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New law requires more school spending transparency

Delaware Public Media

A new law aims to make it easier to see how First State public schools and charters spend money.

Gov. John Carney (D) signed the transparency legislation this week. The law creates a state requirement that public schools and charters issue reports detailing per-student spending at the school level.

Bill sponsor State Sen. Dave Sokola said he believes Delaware’s biggest education funding problem is it still uses unit funding instead tying dollars to each student.

Civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit arguing the current state funding formula is unfair to students of color and low-income students.

Sokola said despite a lack of progress on changing the formula, he hopes this law requiring schools to issue annual expenditure reports will show how money is being spent at the school level.

“Expenditure data needs to be clear so we know how we’re spending our tax dollars," he said. "You know, it’s a big deal for educators, it’s a big deal for taxpayers. And most importantly, it’s a big deal for students we’re investing in.”

Sokola said the current lack of clarity into per-student spending at public schools and charters makes it hard for lawmakers to make good education policy.

"They won't be able to just say 'Well these are all administrative costs or these are mainly you know central office delivery services at the local building," he said. "They're going to have to be a little bit more detailed than that."

The law also requires developing a standard reporting format. Sokola said the data will enable the public to compare spending at different schools, and will provide context to spending differences.

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