Shapiro, Lee say tax credits for new teachers needed to address shortage in Pa. schools(Trib Live)

Mar 21, 2023
In the News

Pennsylvania certified more than 20,000 teachers every year a decade ago, but those numbers have dropped dramatically, Gov. Josh Shapiro said during a Tuesday visit to Pittsburgh’s Colfax K-8 school.

Shapiro said the state certified only 6,100 teachers last year.

At the news conference in Squirrel Hill, Shapiro said he wants to address the shortage by providing teachers with annual tax credits of $2,500 for the first three years after they receive their certificates.

“The pipeline is shrinking. That has to change,” Shapiro said. “These investments are critically important.”

Shapiro said the $24.7 million tax-credit proposal also includes two other “first responder” fields that are struggling with shortages and recruitment issues: nurses and police.

Megan Ost, a senior at Carlow University who is working at Colfax, said the tax credit would go a long way in helping her pursue a full-time teaching career. She said she has learned how rewarding teaching can be, but also how underappreciated the profession is.

“I believe this can really impact new educators and help those passionate about teaching,” Ost said.

Shapiro said teachers cannot rely soley on verbal praise to keep them in the career field, adding that “financial incentives have to be there.”

“We need to let folks like Megan know we value her and we are willing to put our money where our mouth is,” he said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, said she has spoken to Shapiro, and addressing labor shortages is a critical issue for Senate Republicans, too. She said there is a 30% shortage of bedside nurses in the state.

“Something must be done to address this,” Ward said. “We appreciate the open dialogue and will continue to work with the governor on solutions to the shortages in our workforce.”

The tax credits, along with other investments in public education, were included in Shapiro’s proposed budget.

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, praised Shapiro’s budget proposal, arguing that public education is under attack from Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C. She said more needs to be done to address inequities in schools.

Shapiro said he has proposed $500 million in funding to fix environmental issues at public school buildings across Pennsylvania and another $500 million to provide mental health services.

“We now have a responsibility to ensure that all our kids get a shot,” he said. “Every young person in Pennsylvania, every child of God, should get a fair shot. And the people doing this work are our teachers, and for too long we have disinvested in them.”

Commonwealth Court Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer, a Republican, ruled in February that Pennsylvania’s education funding system is unconstitutional because it is inequitable and low-income school districts shoulder too much of a burden.

Shapiro predicted it likely will take more than a year and the next two state budgets to “get the system right.”

Shapiro said he has spoken with Republicans about his proposed budget and has been pleased with discussions so far. The GOP holds the majority in the state Senate.

“This is going to take a bipartisan consensus and a regional consensus to fix,” Shapiro said.

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