Governor Carney Signs Legislation to Expand and Make Permanent Opportunity Funding in Schools 

Senate Bill 56 expands and makes permanent supports for low-income students and English learners

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Wednesday signed legislation to increase classroom-based support for low-income students and English learners in Delaware public schools.

Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Senator Laura Sturgeon, expands and makes permanent Delaware’s Opportunity Funding program. The weighted funding program provides direct, classroom-based support for low-income students and English learners. By Fiscal Year 2025, funding for the program would more than double to $60 million annually.

Learn more about how public schools are using Opportunity Funding to support low-income students and English learners.

“My top priority has remained the same. We need to make sure that Delaware’s most disadvantaged students are getting the education they need and deserve. This legislation will help us live up to that promise,” said Governor Carney. “Our Opportunity Funding program is already providing direct, classroom-based support for low-income students and children who are still learning English. Senate Bill 56 will expand those efforts. We’ll also look closely at how schools are using this new funding, and make sure we know what’s getting results for Delaware students – and what’s not. Thank you to Senator Sturgeon and members of the General Assembly for their overwhelming, bipartisan support of this legislation.”

Watch the signing ceremony or view photos from the event.

“Whether it’s one-on-one time after school for extra help or access to a good counselor to work through trauma, or smaller class sizes to help with focus and attention, these Opportunity Funds will allow schools to address the needs of our most vulnerable students,” said Senator Laura Sturgeon. “I am proud to have sponsored SB 56 as an important step toward closing the achievement gap and I thank Governor Carney for signing this legislation into law today.”

“The operating budget for Fiscal Year 2022 and Senate Bill 56 will go a long way toward addressing long standing inequities in how we fund education in Delaware by recognizing the simple fact that students facing the greatest challenges require extra support to succeed,” said Senator Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman. “These bills represent an important step forward, but they are not the end of our journey. We owe it to our children to make even more targeted investments that will support students with the greatest need and undertake deeper systemic reforms in the coming years.”

“The opportunity funding is a very important first step to making our state’s education funding system more equitable, flexible and responsive to student needs,” said Representative Nnamdi Chukwuocha. “It truly puts our students first and provides the flexibility needed at the school level to promote student growth and development.”

“Today, we are at a key moment in history for public education in Delaware, with many different efforts converging around the same goals of access, equity, early intervention, and resources for underserved communities. SB 56 and the expansion of the Opportunity Funding program is a key component of this progress,” said Representative Kim Williams. “Real change is within our reach for the first time in many, many years, and I truly believe that we will achieve the progress that our children and families have been waiting for.”

“During my tenure as superintendent of Indian River School District, I watched as our English learner population continued to grow and our schools were challenged to meet those increasing needs with no additional state support,” said Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education. “This funding is significant, not just because of the dollar amount but because of the lives it will change, the children who will receive the supports they need so they can succeed. This is changing their lives and their families’ lives, and ultimately the future of our communities and state.”

“With increased funding for more EL teachers and resources by signing SB 56 into law, thousands of students and their families will have more opportunities to break barriers, and help create a better Delaware for all of us,” said Kimberly Stock, Delaware’s Teacher of the Year. “Governor Carney, on behalf of all the Delaware educators and our EL students, I thank you.”

“SB56 is a major accomplishment, signaling that Delaware is addressing historic education funding disparities for students who come from low-income communities and those who receive ELL services,” said Dorrell Green, Superintendent of Red Clay School District. “The fact that Delaware has formally put permanent weighted funding into law is progress towards helping so many at-promise students reach their full potential. Governor Carney’s signing of the legislation demonstrates his commitment to children statewide.”

“We are encouraged by the passing of SB 56 and the permanent funding for our highest needs students,” said Stephanie Ingram, President of the Delaware State Education Association. “We thank Delawareans for Educational Opportunity, the Delaware NAACP, and the ACLU for bringing this issue forward and fighting to have Opportunity Funding become permanent. We thank the members of the General Assembly and the Governor for quickly responding to the terms of settlement so that the schools and the children that need this funding the most have it as they return to the classroom this Fall.”

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Governor Carney’s Statement on the Passage of Opportunity Funding

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Thursday released the following statement on the General Assembly’s final passage of Senate Bill 56, which makes Opportunity Funding permanent for low-income students and English learners.

“This is a historic day in our state. We have an obligation to make sure that our most vulnerable students get the education that they need and deserve. Students who are living in poverty. Students who are still learning English. With the passage of Senate Bill 56, an expansion of our Opportunity Funding Program, we are making good on that promise.

Four years ago, we designed Opportunity Funding to offer classroom-based support for those students who need our help the most. And for the educators at the front of those classrooms, who have dedicated their careers to teaching the next generation of Delawareans. By Fiscal Year 2025, a minimum of $60 million per year will be allocated to schools to support low-income students and English learners.

Thank you to all the parents and advocates who have fought so hard over the years for a weighted funding system. And thank you to Senator Sturgeon, Senator Lockman, Representative Williams, Representative Chukwuocha, and members of the General Assembly for their overwhelming support of this legislation. I look forward to signing the legislation soon, and making Opportunity Funding a permanent part of our education funding system.”

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Governor Carney, Legislators Announce Bills to Make Opportunity Funding Permanent, Expand K-3 Special Education

Opportunity Funding targets state resources for English learners and low-income students; funding will reach $60M annually by FY2025

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney and members of the General Assembly on Thursday announced legislation to increase funding and classroom-based support for low-income students, English learners, and young Delaware students with special needs.

Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Senator Laura Sturgeon, expands, and makes permanent Delaware’s Opportunity Funding program. The weighted funding program provides direct, classroom-based support for low-income students and English learners. By Fiscal Year 2025, funding for the program would more than double to $60 million annually.

House Bill 86, sponsored by Representative Kim Williams, fully funds basic special education services for Delaware children in grades K-3. The legislation closes the gap in funding for Delaware’s youngest learners with special needs and makes basic special education funding consistent across grade levels.

“My top priority remains the same, and I know it’s one that many legislators share. We need to ensure that our most disadvantaged students are getting the education they need and deserve,” said Governor Carney. “Our Opportunity Funding program is already providing direct, classroom-based supports for low-income students and English learners. These pieces of legislation will build on that effort and close the gap for young students with special needs. Thank you to Senator Sturgeon, Representative Williams and all members of the General Assembly for their partnership on these important pieces of legislation.”

“We have a unique opportunity this year to begin to correct longstanding issues of inequality in our public education system across Delaware, and I am confident that we will meet this moment and make lasting, positive change,” said Representative Kim Williams, prime sponsor of House Bill 86. “With respect to special education, research has proven that early identification and intervention are critical to a child’s overall success. By the time a child reaches third grade, they should be transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn. If we are committed to fundamentally improving the quality of education in our state, then we must make a commitment early on.”

“For far too long, our state has failed to adequately fund special education in the earliest grades when some of our most vulnerable children need additional support to help keep them from falling behind,” said Senator Nicole Poore, the Senate prime sponsor of House Bill 86. “For six years, Rep. Williams and I have been fighting to bring K-3 basic special education funding in line with the higher grades. Thank you to her, our educators and all of the advocates who have fought alongside of us to fundamentally improve the quality of education in Delaware for all students.”

“In my 25 years of teaching public school in Delaware, I saw students from all backgrounds and circumstances rise to challenges and thrive academically and socially during their time in my class and beyond, but I also saw students, especially those from low-income households, struggle with coursework and attendance due to a variety of unmet needs, many of which we can address in our school buildings with adequate funding,” said Senator Laura Sturgeon, chair of the Senate Education Committee and prime sponsor of SB 56. “Whether it’s one-on-one time after school for extra help or access to a good counselor to work through trauma, or smaller class sizes to help with focus and attention, these Opportunity Funds will allow schools to address the needs of our most vulnerable students. I am proud to sponsor SB 56 as an important step toward closing the achievement gap caused by circumstances outside students’ control.  We owe our future generation nothing less.”

“The Delawareans For Educational Opportunity and the NAACP are pleased that the Governor and members of the General Assembly have introduced legislation consistent with our shared goal of giving all of Delaware’s students a fair shot at a good education,” said Jea Street, on behalf of DEO and NAACP. “This historic legislation is an important piece of a systemic shift toward a more equitable education for all of Delaware’s students. It is our fervent hope that this legislation is approved and the programs that it supports are implemented without compromise or delay, and we look forward to working with the General Assembly and the Governor to make that happen.”

“This legislation reflects years of work and advocacy by so many to provide additional resources to our highest needs students. But, we still have a long road ahead to ensure funding is directed to programs and educators that are needed the most,” said Stephanie Ingram, President of the Delaware State Education Association. “We recognize that Governor Carney is the first governor to acknowledge that our English learner students, low income students, and special education students need more support in their school day that than others. We thank him, and look forward to working with him on similar initiatives that will provide additional support to Delaware students in need.”

“Since 2015, when I served as Chair of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC), we solicited input on educational equity from Delaware parents, lawmakers, educators, and community partners alike. Not a single person suggested that the last 60 years of K-12 education for students from economically distressed communities was sustainable, appropriate, or fair,” said Dr. Tony Allen, President, Delaware State University. “Today, with the introduction of SB 56 and HB 86, we take another significant step toward the only goal that matters in public education: improving equity and access for ALL. I am particularly pleased to see that a permanent weighted funding system and fully funding K-3 statewide — both of which were pillars of our recommendations — are now going to receive the attention and debate that our children and their parents deserve. Waiting is no longer an option.”

“Delaware Hispanic Commission thanks Governor John Carney and Delaware Education Secretary Susan Bunting for proposing an increase to the Opportunity Funding initiative that targets dedicated per-pupil funding for English learners and low-income students,” said Javier Torrijos, Chair of the Delaware Hispanic Commission. “We believe, if passed by the legislature, this Opportunity Funding will help our students succeed.  We see this as an important first step toward a long-term solution to ensure funding follows the students. We are committed to working with the legislature to pass the proposed funding and to advocate for the voices of English learning students, parents and teachers.”

“The Opportunity funding has already helped our students at Red Clay,” said Kimberly Stock, Delaware Teacher of the Year. “We have been able to hire 28 additional staff with 18 of them English Learner staff and teachers. We were also able to have an after-school newcomer program in our high schools, and district staff and some middle and elementary schools were provided SIOP training which is necessary for all teachers to learn how to better utilize effective methods to teach our ELs. Also, we were able to purchase new curriculum for our ELs and reading support for our k-6 students. We are looking forward to permanent Opportunity Funding so we can continue to provide access and opportunity for our all of our students.”

“SB 56 is a major accomplishment, signaling that Delaware is addressing historic education funding disparities for students who come from low income communities and those that receive ELL services,” said Dorrell Green, Superintendent of Red Clay Schools. “The fact that Delaware has formally put permanent weighted funding into law is progress towards helping so many at promise students reach their full potential.”

“Needs based funding was a huge step forward for our state in providing more appropriate services and supports for our students with disabilities,” said Dan Shelton, Superintendent, Christina School District. “Modernizing our system to provide the appropriate level of support for our K-3 students with disabilities is a critical step forward to providing equitable services for all of our students.”

“The continued support through Opportunity Funding has provided our district with the ability to increase our programming for our most at-risk students,” said Elyse Baerga, Supervisor of Student Services at Woodbridge School District. “We were able to hire four additional EL teachers to support our English Language Learners, expand communication through translation services, and increase their access to the curriculum and other needed resources throughout the struggles of the pandemic. Our continued partnership with the Communities in Schools organization has helped to provide family supports, counseling as needed, and increased access to our food pantries and other community-based initiatives that serve our Woodbridge community.  We are grateful for these resources and know that without them our families would have faced greater challenges during this difficult time.”

“We are grateful for the Opportunity Funding and the additional support it allowed us to provide our students.  For example, we were able to use the funds to create a reading program specifically geared towards English Learners,” said Margie Lopez-Waite and Emily Edmonds-Eveland of Las Americas ASPIRA Academy. “This program was a collaborative effort among several educators that dedicated the time to develop lesson plans to address the reading achievement gap among these students.  Without this funding, we would not have been able to create this program or purchase the variety of reading materials needed to support students’ learning. Funding sources, such as the Opportunity Funding, that go above and beyond the unit count funding are critical to close the gaps in student achievement, which primarily impact English Learners, students of poverty and students of color.  This type of funding serves as an equalizer to some extent.”

“The funding allows us to reach kids who wouldn’t get reached without this help. Now, through Opportunity Funding, our kids’ needs are getting met,” said William Buczynski, Principal of South Dover Elementary School  

“Students in younger grades need the most support so that they can be prepared in later years.  Proper support for students in Kindergarten to third grade means less support is needed for students in the future,” said Aaron Bass, CEO, East Side Charter School. “It is not only morally right to provide full funding to students in lower grades it is fiscally right as well. Millions of dollars can be saved if more children are able to access reading on grade level. The money we spend remediating students in high school and even adults who are underemployed or dealing with high recidivism rates can be directly connected to the lack of support we give them as children. I fully support Special Education funding for students in K-3 as an educational leader and as a taxpayer of this great state.”  

“We’re able to go above and beyond and add extra teachers in the classroom to work with English learners and help them catch up with their peers,” said David Hudson, Principal, Georgetown Middle School.

Learn more about how public schools are using Opportunity Funding to support low-income students and English learners.

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Gov. Carney: Delawareans for Educational Opportunity, DE NAACP Agreement Makes Significant Investment in DE Schools

Settlement agreement in Chancery Court case would make Opportunity Funding permanent and expand funding for high-needs schools

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Monday announced an agreement with Delawareans for Educational Opportunity and the Delaware NAACP to make significant new investments in Delaware public schools and dedicate additional funding for Delaware’s most disadvantaged students to help close achievement gaps.

The settlement agreement announced on Monday suspends litigation currently pending in Delaware’s Court of Chancery and creates a path forward to provide substantial additional support for Delaware schools, high-needs students and educators.

The agreement announced on Monday will:

  • More than double funding for Opportunity Funding to $60 million annually by Fiscal Year 2025, and make the weighted funding program permanent. Funding will increase automatically with enrollment beyond 2025.
  • Double funding for the Early Childhood Assistance Program (ECAP) to expand access to affordable early education.
  • Provide full funding for K-3 basic special education, consistent with grades 4-12.
  • Provide additional funding for teacher recruitment and retention in high-needs schools.

Opportunity Funding provides targeted funding – for the first time in Delaware’s history – for low-income students and English learners statewide. Members of the Delaware General Assembly must approve terms the agreement as part of the regular budget and legislative process.

“It’s important to make clear that both parties viewed this case and these settlement negotiations as an opportunity to make real progress for Delaware’s children,” said Governor Carney. “This is a path forward to support our most disadvantaged students and families – and one that will help close the persistent achievement gap in our schools.

“But our work is just getting started,” said Governor Carney. “The General Assembly will need to consider these changes as part of its regular budget process in Dover. I look forward to discussions with legislators. Delaware’s General Assembly has supported increased investments in public education over the last four years and I believe legislators of both parties will see the merit in this proposal.”

“Every student – regardless of zip code or background – deserves a high-quality public education. And yet, Delaware’s current education funding formula fails to account for the simple fact that in order to succeed, children with the greatest needs require the most support,” said Senator Elizabeth Lockman. “That is the reform we are all working towards and the settlement announced today marks a potential step forward in our efforts to create a funding formula that is truly equitable for all students. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to fully discuss the details of the proposal with my colleagues, parents, educators and taxpayers in the weeks ahead.”

“As a mother of two children who were identified very early as developmentally delayed, I know firsthand how important it is to have teachers in place to provide quality services,” said Representative Kim Williams, a longtime advocate for K-3 special education funding. “Research has proven that early identification and intervention are critical to a child’s overall success. By the time a child reaches third grade, they should be transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn. If we are committed to fundamentally improving the quality of education in our state, then we must make a commitment early on.”

“In 2015, while serving as Chair of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, WEAC received input from thousands of Delawareans up and down the state – parents, lawmakers, educators, community partners, politicians alike,” said Dr. Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University. “That input continued when WEAC morphed into the Commission. At that time, not one person said that the last 60 years of K12 education for students from economically distressed communities was sustainable,  appropriate, or fair. The settlement reached today proves the point and represents a principled commitment to what I believe is a fundamental American right — every child’s access to a quality education.  In the spirit of the indomitable Louis L. Redding, Chancellor Collins Seitz, and many more, may we forever be compelled to a higher purpose and greater sense of responsibility for our fellow citizens – particularly the most vulnerable among us.”

“This agreement will continue our work to support the Delaware students and educators who need our help the most,” said Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education. “Through our Opportunity Funding program, low-income students and young English learners already are receiving additional support, and that work will expand statewide. We will provide new services for young students with special needs, and early childhood education. Our team at the Department of Education looks forward to working with educators to make a real difference for Delaware children with these additional resources.”

“For years, our members have been advocating for the resources needed to meet the needs their of English Learners, low-income, and k-3 basic special education students,” said Stephanie Ingram, President of the Delaware State Education Association. “This sustainable funding will do just that and continue to supply educators with the resources they need. We are hopeful that the General Assembly will make this a permanent part of our funding, and address the structural short comings in education funding in Delaware.”

“On behalf of the Delaware Hispanic Commission and the many English Learners and their families, we want to thank Governor Carney and Secretary Bunting for their leadership in bringing the much-needed permanent funding for children who are at risk in Delaware,” said Javier Torrijos, chair of the Delaware Hispanic Commission. “Children of poverty and English learners need the resources to keep pace with their peers. School districts will be able to look at long-term programs and provide the resources to meet these students’ needs.  We are extremely grateful and after many years of advocacy we see this as a major victory for all Delawareans and more importantly the future of our children and this great state.”

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Governor Carney Signs Executive Order to Create Opportunity Funding Oversight Committee

Committee will evaluate progress of the initiative, report annually to the Governor and General Assembly

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney has signed Executive Order 33, which establishes the Oversight Committee on Opportunity Funding to ensure that the initiative is achieving its goals to support low-income students, and English learners, and close achievement gaps in Delaware schools.

Governor Carney and the General Assembly created the Opportunity Funding program in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget. The program will provide $75 million over the next three years in targeted resources to support low-income students and English learners. Opportunity Funding also will support additional mental health and reading supports in Delaware’s highest-needs schools.

Full text of Executive Order 33 is available here.

“Delaware’s new Opportunity Funding program will provide additional resources in the classroom for students who need our help the most – children living in poverty, and children from families where the primary language is not English,” said Governor Carney. “We are optimistic that we can close the achievement gaps that persist in our schools, and help more children read on grade level by third grade, do math proficiently by middle school, and ultimately graduate high school ready for college or a career. This oversight committee will help us make sure that this new funding is really working for Delaware students.”

The oversight committee will evaluate the effectiveness of the Opportunity Funding program, publish best practices, make recommendations on the future of the program, and ensure the public is aware of the steps that school districts and charter schools are taking to close achievement gaps. The committee will report annually to the Governor and members of the General Assembly on the progress made by districts and charter schools in serving low-income students and English learners. It also will work with the Department of Education on an annual summit to spotlight best practices.

“It’s my pleasure to work with the Governor’s Office, the Department of Education, and colleagues across the state of Delaware as we maximize Opportunity Funding,” said Dorrell Green, Superintendent of the Red Clay School District. “The committee’s focus on best practices will promote shared knowledge, collaboration, and help us evaluate the effectiveness of these important funds. We owe this to our students, families, and educators as we work on continuous improvement in Delaware schools.”

“English Learners are the fastest growing student population in Delaware,” said Javier Torrijos, Chair of the Delaware Hispanic Commission. “Opportunity Funding will provide many resources needed as school districts look to meet the demands of this specific student population. The Delaware Hispanic Commission has been advocating for funding and we are extremely grateful to Governor Carney, Secretary Bunting, and members of the General Assembly for identifying and prioritizing these much-needed resources. This is a step in the right direction to allow low-income students and English learners to get a quality education and close the achievement gap that currently exists. Investing in our children’s education will prepare them to be successful in college, career, and life.”

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