Pennsylvania and New Jersey Lawmakers Propose Paying Student Teachers Amid Teacher Shortage

Lawmakers in each state have proposed bills that would provide stipends to student teachers who meet certain eligibility criteria.
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Updated on June 16, 2023
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Photo Credit: Office of Sen. Vincent Hughes
  • Facing teacher shortages, states are investing in student teachers to encourage them to teach in-state after graduation.
  • New Jersey lawmakers introduced legislation that would provide up to $7,200 in stipends to eligible student teachers.
  • Pennsylvania also introduced similar legislation that would award $10,000 stipends to qualified student teachers, with a $5,000 bonus for working at a school that has more empty positions.

Two states in the Northeast are hoping to stem their teacher shortages by paying student teachers.

Last month, lawmakers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania introduced bipartisan legislation to establish stipend programs for student teachers in their respective states.

If the legislation passes, New Jersey and Pennsylvania would join a handful of states that are investing in student teachers to support their education and encourage them to stay in-state as full-time educators once they've completed their degrees.

The need is acute: Last school year, it was reported that 18% of public schools in the country had one teaching vacancy, and 27% had multiple teaching vacancies, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Here's a look at how New Jersey and Pennsylvania would create stipend programs with the hopes of filling their classrooms with qualified teachers.

New Jersey

The New Jersey Student Educator Stipend Program would award eligible students a stipend of up to $7,200 per semester for a maximum of two academic semesters. Awardees must be residents of the state and enrolled full-time in an approved program of study at an institution of higher education in New Jersey.

Bill A5420 was introduced by Democratic Assembly Members P. Christopher Tully, Annette Chaparro, and Herb Conaway Jr. in early May. It passed the New Jersey Assembly 69-4 and was introduced in the state Senate two weeks later.

Tully says the idea for the stipend program was born from a task force New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy assembled to address public school staff shortages. He added he expects the bill to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the governor.

"After conversations with students, teachers, and stakeholders across New Jersey … We heard that student-teachers, completing a mandatory phase within the process of becoming a full-fledged educator, often find themselves suddenly working a time-intensive job with little to no compensation," Tully said in a statement to BestColleges.

"After seeing my bill pass with broad, bipartisan support in the Assembly, I am hopeful that the Senate will recognize how important this bill is for the future educators of our state."

The Office of Legislative Services estimates the program will cost New Jersey up to $43 million annually. Tully says it's more than worth it.

"New Jersey routinely ranks as having one of the strongest public school systems in the US, and it's our teachers and school personnel that continue to push the Garden State to the top of every chart," he said.

"If we want to continue to compete with neighboring states, we need to foster the next generation of our educational workforce and keep them here in Jersey."


In mid-May, Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced similar legislation to create the Educator Pipeline Program to support student teachers.

Pennsylvania Sen. Vincent J. Hughes first introduced the bill at Drexel University along with supporters of the program.

"A neighboring state currently has a program [to pay student teachers] and another state is considering this program. We need to make sure that we catch up with them and activate a program so that we don't lose talent to those other states," Hughes said at a press conference.

Eligible students would be awarded stipends of up to $15,000 under the proposed program. Students would have to be enrolled in an approved educator preparation program at an approved institution of higher education in the state and agree to teach for at least three years at a school in Pennsylvania after graduation.

Participants would get a minimum stipend of $10,000, with an additional $5,000 if they complete their student teaching at a school "in an area of this Commonwealth that attracts few student teachers or that has a high rate of open teaching positions."

Additionally, "cooperating teachers," or those who agree to mentor student teachers, would also receive a stipend for their efforts.

The companion House version of the bill, HB1331, advanced out of the House Education Committee 20-1, a sign that the legislation will be broadly supported by Democrats and Republicans.

Hughes, a Democrat, sponsored the Senate version of the legislation along with state Sen. Ryan Aument, a Republican.

"The bill having bipartisan support shows that this teacher shortage problem is not just happening in Philadelphia or city-specific areas," Hughes said in a statement to BestColleges.

"This is an issue we're seeing in urban, suburban, and rural areas. The more support we can get for the legislation across the General Assembly, the better chance we have of making the student-teacher stipend a reality for prospective teachers."

In a statement sent to BestColleges, Aument's office said that the teacher shortage issue is not confined to one district in Pennsylvania and will require "compromise and bipartisanship" to help solve the problem.

"The severity of the teacher shortage problem varies from district to district. In some areas, especially rural districts, the teacher shortage is severe," his office said.

"After speaking with education representatives we learned that the majority of student teachers stay in the district in which they completed their student teaching. For this reason, Senator Aument thought it was important to offer an incentive to students to complete their student teaching at schools that have traditionally had difficulty attracting them."