Delaware’s top public education official says his agency has launched a study to alter how public schools are financed in The First State.
“Delaware’s school funding system is outdated,” said Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Holodick. “We know change is needed, but we must make sure the direction we pursue is the right one for our state.”
Currently, the state pays for about two-thirds of the operational and capital expenses of Delaware’s public school system. The remainder is paid through property taxes imposed on school district residents. If property taxes need to be increased, citizens must usually* approve the hike via a referendum.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data, released in May, Delaware spends $17,235 annually for each student enrolled in public school. When compared to other states, that was the ninth-largest per pupil expenditure and more than $3,700 above the national average.
According to a brief statement recently issued by the Delaware Department of Education (DOE), the American Institutes for Research (AIR) has been contracted “to analyze current policy and make recommendations for improvements, with a focus on equity for all students.” The non-profit group recently developed state-specific cost models for public education in Vermont and the New Hampshire Commission to Study School Funding.
As detailed in the DOE statement: “In total, the [AIR] team has collectively evaluated and advised on school finance systems in 16 states and ‘examined alternative approaches to school funding in different states, simulated recommended funding allocations for each district in those states, and determined local tax burdens to achieve the recommended funding levels.'”
The group’s work will include a comprehensive analysis of existing funding, a comparative analysis with other states, and feedback from stakeholders. A final report is expected to be delivered in November 2023.
* – Under Delaware law, school district officials have some limited ability to raise taxes without a referendum to cover some aspects of school funding.
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