**************************************************** From The New York Times, January 7, 2000, p. 1 [late edition/East Coast] ****************************************************
A Bidding War for Teachers Spreads From Coast to Coast
By Jacques Steinberg
On Wednesday, only hours after Gov. George E. Pataki asked lawmakers to subsidize tuition for college students who commit to teach in selected New York public schools, Gov. Gray Davis of California addressed the Legislature in Sacramento with what, in effect, amounted to a more lucrative counteroffer.
California, Governor Davis proposed, should offer candidates who agree to teach in low-performing schools $10,000 loans for buying a home, $30,000 bonuses for attaining advanced certification and $11,000 to repay college loans.
But even before such incentives can be proffered, the two states -- neither of which apparently had any idea what the other was planning -- face heavy competition across the country in their efforts to woo prospective teachers and to keep good ones from fleeing to other states or professions.
"It's a bidding war," said Richard Mills, the state education commissioner in New York. "And you can't recruit with rhetoric."
Two years ago, as the nation began to feel the effects of a virtually unprecedented wave of teacher retirements, Baltimore offered to badly needed special education teachers starting salaries equivalent to those of teachers with four years' experience, as well as reduced-rate mortgages and reimbursement of moving expenses. During the same period, El Paso, Tex., lured new math teachers with $2,000 signing bonuses, which it was forced to do after Dallas began a similar effort.
Such offers have multiplied and intensified in recent months: at least 20 states -- including Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Massachusetts -- have begun to pay bonuses of up to $6,000 a year, sometimes for several years, to teachers who pass a new, rigorous national certification test.
New York has traditionally had difficulty keeping pace. The state is among several that produce thousands of new teachers a year who choose, often for reasons of quality of academic life or salary, to teach outside the state.
Of the 21,000 students who graduated with teaching certificates from New York colleges and universities last year, fewer than 7,000 took teaching jobs in New York, according to Carl Hayden, the chancellor of the Board of Regents. This movement is happening at a time when the city alone is seeking to replace nearly 10,000 teachers who have temporary licenses.
Several factors are driving the proposals by New York, California and the other states.
With tens of thousands of teachers, many of them born in the first years of the baby boom, becoming eligible for retirement, the nation must recruit and hire two million new teachers in less than a decade. There is also a national effort, much of it subsidized by the federal government, to reduce class sizes, particularly in burgeoning urban school districts.
Meanwhile, the demand for highly skilled teachers has, arguably, never been greater: new high-stakes tests often link a teacher's job evaluation to student performance, and new state standards, written or in place in every state but Iowa, seek to outline what teachers should be teaching, and when.
The need for good teachers has also been affected by the persistence of flush times, making education more of a public concern than the economy is. Voters have told pollsters, for example, that improving education is among their greatest priorities.
And the growth in technology jobs and other employment tied to the Internet has further sapped the ranks of potential science teachers, among others.
Moreover, Mr. Mills and Mr. Hayden said that women, once the backbone of the nation's teaching force, now can seek out opportunities in more lucrative fields once closed to them.
Still, for all the perks states are offering teachers, few politicians have been willing to take the far more costly step of increasing teachers' salaries permanently and across the board.
"These are all good things," said Sandra Feldman, a former New York City elementary school teacher who is president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second-largest teachers union. "But ultimately the salaries will have to be raised. You are talking about a need for 250,000 teachers a year for the next 10 years. You are talking about a full-employment economy where knowledge workers are in great demand. It's going to take a significant increase in base salaries to attract the educated people we need to become teachers."
According to figures provided by the union, the average beginning teacher's salary nationally, at the start of the 1998 school year, was $25,735. That compared with $42,862 for beginning engineers, $40,920 for new computer scientists and $33,702 for accountants.
The gap between teachers and those other professions typically widens with each year of experience.
One of the few officials who has stepped forward to advocate boosting teachers' base pay is Vice President Al Gore, who said that if elected president, he would propose federally financed salary increases of up to $10,000 for veteran teachers willing to serve in the nation's poorest districts.
Governor Pataki's proposal, which came in his sixth annual address to the Legislature, would provide an annual tuition subsidy of $3,400 -- enough to cover full tuition at a state university for a state resident, or to reduce the much higher tuition at private schools -- to those college students who promise to teach for at least four years in those New York public schools with teacher shortages. Most of the teachers, presumably, would be placed in New York City, though few details have been worked out.
The Pataki administration estimated that the proposal would cost the state $25 million a year, and attract perhaps 50,000 new teachers over the next 10 years. New York City is expected to lose more than half that number, most to retirement, over that period.
Mr. Pataki, a Republican, also said the state should pay for more than 9,000 uncertified teachers to take the courses they need to become licensed teachers.
The sweeteners proposed by Governor Davis of California, a Democrat, would be even more generous.
Teachers would be eligible for $10,000 home loans that would be forgiven after they teach in the state's public schools for five years. Those who teach in schools ranked in the lower half in the state would also have $11,000 in college loans forgiven if they stay in such schools for five years.
And $30,000 bonuses would be awarded to California teachers who work in low-performing schools and who take the courses and pass the tests required to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a nonprofit organization that seeks to make the criteria for good teachers uniform across the country.
Governor Davis did not specify the cost of those proposals, but said he hoped to devote a significant portion of an expected $3 billion budget surplus to education.
"To our youth, let me say, there is no higher calling, no greater public service, no contribution more valued than to join the front lines of the future in the classroom," Governor Davis said. "This is our generation's call to arms." ------------------------------- Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission. ********************************************************
Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA Fax: (618) 453-4244 Phone: (618) 453-4241 (office) (618) 457-8903 (home) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org