Photo courtesy of Gov. Wolf
Pennsylvania educators have shown enthusiastic support for Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to invest in schools and raise teacher salaries. Wolf presented the plan, part of his annual budget, to the general assembly in an address on Feb. 5.
Wolf’s proposal would increase the state’s minimum teacher salary to $45,000 a year. It also includes more than $350 million in other school funding increases.
The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), which represents 181,000 educators across the state, said it is “eager to support the governor’s plan,” noting that the minimum teacher salary hasn’t changed since 1989 and is set at $18,500.
“To have great schools, we need to attract great teachers, and it is time to increase teacher salaries,” said music teacher and PSEA President Rick Askey. “Over the past 30 years, the teaching profession has gotten much more challenging, the student debt burden has exploded, and we’re facing a significant teacher shortage.
“We shouldn’t have experienced teachers who earn less than other professionals with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and we shouldn’t have highly educated, dedicated people who teach our kids strapped with student loan debt and struggle to make ends meet,” Askey said.
Wolf’s proposals would help educators and students across the state, but particularly in lower income rural and urban communities.
Approximately 5,000 Pennsylvania teachers earn less than $45,000 a year. Tori Koerbler, a teacher in the Panther Valley School District in Carbon County and a mother of three, is one of them.
Koerbler said she loves her job, her students, and her school district, but it is difficult to pay her mortgage, car, and student loan payments on her salary. She has taken on a weekend job in retail to help make ends meet.
“Teachers like me want to be in our classrooms teaching the next generation, but it’s so difficult to support our families on salaries that trail behind what other professionals earn,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to work a second job that limits the time I can spend with my children.
“Gov. Wolf believes that teachers like me deserve better,” said Koerbler. “He wants us to be able to pour our hearts and souls into educating our students, not worry about how we’re going to pay an electric bill or stay afloat in an emergency.”
PSEA President Askey also applauded Gov. Wolf for continuing to make public school funding his top priority, noting that the funding increases he proposed in basic education, special education, school safety programs, and career and technical education will make a difference for Pennsylvania’s students.
“Gov. Wolf knows how important it is to fund our public schools, invest in programs that work, and make sure that every student has access to a great public education,” Askey said.
“The budget the governor has proposed puts public education where it belongs: at the very top of our state’s priorities. We’re eager to support the governor’s plan.”