Just a year ago, a public opinion poll confirmed what most of us already know: People in our communities respect what educators do.
In fact, the poll – conducted by Terry Madonna Opinion Research – showed that 71 percent of Pennsylvanians have a positive impression of educators.
That’s something PSEA members can be proud of. But, with the educator shortage in our state worsening every year, public education faces a growing crisis. (See story on Page 6.)
Not enough educators in the classroom. Far fewer teaching assistants, school nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers than our students need. Too few people of color entering the profession. Staggering college debt loads. The lowest minimum wage of any of our neighboring states. A minimum educator salary that hasn’t increased since 1988.
PSEA is working to meet these challenges head-on. The Association plans to call attention to these issues at every opportunity and encourage lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf to work with us to find solutions.
“PSEA members have earned the respect of people in our communities because of our hard work, our talent, and our love for what we do,” said PSEA President Rich Askey. “But respect can’t just be a feeling of goodwill. We need action. And that’s why we’re so focused on solving these problems.”
That’s what PSEA’s RESPECT initiative is all about.
First approved by the PSEA House of Delegates in December 2018, RESPECT initially focused on increasing Pennsylvania’s minimum educator and faculty salaries and the state minimum wage. But, after PSEA members identified other key challenges in the education profession, it was expanded to include four additional initiatives at the December 2019 House of Delegates.
“No one knows the challenges in public education better than PSEA members,” Askey said. “We listened to what members had to say. And we found that getting more teaching assistants, school counselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers into our schools, addressing student loan debt, and attracting more people of color to the profession are top priority issues.”
The plan is to make sure that Pennsylvanians are aware of these challenges and then to collaborate with policymakers to solve them.
“This is going to be a conversation,” Askey said. “We need to let people know that these are real problems, and then we’re going to invite our elected officials to partner with us to find solutions. We’re eager to hear their ideas, and we’re open to whatever works to get this done.”
Askey noted that PSEA will encourage members to talk about how these issues impact them and their students so that the Association can share them across the state.
“We have tremendous public schools in Pennsylvania, and that’s because of how talented PSEA members are,” Askey said. “But we can make our schools even stronger and even better for our students. That’s what this is all about.”
More information on the RESPECT initiatives can be found: