Teacher vacancies stymie global competitiveness

Southern Nevadans deserve an excellent education system, from pre-kindergarten through our doctorate programs. To accomplish that goal, our community needs a vision of how we can dramatically improve our system now — not five, 10 or 20 years from now.

As the chairman emeritus of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, Southern Nevada’s economic and community development organization, and co-chairman of the LVGEA Education Council, I see every day how the welfare of our families and businesses is inextricably tied to the success of our schools.

The LVGEA, in collaboration with our community partners, is working daily to attract, retain and expand businesses here, and we must acknowledge this simple fact: Just as a business is only as good as the people it employs, our schools are only as good as the teachers they employ. So when we read that the Clark County School District is starting out the year 600 teachers short, it should greatly concern all of us.

In 2025, today’s sixth-graders will be graduating college and the world will look a lot different. The United States will continue to be a center for technology, design and intellectual property, but countries like China, India and Brazil will be competing with us for those jobs. For today’s children to compete, we need to ensure that there is a high-quality teacher in front of every single student in Nevada.

Can we honestly say, with 600 teacher vacancies in Clark County, that we are giving today’s sixth-graders the education needed to be competitive in a global economy? I am sad to say no.

A 71.5 percent high school graduation rate does not prepare us for the global economy. A 55.6 percent remediation rate at our colleges does not prepare us for the global economy. And starting a school year with hundreds of teacher vacancies will have consequences far beyond this year.

We must look ahead to remain competitive, and we must plan strategically to meet the needs of each new school year. Any vision for a competitive K-12 education system has to start with high-quality teachers for “every student in every classroom, without exceptions, without excuses,” to quote Clark County Schools Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky.

Workforce development is directly tied to economic development. Any vision for enhancing education must start with attracting and retaining high-quality K-12 teachers to ensure we have the best teacher workforce in our classrooms. This vision will require investment, which in turn must require accountability by our educators to see the taxpayer gets an appropriate return on that investment.

This is a Nevada problem, and it’s going to take collaboration between business and education to find a Nevada solution.

Tags: The Sunday

Glenn Christenson is chairman emeritus of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance and co-chairman of the LVGEA Education Council.