The state’s budget is shrinking. So how do you slash spending for public education and simultaneously establish world-class schools?
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To that end Markell says he has taken many of the LEAD recommendations into account—especially those pertaining to the consolidation of district services and leveraging school construction—but that he has a detailed plan of his own he hopes to implement during his first term.
“I think we ought to be doing what we can to make sure education dollars are focused on the classroom. The LEAD report talked about the fact that money could be saved if we were to have shared purchasing across school districts. That makes sense,” Markell says. “And the report has other good recommendations in it, but it’s not my plan. I accept the premise of Vision 2015 that unless our schools are great, we’re not really doing everything we can for the people of Delaware, but I have a detailed plan that I’ve already laid out myself. This includes changing the way we fund public education and the way we measure student achievement. In the end, we need to intensify our effort to make our schools world class.”
To be sure, silver linings are hard to come by these days. Delaware may be facing a budget deficit in 2010 that’s three times the size of 2009’s. Jobs may be lost. Programs may be cut. And many of the educational reform initiatives proposed by the governor and groups like Vision 2015 may be slow to materialize (if not indefinitely put on hold). But Appoquinimink School District superintendent Tony Marchio says there is a positive side to all of this, even if it’s hard to see.
“I think if there’s a silver lining in this whole thing it’s that we’re back to the basics of good classroom instruction,” says Marchio. “It’s what you have to do in your own family. If you have hard economic times or you lose your job, you think of the basics: shelter, food, staying warm. You may have to think about what is really important and the things that sustain life, and I think that’s what we’re doing now. We’re looking at life-sustaining issues here that are absolutely critical. Sometimes, everything else is secondary.”