HARRISBURG, Pa. — Three fields are becoming more challenging to recruit for and are critical to the survival of communities, Gov. Josh Shapiro said during his first budget address.
“We have a hiring event this Saturday and we are at half the applicants we had one year prior,” said Chief Ken Honick with Elizabeth Township police.
Policing is no easy task. Add in the spike in violence with five Allegheny County cops shot just this year, and it’s hard to get people in the door.
“You can’t dismiss the fact that’s going to be on the mind of a young male or female that is getting into law enforcement as a career,” Honick said.
Some departments are throwing the book out, offering incentives like hiring bonuses and 80% of the max pay scale starting out.
“You want to find a balance, because there comes a point when you offer more than is reasonable. Are you getting a candidate because they want to be an Elizabeth Township police officer or is it because you’ve incentivized it so much that now the person is coming here for all the wrong reasons?” Honick said.
But Honick thinks Shapiro’s new budget plan to offer a $2,500 tax credit for three years to all new certified officers statewide could be a good starting point. It’s not just for officers, but nurses and teachers, too.
“For a long time, we’ve been trying to do something to incentivize more teachers into our field because we see that shortage coming nobody sees it better and more clearly than in our schools,” said Nina Esposito-Visgitis, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers Union president.
Esposito-Visgitis is outspoken when it comes to teacher burnout and watched a mass amount of retirements in the last few years. She hopes this is just the beginning of addressing these concerning shortages.
“I know other state representatives are coming up with other bills about mentoring teachers about providing what they need in the classroom, that gives me great hope,” Esposito-Visgitis said.
In his budget address, Shapiro said his goal is to make it just a little easier for people to join these ranks. If his credit passes in the 2023 budget, it won’t just be for new certifications in these fields, but also anyone who decides to move to Pennsylvania to work in the fields.
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