PA’s new student teacher program receives thousands of applications in opening hours

Gov. Josh Shapiro and State Sen. Vincent Hughes at a press conference supporting the new PA Student Teacher Support Program in the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg on April 10, 2024. (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Sean Kitchen

April 11, 2024

The PA Student Teacher Support Program received over 3,300 applications in the first two hours after launching on Thursday. Its popularity highlights the need to pay all student teachers.

Update: The story was updated with comment from the Pennsylvania State Education Association president Aaron Chapin.

Pennsylvania’s new student teacher stipend program that launched on Thursday received over 3,300 applications in its first few hours. Its popularity highlights the need to fully fund the program in order to overcome the commonwealth’s teacher shortage.

The PA Student Teacher Support Program, which is administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), will compensate student teachers in Pennsylvania for the first time ever, but, with current funding levels, the program will help just 750 students going through their teaching program.

“We have a critical shortage of teachers entering the workforce,” State Rep. Peter Schweyer (D-Lehigh), Chair of the Pennsylvania House Education Committee, said in an interview.

“We used to train 15,000 educators a year, where the last couple years we’re down around 4,700 new teachers every year. As a result, we are relying on more and more folks that are in our classrooms that maybe have emergency certification, have tremendous skills, but don’t necessarily have the basic background of writing lesson plans or doing any of those other things that a teacher needs to do.”

The program will compensate eligible student teachers up to $15,000 while going through their apprenticeship.

In order to be eligible for the stipends, students must attend a college or university in Pennsylvania and participate in an approved education program, maintain a 3.0 minimum grade point average and promise to teach in Pennsylvania three years after graduation.

Gov. Josh Shapiro signed Act 33 into law last year which set aside $10 million in funding for the Education Pipeline Support Program and he proposed a $5 million increase in the program in his upcoming 2024-25 budget.

However, if the lawmakers want to stop student teachers from going through what is essentially an unpaid internship or unpaid apprenticeship program, they will need to fully fund it at $75 million.

“We knew that the Student Teacher Support Program would be an incredible success, but this shatters all expectations,” Aaron Chapin, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said in a statement. “PHEAA literally ran out of stipends less than an hour after the application process opened. That is incredible.”

“Unfortunately, this astonishing demand means that most students who applied for stipends won’t get them, because there is only $10 million available for the program this year. This is the best possible evidence that lawmakers and Gov. Shapiro need to increase funding for the program in the 2024-25 state budget.”

“This program will be life-changing for student teachers in Pennsylvania. We should make sure that every single student teacher who needs a stipend can get one. That means we need to fund this program at $75 million in 2024-25 so that no student teacher is left out.”

Schweyer appreciates Shapiro proposing a 50% increase to the program in the upcoming budget but believes that there needs to be more funding.

“The student teachers are apprentices,” Schweyer said. “We would never expect an apprentice on a job site somewhere to not get paid. We would never expect a police officer that is in their probationary period of being a police officer to not get paid on the job.”

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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