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Delaware school funding debate to continue into 2019

Delaware Public Media

A legal fight over education funding in the First State will continue into 2019. Combined with some new faces at Legislative Hall, that likely means more debate over the state’s funding formula.

State Rep. Earl Jaques said Delaware is among the top 10 states in overall spending per student. But some education advocates say the school funding formula should be weighted to give additional money to disadvantaged students.

Delaware is one of just a few states that doesn’t provide more money to low-income students and English Language Learners through its formula.

But special education funding is weighted so students with disabilities do get more money. Yet 2018 proficiency scores in Math and English for those students in third grade dropped by 7 and 10 points respectively.

Christina School District Board member John Young is the father of an autistic child. He said there needs to be more focus on if that money is being used fairly.

“The resources to determine whether or not those weighted funds are used in an equitable or efficient manner is low,” he said.

Young says one example is some school districts choosing to teach autistic students in the district instead of sending them to one of the three countywide centers. He said that way the districts don’t have to give the money connected to that student. But he adds that districts are more likely to send students to the centers if students are more severely disabled or have a behavior problem.

“It has been challenging, absent a few kind of stellar performers here and there, to find the formula or magic so to speak where we can find those monies put into place in a equitable fashion,” he said.

Richard Morse is one of the attorneys for the civil rights groups challenging the state’s education funding in court. He says there’s a direct correlation between the lack of resources and the poor education disadvantaged students receive.

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