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Are Delaware's Public Schools Really Underfunded?
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The state of Delaware, especially the Department of Education, does a terrific job making data on Delaware public education readily available. What are some of the highlights of that data?
 
Let's start with the most recent data on spending. Currently Delaware public education spends almost $15,000 per pupil. This includes $1.3 billion from the state's General Fund, $71 million from the state's Capital Budget, and over $600 million of local school district money.
 
This seems like a good deal of money per each of the more than 133,000 students enrolled. Part of this cost is due to the providing services to more than 19,000 special education students, as well as English language training to over 8,000 pupils.
 
Then Delaware has 19 separate school districts with 830 administrative employees. The average district superintendent in Delaware is paid $153,970 while the average assistant superintendent is paid $135,722. Meanwhile the salary for the average full-time class room teacher is $59,290. The enrollment by school district ranges from 2,384 to 18,046 students.
 
Enrollment and the composition of the public school student body has been changing. Over the most recent five years total public school enrollment in Delaware has risen almost 6%. During that time period the proportion of students who are African-American has stayed steady at around one-third while the percentage of students classified as Hispanic has jumped from 12% to 15%.
 
The type of schools has been shifting as well. The enrollment in charter schools within the public school system has soared 55% over the five years and the charter schools are moving in on accounting for 1 out of every 10 public school pupils. Currently 46% of Delaware students enrolled in charter schools are African-American and a bit over 10% are Hispanic. Approximately 11% of Delaware's K-12 eligible students are enrolled in private schools and 2% are home schooled.
 
The performance of Delaware public school students on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) tests has remained steady over the past five years. Two-thirds of Delaware 8th grade public school students are functionally illiterate in reading and math and this proportion rises among minorities.
 
In sum, a quick review of the comprehensive data provided by the Delaware Department of Education shows a system that is spending ample funds per pupil for ordinary test performance results, is administratively heavy at the school district level, and is experiencing an explosive shift to charter schools, especially among African-Americans.
 
Dr. John E. Stapleford
President
 


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