(WHTM) — For months, school district officials and government officials have been calling Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage a crisis. A new program in the Midstate is trying to tackle some of the barriers keeping people who want to be teachers out of the field.
The program is called Pathways to Teaching, and it has two main goals: Make it cheaper and less time-consuming to become a certified teacher and let aspiring educators stay in the district where they already work.
“We just need to have certified educators teaching our students,” Steelton-Highspire School District Superintendent Mick Iskric said.
It is a sentiment shared by school officials across the state, but the problem is, there just are not enough of those certified educators.
“Some teachers are getting burn out,” Iskric said, adding that is just one of many reasons why teachers are leaving the field.
Iskric said this year, his district is doing okay, with just a handful of openings.
“Mainly in special education, also a few math positions,” he said.
Others are not so lucky. Lower Dauphin is looking at more than a dozen vacancies, and there could be more resignations in the future. Cumberland Valley has hired nearly 70 new staff members, but the district still has 19 open positions.
“We’re in a crisis situation where we don’t have people going into the field,” Executive Director of the Capital Area Intermediate Unit (CAIU) Andria Saia, said.
CAIU works with two dozen Midstate school districts, including Steel-High and Lower Dauphin. Saia said this problem needs a local solution.
“Looking to colleges in other parts of the country or other parts of the state is not likely to be a viable, long-term solution,” she said.
That is where the new Capital Area Pathways to Teaching Program (CAPT) comes in, spearheaded by CAIU. Saia said it addresses two main barriers to becoming a teacher: time and money.
“I can’t take off of work to go to school, I can’t take off of work to go to student teach and not have a paycheck,” Saia said, describing some of the issues people who want to go into teaching face. She added the cost of tuition plus books, materials and other fees can also be prohibitive.
In the CAPT program, educators and paraprofessionals can keep working and simultaneously get both their degree and certification.
“You’re literally tapping your own people that already work for you to be that next round of teachers,” Saia said.
She explained many paraprofessionals want to stay in their district — this program allows them to do that.
“It’s going to support pretty much anybody that wants to be a teacher or wants to work in education,” Iskric said.
It is also significantly cheaper than going to college. CAPT provides pathways for associate, bachelor and masters degrees, and the estimated cost is between $17,000 and $18,000.
“It would be next to nothing for them to get certified, the district would absorb the cost,” Iskric said. Steel-High is a district which includes teacher reimbursement in educator contracts.
Iskric said Steel-High already has people in the program, calling it a win for everyone.
“They’re able to work and go to school at the same time, and the ultimate goal is having them certified and working with our kids,” he said.
Four school districts already have candidates in the program: Steel-High, Harrisburg, Susquehanna Township and Newport. Saia said she expects more districts to jump on board in the next few months.