By Marley Parish
After announcing plans to draft a proposed student teacher stipend program in Pennsylvania, two state senators have officially attached a number to incentivize students into entering the profession by alleviating some financial burden for aspiring educators.
Sens. Ryan Aument, a Republican from Lancaster County, and Vincent Hughes, a Democrat from Philadelphia, officially unveiled language for their bill that proposes rewarding aspiring teachers at a Pennsylvania college or university and completing the student-teaching graduation requirement, amounting to $10,000 for those enrolled in a teacher preparation program and an additional $5,000 for those completing the student teacher experience requirement at a school that doesn’t traditionally have student teachers or where staffing shortages are high.
“It’s way past time Pennsylvania starts walking the talk when it comes to supporting and cultivating future teachers. Our current system puts a financial burden on prospective teachers, and in turn, we’re seeing many individuals who would be great educators turn to other professions,” Hughes said. “We need to act now to reduce this financial burden for future teachers to improve the quality and diversity of our teacher pipeline.”
Their bill, dubbed the Educator Pipeline Program, also includes a $1,000 stipend for cooperating teachers who mentor student-teachers.
The lawmakers drafted the legislation in response to the worsening educator staffing shortage, which has created increased workloads for existing teachers who sacrifice their preparation periods and lunch breaks to cover for their colleagues – often in spaces consolidated to accommodate limited resources and larger class sizes.
“If we do nothing to get more teachers into Pennsylvania schools, our children will suffer consequences like overcrowded classrooms, impersonal instruction, and fewer course options,” Aument said. “Teachers will have less time to help our most vulnerable children, resulting in more students being left behind. We need to make it easier for skilled college graduates to pursue a career in teaching.”
The program would operate within the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, similar to the framework used for the School-based Mental Health Internship Program, which passed with the 2022-23 budget.
Aument and Hughes previously said their suggested stipend would build on existing efforts to increase education workforce participation, citing the new Career and Technical Education track for education fields and authorization for the Department of Education to collect data on the educator pipeline.
On Monday, the state Senate Education Committee held a hearing on ways to address the school worker shortage, with Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators Executive Director Sherri Smith saying a stipend for student teachers is one way to remove possible barriers that deter students from pursuing a career in education.
“Individuals often have to quit their part-time or full-time jobs to be able to complete their student-teaching obligations. This becomes a barrier for some as it is just not feasible for them to give up their paycheck to complete their student-teaching obligations,” Smith said. “That’s why looking for a way to provide stipends to our student-teachers is a critical step to fixing our current impaired educator workforce pipeline.”
Marley Parish is a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story originally appeared.
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