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Department of Education launches review of Delaware's public education funding system

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Department of Education is taking a first step to rethinking how the state funds public education.

DOE has hired an outside research firm to assess the state’s funding structure and recommend changes that could improve educational equity.

The evaluation is a requirement of a 2020 settlement between the state and two civil rights groups: Delawareans for Equal Opportunity and the NAACP of Delaware. The settlement marked the end of a lawsuit in which civil rights groups challenged the legality of Delaware’s enrollment-based school funding system, which critics argued did not leave room to provide additional funding to support students with higher needs.

DOE’s Associate Secretary for Operations Kim Klein says while the state has created new funding to support low income students and other higher-need students, Delaware’s central formula hasn’t changed to meet those demands. "Part of what this evaluation should tell us is whether there’s a way to redo our overall funding system that has more of that focus and emphasis," she said.

Klein says that while the state will provide data and contacts, it will otherwise remain hands-off in the process. "They will get data from us – they will get data that is already publicly available," she said. "But again, this is intended to be an independent review, so that the state and the Department of Education won’t be influencing it."

The Department hired the American Institutes of Research to conduct the assessment. That group has previously conducted assessments of school funding structures in 16 other states, including Vermont and New Hampshire.

The researchers’ report and recommendations are due in December 2023.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.