$50K Bonus for Teachers | Unpacking Educator Free Agency | SDP183

Des Moines Public Schools is offering a $50,000 incentive to teachers, nurses, and administrators who are nearing retirement to stay with the district through the 2022-2023 school year. A few states over, Michigan’s Jackson Public Schools is offering a $10,000 signing bonus for new teachers willing to stay at least two years. Unheard of five years ago, educator signing and retention bonuses are the new normal and range from $500 to several thousand dollars. But they aren’t solving Des Moines staffing issues – and the state of Georgia found little success in attempting to recruit retired teachers. Of 56,000 retirees eligible to return with incentives, less than 100 contacted the state about returning.

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TEACHER SHORTAGES. In 2019, the Economic Policy Institute released a report examining the magnitude of the at-the-time teacher shortage in America, as well as projections to the year 2025. In 2017-2018, it was estimated that there was a shortage of 110,000 teachers. Projecting to 2025, the shortage will swell to 200,000 teachers available to enter the classroom and the demand for new hires.

WHY ARE TEACHERS LEAVING? Teachers report that they are “burned out” – citing increasing student discipline, sprawling obligations, high-stakes testing, and low pay. Note that in the World Happiness Report, people choose living in an area where someone would return their wallet over having their salary doubled.

WHAT LOCATIONS ARE MOST AFFECTED? High-poverty schools and rural schools, seemingly obvious, have the greatest challenges maintaining a full staff. These locations also endure the most turnover, as teachers move to higher-paying districts or communities with more amenities. Per Universities.com, teacher shortages are reported across the US. “Nevada students started school on August 8, 2022, with a shortage of over 1400 Teachers.” California, Nevada, Washington, Arizona, and Hawaii are the top 5 states with teacher shortages.

OTHER STRATEGIES TO BOOST APPEAL OF THE TEACHING OCCUPATION. Some schools are trimming the work week, although it’s uncertain how doing so will impact required minutes for student’s education, especially services for students with disabilities. “Texas’ rural school districts are implementing a 4-day school week to alleviate the Teacher shortage. Houston, Texas currently has over 2200 teaching vacancies (Unversities.com).” There has been a growing effort to make it easier for non-teachers to become certified teachers. “Florida is recruiting military Veterans to teach without a license to help the Teacher shortage and Polk County has hired 60 international Teachers Universities.com). Still, other schools are paying teachers relocation expenses.

FREE-AGENCY TYPE NEGOTIATION. Teachers in highest-demand areas, such as tech-ed, chemistry, or foreign languages might receive the highest bonuses and most-tailored packages from school districts. In addition, specialists, such as speech-language pathologists, an area with chronic shortage, might be paid nearly double the salary of a classroom teacher. It hasn’t happened yet, but we are on course for a teacher or specialist to hire an agent, similar to pro sports. This is already happening for school administrator jobs, with aspiring leaders hiring an agency to stump for an interview of the candidate.

RETIREMENT PACKAGES HAVE LOST APPEAL. The teaching profession is typically coupled with a robust state pension plan and even retirement payouts to be applied to healthcare. The “retire at 55 with a pension mantra for life” mantra isn’t resonating with younger people who do not want to trade lower wages today for a pension 30 years from now. That generation is day-trading stocks on their Robinhood apps. On the other hand, the National Education Association argues that pensions “successfully attract people to education as a profession, retain teachers, and provide solid retirement security.“ So perhaps what needs to happen is better “educating” teachers about the value of having a pension, but this doesn’t seem to be the appropriate set of talking points for people under 40. It’s out-of-touch to tell people who just emerged from a pandemic, civil unrest, and an economic crash (that slid into inflation and shortages) to think decades down the road. They aren’t going to do that, and the school district office’s human resources folks need to think of the teaching profession as becoming more similar to the private sector.

MONEYBALL in SCHOOLS? Maybe we’ll see a “Moneyball” approach of fielding a roster year-to-year. Sure, that eviscerates legacy and institutional knowledge, but it’s the way things are – so get novel with staff induction. Some districts will figure this out.

This is episode 183 of The Safety Doc Podcast published on 08-20-2022. This podcast and blog post represent the opinions of David P. Perrodin and his guests to the show. The content here is for informational purposes only. Please consult with your safety professional regarding the unique needs of yourself or your organization.


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School of Errors – Rethinking School Safety in America

The Velocity of Information – Human Thinking During Chaotic Times