Las Vegas Sun

June 2, 2015

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Despite layoffs, board OKs hiring 50 Teach for America teachers; action irks union president

Despite laying off hundreds of teachers this month, the Clark County School Board voted Thursday to hire 50 new Teach For America teachers in "high-need, hard-to-fill and at-risk schools areas."

Founded in 1990, Teach For America is a national teacher corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to helping at-risk children in disadvantaged communities. Last year, more than 9,000 corps members taught in 43 rural and urban regions across the country.

The nonprofit organization has partnered with the School District since the 2004-05 school year. Since that initial agreement, about 450 corps members have been hired in Clark County.

Currently, there are 105 former Teach For America teachers working in the district, as well as 44 first-year and 35 second-year corps teachers in Clark County classrooms.

The contract renewal will cost the district $2,500 per teacher per year, or $250,000 over two years. Teach for America funds part of the training and licensure for corps members and has agreed to waive costs for an additional 40 more teachers in hard-to-fill areas.

The announcement of teacher hires came just a week after the School District sent pink slips to 419 teachers to close a $64 million budget gap. That timing worried some School Board members, including Chris Garvey and Lorraine Alderman.

Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones assuaged board members' fears by promising to first hire back teachers who have been laid off — before hiring a Teach For America corps members — and looking into a study that could compare regular and Teach For America teachers.

Still, the Teach For America funding irked Ruben Murillo, the local teachers union president.

"That money could go a long way," Murillo said, adding that $250,000 equals four teacher positions.

However, Clark County spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said the funds were a "sound investment in academic achievement."

"This investment will help offset a small portion of the costs Teach For America incurs to recruit, select, train and support effective teachers for high-need schools," she said in a statement.

Dickens Elementary School Principal Carolyn King said her North Las Vegas school benefited greatly from its two Teach For America teachers. King attributed reading and math gains to these younger teachers.

"We're very proud of our corps members," she said. "They are leaders in our buildings."

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