Houston School District Pursues North Carolina Teachers

In an effort to bring new teachers into its sprawling metropolis, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) held a job fair in Raleigh, North Carolina, which was designed to target teachers fed up with working in one of the nation's worst states in terms of average educator salary, reports T. Keung Hui of the Charlotte News-Observer.

"If they offered me a position, I would definitely accept it and move now," said Xavier Wallace, 23, a second-grade teacher at Eno Valley Elementary School in Durham who attended the job fair at the DoubleTree Hilton Raleigh.

Wallace, a first-year teacher, would make $12,000 more in Houston than his current salary of $34,000.

With 282 schools and 211,000 students, HISD is the seventh-largest school district in the country. Its ethnic make-up would be a big change for most North Carolina teachers. Nearly 62% of HISD is Hispanic, and 25% African-American. In addition, a little more than 80% of the students in the district come from economically disadvantaged homes.

By comparison, North Carolina's student ethnic distribution is 52% white, 26% African-American and 14% Hispanic.

The job fair was held mere days after North Carolina Republicans revealed a bill that would increase teachers' pay rate by an average of 11%, sending the state's educators from 47th to 27th in average salary.

However, the pay increase comes at the cost of teachers' tenure, as reported earlier by Education News.

The caveat of that potential pay raise is that teachers must give up their tenure to get it – meaning they will no longer have job security past what is already guaranteed by standard federal and state law.

Under the bill's terminology, teachers who reject the new pay structure would continue on the current plan, which stagnates at a certain point in an educator's career, but would keep the tenure, meaning they could not be fired for anything outside the realm of "just cause".

According to HISD spokeswoman Shelah Reed, who was at the job fair, HISD has 375 vacancies currently, and offered jobs to 12 North Carolina teachers on the spot during the course of the job fair.

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier formerly was superintendent in Guilford County in North Carolina, thus it is no surprise that he would have a knowledge of the state's struggles to pay its teachers:

"Our superintendent knows North Carolina," Reed said. "He knows firsthand what North Carolina teachers are like, and we follow the industry trends."

The advertisements that HISD ran online and in newspapers touted a starting salary of $46,805, which a North Carolina teacher, under the state's current pay scale, would need 28 years experience to top.

However, the cost of living in cities like Raleigh, where the job fair was held, is much lower than in Houston, approximately one-third less expensive in terms of rent and property taxes.

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