Fellow board members one of the parts of RTTT that we have questioned and continue to get no real answers on is what happens when the funding runs out in 4 years? There is language within the 235 pages of the application that many see as a prelude to consolidation, and a larger DOE that we don’t need as dollars get tight. First let me review the states policies for funding Education in Delaware:
“The State’s funding policies lead to equitable funding between and within LEA’s. State funding in Delaware is determined using the division funding method, which allocates state aid based on a unit count system: LEAs earn units based on the number of students that are counted each Sept. 30th (the unit count), with the number of students per unit determined based on the grade level and disability category of the students. The majority of State funding is allocated through Division I and Division II funding based on each LEA’s unit count. Division I funding supports salaries of LEA employees including Teacher Formula Salaries, Cafeteria Funds and Other Employment Costs. Under this system, the number of positions provided is based on the number of students in a LEA. Every position allocated is funded using a statewide salary schedule – which covers approximately 70% of the total salary – in order to ensure that LEAs are not limited by local funding discrepancies. Division I funding guarantees that positions are allocated equitably and that salaries the largest school and LEA expense by a significant amount are largely funded by the State (If this was truly the case we would not have teachers jumping districts for higher local salaries). Every school and LEA is subject to the same unit formula and eligible for the same amount of funding per student from the State. Division II funding is primarily targeted for fixed costs associated with facilities and is split into two budget components: Energy and All Other costs. For Division II, LEAs receive a fixed allocation of funds (or unit value) for each unit earned through the unit count. This formula is designed to encourage the State to distribute basic education support equitably across LEAs. However, the State recognizes that LEAs vary in their ability to raise local funding. To compensate for this, Delaware offers “equalization” funding to LEAs with low total local tax revenues (and therefore less total money available to be dedicated to education) under Division III of the state aid formula. Equalization funding is intended to supplement tax revenues dedicated to education in lower income LEAs so that they are able to provide a level of funding closer to that of LEAs that can rely on higher property taxes. Each year, state and LEA officials review the data to adjust the Division III formula (a fixed allocation of funds for each unit earned through the unit count) to reflect changes in relative wealth among LEAs. The parameters of the allocation are included in the annual state budget. The State has taken additional efforts to improve the efficacy of its funding policies. In FY09, the State expanded its needs-based funding for children with disabilities to cover every LEA for the first time. Needs-based funding provides individualized funding based on demonstrated student need rather than general classification. Therefore, students with greater needs are eligible for greater funding. In 2009, Governor Markell’s first official act in office was to initiate the Governor’s Performance Review. The resulting review of the Department of Education led to a suggestion that the State provide funding flexibility to LEAs. Conclusion Delaware’s consistent commitment to increasing education funding, its equitable formula for allocating state funding across LEAs, and its equalization mechanism help to close the gaps between LEAs, schools, and students. (Sorry to disagree, but equalization continues to be an issue up and down the state. Until the formulas are updated, and state wide assessments brought into the 21st century some schools will struggle to educate their students at the same level as richer districts).
I will get off my soapbox and pass along the RTTT language which should make all board members worried about their districts financial futures. Below is the appendix that details the Governor’s plans for after the federal dollars dry up:
“Using the fiscal, political, and human capital resources of the State to continue after the period of funding has ended. In order to continue providing fiscal support to the reforms initiated through the Race to the Top application, the State will pursue a tiered strategy, including:
1. Continuing the overarching statewide commitment to reform as outlined above
2. implementing a consolidated purchasing program among LEAs for select categories of goods and services – this may include a central bidding process for instructional materials.
3. Coordinating with the General Assembly to realign existing funding in the Public
Education budget for reform efforts
4. Providing greater flexibility to LEAs in the administration of their state funding in order to promote autonomy, innovation and reform. This effort began in the last
Delaware General Assembly, specifically with House Bill 119. Combined, these activities will support reform and promote autonomy, efficiency and innovation in education spending throughout the State. Continued funding coordination and repurposing will involve fiscal responsibility and political will as the DDOE works with the General Assembly to ensure that State and federal education funding is distributed fairly and effectively.
5. Human capital resources dedicated to reform will also continue after the period of the grant. The Project Management Office and the 9 positions therein will remain in place following the period of the grant. The PMO represents a fundamental reorganization and reorientation of the DDOE to create a culture focused on performance and results. Initially these positions will be funded by Race to the Top, jump-started in the “New DDOE,” but over time the DDOE will reallocate fiscal and human resources from unnecessary current positions to these new offices on a permanent basis. The existing resources of the DDOE will be repurposed to support reform without growing the overall size of the Delaware DOE in the long term.”
Bottom-line is when RTTT dollars go away in 4 years the state sees consolidation as one piece of the pie to continue funding these new positions created at the DDOE. Then let’s force HB 119 down the throats of districts while at the same time “realigning existing funding”. So get ready, in 4 years it’s going to be a rough road if the state does not learn to create more income then its spending!