CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At least two local school districts will start handing out retention bonuses this year to their staff amid a teacher shortage in North Carolina.
Both Union County Schools and Charlotte Mecklenburg County Schools voted this week to give their staffs retention bonuses.
In Union County, to be eligible, staff must have been employed as of Nov. 15, and remain actively employed through Jan. 14, 2022. Full-time employees will receive $2,000 and part-time employees $1,000.
CMS full-time employees will receive $2,500 retention bonuses and part-time workers will get a $1,250 bonus.
Districts are using bonuses to retain current employees while also actively seeking new recruits to fill job openings.
Union County Public Schools’ website shows there are school vacancies ranging from music teachers to middle school math teachers. Like other districts around the state, they’re waiting for qualified teachers to click apply.
A teacher’s path to education usually starts on a campus-like UNC- Charlotte’s Cato College of Education. The college enrolls more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students annually.
Drew Polly is a professor in the Elementary Education program and he said students’ interest in teaching careers isn’t always steady.
“We have had some ebbs and flows in terms of teacher culture -- and what teacher morale looks like in terms of what people are pursuing in education degrees," Polly said.
Despite this, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the job outlook for teachers in the next 10 years is growing by at least 8%.
Recruitment and retention continue to be a struggle for districts due to factors like cost of living, school culture, and resources supplied to school staff tied to state budgets.
The U.S. Department of Labor also reported about 77,000 openings for high school teachers alone are projected each year, on average, over the forthcoming decade.
Since 2019, North Carolina has tried more aggressively to recruit teachers in the state with its TeachNC program. The program created a centralized how-to page for teachers to start their careers in a North Carolina school.
Polly said he continues to teach the next generation of teachers but whether they stay in the profession, he says that’s a personal decision.
“I think with the pandemic we have definitely seen some data that suggest more teachers are leaving and more teachers are deciding to do other work," he said.
The U.S. Department of Education shows North Carolina has a shortage of qualified teachers in all grades for math and special education, and all core subjects for elementary schools grades.
Districts must continue to find ways to convince teachers not to leave the classroom. They're beholden to finite budgets, a competitive workforce, and fast-approaching retirements.
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