A Look Back at the 2023 Legislative Session

The 2023 legislative session was one of the most productive in recent years.  Let's look back at the key legislative victories DSEA and its partners were able to achieve last year, as well as preview some key legislative goals for the current 2024 legislative session.

Educator Compensation Reform More Paid Time Off
State Income Tax Deduction for Union Dues Removing Waiting Period for State Employee Health Insurance
Credit for Paraprofessional Years of Experience Delaware Educator Apprenticeship Program
Lowering Student-Teacher Ratios for Preschool Special Education Mental Health Supports
Lead Poisoning Prevention School Safety






Educator Compensation Reform

DSEA advocated for a history-making increase in public educator salaries. For 2023-2024, teachers and specialists are seeing a 9% salary increase, while all school employees are receiving a 3% increase. 

The organization also fought for a series of recommended pay increases through the Public Education Compensation Committee that, if passed, would put Delaware on a path to $60,000 starting teacher salaries by FY 2028. More information on those recommendations can be found here: PECC Information

The ultimate success of these efforts rests in oudr ability to make sure state leaders remain committed to the recommendations. Sign up here if you want to advocate for pay increases: Educator Compensation Advocacy.

DSEA also worked with a team of school-based physical therapists to advocate for legislation to make sure they receive the salary stipend they are entitled to by law. Thanks for the great work of advocates and legislative champions Representative Bush and Senator Poore, House Bill 231 quickly moved through the General Assembly. DSEA was also successful in working with a group of Occupational Therapists to advocate for change to Regulation 1501, Salary Supplements for Educators.  Through their hard work, the group was able to change the regulation for OTs to receive the 6% national certification stipend.

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Fighting for More Paid Time Off 

Senate Bill 61 increases the number of sick days an educator can use for personal reasons from 3 to 5. The legislation also provides additional flexibility for educators taking time off for the funeral of a near relative and ensures that personal leave requests can only be denied if operational requirements cannot be met. DSEA worked with Senator Sturgeon on the development of this legislation and fought to keep the provisions related to educator privacy.  

Senate Bill 60 will make sure school employees don’t have to use their personal days or lose pay to serve on a jury to fulfill a court obligation. The bill will allow school employees to be absent without losing pay 1.) to serve on a jury, or 2.) to appear under subpoena to testify in a matter (except if they are a party in the proceeding). 

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State Income Tax Deduction for Union Dues 

DSEA members will once again be able to claim up to a $500 tax deduction to cover the cost of their union dues. The 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated a similar federal deduction, and this legislation will restore this tax benefit at the state level. The sponsors of the bill, Senator Poore and Representative Longhurst, specifically called out the need to provide the benefit for Delaware educators when presenting the legislation. 

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Removing the Waiting Period for State Employee Health Insurance

HB 185 removes the 3-month waiting period for the state to pay its share of premium or subscription charges for health care coverage for benefit eligible state employees hired on or after January 1, 2024.

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Credit for Paraprofessional Years of Experience

DSEA worked with Senator Lockman on the passage of SB 156, which ensures years of experience as a paraeducator are recognized on the teacher salary scale. Under the bill, newly-hired teachers who worked as paraprofessionals for at least four years would be able to count half of their prior experience toward the salary scale for teachers. 

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Delaware Educator Apprenticeship Program 

HB 138, led by Representative Williams, seeks to help address teacher shortages by creating a Delaware Educator Apprenticeship Program. The bill requires the Delaware Department of Education and the Delaware Department of Labor to work with DSEA and others to develop a program that allows colleges and universities to partner with school districts or charter schools and place aspiring teachers in paid positions while they complete their own education and training.

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Lowering Student-Teacher Ratios for Preschool Special Education 

House Substitute 1 for HB 33, led by Representative Williams, increases funding for preschool special education. The bill will help support lowering preschool special education student-teacher ratios by providing one unit of funding for every 8.4 preschool students identified as requiring basic special education services. 

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Mental Health Supports

To support an ongoing commitment to HB 100 and HB 300, the state budget includes $30 million for mental health supports in elementary and middle schools. Representative Longhurst also led the passage of Nolan’s Law (House Bill 4) to ensure students have access to behavioral health support in their schools in the aftermath of a school-connected traumatic event. Under the bill, DOE will be responsible for covering the costs of grief counseling offered to students at the school for up to 45 days after a school-connected event.

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Lead Poisoning Prevention

This year’s one-time supplemental state budget (the budget bill for one-time spending) includes $3.8 million to install water filters that remove lead from school drinking water in every public school.

Legislation was also passed to help prevent childhood lead exposure and improve lead screenings. Senate Bill 9, led by Senator McBride, creates procedures for state health officials to identify and remediate homes that contain exposed lead paint, establish a state-funding mechanism to cover the cost of those repairs, and initiate a process to screen every residential rental property in Delaware for exposed lead paint. Representative Lambert’s House Bill 227 provides school nurses with access to lead screening data.

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School Safety

This year’s Capital Improvement Budget Bill includes over $9 million in School Safety and Security Funding. Districts can use this funding for school safety improvements, including camera and monitoring equipment, panic buttons, prevention training, and the hiring of SROs or constables. 

Seeking to prevent gun violence in schools, House Bill 201 makes the possession of a gun in a Safe School Zone a felony.

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