Governor John Carney addressed the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Tuesday evening.
Carney reiterated the fiscal challenges the First State’s faces - a $350 million deficit this coming year - created in part by a growing number of public school students and rising healthcare costs.
Despite that shortfall, Carney says he’s committed to students’ critical needs – pointing to his move Tuesday to re-establish the Family Services Cabinet Council to help address those needs.
“The only way we can make sure that these kids get the kind of education that they deserve is to make sure they get the social services support as well to deal with trauma they might be experiencing," Carney said.
But Carney wouldn’t commit to setting aside extra funding for WEIC – or even preserving the $7.5 million former Gov. Markell earmarked for its proposed plan – though he says a lack of funding this year doesn’t mean its work should stop.
Carney is leaning on his Education Secretary Susan Bunting to look into what’s working and what’s not to ensure that going forward – in Carney’s words – they “know what they’re funding.”
“What are you going to actually do in these schools and in these classrooms?" Carney asked. "How are you going to get better teachers to make the commitment to teach in these schools?”
WEIC Chair Tony Allen says he remains hopeful Carney will put his heart into education reform.
“The idea that he philosophically believes in the tenants of our plan but has some questions on the how and implementation I think are fine critiques," Allen said. "What I’m hoping is that he puts forward a plan that we can have a conversation about and hopefully move forward together.”
Carney didn’t provide further details about any such plan in the works – but said more specifics about education funding will come when he unveils his budget plan at the end of March.
A preliminary financial study about WEIC's proposed plan was also presented Tuesday, indicating the total number of Christina School District’s Wilmington students they’re hoping to move to Red Clay’s district is 4,357.
“That’s the number that really needs to be most important to us," said WEIC Commission member and pastor Meredith Griffin Jr. "Regardless of what sacrifices we may have to make, if education is ultimately for the public good – we really want to do whatever we need to do to make sure that happens for them.”
However, a total project cost couldn't yet be provided - given too many undetermined factors like transitional costs.
The study also noted that $1,089,729,413 in taxable property would shift between districts as part of the group’s redistricting effort.
But WEIC's plan to redistrict Wilmington students can’t happen without state dollars.