The Iowa Department of Education is calling for a five-thousand dollar “signing bonus” for new high school science and math teachers. Senator Paul McKinley, a Republican from Chariton who is co-chair of the Senate Education Committee, says the plan makes sense. McKinley says superintendents tell him they get as many as two-hundred applicants for openings in the elementary grades, but there’s a “dearth” or lack of applicants for high school science and math positions.

McKinley says you need look no further than the ranks of Iowa’s high school physics teachers to see the depths of the recruitment problem. One-hundred-47 physics teachers in Iowa will retire in the next five years, and only 47 Iowa physics teachers will remain in the classroom. McKinley says paying bonuses to new recruits, as well as incentive packages for staying on the job a few years, will help.

But Senator Frank Wood, a Democrat who’s an associate high school principal in Eldridge, says the plan wouldn’t go over well in schools. “If we start paying first-year science teachers and first-year math teachers higher than we do first-year business or language arts teachers, that’s going to create a big morale problem in the schools,” Wood says. Wood says he and other Democrats are looking for other ways to recruit and retain math and science teachers.