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PSEA's Legislative Priorities

To get more educators and support professionals into public education, we need to look at the barriers that are standing in the way of attracting qualified, caring people into jobs as teachers, school nurses, school counselors, paraprofessionals, and bus drivers.

Just as important, we cannot forget the nearly 40,000 retired educators and support professionals who haven’t received a cost-of-living adjustment to their pensions for 20 years.

PSEA has made solving these problems a top priority and has ideas about how to do it.

SUCCESS! PA House of Representatives passes top PSEA legislative priorities

During the week of May 1, the state House of Representatives passed three bills that are among PSEA’s top legislative priorities. They now go to the state Senate. 

  • House Bill 141 – “Grow Your Own”
    Approved May 1, this bill will create a program to help paraprofessionals and other school support staff go back to college to earn their teaching credentials.

  • House Bill 688 – scholarship program for aspiring educators
    Approved May 2, this bill will establish the Pennsylvania Teach Scholarship Program, which will create an affordable pathway for talented, caring people to become teachers while lowering their student loan debt in the process.

  • House Bill 299 – extends Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements to public sector employees
    Approved by the House on May 3, this bill will extend OSHA protections to school and other public sector employees, ensuring that state and local government entities receive the same occupational health and safety protections as their counterparts in the private sector so that Pennsylvania’s students and school staff members can teach and learn in healthy environments. Currently, public sector workers in Pennsylvania are not covered by federal guidelines for on-the-job safety.

    Read more about these three bills in the Press Release

PSEA’s legislative priorities are your priorities. And the House approved them because you advocated for them. PSEA members sent more than 2,000 emails to lawmakers over the weekend urging them to support these bills. That strong response went a long way.

Your hard work yields real results in Harrisburg. These are just two more examples of that.

A closer look at PSEA's legislative priorities

Increase minimum educator salaries to $60,000 and increase minimum wages for education support professionals to $20 an hour

With a 66 percent drop in Pennsylvania teaching certificates issued over the past 10 years, the educator shortage has reached crisis levels, forcing current teachers to sacrifice precious planning periods and lunch breaks to cover classes for absent colleagues.

Just as important, hourly wages for thousands of support professionals haven’t kept pace with other jobs that pay more. Caring, talented paraprofessionals, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers shouldn’t be lured away from public education because jobs at Costco and Walmart pay more.

That’s why PSEA has made it a priority to pass legislation setting minimum educator salaries at $60,000 and minimum wages for education support professionals at $20 an hour. Passing this bill would increase pay for 15,930 educators and 34,167 education support professionals.

Jonathan Burnett, High school chemistry teacher in the Aliquippa School District

“Increasing the teacher salary to $60,000 would be a huge benefit for us to be able to retain the teachers that we have, let alone attract new people into the profession.

When we have teachers retire, we have a hard time finding another teacher to come in and replace them, in part because the salary that we can afford is not enough for them to pay their bills.”

Kimberly Jones, ESP president in the Reading School District

Getting $20 per hour or more would be a huge boost for my members. We are comprised of a lot of single parents who would be able to breathe that they can put more food on their tables. A lot of our members also have second and third jobs. Maybe with this legislation they would be able to quit that third job.

66% drop

Between 2012-13 and 2021-22, the number of newly certified teachers in Pennsylvania dropped by 66 percent. That means there were 12,000 fewer newly certified teachers last year than there were nine years ago.

Setting a $60,000 minimum salary for educators will impact 15,390 PSEA members

PSEA’s plan is to increase the statewide minimum salary for educators to $60,000 by the 2027-28 school year. That means that salaries for 15,390 teachers, school counselors, nurses, and other professionals will increase to $60,000.

Setting a $20 per hour minimum wage will

impact 34,167 PSEA ESP members

PSEA’s plan is to set the minimum wage for education support professionals at $20 per hour. That means increasing pay for 34,167 paraprofessionals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and custodians across Pennsylvania.

Talented education support professionals are leaving public education

More and more, talented, committed paraprofessionals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and custodians are leaving jobs in public education because they can make more money, with better schedules at Amazon, Target, or Costco.

Starting Salary - Interactive Map (click to open)

PSEA has made steady progress to increase starting salaries at the bargaining table. Setting a statewide $60,000 minimum salary, paid for with state funds over five years, would increase 15,390 members’ salaries to $60,000 and free up local resources to increase salaries for members who are higher on their salary schedules.

Invest in a statewide scholarship program for aspiring educators

The rising cost of a college education is making it harder for young people to pursue degrees. With a dramatic drop in the number of college students entering teacher preparation programs in Pennsylvania, the impact on students who would make great teachers is even more problematic.

Students are deciding to pursue other degrees, thinking that they will earn more in careers other than teaching and have an easier time paying off their student loans.

That’s why PSEA is making it a priority to create a statewide scholarship program for aspiring educators to help them pay for college and remove key financial barriers to getting an education degree and entering the teaching profession.

Samantha Miller, Student PSEA Southeastern Region President, West Chester University

"Adding a scholarship for Pennsylvania's future educators will help add access for a lot of people who are turned away from education because of the financial costs and burden that it is to become a teacher, and how expensive college is today." 

Pay student teachers for the work they do

Right now, student teaching programs in Pennsylvania are unpaid, leaving aspiring educators struggling to pay for necessities while completing their 12 weeks of student teaching. This long-standing practice is a stark contrast with college internships in other fields, which typically pay students for their work.

That’s why Student PSEA members proposed a new business item at the December 2022 House of Delegates to study how to pay student teachers. Delegates approved the new business item, making it a priority for PSEA.

Because this is so important for Student PSEA members, PSEA is pushing for legislation that will make sure that student teachers get paid for what they do, removing another barrier that makes the education profession less attractive to college students.

 Jordan Miller, Student PSEA President, Mansfield University

“Student teaching is an unpaid full-time job, but we have bills to pay. We’re often left with taking more time away from our education to earn money from an additional job or paid internship. A stipend eliminates the financial burden student teachers know too well.”

 

Invest in “Grow Your Own” programs that help paraprofessionals and other school support staff go back to college to earn their teaching credentials

Across Pennsylvania, there are many education support professionals who want to become teachers, but who can’t envision overcoming the economic and family-related hurdles to do it.

To help talented people who are already working in our schools get their teaching degrees, we should create new pathways to the profession and open the door to great teachers who might otherwise never make their way to a classroom.

“Grow Your Own” programs offer incentives to support professionals and make it easier for them to complete teacher preparation programs. After they finish their college education, they return to the schools where they began their careers and continue them as teachers.

Creating these “Grow Your Own” programs is a PSEA priority, and we are working with lawmakers to pass a law to make this idea a reality.

Jermaine Bailey, Paraprofessional in the School District of the City of York

“I'm currently taking advantage of the ‘Grow Your Own’ process with the School District of the City of York to become a certified teacher. There are eight of us paraprofessionals that are moving toward the teacher journey. I will be one of the first to actually finish the process and begin as a teacher in August, and there should be seven following within the next year or two. So, I believe that's a great way of promoting within and growing, not only in your district, but the education field as a whole.”

Get more school counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals into our schools

There is no doubt that the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted students. Now more than ever before, students are struggling with anxiety and depression. And they need help to cope.

At the same time, public schools don’t have enough school counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals to meet our students’ needs.

PSEA has made it a priority to find ways to pay these important professionals and attract more of them to public education so that our students get the services and supports they need.

Afia Lewis, Elementary math teacher in the William Penn School District

“We just experienced a pandemic. And after this pandemic, our children are in a space of need. Their families are in a space of need. And bringing in more mental health professionals to help support what teachers can do for our community is so important.”

Pass COLA legislation for pre-Act 9 retirees

Right now, there are nearly 40,000 retired educators and support professionals who haven’t seen a COLA in 20 years. These dedicated people spent their careers in Pennsylvania’s schools and classrooms. On average, they are 84 years old, and their pensions are less than $20,000.

Just as important, they retired before Act 9 was passed in 2001, legislation that increased the pension multiplier for active members. As a result, the 40,000 retirees in this class have smaller pensions.

Because they haven’t had a COLA since 2002, their real buying power has declined by 40 percent.

This is why passing legislation to authorize a COLA for pre-Act 9 retirees is so important, and that’s why PSEA has made it a top priority.

Patsy Tallarico, PSEA-Retired President

“So many retirees really, really need a COLA. Every year that they don’t get one, their lives get harder, and their money doesn’t go as far. I’m very glad that PSEA recognizes how important this is. PSEA-Retired members are going to work as hard as we possibly can to help get this done.”

 

 

Trina Smith, PSEA-Retired

“So many of our retired teachers retired 20, 30 years ago and have not had a cost-of-living increase in their pension. Some of them are living on $9,000 a year. When I started in '78, my salary was $9,000, which means that theirs was probably $15,000. So they're getting a pension based on $15,000, and Social Security based on $15,000. So they are living on very, very little, and they really need help in the situation with the cost-of-living.

It's crucial that our legislators give our pre-Act 9 retired educators a cost of living increase.”

Advocate for adequate and equitable state funding

In the wake of the landmark Commonwealth Court decision that declared Pennsylvania’s school funding system unconstitutional, Gov. Shapiro and state legislators will now confront the challenge of recreating this system to make sure that every student has the resources and the opportunity to access a quality education.

This will take time, effort, and input from PSEA members.

In the FY 2023-24 state budget and beyond, PSEA will play an active role in all of these funding issues to make sure that every student has access to the power of a great education.

Legislative priorities in the news

Philly Inquirer: Pa. issued the lowest number ever of new teaching certificates as educator shortage worsens

Newcastle News: Op-ed | Solving Pa.'s school staffing crisis

Allentown Morning Call: Op-ed | Solve the school staff shortage — start teachers at $60,000; bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians should get $20 per hour

Daily Local News: PSEA head calls on legislators to address teacher shortage crisis