Teacher Shortage

Introduction | Summary | Statistics | Myths vs Facts | Feedback

Introduction

Pennsylvania has a teacher shortage. If we do nothing, our children will suffer consequences like overcrowded classrooms, impersonal instruction, less access to courses and programs they’re offered now, and less time to help our most vulnerable students, resulting in more students being left behind. I have a bill that will help get more teachers into Pennsylvania classrooms, but some have misinterpreted or been intentionally dishonest about the plain language of the bill and the intent behind its introduction. 

Summary

Senate Bill 99 is a proposal to help fill the vacancies at our local Lancaster County schools, as well as schools across the state, with highly qualified candidates through programs that help attract more students into the teaching profession.

Specifically, Senate Bill 99:

  • Strengthens the Commonwealth’s dual enrollment and dual credit programs, which allows students to earn college credits for courses they take while still in high school, saving the student time and money when working toward a degree or certification. Not all schools participate in this program so this bill would ensure that every student has the opportunity to get a jump start on their higher education goals. 
  • Establishes an optional program of study for education through our Career & Technical Education Centers, providing another opportunity for students to begin taking courses early in their education career and receive credit toward future credentials, certificates, or degrees.
  • Requires the PA Department of Education to appoint an individual who will be responsible for reviewing data to ensure programs aimed at addressing the teacher shortage are actually working. It’s important to note that this position is not new, it’s simply vacant right now, so my bill would ensure the role is always filled. The bill does NOT give any authority to the person in this role to make any mandates regarding the hiring of prospective teachers. They set goals and issue a report, period.

For a more detailed explanation of what Senate Bill 99 does and does not do, please watch this video:

Statistics

Pennsylvania is not unique in our struggle to fill vital teaching positions; around the country teachers are leaving the profession at a high rate of speed, and the pipeline to fill those retiring educators is all but drying up. The problem can be seen close to home in Lancaster County as schools have eliminated courses and programs due to a lack of qualified educators to teach them.

Lancaster County school administrators have said:

“Applicant pool is significantly less than it used to be.”

“Some positions have been unfilled all year.”

“This position remains vacant due to a lack of qualified candidates.”

“Very few applicants.”

“We’ve had to hire an outside recruiter to fill vacancies.”

(Note: All stats and feedback were obtained as of April 1, 2022. The individual school districts wish to remain anonymous.)

Myths vs Facts

I know reading legislation and understanding the impact of proposed language can be difficult, so here is a quick guide on How to Read a Bill for your reference. Unfortunately, it’s clear some have chosen to intentionally mislead the public about Senate Bill 99, which only serves to distract from the very real issue I’m trying to address – Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage and the negative impacts it has on our children’s education.

This is not a partisan issue – the prime sponsor of this bill in the House is a Republican and that bill is also co-sponsored by well-respected conservatives. So here are some common myths about the bill followed by the actual facts:

Myth – Senate Bill 99 encourages or requires hiring teachers based on gender or race.

Fact – I have strongly and consistently opposed diversity mandates, and Senate Bill 99 does no such thing. It has absolutely nothing to do with hiring – it does not create hiring policies or hiring requirements, and certainly doesn’t create hiring quotas based on qualities unrelated to merit, like gender or race. In fact, Senate Bill 99 doesn’t even speak to the process of hiring at all. Instead, this bill solely focuses on the front-end of the teacher shortage issue – getting more students interested in the teaching profession and into educator prep programs so the pool of available teachers is sufficient to fill the vacancies in our children’s classrooms. Again, it does not speak to hiring – schools will continue to be free to hire teaching candidates as they see fit. But with the help of Senate Bill 99, they’ll have a larger pool of candidates to choose from.

Myth – Senate Bill 99 weakens the standards to become a teacher.

Fact – Senate Bill 99 does nothing to weaken the rigorous requirements to become a teacher. Instead, it temporarily suspends an impractical standardized test that studies have shown, like many other standardized tests, is not an indicator of an effective teacher or success. In fact, this bill brings Pennsylvania in line with the majority of states that have eliminated this barrier to educator prep programs by waiving this test for 3 years so a study can be done to determine if the test is necessary.  Though the basic skills test is waived, students will still be required to pass all the teacher prep program courses, graduate, and pass the content exams in their area of study to become a teacher.

Myth – Senate Bill 99 advances Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (or DEI) curriculum or Critical Race Theory.

Fact – Senate Bill 99 makes no changes to the current curriculum for prospective teachers, and certainly does not advance Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (or DEI) or Critical Race Theory curriculums. In fact, it doesn’t even mention curriculum in the bill.

I know there’s been some concerns about the use of the word “diversity” in this bill, but since I have strongly and consistently opposed diversity mandates, Senate Bill 99 does no such thing. We should attract people of all backgrounds to the teaching profession. In particular, I am concerned about the lack of male teachers in our local classrooms, but I also understand how vital recruiting more men of color to urban school districts is for their students to have access to quality male role models. Attracting, not mandating, more men and people of color into the teaching profession is a good thing – and that’s not something we should politicize.

Myth – Senate Bill 99 creates a parallel education system that receives federal funds.

Fact – No new department or system is created by Senate Bill 99; this bill uses the existing programs to expand pathways that students currently follow to become educators.

Feedback

To effectively address the teacher shortage and get more qualified teachers into our children’s classrooms, I will need the continued engagement of my constituents and local leaders, as an ongoing dialogue between lawmakers and those they represent is absolutely critical to succeed.

As such, please fill out my Voice Your Concerns Form with any further questions, thoughts, or concerns you may have. I firmly believe that an open and productive conversation is necessary as we seek to build a stronger Pennsylvania, together.