Raising Salaries Could Help PA Teacher Shortage
A new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute shows Pennsylvania teachers are paid an average of 13-and-a-half percent less than similar college graduates in other fields. According to Stephen Herzenberg, who heads the Keystone Research Center, the minimum pay for teachers in the state hasn’t changed since 1988 when it was set at just $18,500 – about what a fast-food worker makes today.
"Everybody deserves a living wage, including fast-food workers. But by underpaying teachers, we’re not only hurting teachers, we’re hurting students, our education system and our state’s economy in the long run."
In his 2019 budget address, Governor Tom Wolf proposed raising the minimum teacher salary to 45-thousand dollars a year. Education advocates are asking the General Assembly to include that raise in the state budget, which is due by June 30th.
Many school districts in the state already pay their teachers 45-thousand dollars a year or more. But Herzenberg points out that more than three-thousand teachers still don’t make that much.
"The ones that don’t are often in rural areas and some cities, and the increase in pay would go to the places where the economy needs a boost. So, this is good for teachers, good for students and good for local economies."
A recent poll indicates two-thirds of likely voters in Pennsylvania support raising the minimum teacher salary.
Low pay forces many educators to leave teaching in mid-career, leading to shortages of experienced teachers and higher concentrations of uncertified teachers, especially in poorer school districts. Herzenberg adds there can be other consequences.
"Low teacher pay is why we’ve seen a wave of teacher strikes across the country. Too many teachers, including in Pennsylvania, now have to take two jobs to make ends meet. That’s not fair to teachers and it’s not fair to students."
He says raising the minimum pay to 45-thousand-dollars a year would help attract and retain qualified teachers across the state.