Student teachers in PA will now get paid through a stipend program

December 28 – In Pennsylvania for the first time in history, student teachers will get paid for their 12-week experience in the classroom at the end of their college career. 

The paycheck will come from a stipend program recently approved in the state’s 2024 budget and student teachers could get paid up to $15,000 for their time in the classroom. 

The measure is an effort to address the teacher shortage in the state. 

The law in PA requires the 12-week student teaching experience in order to receive a teaching license. A number of college students have been wondering why that work in the classroom isn’t paid. 

Some think it could be part of the reason there is a lack of teachers in PA. 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “Student teachers will see the good and the bad and the ugly, but they’re just going to get paid to see it. So money again seems to be what they’re looking at and not getting at the root of the problem, a typical response, but nonetheless, I would have to agree that a little bit of pocket change for the student teachers is not necessarily the worst thing in the world.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM disagreed, “We keep doing this. We keep looking at horrible problems of why are we having such disconnects between people who really want to passionately do the profession of education – this is not limited to teachers, of course. We destroyed the atmosphere in K through 12 schools. The behavior is very, very bad for many students. You ask any teacher, especially someone that’s been there, ask them how things have changed over that time. They are very disrespected in school now. Plus, you combine that with a generation that’s coming from this world of I’m the center of the universe, nothing should ever be uncomfortable for me. You’re dealing with a generation that really doesn’t want to work very hard. Now you’re combining that, I’m sorry, bad teaching colleges, teaching colleges are more about ideology than they are about making great teachers anymore. So both of those, combined with the bad attitudes in school and the lack of authority, the authority we’ve taken away from public school teachers, I think we’ve given them way too much to deal with. We’re more concerned about social emotional learning than actually education. Now you have a bunch of these young teachers coming out. They don’t want to do the work and I don’t blame them in a big sense. It’s not the happiest place to be, so we’re just going to throw money at it and see if that fixes it.” 

Ryan suggested, “So maybe the split on this is if we’re going to pay you, you’re going to have to put in your time in Pennsylvania. I don’t know why they wouldn’t tie the two together there.”

Attorney Clint Barkdoll agreed, “I like that aspect of it, too. Licensed teachers getting their credentials in Pennsylvania, that number has fallen by about two thirds over the past 10 years. This is a major crisis brewing in Pennsylvania.”

There have been some other initiatives to try to address the lack of teachers, including easy reciprocity for out of state teachers to come into PA and teach. 

Barkdoll added, “The teachers unions, they are livid about this stipend issue. The PSEA feels that it’s money they are losing because this stipend is not subjected to any kind of a union due. It’s not requiring that stipend student teacher to necessarily remain in Pennsylvania. But of course some of the ideas behind this, it’s not going to fix the problem, but would this incentivize at least some people to consider going into this profession?

A few months ago there was a forum for potential candidates for the Chambersburg School Board where it came out that there are more than 100 vacancies in the Chambersburg Area School District alone. 

Barkdoll noted, “You multiply that by 500 school districts around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we have real problems and it’s not all about money. Money might entice some people in. There’s some bigger issues, structural issues about parents, kids, education in general now. But anyway you cut this, we’ve got a major problem brewing in Pennsylvania when you’ve lost new teachers coming into the system by a factor of two thirds over the last 10 years and that number is going to just keep accelerating according to the current enrollment trends in schools.”

Jansen said, “I feel like it’s just reacting at the end, where the crisis is, and you’re trying to throw patches onto something that’s not working for much more fundamental reasons than that stipend addresses.”

PA Representative Rob Kauffman said, “As I’ve talked to folks who are in teaching over the last few years, I don’t believe I’ve ever had them say to me, I’m destitute. I am not making enough money, and that’s why I’m exhausted by teaching. That’s why I’m not going to go into teaching or why I’m leaving teaching. Genuinely, I don’t remember anyone saying it’s about the money. Because most public educators in our area would probably say we make a respectable living and we are in teaching for this reason – they want to educate young people. They have a passion for it. But the problem is, for most of the teachers, they’re saying, I don’t get to do what I actually studied to do. I don’t spend the primary amount of my time actually educating young people in the subject area that I was trained to educate them.”

Ryan said, “I’m in that camp if you tie it to some sort of performance of staying here for a year or stay here for something else. Why wasn’t that brought up?”

Kauffman said, “I do think that has some validity, some merit, but I think when teachers are going through the process of becoming Pennsylvania certified teachers, which is what that is, they’re going through the student teaching process here in Pennsylvania. They’re literally getting their certification for Pennsylvania. That is not immediately used in other states. There’s a process for reciprocity in some states, but it’s not seamless. Oh, I’m certified in Pennsylvania. I just run across the border and teach here, there, everywhere else. So I think there’s a little bit of that. It’s like there’s this assumption, but I think it should be more explicit. I agree with you.”

Ryan said, “I don’t know how you can make that assumption with the idea that they’re beating feet out of here. That’s the story, you can’t fill Chambersburg. They’ve got teacher openings all over the place. So not putting an absolute clamp on that, and I don’t know how many student teachers there are, but that’s a lot of money that’s flowing to those student teachers.”

Kauffman said, “I think the teacher shortage is everywhere in the states. It’s not exclusive here. It’s not exclusive to Pennsylvania. But again, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I genuinely did not think it was necessary to do that. In talking to folks I never heard anyone say oh, I wish I had a teacher stipend whenever I’m student teaching. It was just part of the process of becoming a teacher. So, that certainly wasn’t an initiative that I thought, oh, yeah, we need to run fast forward to that.” 

Jansen noted, “Once again, we’re not we’re not addressing the fundamental issues. I know people want to blame COVID, but there is enough evidence out there this was all happening before COVID. Problems getting teachers was a problem before COVID. Some states were putting some of the things we’re talking about into place in 2017 and 2018, pre COVID. Failure of public schools with what they’re graduating has been a problem for decades now. We have been slowly distorting the educational process with these progressive ideas. That even goes back even farther, but it’s gotten worse and worse and worse and now we brought social justice into the mix and we put all kinds of things in about that. We say we’re helping with this compassionate way we’re trying to examine all these different kids and all their different certain things going on with their lives. But it’s become a mess of teachers not understanding even what my role is here?”

Kauffman said, “I think that’s important. The push for DEI in the classroom, DEI in teacher training has really made teachers, a lot of times they’re more social workers and that’s what I hear from them. They’re like I didn’t get into teaching, yes, I want to impact students. I always want to have a positive role in their life, but I’m not a social worker. I’m a teacher and all I’m getting into is the social work aspect.”

Jansen said, “You even put competencies into place and I don’t think any of the legislators actually even really looked at them. They were deemed passed after a group of experts and I’m sorry, I really hate this group of experts thing, where things get passed and you guys aren’t even looking at it because you thought the experts told you this is great. The competencies that were passed last fall, literally say it’s the teacher’s job to look for microaggressions, that is the word they used, to look for systemic racism and to dismantle such things in our schools. That’s an activist role, trying to apply an ideology that shouldn’t be deemed capital T truth for everybody. Yet, that’s what we’re telling teachers in Pennsylvania is part of their job to do. If I were a teacher, I’d run screaming away from that.” 

“Agreed,” Kauffman said. 

Ryan pointed out, “I don’t know how you get it back Janssen. It’s week after week after month after year of Jansen saying the same thing over and over and nothing getting done about it.”

Kauffman insisted, “School choice is how you start to get it back.” 

There was a program in the 2024 state budget that would allow students in the lowest performing schools to receive money to go to a school of their choice, but it was vetoed by Governor Josh Shapiro – after he was instrumental in putting it in! 

Ryan asked, “How do I get school choice when I have a liar in the highest office in Pennsylvania?”

Kauffman assured, “It’s not over. There is still a push and we’re not giving up because that’s honestly how we save the entire education system by bringing that component into the mix.”

Ryan suggested, “If it really is about the children, go tell your union to kiss your fanny on a busy street corner and do something right for the children, but you don’t want to do that.”

Kauffman said, “I would encourage folks to walk into some of the private schools in our area. You will find teachers who have been teaching in public school for 25 years and said, I’m out, I’m out. They’re making less money, but that’s the thing, it wasn’t about the money. It wasn’t.” 

Ryan said, “Don’t get me wrong, money is a wonderful thing to have here, but go up to Cumberland Valley Christian School, and you’re not going to see chaos. You’re certainly not going to hear about people getting beat up in bathrooms. There’s no room for that BS. See you. Thanks. There’s a lot of people on our waiting list that can’t wait to get in here and take care of their kids and their grandkids.”

Kauffman added, “It’s important to note that this isn’t about the educators because the educators, our teachers, the ones I talked to, they’re all in. They want to do it.” 

Ryan noted, “But those are people in your camp, preaching to the choir. I want the go alongs to get alongs. I need the rest of them to stand up to the unions to go, you know what? Let’s have a level playing field. Let’s make it fair here. If we’re not doing the job here, let at least the money travel with the kid. That comes from teachers pushing back a little bit. I don’t think they have the stomach for it.”

Kauffman said, “When they’re in the midst of the chaos in the classroom and the school sometimes, I think sometimes they’re just exhausted and they’re like I fight this, I fight that. I can’t. I’ve got to survive here.”

“You’re right on that,” Ryan agreed.