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HARRISBURG (Feb. 5, 2019) – PSEA President Rich Askey today commended Gov. Tom Wolf for continuing to make public education funding a top priority in his annual budget address to the General Assembly.
Wolf’s budget proposal includes more than $350 million in school funding increases and a separate plan to increase the state’s minimum teacher salary to $45,000 a year. The minimum teacher salary is set by state law at $18,500 and hasn’t changed since 1989.
“As an organization that represents educators, we are deeply committed to the success of each and every student,” Askey said. “In the last few years, Pennsylvania has moved in the right direction, investing in the classroom resources our students need for a world-class education.
“But to have great schools, we need to attract great teachers, and it is time to increase teacher salaries. Over the past 30 years, the teaching profession has gotten much more challenging, the student debt burden has exploded, and we’re facing a significant teacher shortage.
“We shouldn’t have experienced teachers who earn less than other professionals with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and we shouldn’t have highly educated, dedicated people who teach our kids strapped with student loan debt and struggle to make ends meet.
“This proposal will have a positive impact on Pennsylvania’s students, particularly in lower income rural and urban communities. We’re eager to work with Gov. Wolf and lawmakers to get this done.”
Approximately 5,000 Pennsylvania teachers earn less than $45,000 a year. Tori Koerbler, a teacher in the Panther Valley School District in Carbon County and a mother of three, is one of them.
Koerbler said she loves her job, her students, and her school district, but it is difficult to pay her mortgage, car, and student loan payments on her salary. She has taken on a weekend job in retail to help make ends meet.
“Teachers like me want to be in our classrooms teaching the next generation, but it’s so difficult to support our families on salaries that trail behind what other professionals earn,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to work a second job that limits the time I can spend with my children.
“Gov. Wolf believes that teachers like me deserve better. He wants us to be able to pour our hearts and souls into educating our students, not worry about how we’re going to pay an electric bill or stay afloat in an emergency.”
Askey also applauded Gov. Wolf for continuing to make public school funding his top priority, noting that the funding increases he proposed in basic education, special education, school safety programs, and career and technical education will make a difference for Pennsylvania’s students.
“Gov. Wolf knows how important it is to fund our public schools, invest in programs that work, and make sure that every student has access to a great public education,” Askey said.
“The budget the governor has proposed puts public education where it belongs: at the very top of our state’s priorities. We’re eager to support the governor’s plan.”
Askey is a music teacher in the Harrisburg School District and president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 181,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.