By State Senator Bryant L. Richardson
A proper education is the key to solving many of Delaware’s problems. Here are a few reasons why:
- Businesses want to locate in areas where quality education is offered
- A good education opens up opportunities to live a successful and rewarding life
- Those who can see a clear path to success are less likely to turn to unlawful activities
- An informed public can take better control over their personal circumstances and as a result, rely less on government programs
By now most Delawareans know that lawmakers are facing a budget shortfall for 2018 as high as $350 million. That’s the budget that former Governor Jack Markell left our new governor, John Carney. Even if Markell had not forecast increased spending, the budget shortfall would still be more than $200 million.
Right now Governor Carney is visiting districts throughout the state seeking suggestions to help our economy. I think this is a wonderful approach, since everyone is given the opportunity to influence the budget-making process.
Right now the Joint Finance Committee, comprised of Senate and House members from both parties, is listening to the requests of the cabinet secretaries for the 2018 budget. There are 16 cabinets in our state with one possible change pending.
Gov. Carney’s first Executive Order concerns the future of the Delaware Department of Economic Development (DEDO).
The order establishes a public-private partnership within DEDO and creates a 14-member task force charged with recommending how the state can help businesses thrive.
I salute Gov. Carney for these two actions. Taking time to listen to the concerns and suggestions of the people of Delaware shows he is willing to look for new solutions. Focusing on economic development says our governor will be looking out for our businesses and that decisions coming out of state government will promote start-ups and expansions.
Now back to my thoughts about education.
I serve on the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee, comprised of House and Senate members from both political parties. Every year a few of the entities funded by the state are brought before the committee for review.
Recently, members of the State Board of Education faced the committee to explain their purpose. Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, board president, gave a summary of the report that had been distributed earlier to the committee members.
Dr. Gray said the board is charged with the responsibility of overseeing 104 regulations. I had to wonder, does this mean the focus is on the regulations and not so much the child in the classroom?
I mentioned that in some states the need for future space in prisons is based in part on the literacy of children in the third grade. In other words, if the child cannot read by the time they are eight or nine years old, their opportunities for success weaken. Two other speakers repeated this concern.
I don’t have room to list all of the responsibilities of the State Board, but the first four refer to the board’s role to report to the secretary of the Dept. of Education (DOE) on areas such as regulation-making authority, the DOE’s operating and capital budget requests and the student achievement and statewide assessment program.
The last time I checked the DOE had 284 employees. I have to wonder how much of their time is taken in making sure regulations are being followed.
Delaware has a new Secretary of Education, Dr. Susan Bunting, former superintendent of the Indian River School District. When I spoke with Dr. Bunting prior to her confirmation before the Senate, I asked her to take a close look at the size of the DOE to see if cuts could be made.
I’d like to see our education dollars spent in the classroom with extra effort placed on helping students learn to read at a very early age. When this is the focus, our state benefits from new business opportunities, more rewarding career opportunities for our graduates, safer communities, and reduced prison costs.
So sad to see young people not given the one tool they need to increase their chances for success: the ability to read.
That one ability opens up the world of knowledge and understanding and leads to a more rewarding life.
Education is the fundamental principle of what makes America a success. It is the foundation of what truly makes our country ‘the Land of Opportunity’. Dr. Ben Carson