Otten, Curry, Schweyer introduce Student Teacher Stipend Program

HARRISBURG, June 7 – PA state Reps. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, Gina Curry, D-Delaware, and Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, today announced the introduction of legislation that would provide student teaching stipends to help remove financial barriers for aspiring teachers wishing to enter the profession.

The House bill is a companion to S.B. 300, introduced in May by state Sens Vincent Hughes, D-Montgomery, and Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster.

In the 2021-22 school year, Pennsylvania issued a record-low number of teaching certificates, with teacher compensation being one of the leading factors contributing to the growing teacher shortage crisis. The House legislation (H.B. 1331) aims to address the teacher shortage by providing up to $15,000 for aspiring teachers during their student teaching semesters.

The legislation would establish the Student Teacher Stipend Program, which would provide:

  • A $10,000 stipend for individuals enrolled in a teacher preparation program at an institution of higher education in the Commonwealth to complete their student teaching requirement.
  • An additional $5,000 stipend for students who complete their student teaching in schools that traditionally don’t have student teachers and schools with high teacher vacancies – an acknowledgement that some schools are being hit harder than others.
  • A $2,500 stipend for cooperating teachers who agree to mentor student teachers.

“Student teaching is a full-time commitment that often prohibits college students from holding another job during their student-teaching semester,” said Otten. “The prospect of giving up that income, while incurring additional expenses associated with things like commuting and purchasing a work wardrobe, is a significant barrier for prospective teachers in Pennsylvania who are already struggling to afford the cost of a college education and working to cover their living expenses.”

“School districts across Pennsylvania are facing a serious teacher shortage problem, and the difficulty of finding and retaining qualified educators is not only impacting the stability of our education system, it’s also hurting the children who are entitled to receive a quality education,” said Schweyer, majority chair of the House Education Committee. “By compensating student teachers, who cannot work paying jobs while they gain their necessary classroom experiences, we can ease the financial challenges of many aspiring teachers and ensure they are ready to enter the classroom when they graduate.”

“For far too long, teachers have been taken advantage of here in the commonwealth,” said Curry, who serves on the House Education Committee. “The best way to build an equitable pipeline of passionate educators is to equip them with the proper resources and compensation. By providing a stipend to student teachers, we are supporting them to stick with this important work. Let’s remember teachers ensure the success of our children. Let’s work to pass this commonsense bill for student teacher stipends.”

“We have a teacher shortage crisis right now across the commonwealth,” Hughes said. “This legislation is simple, and the time is right. Our students need us to support prospective teachers as they work toward one of the most important jobs in the country. I’m happy to see Representative Otten, Representative Curry, and Representative Schweyer introduce a student teacher stipend bill similar to bipartisan legislation Senator Aument and I recently announced. The entire General Assembly needs to work together to move on this issue for our teachers, our students, and the future of our schools.”

For aspiring teachers, student teaching is the culmination of years of hard work in the college classroom. It provides aspiring teachers with the opportunity to gain critical experience in their field while providing a needed service to their community. But for many college students, the 12-week minimum requirement presents significant challenges because these semester-long placements are unpaid and often leave students struggling to afford tuition costs and basic living expenses.

Student teachers often need to give up paying jobs that have helped them cover living expenses during other college semesters, forcing many to take on additional debt. By providing student teachers with the resources and compensation they deserve, Pennsylvania can eliminate some of the undue financial burdens that prevent many from pursuing a career in this high-demand field, legislators said.

The proposed legislation would create a Student Teacher Stipend Program within the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency to provide stipends for students enrolled in an initial teacher certification program. The program would follow the framework of the school-based Mental Health Internship Program enacted in the 2022-23 state budget.

By creating a Student Teacher Stipend Program, Pennsylvania would join states like Colorado, Michigan and Oklahoma, which addressed the teacher shortage crisis by passing similar legislation in a bipartisan manner.

More information on the legislation is available by contacting Otten’s district office at 484-200-8259.