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New funding model a priority in state education reform efforts

Annie Ropeik/Delaware Public Media
Educators, lawmakers and reformers talk about how to upgrade the state's education funding formula at the Vision Coalition's annual conference Wednesday in Newark.

Amid news that Delaware mirrored an unprecedented national drop in federal test scores Wednesday, educators and lawmakers gathered to start digging into making major changes to the state's educational system, as soon in the next 18 months.

Some hope it's the beginning of a paradigm shift -- but like so many things, they say it'll all come down to funding.



The annual conference at the University of Delaware was the eighth hosted by the Vision Coalition, which has long led efforts to reform education in the First State.

But this was the first time they've had a new 10-year set of recommendations to work with -- the Student Success 2025 plan. It's a multi-tiered approach that looks at things like personalizing learning for more students and improving career prep.

And perhaps above all, it calls for an upgrade of Delaware's decades-old education funding model -- including:  

"The conversation of how can we integrate funding for schools that have high concentrations of poverty," says deputy state controller general Mike Jackson, "as well as to provide additional resources for school districts at the state level for English Language Learners."

Put more broadly, says Booker T. Washington Elementary School principal Dale Brown, it's about flexibility. He says the state needs a formula that can add on extras case-by-case to the money doled out per student:

"If it's enrichment, what does that cost? If it's remediation, what does that cost?" Brown says. "If it's a child in poverty, what other services do you have to make sure that you can afford to make sure that some children that are not in poverty get?"

And the list goes on. He also says the state needs a living formula -- one that can change when it needs to -- and that all the funding needs to be sustainable. And he stressed that individual schools need control over their own distributions of money.

State Rep. Earl Jacques (D-Glasgow) chairs the House Education Committee. He says there's political will to make some kind of change:

"The formula we use now is 70 years old. Things have changed -- the makeup of the population has changed -- so I think it's very doable," he says. "We're going to look at those things, and we've got a couple good ideas that we're going to share with that."

They'll do that in a newly formed committee, which will start looking at the funding model on Monday.


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