#RedForEd: PSEA members advocate for key policy initiatives at state Capitol

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#RedForEd: PSEA members advocate for key policy initiatives at state Capitol

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

HARRISBURG (June 18, 2019) – More than 70 members of the Pennsylvania State Education Association joined a press conference in the state Capitol today to advocate for key public education initiatives.

The teachers and support professionals wore red in support of the national #RedForEd Movement and encouraged lawmakers to approve legislation to increase school funding, enhance school safety, increase the state minimum teacher salary and minimum wage, and improve student-to-professional ratios for school counselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers.

“The #RedForEd Movement began last year in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and several other states where educators, students, and communities took a stand for strong public schools,” said PSEA President Rich Askey. “We stand with our colleagues in those states and their students as we raise our voices today to protect public schools and to support every student in this great commonwealth. That’s why we’re wearing our ‘Red for Ed.’”

In addition to Askey, three other PSEA members spoke during the press conference.

Bridget Seery, a fifth-grade learning support teacher at Highlands Middle School in Allegheny County, spoke about the importance of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to increase the state’s minimum educator salary from $18,500 to $45,000 a year.

“Educators do not enter the profession expecting to get rich. They do it because they love teaching and they believe in their students,” Seery said. “Yet, the sad truth is that many teachers, especially new ones, aren’t earning enough to make ends meet and are finding it harder and harder to support their families.  By providing state funding to raise the minimum teacher salary, we can ensure every school district has the resources to attract and retain the best and brightest to teach our students.”

David Lillenstein, a school psychologist in the Derry Township School District and president of the Association of School Psychologists of Pennsylvania, spoke about the need to increase staffing levels for school counselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers.

“Increased staffing of school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers, and school nurses will increase opportunities for supervision, monitoring, and connectedness with students and their families,” Lillenstein said. “In addition, increased mental health staffing will allow for threat assessments and interventions to address student wellness and safety.”

Ed Fell, an elementary education teacher from the Central Bucks School District, emphasized the need to keep schools safe and support students who have experienced trauma.

“By establishing threat assessment teams, we can expand and enhance the highly successful Safe2Say Something program,” Fell said. “And in the process, we can make sure kids who need help get help.

“Just as important, it’s critical to support students who experience traumatic events that can shape their lives forever. With the right supports, students can heal from these experiences and thrive. Educators need guidance, supports, and training for implementing trauma-informed approaches in their classroom to help these kids.”

All of these initiatives have the strong support of PSEA members because they reflect actual needs in Pennsylvania’s schools and classrooms.

“Pennsylvanians truly value their schools and the educators who are preparing their sons and daughters for a bright future,” Askey said. “And they want to see their schools stay on the right track. To do that, we must invest in education as a commonwealth.”

An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 181,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.