Delaware Dept. of Education pushes college fund in 2015 budget request

 (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The Delaware Department of Education is requesting a four percent budget increase from fiscal year 2014 to FY 2015.

The DOE laid out its $1.2 billion operating budget before the Office of Management and Budget this afternoon. The budget includes $12.1 million in new funding for technology, educator development, student and classroom support and more access to college.

Under the new funding umbrella, Education Secretary Mark Murphy said one of the most essential requests is $1.5 million, which will be used to directly support students pursuing higher education.

“That is critical funding to help our economy going forward, help our society moving forward as we increase the number of jobs that are requiring post-secondary credentials, we need to increase the numbers of our children and percentage of our children who are going on to peruse those credentials,” said Murphy.

Delaware declared November as College Application Month and Murphy highlighted that 20 high schools in the state are setting time aside to help high school seniors with college applications. Two schools participated in the pilot program last year.

The largest chunk of new funding requested, $8 million, will go toward student and classroom support.

“We have talked over the past year that it is incredibly important that we’re providing dollars to the people who are closest to our children to make decisions,” said Murphy.

He said that money would go toward helping educators meet during after-school hours to work with instructional specialists and analyze data collected on students to find areas of improvement.  

“We spoke specifically here about those students who are struggling,” he said. “Those students who are farther behind than those who are meeting goals right now.  As we raise our expectations for what our students achieve and for what is needed in our economy, then we have to provide those dollars to our schools to meet those school’s needs.”

Teacher Salaries

Last year, teacher salary increases were requested by the DOE and proposed in Gov. Jack Markell’s budget recommendation, however, salary increases didn’t end up making it into the final FY2014 budget.

This year, DOE is estimating $8.5 million for step [salary] increases and has been working with Harvard University to determine the most effective way to provide raises.

DOE also requested just under $10 million to accommodate 2013/2014 unit growth.

Murphy said an educator diagnostic was done in the state in partnership with Harvard’s Strategic Data Project to better learn how to compensate educators.

“What that report demonstrated was some things about our educator pipeline,” he said. “That included things like Masters degrees, years of service, what is happening with our students as far as student achievement based on those factors.”

The DOE’s capital budget request is $92.2 million, a slight decrease from FY 2014. 

Ann Visalli, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said state agencies can request up to a one percent increase in their base budgets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get it.

“Over the course of the next month, we’re going to have to make some very tough decisions, and so its too early for me to say, but it will be very difficult for us to address some of the one percent discretionary increases all agencies put fourth,” said Visalli.  

The Office of Management and Budget will continue hearing initial budget requests throughout the month of November.

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