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PSEA Call to Action: More Funding To Solve School Staffing Crisis

by Danielle Smith, Keystone State News Connection

Mar 22, 2023

The shortage of school teachers and staffers has reached a crisis level in some public schools. An education advocacy group is making recommendations to fix that. Pennsylvania serves more than 1.7 million students in grades K through 12.

Rich Askey, Pennsylvania State Education Association president, said they plan to unveil a state legislative package that focuses on several key priorities to solve the school staffing crisis, including a boost in teacher salaries. Right now, some teachers average about $27,000 a year to start, and the plan calls for money to attract more candidates.

“First to set the annual minimum salaries for educators, school counselors, nurses, and other educational professionals at $60,000,” Askey said. “And also, we want to look at a minimum wage for custodians, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, and other support staff at $20 per hour. ”

Askey added there has been a dramatic decline in the number of college graduates entering the teaching profession. Pennsylvania issued more than 12,000 fewer first-year teaching certificates in the 2020-21 school year than it did in 2012-13, a drop of 66%.

Askey said in addition to affecting teachers and staff, the shortage has created challenges in the classroom, resulting in some kids having learning problems.

“I know of educators that are teaching two classes at the same time and on one side of the room, they might be teaching life science on the other side of the room, they might be teaching earth science, and that doesn’t let our kids have the individual attention that is so needed, ” Askey said.

Askey added the legislative plan would be taking a sustained multi-year commitment to be phased in over five years. It also includes paying college students in teacher preparation programs while they are student teaching, creating a scholarship program, and investing in the “Grow Your Own” program to help paraprofessionals and school support staff go back to college and earn their teaching degrees.

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