A look at how teacher shortage is impacting Pittsburgh Public Schools

PITTSBURGH — With a new school year about to get underway, there are questions about who will be in the classroom.

As the teacher shortage worsens, a new report finds Pennsylvania schools are hiring underqualified educators.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, during the 2020-21 school year, 19% of high schools across the state hired out-of-field teachers, while 6% of high school teachers had three or fewer years of teaching and 3% were on emergency permits.

The state lost almost 10,000 teachers between 2021 and 2023, forcing many to hire outside of traditional qualification standards.

Locally, Pittsburgh Public Schools, which is the largest district in our region, says they too are struggling to keep teachers.

“I’ve never had a year like this where at least once a week, a young teacher would call and say, ‘Nina, will you tell me how to leave, I’m leaving,’” said Nina Esposito-Visgitis, the teacher’s union representative. “Now it says five to seven years is usually the length of a teacher’s time in the classroom and that really worries me.”

We asked Esposito-Visgitis what the cause could be, and she said it could be a lack of support, the workload, or the pay.

“Teaching has changed so much, but the pay and structure and support for teachers have not changed,” said Esposito-Visgitis.

11 News also asked if Pittsburgh Public Schools had been forced to use so-called underqualified candidates to fill in the gaps. And in some cases, they are, but reluctantly.

PPS students will be back in school on Aug. 28, and Esposito Visgitis said they are still working to place teachers into positions for the upcoming school year.

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