Michigan schools are offering new teachers up to $10k bonus. Is yours?
Jackson Public Schools is offering a $10,000 signing bonus for people who become elementary teachers. A small, rural school is offering $5,000 for new teachers willing to stay at least two years. Other schools are offering bonuses ranging from $500 to several thousand dollars.
That’s according to recent job listings on mistaff.com, a website hosted by several Michigan education groups, including the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators.
They are among an undetermined number of Michigan school districts dangling bonuses for vacant positions in a state that needs far more teachers in classrooms. As of Thursday, there are 15 postings on the Michigan site that include bonuses.
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Citizens Research Council of Michigan Research Director Craig Thiel told Bridge Michigan that bonus offers can be a “fairly blunt, but effective instrument” of staffing an organization.
“This can be an effective tool from the standpoint of not disrupting your current salary schedule but still being able to address this challenge through compensation somehow,” he said.
Thiel said if a school district chooses to offer bonuses, it’s likely “more art than science” on what amount of money would incentivize a person to choose one district over another nearby district since school districts in any given area are relatively aligned on their salary schedules.
The state’s long-standing teacher shortage has been a critical talking point among school leaders, teacher unions and politicians, and has gained new urgency since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Michigan in 2020. The state is experimenting with several policy changes that would make it easier to hire or train new teachers in Michigan.
Lawmakers recently approved a School Aid budget that includes $175 million to provide school support staff a free pathway to earn a teaching license, $50 million in scholarships for people who commit to teaching in the state for three to five years and $25 million that would allow student teachers to be paid while they help lead classrooms. (Historically, college students seeking careers in education have had to work alongside teachers for a time as part of their degree requirement, but have not gotten paid for their time, creating a financial strain.)
Another recent measure would make it easier for teachers from other states to become certified in Michigan.
At the Vanderbilt Area School north of Gaylord, Principal Matthew Saunders is trying to find a social studies instructor to teach seventh through 12th grade.
The rural K-12 school of just 93 students is offering up to a $5,000 bonus: a new hire would receive $2,500 after teaching for a year and another $2,500 after year two.
This is the second year Vanderbilt is offering a bonus. Last year, the school used the bonus structure to fill openings for math and science teachers.
Saunders said the bonus helped them find candidates but they needed more training since they had undergraduate degrees but not yet have teaching certificates.
“Luckily enough, we’re a small school and so other teachers could help them out quite a bit, like mentor teachers,” he said.
Saunders said it has gotten harder to find teachers each year as the number of people going to college for training in the teaching profession has declined. And a lot of new teachers don’t want to go to a small district.
When Saunders learned his social studies teacher was leaving, he discovered there were 42 open positions for social studies teachers across the state. So far, he has two applications. Three years ago, he recalled, there were four or five applicants for an open social studies slot.
“It's going to get worse, I think, before it gets better,” he said. “My biggest fear is not finding anybody, then what do I do?”
To best educate students, “you want a highly qualified person in that subject teaching the students and if we have to fill in or fill it with a sub or something like that, then you're not getting the most highly-qualified person.” The first day of school is September 7.
It’s hard to measure the precise scope of the teacher shortage in Michigan. Districts are required to submit staffing data twice a year but the state does not have a comprehensive way of tracking real-time data, the Detroit News reported. Chalkbeat Detroit analyzed different sources of data to get a sense of the trends in educator employment.
Are you a teacher or public school employee who has been affected by a shortage of workers? Are you a school administrator trying to fill vacancies before the school year starts? Share your story with education reporter Isabel Lohman at ILohman@bridgemi.com.
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