Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Where is your lobbyist?

It is 4:30 AM on July 1st. Do you know where your lobbyist is? Well, in this wacky year in Delaware, he is just ending the 2009 Legislative Session. Enjoy the report below, I'm going home.
Threats to the economic security of our membership dominated the 2009 legislative session. A proposal by the Governor to cut salaries by 8% in February was promptly followed in March by a 50% increase in health care premiums by the State Employee Benefit Committee. Items also considered “on the table” for serious consideration were frozen step increases, frozen lane increases, moratorium on clusters and National Board Certification incentives, and elimination of pay for cluster and NBC for those already receiving the stipends.

At the end of the legislative session on June 30th, 2009 (actually July 1) we achieved the following:
• The 8% straight salary cut became a 2.5% salary reduction in the form of furlough days. In practice, a 2.5% pay reduction will be spread out in 26 pay periods and in exchange, employees will take five furlough days. In other words, instead of receiving less pay, but working the same amount of time, the school year has been cut 5 days to compensate for the loss of pay. For teachers, the 5 days will come from professional development days. Other school employees will be given their five days through a plan worked out between their local union and school district. In all cases, your able UniServ staff will be assisting with thinking through the logistics.
• The 2009 salary schedule returns at the end of the fiscal year. In other words we do not start “in the hole” when debating next year’s pay issues with the state.

• Step increases will be paid.

• Lane (education) changes on the salary schedule will be paid.

• Cluster and NBC pay for those already receiving it, will continue to be paid. However, the moratorium on new clusters and NBC will continue (new stipends not granted).

The struggle to maintain wages and benefits was aided by participation of DSEA in State Workers United for a Better Delaware, a coalition of 13 unions representing state workers.

Although economic issues dominated the attention of the legislature, a few education bills became law including three bills considered to be the Governor’s education package.
o First, a bill eliminating the DSTP and replacing it with a growth model test for the 2010-2011 School Year became law.
o Second, legislation was filed attempting to establish an alternative compensation plan for teachers that included a component of pay for student performance. Eventually, this bill was completely rewritten to become an Academic Achievement Program to give schools financial rewards from federal stimulus money for showing two years of improvement in closing the achievement gap and meeting AYP.
o The third bill in this package was filed as HB119. The original bill provided school districts with a great deal of flexibility in the use of their state funding as well as increased scrutiny of their financial matters. With the possibility of negatively impacting special needs, health programs, art, music, drama, and vocational technical instruction, the legislation picked up many critics. The bill was withdrawn, rewritten and reintroduced as HS (House Substitute)1 for HB119. The new bill limited flexibility to movement of money from Division II (energy) to Division 1 (salaries). The bill was later amended to remove a section that would have given DOE more direct control of a local district’s budget.

Representative Val Longhurst hit one out of the park late in the ninth inning. Around 2:30 AM on July 1, the Senate passed Ms Longhurst’s bill giving teachers of Colonial School District the right to return to their exact same position when returning from FMLA leave. Congratulations to Longhurst and Colonial.

Thanks to DSEA members for your relentless lobbying efforts that made a very bad situation, better.

1 comment:

  1. My thanks go out to you and everyone at DSEA for fighting for teachers and education. It is very much appreciated!