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House looks at signing bonuses for teachers

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – The North Dakota School Boards Association wants local boards to have the option of paying signing bonuses to new hires.

The bonuses could be given to any instructor who did not teach in the state the previous year. They are seen as a way to draw new teachers to North Dakota -- and give school administrators a way to find candidates for hard-to-fill jobs.

School Boards Association lobbyist Bev Nielsen told the House Education Committee that in some areas, teacher shortages are becoming critical.

"It is our belief that the 'highly qualified' standards mandated in the federal 'No Child Left Behind' act will greatly exacerbate this problem in North Dakota," said Nielsen. "Unfortunately, the option of raising all teacher salaries in North Dakota is fiscally improbable for both the state and local school districts."

But North Dakota Education Association President Gloria Lokken says paying bonuses to new hires could hurt the morale of teachers who are already at the school.

"Surely teachers and school boards jointly negotiate what they believe is appropriate and affordable compensation for teachers," Lokken told the committee. "If a board could now offer any amount above the salary schedule, some teachers would wonder why there is no money for them."

The federal "No Child Left Behind" act says some of the federal money districts will receive for complying with that act can be used for signing bonuses.

The Education Committee didn't take action on the bill.