To Attract Teachers, NJ School Districts Are Offering Sign-On Bonuses

By: Paige Britt, Follow South Jersey Intern

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Camden City School District is offering $10,000 sign-on bonuses to new teachers to combat the national teacher shortage.

Superintendent Katrina McCombs explained that the district has about 50 teacher vacancies for the current school year, which is about 7% of its staff.

On March 8th, the district held a job fair where they were seeking applicants for teachers, support staff, security, custodians, and bus drivers.

Superintendent McCombs stated that the job fair resulted in about seven applications for teaching positions and three for critical-need areas.

“We were able to make a lot of connections. We were hoping to get more individuals interested in joining our district as teachers,” McCombs stated.

The Camden City School District is not the only district in New Jersey suffering from a lack of teachers. The Paterson school district hired 149 teachers last fall, but only after offering $7,500 bonuses. The largest public school system in the state, Newark’s, announced that teachers would be eligible for a $4,000 sign-on bonus.

A report from the U.S. Department of Education showed that seven years ago about five people completed teacher preparation programs for every 1,000 students in New Jersey. Today, one or two students per 1,000 complete a program like that.

The report also revealed that New Jersey colleges and universities produce fewer teachers per 1,000 students than the rest of the country.

Assistant superintendent of human resources/labor relations and affirmative action at the Paterson School District Luis M. Rojas Jr. explained that he has never seen the district in such a dire need of teachers.

The district serves about 25,000 students and employs about 2,100 teachers. Recently, they had about 200 teaching vacancies.

“We are trying to look under every single rock. The short of it is the demand is way higher than the supply,” Rojas said.

Spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association Steve Baker expressed concern over using bonuses as a long-term solution for a nation-wide issue.

“While different districts have different situations and different approaches, in general we need to make a career in public education more economically viable over the long term so we can both attract and retain the best people. Bonuses are a Band-Aid when what we need is a cure,” Baker said.

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