Clark County faces teacher shortage |

Clark County faces teacher shortage

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Classes began Wednesday in Las Vegas as the Clark County School District continued searching for teachers to teach them.

Administrators said the district still had 344 teaching vacancies, the largest shortfall in recent years.

Still to be hired were 180 special education teachers, 80 elementary teachers and 84 middle and high school teachers. Officials said the open positions would be filled by long-term substitutes while recruiting continues.

George Ann Rice, the district’s associate superintendent of human resources, said while the vacancies are disturbing, she’s relieved there aren’t more.

Some had projected a shortfall of 1,000 teachers

“We’re still interviewing. We’re still looking. We’re still working,” Rice said. “We will continue … until we can fill all of our classrooms.”

Math and science openings top the district’s needs in middle and high schools.

The district is the fifth-largest and one of the fastest growing in the nation. It is expected to gain about 12,000 students this fall compared with last school year.

Rice said the main obstacles to hiring teachers has been a low starting salary coupled with the high cost of housing in southern Nevada.

The district has increased starting pay for new hires to $33,073. The district’s maximum base pay is $63,044.

According to an American Federation of Teachers union survey last year, pay for new teachers in Nevada ranked 36th in the nation for the 2003-’04 school year, with an average starting salary of $27,942.

Superintendent Walt Rulffes said unless starting pay is increased, the district won’t be able to compete for new teachers with other states that have higher starting salaries.

“The shortage has gotten progressively worse each year,” Rulffes said. “Unless there is some intervention to fix that, we won’t see any improvement on the horizon.”

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