one day, one hour, one minute, one second at a time. Dad, data dork, recoverer, public education supporter, developing policy wonk. per aspera ad astra

5 comments on “Understanding Education Funding Cuts

  1. pandora

    Reading now! Thanks, Brian! You know more about this stuff than most people. We are lucky to have you.

  2. Well done Brian!

  3. Eve Buckley

    Thank you, Brian! You may be the only person in DE who understand this system (maybe one of ten such people?). How did a state this size design an ed. funding system so absurdly Byzantine?

    For Christina residents, the overall ed. picture in relation to the state since at least 2007 is: numerous new schools authorized by an unelected state Board of Ed., which local taxpayers are obligated by law to fund (as $ follows resident children to these state-authorized schools) but over which local taxpayers have no control via elected boards. In the Newark area, these schools enroll disproportionately middle class, white & Asian kids. That pattern has drawn numerous families in those “categories” out of fully private schools to attend these state authorized and locally subsidized but privately run schools. Meanwhile the state’s funding for public ed has diminished, year by year. So: more children in publicly funded schools, less state money to operate those schools, less local oversight of public ed. (close to 1/4 of children funded by Christina-resident taxpayers attend schools not under the control of our elected board), and increasing concentration of highest-needs children in the locally-administered schools, which are the ones linked to property values (b/c the only ones residents are guaranteed access to). Not good for most children, families, and homeowners. Appreciated by many, largely middle class, beneficiaries of the locally subsidized but state authorized and privately governed schools. The latter reality is the political safety valve that allows this mess to continue; if all families’ opportunities were similarly curtailed by diminishing state ed, resources, this trend would not be politically sustainable.

    Case in point: Shue-Medill MS students learned yesterday that 18 of their teachers have received RIF notices, and the teachers were told that they should anticipate enrollment in elective subjects (art, music) of 50 students per classroom next year. This is a real public school, in which “counseling out” is not an option unless a child’s behavioral challenges merit placement in an alternative school (with high annual tuition born by taxpayers). A fifty-student classroom will be a tragic disservice to all teachers and students involved. If Shue-Medill and the other schools concerned were majority white, I can’t think our legislators would try to get away with this reduction in resources for their schools–the backlash from a more mobilizable middle class would be severe. Poorer, often single parents working multiple jobs have less capacity to organize in protest, and it is they and their children who continue to bear the brunt of Delaware’s negligent education policy. We should be ashamed.

    • Eve Buckley

      correction: board member John Young says that the board approved 3 (not 18!) RIFs for Shue-Medill. My apologies for the inaccuracy–the much higher number is circulating among Shue MS students, who are very upset about it–I’ll try to figure out where that is coming from. I am relieve that it is SO much lower.

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