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A Better Delaware Celebrates the Holidays and Looks Back on a Successful Year

ABD logoFrom: Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director

WILMINGTON, Del. — As A Better Delaware celebrates the holiday season, our thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made our success possible throughout the past year. It’s in this spirit that we say thank you and send best wishes for the holidays and New Year. As we look back on 2022, we’d like to acknowledge those who have supported our organization’s efforts to promote pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency and accountability in Delaware state government.

It’s been a groundbreaking year for A Better Delaware. Since last Christmas, our organization’s grassroots campaigns have shown tremendous success, with many of our digital advocate efforts going viral, accumulating more than a million cumulative impressions. Additionally, 98% of our in-house issue-focused blogs have been published across various Delaware news outlets.

Over 98k YouTube subscribers viewed ABD’s video release this past October WHAT NOT TO DO which explores the disastrous impact of Delaware’s COVID policies on the state’s small business community.

– 2022 By The Numbers –

1.4 M interactions on Facebook99% blogs and press releases published72K impressions on twitter55k visits to our websiteOver 50 unique emails delivered to 1.6 million inboxesOver 98K video campaign views

That’s in no small part thanks to the guidance of A Better Delaware’s Advisory Board, which has grown from two-distinguished leaders to six in the past year. In addition to veteran business leader Sam Waltz and beloved former Gov. Mike Castle, four new members have joined our organization: renowned elder law attorney Bill Erhart, accomplished obstetrician Dr. Greg DeMeo, nationally recognized climatologist David Legates, and public safety expert Dennis Godek. All of our board members have been and will continue to be invaluable assets to our organization.

Sam Waltz, Vice Chair, November 2022, Business and Communications AdvisorHon. Mike Castle, January 14, 2022, Government and Policy AdvisorWilliam W. Ehrhart, February 28, 2022, Elder Law and Veteran Benefits AdvisorDr. Gregory DeMeo, March 31, 2022, Healthcare AdvisorDavid Legates PhD, November 14, 2022, Climate and Renewable Energy AdvisorDennis Godek, November 25, 2022, Criminology Advisor

A Better Delaware will continue to build an advisory board with professionals in Education, Finance, Family Health, and Criminal Law experts to advise on school choice, mental health substance abuse issues, state budgetary matters and crime issues all of which influence Delaware’s economic growth.

Thanks to your support, A Better Delaware’s policy advocacy was seen and heard within Delaware’s Legislative Hall. Our organization worked tirelessly to promote legislation that would aid the state’s recovery from pandemic-era lockdowns, ensure transparency in government, reduce Delawareans’ taxes, ease the state’s regulatory burden, and limit wasteful and unnecessary spending. Those bills include Senate Bill 338, which proposed an Office of Legislative Ethics; House Bill 405, which would create an independent Inspector General’s office; House Bill 445, which would reduce the gross receipts tax by 50%, House Bill 71, which would increase the realty tax credit; and many more.

While we’re so proud of the strides we’ve made in the past year, there is more work to be done to create A Better Delaware for us all. To remain part of the movement, be sure to stay informed on our work by looking out for our emails, blogs, and posts on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

There’s no greater joy for us than the opportunity to express season’s greetings and a very happy holiday and a peaceful and prosperous New Year to all Delawareans!

Whose “Needs” Do Certificate of Need Laws Serve?

From: Alaska Policy Forum

Alaska is one of 35 states still subject to health care certificate of need (CON) laws. These regulations require that certain proposed health care facilities or expansions receive permission from the Alaska Department of Health to begin operating. However, contrary to normal licensing procedures, approval is based not on the qualifications of the facility or its workers, but on the judgment of the government that the new or expanded facility is needed in the proposed area.

To make this decision, the Department of Health relies on input from existing local health care entities — the new or expanding organization’s competitors — rather than potential patients’ desire for another option.

Unsurprisingly, many health care facilities, such as hospitals, in Alaska are shuttered before they can even begin caring for patients. Just as Alaskans’ might doubt the prospects for a new Carl’s Jr. if the company required the approval of a nearby Burger King, new health care facilities struggle to convince existing facilities that they are needed.

The first legislators to enact CON laws in the country did so with the intent to save patients money and provide greater access to health care, but the policy failed by these metrics almost as soon as it was implemented. Subsequent enactment in most other states, including Alaska, was then compelled by the federal government. States that are now subject to CON laws suffer an average of five percent higher spending for physician care. Alaska, itself, holds the dubious distinction of having the highest health care spending in the country. Which is no wonder, as its health care costs are about double the national average

Alaska ranks 33rd on the list of states for hospital beds per capita, with 2.17 beds per 1,000 residents (see Figure 1). In contrast, South Dakota, which does not have CON laws, is at the top of the list, with 4.82 beds per 1,000 residents.

Figure 1.

Source: Caliper Corporation and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Alaska ranks number one among all 50 states in health care expenditures and 12th for the number of CON regulations. Alaska’s CON code book is 28 pages long. Although many factors contribute to the health care price dilemma, implementing CONs has only made the problem worse. The goal of increasing access to health care in Alaska has not been achieved, and health care prices have not decreased.

Many initial supporters have realized that CON laws have not produced the intended outcomes. Numerous medical professionals and government policymakers across the political spectrum have sought to reverse them, but these opponents have thus far had little success in Alaska. The Alaska Department of Health continues to insist that its oversight is necessary to ensure health care facilities are “planned properly.”

This report examines the initial justification given for CON laws and explores the inherent flaws in the logic behind them. It also provides some of the statistics and stories reinforcing the conclusion that the laws have, indeed, proven counterproductive. CON laws have neither decreased health care prices nor increased access to care. The report explains some reasons CON laws have not yet been repealed in Alaska despite the great toll they have taken. Finally, the text provides a path toward the reversal of what the American Medical Association (AMA) calls “a failed public policy.” 

History and Initial Reasoning
In 1964, officials in the state of New York expressed concern about rising hospital costs, and they postulated that the increase was caused by the over-proliferation of hospitals themselves. Their rationale was that, if not enough patients needed health care services to fill the beds, the facilities would distribute the high cost of overhead with inflated prices for each patient. These hefty charges would, in turn, price some patients out of access to health care. To combat the problem of health care costs and control access to hospitals, New York officials passed the Metcalf-McCloskey Act, which required anyone desiring to build a new hospital in the state to receive government permission.

As a New York Times article explained at the time of the act’s passage, “Anyone who could raise or borrow enough money was entitled to construct new hospital facilities without having to justify the public need for them. To correct and control this situation the Metcalf-McCloskey Act provided for review of proposed new hospital facilities by a state council and its affiliated regional agencies.”

A decade later, the Times reported that New York City’s health care budget had actually increased by three and a half times since the passage of the law. That same year, the U.S. Congress inexplicably strong-armed all other states into adopting similar laws. The sweeping National Health Planning and Resources Development Act (NHPRD) of 1974 mandated states to implement their own CON laws as a condition of receiving federal Medicaid or Medicare funds. As in most other states (excluding Louisiana), the desire for federal funding compelled Alaska to implement its own CON legislation. And along with the rest of the country, Alaska saw its health care expenditures grow even more quickly (see Figure 2).

Figure 2.

Source: Petersen-KFF Health System Tracker

A Glaring Error
The most glaring attribute of the CON “solution” to the problem of excess costs and decreased supply is its overt rejection of the principle of supply and demand. Standard economics observes that when the supply of a product or service increases, the cost decreases and vice versa.

Ideally, with numerous comparable options, customers needing non-emergency care choose the least-expensive option that meets their needs. This inevitability forces businesses — such as hospitals or doctors’ offices — to lower prices to competitive levels. So, if Hospital A charges significantly more than Hospital B, Hospital A must either lower its costs or go out of business.

If the latter occurs, Hospital B becomes a monopoly, leading to higher costs and lower access for everyone. As the Mercatus Center at George Mason University notes, “Economic theory holds that if supply shrinks and demand remains steady, prices will increase.” This equation renders the local health care industry more lucrative, with customers exceeding the capacity of providers, which attracts competitors to fill the needs of the most underserved areas, which competition, in turn, drives prices back down.

 But prices only decrease — and access only increases — if competitors are allowed to operate. Unfortunately, in Alaska, due in part because of CON laws, citizens do not have numerous comparable care options and care facilities have few incentives to lower their prices.

The Original CON Flaw
Despite the obvious faults in the logic, proponents of CON laws justify government interference by insisting that health care was too important to entrust to basic economic principles. “The vital need for healthcare services requires that such services always be available to the community, and not be subject to the typical ebb and flow of a free market,” insists one trio of advocates. However, the architects of CON laws have never explained why hospital proprietors would, uniquely among enterprises, mis-invest, why consumers would inexplicably pay higher prices if they did, or why competitors would fail to seize the opportunity and fill the void in a sparse (and lucrative) marketplace.

Perhaps the lack of explanation indicates that none of these outcomes is likely. Although CON laws themselves are relatively obscure, an even lesser-known fact exists hidden in their history, and it shows errant logic right from the beginning: The reasoning behind CON laws was based not on the principles of a free market, but on the imperative for a market controlled by the government.

Because hospitals were built and funded largely with tax dollars, the health care administrators responsible for allocating that money predictably spent more freely than they would have were they business owners risking their own resources. With a virtual blank check and no personal stake in the business, they had no incentive to spend wisely.

The NHPRD of 1974 even states, “The massive infusion of Federal funds into the existing health care system has contributed to inflationary increases in the cost of health care and failed to produce an adequate supply or distribution of health resources, and consequently has not made possible equal access for everyone to such resources.”

As former Federal Trade Commissioner (FTC) Maureen K. Ohlhausen put it, “Proponents viewed state intervention as a necessary check on a perceived market failure created by the existing reimbursement structure.”

In other words, the impetus for CON laws derived from a problematic situation that government caused, and the legislators’ solution was more government involvement. Again, the distance between their actions and any personal risk allowed the laws’ drafters to base the policy on concepts that economist Dr. Matthew Mitchell stated, “wouldn’t pass muster in Econ 101 class.” 

By 1982, less than a decade after enacting the NHPRD, the federal government was already concerned that it had made a mistake. Legislators from all sides agreed it should be repealed, and in 1986, a bipartisan majority of Congress decided to abolish the CON mandate. Rep. Roy Roland (D-Ga.), himself a physician, recommended that Congress go further, saying, “It’s now time to abolish it throughout the nation.”

The AMA, an early proponent of the law, also withdrew its support, and a 2004 joint study by the FTC and Department of Justice (DOJ) likewise found that “such programs are not successful in containing health care costs, and they pose serious anticompetitive risks that usually outweigh their purported economic benefits.” The National Conference for State Legislators (NCSL) created a comprehensive summary of CON laws’ history and concluded that “highly concentrated hospitals and other health care facilities may charge more for health services, leading to an overall increase in health care spending.”

Despite the complete reversal of both experts and the federal government itself, the legislatures of 35 states — including Alaska — have thus far declined to take their advice, as shown in the number of states with CON laws in Figure 3.

Figure 3.

Source: Mercatus Center

Although the rationale behind CON laws was enough for analysts to doubt their effectiveness, their actual results leave little doubt that they have had a negative effect. Consider just a few relevant numbers comparing the remaining 35 CON states to the 15 that have permanently withdrawn them:

  • Even after controlling for other factors, states with any CON laws have almost 100 fewer hospital beds per 100,000 residents.
  • States with CON laws that specifically target hospital bed numbers fare even worse, with 131 fewer hospital beds per 100,000 residents.
  • CON states have approximately half of the number of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines per resident.
  • CON areas have an average of 14% fewer total ambulatory surgical centers.
  • States with CON rules have lower numbers of hospice care facilities, dialysis clinics, and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) per capita.
  • Cost per service is higher in CON states, with any lower overall cost per capita attributable to lower access to care and the resulting reluctance of the population to seek medical help.
  • CON laws increase overall health care spending by 3.1% and Medicare spending by 6.9%.
  • When states repeal CON laws, they see a 4% drop in health expenditures over five years.
  • Of the 10 states with the lowest life expectancies, all but one have CON laws, and many have some of the most restrictive ones in the country.
  • Of the 15 states that have repealed their CON regulations, all have seen a reduction in health care costs and hospital readmissions, with no decrease in charitable care.

Real Consequences
A deeper look at the situation reveals the human toll behind the numbers:

  • A premature infant died at a hospital in Salem, Virginia, after the hospital was prevented from adding a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) due to competition objections from another neonatal hospital. (This tragedy did not result in any change.)
  • CON laws in Michigan limited cancer patients’ access to lifesaving chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, based on resistance from an existing health company that did not want the competition.
  • In Kentucky, new home health agencies are allowed in only six of the state’s 120 counties because of the lobbying efforts of $2 billion Baptist Health, which has its own home health agency.
  • Med Center in Kentucky, which has a monopoly on emergency medical services (EMS), has prevented any new ambulance companies from opening, despite a life-threatening shortage.
  • In Nebraska, aides who can take patients to the grocery store for food cannot legally take them to the pharmacy within the very same store because of ambulatory CON laws.
  • CON laws prevented Jay Singleton, a North Carolina ophthalmologist, from opening a reasonably priced outpatient surgery facility, forcing him to perform surgeries at the drastically inflated hospital cost.
  • Hope Women’s Cancer Center in North Carolina was forbidden from purchasing its own MRI scanner because it was deemed unnecessary.

Alaska’s Unique Need
One justification for Alaska’s CON laws focuses on the need for better health care access and prices in rural and disadvantaged communities, which is particularly relevant in this unique state. However, for the reasons discussed above, the legislation has rendered care even less available to and more expensive for these very communities.

Writing about health care for The Atlantic, Vann Newkirk notes that Alaskans are “more likely to live in remote areas and more likely to be people of color than those in the continental United States. … Alaska is a unique state, and its combination of naturally high costs, rurality, and remoteness is not replicated anywhere in the continental United States.”

Alaska is geographically more than twice the size of Texas, yet Texas has 83 times more people per square mile. Even under ideal circumstances, Alaskans are naturally going to suffer unusual burdens to reach health care facilities. When those challenges are compounded with the fact that they have fewer than half the number of hospital beds per capita than some other states, the deficit and the danger increase dramatically.

Alaska also has a far higher cost of living than most other states, meaning that each dollar earned must stretch more. Per-person health care expenditures in the state are already more than $2,000 above the national average. The need to lower prices and harness market forces is therefore even more desperate. 

A Note About COVID
Many states with CON laws have been rethinking their position since the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did CON states already have fewer resources at the start of the emergency, but increased red tape prevented them from opening and stocking facilities quickly enough to adjust to the patient influx. Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, admitted, “Our hospitals have been and continue to be incredibly stressed. There is not capacity in the hospitals to care for both COVID and non-COVID patients on a regular basis.”

In a clear admission of the root of the problem, 24 CON states — including Alaska — temporarily lifted some of these mandates during the height of the pandemic. One study estimates that states with high hospital bed utilization saved 100 lives per 100,000 residents, for all causes of death, just by lifting CON regulations.

The provisional move gave rise to some hope that Alaska would finally move to a full repeal, but despite the apparent shift during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alaska’s official law has not changed. COVID-19 provided a stark lesson in the deadliness of these rules, and Alaska policymakers would be remiss if they swept this experience under the rug and returned to business as usual.

The Potential Effect of CON Repeal in Alaska
What would happen if Alaska abolished its entire CON code? The Mercatus Center has calculated some of the likely effects:

  • The average Alaskan would save $294 per year on overall health care spending.
  • MRI services would increase by 2,137, from 5,880 to 8,017.
  • The need to travel lengthy distances for MRIs would decrease by 5.5%.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans would increase by 4,201, from 6,160 to 10,361.
  • The need to travel lengthy distances for CT scans would decrease by 3.6%.
  • Post-surgery complications would decrease by 5.2%.
  • The number of hospitals could increase from 25 to 35.
  • The number of rural hospitals could increase from 17 to 24.

Why the Resistance Continues
Despite the noticeably increased pressure of the past several years, incumbent health care companies continue to resist the idea of abolishing CON laws. Owners and administrators of existing companies reap the financial benefits of these laws without facing the chaos they cause. The people profiting most by admitting as many patients as possible are rarely the floor workers rushing to save those patients’ lives.

Just as health care planners working for hospitals initially applauded the introduction of CON laws, those in the industry are zealous to keep them in place. A brief look at the opponents of Alaska’s 2019 SB 1, which would have repealed Alaska’s CON statutes, reveals the prevention of competition to be a blatant motivation:

  • Alaska Radiology Associates worried that it would not recoup a $10 million technology investment if new imaging centers were allowed to open.
  • The Alaska Nurses’ Association feared that new facilities would “siphon off the revenue-generating services.”
  • Imaging Associates complained that the removal of CON laws would force the organization to compete with facilities it considered inferior.
  • Providence Health and Services lamented that “boutique facilities will work to increase their customer base” — in other words, that they would lure away Providence’s customers.

Even more shocking is that a CON, itself, is so valuable. Businesses sometimes sell them off as assets during such processes as bankruptcy. A successfully acquired CON is money in the pocket of the bearer. 

A Word of Caution
Although hostility to CON laws seems to be increasing as more people become aware of their existence, opponents should exercise prudence when deciding on a different path forward.      Policymakers must remember that a government program began the cost problem and a government program seeking to solve the first problem made it worse.

Health care as an issue elicits strong emotions, and with health care prices skyrocketing, the understandable impulse is often to do something. Human beings tend to feel that doing anything is better than doing nothing. But as even this truncated history of CON laws has shown, wrong-headed or short-sighted policies can always make a situation worse.

A Path Forward
What, then, are some judicious ways Alaska can repeal its CON laws without creating more chaos? Some states have chosen to “sunset” these laws by designating future dates at which they expire, allowing the system to prepare for the new legislative landscape over time. Pennsylvania is an example of a state that has accomplished this transition by giving all facilities and treatments previously covered by CONs time to adjust to a new landscape.

Another variation of this idea involves phasing out aspects of a state’s laws one at a time, as states such as Florida and Georgia have done. Alaska has 19 health care products and facilities, from MRI scanners to neonatal intensive care units, that require certificates of need. If removing all of them at once would prove problematic for facilities, removing a few at a time from the list may allow an easier transition.

On the other hand, states have the option of simply repealing their CON laws all at once, remembering that patients have suffered and even died from the lack of care they have caused. When it comes to repeal in Alaska, faster may be better. Eleven states abolished all CON mandates by 1990, and the sky did not fall in any of them.

Whichever path Alaska chooses the rollback of this “failed experiment” can only be an improvement. Certificate of need laws have continually proven to serve the needs of corporations rather than communities, yet Alaskan policymakers have carried on for 40 years with detrimental laws that are no longer mandated — or even recommended — by the federal government. Policymakers have had ample evidence and opportunity to move forward, and it is high time they do so.

State selling myths about gas vehicles

From: Cape Gazette


A Delaware agency is preparing a regulation to require auto manufacturers to sell only electric-powered vehicles. EVs now account for less than 1% of new vehicle sales. This is an effective ban on cars and trucks powered by gasoline. The state is selling this to the public with a series of myths highlighted below. 

EVs will end motor vehicle air pollution. Conventional vehicles have already reduced two pollutants 83% and 91%, respectively, and will continue to fall rapidly as older vehicles leave the fleet.  Delaware meets all air pollution standards. We have clean air. Much of our electricity comes from coal- and natural gas-powered plants. Line losses waste 11% of that power, and another 10% is lost converting from AC current to DC current to charge the batteries. Many studies show EVs cradle-to-grave emissions are higher as minerals used in 1,000-pound batteries require moving 150,000 pounds of dirt and rock. In the end, very little carbon dioxide is saved, if any. 

EVs will save on fuel cost. Most EV charging is done overnight at home at lower rates, but as more EVs hit the road, special rates will end. EVs currently don’t pay taxes for road repairs. New taxes are coming based on miles driven using intrusive devices to track driving. Massive investments needed in electricity infrastructure to support charging will drive electric rates up.  

EVs will be price competitive. There are nine vehicle models available both as conventional and EV options. The average price premium for the EVs is $14,000. Federal legislation provided $7,500 per EV subsidies and many auto manufacturers raised vehicle prices by about that amount. Caution should be shown in buying a used EV. GM’s list price for a replacement battery at eight years or 1000,000 miles is $16,250 plus $870 to install it. 

The proposed regulation is not a ban on gasoline-powered vehicles. Once the 100% EV requirement goes into effect, you will not be allowed to register a new gasoline-powered vehicle in Delaware. That’s a ban. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is forcing the new regulation based on regional pollution violations. New Castle County is included in a greater Philadelphia non-attainment region.  However, the county and the 10 next closest upwind air quality monitoring stations now meet all air quality standards, proving the county is not contributing to upwind pollution. Delaware is now in a position to petition to be removed from the non-attainment region. Doing so reduces the stringency for new air quality permits and is considered and economic development advantage.

An underlying question is if all these myths are true, why is a government mandate even needed? Won’t people flock to buy EVs? Anyone who wants to buy an EV should be able to, but without government-enforced subsidies or mandates. See our public comments to the state on the proposed regulation for detailed sources at tinyurl.com/5n6mdp6a.

David T. Stevenson
Director, Center for Energy & Environment
Caesar Rodney Institute

Governor Carney Releases Government Efficiency and Accountability Review (GEAR) Board Report

From: Delaware.gov 

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Friday released the sixth annual report of the Government Efficiency and Accountability Review (GEAR) Board. Governor Carney established GEAR by Executive Order #4 in February 2017 to identify ways for state government to operate more efficiently, improve the delivery of state services, and provide cost savings.

The report highlights key accomplishments and ongoing efforts across state government in 2022, including:

  • Development of continuous improvement professionals within state government is expanding.  Fifty-two practitioners from fifteen state organizations are executing projects within a portfolio of one hundred twenty-five initiatives. Savings to the state are estimated to total $61-65 million over the life of projects underway.
  • Savings and improvements for taxpayers are being achieved through lease restructurings, refined state vehicle (FLEET) utilization, long-term care delivery optimization, scanning/self-check equipment in Delaware’s libraries, the development of trauma informed care practices for children and families, automated state park fee collection, along with streamlined financial, human resource and information technology systems.
  • Reviewing capital project processes within public school systems remains a priority through the EdGEAR (Education-GEAR) team with a comprehensive review of all parts of this process currently underway.
  • Driving improvements to digital government services allowing citizens to access and transact with the state anytime, from anywhere, and on any device.
  • Continuing the GEAR P3 Innovation and Efficiency and Trailblazer Award programs that rewards state employees who demonstrate successful implementations of innovative, cost saving, and service enhancing continuous improvement projects.
  • Reimagining State Service Center delivery in Delaware which will improve how citizens apply for benefits such as food assistance, cash benefits, healthcare, and housing.
  • Expanding high-speed, broadband internet service in Delaware’s underserved areas through public-private partnerships.

“As the GEAR Board performs its valuable role and we continue to train employees across the State, our state government is finding ways to save taxpayer money and foster a culture of continuous improvement.” said Governor Carney. “GEAR’s efforts to improve data-driven decision making are exactly what we need to generate service improvements and communicate the value of savings that are being achieved for Delawareans.”

The Board’s report, released each December, also provides policy and budgetary recommendations for possible inclusion in the Governor’s agenda and budget for Fiscal Year 2024.  Governor Carney’s budget proposal will be released on January 26, 2023.

Recommendations in the 2022 report include:

  • Support the Ready in Six permitting improvement initiative by investing in recommendations for specific process improvements being gathered through a survey distributed to over 1,500 industry focused partners.
  • Expand participation in the Continuous Improvement Practitioner (CIP) Training program and a new project and process leadership training path by increasing funding for the First State Quality Improvement Fund (FSQIF).  Support recommended amendments to the FSQIF modernizing language to reflect current best practices and GEAR’s role.
  • Identify and implement changes in the state personnel system by establishing job classifications for “project managers” and “Lean business process analysts” in partnership with the Department of Human Resources.
  • Support investments to procure and use best practice project portfolio management and business process management tools.  The use of common tools facilitates collaboration across the enterprise, avoids duplication of effort, increases the precision of estimating quantifiable outcomes, and improves the efficiency of the state’s business processes.

“The ability to quantify outcomes is as important as the development of the skills applied to delivering efficiencies,” said Charles Clark and Daniel Madrid, Executive Director and Deputy Director of GEAR respectively, and Bryan Sullivan, Director of Management Efficiency at the Delaware Office of Management and Budget. “The Enterprise Services Delivery and GEAR Field teams represent fifteen state organizations that are delivering value through the execution of numerous projects aimed at achieving cost savings, estimated to total $61-65 million over the life of projects underway.”


Delaware’s jobless rate up slightly to 4.4%

From: Delaware Business Now 

Delaware’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in November was 4.4%, up from 4.3% in October 2022, the Delaware Department of Labor reported.

There were 21,800 unemployed Delawareans in November 2022 compared to 23,900 in November 2021. The US unemployment rate was 3.7% in November 2022, unchanged from October 2022. In November 2021, the US unemployment rate was 4.2%, while Delaware’s rate was 4.8%.

Delaware has one of the highest jobless rates. It was tied for the 46th spot (See the chart below, which lists the jobless rate and the national ranking.

2.2 1
Minnesota 2.3 2
North Dakota 2.3 2
South Dakota 2.4 4
Nebraska 2.5 5
Vermont 2.5 5
Florida 2.6 7
New Hampshire 2.6 7
Alabama 2.7 9
Missouri 2.7 9
Kansas 2.8 11
Virginia 2.8 11
Montana 2.9 13
Georgia 3.0 14
Idaho 3.0 14
Indiana 3.0 14
Iowa 3.1 17
Hawaii 3.3 18
Louisiana 3.3 18
South Carolina 3.3 18
Wisconsin 3.3 18
Massachusetts 3.4 22
New Jersey 3.4 22
Oklahoma 3.4 22
Colorado 3.5 25
Tennessee 3.5 25
Rhode Island 3.6 27
Wyoming 3.6 27
Arkansas 3.7 29
Maine 3.7 29
Mississippi 3.9 31
North Carolina 3.9 31
Kentucky 4.0 33
Pennsylvania 4.0 33
Texas 4.0 33
Washington 4.0 33
Arizona 4.1 37
California 4.1 37
New Mexico 4.1 37
West Virginia 4.1 37
Connecticut 4.2 41
Ohio 4.2 41
Maryland 4.3 43
Michigan 4.3 43
New York 4.3 43
Delaware 4.4 46
Oregon 4.4 46
Alaska 4.5 48
District of Columbia 4.6 49
Illinois 4.7 50
Nevada 4.9 5
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

In November 2022, seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment was 462,600, down from 463,500 in October 2022. Since November 2021, Delaware’s total nonfarm jobs have increased by ,800, an increase of 2.2%. Nationally, jobs during that period increased 3.2%.

While total employment in Delaware is up by 9,800 from a year ago, the state did see a loss of 1,700 jobs in hospitality in November. Still, jobs in that category were up by 3,200 over the previous year.


Delaware Population Consortium approves 2022 projections, but questions about accuracy remain

From: Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Population Consortium approved the state’s 2022 population projections Thursday – projections that counties, municipalities and school districts are required to use for planning and budgeting purposes.

This year’s projections — both for 2022 and for the coming decades — pose several challenges for city governments and the state as a whole.

UD’s Center for Applied Demography and Survey Research projects a dramatic shift in the ratio of working-age adults to seniors in Delaware over the next three decades.

Center Director Ed Ratledge says the number of new births appears on track to remain flat for the foreseeable future, while the population over the age of 65 is vastly outpacing both births and in-migration of working-age people.

“The population from 0 to19, which is where your new labor force is going to come from, is going to grow by 4,000 from 2020 to 2050,” he said. “At the same time, the over-65 crowd grows by almost 90,000.”

Overall, UD researchers expect the state’s population to begin declining by 2050, with only slow growth in the intervening decades. In-migration is the key driver of Delaware’s population growth, but that migration is disproportionately concentrated in Sussex County and includes retirees.

But some at Thursday’s Consortium meeting were skeptical about the accuracy of local-level population estimates from the 2021 American Community Survey.

Newark Acting Director of Planning and Development Renee Bensley questioned data suggesting Newark’s population has slightly declined since 2020.

“If you look at the specific census tracks, the ones that had the most severe drops were the ones with concentrations of student housing – and where we’ve been building denser student housing,” she said. “Not only was that additional density not counted, but it suggested a decrease, which is not reflective of our reality on the ground.”

Bensley says Newark may conduct a supplemental census in 2023 to double-check the most recent population data, which she said may be necessary to ensure Newark receives its fair share of state resources.

“Our City Manager in particular is very concerned about the fact that since these are used to determine the distribution of street funding money, we could see a pretty severe percentage drop that isn’t reflective of an actual drop in our population,” she said.

Consortium members previously identified apparent population declines in Sussex County municipalities like Georgetown as potential survey errors.

Delaware sees second record month of overdose deaths in 2022

From: Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s overdose crisis reached a new peak in November with a record 43 deaths, surpassing a previous high set in May of this year.

376 people have died of drug overdoses in Delaware in 2022 — 18 percent higher than in the same period in 2021, which saw 515 people die by the end of the year. Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Director Joanna Champney says historical overdose data gives her agency reason to worry that deaths may continue to trend upwards in the coming months.

“The month of December, for the past three years, is always higher than the preceding month of November,” she said. “So seeing a spike in November has us concerned about what may be coming down the pike next month.”

Roughly half of last month’s deaths occurred in New Castle County, where needle exchange workers say unusually strong free samples – likely containing high concentrations of fentanyl – offered to drug users in November may have played a role in some deaths.

Champney says her agency received similar reports, and notes while it can be helpful to alert healthcare providers and law enforcement of drug supply changes, warning users poses an ethical challenge.

“One of the challenges is – and it’s the same challenge with fentanyl test strips – that some people are seeking those substances,” she said. “We have to balance that when we’re telling people there’s a new, particularly potent drug out there.”

Champney adds her agency will attempt to increase its distribution of the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, including with more door-to-door visits in communities hardest-hit by the crisis. And with health conditions associated with drug use – including sores and infections – taking an increasing toll on users, Champney says her department is looking into deploying nurses or other medical professionals to offer more mobile treatment options.

Meanwhile, DSAMH is also preparing for the launch of an overdose response center next month to identify localized overdose hotspots for faster and more targeted outreach.

So far, the state’s response to the opioid crisis has centered largely on distributing basic harm reduction supplies and providing referrals to treatment options — namely Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), which relies on less potent opioids like methadone or opioid antagonists to treat dependency — through outreach teams or drop-in centers. The state is also investing in expanded residential treatment capacity.

It’s Open Enrollment Season for ‘School Choice’

From: Caesar Rodney Institute 

A January 2022 national survey conducted by National School Choice found that nearly 70% of parents support school choice (31% “strongly support and 38% “somewhat support”). These parents also said they have considered sending one of their children to a new or different school. Options abound nationwide including school choice vouchers, scholarships, tax credits and charter schools.

While “school choice” has become a hot topic across the country, many parents in Delaware are unaware that “school choice” is an option here.


The 2022 open enrollment School Choice dates are November 7, 2022, through January 11, 2023. During this time, Delaware parents can apply to have their child attend a new school – either within the same school district, another district, or a charter school. Parents can access the online application and instructions by visiting SchoolChoiceDE.org.

The board of every school district and every charter school has until November 30th to notify the Delaware Department of Education of its capacity to accept new students. Parents can find this information by visiting https://www.schoolchoicede.org/.

Each district and each charter is required, no later than October 31st, to hold at least one public information session about choice opportunities for the coming year. Unfortunately, these sessions are frequently not well advertised, and parents are often unaware of them.

Parents are responsible for transporting their children directly to their “choice” school or taking them to the nearest bus stop location. Transportation has been an obstacle that caused many parents not to take advantage of the school choice program. Low-income families could find this a hardship because they may not own a car or have a flexible work schedule.

Currently, to assist in transportation to school, the state of Delaware allows middle and high school students to obtain a free DART bus pass for transport to their school. However, with the DART bus system, all the routes end up in the city of Wilmington and do not take the students directly to their schools. Students often must take two buses before arriving at school, which is frequently not a practical option. 

 The free DART bus pass is available to all students in the state, not just those attending a district or charter school. The bus pass may also be used to transport a student to a Catholic or private school. In fact, some students who live in Dover take DART to attend a Catholic school in North Wilmington. This is a two-hour ride and requires a bus change in Wilmington, but the families and students have decided that the long commute is worth it.


  • Provide Transportation:  The Delaware School Choice program should include transportation costs for the student to attend their “choice” school or at least cover the transportation costs to be transported to the nearest bus stop, as was the law in the past. Doing this would make the program much more feasible and equitable for low-income families.

If the state doesn’t have a budget for transportation, another option would be to have one of the non-profits in the state whose goal is to improve the education system provide transportation to students participating in school choice.

  • User-friendly Webpage:  One of the most crucial aspects of a School Choice program is providing parents with information about how various schools perform on standardized tests. It is essential to provide an easy-to-use website where parents can find the test scores for the district and charter schools their child is considering.

U.S. News and World Report has a website that ranks the various high schools in Delaware, but it is not based solely on the statewide Smarter Balanced test. Instead, it includes information on how many students take or pass AP or IB tests and how many students graduate. The site also doesn’t include elementary and middle schools. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/delaware

The Delaware Department of Education’s website currently provides access to the test results of the statewide Smarter Balanced assessment for each school; however, it is not user-friendly for parents to view (broken down by topic, grade, race, sex, and special needs). There is no place where a parent can easily see a school’s overall performance in math or reading. Without this information, they cannot decide which school is best for their child.

  • Improve Awareness for School Choice:  Finally, information on the procedures required to participate in school choice should be publicized on the websites of the school districts and the Delaware Department of Education, as well as through phone calls and emails to parents within a district. Public service announcements on local radio stations or information provided through newspaper and newsletter articles like this one should inform families of the school choice option and the timetable involved.
Author’s Notes:

Before applying for school choice, a student must be registered in their feeder school. To find your feeder school, go to https://arcgis.doe.k12.de.us/school_locator/ 

To find out the availability of public or charter schools near you, go to: https://www.schoolchoicede.org/ChoiceApplications.aspx

New survey examines workforce needs of Delaware business owners

From: Delaware Public Media

In an effort to bolster employment in the First State, the Delaware Workforce Development Board released the results from its recent survey of state employers.

The survey was commissioned by the Board to help various programs and initiatives aiming to increase the number of Delawareans possessing the job skills that employers need.

This week, our Joe Irizarry spoke with Joanna Staib – Executive Director of the Delaware Workforce Development Board – to learn more about the survey and its findings.

Delaware Public Media’s Joe Irizarry talks with Joanna Staib of the Delaware Workforce Development Board about the Board’s recent survey of state business owners.
The Delaware Workforce Development Board releases results from a recent survey of state employers to help improve Delaware’s workforce.

The Delaware Workforce Development Board wanted to focus on the needs of Delaware businesses in the post-COVID world where it seems there are more job openings than individuals.

The survey findings include that there are a lot of openings for those without a college degree, and those with a high school diploma or GED can enter the workforce more easily than in the past.

Delaware Workforce Development executive director Joanna Staib says another major takeaway is the number of businesses hiring those coming out of the criminal justice system.

“The amount of businesses that said that they do hire individuals that come out of the criminal justice system. So that was about 46% of the overall businesses that we surveyed said that they do hire individuals with a criminal background, and that number actually increased when we looked at the business size. So those businesses that had two to 10 employees that number went up to 55%,” said Staib.

Meanwhile, Staib says when businesses were asked what technical skills are lacking, they offered a surprising response.

“The top four out of five were like Microsoft Excel, Word, data analyst, and then just computer literacy overall,” said Staib. “I was thinking we’d get engineering or nursing, or whatever it was in their particular industry. But they came up with that digital literacy piece.”

She notes her group’s goal is transitioning individuals receiving services and training and placing them for a job.

Many Del. districts don’t evaluate superintendents annually

From: Delaware Live

Even though the job of superintendent of education is one of the most powerful in a school district, many Delaware districts don’t perform annual reviews of theirs.

“Some boards have a formal review, and some don’t,” said Donald Patton, board member of Christina School District. He was a teacher and principal for decades before being elected in May.

“How do you hire someone in your top position, the only person that you hire as a board member, and there’s no evaluation being done until the contract is up?” he asks.

Advocacy group First State Educate is learning that annual performance evaluations for school districts are not common.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars, learning outcomes where they are, and incredibly challenging teaching conditions means the stakes are very high for quality and sustainability, “says Laurisa Schutt, executive director. “Evaluations can be collaborative learning tools that focus us on our top strategic priorities. Without feedback, it’s hard to know where we are and how we are progressing. “

Two of the primary duties of school boards is selecting and supervising the district superintendent.

“School board members do not have to be experts in any one area, but they need to be able to ask the right questions and acquire information essential to making good choices,” says the National School Board Association website. “Finances, curriculum and testing, strategic planning, state and federal legal requirements, and evaluating the superintendent’s performance are some of the demands on modern school boards.”

Why evaluate the superintendent?

The average salary for superintendents in America is well into the six figures, with some making more than $200,000, according to a study from the School Superintendents Association.

“We’re paying all this money for the superintendent, and we give him raises that are not tied into anything, he just gets to raise,” Patton said. “Raises should be tied into success and progress and If it’s not, then why are we automatically rewarding them?”

Christina’s school board is now deciding the best instrument to use to evaluate its superintendent, Dan Shelton.

In late September, Dr. John Marrinuci, executive director of the Delaware School Boards Association, presented a new review process to the board. It had been created by a different district’s board member as part of her doctoral dissertation.

The proposed review would evaluate a superintendent’s ability to meet expectations in vision and goals; teaching and learning; professional responsibilities; superintendent’s goal; and people, systems, and operations.

Naveed Baqir, who serves on the Christina board with Patton, said the agendas of school board members change partly because the members themselves change over the years. That may be one reason many districts don’t have a formal annual review.

Some board members may use annual evaluations to express their frustrations that their own agendas are not thriving, Baqir said.

A board member also may think the superintendent is meeting his or her requirements but wants something more out of the district as a whole.

“That’s where that constant update is required,” he said. “That’s why most school districts, especially when there’s a major change in the board membership, end up in a situation where they want a new evaluation tool.”

Even if a district does have some performance review, its board members won’t always agree on what to include, as the case with Christina.

Some of its members have asked for more specific metrics such as student achievement and test scores, rather than simply checking a “meets expectations” or “does not meet expectations” box.

Baqir points out that if every district had a formal, end-of-the-year superintendent evaluation, they would need to make it unique and reflective of the needs and goals of a particular district.

“We always lobby for flexible evaluation tools for students, because every kid has a different set of capabilities,” Baqir said. “So if you measure every student with the same yardstick, every single aspect of their personality and development, that is not going to be fair to all children.”

The same goes for superintendents, he said.

In Colonial School District, the superintendent is formally reviewed whenever his/her contract is up. Contracts for superintendents are typically one to five years, Menzer said.

However, there is still feedback given to Superintendent Jeff Menzer every year.

“Every December and January, regardless of whether or not you’re due up for renewal as superintendent, the board, during executive session, reviews the superintendent’s performance,” Menzer said, “and they just share feedback and observations with myself in terms of what they expect and want to see moving forward with me as the leader.”

Still, Menzer said the relationship and communication between him and the district school board results in clear expectations.

“I’m the board’s loan employee. I work for them,” Menzer said. “They do not manage and control anything in the district except for me, and when there’s a problem or concern with my performance, they address it with me directly.”

While there isn’t a specific worksheet or checklist in Colonial, Menzer says establishing expectations each year and checking in with the board during Winter has the same outcomes that a formal review would.

“So while it’s not formal between me and the board, it’s expected that I’m performing at a level that they deem appropriate,” he said. “They let me know when there’s something I need to address, or handle based on my performance.”