Teacher compensation reform moves forward in Delaware

     (<a href=Teacher in classroom with student via ShutterStock) " title="techer16x9" width="640" height="360"/>

    (Teacher in classroom with student via ShutterStock)

    An ambitious attempt to reconfigure the way Delaware pays its teachers took a significant step forward Friday.

    The Committee to Advance Educator Compensation and Careers (CAECC) officially issued recommendations that would, if written into law, shake up a teacher salary scale that has been in place for decades.

    The recommendations come after months of meetings and negotiations among legislators, education officials, representatives of the governor’s office, and the state’s teacher’s union.

    They call for a $5,000 increase to starting teacher salaries, pay increases for educators who earn newly created teacher-leader positions, and restored benefits for teachers who receive National Board Certification.

    The new teacher pay system would be optional for existing educators, but mandatory for new hires.

    Though the outline is in place, there’s still much work to be done. A joint resolution winding its way through the general assembly would establish two new working groups. Those groups would in turn work through the sundry details of a new compensation scheme.

    It’s still unclear, for example, how teacher leaders would be chosen and what their roles would be. In past meetings of the CAECC, there’s been considerable debate over whether student test scores should determine eligibility for teacher leader positions–and to what extent.

    Committee members also have to determine how much the new salary system would cost. At previous meetings, estimates have hovered between $10 and $15 million a year.

    This change to teacher pay would apply only to the portion of an educator’s salary that comes from the state. In Delaware, however, state funding accounts for roughly 70 percent of teacher pay, though the exact amount varies by district.

    At present, teachers earn raises based on just two factors: their experience and their highest level of education. Many believe such a rigid salary scale stifles professional growth, and that many top teachers become administrators in order to earn extra pay and extra responsibilities. The Markell administration also believes the state needs to boost starting pay to keep up with neighboring states and attract the best, young teaching talent.

    Some major cities, such as Denver, have reshuffled their teacher pay scales in recent years, but Delaware officials believe they’d be the first to implement such a reform package statewide.

    Governor Jack Markell has called repeatedly for changes to teacher pay, citing it in multiple State of the State addresses. He praised the CAECC’s recommendations in a statement issued Friday.

    “I applaud the legislators, educators, administrators, and others who served on and provided critical feedback to the Committee,” Markell said. “Their work represents a critical step toward a compensation system that makes Delaware educator salaries more competitive with our neighbors and rewards teachers for helping their peers to best support our students.”

    The joint resolution that would re-establish the CAECC and create its two working groups, passed unanimously through the House on Thursday. It now heads to the Senate.

    The state’s teacher’s union helped negotiate the recommendations released Friday. Union president Frederika Jenner said in a statement that her organization’s input had helped keep the reform effort “on the right track.”

    You can view the full report here.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.