By DR. LARRY MOSES
No one asked me but… The Clark County School District (CCSD), in a press release dated June 19, 2018, indicated that the District has cut $68,000,000 from its 2018-19 budget. They claim this cut was necessary to present a balanced budget as required by law. The district blames the reduction on the arbitration they lost with the teachers over salary increases that have been long overdue.
One must wonder why the CCSD did not originally budget for the increase. Earlier they had lost arbitrations with the school police, the administrators association, and the representatives of support staff personnel. The CCSD has over budgeted for nine of the last eleven years. Each year this resulted cutting the anticipated increase in money available for education in the CCSD. So, it should come as no surprise that once again the budget department misrepresented the funds they would have available this year.
This pattern of over budgeting and then having to cut into funds awarded would seem to a reasonable person as incompetency on the part of whoever is in charge of the budget projections. Keep in mind that half of those years were non-legislative years. Therefore the District staff knew exactly how much money they had and still over budgeted forcing cuts in school staffing and programs.
This same press release indicated that the district is now vigorously recruiting to fill 800 teaching vacancies. If, as the district claims, it is $68 million short and therefore needs to reduce the teaching staff by 400 districtwide, why is the CCSD recruiting to fill 800 teaching positions that will cost the district approximately $64,000,000?
In the 2017-18 school year almost 800 teaching positions that were funded went vacant. Where did that approximately $64 million go? Was it kept in a fund to hire more teachers? No! Some was spent on permanent subs at about one-third the cost of a licensed teacher; the rest was spent at the discretion of the central office administrators.
Approximately 1,260 (7%) of the 2017-18 teaching staff either retired or left the District for a better working environment. Nearly half of the first-year teachers terminated their employment at the end of the school year. This exodus would explain how the CCSD can cut 400 teaching positions and still have the finances to hire 800 new teachers for the 2018-19 school year.
The cutting of 400 teachers across the District of 321,107 students and approximately 17,000 classroom teachers is an overall increase in student to teacher ratio of about one student per teacher. I am aware that schools are not staffed according to the overall pupil teacher ratio. High schools have more students per class than elementary. There are specialty schools that have lower ratios than comprehensive schools. Rural school class sizes may be smaller than urban schools.
However, budgets cuts are not cuts in actual funds, they are cuts to projected funds. If this were to happen once in a while during the legislative sessions one could excuse the over-optimistic financial geniuses in the CCSD budget department. However, there is no excuse in a non-legislative year (2018-19), when the District knows what funds are available as they begin the budget process. CCSD has over-projected in 9 of the last 11 years. How long can a major leaguer hit .181 and stay in the majors?
Staying with the baseball analogy, the District has brought in a new general manager. It will be interesting to see how Jesus Jara does when he takes over.
I am reminded of the scene from the movie “Patton” when Gen. George Patton replaced Gen. Lloyd Fredendall. Fredendall was in command of the American forces defeated in a rout at the Kasserine Pass. Fredendall had the sense to go quietly out the backdoor as Patton entered the town with great fanfare and set about righting the ship.
Unfortunately, Superintendent Jara will be in town two weeks before Superintendent Skorkowsky leaves. The last thing in the world Superintendent Jara needs is advice from the Superintendent who has been in command of CCSD for the last six years as it languished, with little hope of improved status, at the bottom of school achievement across the country.
The District needs a take-charge charismatic leader who is willing to stand and deliver a program that may step on many toes but will turn the defeat of the last six years into a victory for the students of Clark County.
No one asked me but… Let me see if I can clarify some myths about teacher salaries. I read an interesting editorial in a Las Vegas newspaper stating that teachers are overpaid. It spoke of their two and half month paid vacation. It further claimed that the benefit package of insurance and retirement must be considered when talking about teacher compensation. It then went on to compare the teacher pay and compensation to other jobs using only take-home pay for those occupations.
Here are the facts about teacher compensation. The starting teachers takes home $40,900 for working 7.5 hours during 184 days. This computes to $29.64 dollars per hour. The teacher after 10 years, if he/she spends those ten years collecting educational credits outside the school day, can make $90,877, an hourly wage of $65.86.
The expense for this further education is borne by the teacher. The District, however, controls which teachers, as well as how many teachers, can reach this level. This system is so convoluted that many teachers have given up the effort to move on the salary schedule.
It has been reported that when some teachers actually meet the highly confusing requirements the District has instituted, rather than compensate the teachers, the District arbitrarily changed the requirements and refused to honor the increase.
Teachers do not receive paid vacation, be it one week or 2.5 months. Teachers are laid off over Christmas, Easter, and the entire 2.5 months of summer. Teachers, like migrant workers, are paid only during the harvest season. Teacher salaries earned during the school year are prorated over twelve months.
Here is another interesting fact: according to the District’s budget report there are over 40 entry level positions in the District that start at a higher hourly wage than the beginning teacher. One must wonder how many doctors and lawyers start at a salary less than their support staff members.
Thought of the week… We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.
– George S. Patton