A Utah state legislator has introduced a bill to provide bonuses up to $20,000 for math and science teachers.

The bill, introduced Jan. 18 by Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, is intended to offset a growing problem faced by schools across the country: a shortage of qualified math and science teachers. Not surprisingly, the Utah Education Association opposes the measure.

The bill would set aside $10.5 million for higher education and $19 million for public education. It would establish a Public Education Job Enhancement Program to attract and retain “highly qualified” secondary teachers in math, physics, chemistry, physical science, and information technology.

Teachers with backgrounds in those fields–or who would be willing to be trained in those areas–would get up to $20,000 if they promise to teach in Utah for four years. They would get $10,000 upfront and $10,000 at the end of that period. Teachers who did not fulfill that commitment would have to repay some of the money.

The Utah Education Association contends the bonuses would demoralize teachers in other fields. In response, Gerald Stringfellow, dean of the University of Utah’s engineering school, said, “English teachers are important, there is no question about that. But they don’t get hired away.”

Stringfellow said, “We really need to put some resources into public education, especially at the junior high and high school levels, to make sure children get the necessary math and science skills” to prepare them for college programs.

The bill pledges $5 million toward college faculty recruitment, which would be matched by internal funds shifted within the nine public institutions. It also sets aside $550,000 to establish new high-tech degree programs and a one-time appropriation of $4.2 million for equipment.