- School systems nationwide are spending up to $20 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to boost the education workforce, with funding being dedicated to staff expansion, class size reduction, recruitment and retention efforts, and other activities, according to a report from FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.
- By studying the spending practices of thousands of school systems, researchers found a common mission to grow the workforce, with approaches that are varied and are changing traditional workforce practices. For example, Dayton Public Schools in Ohio is using emergency funding to assign two teachers to every grade 1-3 classroom for two years, while school systems in Florida's Volusia and Lee counties are providing stipends to teachers who have larger classes.
- A separate report from The Education Trust highlights how states are using federal COVID-19 relief money to diversify the education profession. Both reports emphasize how the record one-time funding source is being used to meet the demands for learning recovery and to keep qualified educators in the profession for years to come.
School systems are using tried-and-true, along with creative, approaches to add and keep teachers, the FutureEd research found. Using information that data services firm Burbio gathered from 5,000 district ARP spending plans, as well as documents from the nation's 100 largest school systems, researchers found myriad examples of how the pandemic funding is influencing traditional models in the teaching profession. ARP funds must be obligated by Sept. 30, 2024.
Many districts, for example, are offering generous signing bonuses and stipends as a recruitment and retention tool — using the flexibility of the relief funding to take unique approaches at providing extra pay.
Houston Independent School District in Texas has offered $5,000 bonuses to teachers who agree to stay for at least three years. The payments are distributed over three years with teachers receiving $500 in June 2022, $1,500 in June 2023 and $3,000 in June 2024. The district also provided an across-the-board pay hike of 11%.
"Altogether, about one in 10 districts nationwide is paying retention bonuses to teachers and staff, our analysis suggests, a figure that has likely increased in recent months as districts continue to struggle to fill vacancies," the report said.
One significant trend, FutureEd noted, is how school systems are offering extra pay to teachers when they take on extra duties. Union agreements traditionally have constrained teachers' out-of-class workloads.
FutureEd found that at least 21 of the largest districts are using ARP money to pay teachers for working with students before or after school. Another two districts are paying teachers to work on weekends and during school breaks. Florida's Duval County Public Schools plans to spend $349,000 to compensate secondary school instructors for teaching an extra one or two classes a day.
"We've seen a couple of promising trends that break with past practice in the teaching profession, including an emerging commitment to extra pay for longer hours and differential teacher pay that breaks with the traditional pay schedules to combat widespread teacher shortages,” said Thomas Toch, director of FutureEd, in an email.
Other encouraging trends, according to Toch, include “deploying teachers in new ways to maximize talent, doubling down on the science of literacy, and equipping educators with skills and knowledge to support students’ mental health, a need that long predated the trauma many students experienced during the pandemic."
The Education Trust brief also examined federal relief funding for the education workforce but looked at state spending approaches for expanding racial and cultural diversity. Specifically, the organization probed educator preparation programs that attract and support candidates of color, as well as recruitment and retention of teachers of color.
For example, South Carolina is spending $600,000 to expand the Call Me MISTER program at Clemson University and broaden the pool of candidates from diverse backgrounds. Oregon allocated $4 million to increase the number of bilingual and bicultural educators through scholarships, residencies, and grow your own programs.
“All students, regardless of race or ethnicity, benefit from having a racially and culturally diverse teacher workforce,” said Eric Duncan, The Education Trust’s assistant director for P-12 policy, in a statement. “Many states are investing in innovative practices that need to be looked at and modeled after. By increasing the diversity of the educator workforce, we support states’ efforts to end the teacher shortages facing their schools.”