This supports the education of approximately 141,000 students being served in more than two hundred schools in nineteen school districts and twenty-three charter schools.
Increased enrollment in schools, especially special education increases, contributes to the growth in the education section of the State’s budget. With the demands on the State Budget, public education should continue to explore efficiencies and ways to decrease administrative costs.
Initially, the program sought opportunities to maximize the purchasing power of the local education agencies (LEAs) and increase opportunities to work across LEAs for greater efficiencies. Aligned with this mission, EdGEAR was established in 2019 as a GEAR-equivalent program for the primary- and secondary-education (K-12) systems. The EdGEAR team consists of two school district superintendents, one charter head of school, four school district Chief Financial Officers, GEAR representatives, and Department of Education (DOE) staff. EdGEAR created a target list of initiatives including: (1) eliminating duplicative information systems, (2) optimizing procurement, (3) efficient distribution of surplus and the disposition of assets, and (4) capital project improvements. Due to the pandemic, work on these issues began in 2021. During its meetings in 2021, EdGEAR focused on several services provided through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Government Support Services (GSS) to develop efficiencies, and has sought to leverage the contracts developed by the Data Services Center (DSC), the BRINC consortium and the nutrition programs.
The team identified major initiatives that address service delivery issues, major contracting costs, and items that allowed for more efficient use of limited resources to promote the best educational outcomes for all students.
The team initially focused on two areas of collaboration: transportation and technology.
The Delaware Department of Education conducted a study on a community-based transportation system where students are transported in accordance with their age range (elementary / middle and middle / high) and their residence to their schools using a small cohort of charter schools in New Castle County that volunteered to be part of this study. The study serves as a model for school districts and charter schools to highlight the potential cost savings and enhanced transportation service that could be provided through the implementation of a consolidated busing system. This project takes the work of the various task forces and committees and puts it into action; providing an actual model for school leaders to replicate and address the transportation problems that have been on-going and growing since 2002.
This project was designed to bring to fruition the recommendations and strategies set forth in SCR22 by creating a Council on Educational Technology. This council serves an oversight organization charged with providing strategic guidance for educational technology for the state, districts, and charters. The Council will: (1) provide strategic guidance for public education technology by conducting needs assessments; (2) offer policy and budget recommendations; (3) engage in strategic planning to ensure alignment between state and local efforts; (4) define acceptable use policies, procedures, and processes to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations; and (5) provide support for technology-related procurement.
More recently the program has begun to focus on the processes by which capital improvements are funded by the State for Delaware’s school districts.
With public school districts expressing needs for minor and major facility investments and existing market pressures surpassing capital project allocations, the team began a comprehensive review of the capital projects processes within public education. The team quickly realized that this undertaking would require the engagement of a larger body and shifted focus to the minor capital funding process in 2023. Of concern is the sufficiency of the minor capital improvement and equipment (MCI) appropriation and the efficiency of how these funds are allocated across the school districts and charter schools.
How MCI funding is allocated among the school districts and charter schools needs to be examined (currently, the funding formula is based on student enrollment, not on characteristics of the school facilities, such as age of the facility or construction quality). Exploration of potential additional sources of MCI funds and an alternative allocation model based on facility characteristics are being explored. This effort is expected to lead to recommendations that will result in (1) recommendations to ensure appropriate funding of minor capital projects statewide and (2) improvements to the allocation methodology and process.
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