Carney proposes teacher raises, education investments
DOVER – Seeking to boost the state’s competitiveness in K-12 education with neighboring states, Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday that he will propose significant, across-the-board salary increases for public school educators and major investments in schools that serve low-income populations.
Set to be a part of his Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal that will be released on Jan. 26, Carney’s education investment includes a 3% increase for all state educators, while teachers who provide direct student instruction will receive 9% salary increases. He will be able to draw from historically high revenue surpluses to put the plan into action.
The salary increases come as Delaware school districts contend with hundreds of open teaching positions. The shortage has placed additional burdens on those who remain but has also convinced some districts to employ non-traditional strategies, like contracting with remote teachers who videoconference into classrooms filled with students.
While some of the teacher shortage is attributable to burnout following the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on instruction, other states have also been poaching talent from Delaware by offering higher wages.
Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey all offer higher average starting salaries for teachers than Delaware currently does at almost $43,500. The neighboring states offer between $46,000 and $54,000, although the cost of living in those areas is also often much higher.
The governor’s proposal only impacts the state’s share of a teacher’s salary that is split 70-30 with local school districts, meaning it would add about $2,700 to a starting Delaware teacher’s salary and pushing the average minimum to just over $46,000 annually. That would make the First State about even with Pennsylvania, at least.
“We will not be out-competed by states around us,” said Carney, drawing a round of applause from teachers, lawmakers and students at a press conference at Nellie Hughes Stokes Elementary School in Camden to announce the investments Tuesday.
The salary hikes for teachers come as an appointed committee researches the state’s education workforce and prepares a report for the governor due by Nov. 15. Carney said that he did not want to wait for the final report to begin making investments, especially after Maryland has approved a plan to push minimum teacher salaries to $60,000 by 2026.
Delaware Education Secretary Mark Holodick said the increases would immediately make the state competitive with its neighbors, assisting recruitment of new teachers but also boosting retention of teachers.
“I can’t help but think this signals to educators that they’re incredibly valued here in Delaware, and that this administration, working with the General Assembly, wants to do something to positively impact the challenges we’re facing this year,” he said.
Recognizing that teachers will need support and resources to improve student test scores, subject proficiency and graduation rates though, Carney is also proposing to increase the FY 2024 Opportunity Funding, which provides additional per pupil funding to those with disadvantaged backgrounds, by $15 million to a total of $53 million. That funding has supported adding specialists, counselors and educational resources to schools that serve high numbers of such children.
The governor will also propose a new $3 million investment in the Wilmington Learning Collaborative, an initiative he shepherded to have greater collaboration between the three different school districts that now serve different areas of Delaware’s largest city.
“I also know the difference a good teacher can make in the life of a student, and that’s why we believe as everyone I think in this room does that teachers are central to whether we’re going to improve education here in our state,” said the governor, who is the son of teachers.
Delaware State Education Association President Stephanie Ingram heralded the investments, noting that educators have historically been “vastly under compensated” compared to professions with comparable education and training requirements.
“The educator shortage crisis is real and is the result of numerous factors not controlled by educators. This important introductory commitment to increasing educator pay is one of the many strategies needed to address our situation that we have been asking for,” she said.
Ingram argued that salary increases were also warranted for support positions like bus drivers, nutrition service workers, secretaries and paraprofessionals.
“This is the first of many steps that will need to be taken elevating educator pay, and we stand ready to continue to work with the governor and all of our legislators to achieve respectful and professional salaries for all educational employees, not only our classroom educators and specialists who work diligently to teach and reach our students and help them excel,” she said.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the proposed increase affects only the state’s portion of teacher’s salaries, and therefore would produce a smaller estimated impact.