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July 28, 2005

ARCHIVE: Teacher Shortage


According to Clark County School District Officials the district is in crisis. It needs 500 more teachers in less than a month. As KNPR Ky Plaskon reports, its not just the result of the districts phenomenal growth.

SOUND: Kids singing

PLASKON: At the opening of a recent Clark County School District meeting Children danced, mariachis performed the national anthem.

SOUND: Singing

PLASKON: They prayed.

SOUND: Prayer T04 :17

PLASKON: And then the School Districts Dr. George Ann Rice stood up and made it clear they need all the help they can get. She warned the Board of Trustees.

RICE: We face a real challenge. This year we have had resignations of 1,013 and retirements of 300 which makes 6 percent of our teaching force has resigned and a total of 8 percent if you consider our retirements and resignations.

PLASKON: While the 6 percent resignation rate sounds bad, its less than half of the national turnover rate of 15.7 percent according to the Cable Industry's Education Foundation. A half million teachers resign nationally every year, according to the foundation, most leave because there is a lack of professional development, poor leadership and low pay. But that's not why they leave Las Vegas. The Clark County School District has been surveying teachers about why they leave for years. Dr Rice brought that knowledge to the meeting.

RICE: The problem is housing. Every other problem that we have faced we have said if we can work faster if can work more creatively, but the housing issue is hitting us both directions. We have candidates who can't afford to live here and we are being hit on the other side. Without community support we will not be able to solve this issue.

PLASKON: Though it doesn't look good, she says there are points of light.

RICE: So many times our board meetings are very negative events and I just wanted to bring out this very positive aspect to our meeting.

PLASKON: The good deals for teachers include the City of Las Vegas offering 16 down payments on houses for teachers. The mortgage company Fannie Mae and Citibank have approached the school district to help too said Dr Rice.

RICE: We want to work with you and that if we can get certain people guarantee to you that.

PLASKON: They have set up credit counseling for teachers too. The Chamber of Commerce has started what is says is a unique program. 82 volunteers call more than 2-thousand teacher recruits every year to convince them this is a good place to work. Sometimes the volunteers find roommates for the teachers and jobs for their spouses.

RICE: So they have picked people up at the airport and driven them around to help them find apartments and we would be dead in the water without people like Steve Antuna and I would like to introduce them to the board.

PLASKON: Even the federal government is helping to find a solution said Rice.

RICE: This is Blair Lund - came forward on his own and he is from HUD and he is telling us how other places have taken land and are working with developers and building multiple family homes for their teachers.

PLASKON: The Santa Clara School District and the University of California have built housing for their teachers she said. The Clark County School District met with those entities this month to consider similar housing projects. Mary Ella Holloway, President of the Clark County Education Association says that's not favorable.

HOLLOWAY: Who wants to come here to live in some kind of housing for teachers. They want to live like everyone else. Pay teachers what they deserve.

PLASKON: She says the national average starting teacher pay is 38 thousand, here its 27. But without higher pay or affordable housing, the district has started recruiting teachers overseas. The National Education Association predicts the nation will need 2-million more teaches over the next 10 years. Currently 20 percent of all new hires leave the classroom within three years and in urban districts 50 percent leave profession during their first five years.

Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR

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