Harrisburg, PA – Today, #PANeedsTeachers rallied at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to help alleviate the teacher shortage crisis. The rally comes at a critical time, as two recent reports found that new teacher certifications in Pennsylvania hit an all-time low last year while teacher attrition hit an all-time high.
“Pennsylvania is amid the worst teacher shortage the commonwealth has ever seen, and all signs point toward it only getting worse,” said Laura Boyce. “And we know if we don’t address this crisis, there will be devastating effects not only for individual students but our economy and workforce.”
Speakers included Laura Boyce, the Pennsylvania Executive Director of Teach Plus; Dr. Ed Fuller, an Associate Professor in the Department of Education Policy Studies in the College of Education at Penn State and Director of the Penn State Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis (PCEEPA); Robyn Queen, a Teach Plus Fellow; Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia); Senator Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster); Representative Michael Schlossberg (D-Lehigh); Hallie Sill, a student teacher; Leon Smith, a Teach Plus Fellow and teacher; Tim Crane, a Teach Plus Fellow and Teacher; Dr. Donna-Marie Cole-Malott, the Co-Director of the Pennsylvania Educator Diversity Consortium; and Lynsay Bennet, a Philadelphia High School Student.
“Our children don’t have years to wait for us to solve this crisis,” said Robyn Queen. “They have academic and mental health needs that must be addressed before it’s too late. Our students are asking, “Why are you leaving us?” And so we, their teachers, are here today to ask our legislative leaders to make the profession attractive, viable, and sustainable enough to allow us to stay.”
The legislature has recently passed legislation out of committee in the House and introduced bills in the Senate and House that will provide student teachers with stipends, improve data collection, and implement “Grow Your Own” programs to help communities build a pipeline of teachers for their classrooms.
“We have a crisis in ensuring we have enough educators to serve the needs of our children in the Commonwealth,” said Ed Fuller. “The number of people entering teaching has declined by 67% since 2010, and last year, we had the lowest number of people become teachers in the last 15 years. We also have seen our teacher attrition rate increase from about 5% a few years ago to nearly 8% this year.”
Legislation to provide stipends for student teachers will remove a significant barrier for young people entering the teaching profession.
“During my time student teaching and observing, I have had to travel at least 35 minutes to participating schools daily,” said Hallie Sill. “With gas prices always fluctuating and college being expensive, sometimes basic needs can be unmet because of a lack of financial support and long driving times that elongate the day. With my student teaching schedule, working another job to support myself on top of student teaching isn’t feasible – it’s essentially an unpaid internship.”
Earlier this year, #PANeedsTeachers released a report on Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage, #PANeedsTeachers: Addressing Pennsylvania’s Teacher Shortage Crisis Through Systemic Solutions. Many of the bills moving in the legislature draw inspiration from the findings and recommendations in the report. #PANeedsTeachers is a project of Teach Plus and The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE).
Research shows that a strong educator workforce is a diverse and culturally competent workforce.
“Half of Pennsylvania school districts don’t even have one single teacher of color,” said Dr. Donna-Marie Cole-Malott. “If we are going to do right by all of our students, we have to be intentional about recruiting and retaining teachers of color because we know that when students can learn from someone with shared experiences and a shared background, outcomes dramatically improve.”
In addition to the rally, the #PANeedsTeachers campaign, in partnership with Teach Plus and the Pennsylvania Educator Diversity Consortium, brought nearly 100 advocates, including students and teachers, to the Capitol to meet with over 70 legislators about legislation that will address the teacher shortage crisis.
“We are calling on Governor Shapiro and House and Senate leaders to invest $100 million into our educator workforce this budget and to support our three legislative priorities: paid student teaching, growing your own funding, and plugging the data hole,” said Laura Boyce. “Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage crisis is worsening, and our future can’t wait. Help us begin to solve it today.”
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