The best schools in Clark County don’t have a lot of job openings. The obvious corollary should be deeply alarming: the shortage of teachers in underperforming schools is catastrophic.
The new school year starts on Monday. Nearly 10% of classrooms will not have a certified teacher. As of the end of last week, more than 1,450 licensed teaching positions were listed on the district’s website. This is significantly more than in previous years.
But the openings are not evenly distributed across the district. The best schools have a shortage of vacancies. The worst schools lack teachers.
The district has 28 one-star elementary schools, after eliminating rural and one-star schools. It has 21 five-star schools. The most recent assessments are from the 2018-2019 school year.
One-star average elementary schools have about six openings. This includes six schools with 10 or more vacancies. Only seven of those schools have two or fewer openings. Elizondo Elementary School has 15 job postings. It is likely that many schools will start the year with vacancy rates of over 20%.
In contrast, five-star schools have an average of 1.6 openings. Of the 21 schools, 18 have two or fewer openings.
You see the same trend in middle and high schools. One-star colleges have on average twice as many vacancies as five-star schools. Five-star high schools average less than 2.5 openings. In two-star high schools, the average is more than 14 openings per campus.
To fix this problem, you must first understand why it is happening. Teachers’ salaries are generally not based on an educator working in a poorly performing school. As teachers progress, they tend to move on to higher performing schools. This is quite understandable. It is easier and more enjoyable to teach children who are at school level. For many teachers, successful schools in the suburbs are also closer to where they live.
This creates a counterproductive spiral of unhappiness. The worst schools struggle to retain teachers, which means students learn less. Underachieving students make it more difficult to attract teachers.
This is why private sector companies pay people more to work in undesirable places. That should be an obvious answer, but the district recently handed out general raises. Unsurprisingly, this did not entice teachers to work in underperforming schools.
Part of the problem is that the district cannot simply change the pay scale. The Clark County Education Association must approve such a change. It’s unlikely. This is one more reason to get rid of collective bargaining for government employees.
Here are other solutions, some of which would require legislative approval.
■ Return to half-day K to release the teachers. Full-time kindergarten has no academic value, and is even counterproductive. The state also expanded pre-K programs, another waste of money. This includes requiring pre-K instructors to have a teacher’s license. It would be better to have these teachers in the elementary grades.
■ Instead of doubling classes in some schools, increase class sizes more widely. Send teachers who are not in class back to the classroom. Get rid of teacher licenses or create broad exceptions. Allow principals to hire candidates they think could do a good job in the classroom. They must be able to fire those who perform poorly.
■ Finally, offer school choice. Donate $6,000 to an education savings account for enrolled students leaving the district this year. The Legislature is expected to pass a broad school choice program next year and remove restrictions on new charter schools.
These ideas would help ensure that more students have a teacher in the classroom. But they don’t want to expand Superintendent Jesus Jara’s stronghold, so they’re not going anywhere. Instead, you’ll see another example of how you can’t fix a broken system by throwing money at it.