West Chester, Pa (August 29, 2022) – As students across Chester County and Pennsylvania return to class this week, state Senator Carolyn Comitta is introducing new legislation to grow Pennsylvania’s educator workforce, increase diversity in the classroom, and break the cycle of teacher turnover in certain schools.
Comitta, a former public school educator and member of the Senate Education Committee, introduced Senate Bill 1316, legislation that establishes a “Grow Our Own Educators” Program in the Commonwealth.
The program calls for providing financial resources and a support structure for aspiring educators to become certified teachers within their communities. It would also equip students and professionals with the support and resources to pursue careers in education while developing pathways to fill and retain educators in high-need positions and schools.
“The right teacher can make the difference in a child’s education, career, and life,” Comitta said. “Throughout my career, I have seen firsthand how educators can foster the next generation of leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs. This bill aims to address the challenges facing some of our schools by building a strong network of educators within their own communities.”
Across the state and nation, schools are experiencing an alarming decline in the number of teachers entering the workforce. Since 2012, the number of people who completed teacher-education programs in Pennsylvania has fallen 55 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The decrease is twice as high as the national decline, which is 25 percent.
In addition, research shows that Pennsylvania has one of the least diverse educator workforces in the nation with less than 6 percent of teachers in Pennsylvania being persons of color and 55 percent of public schools employing only white teachers.
Comitta said her bill, a companion to state Rep. Mike Schlossberg’s House Bill 2206, aims to help address these challenges by reaching out to community members who are already involved with a school district and supporting them in becoming teachers.
“Pennsylvania schools have been struggling to attract and retain new teachers. It is one of the most pressing issues facing our communities and a problem that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic,” Comitta said. “By focusing on attracting and developing teachers from within their communities, we can rebuild a robust, resilient, and diverse educator workforce pipeline.”
Grow-your-own-educator programs have been implemented across the country as a proven tool to successfully recruit, develop, and retain diverse, passionate, and skilled educators.