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STEM and Special Ed. Teachers Could Receive Thousands of Dollars to Teach

As districts across the country struggle to fill hundreds of specialized teaching positions before school starts back up next month, some are turning to one-time bonuses to sweeten the deal.

The San Francisco school district is offering a $4,000 signing bonus for special education teachers—it needs to find 70 in the next five weeks, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The district is also offering signing bonuses to special education teachers' aides as well as veteran teachers who will go back to school for a special education credential.

This is a bit of an unusual move, the Chronicle reported. Teachers' unions are traditionally skeptical of differentiated pay. But as the teacher shortage hits the Bay Area and beyond, particularly in specialized fields, local teachers' unions have given their blessing for districts to offer cash incentives to qualified educators. Special education and STEM fields are typically the areas with the highest demand for teachers.

For instance, according to the Chronicle, the Pittsburg Unified School District in Contra Costa County, Calif., is offering a $5,000 signing bonus for special education, math, science, and Spanish bilingual or dual-immersion teachers. A small Georgia school district is offering a signing bonus for state-certified math, science, and special education teachers. Mobile County Public Schools in Alabama is offering $10,000 signing bonuses for certified math and science teachers who will stay at the school for three years.

Districts are hoping these bonuses will lure in-demand teachers to their schools, many of which have high-poverty rates. And some districts are trying to tap into new pools of educators: The Roanoke City schools in Virginia are trying to recruit North Carolina teachers, who are among the lowest-paid in the country and are no stranger to out-of-state recruitmentwith signing bonuses ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. The Roanoke schools particularly need special education, math, health/physical education, English, Spanish, and French teachers.

 As the start of the 2016-17 school year draws closer and schools hurry to fill their classrooms, it will be interesting to see if these bonuses work, or if more districts make room for this in their budgets. There has been research that found that bonuses weren't enough to attract teachers to low-achieving schools. In a seven-year study about a bonus-pay program for elementary teachers who transferred schools, only 5 percent of eligible teachers took the $20,000 bonus and made the shift. 

More on the Teacher Shortage:

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