Professionals who dedicate their lives to public education should not have to scrape by to make ends meet.
That is why PSEA exists. At the bargaining table, local leaders negotiate the salaries, benefits, and job protections that our members deserve.
It is also why we are hitting the halls of the Pennsylvania Capitol to advocate for long-overdue increases in the state’s minimum educator and faculty salaries and minimum wage.
PSEA’s House of Delegates voted unanimously in December to make these policy objectives top priorities for the Association. It is all part of the RESPECT initiative — Raise Educators’ Salaries Provide Economic Certainty Today.
What does that mean for PSEA members in real life?
Let me tell you about Dottie Schaffer. Dottie is an elementary academic and behavioral intervention specialist and a PSEA member. She is also a server at a popular Harrisburg restaurant after school and on the weekends.
She has to hold down two jobs just to make ends meet for her family. As she told the Harrisburg Patriot-News, “I’m tired. But I’m not allowed to be tired. You can’t be tired.”
Dottie is not alone. She is one of thousands of educators statewide who struggle to support their families, pay student loans, and pursue post-graduate college credits to maintain their teacher certifications.
Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers from both parties want to change that. They support legislation to increase the state’s minimum teacher salary of $18,500 per year to $45,000.
That would give Dottie and more than 3,000 other Pennsylvania educators a salary boost and help school districts to attract and retain high-quality professionals.
The governor has also proposed to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania from $7.25 an hour to $12 this year and $15 by 2025 — a move that would give thousands of education support professionals bigger paychecks.
PSEA’s Education Support Professional of the Year Denise Kennedy is an advocate for this policy.
“Gov. Wolf’s increase in the minimum wage is recognition that Pennsylvanians who work hard at full-time jobs should be able to afford to support themselves and their families,” she said recently.
Thank goodness for PSEA members like Dottie and Denise — and others who have stepped up to make their voices heard.
When PSEA members speak out, lawmakers and the public listen. That has certainly been the case with the RESPECT initiative.
A poll conducted by Harper Polling shows 66 percent of likely Pennsylvania voters favor raising the minimum teacher salary. A separate poll from Franklin and Marshall College shows 69 percent support raising the minimum wage.
Of course, polls aren’t enough to move lawmakers. They need to hear from their constituents. They need to hear your stories.
When people like Dottie or Denise talk about what it’s like to make ends meet on salaries that just aren’t enough, that carries weight.
You are influencers — and you can use that power to make a difference for your professions, your colleagues, and your students.
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