Pennsylvania Becomes Teacher 'Supply State'

Article excerpt

Erin Cummings couldn't find a teaching job in Pennsylvania when she graduated from Penn State University in 2003, so she went to Maryland and taught third grade.

"I knew I always wanted to come back to Pittsburgh. I was born and raised here," said Cummings, who returned to Carlynton School District in 2006 as a long-term substitute before becoming a full- time first-grade teacher.

It took Chris Fox a little longer to return home after landing his first teaching job in Virginia in 1996. He came back in 2006 to take a job in Riverview School District in Oakmont.

"It takes a long time to get a license in Pennsylvania ... and the school districts are more selective," he said. "In Virginia, they said, 'You got a degree in Pennsylvania? You're good.' "

Pennsylvania has become "a supply state" to school districts across the nation in desperate need of teachers like Cummings and Fox. Thousands of graduates from Pennsylvania's 95 teaching colleges and universities every year must leave the state to find their first job. In fact, fewer than half of the state's 15,000 new teachers will find in-state jobs.

"Kids who want to go teach in their home district aren't being realistic. You have to spread your wings a little bit," said Jay Hertzog, dean of the College of Education at Slippery Rock University.

Salary and benefits are a big attraction for Pennsylvania teachers. They are reasons teachers tend to stay here, often working for 30 years or more before retiring.

The average teacher salary in Pennsylvania is about $54,000; Virginia's average teacher salary, for instance, is about $43,000, according to teacherportal.com, a Web site that tracks teacher salaries.

"It is a tough market in Pennsylvania. The market is just saturated," said Donna Skundrich, human resources manager for the Shaler Area School District.

Almost 124,000 teachers were employed in the state's 3,287 schools in the 2006-2007 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education.

Teaching positions in Pennsylvania are expected to open up as more baby boomers retire, but for now, "We're kind of full up," Hertzog said.

For teachers like Ray Ross, a graduate of St. …