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Lehigh County Lawmaker's Bill to Establish 'Grow Our Own Educators' Program Passes House | WDIY Local News

Andre Frueh
The Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg.

A Lehigh County lawmaker’s bill aimed at boosting the number of teachers and educators in Pennsylvania has passed through the state House.

Lehigh County State Rep. Mike Schlossberg said Monday that the House passed the legislation, called HB 141, which would amend the Public School Code of 1949 and establish a “Grow Our Own Educators” program. All House Democrats and 19 Republicans voted to support the legislation, which passed 120-81.

According to a release, the program would provide financial assistance, including pathways for educators to support high-need schools, in geographic areas with hard-to-staff teaching positions.

The bill’s language lays out four potential pathways:

  • High school student-to-aspiring educator
  • Aspiring-to-enacting educator
  • Education support professional-to-educator
  • Community member-to-educator

Part of the program would also equip aspiring teachers with the necessary resources to become a certified educator, including potential grants through a new program within the state Department of Education.

Priority would be given to applications from schools that are, or have been, identified for financial recovery status, have been identified for comprehensive or additional targeted support and improvement, or have demonstrated shortages of educators.

Schlossberg, who sponsored the bill, said districts across the state are in dire need of teachers of color, and those with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

He called the teacher shortage a “real and growing crisis” which threatens students’ ability to learn, reduces teacher effectiveness and causes high teacher turnover.

“It is so important for Pennsylvania students to have teachers who come from the community where the students live,” Schlossberg, D-132nd said in a statement.

“This legislation would help to grow and cultivate teachers so that students who face the biggest threat of a teacher shortage — students of color and students living in rural communities -- have a pipeline of people who are passionate about teaching ready to inspire them for the future,”

State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-132nd speaks with the press during a celebration of the largest state funding increase for public school students in Pennsylvania history on June 30, 2021.
Commonwealth Media Services
State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-132nd speaks with the press during a celebration of the largest state funding increase for public school students in Pennsylvania history on June 30, 2021.

Schlossberg said “grow-your-own” programs reach out to members within a community already heavily involved with a school district, and supports them to become teachers, paraprofessionals and instructional aides, among other roles.

In a December 2022 memo to House members, Schlossberg said the University of Pennsylvania had estimated that half of teacher turnover occurs in 25% of public schools, largely in high-poverty urban and rural areas.

In an April 24 Twitter post, he also said Pennsylvania has seen a 66% decrease in college graduates entering the teaching profession. This message was posted alongside a graphic stating that at least 300,000 public school teachers left the field during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HB 141 was one of three education-related bills passed by the House this week.

HB 100, from Northampton County Rep. Robert Freeman, would require the state Department of Education to establish a cross-age tutoring program for students in lower grades. The other, HB 688 from Berks County Rep. Mark Rozzi, would establish the PA Teacher Pipeline Scholarship Program.

HB 141 previously cleared the House Education Committee on a 12-9 vote. It now goes to the State Senate.

(Original air-date: 5/2/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky is WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director.