WASHINGTON – Wanted: Teachers for the state of Maryland. 11,000 positions available.
State education officials predict that Maryland school districts will have to hire at least that many new teachers over the next four years, just to keep pace with booming school enrollments.
The extra teachers are needed in addition to the 5,700 new teachers who were hired this year.
Because of the explosion in the student population, state schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick is expected to announce a strategic plan at a board of education meeting later this month to help attract and retain teachers.
“This is an important year for Maryland. If we delay, we are going to have a major trauma down the road,” said Assistant State Superintendent Ron Peiffer.
The teachers are needed to answer the baby boom echo, a population peak of the children of baby boomers that has sent student enrollment skyrocketing nationwide.
The U.S. Department of Education said that Maryland public school enrollment grew by 22.8 percent from 1988 to 1998. Maryland’s school growth was the largest among states in the Mid- Atlantic and Northeast.
The number of new students who will be moving through the schools is compounded by an expected increase in the number of teachers who are retiring.
Peiffer would not release specifics of the teacher retention plan the state board of education will be asked to consider this month, but he said it would likely include financial incentives and require some legislative action.
To get the 11,000 teachers needed in the next four years, the plan could include signing bonuses for top graduates of education programs.
State education officials are also looking into offering a state tax break for teachers, citing success with similar breaks for recruitment and retention of teachers in Taiwan, Peiffer said.
Because teachers are often lured into more lucrative private-sector jobs, Peiffer said, Maryland will consider offering “substantial” premiums for those teachers who agree to teach for more than one year.
“We are going to do what we can to encourage the highest performance in college students to come into the profession,” he said. “We want young people to see the value and rewards of teaching.”
Besides the fact graduates from schools of education have stayed constant while the number of students has grown, Peiffer said the teachers do not match the ethnic and racial makeup of students in the state.
While the teacher shortage is across the board, some areas are worse off than others. Maryland is at a “critical shortage” in several fields, according to a state school board report released last week.
Areas that could see severe shortages include physical sciences, mathematics, English for speakers of other languages, computer science and special education. Also, Baltimore City and Prince George’s County are classified as having shortages within their district.