Choose Teaching: it is social justice work!
“How do you attract and retain teachers?”
The Clark County Education Association (CCEA) attempted to lobby for additional state money to support early educators in Clark County School District (CCSD) through Nevada Senate Bill 547. Senate Bill 547 was important for all CCSD teachers as it would have guaranteed salary increases. It was especially important to new teachers who start at the lowest point in the salary schedule and suffer the most with long drawn out and cruel arbitrations.
The Nevada Legislature sent funding for salary increases and for Peer Assistance and Review (PAR); then Trustees and Central Admininstration took it. CCEA continues to fight for the money the Nevada Legislature sent.
The intention of this proposed legislation was to help reduce stress for early educators and focus on retaining folks willing to become teachers.
Teaching is social justice work because teacher vacancies and turnover occur in places students need a skilled professional the most.
Most early educators leave the profession before year three. Many others leave at year five. Few new teachers make it past that point. Up to half of our teachers have five years or less experience in the profession in CCSD. Many new professionals are asked to do the heaviest lift: taking the most difficult assignments.
Every time a CCSD teacher leaves, it is estimated it costs the district $20,000 to recruit, train, and support a new hire.
Every year thousands of teachers turnover in Vegas. CCSD has had anywhere between 20,0000 to 30,000 kids without a licensed teacher. Vacancies are mainly in public schools with high numbers of students in poverty. Communities of color often have substitutes filling their neighborhood schools. The area of special education is especially difficult to find and retain skilled labor. Some students have not had a licensed teacher several years in a row.
The district says there are between 400 to 700 openings. This is only partially accurate since CCSD exploits labor by asking teachers to sell prep time to cover the vacant classrooms. This allows the district to not pay any additional benefits. It is cheaper for the school district to do this on one hand but expensive on the other because it causes burn-out and stress on staff.
In addition, CCSD Central Office raises the student-teacher ratio so they do not have to hire more staff. This means classrooms are stuffed and students sit on the floors without supplies or textbooks. More kids in each room; less help for kids. The burden is most often shifted to those who are already overwhelmed.
CCEA Vice President, Theo Small started his teaching journey in 1989. While in college, he started working part-time in a special education classroom with students. Here he found his love for teaching and decided to become an educator.
After relocating to Las Vegas in 1994, he took his first job in CCSD at Mountain View Elementary School.
Recently Theo has been working with programs to support and retain early educators:
In addition, CCEA under Theo’s leadership has successfully contracted for increases in initial pay for new teachers, advocated for on-boarding during negotiations, and successfully won arbitration to get all teachers paid for professional development beyond degree work (CUs) giving more opportunity for teachers in Title I Tier I Schools to advance on the pay scale.
This is Theo speaking about his personal journey to become a teacher and his work now to support CCEA members and all teachers in CCSD.