The hard reality of Texas school districts, one that should be drawn into focus once again when the state Supreme Court rules soon on the latest public school funding lawsuit, is that there is not enough money to do the job well.
It’s also true, as many people point out whenever this subject comes up in debate or lawsuits, that more money is not a guarantee of better educational results. All money has to be spent wisely.
But the problem of school districts is on display again in the Fort Worth school district’s unceasing fight to hire enough qualified teachers to lead all the classrooms for its 86,000 students.
Sammy Monge, the district’s chief of human capital resources, told Star-Telegram reporter Yamil Berard the district this year had to pay substitute teachers to lead 16 classrooms for which it could not find a full-time, properly certified professional.
“We’re going to have to be more aggressive [in recruiting teachers] because it’s going to be a challenge for us to fill our vacancies,” Monge said. “Our priority for us is still to have 100 percent of our vacancies filled.”
There’s been a drop in interest in the teaching profession, and urban districts like Fort Worth suffer most when there is a lack of qualified candidates.
FWISD had 362 applicants from the University of Texas at Arlington last year and hired 320 of them, Monge said. This year there were only 95 applicants from UTA, and the district hired 52.
It’s particularly difficult for FWISD to attract teachers in high-need certification areas. One of those areas, says Trustee Christene Moss, is reading specialists at low-performing schools.
Teachers in science, technology, engineering and math typically are in demand.
Moss advocates more aggressive recruiting, telling Monge recently to “go and steal the people” from other districts.
So what does it take to get a good teacher to move to FWISD from another nearby district?
Businesses aiming to recruit high-demand employees do it in a variety of ways, but they all cost money. Higher pay moves people. So do perks and better working conditions. Top-notch supervisors help.
FWISD has some top-notch principals. Recruiting more takes you-know-what.
Perks and working conditions are not very flexible. Fort Worth has many schools in economically depressed areas.
Then we’re back to pay. Matching the pay in surrounding districts is not enough. Recruiting teachers away from those districts means having pay that is more attractive, and that’s a real struggle.