PSS having a hard time recruiting special education teachers

EDUCATION Commissioner Cynthia Deleon Guerrero said they are having a hard time recruiting teachers, particularly those for the special education program or SPED.

“Teachers for the special education program are the hardest to recruit. They can command competitive salaries, and we are one of the lowest paying for such positions in the nation,” Deleon Guerrero said in an interview.

The Public School System has 48 SPED classroom teachers and 12 vacant positions.

Cynthia Deleon Guerrero

PSS needs 28 non-certified teachers and 21 certified teachers for the program.

A former PSS human resources director, Deleon Guerrero said SPED and the salaries for its teachers are federally funded, but PSS “must abide by its salary scale.”

She added, “Even if they are federally funded teachers, to ensure that there’s equity, cannot be paid like teachers in New York City because they have to be paid the same as the [PSS] classroom teachers next door.”

Deleon Guerrero shared her recent experience in Arizona where she tried to recruit teachers.

“I set up my table. I set up my banners and materials. I made sure that my table was at the door to welcome all the potential applicants coming in. The other school districts lined up after me. Halfway through the day, I saw applicants going to other tables because their pay scale was higher.

“I thought I was going to be lucky when a couple came to my table and both were SPED-certified teachers. They had master’s degrees. I was entertaining them and trying to recruit them. We offered an incentive of $3,000 if they signed up to teach for PSS, but the table next to me immediately got their attention and offered an incentive of $15,000 if they signed with them.”

She said the table next to hers offered the couple a startup salary of $48,000 while PSS could only offer $30,976.

“We continue to face this kind of recruitment challenge because we are not even mid-range in terms of SPED teacher salaries or even general education teacher salaries for that matter,” she said.

On Tuesday, members of Board of Education appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee and asked for a $54 million budget for fiscal year 2018.

Of this amount, Deleon Guerrero said $1.9 million will be allotted for teacher and staff salary adjustments.

She noted that under the CNMI Constitution, PSS must get 25 percent of the general revenue of the government, but it’s not enough, she added.

The governor’s budget proposal for PSS is $36 million.

“We continue to expect PSS to educate our youth, but in order to do that and do it well, we need to give them more than the bare minimum of what we have,” Deleon Guerrero said.

“If we take a look across the nation, every single entity, every single state government, provides more than 25 percent to education…. We are running at 25 percent but that is not sufficient. That is the bare minimum.”

She said the CNMI allots $8,000 per child compared to $12,000 per child in the states.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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