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Pittsburghers for Public Transit wants to shape Ed Gainey’s goals for infrastructure, development

Margaret Sun
90.5 WESA

On today’s episode of The Confluence: A policy platform from transit, housing and disability advocates, hopes to guide Mayor-elect Ed Gainey’s early priorities; and the leader of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators says the state needs a plan to attract and retain educators, or else, he warns, the current teacher shortage will worsen in the commonwealth.

Advocates hope to guide Ed Gainey’s infrastructure and land use priorities in “100 Days of Transit” platform
(0:00 - 11:05)

Advocates see an opportunity to shape the city’s transit and mobility goals with the incoming mayor Ed Gainey. Pittsburghers for Public Transit, alongside housing and disability advocates, have put forward a platform called “100 Days of Transit” that they say will improve mobility access in the city.

“We really know that the city plays a huge role in ensuring that residents have access not only to public transit and to critical amenities by public transit and how they shape development, but also, the city plays an enormous role in ensuring that buses can move quickly and efficiently through our city streets,” says Pittsburghers for Public Transit executive director Laura Chu Wiens.

The 100 Days of Transit platform consists of 18 goals that Chu Wiens says Gainey’s administration should make happen within his first three months in office. Those goals fall into “two major buckets”: land use and infrastructure.

The land-use piece relates to how and where development should be planned in the city.

“We worked closely with community development corporations and other folks that are in the urban planning and development space to really think about how we ware ensuring that we have affordability in housing, that we have density of housing, so that there is more people, … and diversity of uses and less parking required close to our strongest transit asset,” says Chu Wiens.

To bolster the city’s infrastructure, the plan recommends creating a “sidewalk fund” to better maintain sidewalks and other pedestrian right-of-ways.

Chu Wiens says she plans to measure success by which goals are put into motion during the first 100 days of Gainey’s tenure as Pittsburgh’s mayor.

The state’s teacher shortage has been worsened by the pandemic, but has been a problem for years
(11:10 - 22:30)

During the 2019-2020 school year, the most recent for which we have data, the state issued 6,937 new teaching certifications. That's a two-thirds drop of newly certified teachers since 2010-2011.

The University of Pittsburgh announced it will launch a Bachelor of Science in Teacher Education program that will begin accepting students for the fall 2023 semester. Will it make a difference, or does the education system need more?

“I think we’re already at a crisis point, and actually we were very close to that prior to the pandemic, and the pandemic has only exacerbated it,” says Mark DiRocco is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA).

DiRocco says enrollment in teacher preparation programs has dropped since 2010. That year, following economic impacts of the Great Recession, school districts were cutting programs, teaching positions, or not hiring to replace educators who had retired.

“Consequently, a lot of young people who were considering teaching as a profession were taking a look at this scenario and saying, ‘Well, why would I go through four years of school? When I come out there might not be a job for me,’” says DiRocco. “We’ve never recovered from that.”

He says a bill recently signed by Governor Tom Wolf will increase schools' ability to employ qualified substitute teachers, easing some of the strain classrooms are feeling.

“The long term issue, and the long term solution, is how do we make the teaching profession admirable again?” asks DiRocco. “If we don’t start treating our teachers with the respect that they deserve, pay them a fair salary, make sure they have a pension, and give them the support they need to educate children, this is going to get a lot worse, and our kids and our democracy are going to suffer because of it.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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