More funding for Pa. student teacher stipends sought as applications open Thursday • Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Amber Bloom’s mother is a sixth grade teacher. So more than most, her childhood revolved around classrooms. That led Bloom, 22, to follow her mom’s footsteps into education.

“I found my purpose,” Bloom said. “It was my students.”

Like many pursuing a degree in education, Bloom has struggled to make ends meet as she completes her schooling and puts hours toward her teaching certification in a Westmoreland County classroom. She works at a daycare on the side. But come December, Bloom will spend 12 weeks as a student teacher — effectively taking over that classroom — leaving little time for another job.

Bloom will be among the first Pennsylvanians with a chance to have her student teacher work funded through the Pennsylvania Student Teacher Support Program. Beginning Thursday morning, student teachers taking over classrooms in winter or next spring will be able to apply for a $10,000 stipend to ease the burden of effectively teaching full time without pay. That’s thanks to a funding package that passed the statehouse with bipartisan support last year. As vice president of the student Pennsylvania State Education Association, Bloom was involved in efforts to lobby for the funding.

But of the expected 1,500 student teachers who will qualify for the $10 million set aside for stipends, there is only money for roughly 750. They will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. That’s why Gov. Josh Shapiro, along with Sens. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, and Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, who led the push to make the money available in the first place, asked lawmakers at a press conference Wednesday for an additional $5 million for the program next year. Shapiro has asked for the 50% increase in his 2024-2025 budget proposal.

“One of the biggest workforce challenges we have is that we don’t have enough teachers to educate our children,” he said. “We’re prepared to continue to work together as we go forward in this next budget to see a 50% increase in our student teacher stipend initiative.”

The original policy was drafted in part to address a steep decline in young teachers attaining certifications to teach in the state over the last decade, as well as barriers facing aspiring teachers from low-income backgrounds. Student teachers who receive the funds must commit to teaching in Pennsylvania for three years after becoming certified.

“I have friends who have struggled just to afford the commute to their student teaching placements,” Bloom said at the capitol Wednesday. The stipend, she added, “removes a significant financial burden to becoming a teacher at a time when so many school districts are struggling with teacher shortages.”

Student teachers for the 2024-2025 academic year can go to pheaa.org/studentteacher when applications open at 9 a.m. on Thursday, April 11.

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Originally published at penncapital-star.com,by Ian Karbal

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