BOSTON (AP) _ If the simple desire to teach isn't enough to draw the best to the classroom, maybe cold cash will. A top Massachusetts legislator is proposing a $20,000 signing bonus to lure top college graduates to become teachers.

``We're never going to pay teachers what corporate lawyers get, but that doesn't mean you can't do something to attract better people,'' Senate President Thomas Birmingham said in today's Boston Globe.

Of nearly 1,800 prospective teachers who took Massachusetts' first teacher certification test this year, 59 percent failed.

Nationally, schools must replace 2 million of their 2.7 million teachers during the next eight years, and a few school districts have offered signing bonuses for new teachers, according to the Globe.

But the amounts are much smaller: Dallas offered $1,500; Baltimore offered $5,000 toward a new house.

Bonuses of $20,000 would compare favorably with recruiting offers from other fields, said Birmingham, a Democrat.

Average starting salary for a teacher in Massachusetts is $26,000; top salaries reach about $60,000.

Part of the state budget could pay for the bonuses, Birmingham said