Signing bonuses and relocation bonuses for teachers are moving targets. Several years ago, when there were severe teaching shortages in many places, relocation bonuses were more common. Since the 2007-2008 economic crash, however, states and counties have run out of money, and cuts in education have most teachers clinging tightly to the jobs they have. There are still some relocation bonuses out there, but they come and go very quickly as hiring targets are achieved.
Hawaii is always there with plenty of teaching bonuses, relocation bonuses of $3,000 and housing allowances of up to $1,500. For new teachers with national board certifications, Hawaii wants to go the extra mile. The downside is that Hawaii is very expensive. The cost of living in Hawaii is between 30 percent and 60 percent above the United States national average. The average teaching salary as of 2011 is $49,292; but when you take a third of that off to see what your purchasing power is compared to elsewhere, and you get a more realistic account. Real estate and rent prices are sky high in Hawaii, which is why teachers need the housing bonuses.
Prepare Your Credentials
Relocation presupposes that you meet the standards being set for teacher relocation bonuses. The minimum standard requires you to have a bachelor's degree and your certifications, both your state certification and a certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. To be genuinely competitive, you will probably need to hold a master's degree in your specialty. Have your degrees, certifications, transcripts, performance evaluations, recommendations, references, birth certificate and a copy of your Social Security card ready to submit with your application.
Not every relocation bonus pops up on a Google search. Thousands of counties in the United States run thousands of different school systems. As of 2011, the states where greater growth has combined with teacher shortages -- the ideal situation for prospective teachers -- were Hawaii, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Arizona. Call the state Board of Education and ask for a list of the counties that are offering relocation bonuses. Follow up with a call to each district's human resources office to get the details and the appropriate points of contact.
Weigh the Options
A relocation bonus alone is not a sufficient criterion for deciding where you want to teach. A Harvard study published in 2003, called “New Teachers and the Massachusetts Signing Bonus: The Limits of Inducements,” by Liu, Johnson and Peske, studied 13 recipients of a $20,000 signing bonus, and found that all was not well. This recruitment was aimed at dean’s list graduates, and focused on hiring high-quality individual teachers. Teachers found that this strategy of monetary inducements was one-tracked and did not incorporate strategies for improving the overall teaching and learning environment. The assumption that simply hiring teachers with better academic records would improve schools turned out to be flawed; and the newly hired teachers themselves were confronted with programs and policies that did not work well – lowering the job satisfaction of the teachers who accepted the bonuses. Look at the system you will teach in, and be sure that is where you want to go.
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