BATTLE CREEK, MI. — Local school districts are getting creative in attracting talent during a nationwide teacher shortage with incentives, bonuses and other benefits. Battle Creek Public Schools helps educators with rent and housing costs up to $20,000 if they live in the school district.
Patrick Johnson is an 8th grade English teacher at Northwest Middle School. His days are filled with learning and training.
“I coached volleyball in [Battle Creek Central High School]. I coached high school football, I coached track, just about everything,” Johnson said with a smile.
After long days at work, he heads to his home in Battle Creek, a home that the district where he has worked for 21 years helps financially. It is part of the Battle Creek Public Schools Housing and Rental Incentive Program, a partnership between the City of Battle Creek, the school district and the W.C. Kellogg Foundation.
“We’re one of the few districts that offers a program like this,” said BCPS Director of Transformation Dr. Anita Harvey.
The district says the goal of the incentive is to help educators with housing and rent costs, attract talent to the district and get educators to live in the communities where they work.
“When teachers and administrators live in the community where they serve, everyone benefits,” said Dr. Harvey.
When the program started in 2018, up to $10,000 was available for a down payment for teachers per home, now that amount has increased to $20,000 per home and up to $4,500 per year for rent.
Incentives are split into target areas: The primary target area for the down payment is downtown Battle Creek. The secondary target area is in the school district, close to downtown. Rental assistance covers most of the immediate downtown area.
At a time when teacher shortages are affecting most local school districts, BCPS is hoping to turn things around with these strong financial incentives to help attract talent, and they say it’s working.
“It definitely helps with that,” Dr. Harvey said. “We still have issues with staff recruitment, but at the same time we have a strategy to get and retain certified staff.”
As of December 2021, 29 teachers have used the subsidy for the payment of the initial fee and 12 teachers – for housing rent.
Mr. Johnson received $10,000 for renovations, which was also part of the program. He did some work on his house, something he wanted to do for a while.
“We put a railing in there,” Johnson said as he walked around his home.
Johnson also got new windows, new flooring and a new roof. And although the money helps, he adds that he did not teach in the district for 21 years just to help with repairs. He teaches young students because he loves what he does.
“I just love seeing kids grow up, seeing the light bulb go on in their heads like I can do this. I can be successful,” Johnson said.
The district plans to reinstate the program and will provide funding for qualified educators and administrators until funds are exhausted. You can apply and learn more visit here.