Pennsylvania teacher shortage concerns state department of education

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The State Department of Education calls the teacher shortage in Pennsylvania one of the issues it is most concerned about this school year.

“It’s a challenge right now. Substitute teachers is a big enough challenge to itself,” said Matt Edgell, Region Advocacy Coordinator for PSEA. “Then you throw on top of that the fact that it’s hard to get classroom teachers.”

Both Edgell and Carlynton Superintendent Dr. John Kreider agree the shortage didn’t happen overnight.

“Colleges and universities are not graduating individuals with degrees in education to help serve in the classroom as regular teachers as well,” said Dr. Kreider.

In his school district, they’re looking for a French teacher. Beyond that, they really need substitute teachers.

“It does create an issue for daily operations of a school when we don’t have enough substitutes in house,” Dr. Kreider said.

Because then Carlynton teachers have to cover the absent teacher’s classroom, taking away their prep time or extra time with students.

Right now they have five or six daily subs, but they’d like to have 10. So this year, they upped the pay for subs.

Carlynton went from $100 to $135 a day for substitute teacher pay. Trinity School District in Washington County is looking to increase to $125 a day.

“We’re all pulling from the same number of candidates across Allegheny County, so naturally individuals are going to look for where the finances line up for them and where they live in close proximity to school districts,” said Dr. Kreider.

He says having qualified subs in the classroom helps out two-fold: students get someone to instruct them that day and the district gets a glance at a possible full-time teaching candidate.

Channel 11 asked the Pennsylvania Department of Education what they’re doing to get more people interested in a career in teaching, a spokeswoman told us:

“One initiative we hope to expand through additional federal funds is our Office of Higher Education’s teacher and principal residency program. Through a collaborative process between K-12 schools and higher education institutions, promising students and individuals are recruited and supported through a certification program, inclusive of a one-year residency component.”

“They’re doing the best they can to fill positions,” said Edgell. “They’re being much more aggressive in their recruiting. They’re of course asking for our help.”

When we asked the State Department of Education if they anticipate the teaching shortage to get better or worse, spokeswoman Kendall Alexander said:

“In the past two years, we have seen an increase in the number of college students entering educator preparation programs, which is very promising. However, the most recent data is from 2019-2020, which doesn’t allow us to assess the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on potential new entrants into the teaching profession. Once the 2020-21 data is available, PDE will be in a better position to fully assess the teacher pipeline issues.”