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Student Behavior and School Climate Task Force holds second meeting, cites funding issues

There are at least 500 educator openings posted through the Delaware Schools Consortium, but the actual number of openings is likely much higher as not all schools participate.
The Green
Delaware Public Media
There are at least 500 educator openings posted through the Delaware Schools Consortium, but the actual number of openings is likely much higher as not all schools participate.

The Student Behavior and School Climate Task Force held its second meeting Monday – continuing its discussion of ways to improve student behavioral issues statewide.

The conversation focused heavily on restorative practices, a social science toolkit that focuses on relationship building and empathy, as opposed to zero-tolerance discipline policies.

While most committee members spoke in favor of restorative practices, they voiced concerns over not having the time, professional development or staffing to properly execute the process.

"A lot of the schools are sorely lacking professional development and the funding to implement it," said Donna Husten, a teacher from Sussex Technical High School. "We talk about if there's something going on in my classroom, and 'can I call the interventionist?' or call this person or call that person — a lot of times there's just no one to call because we don't have the funding for that. We don't have the position for that. We don't have the units for that."

Anita Bulischeck, a school counselor in the Lake Forest School District, agrees, noting at her school they have a teacher who also has a school counseling degree and often gets pulled to help with behavioral issues.

"If you do the changes and have everything in place, the bad part of that is, you're pulling money because that unit, instead of being placed with a special [education] teacher to push that special [education] teacher into a classroom, is now being used for that restorative classroom or that [in-school suspension]," Bulischeck said. "So it does come down to funding. It does come down to resources. "

Senate Education Committee Chair Laura Sturgeon (D-Brandywine Hundred) notes she feels the discussion only further proves there’s a need to restructure the current school funding system and spend more money on education statewide.

“I know there are people who are skeptical of, like, more money isn’t going to solve the problem. But I hope those who are skeptical are hearing this conversation because more money means you can hire more people. You can hire more behavior interventionists," Sturgeon said, continuing on to discuss the need for smaller classroom sizes and better teacher-student ratios.

Sturgeon alluded to the idea that another task force would be created soon to go over the recommendations released late last yearencouraging Delaware to invest anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion more in education.

Capital School District Superintendent Vilicia Cade attributes staffing shortages to competing focus areas being mandated by the state.

“There’s this statewide pressure for third grade reading proficiency, and then you’re competing with all of these mental health and behavioral issues. People are overwhelmed at every level, and then we can’t find people," Cade said.

The committee plans to look at school discipline data from the varying school districts at their next meeting to better understand the most common behavioral issues Delaware is facing in the classroom.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.
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  • The Student Behavior and School Climate Task Force convened for the first time Thursday to begin discussing topics it would like to focus on to better address student behavioral issues.
  • In December, an independent assessment of Delaware’s public education funding system was released recommending substantial changes.The American Institutes for Research study suggests what Delaware spends on education is not enough based on the student outcomes it produces. It recommends the state significantly increase spending while distributing more resources according to student needs and implementing a weighted student funding formula.Lawmakers received a briefing on the report earlier this month and it appears there’s no rush to implement the recommendations offered.This week, contributor Larry Nagengast examines state lawmakers' reaction to the report and the path forward.