CU-Bloomsburg Students, Faculty Visit State Capitol to Address Educator Workforce Crisis


Commonwealth University-Bloomsburg (CU) students and faculty recently joined dozens of Pennsylvania teachers, students and education advocates at the State Capitol to meet with lawmakers and highlight the urgent need to address the workforce crisis in their profession.

Students who participated in the Teacher Education Advocacy Day were Jaclyn Ohl, of Tamaqua; Alexus Engroff, of Lancaster; and Milla Hornung, of Newton, New Jersey and all are PK-12 and early childhood education PK-4 students from the CU-Bloomsburg campus. The students were joined by CU-Bloomsburg faculty members Drs. Stephanie Gardner, Brooke Lylo and Robin Drogan, from the Department of Exceptionality Programs.

CU student, Jaclyn Ohl, speaking in the Capitol Rotunda during a press conference.
CU student, Jaclyn Ohl, speaking in the Capitol Rotunda during a press conference.

Organized by education advocacy organizations, the Pennsylvania Educator Diversity Consortium (PEDC), the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators (PAC-TE) and the Pennsylvania Council of Administrators of Special Education (PaCASE), participants called for lawmakers to support policies that will help attract more teachers – especially teachers of color – to the workforce.

Ten years ago, nearly 20,000 new teachers were entering Pennsylvania classrooms each year. Now, as few as 5,000 new teachers enter the field annually and schools are facing major staffing crises. Less than 7% of those educators are people of color despite the fact that nearly 40% of students are people of color. This is especially important because research shows that students of color are more likely to graduate from high school, be prepared to do well in college and get ready for the workforce when they have the opportunity to learn from someone who looks like them and has shared life experiences.

To begin to reverse this troubling trend, PEDC, PAC-TE and PaCASE are calling for lawmakers to pass Governor Shapiro’s budget proposal for a $10 million investment in the Talent Recruitment Account, which can fund apprenticeship, CTE and dual enrollment opportunities with school districts, and educator preparation providers known as “Grow Your Own” Programs. These programs empower aspiring educators to earn their degrees and rebuild our teacher pipeline.

The General Assembly and Governor Shapiro also established the Student Teacher Stipend program in 2023 to support Pennsylvanians training to become certified and committed educators in the state. The program was piloted with $10 million, but demand has proven to be extremely high. PHEAA estimates that $75 million is needed to fully fund the program moving forward.

“The Student Teacher Stipend pilot program has been extremely popular and has received bipartisan support in the General Assembly, which is an excellent step in the right direction,” said Tom Conway, president-elect of PAC-TE. “However, it is imperative that it be fully funded. One university alone could easily take up 40% of the allocation and thereby, leave many student teachers in need across the commonwealth left out. As a result, inherent inequities are being created from the start.”

“As a student teacher, our students are counting on us to give them the best education they can get,” said Ohl, who will be a student teacher this fall. “Having access to student-teacher stipends would take the burden off of student teachers so we can give these students the best of us. The students of Pennsylvania deserve the best education we can offer and with the help of student teacher stipend funding, we are one more step closer to giving them that.”

“PaCASE is partnering with PAC-TE and PEDC to collectively emphasize the need to prioritize and fund programs outlined in Governor Shapiro’s budget to attract, prepare and retain educators across the Commonwealth,” said Ann Marie Lucas, current PaCASE president. “Pennsylvania is in a unique position to address the educator shortage, especially as it relates to special education, by providing effective and responsible financial and professional support for more potential and current educators. We encourage all legislators to support Governor Shapiro's proposed 2024-25 fiscal year budget, which includes $1,436,815,000 for special education appropriations.”

The Commonwealth University group also met with Sens. David Argall and Lynda Schlegel Culver, sharing some of their personal experiences and perspectives on barriers for pre-service teachers. In addition to the meetings, a press conference was also held in the Rotunda during which Ohl was among the speakers.