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Broad Support for Raising PA Teachers' Minimum Pay

The minimum annual teacher salary in Pennsylvania has been $18,500 since 1988. (giovannacco/Pixabay)
The minimum annual teacher salary in Pennsylvania has been $18,500 since 1988. (giovannacco/Pixabay)
March 27, 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Educators joined legislators from both sides of the aisle in Harrisburg on Tuesday in urging the General Assembly to raise the minimum salary for Pennsylvania's public-school teachers.

The minimum teacher salary hasn't increased since 1988, when it was set at $18,500. In his 2019 budget proposal, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed raising it to $45,000.

A recent poll showed that two-thirds of likely voters in Pennsylvania support raising minimum teacher pay. According to Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, that could help reverse the state's shortage of qualified teachers.

"We're going to be able to attract and retain the best and brightest in our classrooms, and that's what's important," he said. "It's going to make a tremendous difference in the lives of students every day."

The increase would affect some 3,100 Pennsylvania teachers whose salaries now are below the new minimum proposed by the governor.

Fritz Herling and his wife are teachers earning less than $45,000 a-year, and they both work extra jobs to make ends meet. Fritz Herling, a health and physical education teacher at Panther Valley Elementary School in Nesquehoning, said the low salaries in his district mean many teachers leave teaching or move on to districts that pay more.

"We lose so much experience in our classroom, and that doesn't just hurt the professionals at the school," he said. "It surely does hurt our students when, every couple years, there's a turnover."

Stacey Baur, who's been teaching in Clairton Elementary School for 10 years, said she's still struggling to pay off $130,000 of student loans. Her days start at 4 a.m., when she starts teaching English lessons online for extra income.

"I do not plan on leaving. I care too much about what I do, and I enjoy what I do," she said. "So, the pay increase would help me and my family move forward."

She said raising the pay would put teaching on a par with other professions that require college degrees and specialized training.

More information is online at psea.org/45k.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA