Gov. Josh Shapiro on Tuesday visited Colfax K-8 in Squirrel Hill as he continued to tout his $44 billion budget proposal that he said would benefit front line workers, such as teachers.
The governor said that the proposed budget includes items that would incentivize young people to pursue careers in education, where there has been a shrinking workforce in recent years.
“For too long we have disinvested in our teachers,” Shapiro said. “We have not placed a premium on our teachers, and that is going to change in my administration.”
Shaprio said that 10 years ago, Pennsylvania certified 20,000 teachers. Last year, he said, only 6,100 teachers were certified in the commonwealth.
The proposed budget would offer financial assistance to teachers, and, importantly, show them the respect they deserve, according to Shapiro.
“We value what teachers do, and we’re willing to put our money where our mouths are on this,” he said. “We are willing to make those investments in our teachers to make sure that they have what they need.”
The budget includes a plan to provide new teachers — as well as nurses and police officers — with an up to $2,500 tax credit over a period of three years. The tax credit could be extended further if it proves to be successful, the governor said.
More than $100 million would go toward connecting students with mental health services. Another $100 million would be set aside for repairing unsafe school buildings.
In addition, all students could receive a free school breakfast, and the 22,000 students who are eligible for reduced-price lunch would get it for free.
The governor said the budget he has proposed was already paid for and would not require a tax increase. He said he expects the state Legislature to approve the budget in June.
Shapiro spent about an hour at the school, talking with teachers, staff members and students who were performing a science experiment in a second-floor hallway.
He also met Megan Ost, senior in the early childhood education program at Carlow University, who said she commutes to Colfax each day from Apollo, Armstrong County, because of her passion to be a teacher.
Ost started college as a nursing major with a goal of working in pediatric care, but she soon discovered a drive to impact children in a more educational setting. However, she also found out how underappreciated educators were.
Incentives such as Shapiro’s proposed tax credit would help encourage more Pennsylvanians to pursue teaching, she said.
“I believe this can really impact new educators and help those passionate about teaching,” Ost said.