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America is facing a teacher shortage, and some school districts are giving out signing bonuses to attract staff

Teacher and students sitting together in a circle on the floor and wearing masks

As kids enjoy the last few weeks of summer, school districts are figuring out how to fill positions.
Some schools are offering signing or retention bonuses.
The US is down nearly 582,000 jobs in local and state government education from February 2020.
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With the school year just two months away for most of the US, some students may be eager to return to the classroom after a year of learning online and over Zoom. But some districts facing a teacher shortage are struggling to fill open positions.

That shortage isn't a new issue, but the pandemic has led some educators to rethink their work.

According to a survey of 2,690 members of the National Education Association in May, 32% said the "pandemic has led them to plan to leave the profession earlier than they anticipated," NEA Today's Tim Walker wrote.

Additionally, in a report from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, as reported by CNBC, 38% of 484 K-12 employees surveyed said working during the pandemic has made them think about changing jobs. And 55% of these employees surveyed said "the risks I'm taking working during the COVID-19 pandemic are not on par with my compensation."

In another survey by Frontline Education, two-thirds of about 1,200 school and district leaders reported a teacher shortage, which the school administration software company notes is a new high after first conducting the survey in 2015. The survey results also show a high share reporting special education teacher shortages and substitute teacher shortages.

Waco Independent School District in Texas is one district looking to hire more teachers. "My staff was on a job fair this week and there were over a 100 districts on that job fair because they have a great need for teachers; it's not just Waco ISD, absolutely not," Josie Gutierrez, Waco Independent School District's assistant superintendent for human resources, told local Central Texas news station KCEN-TV earlier this month.

As seen in the chart below, employment in state and local government education plummeted last spring and is still down from pre-pandemic levels. There were 10.0 million workers employed in state or local government education jobs in June 2021, down from 10.6 million in February 2020, or short by around 582,000 jobs.

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As some districts struggle to keep and retain staff, they have turned to signing and retention bonuses to fill positions and keep current talent.

San Juan Unified School District in California is offering $2,000 in signing bonuses, and Marlboro County School District in South Carolina is giving out $2,500 in retention bonuses for teachers who return and teach in the upcoming school year. One school district in North Carolina will also offer signing bonuses of $2,000 to bus drivers as it looks to fill multiple positions.

As Insider's Anna Cooban reported, a few different states are using federal stimulus funds to give bonuses as a "thank you" for their work amid the pandemic and to retain current staff.

One school is even looking outside the US to fill open positions. Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Khera of Peoria Public School District in Illinois told CNN that the district is hiring 27 people from the Philippines. This is part of the state's visiting international teaching program.

Similar to restaurants owners having a hard time finding new workers, some school districts are finding it hard to fill open spots amid the pandemic and with the school year quickly approaching.

"We face a looming crisis in losing educators at a time when our students need them most," Becky Pringle, NEA president, told NEA Today's Tim Walker. "This is a serious problem with potential effects for generations."

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