In an effort to eliminate a nearly $17 million deficit, the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada, plans to lay off all of its 170 deans starting this fall. The plan, presented by the superintendent, is getting pushback from school administrators and teachers who say deans maintain safety at the school, the Las Vegas Journal-Review reports.
Without deans, the administrator-to-student ratio will fall to three for every 2,200 students at Eldorado High School, for example. Deans are paid a starting salary of $60,760 and are tasked with dealing with fights, confiscating weapons and handling drug problems on campus.
Teacher leaders are blasting the plan by saying it will adversely affect students, and the Clark County Education Association is considering a strike next school year. It is estimated that about 25 assistant principals that were promoted from dean will also be removed.
Cash-strapped districts are in a constant battle to balance the need to provide raises for employees, improve ed tech and other resources, and maintain a safe school environment, all while balancing budgets.
The wave of teacher strikes over the past two school years shows that educators are willing to demand raises even when districts have to make cuts in order to fund them. The Oakland Unified School District, for example, cut positions after teachers received raises following a strike. Others are fleeing their districts for higher-paying ones. The low teacher pay in Russell County, Virginia, for example, means that there are many vacant positions in an area that is a short commute to districts that pay more. A kindergarten teacher with a master’s degree who has taught in Russell County for 14 years only makes $40,000 a year.
Pension liabilities are also leaving districts with little flexibility in the budget. Colorado’s public pension system had a shortfall of $29 billion as of 2017. Attempts to keep the pension fund solvent means that districts must contribute funds from their own budgets.
There may be some merit to eliminating administrative bloat and putting more money into the classroom. However, just removing administrators and not their duties means teachers are then tasked with more work. School safety is another new and growing expense. Since the shooting in Parkland, Florida in February 2018, states have spent $900 million on school safety in the form of security upgrades, school resource officers, mental health programs, violence prevention, emergency planning and tip lines.