Many school districts face the worst teacher shortage ever. Twenty percent of new teachers
leave the field within the first three years and, on average, teachers who leave the profession
are above-average teachers. Math, science, and special education teachers are in short supply,
and urban and rural schools struggle to recruit talented teachers. Today, Education World writer
Glori Chaika explores some of the creative strategies school districts have developed to recruit
and retain teachers. Included: Programs attract quality teachers with such
incentives as subsidized housing, tax breaks, student loan forgiveness, and more!
"For years, the teaching profession could count on discrimination, depression, and recession
to act as its recruiting agent but no longer. The law of supply and demand doesn't apply to every
occupation except teaching," American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Sandra Feldman
told Education World. The booming economy offers potential teachers a cornucopia of more-lucrative
Because of the growing number of school-aged children, class-size-reduction initiatives, and
an anticipated retirement of more than a million veteran teachers, schools in the United States
will need more than 2 million new teachers over the next decade. Attracting and retaining qualified
teachers is very difficult when starting salaries hover around $25,000, many teachers' salaries
average less than $40,000, and teachers have little opportunity for advancement.
"You can't raise a family in many parts of Louisiana on a beginning teacher's salary," Kathleen
Modenback, who teaches at Northshore High School, in Slidell, Louisiana, told Education World.
"Some Louisiana teachers' salaries are so low, the teachers may actually qualify for low-income
housing. In addition, many teachers spend close to $1,000 of their own money annually for classroom
A NATIONAL MOVEMENT TO RAISE TEACHER PAY?
Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley suggests a year-round schedule, automatically raising
teachers' pay 20 percent for the added work time.
Noting the nation's projected $3 trillion budget surplus, the nonpartisan New York-based research
group Century Foundation recommends the federal government seize the initiative and raise U.S.
teachers' salaries to a level that equals the salaries of other professionals who have similar
Many school systems, rather than assume a wait-and-see attitude, are actively developing their
WHAT ARE SCHOOL DISTRICTS DOING TO FILL THEIR CLASSROOMS?
School districts from coast to coast are launching ambitious initiatives to attract and retain
teachers, especially teachers who belong to minority groups and teachers certified in critical-need
areas or those willing to teach in urban or rural schools. Today, Education World explores some
of those initiatives.
- Filling critical-need areas. After SAT scores for Georgia students plunged to 50th
in the nation and almost half of Georgia eighth graders failed the state's math test, the state
-- like several others -- raised salaries for math teachers as well as hard-to-find science
and special education teachers. In California's Silicon Valley, teachers willing to retrain
in needed fields may receive grants, and in Wichita, Kansas, minority candidates and paraprofessionals
interested in special education receive financial support.
- Paying health insurance, retirement contributions, relocation expenses, or interviewing
costs. The Hartford, Connecticut, system pays teachers' health insurance and grants veteran
teachers annual bonuses of $100 for every year served. Some school districts provide relocation
assistance, pay retirement system contributions, or give hotel and restaurant vouchers to those
who come for interviews. Some subsidize on-site day care centers for teachers' children.
- Enticing retirees. Several states pay retired teachers their pensions plus salaries
if they return to the classroom. Christopher Cross, president of the Council for Basic Education
and a former assistant U.S. secretary of education in the George Bush Sr. administration, told
Education World how important it is to recruit people who are trained but are not teaching.
He suggests waiving the cap on retirement earnings for teachers and allowing them to return
to the classroom while still collecting social security and state pensions, an especially attractive
proposition because retirees often live in places with the worst shortages, such as Florida,
California, and Nevada.
- Offering tough-assignment incentives. Nevada is considering offering teachers retirement
credit for every five years they teach in critical-needs schools and permitting teachers in
rural schools to convert unused sick leave into retirement credit. In California, teachers working
in low-performing schools may qualify for $20,000 bonuses, college loan reductions, and home
loans. New York state may subsidize tuition for undergraduates pledging to teach in critical-need
public schools. Certified teachers in New York City who transfer to critical-need schools increase
their workday by 40 minutes but receive 15 percent raises. Last year, 600 teachers applied for
INCREASED SALARIES, BONUSES, HOUSING ASSISTANCE
- Offering signing bonuses, tax credits. California and Maryland provide teachers with
tax credits, and several school districts offer new hires signing bonuses. The Massachusetts
bonus is an incredible $20,000. Paid out over four years, the bonus is offered to approximately
100 highly qualified new teachers annually. Last year, 800 people applied; the state had requests
for information from people in 36 states and two foreign countries.
- Increasing salaries. Several state legislatures have passed across-the-board teacher
raises. Connecticut raised salaries, making Connecticut teachers among the highest-paid in the
nation, and then equalized salaries statewide to make recruiting easier for poorer districts.
California's new incentive package raises starting salaries 6 percent and funnels close to $2
billion to schools, much of which is expected to further raise teachers' pay.
- Providing housing assistance in high-priced areas. The starting salary for teachers
in Silicon Valley is $34,000, but a year's rent for a one-bedroom apartment could cost almost
half that, and the median price for a house is $550,000. One teacher reported it cost him $600
a month to rent a living room! About 50 percent of new teachers leave the Silicon Valley area
within four years.
SILICON VALLEY'S NEW INCENTIVES
"My high school was not a typical high school. The parents were motivated; the students were
motivated. Twenty-one students from my class went to Stanford," Rachel Peterson, a 1999 graduate
of Henry M. Gunn High School (Palo Alto, California), told Education World. "You would think teachers
would want to work here, but we lost good teachers all the time. We lost the young teachers, the
ones with potential who are amazingly smart and from good schools."
Now, however, thanks to financial aid from Hewlett-Packard and Intel Corporation, teachers in
Santa Clara County can participate in a lottery to win low-interest loans -- and in some cases
grants -- for mortgages or down payments on houses. The Santa Clara and San Francisco Unified
School Districts are building teachers' apartments. Santa Clara apartments are geared for young
teachers and will rent for 50 percent below market value. The San Francisco apartments are on
school land and are meant to be subsidized housing.
Some teachers find that plan insulting. They think that they could live in locations of their
choice -- not the school district's choice -- if their compensation was adequate.
Initiatives such as low-cost or subsidized housing do not occur in all locales, even though
they might be appropriate. Nationally, beginning teachers earn just 72 percent of what average
college grads earn in their first jobs, and the gap typically widens with each year of experience.
In a full-employment economy in which quality workers are in great demand, it may take significantly
more to attract people to teaching. According to
Measuring the Teacher Quality Problem, a paper published by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation,
"College graduates with high test scores are less likely to become teachers, licensed teachers
with high test scores are less likely to take teaching jobs, employed teachers with high test
scores are less likely to stay, and former teachers with high test scores are less likely to return."
The salary gap between experienced teachers with advanced degrees and other similarly educated
college graduates is now more than $32,000.
- Teacher Pay
Raise Urged This August 14, 2000, Washington Post article mentions the Century
Foundation recommendation that the federal government raise teachers' salaries to the level
enjoyed by other professionals with similar schooling.
Best New Teachers Would Earn More This September 20, 2000, Times-Union article
discusses Georgia legislation that raised all math, science, and special education teachers'
salaries and provided bonuses for teachers whose students perform above the standards on statewide
Union Seeks More Incentives to Staff Troubled Schools This August 12, 2000, New York
Times article describes the New York City plan to add 40 minutes to the teaching day but
give certified teachers a 15 percent raise when they transfer into low-performing schools.
- The Teacher Shortage: Apply,
Please! This March 27, 2000, Education World article lists many statistics concerning
the teacher shortage, including the fact that 20 percent of new teachers leave within the first
three years. It explores some of the creative ways school systems woo teachers to their schools.
- New Reform
Wave Focuses On Teacher Quality This July 11, 2000, Christian Science Monitor article
focuses on California's recently enacted $2.4 billion teacher incentive package.
Introduces Pilot Program to Help Teachers Buy Homes This June 18, 2000, Associated Press
article describes Intel's housing fund. It also lists the median home price in Santa Clara County
Signs Teacher Incentive Bills (abbreviated version) This July 5, 2000, Associated Press
article discusses California's new starting teacher salary of $34,000, the tax credit initiative,
and the student loan forgiveness program.
As U.S. Debate Intensifies, Pay for Teachers Rises 3% Included in this January 7, 2000,
New York Times article are Secretary of Education Riley's proposal to make teaching
a year-round profession and the statistic that beginning teachers earn just 72 percent of what
average college grads earn in their first jobs. The article includes 1998-1999 average teacher
salaries by state.
A Bidding War for Teachers Spreads from Coast to Coast This January 6, 2000, New York
Times article mentions some of the cities offering signing bonuses. It includes the statistic
that the gap between beginning teachers' salaries and the average starting salary for other
college grads typically widens with each year of experience.
Boom a Bust for Teachers This August 1, 2000, Wired News article describes the
housing situation teachers in Silicon Valley face and some of the strategies school districts
are using to help them.
Union Chief Calls for Big Raises This January 9, 2000, Detroit News article discusses
AFT President Sandra Feldman's speech to the Economic Club of Detroit.
- Measuring the
Teacher Quality Problem This paper, published in the July 1999 Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
publication Better Teachers, Better Schools, states, among other things, "College graduates
with high test scores are less likely to become teachers. ..."
OTHER RESOURCE USED TO COMPILE THIS STORY
- American Federation of Teachers President Sandra Feldman's Speech to the Detroit Economic
Club In this January 18, 2000, speech Ms. Feldman lists several statistics such as the projected
number of new teachers needed over the next decade, average salaries for teachers, and which
states provide salary supplements for teachers with National Board Certification.
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Article by Glori Chaika
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