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Delaware Senate Democrats

Bill to close K-3 Special Education funding gap clears Senate, heads to Governor Carney

June 22, 2021

DOVER – The Delaware State Senate unanimously passed legislation on Tuesday to close a funding gap in special education services for Delaware’s youngest students.

Currently, Delaware funds basic special education services for eligible students in grades 4-12 using a unit count system. Through that system, students requiring the lowest-level special education services are guaranteed additional funding and staff support. Similarly, unit count funding is provided for all students, Pre-K through 12th grade, who are identified as requiring “intensive” or “complex” special education services.

However, no funding is made available for basic special education services for students in grades K-3.

House Bill 86 would finally close that gap, gradually moving the unit count for K-3 basic special education from the standard unit of 16.2 to 8.4 over three years, starting at 12.2 in the 2021-22 school year.

Title 14, § 1703. Unit of pupils.
(1) PreschoZol — 12.8
(2) K-3 Regular Education — 16.2
(3) K-3 Basic Special Education (Basic) — 12.2 (Added by HB 86)
(4) 4-12 Regular Education — 20
(5) 4-12 Basic Special Education (Basic) — 8.4
(6) Pre-K-12 Intensive Special Education (Intensive) — 6
(7) Pre-K-12 Complex Special Education (Complex) — 2.6

The new unit count will standardize basic special education funding across all grades.

“Special education is at its best when it starts early,” said Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle, the Senate prime sponsor of the bill. “By creating a dedicated, targeted funding stream for K-3 special education, we can greatly improve outcomes for students and their families. Students in this state deserve nothing less than full funding and an open door to achieve their full potential. I’m proud to be a prime sponsor on this legislation and I thank my colleagues in both chambers – especially my good friend Kim Williams – for getting this done in 2021.”

Passage of HB 86 follows a multi-year effort to improve special education funding in the state, an effort which began in earnest following a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Education that identified Delaware as one of three states that might require federal intervention due to its lack of quality special education programs.

The proposal aligns with a recommendation from the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, which has called for this change since 2015. The bill also has received support from Governor John Carney.

House sponsor Rep. Kim Williams introduced similar legislation in the 148th, 149th, and 150th General Assemblies.

“We know without a doubt that early identification and intervention are critical to a child’s overall success in school and life,” said Rep. Williams, D-Newport. “No effort to improve the quality of public education in our state can be considered complete without a commitment to serve these students from their earliest school years. My colleagues and I have worked to advance this legislation for nearly six years, and though it is long overdue I am thrilled that it is now coming to fruition.”

Now passed in both chambers, HB 86 heads to the governor for his signature.