(WHTM) — Education is getting more money in this year’s budget.
Governor Josh Shapiro wants a billion dollars more and House Democrats passed a budget that would give an additional billion on top of that. Whatever the final budget looks like, there is broad consensus that Pennsylvania needs more teachers. A lot of them.
Teaching has always been considered a noble profession, and 7th-grade teacher Holly Meade thinks she knows why.
“There’s nothing better than seeing that light bulb go on, that light bulb moment from a child. And that’s probably one of the best gifts you can give and receive,” Meade said.
But fewer people are signing up to give that gift.
It’s simple arithmetic. In 2012 Pennsylvania awarded more than 16,000 teaching certificates. Last year, the state issued just over 4,000, a 75 percent drop.
Those shocking numbers hit the classroom next to Meade’s.
“We didn’t have a teacher for a while, six months. So so those kids had daily substitutes or other teachers covering,” Meade said.
The rally for more teachers is sounding the alarm — not that there’s an iceberg ahead, but that the ship may have already hit it.
“We’ve already got a number of different holes in the Titanic because we’ve got the few teachers going in and we’ve got a lot of teachers leaving. And so we’ve got to plug these holes and really turn the ship around,” said Laura Boyce, executive director of Teach Plus.
Higher salaries would help and so would grants to help districts grow their teacher staffing.
A bill from Republican Ryan Aument, co-sponsored by Democrat Vince Hughes, would pay for the 12 weeks of student teaching.
“If you are teaching for 12 weeks and you’re not getting paid, you should get paid,” Hughes said. “Would you like some cash? Would you like some cash? Would you like some cash? How about you? Who wants money.”
Advocates want cash but also want money to study why teachers are leaving and new ones aren’t replacing them. The crisis is especially acute in communities of color.
“We have about 40% students of color and only 6% teachers of color in our state,” said Donna-Marie Cole-Mallot of the Pennsylvania Educator Diversity Consortium. “So what are we doing to them that’s causing them to leave?”
“Parents should be alarmed. Businesses should be alarmed. Everyone should be alarmed,” Boyce said.
There will be a partisan fight over how much money to give schools and where it should go, but there is bipartisan agreement that the teacher shortage is real and needs to be addressed.