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Delaware Senate Democrats

Delaware’s students deserve leaders willing to undertake bold reforms today

March 8, 2021

By Sens. Laura Sturgeon and Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman |

After decades of growing disparities, Delaware is poised to deliver bold and decisive action to improve our public schools and support brighter futures for all children, regardless of their zip code or their family’s income level.

We cannot wait any longer to ensure students with the greatest needs get the fair shot they deserve. We must act now to give our youngest learners a head start that will carry them through their most formative years. And we must do more to extend learning opportunities well into adulthood to provide our workforce with ready access to the skills they will need for the challenges that lie ahead.

Equity drives many of the conversations around education reform. Moving toward real progress requires us to assess how we direct resources to where they are needed the most.

The demand for these changes has never been greater. The deep fissures in our society laid bare by this pandemic are evident everywhere we turn, whether it’s children from impoverished families only now receiving the technology they need to participate in virtual learning, or thousands of at-risk students missing months of instruction that can never be replaced.

Our educators have adapted heroically to the never-ending challenges of COVID-19, even putting their own lives on the line just as they have done when they dig into their own pockets to help educate our students year after year. They too deserve the resources and support we know they need to lift up our hardest to reach students.

These are the same issues at the heart of the lawsuit Governor John Carney recently settled through prolonged negotiations with the NAACP, the ACLU, and others.

That’s why, this legislative session, we intend to pass game-changing legislation that will provide direct, classroom-based support for low-income students and English language learners by significantly expanding Delaware’s Opportunity Funding program and making those changes permanent. We also are standing with Rep. Kim Williams and Sen. Nicole Poore to finally fund basic special education services for Delaware children in grades K-3. Both measures are key provisions of that settlement.

But more can – and must – be done to make urgent and impactful progress for our historically underserved students and their families now, as we continue to work towards more profound structural reforms.

Through the Redding Consortium for Educational Equity, we are fighting for immediate investments in outreach and early intervention services to mothers, infants and toddlers living below the poverty line; greater access to supplemental education programs during summer, as well as before and after school; and improvements to our teacher recruitment and retention at struggling schools.

We are working to make universal pre-K a reality by streamlining and strengthening our early childhood education infrastructure, building a pipeline of trained child-care professionals and expanding the financial supports available to working families seeking to provide a high quality learning environment for their 3- and 4-year-olds.

We are working to address the barriers and trauma faced by so many of our school children – particularly during the pandemic – by joining with our colleagues Rep. Valerie Longhurst and Sen. Marie Pinkney to provide our schools with dedicated counselors, psychologists, and social workers. We are also joining with Rep. Longhurst and Sen. Kyle Evans Gay to provide the basic necessities of life for young girls by providing access to free period products in our schools, too often an afterthought for families straining simply to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Just as the need for new skills and knowledge does not stop at high school graduation, our efforts to provide Delawareans with learning opportunities must not stop at the 12th grade. That is why we are proud to join Sen. Nicole Poore’s fight to expand proven avenues for affordable workforce training to put Delaware back to work once this pandemic is over.  

We have reached a critical moment in our state’s history. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make real and lasting changes to our public education system that will benefit Delawareans for decades to come.

We know what must be done and we have the political will to make it happen. We hope you will stand with us and support our efforts in the days and weeks ahead.

Sen. Laura Sturgeon, D-Brandywine Hundred, and Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, D-Wilmington, are the chair and co-chair of the Senate Education Committee. Sturgeon retired in 2019 after a 25-year career as a public school teacher in Delaware. A longtime advocate for public education funding reform, Lockman currently co-chairs the Redding Consortium for Educational Equity. Sens. Sturgeon and Lockman are also members of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.