Introducing the Legislative Hall Pass: Crunching the Numbers on Delaware’s Education Budget

Author: Melissa Hopkins and Neil Kirschling

Legislative Hall Pass
The Legislative Hall Pass is a new series at the Rodel blog. Our team of experts will examine the most pressing education bills and issues emerging from the 149th Delaware General Assembly, and weigh in with commentary, context, and data. Check out the Legislative Monitor for a full list of education-related legislation.

 

With elections far off in the rearview mirror, inaugurations wrapped, and cabinet members trickling their way into position, the real work is set to begin in earnest for elected officials, and especially the 149th Delaware General Assembly.

Looming over the new session is yet another tough budgetary situation: Projections show that Delaware faces a $350 million deficit and slipping revenue streams. Navigating the Fiscal Year 2018 state budget will be a top priority for the 149th General Assembly and one of its staunchest challenges.

Before leaving office, the Markell Administration presented the Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget. Here’s our summary of the recommended budget increases and cuts for education based solely on the House Bill 25, the Governor’s Recommended Operating Budget Bill.

Process-wise, the onus now shifts to the legislature to develop a final budget. The Joint Finance Committee, which is responsible for writing the budget, reviewed the Delaware Department of Education base budgets on February 1st, 2nd and 6th. Given the revenue forecast, JFC members are exploring cutting costs, and are focused on spending funds where they will directly impact student outcomes in the classroom.

 

Nothing becomes law until the legislature approves the final budget, which typically occurs on the last day of session, June 30th.

Delaware lawmakers expect the budget discussion to dominate this year’s legislative session. As he weighs potential tax increases or spending cuts, Governor John Carney is soliciting the public’s input through a series of town hall forums across Delaware.

A S1.46 billion recommended education budget (a 5.6 percent increase over last year) could be a tough pill for lawmakers to swallow. There is reason to be hopeful: Gov. Carney pledged during his inauguration speech his commitment to strengthen the education system, especially to support Delaware’s highest needs students—all while addressing the state’s long-term budget challenges.

Throughout this legislative session, Rodel will continue to watch all education-related legislation, including the budget, over at our Legislative Monitor. And in the meantime, we will continue advocating for state spending that is efficient, student-focused, and aligned to the priorities of Student Success 2025. Times may be tough, but we believe strongly that Delaware’s schools, teachers, and students should not bear the brunt of hard financial decisions.

The data is clear—investing in education early and often—benefits us all. With far-reaching impacts that range from higher earnings to reduced health care costs to lower welfare and crime rates—public education is one high-yield investment we can’t afford to miss out on.

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