Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Delaware Public Education Compensation Committee votes on longer timeline for teacher salary raises

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Public Education Compensation Committee voted this week in support of raising the state’s contribution to teacher salaries by more than $10,000 over the next four years — a slower timeline than the one originally proposed by Delaware's statewide teachers' labor coalition.

Delaware’s base salaries for public educators currently lag behind neighboring states. Delaware teachers earn an average starting salary of just over $43,000, compared to $54,000 in New Jersey, for instance.

Last fall, the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) proposed raising base salaries to $60,000 by 2026, matching Maryland's goal to reach the same figure by 2026. Seventy percent of Delaware teachers’ salaries come from the state budget, so reaching a $60,000 salary would require raising the state’s contribution from $30,000 to $45,000. Local school districts would be responsible for raising funding to cover the rest of the salary increase.

The Committee — a group of lawmakers, cabinet secretaries and representatives from school districts and teachers’ organization tasked with planning Delaware's path to raising compensation for educators and school support staff — voted this week on a version with a four-year timeline supported by Gov. John Carney’s administration. Office of Management and Budget Director Cerron Cade told the Committee that implementing the salary increases over four years would be more financially sustainable, especially for school districts that may struggle to increase their contributions.

That delayed timeline would mean Delaware would reach a $60,000 base salary a year after Maryland, sparking a month-long disagreement between the Governor’s office and DSEA, which argues falling a year behind Maryland would only deepen Delaware’s teacher shortage.

But Education Secretary Mark Holodick argued that Delaware school districts more frequently compete with districts across the Pennsylvania line.

“Based on the numbers that I’ve reviewed, at least across the line in Pennsylvania, given that they don’t have the law that Maryland passed, we should at least be regionally competitive," he told the Committee.

In response, Delaware State Education Association President Stephanie Ingraham warned that Delaware may soon need to worry about keeping pace with both Maryland and Pennsylvania, where the Pennsylvania State Education Association plans to start advocating for pay raises.

“PSEA just made mention that they’re going to start working on the same issue," she said. "They’re going to start advocating for their government for a $60,000 starting salary for their educators very soon.”

Delaware Senate Education Committee Chair Laura Sturgeon also argued for the shorter timeline, contending that the Committee should recommend the best strategy for mitigating the teacher shortage regardless of its impacts on the state budget.

"We're putting some timeline in place either way because we're trying to be realistic," Cade responded.

The committee ultimately voted in favor of the longer timeline, though Republican members noted their reluctance given the ongoing disagreement between DSEA and the Governor’s office.

State Rep. Mike Smith called the prolonged dispute "an embarrassment" and suggested that the Committee — and the General Assembly — could benefit from taking a step back to consider the many state-level staffing shortages and growing liabilities, including ballooning retiree healthcare costs and a recent US Supreme Court ruling that could cost Delaware millions, before setting its plan for raising teacher salaries.

In the near term, Carney announced plans earlier this winter to raise salaries for all Delaware teachers by nine percent in the coming school year.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.