Bonuses for teachers an idea to pursue Grasmick plan: State school superintendent's incentive ideas are a good way to fill school vacancies.

November 10, 1998

BY PROPOSING a comprehensive incentive package for teachers, state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick has shown how Maryland can prevent an expected teacher shortage from becoming an acute crisis. The worst thing the governor and the General Assembly could now do is disregard her call for action.

Early preventive measures are needed. Teacher-preparation programs nationwide are simply not producing enough graduates to fill the need created by rising enrollments and large numbers of teachers eligible to retire.

With many quality teachers finding more lucrative jobs in the private sector, school systems throughout the country are resorting to nontraditional recruitment methods. New York City this year imported math teachers from Austria and other countries. Some other communities have hired retired soldiers to fill the gap under the Pentagon's "Troops to Teachers" program.

Maryland, which already draws 40 percent of its new hires from other states, is not operating in a vacuum. Just days after Dr. Grasmick unveiled her incentive recommendations, Virginia's Fairfax County proposed an array of bonuses.

Would all this make a difference? Perhaps. "Really great teachers in a free-floating market may be like the free agents in the NFL," a school superintendent suggested.

It is now up to Gov. Parris N. Glendening to craft a legislative proposal on the basis of the hiring and retention strategies recommended by Dr. Grasmick.

The final decision will be the General Assembly's, of course, but the governor ought to go beyond the superintendent's package.

For example, the governor should seek state expansion of the federal housing "Officer Next Door" program so that teachers who pledge to remain in a school system can buy foreclosed homes at discounted prices. This would offer new glue to struggling neighborhoods and another financial incentive to prospective teachers. Just as Maryland must be aggressive in pursing business, it cannot afford to lose ground in the competition for teacher talent.

Pub Date: 11/10/98

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