Las Vegas Sun

August 29, 2014

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SCHOOLS:

Teacher pay cut might not sting recruitment

Clark County district will need to hire fewer educators this fall because of greater retention, slowed growth

When Gov. Jim Gibbons unveils his proposed budget this week, the spending plan is expected to call for a 6 percent pay cut for teachers, along with state workers and university employees.

For the Clark County School District’s 18,000 teachers, that would effectively reset their salaries to 2006 levels.

In years past, talk of smaller salaries for teachers would be a worst-case scenario for recruiters competing to lure educators to the district. But the region’s slowing growth has alleviated some of the pressure to hire.

District enrollment rose 0.8 percent in September from the previous year. That’s far from the 4 percent to 6 percent annual increases that the district contended with for much of the past decade.

Slower enrollment growth means the district doesn’t need to recruit as many new teachers.

Also limiting the number of new hires needed next fall: Fewer teachers are leaving he district.

Voluntary separations were down more than 30 percent in November compared with the prior year.

District officials attribute it, in part, to Southern Nevada’s dismal housing market, which is making it difficult for people to sell their homes and leave. Another factor is that there are fewer job openings for teachers in other states.

Recruiting may not suffer, but an immediate effect of the proposed pay cut will be felt in teacher morale, said Bob McCord, an assistant professor at UNLV’s College of Education. Teachers are dealing with large classes that are only expected to grow as the School District confronts budget cuts brought on by the state fiscal shortfall. Add to that less money for classroom supplies and a likely rise in at-risk students because of the economy.

“Why are teachers singled out when it comes time for an economic downturn?” McCord said. “We turn to education to improve people’s skills and boost their chances of moving out of the downturn. We must invest in education. That is the road to recovery.”

As distressing as the potential pay cuts might be, teachers “have gotten to understand in this state that you don’t know what’s really going on until the Legislature meets and the ink dries,” said John Jasonek, executive director of the Clark County Education Association. “I think there’s a lot of game playing going on.”

District officials declined to comment Friday on the governor’s proposed pay cuts, which would require approval by the Legislature, saying “nothing official” had yet come from the governor’s office.

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