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Delaware Senate Democrats

Adult Basic Education Task Force Releases Final Report at Sussex Tech

February 28, 2024

GEORGETOWN – A legislative task force charged with developing a plan to enhance Delaware’s adult basic education (ABE) programs laid out seven recommendations Wednesday for how the state can better support workers seeking a second chance at earning a high school diploma.

Released during a press conference at Sussex Technical High School, the task force’s final report recommendations restoring funding cuts to 2017 levels, strengthening support for ABE programs and students, improving outreach to adults seeking educational opportunities, aligning ABE with workforce needs and vocational programs, and exploring virtual learning options.

“While we continue encouraging teenagers to stay in school, the reality is that hundreds of teens across Delaware end up dropping out every year, often due to family circumstances beyond their control,” said Senator Darius Brown, co-chair of the ABE Task Force.

“Every one of them deserves a second chance to earn a high school diploma. And, as elected leaders, there is more we can do to help them get back into school and back on the road to economic prosperity,” he said. “The report our task force released today provides a roadmap for the steps we can take to move adults seeking a better life for themselves and their families off of waiting lists and into classrooms to increase the supply of skilled workers in the Delaware economy.”

Created by Senator Brown and Rep. Kim Williams in 2023, the Adult Basic Education Task Force found that funding for ABE programs has decreased by 9 percent since 2017, which has resulted in a backlog of roughly 450 people waiting for an open seat, frozen hiring and pay for ABE educators, and prevented dynamic programming that keeps pace with workforce needs. 

Those findings come as Delaware employers in the private and public sectors are building more inclusive pathways to employment by prioritizing skills over degrees, shifting the minimum education requirements for many good-paying jobs from a college degree to a high school diploma.

“If we want to build a strong, resilient workforce, we have to equip Delawareans of all educational backgrounds with the skills and training needed to meet the challenges of tomorrow,” Rep. Kim Williamssaid. “I want to thank Senator Brown for his leadership, and everyone who served on this task force for their work and dedication in addressing this important issue. The findings and recommendations contained in our report will serve as an important roadmap for unlocking the full potential of Adult Basic Education, creating a robust talent pipeline for employers, and empowering all residents – regardless of their age or educational history – to thrive and prosper.”

Recommendations from the task force include:

  • Restoring ABE funding back to FY 2017 levels, plus a cost-of-living adjustment.
  • Aligning ABE educator salaries with recent public school salary increases.
  • Exploring financial support for ABE students.
  • Improving the link between ABE and other public education programs.
  • Strengthening governance and oversight of ABE programs.
  • Engaging employers to better tailor ABE programs to meet their needs.
  • Making sure ABE programs are considered in future decision making on education issues.