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Are your children getting the education you’re paying for?

By: Dr. Tanya Hettler

Delaware’s terrible scores on the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have been big news since its release last fall. Delaware ranked 47th in the country with the 4th worst overall test scores when averaging math and reading for both 4th and 8th graders.

Fourth and eighth grade are both important years in school. It is generally accepted that students learn to read from kindergarten to third grade. From third grade on, students read to learn. And if students cannot read by 8th grade, they will not make it through high school.

The 2022 NAEP scores reflect a sharp drop from the 2019 scores (the last uninterrupted school year before COVID-19 closures and remote learning). In fact, Delaware had the largest decline in the country in test scores over the COVID-19 period. And these decreases were just an acceleration of a negative trend that began in 2013.

The declines are not due to a lack of school funding. In fact, Delaware boasts the 10th highest per-pupil spending in the country.

In the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data from 2020, Delaware ranked 13th in the nation in education spending increases from 2002-2020. The Delaware per-pupil spending increased 29% from $13,387 to $17,235 (inflation-adjusted).

A Closer Look into Delaware’s Education Spending

Table 1 below is a closer look at Delaware’s education spending increases over the 18 years from 2002-2020. Student enrollment only increased by 11%. Yet, every area of spending increased at a significantly higher rate except for teacher salaries.

Table 1:  Delaware’s Educational Spending Increases from 2002-2020 (inflation-adjusted).



Even more shocking is that when we look at education expenses in 2002, we find that Delaware already spent significantly more on education than most other states.

As is evident from this data, Delaware is in the top 10 for education spending in the country. Yet our students continue to perform at the bottom compared to all other states. This is unacceptable! We are failing our students. It is time for a comprehensive upgrade of Delaware’s education system to improve our students’ success.

The generous funds our schools receive from Delaware taxpayers need to be reallocated from excessive administration spending toward teachers’ salaries, with a special focus on starting salaries and hiring new teachers. Across the country, there are twice as many non-educators in schools than educators, and this ratio may be even worse in Delaware. Reallocating funds to teachers will allow for better teacher-to-student ratios and enable schools to hire and retain good teachers. Improved educational outcomes will follow.


Dr. Tanya Hettler is the Director of the Center of Education Excellence at the Caesar Rodney Institute and the author of “Nary the Right Whale: Help Save Nary and His Friends.”