Wednesday, February 16, 2011

DSEA Testifies before Joint Finance Committee

DSEA President, Diane Donohue gave testimony today before the Joint Finance Committee. Her testimony, as it was presented is copied below:

Good Afternoon, Chairman Williams and Vice-Chairman McDowell, and members of the committee:

I am Diane Donohue, president of the Delaware State Education Association.

I start today the same way I did last year by thanking you for your service on the Joint Finance Committee. In these challenging times, JFC is about hard decisions, headaches, and few accolades…all things with which educators can identify.

I’m not going to make it easier on you. I am asking for step increases for all educators as well as Skills and Knowledge Clusters and National Board Certification stipends.

The education community has made great effort the last few decades in realizing a united mission around the education of children that involves all school employees: Teachers and para-professionals, yes, are on the frontline. However, school support professionals such as secretaries, custodians, and food service workers not only provide the support for a functioning school environment, but also educate and nurture children in their interactions and service.

I believe separating teachers and para-professionals from other educators for step increases takes us in a divisive direction that the education community cannot afford. It is a move that is more costly than the $900,000 difference in adding in the other employees. All of our educators need a step increase for FY 2012.

Regarding Skills and Knowledge Clusters and the stipend for National Board Certification, I feel like this is a missing piece to the wonderful initiatives underway in Race To The Top. Race To The Top provides a hopeful path forward in innovative education and has put a lot of positive national attention on Delaware as well as $117 million into our schools. However, I fear that a deep look at our compensation system shows that we are not rewarding educators for improving their skills the way RTTT suggests. We have the vehicles to do so in both of these programs, but we have not funded them for several years now. I ask again that you once more fund both Clusters and National Board Certification and thus provide alternative compensation, one of the goals of RTTT. Both compensation programs together would be around $1 million.

I will not address benefits for members in any detail today because I wish to honor the work currently underway. DSEA along with other public employee unions are in discussions with the Administration examining the pension plan, post-retirement health care, and health care for active members. I only ask that you refresh your memories and look at the salary schedules for teachers, para-professionals, secretaries, custodians, and food service. Then, ask yourself if it is too much for those folks to at least have good health care and a decent pension.
Yet, I hear lawmakers when they say, “Diane, what do I tell my next door neighbor who has been unemployed for four months?”

I would say this:

If I reduce compensation or benefits for your child’s teacher, it will not put you back to work tomorrow; it will not ease your fear tonight when you lay awake wondering how you will pay the mortgage; it will not answer your question of how you learn new skills over age 50 to find employment. However, if I compensate your child’s teacher fairly and fund education adequately, it may keep your son and daughter from facing those same haunting challenges 10 years from now.

Education is an investment in the future; and because education is a service, not an industry, when you increase or maintain investment, it is not in machinery or raw materials, it is in people. Invest in our educators and they will produce returns for generations.

Thank you very much!


  1. WOW! What an outstanding message. Thank you to President Diane Donohue for delivering such a cogent, sensible, focused message on behalf of the DSEA membership.

  2. "wonderful initiatives underway in Race To The Top" Huh? Where?