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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate passes bills to help Delaware schools attract and retain highly qualified educators

January 9, 2024

DOVER – The Delaware Senate opened the second leg of the 152nd General Assembly on Tuesday with the unanimous passage of two bills that continue efforts to address the ongoing educator shortage and improve teacher-to-student staffing ratios across the First State.

Senate Bill 187 and Senate Bill 188, which are now headed to the Delaware House of Representatives for final consideration, were both sponsored in June by Sen. Laura Sturgeon, a retired Delaware public school teacher who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

“These two bills are designed to help Delaware schools recruit qualified candidates into the teaching profession, especially those with diverse educational backgrounds and prior work experience,” said Sen. Sturgeon, D-Brandywine Hundred. “The teacher shortages have shown us that we need to get creative, and these two bills combined offer a creative recruitment strategy that will help Delaware schools tap into new talent pools.”

Senate Bill 187 would help Delaware schools recruit qualified candidates into the teaching profession by helping to ensure that the salary calculations for future Delaware educators are based on all of the advanced degrees they have earned prior to the initial date of hire.

Under current state law, graduate and doctoral degrees are only applied to salary calculations for new hires if those advanced degrees directly relate to an educator’s professional responsibilities. As a result, job candidates who have earned advanced degrees or initially pursued careers in other fields are not always compensated based on their full educational attainment, which can create a financial disincentive for someone looking to enter the teaching profession from another career.

For example, the starting salary for someone who earned a Master of Business Administration before seeking a job as a high school math teacher would be based solely on their bachelor’s degree rather than the full set of transferable skills and background they bring to the classroom.

Senate Bill 187 would only apply only to educators hired after the legislation is signed into law. Advanced degrees earned after an educator is hired would still need to apply to their area of expertise or specialty to be used in future salary calculations.

Senate Bill 188 would make Delaware the 12th state to join the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact (ITMC), an occupational licensing agreement that would make the teaching licenses of qualified candidates from a variety of backgrounds more readily transferable from one state to another.

The ITMC preserves the discretion of individual states to set their own licensing requirements while establishing a minimal threshold to qualify for eligibility. A transferable teaching license, for instance, would require a bachelor’s degree and completion of a state-approved teaching preparation program while excluding restricted, probationary, provisional, substitute and temporary licenses from eligibility.

Pennsylvania joined the ITMC in 2023 while legislation to add New Jersey and New York to the compact is currently pending before the state legislatures of those states.

“The recruitment and retention of qualified educators is still a necessary and top priority in Delaware. Both pieces of legislation are creative recruitment strategies that will help Delaware schools tap into new talent pools. Senate Bill 187 allows us to attract new educators from the professional world by compensating them for the advanced degrees and diverse experience they bring into the classroom,” DSEA President Stephanie Ingram said. “We are thankful for this leadership and keeping education a top priority in Delaware.”

SB 187 and SB 188 are only the latest bills to address an ongoing teacher shortage that saw Delaware open the 2023-2024 school year with about 500 teacher vacancies.

The Delaware General Assembly last year voted to fund a 9-percent pay raise for all district teachers first proposed by Governor John Carney.

Sen. Sturgeon passed multiple bills in 2023 that collectively provided school staff with greater flexibility in using their paid time off to participate in jury duty, attend funerals and other personal matters.     

Senate Majority Whip Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman passed legislation to help ease the path for experienced paraprofessionals to become full-time, certified teachers, while House Education Committee Chair Rep. Kim Williams passed legislation to establish a Delaware Educator Apprenticeship Program that places aspiring teachers in paid positions while they complete their education and training.

“It’s important that we look at ways to mitigate barriers educators face when moving to Delaware,” said Rep. Williams, D-Stanton. “SB 188 will reduce license challenges that are currently keeping qualified educators out of Delaware classrooms. Additionally, SB 187 will ensure those with graduate degrees who later become educators will receive credit on the salary schedule for those degrees, regardless of the subject area.”