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Teacher shortage: Pennsylvania bill eases access for out-of-state teachers into classrooms

By Anthony Hennen

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage is spurring action in the General Assembly to pass reforms and simplify its certification process for educators.

A proposed bill, SB224, would assist out-of-state teachers’ certification to teach in Pennsylvania. So long as a teacher completed a state-approved teaching program elsewhere, they would be eligible for a comparable certification in Pennsylvania. It would provide for reciprocity with other states, making it easier for teachers who move to Pennsylvania to start teaching.

“Schools continue to face teacher shortages that affect students and their learning, but there are plenty of new state residents who are experienced and would like to help fill the gaps,” said Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, the bill’s sponsor. “We need to put trained and effective teachers in our classrooms as soon as we can, and my bill would help to make that happen by removing the considerable barrier that currently exists.”

The number of teachers who have been certified in recent years has dropped dramatically. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has seen a 66% drop in the number of instructional teaching certificates it’s issued since 2010.

The bill passed the Senate in October and received unanimous support in the House Education Committee.

It also has the support of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

“We believe it is a common-sense solution that will help attract qualified out-of-state teachers to Pennsylvania classrooms and address the state’s growing teacher shortage,” said Chris Lilienthal, assistant director of communications for PSEA. “We appreciate the work of Sen. Bartolotta in introducing it and the broad support it has received in the Legislature so far.”

Reciprocity laws for teacher certification are widespread. Eight states have full reciprocity for teachers of any experience, according to the Education Commission of the States, and 37 states and the District of Columbia waive some barriers for experienced teachers. 

“At a time when schools are in dire need of experienced teachers, this legislation will provide a pathway to permit new commonwealth residents who have that experience to fill that need,” said Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Clearfield.

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