Delaware Governor, John Carney, signed the 2021 operating budget of $4.5 billion. The budget grew 2.1 percent, including over $50 million in grants-in-aid and over $700 million attributed to the Bond & Capital Improvements Act.1 The approved budget did not cut jobs, nor did the budget impose new taxes on Delawareans. Though the $4.5 billion budget was signed on July 1, the budget is less than the $4.64 billion budget plan Governor Carey proposed in January 2020.2 The Office of Management and Budget used 98 percent of available revenues to increase its reserves in response to the economic downturn.3 Additionally, the governor called for more than $160 million over the constitutionally mandated 2 percent for reserves.4
The state initially planned a $4.6 billion budget that included a Delaware state-record $893 million bond bill, subsequently was reduced due to revenue decreases. In order to reduce the $893 millions bond bill, the state reduced funding to clean water initiatives, cut business incentives for the following fiscal year, and cut special funding opportunities for public and private colleges.5
funding priorities for p-12 and/or higher education
According to Governor Carney, Delaware's budget plan is to improve the state economy, strengthen public schools, and maintain the unique quality of life to which Delawareans have become accustomed.6 Moreover, the budget invests in new school construction, clean drinking water, and waterways. Lastly, the legislature used the budget to make vast investments in infrastructures like roads, bridges, and public transportation.7 Delaware's funding priorities are as follows: [End Page 260]
Public Education–1.65 billion
Health and Social Services–1.24 billion
Higher Education–252.7 million
Services for Children, Youth, and Families–191.9 million8
changes to funding formula p-12 and/or higher education
Delaware has a 70-year-old funding formula that is based on units. The units are determined by number of students, academic performance, and classification.9 The current funding formula is the source of much contention because many Delawareans suggest the formula is outdated and does not account for the needs of English Language Learners or impoverished students.10 Because local districts are funded disproportionately, Delaware has one of the most inequitable funding systems in the country.11 The disproportionate funding is due to local school districts, through a vote, setting the tax rate applied to assessed property value within the school's county.12 This is significant because many counties in Delaware have not reassessed properties in decades, which created significant issues of equity. The property assessments are not on par with the increased market value of Delaware. The market value of Delaware's assessed valuation only represents $25.7 billion, although the actual value is approximately $118.9 billion.13 Therefore, many citizens in Delaware have requested the funding formula be changed to meet the needs of the diverse student population in the state.
pressing state issues affecting p-12 and/or higher education funding
One of Delaware's most pressing issues is the economic recovery needed post COVID-19 shutdowns across the state. Due to the large number of jobs lost due to Delaware's economic contraction, many of its citizens are amid foreclosures and delinquencies.
exclusive to p-12: what are the alternatives to traditional public schools offered by the state? what does the trend in funding look like for these alternatives?
Delaware's school choice law has been in effect since 1996, with alternatives such as charter schools and vocational schools. Delaware enrolls approximately 20,000 of its 41,000 high school students in Pathway programs14. Delaware currently serves over 16,000 students enrolled in 26 career pathway programs over 16 comprehensive districts, three [End Page 261] technical districts, 11 charter schools, and adjudicated youth15. A $458 million grant funds pathways at all 16 school districts and one charter school16. This programming has become essential to education in Delaware because it provides students with a career path, an alternative to college prep, and in some cases, certifications that add value to a diploma.