$20k lure to keep teachers
By CATHERINE WOULFE - Sunday Star Times
Last updated 05:00 23/08/2009

New secondary school teachers could be in line for a serious sweetener $20,000 towards a house deposit under a union proposal designed to pull more teachers into schools and to keep them there longer.

Schools across New Zealand are struggling to attract enough quality teachers, and the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) says the incentive would encourage teachers to take jobs in hard-to-staff cities and isolated areas. A bonding system would ensure recipients continued teaching in New Zealand.

The union is taking the plan to its annual conference next month, where it will have to pass a members' vote before becoming part of the pay claims package put to the government at next year's negotiations.

The PPTA, which has 18,000 members, is also moving to establish a credit union similar to that available to police, and is considering proposals from several banks. This would give teachers special deals on all types of loans, with interest rates about 0.5% below market rates.

PPTA president Kate Gainsford said a third of new teachers were leaving within three years of starting the job, and many who trained in New Zealand were being lured to higher-paying jobs overseas. "When we have worked with these young and new teachers, they have identified housing as a critical factor that acts as a disincentive. This is an attempt to listen to the young teachers and try and be creative and practical at the same time."

Most secondary teachers start on a salary of $45,000, making saving for a deposit difficult especially in the more expensive areas and at a time when many banks still demand 20% deposits.

The PPTA says the $20,000 would be paid as a lump sum to teachers in their first four years on the job. The teacher would then be bonded to continue teaching in New Zealand for another four years, or pay a portion of the $20,000 back if they quit.

The PPTA expected teachers would not claim the money until they had been working for three or four years, because they would need to add their own savings to the $20,000 for a realistic deposit. As teachers would then be bonded for a further four years, this system might keep them in the classroom for at least seven years.

The teacher would have to secure fulltime work before receiving the $20,000 and any new teacher including those from overseas, or switching from a different career would be eligible. The money would have to be used as a deposit on the home the teacher planned to live in, but there were no plans to limit the value of the home, or its location.

The proposal would cost just $2500 more per teacher and hopefully keep teachers on for two or three years longer than the current bonding system, where new teachers receive a lump sum of $10,500 if they have stayed teaching in New Zealand for three years and another $3500 after each of the following two years. It is not linked to home-buying and has a narrower focus, being offered only to teachers in decile 1 schools, very isolated schools, or in subject areas that have severe teacher shortages.

Douglas Miller, 29, is in his second year of teaching at Porirua College, and managing to save about $10,000 a year from his salary of about $52,000. Miller is boarding but would like to buy a house and said a $20,000 incentive would be attractive.

Gainsford said if the government turned down the proposal it needed to come up with its own ideas to address the teacher shortage. Education Minister Anne Tolley and the Ministry of Education declined to comment on the plan.

Forty years ago there were government-owned houses in rural areas set aside for teachers to rent, but the PPTA said most of these had been sold off, leaving just "pockets" of housing, which were often poorly maintained or not rented exclusively to teachers.

Ministry of Education figures show 10.2% of the country's secondary teachers quit in the year to May 2008, and even higher percentages quit in the West Coast, Manawatu-Wanganui, Auckland, Northland, Bay of Plenty and Otago areas.

From here.