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Published in Print: June 3, 1998, as Baltimore Offering Teachers Housing Bonuses

Baltimore Offering Teachers Housing Bonuses

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To entice new teachers, the Baltimore district is offering a $5,000 home-buying grant to assist them with closing costs or down payments for homes purchased in the city. That offer is part of an aggressive strategy to recruit at least 500 new teachers by fall.

O. Albrie Love Jr.

In addition to the housing grants, the district has raised teachers' starting salaries by $3,000--to $27,350--and is offering teachers who are moving from another state $1,200 to help them relocate.

Many school districts offer financial incentives to new teachers; Baltimore may be the only district to offer a housing grant.

"It's another way to attract people to this area and have them become a part of the community," said O. Albrie Love Jr., the director of the district's department of personnel services. "We're going to do whatever we can do to attract teachers because we are in a very competitive area."

The competition the 110,000-student Baltimore district faces is being felt all around the country this spring. Many districts are looking for ways to attract and retain qualified teachers.

Some are offering forgiveness of college loans, tuition reimbursement, and bonuses for signing a contract, according to Elizabeth F. Fideler, the vice president for policy and research at the Belmont, Mass.-based Recruiting New Teachers Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to expanding the pool of prospective teachers and improving teacher recruitment.

Over the next decade, the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education, estimates that 2 million teachers will need to be hired because of rising enrollments, accelerating retirements, teacher attrition, and class-size reduction.

Experts say that more math, science, and special education teachers are needed, as are minority and male teachers.

The NCES has found that 22 percent of teachers leave their jobs within the first three years. In urban areas, the attrition rate is between 30 percent and 50 percent over the first five years of teaching.

That is one reason districts are offering incentives that they hope will not only attract new teachers, but also help keep them, particularly in hard-to-staff geographic areas.

It's not cost-effective for districts to recruit people who may leave after the first year or two, Ms. Fideler noted.

Special Needs

From New York City to Los Angeles, public schools are also willing to do a lot to attract minority and bilingual teachers who match their areas' demographics.

For example, the New York schools provide tuition reimbursement for paraprofessionals--particularly minorities--aiming to become teachers, and the Detroit district offers a $3,000 salary differential for teachers in high-need areas.

In Arizona, Florida, and Texas, scholarships and loans are readily available from districts to entice prospective teachers to go into bilingual education, and the Los Angeles schools offer an extra $5,000 in salary for people who are bilingual, Ms. Fideler said.

Community Connections

Even in the small, rural districts that can't effectively compete with the larger, more affluent ones, officials are finding creative ways to attract teachers.

For example, in the towns that surround the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, the smaller districts have a program to "grow their own teachers."

Essentially, they will pay for students' college tuitions if they agree to come back to teach in area schools.

In Baltimore, despite its being a large urban area, administrators are using the housing bonuses to try to connect new teachers to the community.

School officials there want the teachers they hire to live where they work and feel attached to the community they teach in.

The district originally began offering the housing grants to new teachers last August. Since then, 1,200 new teachers have been placed in the city's schools.

A breakdown of those who applied for loans was not available last week.

Although teachers must remain in the district for at least two years to be eligible for the grant, each year they remain, their debt is forgiven 10 percent. If they leave, they must repay the balance.

Recruitment efforts for the city's schools have been tough because the district competes with 24 other districts within Maryland, as well as with districts in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and West Virginia. And it can be more difficult to attract teachers to an urban district.

"Our incentives have leveled the playing field and made us more competitive," Mr. Love said.

Results Pending

A job fair the Baltimore system held last month attracted people from Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

"We created a one-stop shop," Mr. Love said.

Tables were set up for professional development, before-school activities, the Baltimore Teachers Union, the local credit union, moving companies, and the parks and recreation department.

District administrators hope to take their hospitality one step further next year and introduce prospective teacher-recruits to neighborhood residents.

But, it's still too early to tell whether the new incentives are working, said Marietta English, the president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

"I'd like to see the results of how many teachers [the district] attracts," she said, "and how many will remain."

Vol. 17, Issue 38, Page 5

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