This is a critical time for our state. We are competing for businesses and jobs globally, yet right here in Delaware the competition is just as fierce – with our students competing against administrators when it comes to the funding necessary to strengthen the educational experience in the classroom. We need to put the focus – and funding – where it belongs: on our children and in our classrooms.
Delaware is ranked among the highest in the country for per-pupil spending, yet we are among the lowest in student performance. More money is not the solution – it’s about spending funds wisely. We need to give schools – and educators – flexibility to utilize funds they receive in a way that makes sense for their classrooms.
I am optimistic about the Every Student Succeeds Act providing greater flexibility to states, and I hope our next Secretary of Education will provide that flexibility to school districts, particularly with teaching and evaluations. In Delaware, I believe our public schools should have the same flexibility charter schools have had with funding, teaching and localizing decision-making. If we empower building administrators and teachers to customize education, we increase accountability – going beyond a standardized test and focusing on the most important aspect: improving outcomes for our children.
After speaking with teachers, it’s evident the amount of testing and evaluations happening in our classrooms stifles educational creativity and limits flexibility for meeting the unique needs of every student. We need to empower teachers to put their energy into engaging their students and delivering instruction that best serves their classroom. To do this, we need to reduce the amount of time teachers spend teaching to and administering tests.
Charter Schools have had a positive impact for so many families in Delaware, but more choices doesn’t mean better choices. There are 22 charter schools in New Castle County alone – in addition to the option of school choice, yet many families with more than one child opt to move across the border to Pennsylvania, where the schools are ranked higher. Parents maintain their Delaware jobs because the commute doesn’t change drastically, but we lose their community engagement, their talented children and their taxes.
If we reach a point where we decide funding is part of the solution, the timing may be right for our state to consider a property reassessment to see how our school system could be aided with funded from real estate taxes. For some context, the last time New Castle County did such a reassessment was the year my husband was born: 1983.
For employers and employees, a good public education is a key decision point. It helps fulfill one of the main search criteria businesses use to relocate; are their children going to get a good quality education? If businesses won’t come to Delaware because of our education system, how can we ensure good jobs are available for our children as they grow up? A strong public school system and quality job opportunities are tied together. We need legislators in Dover who recognize this and are willing to embrace fresh ideas rather than accept the status quo.