(The Center Square) – The Austin Independent School District in Texas has a problem finding teachers for some hard-to-fill positions that public school districts are facing throughout the country.
So, this year, the school district upped the bonuses it pays to teachers who will take on those jobs or have a coveted skill set, such as being bilingual.
The district is paying a $7,000 stipend to teachers who are bilingual and $5,000 to teachers who will teach special education. According to a 2017 district survey, about 28% of its students are English Language Learners, meaning they are students who are unable to communicate fluently or learn effectively in English. The starting salary for an Austin teacher was $52,190 in 2022-23. The district also offered an additional $2,000 bonus to new hires this year.
And the district stated the U.S. Department of Education designated bilingual/English as a Second Language and Special Education as “approved” teacher shortage areas for 2022-23.
The district said from the 2021/22 school year to the 2022/23 school year, it retained 76.3% of teachers in what it defined as “hard-to-fill” teaching positions.
And in a statement to The Center Square, the district said it would “evaluate hiring trends and needs and make recommendations about possible changes in stipend amounts if needed.”
Across the country, the vast majority of public-school districts pay their teachers primarily based on years of service and level of education. States that ban collective bargaining with unions, such as North Carolina, have school districts that follow the union-method of salary schedules. For example, the Wake County Public School district, the largest in North Carolina, follows the union-prescribed method of paying teachers based on years of service and level of education and whether they are certified. Wake County’s district also offers a separate pay schedule for special-education teachers, which gives a slight increase in pay to those teachers.
School districts are finding varying ways to pay more for the more difficult teaching positions.
Philadelphia public schools has had a separate salary schedule for years for special education teachers. In that district, a first-year special education teacher with a bachelor’s degree made $50,987 in 2022, or $921 more than a colleague with the same credentials who is not teaching in special education.
Other school districts have chosen a less precise solution.
Jackson Public Schools in Michigan and Taos Municipal Public Schools in New Mexico offered a $10,000 signing bonus to all new teachers.
This article First appeared in the center square