A Berks County Democrat wants to boost starting pay for Pennsylvania’s teachers to $45,000 a year.
Sen. Judith Schwank, D-Berks, recently introduced Senate Bill 1211 to bump starting pay for teachers from the current $18,500 listed in state law. The legislation has been sent to the Senate Education Committee, which counts among its members Sen. Michele Brooks, R-Crawford/Mercer/Erie/Warren. There are several Democratic co-sponsors of the legislation, but no Republican co-sponsors, which makes it doubtful the bill will progress anytime soon.
“The education professionals helped by the minimum salary proposal are currently not earning enough to raise a small family and pay their college debt.” Schwank wrote in her memorandum. “Given the crucial role teachers play in the lives of students, they shouldn’t have to scrape to make ends meet. This proposal demonstrates respect for professional educators by providing them with a wage that is more in line with what similarly educated professionals earn.”
Schwank said the bill won’t require existing teacher contracts to be reopened to change all teacher salaries. The only requirement is any teacher earning less than $45,000 to have their pay increased. Schwank said when teacher salaries were last increased in 1989, salaries of more experienced teachers didn’t change. Schwank said the state is behind the schedule for increases to minimum teacher salaries, particularly to keep pace with inflation.
The legislation would also include what Schwank terms “educator-type employees” like social workers, psychologists and therapists who work in professional positions. Schwank cited a Governor’s Budget Office estimate that roughly 1,500 teachers would receive raises.
“Given the limited scope of this proposal it is my intention to solve the specific and narrow problem of teacher retention in certain locations,” Schwank said.
According to an Associated Press report, the number of new teacher certifications fell by two-thirds in the 2010s while the number of education majors studying in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education decreased from about 30,000 in 2012 to roughly 17,000 in 2021.
“We used to be a prime exporter of educators, and now we’re not holding on to the people,” said Tanya Garcia, state deputy secretary for post-secondary and higher education.