Bloom still the STAR, but investment in technology is the key in money requests for Delaware education

The University of Delaware, Department of Education and Department of Economic Development outlined their Fiscal Year 2014 budgets today in Dover.

 

University of Delaware President Patrick Harker detailed the university’s budget which includes an operating request of just over $2 million and a capital request of $15 million.

The biggest portion of the operating budget is to support utility costs associated with the university’s Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (ISE) Lab, which is currently under construction and scheduled to open in the summer of 2013.

According to Harker, the ISE lab support’s the university’s and Governor Markell’s initiative to enhance Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education, research and innovation.

The ISE lab will provide the university with vital research space and the opportunity to further expand opportunities to partner with some of Delaware’s largest companies.

“Several companies already use our Advanced Microscopy Facility, which will expand once it moves into the ISE lab,” said Harker who listed DuPont, Gore, Air Liquide and Dow Electronic Materials as a few examples.

The facility is also utilized by federal labs on an ad-hoc basis.

“The facility will be a huge boost to securing NSF Major Research Instrumentation grants,” continued Harker.

The lab corresponds with the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) campus, currently under construction at the former Chrysler plant.

“There are two short term goals on STAR which is to successfully have BLOOM construct their facility and get up and running with the jobs and their R&D which is critical to our energy future as a nation,” said Harker. “Also, our health science campus, the first phase will be done as well in December of next year and we’ll be able to provide not only great training for our students but great clinical service for the people of Delaware. That ties into the ISE lab which will open up this coming summer which will provide the critical state of the art facilities for the research that will fuel the next wave of tenants that will show up on the STAR campus.”

The operating budget also called for $821,400 to expand the university’s Commitment to Delawareans, which provides accessible and affordable education to in-state residents by capping their total debt at one-quarter the cost of UD education.

“There will be loans but we capped the loans so they will be affordable,” said Harker.

The third part of the operating budget is a request for $304,000 for the Cooperative Extension and Carvel Research and Education Center.

The department requested $15 million in capital funds in which $9 million would go toward aging labs.

Department of Education

Also laying out their FY 2014 budget was the state Department of Education which requested an increase of one percent from FY 2013 and no new funding.

The Department is still working off the $119 million Race to the Top grant which was awarded in 2010 to be spent over four years to improve the state’s public education system. The department has currently used $52.5 million with $10 million encumbered.

One of the largest parts of the operating budget is the request to update and service technology among the department.

According to Mark Murphy, Secretary of Education, technology is more prevalent than ever in schools and the need for properly working tools and people who can service them is vital to enhancing education.

“It’s incredibly important for our students to engage in a world where they’re surrounded by technology and be able to afford them with the infrastructure that supports that engagement,” said Murphy. “Our request really focuses on two things, first, to make sure they have the actual hardware that they need, the actual devices and computers that they need to engage in their learning. The second is support. Often times, I think it’s a forgotten component of the equation. When we talk about insuring that our students have actual devices and computers, those devices take support. When those devices break, when those devices are out of warranty, we need people to support those things.”

The budget calls for $5.9 million for technology positions throughout the Learning Education Agencies and $2.6 million to replace Delaware Comprehensive Assessment Systems (DCAS) computers.

The second largest part of the operating budget is a request for $8.7 million in funding to go toward the unit growth of 111 new teachers and $8.5 million in salary increases.

Delaware Economic Development Office

Alan Levin, cabinet secretary of the Delaware Economic Development Office said the department is not requesting a budget increase, instead asked the state to continue to support their current budget which includes a general fund operating request of $2.8 million and a capital request $37 million.

According to Levin, the department has seen success in their current economic development initiatives for small business owners and agriculture.

“There are nearly 70,000 small businesses in Delaware,” said Levin. “They represent more than 90 percent of employers and 46 percent of the private sector workforce. Most small businesses are very small, 72 percent do not have employees and most employers have fewer than 23 employees on the payroll. That being said, not all businesses are creating jobs but they are no less important to our state’s economy.”

The economic development office has helped many small businesses through their Limited Investment Financial Track (LIFT) program which partnered with six participating banks and one credit union to provide financial assistance to nearly 50,000 businesses across the state and the Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) which helps eligible businesses find loans with low rates.

The department also manages the Delaware Rural Irrigation Program (DRIP) which gives loans to farmers to increase acreage irrigation. The result is higher crop yields throughout the state.

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