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Blogs and Articles

Are Certificate of Need Laws Relevant in Delaware’s Healthcare Marketplace?

By: Jane Brady, Chair, A Better Delaware

You may have never heard of a Certificate of Need (CON) if you do not work in healthcare in Delaware. Yet, these requirements within CON regulations can affect your access to, and the cost and quality of, patient care you receive.

The law adopting a Certificate of Need requirement, now called a Certificate of Public Review in Delaware, was intended to improve access, costs, and the quality of care for patients, generally in hospitals and nursing homes. The law has failed to achieve those goals.

A Certificate of Need is a regulation that requires healthcare providers to get permission from the state before adding or expanding the type of services they offer or before acquiring expensive equipment, building new facilities, or expanding existing ones. Upon passage of an Act of Congress, certificate of need laws were passed by 49 of the 50 states in the early 1980s.

Over the intervening years, research has shown that the goals the laws sought to achieve were not reached, and many states now have repealed the certificate of need statutes. In fact, even Congress repealed the law that compelled states to adopt a certificate of need law – in 1986!! Yet, like many other states, Delaware still has the requirement in place. It should be repealed.

There have been studies of the impact of certificate of need laws. The Kaiser Family Foundation did a study that found that states that have certificate of need requirements had 11% higher healthcare costs than states that did not have it. An additional study by George Mason University found that there were 30% fewer hospitals per 100,000 residents in states that had a certificate of need requirement. Additionally, rural areas, with smaller, localized populations, were more poorly served.

Certificate of need laws are structurally flawed. They limit competition. They allow the state to pick “winners” and “losers,” with the existing facilities having the political connections and favor to “win.” The certificate of need restricts who can participate in competing for your healthcare choices and as a result, there is no incentive to be innovative or even cost-conscious when they appeal to you as you make your health care choices. When businesses compete for you to choose their services, they will try and find the most cost-effective way to give you a product that you want, when you want it. Without competition, there is no need to be responsive to your demand for a specific service or to be more cost-effective. You get what they have decided to provide at the price they decide to charge.

Importantly, access includes timeliness. Recently, CMS, the company that manages Medicare and Medicaid nationally, conducted a study of emergency room wait times in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Delaware ranked 47 out of 51, with an average wait time for emergency room services of over three hours.

It is good governance to eliminate certificate of need laws. Since the laws were passed, the government has taken a much larger role in providing health care.

In an attempt to assure continuing use of these competition – limiting laws, advocates claim they are necessary for more effective care for indigent patients. It was not one of the original stated goals of the legislation but has been used to try and justify retaining these laws on the books. However, if you wish to help the indigent access health care, and most would accept that is a desirable social goal, the best course is to require the expenditure of public funds for that purpose to be transparent and accountable. Currently, the way reimbursements are being made, the hospitals effectively become a smokescreen, and the public cannot discern easily where and how the money is being spent.

The absurd argument some of those who favor using certificate of need laws to help fund indigent services argue is that if you restrict the amount of healthcare available, the healthcare providers who are lucky enough to be in the market can charge higher rates to the people with private insurance, and that will subsidize the care for poor patients without any insurance.  Maybe a day long ago when providers actually decided what health care would cost.

Now, Medicare and Medicaid have changed the economic environment in which healthcare is provided and costs are highly regulated. In truth, Certificate of Need laws are now essentially outdated for any purpose. Delaware should repeal the laws providing for a Certificate of Public Review, our equivalent of a Certificate of Need, and allow the health care providers of our state compete fairly to provide the public, timely, the quality health care they need and want.

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

 

Healthcare Challenges Should be a Priority

By: Dr. Greg DeMeo, D.O., Advisory Board Member, A Better Delaware

For more than 20 years, the American Medical Association (AMA) has warned of a pending physician shortage. Many practitioners suggested this was nothing more than a marketing ploy to drive membership. Sadly, the AMA was correct, and there are shortages of medical doctors throughout the country, in some areas, severe. The occurrence of the pandemic has exacerbated and likely accelerated the problem. Access to care for both insured and uninsured individuals has become quite difficult.

Delaware, like many states, has varying access to health care, depending on your location. Located in New Castle County, ChristianaCare, the largest health care system in the state, enjoys a favorable national reputation. Kent County is much more rural, but also enjoys a large medical system, BayHealth. Sussex County has challenging demographics that, while slowly changing, are mostly Medicare and Medicaid insured populations. That County’s healthcare needs are supported by Bebee Medical Center.

In all regions, however, and in all specialties, physicians are in short supply. Most critically affected are Primary Care Medicine, Women’s Health, and medical specialties such as Cardiology and Neurology.

Women’s Health Care has always been a medical specialty in which Delaware physicians have practiced at a very high level. ChristianaCare has always enjoyed a strong residency training program in Women’s health and graduates 7 residents per year in the specialty. However, on average, about 50% of those graduates go on to further train in sub-specialty practice and leave the area after graduation.

Even prior to the pandemic, it was difficult to secure an appointment in a reasonable period of time for well women visits. New patients often had to wait 2 or 3 months for an appointment, although pregnant women and patients with perceived gynecologic problems were seen in a more timely manner.

The pandemic truly took a toll on medicine. Physicians in all specialty areas have retired or left the practice of medicine in numbers that have never been seen before. Consider that, as well as the natural aging of the workforce, and the prediction of the AMA is simply coming to fruition. This has left healthcare for women in Delaware at a crisis level. Presently wait times for well women visits can easily approach a year if you are lucky enough to get an appointment. Many women need to seek care in Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Centers. This reduction in the work force and the demand, that simply exceeds what medical practitioners can meet, have contributed to the access to care issue.

But there are other issues that have led to this crisis. Delaware has limited competition in certain areas of business directly related to healthcare, such as insurance. This limited competition directly correlates to the increased cost of care, as well as limited access.

As a practical matter, all healthcare is paid for by insurance, whether commercial or government funded. Medicare, which is a federally funded and administered program, essentially establishes reimbursement rates for Medicaid and commercial insurance. Unfortunately, physician reimbursement rates under Medicare have increased by just 8% over the past 22 years, while hospital rates as well as rates for skilled nursing facilities have increased by over 60% in the same time frame.

Delaware, with limited options and with Highmark as its largest commercial insurer, provides little opportunity for physicians to negotiate. In some instances, Highmark pays consistent with Medicare and in almost all cases, Highmark tends to reimburse towards the lower end of the scale.

While New Castle County is fortunate to enjoy ChristianaCare as its major hospital system, this benefit comes with a double-edged sword. ChristianaCare, with its vast scope, power, and wealth, clearly dominates the healthcare marketplace for the entire state and has the leverage to benefit from “preferred” reimbursement rates under the state Medicaid system – to the detriment of private practice physicians in our communities. In addition, ChristianaCare’s size enables it to control competition regarding the development of new ambulatory surgical centers as well as free standing specialty hospitals. Finally, Highmark and ChristianaCare have initiated numerous joint ventures, which allows them to disqualify community-based physicians in favor of hospital employed physicians. What does disqualify mean?

As a result of the disparity in reimbursement increases, physicians are unable to compete with the hospital system for new hires. Over the past 10 years, hospitals have enjoyed the increased control and revenue stream that employing additional physicians brings. In addition, these physicians are highly likely to refer patients to hospital- owned facilities for any additional treatment, which further closes the loop on fair competition. In our community, ChristianaCare has aggressively gone into the marketplace and offered very high starting salaries to recent graduates. This business model even further reduces access. Clear data exists that shows hospital employed physicians see many fewer patients per day than private practice physicians.

All in all, the unfair reimbursement practices supported by government policies are slowly, but surely, decreasing access to care at all insurance levels. Hospitals take advantage of their size and scope to further benefit from this broken system. Legislators need to make better and informed decisions about competition, fair reimbursement, and referral for profit in order to give everyone who needs a doctor, better access to health care and at a reasonable cost.

Dr. DeMeo is the medical director of Christiana Care’s Labor and Delivery Department and represents The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists at the national level where he focuses on issues related to Medicare reimbursement. 

 

 

 

The Discipline Crisis in Schools Has Serious Consequences

By Beth Conaway, Advisory Board Member, A Better Delaware

Public schools ensure that all students have access to a free education. As a result, they are the cornerstone of America’s future. However, our public schools are facing unprecedented challenges with teacher shortages, academic achievement, and negative school environments. Current school discipline practices play a huge role in these challenges.

Prior to Covid, schools began introducing administrators and teachers to the concept of restorative practices. Restorative practices attempt to strengthen relationships between teachers/students and student/student. Popular examples of restorative processes include affective statements (telling a person how you feel) community-building circles, small impromptu conferencing, and setting classroom agreements or norms. (Panorama Eduction Services). Teachers and administrators are trained that for students impacted by trauma and toxic stress, consequences that are not exclusionary or disciplinary in the traditional manner can be more effective in changing the behavior. Trauma based discipline states that the response or intervention for a misbehaving student needs to focus on the specific student’s needs and base the consequence on an incrementally more punitive rubric or leveled response to behaviors. The idea is to seek out the intervention that will change the behavior, not simply automatically assigning a specific response from a predetermined menu.

However, the idea of consequences and disciplinary actions changed along with the introduction of restorative practices. For example, a school may determine that a student is acting out to get attention, so rather than remove the student” to give them what he/she wants” the principal will keep the child in the classroom with or without additional adult support. In a second scenario, when a student is violent or extremely disruptive, an administrator is often brought into the classroom while the teacher takes the rest of the class out of the room. A third common scenario is that the disruptive student is removed for a short time with the administrator to participate in restorative practices and then is immediately brought back to the classroom.

There are several negative results of these actions when done without consequences:

  1. Loss of instructional time for all students leading to poorer achievement.
  2. Stress and anxiety for teachers leading to burnout and lack of teacher retention.
  3. Lack of instructional support from administrators to teachers as they deal with misbehavior rather than supporting the teachers in their instruction.
  4. An increased lack of respect from students to teachers and other students.

Students dealing with trauma and mental health needs are real. However, without disciplinary actions that support teachers and the other students in the classroom, the joy and excitement about teaching and learning will continue to erode. What began as regular instances of students cussing out teachers or acting in deliberate insubordination has escalated to a scenario where teachers are just trying to put out “bigger fires” or prevent them from occurring rather than being able to teach.

As a result, alternative classrooms, environments, and additional mental health supports need to be available to schools to give all students the supportive learning environment essential to their success.

Beth Conaway is a former teacher, who served for 8 years as Principal of the Morris Early Childhood Center and then as Principal of Milton Elementary School for 5 years. She retired after 31 years in the Delaware public school system. She currently teaches graduate courses at the University of the Cumberlands and volunteers in the Indian River School District.

 

Education Funding in Delaware Is Working

By John Marinucci, Advisory Board Member, A Better Delaware

It has become quite fashionable for education advocates and stakeholders to argue that the system of education funding in Delaware is broken. Critics claim that Delaware’s education funding system is convoluted, complex and should be discarded in favor of some other funding mechanism.  But, before we pass judgement and seek to scrap the system, it’s important to establish a foundational understanding of the Delaware Education Unit Funding structure.

Delaware’s Unit Funding structure is entirely formula driven.  Funds are appropriated to school districts and schools based on the number of students enrolled, with three types of funds being received: State funds, Local funds; and Federal funds.  Prior to Federal Covid Relief funds, the level of Federal support was relatively stable and constant, and made up approximately 8% of the funds received by districts.  This remaining, primary funding sources that make up approximately 92% of education funding are State and Local funds.  State funds provided to school districts are appropriated based on the Units Funding system through three funding divisions – aptly named Division I, Division II, and Division III.

Division I funding represents State funds allocated to school districts to fund teacher, administrator, student support personnel, and administrative support salaries.  A formula in Delaware law establishes the number of students that constitute a single funding unit.  That same law establishes the number of units that trigger the “earning” of various school and district level administrators as well as student support personnel.  The larger the number of students enrolled, the more units “earned”, and the more administrators and support personnel “earned” by the formula.  The Delaware statutes also contain pay scales for the various classes of employees that establish the State contribution to that individuals’ ultimate salary. The scale accounts for the incremental increases a teacher can earn based on years of experience and level of education. An individual’s final salary may also include a local salary supplement determined by the board of the local school district.

The Division I funding structure is intended to reward higher levels of education and greater years of experience, giving districts the incentive to hire employees with the highest level of education and the most experience.

Teachers with more experience and seniority may seek a transfer for personal, or other reasons, and often seek transfers into positions and to schools that they perceive as easier or less stressful.  This leaves a vacant position in what can be considered a more difficult position or school, to be filled by a less senior educator, who, of course, is paid less, based on the scale.  This leads to the conclusion that employees in what are perceived to be less desirable schools or positions are paid less than employees in the more desirable positions or schools, which in fact, is true.  To attract and retain the senior, most experienced employees to the most challenging positions and schools, significant incentives must be made available.

Division II funding is allocated to fund the State’s share of all the “stuff” it takes to run an education system, books, curricula, supplies, electricity, heating fuels, etc.  Division II funding is allocated based on the total units “earned” by a school district, based on the assumption, the more students, the more “stuff” is needed.  Division II funds are not intended to cover all of the other education costs, however. Districts are expected to use Local Funds to supplement State Division II funds.

Division III funding is what is known as “equalization” funding.  Division III recognizes that some neighborhoods have greater property wealth and therefore a greater ability to generate local property taxes, the primary source of local funding, and seeks to balance the inequities inherent with the great variations in local property taxes.  Districts with lower property values receive a greater amount per unit than districts with higher property values.

Local Funds make up the third source of funding.  Local funds are the funds collected by school districts generated through local property taxes and are intended to supplement the State and Federal funds.  Each district establishes a school property tax to be assessed on properties within its district boundaries, which must be approved by a referendum vote of the citizens within the district.  The education system in Delaware is established on the fundamental principle of “Local Control” and referenda driven local property tax authority represents the hallmark of that Local Control.

This funding structure provides budget certainty to school districts.  Districts can estimate the funds to be allocated based on their student enrollment, which enables them to better budget and manage their finances.

There is one shortcoming of the education funding structure. Currently, the State has no regular unit-driven funding for technology.  Imagine a school with no computers, no smartboards, no websites, no on-line testing or on-line curricula.  Libraries with no on-line access to perform research.  It’s impossible to conceive of a life without technology in this day and age, yet the State provides ZERO unit-driven funding to support the technology needs of districts, schools and students.  State technology funding that has been provided has been in fits and starts and woefully insufficient.

A word of caution – State funds have historically constituted the majority of funds available to school districts. However, recently the trend has been to shift the responsibility for education funding in Delaware from the State to the districts’ local property taxing authority.  Specifically, in State Fiscal Year 2007, the ratio of funding of Delaware schools was 64% State Funds, 28% Local Funds and 8% Federal Funds.  Ten years later in Fiscal Year 2017 that ratio was 59% State Funds, 33% Local Funds and 8% Federal Funds.  A full 5% of the total funding for the respective year has shifted from the State to the districts’ local property taxing authority.  This is alarming since State funding is a much more equitable form of education funding than local funds because it doesn’t matter “what side of the tracks” the kids come from, the funds for their education will be the same.  Local property taxes are very much driven by the relative property wealth of the community from which those taxes are assessed and collected.  And despite equalization funding, intended to lessen those inequities, in fact, some remain.

In conclusion, while the State of Delaware’s Unit Funding structure may be old and may not include vital aspects that were not a consideration when it was first conceived, such as technology funding, the State’s Unit funding structure is clearly an inherently more equitable funding source than local property taxes.  Mind you, local property taxes and local financial participation in education funding play an important role in the complete funding structure, after all, communities must have “skin in the game”, but it is short-sighted to dispose of a funding structure simply because it’s “old”.  The Unit Funding structure in Delaware works.  The Unit Funding structure in Delaware is inherently equitable.  While it does lack the requirement of a regular, periodic review to assure it meets the funding needs of the current education necessities and obligations, the Delaware Unit Funding structure is not fundamentally broken.

John is the former Director of Operations for the Milford School District, Director of Finance for the DOE, and Executive Director of the Delaware School Boards Association.

 

 

 

Expanded Training is Key to Protecting Students

By Dennis Godek, Advisory Board Member, A Better Delaware

As the 2023 school year begins, the safety of our children in a changing world is at the forefront of our thoughts. School shootings have become too frequent, and we must be ever vigilant to try to prevent these incidents and be ready to respond quickly and effectively when they occur. Preventing school attacks requires direct action, and sometimes, the courage to challenge the status quo. Many tend to criticize school and other officials when it becomes evident, after an attack, that an attacker displayed signs of disturbing behavior that may have predicted violence. These same critics often decry the “abuse of rights” when officials investigate and take definitive steps to determine a person’s propensity for violence. We cannot have it both ways. Law enforcement, education leaders and social workers, acting in good faith and with the resources they need, must use the utmost discretion in this pursuit, but the safety of all students must override a hesitancy to act.

The Delaware education system has made improvements in “safety from attack” for all students. Security policies have been reviewed and amended, many schools now have either school resource officers, armed constables, or both, and schools are required to have plans for action in the event of an attack.

Law enforcement in Delaware have been trained to the national standard of tactical response to active assailant incidents for almost 10 years. Law Enforcement and Fire/EMS, statewide, have been training together, again to national standards, for the integrated response to active attacks. That integrated training incorporates the provision of trauma care to victims in as short a time as possible both during, and immediately after, an attack. Along with specific medical treatment, this response has saved many lives after an attack. These training efforts, and the commitment of the agencies involved, are part of an effort to ensure that the horror of an attack like that which occurred in Uvalde, Texas, will not occur in Delaware.

Lessons learned from reviews of attacks across the country are constantly utilized to update response policies. Regardless of the number of victims, the location of the incident, or the number or armament of the offenders, these are complex incidents which require coordinated and precise response by public safety agencies, augmented by pre-planned actions by school officials. The Delaware Emergency Management Agency oversees the Delaware Comprehensive School Safety Program (CSSP) which is responsible for enhancing school security in all public and charter schools through maintenance and development of comprehensive safety and preparedness plans. The CSSP ensures that mandatory drills and exercises are conducted in all schools on an annual basis and works with school administrators on annual updates to school emergency plans. Any new school construction must include specific target hardening. Secure vestibules, hardened glass and windows in certain areas, improved door security, and panic buttons in office areas are some of the requirements.

While difficult for everyone involved, it must be emphasized that parents and family of students are not to respond to the school when learning of an attack. Law enforcement MUST protect the scene from the introduction of more potential victims, the escape of suspects, and provide for the free movement of emergency vehicles. Technology can be utilized to notify parents and family of a reunification location which is away from the scene and will facilitate the most efficient means of reuniting family and students.

The level of accountability for compliance with drills, exercises, plans, and physical plant improvements, must remain high and require vigilance by overseers and diligence by stakeholders. The law enforcement, fire and EMS community of Delaware is committed to do whatever it takes to protect our students.

“It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what is required.” – Winston Churchill

Dennis Godek previously served as a New Castle County Police Officer and as Assistant Chief of Career Services at the Christiana Fire Company. He currently serves as Chair of the New Castle County Fire and Ambulance Advisory Board, which is the liaison between county government and the Fire/EMS service in New Castle County. Godek is a founding member of the Delaware Statewide Active Assailant Committee, which includes Law Enforcement and Fire/EMS agencies from across the state. Dennis Godek is a member of the Advisory Board of A Better Delaware. 

 

 

The Discipline Crisis in Schools Has Serious Consequences

By Beth Conaway, Advisory Board Member, A Better Delaware

Public schools ensure that all students have access to a free education. As a result, they are the cornerstone of America’s future. However, our public schools are facing unprecedented challenges with teacher shortages, academic achievement, and negative school environments. Current school discipline practices play a huge role in these challenges.

Prior to Covid, schools began introducing administrators and teachers to the concept of restorative practices. Restorative practices attempt to strengthen relationships between teachers/students and student/student. Popular examples of restorative processes include affective statements (telling a person how you feel) community-building circles, small impromptu conferencing, and setting classroom agreements or norms. (Panorama Eduction Services). Teachers and administrators are trained that for students impacted by trauma and toxic stress, consequences that are not exclusionary or disciplinary in the traditional manner can be more effective in changing the behavior. Trauma based discipline states that the response or intervention for a misbehaving student needs to focus on the specific student’s needs and base the consequence on an incrementally more punitive rubric or leveled response to behaviors. The idea is to seek out the intervention that will change the behavior, not simply automatically assigning a specific response from a predetermined menu.

However, the idea of consequences and disciplinary actions changed along with the introduction of restorative practices. For example, a school may determine that a student is acting out to get attention, so rather than remove the student” to give them what he/she wants” the principal will keep the child in the classroom with or without additional adult support. In a second scenario, when a student is violent or extremely disruptive, an administrator is often brought into the classroom while the teacher takes the rest of the class out of the room. A third common scenario is that the disruptive student is removed for a short time with the administrator to participate in restorative practices and then is immediately brought back to the classroom.

There are several negative results of these actions when done without consequences.

  1. Loss of instructional time for all students leading to poorer achievement.
  2. Stress and anxiety for teachers leading to burnout and lack of teacher retention.
  3. Lack of instructional support from administrators to teachers as they deal with misbehavior rather than supporting the teachers in their instruction.
  4. An increased lack of respect from students to teachers and other students.

Students dealing with trauma and mental health needs are real. However, without disciplinary actions that support teachers and the other students in the classroom, the joy and excitement about teaching and learning will continue to erode. What began as regular instances of students cussing out teachers or acting in deliberate insubordination has escalated to a scenario where teachers are just trying to put out “bigger fires” or prevent them from occurring rather than being able to teach.

As a result, alternative classrooms, environments, and additional mental health supports need to be available to schools to give all students the supportive learning environment essential to their success.

Beth Conaway is a former teacher, who served for 8 years as Principal of the Morris Early Childhood Center and then as Principal of Milton Elementary School for 5 years. She retired aft4r 31 years in the Delaware public school system. She currently teaches graduate courses at the University of the Cumberlands and volunteers in the Indian River School District.

 

Parents Deserve a Choice About Where Their Child Attends School

By: Jane Brady, Chair, A Better Delaware

The government doesn’t tell you where to get your car fixed or where to buy your groceries, but they do tell you where you have to send your child to school. 

Just for a moment, let’s suppose the government did tell you where to get your groceries, and they assigned you to a grocery store that, when you came to shop, only had 8% of what you wanted to buy in stock. You would probably say “I want to go over there and buy food in the store that has what my kids and I want to eat.” The government will tell you, “You are assigned to the store with the 8% rating, but if you ask a certain other store’s permission and they let you come, then we will let you.” But, of course, the better stores all have a waiting list, so you are stuck getting less than you want and need.

Like that result? Of course not. But that is what is happening to your children. If your child is assigned to Bancroft School, according to the Delaware Department of Education, only 6% can read at grade level, and only 3% are at grade level in math.  Those results are equally unacceptable. The only option to try to get your child in a better school is to ask another public school if your child can transfer in. And the better performing schools mostly have waiting lists.

Historically, the answers from the government to “fix” education are to spend more money, hire more paraprofessionals or reduce class size. None of these appears to be the issue. If you look at where the highest expenditures per student are, more money is spent in the poorest performing schools. Again, according to the Department of Education, Warner School spends a little over $30,000 per student, as compared to the average of approximately $17,000, statewide. Warner also has a teacher- student ratio of 12-1. Yet the test scores for Warner show less than 5% of students are performing at grade level in both math and English. Clearly, the same old answers are not working.

Just like when they choose where to go grocery shopping, parents should be able to choose the best school for their child – public, private, or parochial (that is, a school with a religious affiliation). The government denies them that option right now. Unless you have the financial resources to escape these poor performing schools, you are stuck with less than what you want for your kids and what they deserve.

Because of a law passed many decades ago, Delaware taxpayer funds cannot be used to send a child to a private or parochial school. However, there is an alternative. A Better Delaware supports a program, modeled after one in Pennsylvania, that will provide businesses and individuals with a tax credit for a percentage of the amount they donate to an education scholarship fund run by a not-for-profit organization. Those donated monies can then be used by children who live in poverty or are assigned to attend poor performing schools to pay tuition at the private or parochial school of their choice. Pennsylvania has a limit of $125 million in tax credits each year. The concept is so popular, there is a waiting list to donate. We support introducing legislation to adopt that plan in Delaware. Imagine how many Delaware students those scholarships would help to get a better education.

The ability to read, make calculations and communicate effectively, with a sound vocabulary and good grammar skills, is critical to personal growth and future academic and economic success. Imagine the transformation of the futures of the children who could access these scholarships. All of Delaware would benefit, because businesses looking to locate here could have more confidence in our state’s workforce, and the skills available here. 

Some elected officials in Delaware don’t support school choice – they want to give districts or teachers more money. The Department of Education’s own website proves that does not work. You now know that doesn’t work. 

Parents need to stand up and demand a better education for their children, so that they can enjoy the economic prosperity that will come with it. School choice is the answer. Our children deserve better. So, when those elected officials ask for your vote, you tell them, “This year, I am voting for my kids. Give me a choice so they have a chance.” 

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

Parents Have Rights and Responsibilities in Their Child’s Education

By Jane Brady, Chair, A Better Delaware

Parents have the fundamental right and responsibility for the care, custody, and control of their children. So embedded in this concept in our society, that there are laws that impose liability on parents for failing to care for, or control, their child. Importantly, this includes a parent’s right to make decisions regarding educational issues.

The recent report on student assessment, which shows many students in Delaware performing at less than 50% of grade level competency, underscores the need to help our children do better educationally. A cooperative relationship between the schools and parents, built on transparency, is essential to provide quality education for the children of Delaware.

Parents, guardians, and the public should have access to all important and relevant information regarding our public schools. House Bill 326 proposed by State Representative Charlie Postles, who previously served as President of the Milford School Board, that would require that such information be made available through a school website portal. The portal would include public access to:

1) A syllabus for each instructional course.

2) Access to, and a description of, instructional materials, textbooks, and digital resources that educators plan to utilize in each instructional course.

3) The school’s policy on how information is communicated to parents, guardians, and the public about violent incidents occurring at the school.

4) What health care services are offered at the school and how parental and guardian notification and consent are handled regarding these services.

All schools would be required to have a procedure for parents to withdraw their child from any specific instruction the parent objects to their child receiving. The school would have to make reasonable arrangements to provide alternative educational activities to the child. School personnel would be prevented from imposing a penalty upon a child who is withdrawn from instruction to which the parents object. Parents would be provided access to all written and electronic recordings concerning the parent’s child that are controlled by a district or anyone authorized to provide services to students.

Finally, a process for filing, reviewing, and appealing a complaint made by a parent, which is essential, is provided for. It is the parent’s right and responsibility to develop and embrace those family values of faith, work ethic, responsibility, and discipline that will prepare their child for success in school as well as in life. What a child is told in school and how they are taught should not be kept from those most responsible for their child – the parents.

We at A Better Delaware support the concepts represented in this legislation and encourage the General Assembly to address the issue of parents’ access to information about their child’s academic and social experience at school.

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

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.”

A Requiem for the EV Mandate

Mark Twain was once quoted as saying, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”  Unfortunately, the same can be said of the electric vehicle (EV) mandate in Delaware as I have heard several Republicans comment that they have won the fight.

After the GOP held five town hall meetings to foster a discussion of the EV mandate with Secretary Garvin of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), Dave Stevenson of the Caesar Rodney Institute, myself, and the Republicans initiated two bills to attempt to stop the DNREC Secretary from unilaterally adopting the California standards regarding restriction of the sale of fossil-fuel-powered cars and trucks.

The first, Senate Bill 96 (SB96), would have prohibited the DNREC Secretary from adopting California’s rules to decrease slowly the proportion of gas-powered vehicles delivered to automobile dealers to zero by 2035.  SB96 was proposed by Senator Brian Pettyjohn and co-sponsored by every Republican in the House and the Senate.  The bill was introduced on April 19 but was tabled by the Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee in the Senate and, thus, was never voted upon.

A second bill was proposed by House Minority Leader Michael Ramone and would require DNREC to pause application of the California Air Quality Regulations in Delaware until a report of their fiscal impacts on Delaware could be obtained.  Thus, this bill would require any EV mandate be approved by the General Assembly.  As with SB96, House Resolution 17 (HR17) had co-sponsorship from every Republican member of the House.  HR17 was introduced into the House on June 22 and enjoyed bi-partisan support with all Republicans and two Democrats voting for the bill.  Nevertheless, HR17 was defeated by a vote of 22-to-17 that same day.

Some saw the EV mandate as having nothing to do with the State’s goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50% in less than 6½ years (i.e., by 2030) and becoming ‘net-zero’ (i.e., no net greenhouse gas emissions from the State) by 2050 in a vain attempt to minimize global climate change; rather, this simply was an issue where rules affecting people’s lives were being made by an unelected governmental official (i.e., the Secretary of DNREC) rather than the State legislature.  Those who held this view must be pleasantly surprised, even though SB96 and HR17 went unenacted.  Why?

Because another bill passed with bipartisan support.  House Bill 99, better known as The Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act of 2023, “establishes a statutory target of greenhouse gas emissions reductions over the medium and long term to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on the State”.[1]  Moreover, HB99 “creates climate change officers in certain key cabinet-level departments who will assist DNREC in the ongoing implementation of the Climate Action Plan [and] requires State agencies to consider climate change in decision-making, rulemaking, and procurement”.[2] HB99 passed the House 27-to-13 and in the Senate by 15-to-5.  In the House, bi-partisan support for HB99 was afforded by GOP Representatives Hensley and Smith who both voted in favor of the Climate Change Solutions Act.  An amendment specifically to require that “this chapter does not confer authority to State agencies to promulgate or amend regulations” [3] was rejected in the House on a pure party vote of 15-to-25.

What does this mean for Delaware and its EV mandate?  Delaware’s Climate Action Plan notes that the largest in-state source of greenhouse gas emissions comes from the transportation sector at 61%.  Thus, if the State is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in just 6½ years, there must be an EV mandate.  But the Climate Change Solutions Act of 2023 authorizes DNREC to implement the State’s Climate Action Plan and it requires State agencies to take the initiative to consider climate change in all that they do.  Moreover, it expands the bureaucracy by creating a cadre of ‘climate change officers’ across the Executive Branch to assist DNREC in its implementation of the Climate Action Plan.  And all this transfer of power to the various state agencies was afforded by a vote of the State legislature which has granted DNREC the power that the opposition to the EV mandate sought to squelch.

Still not convinced?  Consider House Bills 10 and 12 (HB10 and HB12).  HB10 establishes targets for converting all school buses in the State to electric vehicles.  HB12 creates an Electric Vehicle Rebate Program to encourage Delaware residents to purchase and lease new and used electric vehicles, with standards and procedures to be developed by DNREC.  And Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 103 (SS1) requires that all new construction of single-family and multi-family residences must include electric vehicle charging infrastructure by providing county and municipal government enforcement.  SS1 expires only when the Secretary of DNREC advises the legislature that the Delaware Administrative Code has been updated to match or exceed these standards.  Moreover, if the single-family dwelling does not have a garage, attached or detached, “an electric vehicle capable parking space must be provided in the driveway, assigned parking space for the dwelling, or at an unassigned non-street residential parking space constructed as part of the project”.[4]  These three bills passed with only support from Democratic legislators (although Senator Buckson voted for HB12) although various Democrats did join the Republicans in their opposition.  And all three bills cited mitigating the State’s carbon footprint and its concomitant climate change as the reason for these actions.

The Delaware legislature is foolish if it thinks that the EV mandate will cause anything more than economic hardship for our citizens.  While the state makes it increasingly expensive for Delawareans to heat and cool our homes, cook food, and get around, China is building the equivalent of two new coal-fired power plants per week.[5] Delaware’s electric vehicle mandate will have no effect on the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, in light of the increase in carbon dioxide being emitted by China’s coal-based power plants.  Thus, Delaware’s legislators make our energy unaffordable while China enjoys inexpensive energy from coal.

So, to modify a line from Francis Pharcellus Church’s editorial, “Yes, Delaware, there IS an Electric Vehicle Mandate.”  And expect natural gas appliances and fireplaces, as well as fertilizer, to be under attack in subsequent legislative sessions because, despite objections to the contrary, the legislature is attempting to save our State from climate change.  The only thing they have achieved is making our state unaffordable and stripping choice from Delawareans. We should not stand for it.

 

David R. Legates, Ph.D., is a retired Professor of Climatology and Geography/Spatial Analysis at the University of Delaware and is Director of Research and Education for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He serves on the ABD Board of Advisors.

 

[1] https://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail/130272

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail/140422

[5] https://www.npr.org/2023/03/02/1160441919/china-is-building-six-times-more-new-coal-plants-than-other-countries-report-fin