School districts are offering perks like $20,000 signing bonuses to staff classrooms as teachers quit over burnout and COVID safety concerns

Learning Support teacher Sabrina Werley works with 4th grade student Jeremiah Ruiz at Cumru Elementary School in Cumru township Wednesday morning April 14, 2021.
Learning Support teacher Sabrina Werley works with 4th grade student Jeremiah Ruiz at Cumru Elementary School in Cumru township Wednesday morning April 14, 2021. Ben Hasty/Getty Images
  • Burned out from a year of teaching online, many educators are walking away from their jobs.
  • Others left because they’re worried about getting COVID-19 from unmasked or unvaccinated students.
  • As a result, schools are giving signing bonuses of up to $US20,000 ($AU27,334) and other perks to fill roles.
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Teachers have just been through a grueling year of remote classes. Now, many headed back to in-person classes worry about their health in rooms of unmasked or unvaccinated students.

Other teachers have already walked off the job. A June survey of 2,690 members of the National Education Association found that 32% said the pandemic drove them to plan to leave the profession earlier than they expected.

As a result, many school districts are scrambling to attract new talent and hold onto existing teachers to keep classrooms adequately staffed this school year.

Some of these districts are offering big perks to do so:

Bonuses are also in store for some returning teachers. At Marlboro County School District in South Carolina, teachers received $US2,500 ($AU3,417) retention bonuses to keep them onboard for another school year.

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Other school districts are taking different measures to rally teachers.

The Colorado Sun reports that the state’s West Grand School District is one of several rural school districts that offers workers childcare so schools won’t lose teachers because there’s no one to watch their kids. Beyond school districts, states are sketching out plans for teacher affinity groups, professional development, and mentoring and induction programs to aid retention efforts, according to K-12 Dive.

The labor crunch isn’t just affecting teachers’ ranks. Outside of the classroom, other campus staff like cafeteria workers and bus drivers are also in short supply at some schools. Some schools are also offering signing bonuses to fill these roles as well.