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House OKs bill rewarding teachers in ‘shortage’ areas

SHARE House OKs bill rewarding teachers in ‘shortage’ areas

A bill that would give math, science and special education teachers a pay boost cleared the House on Wednesday.

HB381, sponsored by Rep. Ronda Rudd Menlove, R-Garland, would allocate $5,000 annually to educators who teach in those areas where there are significant shortages.

Lawmakers are asking for $28.5 million for the Professional Excellence Program, ProExcel, to establish a teacher-induction program, recruit and retain teachers in shortage areas and look into merit pay.

"This is a major education reform bill that will move us in a direction of creating excellence in the classroom," said Menlove.

Education leaders have long reported shortages in the areas of math, science and special education. Lawmakers want to create market incentives and retention programs to attract and retain qualified teachers in the state while enticing college students to go into educational fields where there are needs.

State studies have shown a third of new teachers leave the profession within the first three years, and half leave within five.

Meanwhile, Utah public school enrollment is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent in the next two decades, and the teaching force is not expected to keep up. A 2003 Utah educator supply and demand study shows Utah could see a shortage of 1,200 teachers a year.

Legislators hope the additional salary money and new teacher support will help keep teachers in the state.

Utah Education Association leaders say they approve some areas of the bill but are concerned that rewarding teachers based on the subject they teach could lead to divisiveness and poor morale.