New York City Schools and Teachers' Union Join Forces to Attract New Teaching Talent through Innovative Housing Support Program

By Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

Like many other school districts in large, metropolitan cities, New York City schools currently have a shortage of qualified teachers, especially in the most challenging schools.  Though state law requires teachers in the targeted critical subject areas of mathematics, science and special education to be certified, there are 600 positions now held by teachers without the proper credentials. This shortage, which covers all grades in the middle and high schools, demanded an innovative solution to the problem.

New York City schools and the United Federation of Teachers developed a creative method to fill the need for experienced, certified teachers — a new housing support program. It is considered one of the most concerted and generous programs aimed at recruiting teachers in subject areas with the worse shortages. The joint effort is a rare example of cooperation between the two parties.

The housing support program gives incentives worth up to $15,000 to certified teachers in the shortage areas. The initial payment incentive is up to $5,000 for housing-related expenses. These expenses include relocation costs, down payment on a mortgage, and rental fees and deposits. This initial payment is followed by a monthly housing stipend of $400 for a two-year period.

Additionally, the New York City schools and teachers’ union have partnered with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development to provide home ownership assistance to these teachers. This will include home ownership counseling and access to down payment assistance for eligible teachers and their families.

To qualify for the housing support program, teachers must have at least two years teaching experience, be able to pass a rigorous selection process, and be willing to commit to teach in New York City schools for at least three years.  Former New York City schools teachers with two years teaching experience, certified and have been out of the New York City schools system for at least two years also are eligible for the program. Teachers already living in the New York City schools area and wish to switch to the city schools could use the money for existing rent and mortgage payments.

The innovative program creates an opportunity for all members of the teachers union to avail themselves of these housing subsidies and defray the higher cost of housing in the New York City schools area.  It is one of the most aggressive housing incentive programs in the United States. In comparison, Chicago schools offer a $7,500 subsidy, while California offers up to $20,000 but all of it must be repaid.

The New York City schools are strategically recruiting with trips to the state of California, which has comparable housing costs, as well as other states in the northwestern and southeastern areas of the United States. Additionally, an advertising campaign will promote the New York City schools program in the local and national newspapers, as well as other print and electronic media.  The New York City schools are hoping to hire an extra 100 teachers for the 2006-07 school year. Teachers hired will begin work in a high-need middle or high school, where these teachers are most in demand.

The new housing support program will make a real difference to underserved students and gives a competitive advantage to the New York City schools.