Proposed grant program would help classroom aides to become teachers | Wednesday Morning Coffee

A new Pa. House bill aims to help address the Keystone State’s teacher shortage

May 11, 2022 7:08 am

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

There’s no question that the Commonwealth is facing a statewide teachers shortage. Burned out by the pandemic and the culture war at the school board, teachers are leaving the profession well ahead of schedule, as the Capital-Star’s Marley Parish reported in this must-read story in March.

And it would be one thing if there was a deep bench of aspiring teachers waiting to replace them. But as Marley’s story also makes painfully clear, Pennsylvania has been seeing a decline in new college graduates entering the field for years now.

Which leaves the only question worth asking: What are state policymakers and the profession going to do about it? Proposals, from boosting teachers’ base pay to loan forgiveness, abound. Now, a Republican lawmaker from Cambria County is adding his own plan to the mix.

On Tuesday, state Rep. Jim Rigby, R-Cambria, began seeking co-sponsors for a proposed grant program that would create a pipeline for school district paraprofessionals, commonly referred to as teachers’ aides or instructional assistants, to move to the front of the class.

(Source: Women for a Healthy Environment)

“Paraprofessionals play an important role in our educational community and are well positioned to help address the current teacher shortage,” Rigby said of the program, which would allow those crucial aides to stay employed while they pursue their additional training.

Colleges and universities that participate in the grant program also would be “required to use a portion of the grant money to provide a discounted tuition or additional financial aid to paraprofessionals enrolled in the program,” Rigby wrote in his ‘Dear Colleague‘ memo on Tuesday.

While the jobs are in demand and serve an important purpose (a Google search reveals a wide-range of openings), classroom aides, who are not certified teachers, are paid less than some teachers. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the average wage for a classroom paraprofessional is $30,475, according to one analysis.

In his Tuesday memo, Rigby said his plan “will encourage institutions of higher education to offer alternative and cost-effective pathways for paraprofessionals to return to school and earn their teacher certification.”

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Our Stuff.

A national addiction treatment locator has outdated data and other critical flaws, Aneeri Pattani, of Kaiser Health News writes, in a special report this morning.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., says he’ll vote in favor of a bill expected to come before the Senate today codifying the right to an abortion, I report.

The School District of Philadelphia is now screening middle school students for weapons in an effort to combat gun violence, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

The May 17 primary is now less than a week. From Staff Reporter Marley Parishhere’s everything you need to know to cast your ballot.

On our Commentary Page this morning: The U.S. Supreme Court historically has been shrouded in secrecy — it doesn’t need to be that way, Twin Cities attorney Marshall H. Tanick writes in an op-Ed first published by our sibling site, the Minnesota Reformer. And no one should be shocked by the leak — the Supremes telegraphed their intent to gut Roe v. Wade when the declined to stop Texas’ restrictive six-week ban, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz writes.

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Thomas Jefferson

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Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (Source: Tom Wolf Flickr.)

The Inquirer looks at Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s tenure as the head of the state Board of Pardonsand what that says about his political style.

Speaking of which, Fetterman campaigned in Westmoreland County on Tuesday as the primary draws ever closer, the Tribune-Review reports.

Mehmet Oz leads the GOP U.S. Senate primary pack in a new Fox News poll, PoliticsPA reports.

GOP governor candidate Bill McSwain, buoyed by a pro-choice billionaire, is winning the money primary as election day closes in, PennLive reports.

McSwain, a former federal prosecutor, pitched his crime-fighting agenda during an event on Tuesday, City & State Pa. reports.

State Republicans, meanwhile, are openly voicing concerns that right-wing Sen. Doug Mastriano, who’s seeking the GOP nomination for governor, is unelectable in a general election campaign, the Associated Press reports (via the Morning Call)

A Lancaster County school district has put three people on administrative leave following an April 25 drag show hosted by the high school’s Gay Sexuality AllianceLancasterOnline reports.

The state Superior Court has rejected an argument, made in a DUI case, that medical marijuana doesn’t qualify as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the York Daily Record reports.

Luzerne County Council has filled a spot on the county’s election board, but is still in the market for applicants for a council vacancy, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman has called on federal lawmakers to support President Joe Biden’s $15B proposal for increased election funding, WHYY-FM reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:


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A post shared by Nikki Wiser (@crazycitylady)

What Goes On
11 a.m., Capitol Steps: Charter Schools Week Rally
1 p.m., Main Rotunda: Rally to change election laws
3 p.m., Irvis South Lawn: “Meet Me at the Monument” to commemorate one of the leaders immortalized by the statues along Walnut St., Thomas Morris Chester, and rename part of the street after him.

Gov. Tom Wolf holds a pair of events today. He’s in Lansdale at 11 a.m., where he’ll urge state lawmakers to pass a bill providing federal assistance to older state residents and people living with disabilities. At 1:30 p.m., he’s in Wilkes-Barre to talk education funding.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s an old favorite from Scotland’s Biffy Clyro for your Wednesday. It’s ‘Black Chandelier.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The Carolina Hurricanes pulled ahea in their Eastern Conference playoff series against Bostonwinning 5-1 at home in Raleigh on Tuesday night. The best of seven series returns to Boston on Thursday.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.