Overseas recruitment to combat severe staff shortage

20th July 2001 at 01:00

NEW YORK officials have authorised a $6 million (pound;4 million) advertising campaign as they seek to plug a shortfall of 8,000 teachers by September. The city is hoping to tempt 600 of the recruits from Italy, Spain, Barbados, Jamaica and Austria.

The gap reflects a national trend, but will be especially hard to fill because of its magnitude. The shortage - which amounts to one in every 10 teaching posts - is the largest in New York's history.

With more than 1 million pupils and 80,000 teachers, New York's public school system is twice as big as the nation's second largest, Los Angeles.

The reasons for the teacher shortage in New York are the same as elsewhere: retirement, rising enrolment and low pay relative to other professions. Experts say that the nation's schools will need to hire up to 2.5m new teachers over the next decade.

The American Federation of Teachers' local chapter, the United Federation of Teachers, complains that the starting salary of $31,900 (pound;22,700) in New York is not competitive with that of other districts.

Schools chancellor Harold Levy said officials need to hire between 8,000 and 9,000 new teachers by the autumn, a steep increase over the 5,800 who started last September.

Jamie Horwitz, a spokesman for the AFT in Washington, said there is a "bubble" of teachers who started in the 1960s preparing to retire, "and people didn't come along in the Seventies and early Eighties to replace them".

One reason is wider job opportunities for women and ethnic minorities. "At one time, schools had almost a captive market where they could recruit women and minorities to fill teaching positions," Mr Horwitz said. "They've lost that traditional base to draw from."

Recruiting abroad is a small but growing part of the package. Last year, New York hired 150 teachers from Austria, but this year Mr Levy expects to bring 600 foreigners on board.

New York City Board of Education: www.nycenet.edu

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