By: Andrea Sears
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Gov. Tom Wolf wants to raise the minimum teacher salary in the Keystone State for the first time in 30 years.
The minimum salary for Pennsylvania teachers is set by state law and has been stuck at $18,500 a year since 1989.
The Pennsylvania State Education Association represents about 180,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher-education staff and health-care workers in the state. To have great schools, said Chris Lilienthal, the association’s assistant director of communication, the state has to attract great teachers – but in the past 30 years, the teaching profession has become much more challenging.
“There’s a lot more expected of our educators,” he said. “Students come with very diverse needs, student debt burden has increased significantly – and teachers have a lot more on their plates today.”
About 5,000 teachers in Pennsylvania currently are being paid less than $45,000 a year, and Lilienthal cited a wide gap between what teachers in the Keystone State are paid and the salaries for other college-educated professionals.
“We want to make sure that all educators are paid at a rate that reflects their value as professionals who give their heart and soul, and their expertise and intelligence, to this career,” he said.
Three out of four teachers in Pennsylvania are women, and half of all teachers in the state have at least three years’ experience.
The governor’s budget proposal also includes an increase of more than $350 million in education funding. Lilienthal noted that Wolf consistently has made education a top priority.
“He’s invested in classrooms, in special education, in school safety programs and in career and technical education, and it’s really made a difference for Pennsylvania students,” Lilienthal said. “This budget, we believe, really does continue that progress.”
A final state budget is due on June 30.
More information is online at psea.org.