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One District Responds to Shortage With Bargains, Discounts for New Teacher

By Blake Rodman — April 02, 1986 3 min read

In what may be an unprecedented move to attract new teachers, a consortium of business leaders in one of the nation’s largest school districts has developed a package of consumer benefits for beginning teachers in the system.

Beginning this summer, Prince George’s County, Md., will offer first-year teachers perquisites ranging from restaurant discounts and a month’s free rent to lower consumer-loan rates and credit-card fee exemptions.

“We haven’t heard of anything quite like this,” said Howard Carroll, a spokesman for the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union.

The incentive plan is designed to help the 5,000-teacher district in suburban Washington hire the more than 400 new teachers it expects to need next year.

According to Maryland officials, the state will need as many as 6,000 new teachers next year, said Jacquelyn L. Lendsey, a county spokesman. But colleges and universities in the state are expected to graduate only about 3,000 prospective teachers.

“All the districts in Maryland are going to be competing for those 3,000 graduates,” Ms. Lendsey said.

Although the starting salary for teachers in Prince George’s schools is $15,700—currently the lowest in the region—a tentative contract agreement between the county school system and its teachers would boost the starting salary to a more competitive $19,000.

Ms. Lendsey noted, however, that “every district in the area will be doing the same kind of thing.”

With this in mind, she said, the business group “felt the county needed to provide some additional incentives to attract new teachers.”

Incentive Package

Under the program, beginning teachers who sign contracts with the county by Aug. 1 will receive:

  • One month’s free rent at their choice of 12 apartment complexes in the county. The housing-development corporation that operates the 12 facilities has also agreed to waive I security-deposit requirements.
  • Car and consumer loans at a discount rate—probably one percentage point off the regular rate—and credit cards without annual fee requirements from two county banks.
  • 20 percent discounts at several area restaurants.
  • Summer-employment opportunities through local businesses.

In addition to providing the incentives, business leaders will accompany school officials to state and regional recruitment conferences to meet prospective teachers.

‘Start-Up Assistance’

Winfield M. Kelly, president of the county schools’ Advisory Council for Business and Industry, which is sponsoring the program, said the incentives are geared to the new college graduate with concerns about “food, shelter, and transportation.”

The “small incentives,” Mr. Kelly noted, should be viewed as “start-up assistance for those young people who need it.”

“Ultimately,” he said, “if the incentives succeed in attracting 10 or 15 or even 2 teachers who may not have otherwise come to the district, then we have been successful.”

The day after the incentive program was announced, the district received more than 100 telephone inquiries from prospective teachers, Ms. Lendsey said.

Union Response

Paul G. Pinsky, president of the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association, an affiliate of the N.E.A., called the initiative “well intended,” but said he wished the perquisites had been offered to all teachers in the county.

“Practicing teachers are starting to get resentful,” he said. “They are asking, ‘What do I have to do to get a free month’s rent and cheaper lunches?’”

''This is a positive move and we don’t want to be negative about it,” said Mr. Carroll of the N.E.A. But he called the plan “narrowly conceived” and argued that its benefits would be “offset in the long run by the more dire needs of teachers,” including better salaries, improved working conditions, and smaller class sizes.

A version of this article appeared in the April 02, 1986 edition of Education Week


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