New Bills Target Child Safety

At a Glance...

-Delaware lawmakers introduced a package of bills aimed at improving child safety in early learning centers.
-Senate Bills 294 and 295, and Senate Joint Resolution 7, introduced in May, look to strengthen the systems and processes around child care licensing and reporting.
-The bills seek to add capacity, compensation, and modernization to the Office of Child Care Licensing.

As we wrote in March, a handful of tragic incidents across the state have shone a spotlight on child safety and abuse risks at child care centers. Health and safety complaints to the Office of Child Care Licensing are up 30 percent over the last year, according to the Department of Education, which oversees child care licensing. 

In turn, Delaware legislators introduced in May a package of bills aimed at improving child safety. 

While new regulations and processes will be helpful, deeper state investments remain the big-picture key to truly unlocking all that early childhood education has to offer. Although Delaware has ramped up its early child care budget in recent years, much more is still needed. Today, most child care workers don’t earn a living wage, and many families are shut out from both available programming and from state benefits.  

SB 294 will build the capacity of the Office of Child Care Licensing by providing equitable compensation of licensing specialists, on par with other Delaware Department of Education employees. 

As a result, SB 294 will: 

  • Reduce turnover and the current litany of open positions—and improve recruitment.  
  • Provide more capacity to investigate complaints made against child care centers. Today, the process can take weeks, putting children at risk while complaints are being considered. 


This bill would likely carry a fiscal note, but as most would agree, such investments are worth it if they keep children safe.  


SJR 7 directs the Office of Child Care Licensing to modernize the child care licensing system, including an electronic system to streamline processes for providers, create efficiencies and enable the state licensing specialists to respond more quickly to complaints. The system needs to be implemented within the next two years. 

Delaware’s child care licensing process still utilizes paper files, adding to slow government churn and limited data systems. As mentioned in a previous blog, DDOE is requesting proposals from potential vendors to address this challenge. SJR 7 would establish timelines and requirements to ensure these plans deliver.  

SJR 7 aims to:  

  • Provide better data for making decisions – for example, there is no way to know today how many children are served in child care in Delaware or the true capacity of providers to serve families  
  • Make recordkeeping easier for providers and licensing specialists. 


SB 295 will strengthen the process for child care programs to obtain job applicants’ child care employment history. 

Currently, employers at child care centers are required to submit “service letters” to the Department of Labor that includes information on current and past employees. 

The bill mandates a few updates to this reporting process, requiring these letters specifically include: 

  • Information about engagement in prohibited acts (like rough handling and physical abuse, yelling, sexual abuse, denying children basic needs, or restraining children beyond holding them, as outlined in Delaware licensing regulations 
  • Concerns the previous employers would have about the employee providing care to children  


SB 295 also requires the Office of Child Care Licensing to report employers suspected of not adhering to these requirements. 

While these bills signal steps in the right direction, more remains to be done to stabilize the child care industry.  

As mentioned, actually investing what it costs to deliver quality care (instead of a much lower rate based on a convoluted system) to providers would allow them to hire, retain, and develop staff. Supporting the workforce should also include benefits, including mental health support for educators.  

Delaware also should implement protection plans for children while complaints are being investigated, and the state should make regulatory updates would ensure child care workers who have engaged in prohibited acts are not permitted to continue working in the field.  

Additionally, lawmakers could consider supporting lead remediation and filter updates in child care centers, as the state now does for K-12 schools 

Early Literacy Efforts Remain Front and Center in Delaware

At a Glance...

-Delaware lawmakers and education leaders continue to lean into early literacy, a critical benchmark for students.
– The Science of Reading—an evidence-backed body of research on literacy and reading acquisition—remains a focal point of new legislation and educator prep programs.
-Delaware can look outside its border for ideas, including ways to strengthen interventions, tutoring programs, and assessments for teacher candidates.  

Delaware continues to focus on early literacy, a critical benchmark for a child’s educational development, and an area where Delaware (along with most of the nation) has declined in recent years. Recent focus has been on the NAEP scores, which have put Delaware below most other states and well below some of our neighbors, and with one of the steepest drops nationally.

In response, local lawmakers and literacy advocates continue to build on the broader adoption of what’s known as the Science of Reading, an evidence-backed body of research on literacy and reading acquisition.

Delaware has earned national recognition for some of its recent efforts, including from the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University. Check out this video profile of Delaware Delivers: Providing rigorous instruction to all students.

What’s new with Science of Reading?

A new bill, SS 1 for SB 252, has been filed that aims to strengthen teacher preparation by monitoring programs to ensure they are training candidates on Science of Reading techniques. The bill directs the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) to monitor and report on the strength of these approaches in all educator preparation programs as part of the Educator Preparation Report Cards.

This effort builds on several others that aims to strengthen Science of Reading statewide, including SB 133 (from the 151st General Assembly), which required teacher preparation programs that   prepare elementary school, early childhood education, or special education teachers or reading specialists must provide instruction in evidence-based reading instruction. SB 133 also required DDOE to establish a minimum number of hours of training that instructors in educator preparation programs must complete in evidence-based reading instruction.

Gov. John Carney included funding for literacy coaches in his Recommended FY 25 Budget. Embedding state-deployed coaches led by a cohesive state strategy was a key component of Mississippi’s success in improving early literacy.

The DDOE has been focused on implementing the state Literacy Plan and recent legislation related to Science of Reading-aligned teaching and assessment.

What’s next in Delaware

  • This fall, Wilmington University and nonprofit tutoring provider Reading Assist Delaware will launch a new approach to supporting the educator pipeline called Tutors to Teachers.
  • Thanks to private grant funding, the state will partner with Reading Assist to deliver high-dosage tutoring to more K-3 students during the school day.
  • Identifying strong ways to scale models beyond traditional 1:1 in person models, including small groups and virtual tutoring, which are underway in models including Reading Assist and Book Nook in Delaware.


What else should Delaware consider?

As Delaware looks to other states for inspiration, there are policy opportunities to go further including:

  1. Establishing Criteria for Interventions. While Delaware requires interventions for students who struggle with reading and provides guidance to schools on selecting intervention tools, we do not have requirements to adopt interventions grounded in the Science of Reading. And, the state does not have a vetted and approved list of evidence- based interventions for districts to adopt.
  2. Expanding the Pipeline to Scale Tutors.
    1. Leverage federal funding: The U.S. Department of Education is encouraging institutions of higher education to leverage federal work study funds to hire students as teachers and to take advantage of federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) dollars to pay tutors.
    2. Leverage educator preparation programs, starting in high school, to train tutors and ensure they can be paid.
  3. Strengthening Standards and Assessment of Teacher Candidates. Delaware has been critiqued by national organizations including Excel in Ed and the National Center for Teacher Quality because the state’s test does not adequately address all required components of the Science of Reading. About half of states have adopted a strong reading licensure test addressing all five components of the science of reading.


In addition to policy improvements, there are a number of implementation components that Excel in Ed has identified for Delaware, including strengthening requirements for parent notification, creating and monitoring individual reading plans, reinstating summer school requirements, and transparency related to curriculum.

Delaware Looks to Build on Success Strengthening its Educator Workforce

At a Glance...
– Delaware continues to launch strategies to strengthen its educator workforce, including budget increases and legislative action.
-New proposed bills aim to attract and retain educators earlier—and to support them as they pursue careers in education.
– Delaware leaders are in the midst of a concerted effort to support new and future educators.

Delaware continues to launch strategies to further strengthen its educator workforce—from increased pay recommended in the next budget cycle—to a handful of new bills introduced in Legislative Hall this session.

Like the rest of the country, Delaware has fewer teachers in its pipeline than in generations past, punctuated by declines in educator preparation enrollment and retention challenges. However, in recent years, Delaware has embarked on a concerted effort to support new and future educators. Delaware legislators have passed bills establishing “Grow Your Own” programs, yearlong teaching residencies, and Registered Apprenticeships in teaching, and now state leaders looking to do even more—with a focus on starting earlier.

HB 332 establishes standards for the state high school K-12 Teacher Academy, with the goal to connect aspiring educators with their next career steps—including higher education, work-based learning, and courses that can advance their pathway to becoming an educator in Delaware.

These experiences would all build on the three pathway courses already required and be available to students in their fourth year. At that late stage in their pathways journey, many upperclassmen students have already burned through all available coursework and work-based opportunities.

The bill directs the Department of Education to support expansion of the Teacher Academy, provide standard curriculum, and ensure coursework is articulated to higher education institutions. The goal is to build intentional connections with Grow Your Own initiatives, apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, and yearlong teacher residencies—and to support students to secure scholarships to continue their education.

HB 331 establishes a career scholarship for Teacher Academy students to fill the $2,500 gap between the current career scholarship and other funding, including registered apprenticeship funding, which can cover two years of a students’ higher education. This would be in addition to SEED and Inspire scholarships, which cover tuition at public universities for qualifying students.

The goal of both bills is to attract and retain educators earlier—and to support them as they pursue education as a career in Delaware.

Several other bills related to the educator workforce are under consideration as well, including:

  • SB 227, which would implement the recommendation of the Public Education Compensation Committee to allocate units for IT staff to Delaware districts and charters
  • SB 187, which would award credit for degrees earned prior to becoming an educator, advancing educators on the salary schedule regardless of the subject area of their degree
  • HS 2 for HB 252, which awards years on the salary schedule for educators who complete a teacher residency


These bills come during a budget cycle in which Gov. John Carney included the PECC recommendations to increase educator salaries in his proposed FY25  budget, which starts July 1. Delaware continues to advance its educator recruitment, compensation, and retention strategies—foundational pillars of any education system.

Tragic Child Care Incidents: Wake-Up Call for Delaware

At a Glance...

-A handful of incidents across the state have shone a spotlight on safety and abuse risks at child care centers.
-Child care workers in Delaware are not required to earn a license before joining the profession. They are historically underpaid and lack access to health or mental health benefits.
-Stronger workforce investments, plus policies on licensing and substitutes, are among possible solutions.

Although Delaware has some of the strongest licensing policies in terms of what types of child care are required to be licensed (almost no program is exempt) and what the requirements are for the workforce, several incidents of injury and even death of children have occurred in recent years. These include murder, smothering, physical abuse and unsafe sleep and feeding care, and falling into a septic tank.

Health and safety complaints to the Office of Child Care Licensing are up 30 percent over the last year, according to the Department of Education, which oversees Child Care Licensing. And, many Licensing Specialists positions sit vacant, so complaints cannot be investigated quickly.

Delaware is not unique in the health and safety risks to young children. As a state, we must address staffing and investment issues underlying these incidents. Infants are most likely to be harmed and are exposed to the least educated, lowest paid educators. These children are unable to speak, get away, or defend themselves.

Why is this happening?

As we’ve written in this space, Delaware and the nation can do more to support the child care workforce.

Child care has faced crisis level staffing shortages, which cause programs to:

  • Close classrooms or close their business altogether, which decreases supply for families
  • Hire any candidates who come to them without a competitive pool


The state benefits system does not include early educators. Stress and burnout from home and work can take their toll on anyone, let alone someone working with screaming infants and without access to trauma/mental health resources. Most make minimum wage and many qualify for public assistance.

There is no substitute pool for early educators, so when someone is out, administrators cover their classroom, which means there are limited administrators who can provide oversight into classrooms to ensure health and safety protocols are being followed.

Early educators are not required to earn a license before joining the profession. Each program who hires an educator must review independent background checks and verify qualifications.

What can be done?

Some work is underway, including moving to an electronic system of child care licensing and professional registry (the state has an RFP out for these services). Today in 2024, Delaware still uses paper licensing forms and records to maintain health and safety of young children. Advocates argue that accelerating this process would be extremely helpful.

State systems and program investments include:

  1. Invest in early care and education at the true cost of quality. The state does not even invest at the level to cover basic operational costs for programs following minimum state standards, such as minimum wage—let alone quality. Programs cannot pay and retain their staff with this low level of investment. Investing more would create a larger pool of educators and allow programs to be more selective.
  2. Create a substitute pool like this one in Washington that can be shared among providers.
  3. Limit which adults can be alone with children, including removing the ability to leave interns (who have only three credits and 15 hours of training) alone with children above age one.
  4. Better support licensing services and employees in Delaware, so they can monitor child care more often. A better-staffed, better-compensated state licensing department would allow for more follow-ups and more unannounced visits to centers. This would require a pay scale similar to the ones used by the Delaware Department of Education.

For early educators,

  1. Require early educators to be professionally licensed by the state, where their data is maintained centrally and their license can be revoked upon inappropriate behavior.
  2. Close loopholes in employment reporting requirements so an applicant’s employment history and records are available to future employers.
  3. Provide access to the state health care benefit system—allow child care providers to access the state system by paying an administrative fee, like fire companies can now.


Our families deserve to have safe spaces for their children so they can work, and children—who cannot speak up for themselves—deserve our protection, attention, and investment.