Thursday, June 2, 2011

JFC Still Working Hard

Ohhhh, I hope blogging is like riding a bicycle, you never forget how, no longer how long it's been.

Life has been busy in education politics. The Joint Finance Committee did two weeks of Budget Mark Up work, did not get finished, did some more this week, and hopefully will finish in a marathon session on Monday.

Educators have held their own, getting a few improvements such as a 2% raise beginning in January, 2012 (as opposed to July, 2012 the actual start of the 2012 fiscal year), and the infamous extra pay period.

Unfortunately, the moratorium on National Board Certification stipends, or Skills and Knowledge cluster stipends will continue yet another year. Without compensating educators for the hard work and time involved, these self-improvement endeavours will become a thing of the past.

There is still one funding issue to be decided that is important to educators, paraprofessional Phase II funding. Four years ago, the General Assembly studied educator pay and found paraprofessional pay particularly egregious. The General Assembly set a modest goal of moving the starting salary of a paraprofessional up to the federal poverty level for a family of four. This was to be done in three phases. In 2008 Phase I was implemented. We have done nothing since then because of the fiscal crisis.

Now, we have some unexpected revenue, so DSEA is pushing hard for Phase II of the paraprofessional pay plan. Remember, this is a modest goal to begin with because federal poverty level for a family of four is only $22,350 a year. Phase II will not yet get them there, but it will help.

The next item of interest falls under the DSEA commitment to "Protect and Nurture Children". This DSEA legislative plank reads as follows:

Every educator knows the heartbreak and frustration of children who are too hungry, sick, or traumatized to learn well. The opportunity to learn cannot be divorced from socio-economic realities, and those realities are becoming more challenging. In 2010, more than 26% of all US children live in poverty. DSEA will be supportive of legislation, policy, and initiatives which promote the welfare of children and the economic stability of their families.

With this in mind we should be proud of our Attorney General Beau Biden. Mr. Biden is standing up to the insurance industry, by making Blue Cross Blue Shield put money into a health foundation if they merge with a for-profit insurance company. This will mean millions of dollars for indigent care in the state, and that means healthier kids and families in Delaware.

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