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Staffing shortages become focus of Dept. of Ed. budget hearing

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

State lawmakers took a few hours looking over one of the state’s largest budget lines, the Department of Education.

The major issue most state agencies are bringing up during Joint Finance Committee hearings this month is staffing. And Delaware's Department of Education is no different.

DOE is asking for over $100 million added to it’s $1.7 billion budget to cover a wide variety of initiatives, many of them focused on recruitment and retention of teachers and support staff.

New Education secretary Mark Holodick says some of the targeted funding for Wilmington schools will help with those efforts.

“So recruitment and retention of staff in every public school right now is really difficult,” he said. “It is most difficult in urban settings, in Wilmington right now. The turnover rate in those schools is a significant challenge.”

The department is asking for around $14 million to fund the Redding Consortium initiatives and Gov. John Carney’s new Wilmington Learning Collaborative, both with goals of improving recruitment of teachers in the city.

State Rep. Stephanie Bolden (D-Wilmington) says the $7 million for Gov. John Carney’s Wilmington Learning Collaborative is necessary to help improve outcomes in the state’s largest city.

Associate Secretary of Operations Kim Klein says a shortage of bus drivers has been especially troublesome, which is why the department seeks $700 thousand to cover paid training for bus drivers.

“I wanna be a bus driver, I may already have my CDL and I may already have the two endorsements required,” Klein said. “But there’s additional federally required training and state required training — and to go through that you receive no compensation. And so this is to try to get more people into the career field to say that the state would pay them, reimburse them.”

The department also included an additional $10 million ask to bring the minimum wage for bus drivers up to $20 an hour, but that wasn’t included in the governor’s recommended budget.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.