A Quick Look at the School Funding Transparency Bill

Author: Neil Kirschling

Senate Bill 172 was introduced in the State Senate this week, representing a monumental foot in the door for addressing Delaware’s arcane school funding system—should  it be enacted.

 

Delaware, as we’ve written about before, employs a 70-year-old school funding system that is complex, inequitable, and inflexible.

 

Delaware also does not report education spending uniformly at the school level, meaning parents, taxpayers, or anyone else, can’t see how money gets spent at schools—or compare schools in terms of funding and spending. This lack of transparency means we don’t know whether students (especially ones who need extra support—like English learners, or students from low-income households) are getting the help they need at school.

 

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sokola, aims to do three things:

  • Establish a statewide approach for districts and charter schools for reporting expenditures at the school level and the school’s share of central office expenditures so that per-pupil expenditure data is consistent and comparable across the state.
  • Report per-pupil expenditure data with key information that provide context on differences in funding such as school type, student demographics, and student outcomes.
  • Provide optional trainings to increase understanding of the data.

 

The hope is that the legislation will pave the way for accessibility and transparency into important school finance information. That way, parents can know what their school is spending on, and how it’s supporting students, board members and school leaders can make better, data-driven decisions, and schools and districts can learn from each other.

 

As Delaware begins to work on implementing a new set of federal requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act—which require school-level financial reporting—the time is right to address transparency by presenting funding data in a comprehensive and accessible way.

 

It’s been a long time coming. Student Success 2025, which launched in 2015 from the Vision Coalition of Delaware, recommended more transparent education funding systems, and “as spending increases and revenue slows, we need to make the expenditure of those dollars easily understood by taxpayers so that they can encourage maximizing the use of every dollar.” The News Journal’s editorial board last week called for a “clearer picture of school spending,” while the 30-member-oraganization-and-counting Education Equity Delaware coalition continued its advocacy for a long-term update to the education funding system by enlisting former U.S. Sec. of Education John King for a half-day summit.

 

Want to learn more? Check out the Education Equity Coalition website. Want to take it a step further? Follow this link to voice your support of Senate Bill 172 with your local elected official.

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