Written by Patricia Hawke for

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”…is the most recent slogan to come out from the city, enticing tourists to come out and cut loose. Unfortunately, Las Vegas Schools are struggling, while the casinos enjoy seemingly limitless profits.  In fact, most Nevada tax dollars actually go to the casinos! Not only do the Las Vegas Schools struggle on a meager budget, but they also struggle consistently to recruit and keep teachers. These folks, understandably, are the lifeblood of any school system. Without the teachers, the students have no guidance in their learning.  Without the teachers, the city’s 215,000 children would have no school.
The Las Vegas Schools recently made a public plea for teachers. The school district needs 1,163 teachers to fill vacancies before August 2007. That is almost twice the number the district needed last year. There are not many options if the vacancies are not filled.
Fewer teachers means that the Las Vegas Schools will have to increase class sizes. Another solution would be to require some teachers to teach second classes in addition to their normal workload; that will take time away from lesson planning.
The school district will have to find more teachers using creative recruiting techniques. The number of applications is down by a third from last year, and Las Vegas Schools have almost twice the number of teaching positions still to fill.
The Las Vegas Schools superintendent Walt Rulffes said, "Everything revolves around the success of a good teacher."
The superintendent believes that quality teachers anchor all of his educational initiatives. Rulffes claims he has done everything he can to attract teachers - even partnering with national programs. In fact, many Las Vegas Schools have teams of principals in cities that are downsizing their teaching staff, hoping to draw those teachers to Las Vegas Schools. The group was recently in Detroit, a school district that is seeing a major decrease in its student population. They are, therefore, dealing with the task of eliminating instructional positions, and those teachers need jobs.
Superintendent Rulffes says the problem is the $33,000 starting salary offered to new teachers, or experienced teachers new to Las Vegas Schools. He wants to raise that beginning salary to $40,000 to compete with other school districts in the country. He suggests lawmakers should raise taxes to increase teacher salaries. While most teachers are not in the business to make piles of money, they do need to eat and pay rent.  Many teachers even invest a portion of their salaries in their own classrooms, supplies being another problem area for Las Vegas Schools.
Las Vegas Schools have a total student population of 215,860 attending 243 schools in 3 public school districts and 81 private schools. Public school revenue and expenditures vary by school district but Las Vegas Schools spend an average of $5,626 per student each year. In comparison, Reno schools spend approximately $6,000 per student yearly.