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### The Future of Education Funding Reform in Delaware

Contributor Larry Nagengast delves into the subject of education funding reform in Delaware.

Skepticism prevails among lawmakers, hindering discussions on the necessity of increased spending, especially during an election year. The silence from the governor adds to the challenge, making significant progress on school funding reform unlikely before the conclusion of the General Assembly session on June 30.

Despite a notable event on March 7, there has been minimal visible advancement in implementing the recommendations outlined in the American Institutes for Research (AIR) report commissioned by Gov. John Carney’s office. This report emerged as part of a settlement addressing the constitutionality and sufficiency of funding for specific student groups, such as English learners, students from low-income backgrounds, and those with special needs.

State Senator Laura Sturgeon, D-Brandywine West, expressed the complexities of garnering support, emphasizing the necessity of full backing from the administration for any progress to materialize.

Paul Herdman, a proponent of funding reform and CEO of Rodel, remains cautiously optimistic about the potential for legislative action amidst numerous competing priorities in the education sector and the state budget.

The AIR report proposed restructuring the existing school funding framework, with a primary recommendation to adopt a weighted funding system catering to the diverse needs of public school students in Delaware. However, only the reassessment of property values has seen progress, with the remaining recommendations awaiting attention.

The involvement of the governor and gubernatorial candidates is crucial in driving successful funding reform efforts, as evidenced by initiatives in other states. While Governor Carney has been active on various education fronts, his silence on the AIR report leaves room for future gubernatorial leadership in this area.

During the Joint Education Committee hearing, diverse opinions were expressed, reflecting a spectrum of views on the proposed funding reforms. Questions lingered on the effectiveness of current spending levels and the potential impact of additional funding on student outcomes.

The revenue implications of funding reforms remain a central concern, with suggestions ranging from increased taxes on high-income individuals to the possibility of a statewide property tax for education. The delicate balance between funding sources, taxation strategies, and the need for improved educational outcomes underscores the complexity of the reform process.

As discussions continue on the best course of action, stakeholders emphasize the importance of simultaneous funding and programming changes to drive meaningful results in Delaware’s education system. The looming threat of legal action underscores the urgency for proactive legislative measures to address funding inadequacies before they escalate into prolonged legal battles.