The committee will recommend a pay increase for bus drivers, and for the state to fund IT jobs.

Compensation committee: Raise bus driver pay to $25 an hour

Jarek RutzEducation, Headlines

The committee will recommend a pay increase for bus drivers, and for the state to fund IT jobs.

The committee will recommend a pay increase for bus drivers, and for the state to fund IT jobs.

A committee created to raise wages for Delaware’s educators recommended Monday that bus drivers be paid $25 an hour.

The 15-person Public Education Compensation Committee voted to increase the hourly rate of bus drivers from $22.50.

The Delaware School Bus Contractors Association has been calling for that hike since February.

RELATED: School bus contractors call for higher pay, expanded benefits

If the state adapts the suggestion, it will cost Delaware just under $4.4 million. Because the state funds 90% of Delaware educator’s pay, local districts will pay $484,734.78 collectively.

Bus aides are not included in the recommendation. On average, they make about $13 an hour.

Also Monday, the committee introduced an updated pay scale for the 180 information technology workers in Delaware’s public schools. 

They now are paid according to seemingly random salary scales, sometimes as an educator, custodian, paraprofessional or something else.

Because the state does not provide funding units for them, districts are left to decide how to fund those positions. 

The proposal discussed in the meeting would create funding units for information technology workers, costing the state $6,926,517 in fiscal year 2025 and $12,693,483 in fiscal year 2026. 

It would also include a local district share of $2,400,914 in fiscal year 2025 and $4,450,329 in Fiscal Year 2026.

During the discussions, the committee did not specify the salary for an IT worker.  

“$13 million to IT professionals makes it harder to get $13 million to teachers where we know that we have a problem,” said committee member Jonathan Starkey, the governor’s chief of staff. “It’s not at all clear to me that we can do all of this.”

There has been some debate in previous meetings surrounding the duties of the committee. Some emphasize that its job is to make recommendations so Delaware can compete  regionally for educators. Others insist the recommendations must be reasonable enough that the state can fund the decisions.

RELATED: Heated debate ends in vote to raise teacher pay over 4 years

All salary decisions must be approved by the General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee, which creates the state’s budgets.

Compensation committee members also have had to weigh which employee groups the state should prioritize with salary changes in order to combat education employee shortages.

One of the main reasons the committee was formed at the beginning of the last school year was to increase the starting pay for teachers to $60,000. 

That will allow Delaware to stay competitive with neighboring Maryland. It recently passed legislation that would bring the starting salaries of teachers to $60,000 by July 1, 2026. 

“If this group had the choice between putting $1 million into salaries for teachers or  $1 million into salaries for IT professionals, my suspicion would be that they put the million dollars into teachers,” Starkey said. “If this number gets too high in this overall recommendation, there will have to be choices made by the governor and the legislature, so I just want to make sure that we’re keeping our recommendation realistic to the fiscal reality.”

Council member Cerron Cade, director of the Office of Management and Budget, pointed out that the proposal doesn’t necessarily touch on competitive wages.

“This is solely what the state’s cost would be to establish the current units for these IT positions,” he said, “but it is not reflective of any compensation level that these individuals should be at.”

The committee discusses and votes on pay changes based on employee groups, outlined in Title 14 of Delaware Code. 

So far, they’ve adjusted pay for groups 1305 (teachers, nurses, principals, superintendents, administrative and supervisory employees), 1308 (administrative secretaries, financial secretaries, senior secretaries, secretaries and clerks), 1311 (school custodians), 1322 (school food service workers) and 1324 (paraprofessionals). 

RELATED: Food service workers, paraprofessionals could get raises

RELATED: School pay committee sets raises for secretaries, custodians 

The committee is expected to vote on the proposal for IT workers at its Sept. 18 meeting, which starts at 4:30 p.m. Watch it here.

Since the IT professionals are the last employee group to be considered, the group also is expected to have a cumulative review of all their recommendations in September. 

The committee must present their work to Gov. John Carney by Nov. 15 for consideration in his fiscal year 2025 recommended budget that he will give the General Assembly in January.

Delaware’s fiscal years begin on July 1.

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