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State Senate votes to provide extra personal leave to teachers

Delaware Public Media

Senate lawmakers voted unanimously to offer additional personal days to teachers – one of several changes meant to improve working conditions as schools struggle to hire and retain educators.

Senate Education Committee Chair Laura Sturgeon’s bill would allow teachers to take two additional personal days out of their accrued sick days.

Delaware school employees can currently use only three personal days from their accrued sick leave. Sturgeon told fellow lawmakers those three personal days are often not enough to cover educators’ needs; she offered the example of a teacher who was unable to care for a sick parent for lack of personal days. Educators can use unpaid days off, but many may not be able to afford to do so.

“The parents’ 50th anniversary, the birth of a grandchild, the furnace failure – these do not only fall over winter break, spring recess or the month of July," she said.

As Delaware policymakers consider raising educator salaries to improve teacher recruitment and retention, Sturgeon underscored that rebuilding the education workforce will also require improving working conditions.

“We know salary is only one part of why teachers leave the profession and other choose not to enter it," she said. "The other part is working conditions, which include flexibility and feeling valued and respected as professionals.”

But Sturgeon acknowledges the ongoing shortage of both teachers and substitutes means schools may not be able to accommodate all requests; her bill would instead establish the expectation that school administrators approve requests unless an educator’s absence would seriously impact school operations. The bill would also not require educators to disclose the reasons for their leave to administrators.

The proposal passed in the Senate with no discussion and no opposition.

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