Governor Markell Announces Efforts to Enhance Early Childhood Services

Changes to State support of early learning programs are designed to increase access to high quality care

 Wilmington, DE – Having made early childhood services a priority of his administration, Governor Markell announced today enhancements designed to help more early childhood programs receive high ratings and make it easier for kids from low-income families to get the best care.

Effective July 1, top quality programs will receive higher reimbursement rates from the state for accepting kids from families whose incomes are 200 percent of the poverty level or less. In addition, recently-published research by Stanford psychologists has found that “two-year-old children of lower-income families may already be six months behind in language development.” Delaware will become just the second state, after Rhode Island, to make infant care a special priority by providing funding for the additional staff necessary to work with the state’s youngest kids.

The state will also focus on providing the specific support child care providers say they need to increase their quality rating. At the same time, to earn the top ratings, programs will be held accountable for meeting specific standards based on research about factors that most affect a child’s development – like a curriculum focused on intentional teaching and a highly trained staff.

“To build a strong future for Delaware, we must give our kids the best chance to reach their potential,” said Governor Markell. “But we can’t wait for kindergarten to start preparing them for success. Quality early learning and care results in better educated, healthier, and more responsible adults. It’s a vital building block for the strong and sustainable workforce that determines America’s ability to compete in the decades to come.

“I’m proud of the progress we have made and I’m committed that we will not rest until every child has a fair opportunity.”

Background of Early Childhood Enhancements

The changes outlined below build on progress Delaware has made since Governor Markell proposed, and the General Assembly passed, a $22 million investment in 2011 to increase early childhood’s budget by a third. That funding was the start of an effort to significantly upgrade the state’s STARS Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) by increasing the number of high-quality early learning programs and giving the best programs the support they need to accept kids who could otherwise not afford to enroll.

State reimbursements for those children were significantly increased to 80 percent for three-star programs, 90 percent for four-star programs, and 100 percent for five-star programs. (Programs are rated on a 1-5 scale.)

Last year alone, the number of low-income Delaware children attending a high quality program increased by 50 percent, representing 2,200 kids.

Funding for the latest upgrades – the first major changes to funding for early learning programs since the initial improvements – come from the $50 million federal Early Learning Challenge grant that Delaware won in 2011, to continue to improve early childhood education in the state.

“These enhancements reflect the result of a comprehensive review of our programs, extensive feedback from early care providers, and a close examination of the research on successful early childhood programs,” said Jennifer Ranji, Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and their Families. “We know that the greatest benefits of early childhood programs only materialize when we’re able to offer the highest quality care from birth to kindergarten and today’s announcement brings up closer to making that a reality for all of our children.”

“I’m very hopeful that these changes will allow more programs to afford infant care,” said Cheryl Clendaniel, administrator at The Learning Center in Milford. “We see how important those first months are in a child’s development, but the amount of the resources it takes to support infants has made it extremely hard for centers to offer space for them.”


  • Higher reimbursements for 4 & 5 Star Programs: Recognizing that the most important investments in quality – including hiring great teachers and investing in curriculum – are the most expensive, the state is      increasing reimbursement rates for four- and five-star programs starting July 1, 2014.
    • Four-star programs will receive 93% of market rate tuition (now 90%)
    • Five-star programs will receive 102% of market rate tuition (now 100%)
    • Grants that help programs improve their rating will be restructured to take into account the number of children served, so that larger centers will receive more money.
  •  Infant Care: Four- and five-star programs that offer infant care will receive additional funding.
    • Through a pilot initiative, Delaware will provide a pool of resources to be divided among qualifying programs to subsidize the high cost of infant care.
    • The pool will be distributed in three stages – October 2014, March 2015, and October 2015.  (Every qualifying program at the time of distribution will receive funding)
    • Programs must be four or five stars, must offer infant care, and must have a minimum enrollment of 5 percent of children from low-income families.
  •  Raising Standards for Attaining 4 & 5 Star Ratings: Additional funding comes with more accountability. In the past, programs were only required to meet a certain number of a set of standards, but did not have to meet any one in particular. Recognizing that there are essential components of any high-quality program, the state is phasing in mandatory standards for programs moving up to or re-verifying as four and five  stars. These standards include:
    • Child Development Screening (January 2015)
    • Child Formative Assessment (January 2016)
    • Integration of Child Observation & Curriculum (July 2016)
    • Administrator Credential (July 2015) (Centers only,not family providers)
    • Curriculum & Assessment Credential (July 2016) (Centers only, not family providers)
  • Additional Support: In response to feedback from providers and to help them meet the essential standards, the state will provide additional support for:
          Professional development in curriculum, diversity, and assessment

        • Access to an online curriculum and assessment credential
        • Full implementation of formative child assessment

Governor’s Weekly Message: Announcing Enhancements to Early Childhood Programs

Wilmington  – In his weekly message, filmed at St. Michael’s School and Nursery in Wilmington, Governor Markell announces enhancements to help more early childhood programs receive high ratings and make it easier for disadvantaged kids to get the best care.

“We’ve heard from providers about the resources they need to meet high standards, so we’re increasing the assistance that’s most helpful,” said Governor Markell. “Our children are our future. By giving them the best opportunity to learn and develop from the beginning, we’ll keep Delaware moving forward.”

Every week, the Governor’s office releases a new Weekly Message in video, audio, and transcript form. The message is available on:

By email: Please contact our press team to subscribe to our press list

Transcript of the Governor’s Weekly Message: Announcing Enhancements to Early Childhood Programs

Governor’s Weekly Message Transcript: Announcing Enhancements to Early Childhood Programs

We can’t wait for kindergarten to start preparing our children for success. Ninety percent of their brain development happens by age five and quality early care results in better educated, healthier, and more productive adults. That’s why we’ve made access to high quality early childhood programs a top priority, by setting standards for what it means to be a top program and helping our best centers serve families that can’t afford to attend. Our investments are paying off.

Last year alone, the number of low-income Delaware children attending a high quality program increased by 50 percent. That’s 2,200 more children served here at St. Michael’s and at other great centers across the state. Those kids are expanding their vocabulary, solving problems, and entering kindergarten ready to flourish. But we can do better for thousands more kids and their families.

I’m announcing enhancements that will help more early childhood programs receive high ratings and make it easier for disadvantaged kids to get the best care. Through federal grant money, four and five star programs will receive higher reimbursements for the cost of serving those kids. Recognizing our children’s development starts the day they’re born, these programs will receive additional funds for the increased staff necessary to work with infants. This funding comes with more accountability. To earn top ratings, programs will be asked to meet more specific criteria – like a high level of staff training.

We’ve heard from providers about the resources they need to meet high standards, so we’re increasing the assistance that’s most helpful. Our children are our future. By giving them the best opportunity to learn and develop from the beginning, we’ll keep Delaware moving forward.

Dover man receives life sentence for drug dealing

Dover – Attorney General Beau Biden’s office announced today that a Dover man has been sentenced to life in prison for drug dealing.

On October 16, 2012, the Delaware State Police Kent County Governor’s Task Force was conducting a patrol at the Autumn Run Apartments in Dover and attempted to stop a suspicious vehicle with multiple occupants which failed to stop and led police on a pursuit.  After the vehicle was ultimately stopped, a search revealed a loaded 22-caliber handgun, drugs (marijuana), and a digital scale.  Dover resident Seanne Godwin, who was in the rear passenger seat, told police that he had facilitated a drug deal and he was subsequently arrested.


On December 18, 2013 the jury convicted Godwin, age 30, of Drug Dealing and Conspiracy 2nd Degree following trial in Kent County Superior Court.  After securing his conviction, prosecutor R. David Favata petitioned the Court to sentence Godwin to life in prison as an habitual offender (see 11 Del. C. 4214(b)).  Kent County Superior Court Judge William L. Witham, Jr. granted the State’s motion and imposed the mandatory life sentence yesterday.  Under Delaware law, offenders convicted of 3 separate and distinct felonies can be declared a “Habitual Offender” and sentenced to life in prison.


After initially posting bail following his October, 2012 arrest, Godwin was arrested again, in May, 2013, for drug dealing (heroin), possession of marijuana, and other charges in a separate case.  Those charges remain pending.  Godwin has remained incarcerated since his May, 2013 arrest.


Two other occupants of the vehicle in the October 16, 2012 arrest, 24 year-old Kendric Forman and 21 year-old Tyere Joyner, were also charged and successfully prosecuted in connection with this case.


A booking image of Godwin is attached.


Goodwin Booking Image


# # #

Wilmington-area furniture store owner fined $23,000 for violating Delaware’s consumer protection laws

Hearing officer sides with Biden’s Consumer Protection Unit, finds owner of The Amish Mill undisclosed fees and willfully misled customers who waited months for orders that never arrived

Wilmington – Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s office announced today that an administrative hearing officer has ruled that the owner of The Amish Mill furniture store committed 23 violations of the state’s Consumer Fraud Act and must pay $1,000 per offense.


“The bad faith was manifest,” according to the officer’s findings.


After receiving numerous complaints from customers, Biden’s Consumer Protection Unit filed an administrative complaint last year against Michael D. Wharton, The Amish Mill’s owner. The administrative complaint centered on allegations that Wharton would promise customers to have furniture ready by a certain date but never deliver and that he charged customers additional, undisclosed fees if they called to check on the order or complained about the store’s business practices.


At a recent hearing on the allegations, former Amish Mill customers testified that they waited months past the timeframe when Wharton said their furniture would be delivered and that the hidden fees included $5.99 if they called him to check on the status of their overdue orders or $85 for posting negative comments online.


In an opinion signed Monday, an administrative hearing officer agreed with the allegations in the complaint and found Wharton had committed 23 violations of Delaware’s Consumer Fraud Act. Wharton not only failed to deliver items within the promised time frame, the officer found, but in some cases never had any intention of having the ordered furniture built. When customers complained, no attempt to resolve the situation was made. Instead, the fees were tacked onto their bills or they were told their orders were nonrefundable.


“One would expect that a businessman who was having legitimate problems with suppliers to be contrite, offer refunds, or in some way accommodate the customer over an item’s extreme lateness,” the officer wrote. “Mr. Wharton’s anger with customers when they inquired about their items is indicative of someone, who, viewing some customers negatively and with a sense of entitlement, sought to drive them away and keep their money.”


Wharton even left one customer a voicemail in which he said the customer’s bill was “going up very drastically” because the customer had called to check on his order and posted comments online.


In addition to the $23,000 Wharton was ordered to pay, the hearing officer also extended a Cease and Desist Order that Biden’s office issued against Wharton that subjects him to stiff penalties if he assesses undisclosed fees or retains customer deposits for items he fails to deliver items in the timeframe promised. Since Biden’s Consumer Protection Unit brought this administrative action against Amish Mill, the scrutiny has led to several customers receiving their long-delayed orders and other customers receiving refunds after waiting as long as 14 months for furniture that had been ordered and on which deposits had been paid but that were never delivered.


Deputy Attorney General Stephen McDonald prosecuted this administrative case for Biden’s Consumer Protection Unit.


Findings of Fact

# # #