District not serious about addressing teacher shortage | EDITORIAL

Clark County School District administration building (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The Clark County School District has a chronic teacher shortage. One might assume, then, that district officials would be working diligently to dismantle unnecessary barriers that exacerbate the problem. But that assumption would be incorrect.

Consider the plight of Bailey Middle School Principal Darryl Wyatt. Faced with a number of teacher vacancies for next school year, Mr. Wyatt spent his spring break holiday interviewing applicants for open positions in a number of subject areas. He eventually found enough qualified teachers to reach full staff.

That’s when district officials stepped in and scuttled the plan.

Mr. Wyatt was attempting to go through the J-1 Cultural Exchange Program, which provides visas for teachers from the Philippines to enter the United States to teach for up to five years in Clark County. The district partners with three sponsors to bring such educators into the country, the Review-Journal’s Lorraine Longhi reported this week. Mr. Wyatt had followed protocol and gone through one such organization to fill his vacancies.

Yet district officials put the kibosh on Mr. Wyatt’s new hires, saying the educators were ineligible for the J-1 program because they would push Clark County over a self-imposed cap of 175 on the number of such teachers in local schools. This makes about as much sense as the district’s nutty policy of giving students 50 percent credit even for assignments they ignore.

“That’s not set by the state,” Mr. Wyatt said of the limit. “That’s not set by the federal government. That’s set by the CCSD. The ability to move off of that is just a simple, ‘OK, sure. Let’s hire more teachers.’”

He’s right. And to make matters worse, the district’s explanation — that it had only limited application forms available for its sponsor organizations — was apparently not true. Ms. Longhi reports that Mr. Wyatt said “he was told by (the sponsor) that it had the necessary application forms.”

Mr. Wyatt now wonders if he’ll have enough teachers, particularly in math and science, when students begin the new school year in August. “Listen, if I can get a teacher to stay in my building for three years, I’m going to be feeling like I struck gold,” he said. “Does it matter whether they’re coming from the Philippines, Massachusetts or Wisconsin? We have to hire hundreds of teachers every year, so why is this little drop in the bucket of 175 such a big issue.”

Large bureaucracies aren’t known for efficiency, and some education unions aren’t fond of the J-1 program. But this is absurd. District officials should be using every arrow in the quiver to ensure there are enough full-time educators in the classroom, and that includes making more aggressive use of these visas. Mr. Wyatt should be applauded for his efforts, not stymied by red tape. Ease the cap.