Lawmakers in Delaware have slashed a $7.5 million proposal by Governor Jack Markell in half to cut positions within the Delaware Department of Education and for programs that had previously received funding from the federal Race to the Top Program.
The Joint Finance Committee voted to put an end to 10 high-paid positions within the Department of Education in an effort to save $1.5 million. Funding for educational initiatives such as teacher preparation programs, data analysis and recruitment efforts were also greatly reduced.
Jonathan Starkey writes for Delaware Online that while Representative Joe Miro thought it was “refreshing” to see the positions eliminated, he said he felt that the additional cuts to funding were “extraordinary” and unnecessary. Senator Karen Peterson added that she has yet to see any evidence that the programs are doing anything to improve education in the public schools throughout the state.
Meanwhile, Markell continues to maintain that education in Delaware is improving, citing a dropout rate that continues to fall, an increase in the number of students participating in and passing Advanced Placement and college-level courses, an increase in students who are applying to college, and a greater number of highly-rated preschool programs.
“It’s no surprise to me that there’s some controversy and angst over some of the things we’ve done,” Markell said. “But the results speak for themselves. And I’m more concerned about results than I am about what people think about me.”
The committee did approve $3.75 million of the governor’s proposal, offering funding for teacher preparation programs, curriculum development for new science standards, and a student data portal for teachers that had previously been funded by the federal government.
“I think there’s frustration among parents and educators and students that education policies don’t seem to be based on feedback coming from the classroom,” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark. “I think also though that now is a natural time for us to take a step back and re-assess what we’re doing. Race to the Top has naturally come to an end, and I think we’re at a point where the question is, what’s next?”
House Bill 50, which would allow parents to “opt out” their children from statewide standardized exams, has demonstrated a split between some lawmakers and the governor. While Markell contends that the bill is a bad decision for Delaware because test scores help to close the achievement gap for low-income and minority students, when the bill reached the House, only 3 of 41 representatives voted against it.
Lawmakers said they voted for the bill because they continuously hear from teachers and parents in Delaware that students spend too much time on testing and the stakes are too high.