Rebuilding PA’s Teacher Pipeline: A Bipartisan Victory

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If you have children in school or you work in education, you’ve seen the teacher-shortage crisis firsthand over the last few years. 

School districts across Pennsylvania are grappling with the problem. Maybe your children’s teacher has to do double duty in different classrooms. Maybe you’ve seen a family member in the teaching profession return home from work burnt-out and frustrated. 

Statistics paint a stark picture. Recent analyses show that teacher certifications have plummeted by 70% over the past decade – from over 17,000 per year to just over 5,000 per year in 2022. Another recent report found that teacher attrition reached a record high of 7.7% in 2023. A recent poll by PA Schools Work found that 64% of Pennsylvanians believe that the state faces a teacher shortage.

As part of the PA Needs Teachers coalition, we’re proud that our legislators and the governor have taken substantive steps to address this problem. In a year where there seemed to be disagreement on almost every other issue, we saw agreement on solutions to rebuild the teacher pipeline in Pennsylvania.   

We commend the Pennsylvania legislature for its recent passage of two pivotal bills – HB 301 and SB 843. These bills allocate $10 million for student-teacher stipends and introduce essential measures for enhanced data collection on teacher vacancies in school districts. 

Student-teachers have long grappled with the challenge of working in unpaid positions, an arrangement that hinders the entry of passionate individuals into the teaching profession. Many promising candidates simply cannot afford to take unpaid work over an extended period. They have tuition to pay, along with housing bills, food, and transportation costs, like anyone else.  

We can’t ask these young people to take unpaid positions to earn their way into this vital profession when most other fields provide paid and lucrative career pathways.  

Thankfully, our legislators agreed. The passage of funding for student-teacher stipends represents a bipartisan commitment to addressing the issue head-on.  

Providing stipends for student teachers will help get high-quality teachers into our classrooms and begin to rebuild the teacher pipeline. Student-teacher stipends will make the profession more attractive and enable young instructors to get experience in the classroom and start their careers. 

It’s not a silver bullet, and we still need to address the attrition problem among mid-career professionals. That’s why we’re also encouraged that the legislature passed a bill to collect data on teacher vacancies.  

Teacher attrition has risen dramatically, but this legislation will help us learn more about where the vacancies are happening and help us understand why.

We still have a lot of work to do.  

We hoped to pass legislation that would provide scholarships for students training to be teachers. We know that even with student-teacher stipends, we must improve the value proposition of becoming a teacher. 

We also have to build stronger and more collaborative career ladders in the education system while creating a safe and nurturing environment for our teachers – and our students.  

It’s encouraging that the legislature and the governor prioritized rebuilding the teacher pipeline this year, and we’re hopeful that this momentum will continue.  

Many issues demand the legislature’s attention, but our collapsing teacher pipeline exposes many vulnerabilities for our workforce and economy. Without high-quality teachers, we cannot expect our students to learn and perform at the highest level. 

If our students aren’t getting the education they deserve, then our workforce and, ultimately, our commonwealth’s economy is going to suffer greatly. 

Pennsylvania needs to be a leader in rebuilding the teacher pipeline.  

Thankfully, we’ve seen that this crisis transcends political lines, as legislators from both parties recognized the urgency of the issue. The recent bills are more than just legislative measures – they represent a concrete commitment to Pennsylvania’s future.  

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