Harrisburg — April 26, 2023 — Today, state lawmakers and advocacy groups rallied to support SB 393, SB 394, and both House companion bills at the Capitol Plaza Fountain.
The bills would allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to be certified as teachers in Pennsylvania schools and permit undocumented students that graduated from a Pennsylvania high school to receive in-state tuition and financial aid. Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) said that both bills support Dreamers and undocumented students while acknowledging their contributions to the commonwealth.
“We should be doing everything we can to help talented and dedicated young people that want to serve in our public schools and complete their post-secondary education in Pennsylvania,” Schwank said. “Given the teacher shortage and declining enrollments at our state system schools, it just doesn’t make sense to tell these folks, eager to give back to their communities, to go somewhere else. That should never happen.”
As of 2020, 17 states permit DACA recipients to become certified teachers. Neighboring states New Jersey, New York and West Virginia have passed laws that certify DACA recipients as teachers, which means qualified, motivated DACA educators can easily move to a neighboring state and teach there. Additionally, 16 states offer comprehensive access to in-state tuition, scholarships and financial aid. This includes Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.
Rep. Peter Schweyer (D-Lehigh), Majority Chair of the House Education Committee, said he is eager to consider the bills in committee. He called on the advocacy groups assembled at the event to push their lawmakers to support the legislation.
“This is not only a question of whether we have the best education system possible or about economic growth for our commonwealth,” Schweyer said. “It’s a question of fairness and a moral question. The good news, now we are not only in a position where we can have these conversations and raise awareness, but we can actually start moving this legislation.”
Rep. Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz (D-Berks), who has issued a co-sponsor memorandum to certify DACA recipients as teachers, said the measure offers an opportunity to ease Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage.
“Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage is worsening, and qualified immigrants can help with this teaching crisis,” Cepeda-Freytiz said. “I am introducing a bill to amend the qualifications of a teacher by adding that department-certified or permitted teachers who hold a valid immigrant visa, work visa, or valid employment authorization document which allows them to work in the United States are eligible to teach in the public schools of the Commonwealth.”
Other speakers at the event included Kutztown University Student education student Andrea Jeronimo, Program Manager at the Woori Center Dr. Kate Firestone, Norristown Area School District Teacher Selenia Tello, Senior Managing Director of External Affairs for Teach for America Mamie Doyle Mannella, Isabelle Martinez of CASA and Pennsylvania Executive Director of Teach Plus Laura Boyce.
For more information about today’s event, please visit senatorschwank.com/PADREAMAct.