Beyond Salary: Innovative Benefits to Attract and Retain Teachers
Innovative teacher compensation does not need to be limited to considerations of teacher salary. During the past six months, I took the opportunity to advocate for paid maternity and paternity leave when working with my district's assistant superintendent for human resources, addressing attendees at Tacoma Public School's Innovation Summit, and speaking to the Washington State delegation at the NEA Representative Assembly. To recruit and retain high quality teachers, I argued, districts need to consider making available creative benefits to meet the needs of their current and future workforce.
The United States is one of the few United Nations member states that does not provide paid maternity or paternity leave, so public school systems here could set an important precedent for this to change. When paid maternity and paternity leave become the norm, instead of the exception, the benefits would be observable in the first group of pre-school and kindergarten student beneficiaries.
States could look for innovative ways to compensate teachers by considering first-time homeowner programs or bonuses for teachers who purchase a home and reside within their school's neighborhood. As schools become more community centered, having teachers who are also members of the community would likely help teachers feel more invested in their schools and better understand the needs of their students. It could also reduce commute time and strengthen trust between families and the school.
States could also create student-loan forgiveness programs for teachers that could be tiered based on a number of factors, including poverty level of school or high-need content area. For example, let's say a teacher who works 10 years could have their federal loans paid in full by the state. If math is a high need-content area, then a math teacher could get their loans forgiven after seven years. And a teacher who works in a high-poverty school could have loans forgiven after 5 years.
Innovative benefits could make the teaching profession more desirable and would allow public education to be more selective when recruiting teaching candidates. But public education could also benefit from having innovative salary tiers based on months worked. Currently, most teachers in the United States get paid for nine months because the school year only lasts nine months, but what if teachers had the opportunity to sign a 10 month or 11 month contract, where those additional months would be spent horizontally and vertically aligning lesson plans to other subject areas, working in PLCs, attending professional development aligned to the learning needs of the individual teacher, or even teaching students in extended summer school or early start programs?
Because district resources are often limited, many of these benefits or programs would likely need to be offered at the state or federal level. But they would also be less expensive options than merely increasing teacher salaries by a fixed percentage.
Ryan Prosser is an National Board-certified teacher in early adolescent english language arts and currently works as an instructional facilitator in the Tacoma, Wash., school district. He is a member of the CTQ Collaboratory.