State Rep. Earl Jaques (D-Glasgow) says now is the time to make major changes to how Delaware funds public schools.
Jaques helped create the school district consolidation task force that’s scheduled to give a report to the governor and the General Assembly next month.
Delaware spends about a third of its budget, around $1.4 billion dollars, on K-12 education every year.
Although the state uses weighted funding for students needing special education services, there’s no weight for low-income children or English Language Learners.
Jaques said while lawmakers use other pots of money to support students living in poverty and English learners - they need more help. So the task force could recommend going to a weighted formula or giving school districts block grants.
“So, I can’t say ‘Yes, we’re definitely changing to that type of system,'" he said. "We haven’t talked about that yet. But we’re just exploring, so we know the numbers and we know what it is so we can talk to superintendents and all that say ‘What do you think if we did it this way.”’
Jacques says block grants would give school districts more flexibility in using state funding.
“No matter which system we do, how are we going to be able to fund English Language Learners, children who live in poverty and children with disabilities," he said. "We have to put more money there than we currently are. So, how do we do that? And that’s part of a that’s being discussed.”
Delaware is one of just a handful of states without a funding formula based on student need. A 2015 Rodel Foundation report found Delaware is one of about 15 states that doesn’t use it for low-income students - and one of four states that doesn’t offer it for English learners.
Jaques said he also wants the state to reassess property values - which could raise additional tax revenue for schools. But he admits the issue is politically fraught.
The task force is also examining the merits of consolidating school districts, changing some boundary lines or converting to countywide school districts. It’s scheduled to give its report to lawmakers at the end of January.