The Department of Education, one of Delaware largest departments, went before the Joint Finance Committee in Dover to present its fiscal year 2015 budget requests.

The more than $1.2 billion budget makes up about a third of the state’s overall budget and echoed the proposal that Governor Jack Markell outlined in January.

The FY2015 budget represents a 4.26 percent increase over FY2014.  

The bulk of the increased funding, $8.9 million will help the state accommodate the growing public and charter school population by adding 110 teacher units.

The latest Department of Education data showed approximately 1,800 “new” students entered the state’s public education system including 1,600 who transitioned out of private schools and 200 students that came from foreign countries.

Previous years have showed a growth rate of approximately 900-1,000 students a year.

Education Secretary Mark Murphy didn’t explain the unusual increase but said they welcome the influx of students.

“One thing that is exciting for us, while there are fiscal implications, is that more of our students are entering the public school system and that I think is an indication of the quality offerings that we have,” said Murphy.

The DOE also requested $1.8 million in new funding to grow college prep programs such as support for the SAT, PSAT and helping high school students fill out college applications.

“We have begun an aggressive campaign to prepare our students to help them in that next step in life,” said Murphy. “In the past year we found many students demonstrating readiness to be successful in college, but were not applying for any number of reasons. We sent them letters to encourage them to apply and we offered them assistance in the process.”

Last year, DOE was able to help students at two high schools fill out college applications during College Application Month, this year they’ve extended the assistance to 20 schools across the state.

The department has also partnered with College Board to help low-income, high-preforming students apply to colleges for free.

 Another chunk of new funding will go toward helping educators better collect and analyze data on students, which enhances the classroom experience.

“A critical tool at the classroom level is our Ed Insight Dashboard, a database that makes information easy to view and use so teaching is intentional and based on the direct needs of students. As use of this tool increases in our classrooms, we’ll have to continue to increase the value of those tools,” said Murphy.

The Joint Finance Committee will continue hearing budget proposals from various state agencies throughout February and March. The FY2015 budget is due July 1.