Pa. House passes legislation to address crisis-level school staff shortages and extend OSHA protections to educators and other public sector employees

My PSEA Login



Pa. House passes legislation to address crisis-level school staff shortages and extend OSHA protections to educators and other public sector employees

For further information contact:
Chris Lilienthal (717) 255-7134
David Broderic (717) 255-7169

HARRISBURG, PA (May 3, 2022) — The state House of Representatives approved bills this week that will help address school staff shortages and extend Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) protections to school staff and other public sector employees in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 688, sponsored by Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, creates a new scholarship program for aspiring educators, while House Bill 141, sponsored by Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, creates a “Grow Your Own” teacher program to help paraprofessionals and other school support staff earn their teaching credentials.

House Bill 299, sponsored by Rep. Patrick Harkins, D-Erie, extends OSHA protections to school and other public sector employees, ensuring that state and local government entities receive the same occupational health and safety protections as their counterparts in the private sector. Currently, public sector workers in Pennsylvania are not covered by federal guidelines for on-the-job safety. All three bills now head to the state Senate for consideration.

PSEA President Rich Askey said House Bill 688 and House Bill 141 will help address serious school staff shortages in Pennsylvania by making the pursuit of careers in education more affordable.

“A new scholarship program for aspiring educators will create an affordable pathway for more talented people to become teachers and make a difference,” Askey said. “Establishing a statewide ‘Grow Your Own’ teacher program will also open the door to great teachers who might otherwise never make their way to a classroom.”

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%.

The rising cost of college is among the greatest barriers to more young people entering and remaining in education professions, Askey noted. 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 and a ‘Grow Your Own’ teacher program are two very important steps we can take to attract more people to the profession and to help diversify our educator workforce,” Askey said.

“We need to find new ways to grow the education profession and meet the school staff shortage crisis we’re facing head on. PSEA has made this a top priority, and we are very pleased that the House of Representatives is doing the same. We’re committed to working with the Pennsylvania Senate to see that these bills make their way to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk.”

Askey also emphasized that improving working conditions in public schools is key to attracting caring, qualified adults to public education. Extending OSHA protections to public sector employees will help to ensure that Pennsylvania’s students and school staff members can teach and learn in healthy environments.

“School employees’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions,” Askey said. “Reducing health hazards in school by making certain that school facilities are safe and that everyone in them has access to clean air, proper ventilation, appropriate climate control, and clean water is essential to offering every student the power of a great education.”

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.