Delaware Department of Education playing a shell game

Last spring, the Delaware Department of Education asked for $7.5 million to, among other things, continue funding 10 Race to the Top positions. The Joint Finance Committee was quite clear on the subject when we told DOE, “No.” We gave them $3.75 million as direct pass-through money to go to programs in schools and very clearly said the funds were not for salaries.

“Section 301. Section 1 of this Act appropriates $3,750.0 for the following school based initiatives: Next Generation Science Standards/College Readiness/Common Ground, teacher preparation initiatives and technology support for the Educator Insight Portal. These funds shall not be used to hire or retain positions in the Department of Education.”

Race to the Top was a $119 million federal grant to Delaware that ran for three years, ending in 2014. The idea was to use the money to create sustainable programs and concepts to further the educations of Delaware’s children.

Sen. David G. Lawson

Sen. David G. Lawson

What it often turned into, as in the case of the Department of Education, was a hiring frenzy, even though it was clear the money was finite.

The people who took the positions with the Race to the Top funds knew they were in temporary federally funded positions. They knew the jobs probably would be eliminated once the federal funds ran out. Having the Joint Finance Committee say the state wasn’t going to pick up the tab shouldn’t have been a shock.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that eight of the 10 positions were still being funded. The two positions not being continued weren’t because the department deemed them unnecessary, but because the positions had been vacated, and new people hadn’t been hired when the budget went through.

The department shuffled funds from one place to another so they could say they didn’t use “that” money, the $3.7 million addition granted from the state, but other funds they had.

I don’t care how you move the shell around; it’s still a shell game.

Of these eight positions, six of them have salaries well over $100,000.* The other two salaries are just under $100,000, but still well above the average for other state employees. This is in a department of more than 270 people where 30 percent of the employees make more than $100,000 a year. It’s a department that added more than 34 positions in the last three years and already had a budget of $1.3 billion.

These actions are unacceptable. They are directly against the intent of the money budgeted to the department. In such a tight financial time for Delaware, the arrogance of the directors of the department is unbelievable.

In total, education in Delaware costs the taxpayer more than $4 billion. Do you think you are getting your money’s worth?

The Department of Education is over-funded and under-performing. It’s something I plan to address in the coming session.

* The salaries of the positions in question:

Assessment, Accountability, Performance and Evaluation Branch
Chief Officer for the Branch: $134,337
Director, Office of Assessment: $110,551
Chief Performance Officer, Office of Performance Management: $116,419
Deputy Officer, Office of Performance Management: $85,020
Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Branch
Chief Officer for the Branch: $134,337
Director, Educator Effectiveness and Talent Management: $110,551
Deputy Officer, Talent Recruitment and Acquisition: $99,750
Chief of Staff for the Branch: $116,000

Editor’s note: David G. Lawson, a Republican of Marydel, is a state senator representing the 15th Senatorial District in the Delaware General Assembly, which district comprises Cheswold, Clayton, Felton, Kenton, Hartly, Viola and surrounding unincorporated areas, including the Delaware portion of Marydel.

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