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As labor shortages continue to plague county schools, districts are offering thousands of dollars in signing bonuses to bring in new teachers and staff ahead of the coming year.
Hartford, Connecticut is offering a $5,000 signing incentive for educators in high-demand subjects like math, science, and bilingual education. Taos, New Mexico, promises a starting salary of $50,000 for any new teacher hire, plus a bonus of $10,000. Stanly County Schools in North Carolina also announced a $10,000 signing incentive.
“We wanted to give teachers [an] …an incentive to come to beautiful Taos,” Superintendent Lillian Torrez told 74 via email. Funding provided by the federal government under the U.S. bailout “helped with this project,” she said.
In an extreme example, schools in Gallup-McKinley County in New Mexico are incentivizing teachers to join the ranks of the district by offering them bonuses ranging from $18,000 to $22,000, plus $2,500 to $4,500 for relocation. – a considerable sum which could reach around 25,000 dollars.
Bus drivers are also in short supply. Lower Merion, a school system outside of Philadelphia, announced a $4,000 incentive for drivers to join the ranks of the district. California’s Eureka Union School District is offering $10,000.
“Hire School Bus Drivers with BIG Incentives!” a Eureka publication reads.
Burbio, a data service that has tracked school policy throughout the pandemic, said while districts have been using incentives to attract workers for months, dollar amounts have recently skyrocketed — possibly reflecting an ultimate effort to get fully staffed on the first day of school.
“Over the past several weeks, we have noted a marked increase in the size and duration of these payments,” Burbio co-founder Dennis Roche wrote in the company’s Aug. 1 newsletter.
The generous bonuses are just the latest examples of the extreme lengths school systems are taking to manage what some experts call a staffing “crisis.”
In Texas, several rural districts are moving to a four-day week due to staffing shortages. In Florida, leaders are asking veterans of the military with no teaching experience to serve in classrooms. In Arizona, some children may soon be receiving instruction from students rather than certified teachers. And in Buffalo, New York, a shortage of drivers has prompted leaders to consider providing a 58.5 cent per mile reimbursement to parents who choose to drive their children rather than put them on the bus.
Throughout the pandemic, K-12 staffing shortages have disproportionately affected poor districts. Yet even large school systems have felt the effects. In early August, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools in North Carolina announced that there were 415 teaching vacancies remaining, more than six times the number of vacancies at this time last year.
Nationally, there were about 300,000 job vacancies in the education sector in June, according to the most recent figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other data indicates that the total could be even higher: a representative sample of the nearly 100,000 schools in the country reported an average of three vacant teaching positions and three other unfilled teaching positions, such as staff maintenance workers, cafeteria workers or bus drivers, in a June survey of the National Center for Education Statistics – suggesting there could be nearly 600,000 openings.
However, vacancies do not necessarily mean campuses are understaffed. Vacancies can also arise because schools have added new roles, explained Chad Aldeman, director of policy at Georgetown University’s Edunomics Lab.
“The districts are currently teeming with cash thanks to the injection of $190 billion in federal aid. As a result, many districts have ambitious hiring plans to add more teachers, mental health support, educational aides or tutors,” he wrote in an email to 74.
More than three-quarters of school systems have increased their total number of staff above pre-pandemic levels, including teaching and non-teaching roles, according to a recent study by the Rand Corporation.
“In short, we believe it is the increase in the number of staff they seek to employ rather than an exodus from teaching that is straining the teacher labor market,” the authors wrote.
Meanwhile, the economy has created a surprisingly large number of new jobs, according to the just-released federal report, including a seasonally adjusted 27,000 in K-12 education in July. With unemployment rates down to just 3.5% nationally and a continued decline in the share of Americans working or actively seeking work, there is no sign that the hiring landscape will ease any further. early.
“Unemployment rates are low, which means almost everyone who wants a job already has one,” Aldeman said. “All of this competition can be tough on employers, but it’s good for the workers who get these allowances and bonuses.”
“Districts are going to have to be aggressive and creative in finding and keeping employees in critical shortage areas,” he said. wrote on Twitter.
That was the name of the game for the superintendent. Torrez in Taos, New Mexico. On his district’s homepage is a full-screen scrolling slideshow of benefits for new recruits:
“WE’RE HIRING! Receive an additional $10,000 Recruitment Incentive”
“LISTEN WHY TEACHERS LOVE TEACHING AT TAOS SCHOOLS! Click below for the video, then click the right arrow for the app!”
“WOULD YOU LIKE A $10,000 RECRUITMENT INCENTIVE FOR A NEW JOB AS A TMS TEACHER? Click below for application!
She isn’t concerned about why the market is tight, but rather how she can navigate these conditions while ensuring her district has a full teaching staff when her 2,100 students return to the schools. buildings on August 11. The $10,000 signing bonuses, she says, have attracted 10 applicants, but there are still 7 vacancies.
“We still have a few openings,” she said. “However, I would call [the incentives] a success, overall.
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