PSEA president commends Gov. Wolf for his commitment to public education

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PSEA president commends Gov. Wolf for his commitment to public education

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Chris Lilienthal (717) 255-7134
David Broderic (717) 255-7169

HARRISBURG, PA (Feb. 4, 2020) – Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, issued a statement today on Gov. Tom Wolf’s FY 2020-21 budget proposal.

Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget makes investments in public education, takes a significant step in the right direction on charter reform, addresses health and safety issues in public school buildings, allocates funding for a new college scholarship program, and proposes a long overdue raise in the minimum educator salary.

“Gov. Wolf’s budget plan continues to make public education a top priority,” Askey said. “There is nothing more important than investing in public schools and the students who learn there. Gov. Wolf has been a leader on these issues, and PSEA looks forward to partnering with him and lawmakers to ensure our students are successful.”

Charter reform proposal a significant step in the right direction

Askey noted that the governor’s charter school reform proposal, which he summarized during today’s budget address, is a significant step in the right direction, and is an issue that PSEA looks forward to discussing further.

“Gov. Wolf’s charter school reform plan is a significant step toward the kinds of reforms that PSEA has been encouraging for years,” Askey said. “It’s long past time that we fund charter and cyber charter schools in a way that is fair, transparent, and accountable. We are looking forward to partnering with the governor and legislators to make sure that happens.”

PSEA supports Gov. Wolf’s plan to remove asbestos, lead, and mold from public schools

Askey said that Wolf’s proposal to invest in the removal of asbestos, lead, and mold from public schools and other facilities is important to keeping Pennsylvania’s students safe and healthy.

“PSEA believes that every student and every educator should be able to learn and work in a safe and healthy environment,” Askey said. “We applaud Gov. Wolf for his leadership on this issue and for committing to remove asbestos, lead, and mold from Pennsylvania’s public schools.”

PSEA supports Gov. Wolf’s plan to address student loan debt

Gov. Wolf’s proposal to create the Nellie Bly Scholarship for students attending Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education schools addresses one of PSEA’s top policy priorities — reducing student loan debt. It is part of our strategy to tackle Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage.

College graduates in Pennsylvania have the second highest average student loan debt in the nation, averaging $37,061 for members of the graduating class of 2018, according to the Project on Student Debt.

“Staggering levels of debt present a real barrier to attracting talented young graduates to the education profession,” Askey said. “Helping young educators reduce their heavy student loan debt will encourage more talented and diverse people to enter the education profession.”

PSEA supports proposal that will raise educator pay

Gov. Wolf is again proposing to raise the minimum educator salary from $18,500 to $45,000 per year — another major priority for PSEA.

“Educators play a crucial role in their students’ lives and shouldn’t have to scrape by to make ends meet,” Askey said. “Right now, thousands of hardworking educators are taking on second and third jobs and still don’t earn enough to raise a small family. Raising the minimum educator salary will help those educators and encourage even more talented young people to enter this profession and stick with it.”

PSEA will advocate for other top policy priorities in 2020

In addition to addressing student loan debt and raising educator pay, PSEA is focusing its work in 2020 on attracting more people of color to teaching and ensuring that all students have access to caring teaching assistants, nurses, counselors, school psychologists, and social workers.

“Students benefit from having talented professionals at school who know them and their communities well,” Askey added. “We want to work collaboratively with policymakers from both parties to ensure the next generation of Pennsylvanians are successful.”

Key facts related to PSEA’s policy priorities include:

  • People of color in the profession. Only 4 percent of Pennsylvania’s educators are people of color, even though 29 percent of students are, according to Research for Action. It is one of the lowest rates in the country.
  • Teaching assistants. Teaching assistants are incredibly important members of the classroom team. Studies have found that employing additional teaching assistants is associated with higher student achievement in math and reading.
  • School nurses, counselors, school psychologists, and social workers. At a time when school safety and student wellness are major priorities, Pennsylvania schools need more school nurses, counselors, school psychologists, and social workers. 
  • Educator shortage. The number of college students completing Pennsylvania teacher prep programs has dropped by 32 percent between 2013-14 and 2017-18, while the number of Level 1 Instructional Certificates issued in Pennsylvania has dropped by 74 percent between 2012-13 and 2018-19.

Learn more about PSEA’s 2020 policy priorities at

Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and the president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 180,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.