Wake County schools Superintendent Jim Merrill knows he is taking a risk in proposing bonuses for new special education teachers and for those in math, science, health occupations and family and consumer science.
But like other school systems, Wake is having a hard time finding teachers to fill these roles, particularly given the foolhardy moves from the General Assembly to end tenure and extra pay incentives for advanced degrees.
The Wake County school board on Tuesday approved Merrills request for $1,500 bonuses for special education teachers and $1,000 for others in some specialties. The board set aside $898,000 for the budget year that begins in July to cover the extra pay.
While it would be preferable to give all teachers a bonus, Merrill had to limit the extra pay to the areas most in need. Merrill also is seeking $39 million from county commissioners, much of which would go toward a raise for all teachers.
That, too, is critical and deserves support from commissioners.
North Carolinas average teacher pay is 46th in the country. It would be hard for NASA to find a universe in which that ranking, combined with the end of tenure, leads to a sufficient number of public school teachers. Merrill said that the school district is losing teachers in all areas but that the shortage is most acute in the fields where the bonuses would be offered.
The state is going to face a serious teacher shortage because of the General Assemblys actions, and that shortage may come sooner than anticipated. Whether bonuses will lure enough teachers remains to be seen. But Merrill is rightly trying to find ways to adequately staff the schools.