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Common Sense Policies, Not More Money will Make for A Better Delaware in 2024

By: Jane Brady, Chair, A Better Delaware 

Each January, the Governor delivers a State of the State address, which is given in the chambers of the General Assembly, to report on the condition of the state in all respects, and often serves to highlight the executive branch priorities for the coming year. Members of the Governor’s cabinet, the judiciary, and the General Assembly attend, and afterward, the politicians, media and pundits’ comment and report on the content of the speech.

Generally, topics include the health of the economy, education, workforce development, healthcare, and our natural resources. Usually, there are references to what will be reflected in the Governor’s proposed budget relative to those topics. But I want to encourage the Governor to consider that money is not always needed to make the lives of Delawareans better.

In fact, in many instances, we have spent more and more money over the years with little or no change in results. What we need are new and bold ideas and changes in policy.

Most significantly, education stands out. While we rank in the top 10 in spending per student, we are three or four from the bottom in academic performance. According to the state Department of Education, more than a dozen Delaware schools have single digit proficiency in math and reading – fewer than one in 10 of the students can read or do math at grade level. Spending more money clearly does not work.

Other states have had to address this same issue. The Governor should look to Mississippi, which passed a law that any child that cannot read at grade level in third grade does not get promoted to fourth until they can. They have seen incredible results, rising from the bottom to now, 21 among the states – Delaware is Number 47.

. Many states are looking to school choice not only to give parents more authority over their child’s education, but to allow those children assigned to the poorly performing schools to escape a bloated and ineffective system that serves neither student nor teacher.

Our school discipline policies are disrupting the learning and teaching environment and putting students, teachers, and staff at risk. We need to return to a system that demands accountability and provide alternative classrooms and environments and additional mental health services to give all students a learning environment essential to their success.

According to the Federal Reserve, our gross domestic product (GDP), which reflects the value of the goods and services we produce in the state, is below zero – yes, it is shrinking. We need to reduce the taxes and regulations on our small businesses, which are the engine of our economy right now, and many of which are minority- and woman-owned, to generate our economy and encourage entrepreneurs to venture into the business world or invest to grow their businesses.

Education lays at the heart of other policy challenges, Again, there is opportunity. Companies do not want to locate here if the available workforce is not capable of doing the jobs a company might bring to our state. And we are not just talking about scientists or doctors. There is now an organization in our state that is teaching potential union and construction workers what they need to know to pass the apprenticeship exam, skills they should have learned in our public education system.

Our access to good health care at a reasonable price is affected by the requirement that the government approve new services or facilities. The Certificate of Need requirement gives those already in health care an advantage and limits competition. Many other states have eliminated the requirement, and we should too.

Delaware received a grade of F from the Center for Public Integrity. We need to expand our Freedom of Information Act, giving the public more transparency into government, and to establish the position of Inspector General, who will objectively review our state agencies and be a watchdog for fraud, abuse, and misconduct.

There are many other areas in which changes can be made. Overwhelmingly, our citizens oppose the electric vehicle mandate, but the Governor disregarded our opposition and imposed the strict and onerous law, unsupported by the necessary infrastructure and science to make it practical. We have adopted policies that limit our ability to escape federal oversight of our environmental efforts, and we have failed to properly invest the more than $4 billion in surplus funds our state has had in the past three years. And, while the state has used much of that money on building structures and roads, we adopted a policy that makes all those projects more expensive, carelessly spending our tax dollars.

It is January. Our Governor will be presenting a State of the State address to the citizens, his cabinet, and the General Assembly. I hope to hear him address these issues and lead Delaware forward with new, common-sense policies that will make our state a better place to live, work and play.

Jane Brady serves as Chair of A Better Delaware. She previously served as Attorney General of Delaware and as a Judge of the Delaware Superior Court.