The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board of education approved an incentive program Tuesday, May 23rd, to recruit and retain highly qualified math, science and special education teachers for some of the district’s neediest students.

Qualified teachers could receive incentives and reimbursements of up to $15,000 to teach at low-performing schools as part of a landmark agreement with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which represents approximately 48,000 teachers and health and human services employees in the district.

“Having a high-quality teacher at the head of every classroom is the surest key to improving student achievement and narrowing the achievement gap,” said school board president Marlene Canter.

“This agreement will help draw the best teachers to the most challenging settings ñ where their skills and experience are most needed.”

A combination of state and district funds will be used to fund the Teacher Recruitment and Student Support initiative that places qualified teachers in traditionally hard-to-staff schools.

The district will pay incentives to ensure that fully credentialed math, science and special education teachers are placed — and stay — at Academic Performance Index (API) “decile 1, 2 and 3 schools” identified as low-performing or “program improvement” schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

“We’re putting qualified teachers in the classrooms where they’re most needed,” said district superintendent Roy Romer. “This is an investment in the future of our children and this city.”

Like most urban school districts across the country, Los Angeles Unified School District officials said the district faces critical challenges in recruiting math, science and special education teachers.

A combination of state and federal mandates puts the Los Angeles Unified School District in a position that results in even more difficulties in recruiting and keeping teachers in these fields, officials said.

“UTLA and the district don’t always agree, but we have agreed to work together to do what’s right for our kids — and this program is right for our kids,” said UTLA president A.J. Duffy.

The incentive program begins Saturday, July 1st, and runs through the 2008-2009 school year. Four types of incentives will be offered to qualified teachers:

n a one-time $5,000 recruitment incentive paid to newly assigned (including new hires and transfers) fully credentialed math, science and special education teachers at low-performing schools;

n a one-time $5,000 retention incentive paid to fully credentialed math, science and special education teachers who remain at these schools for three years through the 2008-09 school year;

n up to $5,000 reimbursement for educational expenses paid to these teachers to earn master’s degrees and to encourage credentialed teachers in non-shortage fields to become credentialed in math, science and special education; and

n one-time achievement grants, based on $20 per student, to be awarded to schools that meet their federal improvement goals for two consecutive years, with the leadership council at each school — which includes teachers, parents and students —determining expenditure of these grants.

In addition to these incentives, a $1,000 recruitment incentive and an annual stipend of $1,000 will be paid to qualified fully credentialed special education teachers serving at any district school.