Hartford Public Schools push to fill teacher vacancies

Incentives to attract teachers in Hartford
Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 9:01 PM EDT
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HARTFORD, Conn. (WFSB) - There is a growing push to fill vacant teacher positions, and to diversify the workforce.

Connecticut is trying to provide more incentives for teachers to stay. A new program kicked off on Tuesday with the goal of easing financial burden on teachers.

The education field was already seeing a decline in teacher retention even before COVID hit. Now, the pandemic has only made matters worse.

“Our teachers want to be in the classroom. That’s where they want to be. We need to make it affordable for them to stay there,” says Kate Dias, the president of the Connecticut Education Association.

State education leaders are finding new ways to support teachers and keep them in the classroom.

The state launched a new program directed at reducing the burden of teacher’s college loans.

“Too many of our teachers graduate with a lot of debt and that debt is hanging over them and that discourages people from getting into teaching, so this is enormous,” says Governor Ned Lamont.

The program is called the Alliance District Teacher Loan Subsidy program. It allows teachers in alliance districts to refinance their existing, non-federal student debt.

Jeanette Weldon is the executive director of the Connecticut Higher program.

“Teachers will have interest rates of 0,75 percent to 2.49 percent for loan of terms of 5, 10, 15 years with a maximum loan amount per teacher of $25,000,” says Weldon.

Through the Connecticut Higher Education Education Supplemental Loan Authority (CHESLA) teachers can reduce their interest rate by 3 percentage points.

“We want to make sure that finance is not an impediment,” says Charlene Russel-Tucker of the education department.

Hartford Public Schools has about 11 percent of teaching positions currently vacant.

“It’s a challenge. I think everyone is facing this challenge. So I think it has to be a comprehensive approach,” says Jesse Sugarman of the Hartford Public Schools.

District leaders say various incentives have been helping, and they are launching a new hiring campaign.

“We’ve provided retention bonuses. We want to make sure they’re our ambassadors so that’s the referral bonus. And we have a gratitude for our teachers as they’ve completed a really difficult year. And a signing bonus,” says Sugarman.

For more on how to apply for CHESLA, click here.

New program to help teachers with finances