Financing and Public Education in Delaware

This past week I received an email copy of a report by the Delaware Education R&D Center, a University of Delaware group, whose website http://www.rdc.udel.edu/ gives a better breakdown of the article I am referring to here. The article titled “Public Opinion of Education: Financing Public Education” by Cheryl M. Ackerman, PhD is a look at the results of a 2007 poll that shows how residents feel on Education financing. As I look at the first question its not hard to see what residents felt on raising taxes in support of education, as many districts have seen referendums defeated because of this issue. Delaware residents have no problem paying higher vice or luxury taxes, but as to raising property, income, or sales taxes 70-80% are not in favor of this method of funding education. Part of this same discussion looked at an issue which the folks in Dover, and the out of state retirees do not want to see happen. Sixty Two percent of Delawareans support the idea of periodical reassessment of property values to support Education, and this has not happened in Delaware since 1976 in Sussex and the 1980’s for Kent. The article goes on to explain how funding for schools is based on formulas that create a very inflexible funding system that cannot respond to changing needs and growth. Most districts in Delaware operate on 27% local funds, 63% state funds, and 10% federal funds. With these coming from local property taxes; personal income taxes; and finally, corporate and franchise taxes. One major issue today is that as property taxes shift and decrease around the state education is the first to feel the “sting” of poorer communities.
The second part of the poll data talks about an issue that as board members we are very familiar with, and under constant attack for. Transparency, just a word to our own legislators, but one that they force on districts without offering support or clear guidance. If you have lived in the state for the last year or so, you have heard or read about a district that failed in its financial responsibilities by not questioning the administration. Because of this incident, the public, as the main providers of funding, have asked for more accountability (95% from the poll). The public wants to understand better, how much is spent on salaries, facilities, and curriculum, and who makes those decisions. In addition, where do those funds come from, and how are they distributed between districts and schools. Valid questions and concerns, but although the data may be available in many places (websites), it is not in a format that the public will understand or find usable. Probably, the most disappointing fact facing boards and legislators is that the issue of school financing has become so complicated that the key players are not seeing how the dollars are benefiting the main stockholders, the children of Delaware. It is the personal opinion of this board member that changes to the accountability for finances needs to start at the top with changes at DOE, and a better-educated and focused group of Legislators! There are districts spending twice the amount as other districts, and in the face of the revenue issues coming in 2009 poorer districts are going to be facing serious issues without equalization!

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About Gary M Wolfe

The Author spent 10 years as a member of the Milford Delaware Board Of Education, and is currently seeking the 18th Senatorial seat in the Delaware Legislature.
This entry was posted in Delaware, Delaware Politics, Education. Bookmark the permalink.

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