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Pittsburgh-area lawmakers meet discuss teacher shortage with aspiring educators

Pittsburgh-area lawmakers meet discuss teacher shortage with aspiring educators
Pittsburgh-area lawmakers meet discuss teacher shortage with aspiring educators 02:34

GREENSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- Pennsylvania's teacher shortage is in the spotlight again as teacher turnover is now at an all-time high. 

Right now, around 8,500 qualified teachers are needed to fill current vacancies statewide. Thursday afternoon, local lawmakers, teachers and aspiring educators met in Westmoreland County to discuss how to solve the problem.

Those in attendance said it's critical to focus on recruiting and retaining certified teachers, saying without them, there's a ripple effect on students.

"I think because a lot of us who are teachers know that the money that we're going to get and make being a teacher might not equal our dream," said Amber Bloom, an aspiring teacher and Pitt-Greensburg graduate. 

You can ask any teacher or student who's attending school to be one -- the number one concern to enter into or stay in the profession comes down to money. 

"We're being asked to give our hearts, our soul, our dedication, and I know that I've already bought stuff for my students in the fall that came out of my own pocket, because that's what my students deserve, and that's what they need from me. So there are things like that that are costs that are financial burdens in itself."

Beyond the salary that you earn once you become a teacher, students say costs for certifications and required internships -- mostly unpaid -- have created financial burdens.

This year, student-teachers are now being offered a chance to receive a $15,000 stipend to help with costs. There's also a new program being started to allow students to earn college credits to become teachers while they're in high school.

"When high school students have mentorship from a veteran teacher that early on, and experiences that they wouldn't otherwise have until they're in college, they can make a more informed decision about whether or not they want to enter the profession," said Dr. Beth Hutson, the assistant superintendent at Mt. Pleasant School District. 

During a roundtable discussion, local state representatives and senators met with those aspiring to enter the teaching field to better understand the crisis and local impact and learn what needs to be done to recruit and retain teachers in Pennsylvania. 

"I'll be introducing legislation this year which would incent scholarships through PHEAA extra dollars in exchange for staying and remaining in Pennsylvania to be able to work," said state Rep. Eric Nelson. 

According to the group PA Needs Teachers, they believe a $75 million investment in the new student teacher stipend program and $10 million added to the state budget for grow your own programs could help alleviate the teacher shortage.

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