Several members of the Joint Finance Committee asked the Department of Education officials on Wednesday when and if they would ever see a return on the state’s investment in public education.
Student achievement metrics like standardized test scores have fallen off a cliff over the past decade and the state still faces a teacher shortage.
Education Secretary Mark Holodick and Kim Klein, associate secretary of operations, asked for $1,976,146,300 from the state’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget.
That’s about an 8% increase in available funds from last year.
Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, said he’s been on the committee for a decade and hears the same speech every year while test scores and school climate continue to plummet.
“We’re not getting any benefit, and the taxpayers are getting tired of it,” he said. “They’re being assessed more and more taxes but they’re not getting the benefit, and kids are coming out lower and lower and lower.”
He called for stricter discipline in schools and said too often that students causing serious problems just get a slap on the wrist or counseling.
The department asked the committee for $30 million for mental health services for next year.
Teachers are burdened with much more than just teaching, he said, and students need to be hardened by the realities of life rather than being babied.
“If we don’t have guardrails and discipline and have it enforced, we’re not going anywhere,” he said. “We’re going to go backwards because the teachers aren’t going to put up with it. They’re going to leave.”
Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Dover, agreed that students could use a stronger backbone.
Schools are teaching students that they somehow went through hell and back during COVID, he said.
“But they did not,” he said. “They live in the greatest times that you could ever live in. … Telling them that everything that comes their way is a challenge, is a mental health crisis, is a mistake.”
Sen. Laura Sturgeon, D-Hockessin, said it’s crucial that schools either lower class sizes, or put either a second teacher, teaching aide or paraprofessional in the classroom to help build relationships with each student and ease the burdens of the teacher.
Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, agreed.
“When you have large classes or you have schools that have too many students probably in that building itself, it causes climate issues,” she said. “But those climate issues are ultimately what causes some of the vacancies and it’s not salary, it’s more about climate.”
The state’s teacher shortage has been a hot topic in the Department of Education and General Assembly for more than a year.
What the JFC was asked to fund
The department asked for a total of $1,976,146,300, but these are the only items it asked for Wednesday:
- $30,010,700 Mental Health Services
- $22,459,200 General Contingency
- $15,000,000 Opportunity Funding
- $12,847,400 2022-2023 Actual Unit Growth
- $7,919,200 Public School Transportation
- $6,100,000 Early Childhood Assistance
- $4,000,000 SEED Scholarship
- $3,000,000 Redding Consortium/Wilmington Learning Collaborative
- $1,953,500 Governor’s Summer Fellowship
- $1,717,000 Inspire Scholarship
- $1,464,100 Academic Excellence Education Block Grant
- $1,000,000 Safety and Security Funding
- $1,040,000 Wilmington Schools Initiative
- $754,900 Cafeteria Funds
- $403,800 Early Education Personnel Costs
- $250,000 Student Organization
- $200,000 Delaware Math Plan
- $200,000 Early Childhood Initiatives
- $134,600 Operational Personnel Costs
- $127,000 Prison Education
- $75,000 Technology Operations
- $58,600 Contractual Services
- $5,000 Educational Support Professional of the Year
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
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