Public Education Financial Structure is ‘Crumbling’

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On Tuesday, November 8 the Milford School District held a community meeting in the Senior High School auditorium to discuss the budget crisis and updates on the federal Race to the Top program.

Sharon Kanter, Superintendent of Milford School DIstrict, opened the evening by explaining that the K-12 public education financial structure is not sufficient to maintain current services and performance levels. Over the past several years Delaware’s legislature has decreased funding for multiple state-wide programs including education. Ms. Kanter provided the audience with a list of state programs that have been cut since 2008 in education including Reading Resource Teachers, Math Specialists, Academic Excellence Allotment and Teacher Cadre and Mentoring. In all, the Delaware legislature has reduced spending of public school in Delaware by $58 million.

In addition to those cuts Superintendent Kanter explained how public education has been disproportionally impacted in recent years.

“The demand on local budgets have increased while the State has cut $58 million of programs since 2008,” stated Ms. Kanter. “By 2014 we will be short $1.6 million as a district if we do not come up with a way to fix this problem.”

Ms. Kanter stated to the audience that the current funding from the state legislature is not sufficient to maintain current services and recognized the need to do something before the Governor’s recommended budget is released; this is usually done in mid-January.

Delaware was the first of two states to receive federal funding through the Race to the Top program to temporarily fund support programs through 2014. Those funds have been used in the Milford School District to support programs such as the Lead Academy , Accelerated Summer Program, Mapping of the Curriculum, After School Tutoring and a district-wide mentoring program. According to Superintendent Kanter, the results of these new programs have helped Milford School District to succeed, increasing the number of students in honors and Advanced Placement Classes and increased student scores on the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System testing (DECAS).

With the budget crisis already present and a shortfall of school funding expected by 2014, when federal funds from the Race to the Top program will end, Milford School District needs to find a way to sustain the current programs and services that are offered to students and the community. Superintendent Kanter says that the school must take immediate action by asking their state legislators to reinstate the funding that has been cut for public education across the state since 2008.

“We would like to take some action and we need your help to take it to the next level,” stated Ms. Kanter to the audience on Tuesday evening. “We want to get back the funding we received three years ago and we need your help. Write a letter to your local legislator, make phone call to their offices, we need to make our voices heard.”

At this point during the evening the floor was open for discussion for commentary on the budget crisis. There were many supporters of the decision to write local legislators and even talk of bringing a bus full of students and parents to legislative hall to advocate for more funding for education. Others who attended the community meeting asked the school to provide more solutions to the budget crisis and reevaluate some of the services that the Milford School District has been providing under the Race to the Top program.

Senator F. Gary Simpson spoke on the subject and commented that it may be in the best interest of schools to seek legislation that creates autonomy for local districts to decide where the funding they receive is spent. This type of legislation would allow schools to govern their own dollars and prioritize services as needed.

With approximately 70% of all public education funding being provided by the State of Delaware, the Milford School District will need to find a solution for the upcoming budget shortfall. Whether it be advocating for more funds, prioritizing their services and programs or helping to enact legislation that enhances the local schools’ ability to allocate funds where they see fit, the Milford School District acknowledges and understands the severity of the current budget crisis.

“The foundation of our public education financial structure is crumbling,” stated Superintendent Kanter. “