Quality education requires school referenda

February 13, 2024

As Delaware secretary of education, I am entrusted with overseeing and improving educational systems throughout the state. A crucial part of this responsibility is making sure schools have the resources they need to provide a quality education to all students. In Delaware, one of the key mechanisms for securing these resources is through school referenda.

School referenda typically involve proposals for tax increases or bond issuances to support various aspects of education, such as infrastructure improvements, hiring additional staff and expanding educational programs. Referenda are fundamental to the democratic process, allowing communities to have a direct say in the funding and operation of their local schools.

Over the next few months, six districts will pursue referenda: Brandywine (Feb. 13), Red Clay Consolidated (Feb. 28), Colonial (Feb. 29), Smyrna (March 9), Cape Henlopen (March 26) and Appoquinimink (April 23).

The importance of school referenda cannot be overstated, especially in a state like Delaware, where local control over education is highly valued. Giving residents the opportunity to vote on funding measures ensures that decisions about education investments are made at the grassroots level, reflecting the priorities and values of each community.

Adequate funding is critical for providing students with access to modern facilities, technology and resources. It allows us to attract and retain talented educators, offer a diverse array of academic and extracurricular opportunities, and support students with diverse needs. Without support garnered through school referenda, schools may be forced to make difficult decisions, such as cutting programs or deferring essential maintenance, which can have profound consequences for students, hindering their educational experiences and potentially limiting future opportunities.

Moreover, quality schools attract families to neighborhoods, driving property values and fostering economic development. They produce skilled workforces, which are essential for creating businesses and driving innovation.

Despite all the benefits, passing referenda can be a daunting task, requiring extensive community engagement and communication to overcome skepticism and opposition.

As a former teacher, school principal, district superintendent and now secretary of education, I continue to believe in the importance of supporting local referenda. We must work together to strengthen our education system so we can create a brighter future for our students as well as our state.

Mark Holodick is a former teacher, school principal, district superintendent and now Delaware’s secretary of education. 
  • Cape Gazette commentaries are written by readers whose occupations, education, community positions or demonstrated focus in particular areas offer an opportunity to expand our readership's understanding or awareness of issues of interest.

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