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Joint Finance Committee approves 2020 Dept. of Ed. budget

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

Members of the General Assembly's budget writing committee complete the state's public education spending plan for Fiscal Year 2020.

JFC signed off Gov. John Carney’s education initiatives, including additional money for low-income students and English Language Learners.

The $30 million for the Opportunity Fund is the biggest line item in the nearly $62 million supplemental appropriations bill.

All districts and charters will share $60 million over the next three years as Carney earmarked. But JFC added $15 million more so high needs elementary schools will get $5 million a year to hire trauma counselors.

JFC member and House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques said he’s happy with the educational priorities in next year’s budget.

“We got a lot of things in there that I know that the secretary of education, the governor wanted and that we’ve talked a lot in the House Education Committee about," he said. "We’re making progress.”

The education budget also continues funding for reading specialists in eligible schools and it adds more state money for basic special education for students in kindergarten through third grade.

JFC member and House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques said programs at the state’s colleges could help to fill those positions and help kids dealing with trauma.

“It’s important that fund the social worker program at Del State University so that we get more and more of those specialists to be able to put in our schools," he said. "So we can help this problem with trauma.”

JFC also approved $218,000 DSU’s Social Work program to get it re-accredited in the next fiscal year.

A bill from House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst would put mental health workers in all public elementary schools. But it’s high fiscal note makes it unlikely it will get a floor vote this year.

Lawmakers also included the second year of a pay increase for school bus drivers.

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