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HARRISBURG, PA (April 25, 2023) — Legislation creating a new scholarship program for aspiring educators will remove a significant barrier to more young people pursuing careers in education, PSEA President Rich Askey said today.
His comments were made as the Pennsylvania House Education Committee voted to approve House Bill 688, which would establish the Pennsylvania Teach Scholarship Program.
“Establishing this new scholarship program will create an affordable pathway for more talented, caring people to become teachers and make a difference — while lowering their student loan debt in the process,” Askey said. “The rising cost of college is among the greatest barriers to more college students entering and remaining in education professions.”
This barrier has had a disproportionate impact on Black educators. According to a 2021 report from the National Education Association, more than half (56%) of all Black educators have taken out student loans compared to 44% of white educators. Black educators also took on significantly more debt than other racial/ethnic groups.
“Creating a scholarship program for aspiring educators is one important step we can take to attract more people to the profession and to help diversify our educator workforce,” Askey said.
At the heart of the school staffing crisis is a decline in the number of college graduates entering education professions, Askey said. Between the 2010-11 and 2021-22 school years, the number of Instructional I certificates issued in Pennsylvania declined by 73%, while the number of emergency permits rose by more than 200%.
Askey credited the House Education Committee for approving House Bill 688 on the heels of yesterday’s approval of House Bill 141, which would establish a statewide “Grow Your Own” program to help paraprofessionals and other school support staff go back to college to earn their teaching credentials.
“Addressing Pennsylvania’s school staff shortage crisis is a top priority for PSEA, and we are very pleased that the House Education Committee understands the urgency of the situation,” Askey said. “We’re committed to working with legislators to find long-term solutions to this problem.”
An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 177,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.