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HARRISBURG, PA (March 26, 2019) – State lawmakers from both parties joined Pennsylvania educators today to voice support for raising the minimum educator salary in Pennsylvania.
Gov. Tom Wolf proposed raising the minimum educator salary to $45,000 per year, beginning in the 2019-20 school year. The current minimum salary of $18,500 per year was set more than 30 years ago in 1988.
State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) is sponsoring the bill to raise the teacher salary in the Senate, and state Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) is sponsoring similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
“This legislation has the potential to uplift students across the commonwealth by ensuring their teachers and education professionals are fairly compensated,” Sen. Schwank said. “Research has shown that student achievement improves when teacher turnover is reduced. This funding would also help cash-strapped school districts without placing the financial burden on homeowners because it will not affect property taxes.”
Rep. Toohil said this proposal recognizes the changing role of educators over the past three decades.
“Teachers are expected to do more, be more, and fix more issues than ever before,” she said. “There are less individuals who are willing to commit to a profession where you have to face so many tough challenges on a daily basis.
“The education professionals helped by this bill are currently not earning enough to raise a small family and pay their college debt. We are asking teachers to juggle responsibilities in their professional roles, and yet many struggle in order to support their own families. Given the absolutely crucial role teachers play in the lives of students, they should not have to scrape by to make ends meet.”
“We face an alarming teacher shortage in Pennsylvania, and low wages are a major contributing factor,” said Rep. Kyle Mullins (D-Lackawanna), who joined lawmakers and educators in support of raising the minimum teacher salary. “If we don’t attract and retain quality educators, we are jeopardizing critical and foundational experiences for our school children. We can’t risk that, and we can’t wait any longer to take action. The state must take action.”
About 3,100 educators would get a raise in 216 school districts, intermediate units, and career and technical centers. The state would provide $13.8 million in additional basic education funding to fully cover salary increases as well as associated pension, Social Security, and Medicare costs.
Educators from across Pennsylvania came to Harrisburg today to meet with lawmakers and advocate for the proposal.
Bridgette May is a certified school nurse from the Erie City School District, a position she has held for the past five years. She said that it has been difficult providing for her family while paying college tuition and student loan costs on a salary less than $45,000 per year.
“When I took the job in Erie City schools, I had to complete additional coursework to become a certified school nurse,” she said. “That required me to take on more student loans, ask sacrifices from my kids, and seek help from my family. Over the years, I have had to pick up extra hours working as a nurse at a local hospital. Even then, it’s been difficult to pay my bills and raise my family.”
Stacie Baur, a fifth-grade math teacher with the Clairton City School District, has nearly 10 years of experience in public education and still earns less than $45,000 annually. She wakes up at 3:30 a.m. on weekday mornings to teach an online English as a Second Language course to supplement her income, before heading off to her regular school day. She also works part time on weekends.
“I am not alone,” she said. “There are hundreds of other teachers like me, serving in struggling school districts and barely scraping by. We struggle with tuition costs, student loans, and day-to-day expenses. I’m so happy that Rep. Toohil, Sen. Schwank, Gov. Wolf, and other policymakers have heard our stories and want to do something about it.”
Pennsylvanians widely support raising the minimum teacher salary, said PSEA President Rich Askey. A poll conducted by Harper Polling for PSEA shows 66 percent of likely Pennsylvania voters favor raising the minimum teacher salary and nearly 50 percent “strongly favor” it.
“Educators make a tremendous difference in the lives of their students and are key to their success at school,” Askey said. “Right now, thousands of hardworking educators are struggling to pay student loans and support their families. They take on second and third jobs just to make ends meet. Paying these educators fairly will help ease their financial struggles, allowing them to focus on their students. And it will empower struggling urban and rural school districts to attract and retain the best and brightest to teach our students.”
Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and the president of PSEA. 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.