SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT REACHED IN DELAWARE ADEQUACY CASE

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SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT REACHED IN DELAWARE ADEQUACY CASE

Avoiding a trial that was scheduled to take place early next year, the parties to the Delaware adequacy litigation reached agreement on a settlement on October 12, 2020. The suit was brought on behalf of two organizations: Delawareans for Educational Opportunity and the NAACP Delaware State Conference of Branches against the Governor and other state officials. The settlement requires the governor to propose a series of budget increases for specific programs each year between 2022 and 2025  as well as other reform legislation. If the General Assembly does not appropriate the specified amounts and enact the proposed legislation, plaintiffs may petition the Court to reinstate the case and resume the trial. 

Plaintiffs had alleged that only 25% of low-income students, 7% of students with disabilities, and 5% of English language learners achieved proficiency in eighth grade math, and that similar results occurred in other subjects and at other grade levels. Unlike 35 other states, they claimed, Delaware provides no additional financial support for educating low-income students and unlike 46 other states, Delaware provides virtually no additional financial support for educating students who are learning English as a second language. In an extensive decision issued in November, 2018, the trial  court had denied the defendants motion to dismiss.

 Among the reforms listed in the agreement are:

  • $25 million in Opportunity Funding in FY 2022, increased to $60 million by the 2024-2025 school year. $5 million of these funds will be reserved for mental health and reading supports in schools with the highest concentrations of low-income and English learner students.
  • By the 2023-2024 school year, the Early Childhood Assistance Program, which funds preschool programs for low-income families, will double its funding from $6.1 million to $12.2 million.
  • A $4 million annual commitment to support enhanced teacher recruitment and retention in high-needs schools beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.
  • An ombudsperson program will be adopted to assist individual students and families in resolving disputes or complaints concerning disparate discipline, inequitable access to school programs, and different or unfair treatment.
  • School districts seeking voter approval for capital construction and major renovations will be required to distribute an equity statement to explain how the capital project would impact equitable distributions of new and renovated buildings within the district.
  • The State will hire an independent organization to complete a holistic assessment of the Delaware public school finance system by January 2024, which shall consider funding levels, revenue mechanisms, equity, and efficiency.

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