PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Schools across the commonwealth are in crisis as thousands of teachers are needed, but few are pursuing the profession.
A nationwide teacher shortage is being felt in Pennsylvania and according to the State Education Association, the pandemic intensified it.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the state will need thousands of new teachers, hundreds of new principals and thousands of educators in other critical roles by August 2025.
"If we don't act now, we don't take this seriously, we will be dealing with this for years," said Chris Lilienthal, assistant director of communications for the PSEA.
Lilienthal said pay, benefits and burnout are three leading factors behind the shortage.
"Having a shortage in and of itself creates stress and burnout. Teachers are there because you don't have the subs and they don't have the support. Teachers are losing their prep time. They're finding that they have to take in more students in their classes," Lilienthal said.
Fritz Fekete, the Pennsylvania State Education Association's Southwestern office regional advocacy coordinator, told KDKA-TV that the state has always been competitive and has worked to recruit new teachers from out of state. But Fekete said it's becoming more difficult as other states increase their wages.
Fekete said new teachers in Maryland start around $60,000 while teachers in Pennsylvania start on average around $40,000
He called the shortage "serious" and said teachers are also tired of being disrespected.
"There's a political atmosphere in some districts that is poisonous and toxic and people don't want to put up with it," Fekete said.
"Pennsylvania has 500 school districts, and some are having a tremendously difficult time recruiting and retaining teachers," Lilienthal said.
Fekete said during the 2010-2011 school year, there were 15,000 new teachers getting certified. Fast forward to the 2019-2022 school year, he said the number dropped to 5,000.
"We really need to look at this through the lens of how can we be competitive? How can we offer teachers salaries and benefits that will attract and they'll want to stick with this profession?" Lillienthal said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education said in addition to the teacher shortage, schools are also in dire need of classroom aides, bus drivers and support staff.
The state has put together a three-year plan in hopes to solve the crisis, including building a more diverse workforce and ensuring professional growth. Click here for more.
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