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Education is the focus at final Bond Bill hearing

Delaware Public Media

Education took center stage on the Bond Bill committee's final day of public hearings as lawmakers heard from public schools and universities.


The Department of Education outlined it’s nearly $130 million capital budget request this year. Most of that funding is for ongoing projects, focused on addressing growing capacity issues across the state.


DOE also highlighted the approved certificates of necessity this year, totaling over $240 million in state funding, to go with $55 million approved by local referendums.


Some lawmakers and members of the public criticized the approved projects, and wondered why the Bush School wasn’t among them. The Brandywine School District preschool focuses on educational equity for students with developmental disabilities.


The Department of Education claims the Bush School doesn’t currently face any capacity issues, the only criteria for approving funding. But Brandywine’s Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Lisa Lawson says that’s not true.


“We’ve been forced to offer half day programming for all students in the program, both students with and without disabilities unlike our sister districts,” Lawson said. “But more than that we’ve also been forced to transform a gym, staff student multipurpose room into a classroom.”


Education Secretary Susan Bunting says she hopes the Bush School will apply for funding again next year, when it may have a better chance of receiving it. Most of the approved funding this year isn’t even in the budget because of ongoing projects.


Despite small capital allocations in Gov. Carney’s recommended budget, Delaware’s public colleges and universities all made cases for more funding to the Bond Bill committee this week


UD president Dennis Assanis wants an additional $35 million for a new biopharmaceutical building to replace McKinly Hall, something he’sasked the committee for in the past.


Assanis adds the state hasn’t provided any funding for new UD lab space since 1992.


“As many other states are investing significant funds in their universities' capital needs and especially STEM laboratories, the University of Delaware is being put at a competitive disadvantage in keeping our students, Delawareans students, in Delaware,” Assanis said.


Delaware State University seeks $25 million for campus and technology improvements. President Tony Allen says DSU desperately needs accessibility upgrades to meet ADA compliance.


Delaware Tech sought an extra $7 million to address its growing maintenance backlog, and outlined a multi-year plan to expand parking on its Wilmington campus and build a new childcare development center in Stanton.


The governor’s recommended capital budget only allocates $10 million per university to help cover some deferred maintenance costs, but the universities hope to get extra funds to help them expand.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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