The booming Texas economy is contributing to a teacher shortage in Houston, Dallas and other Texas cities, and state educators have turned to the Frost Belt for help.
In Dallas, 710 teachers have quit since March 1, many of them leaving for jobs in private industry. In Houston, 203 teachers resigned during a one-month period this summer.
In other Texas cities that have experienced shortages in recent years, an influx of teachers from Michigan, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio, New York and New Jersey have helped alleviate the problem.
"We're recruiting all over the world," said Felix Cook, deputy superintendent for personnel of the Houston Independent School District. "About 85 percent of our teachers are from out of state."
The situtation in Texas is far different than conditions nationally, where a teacher surplus exists. "Generally speaking, there is not a teacher shortage across the United States," said Peg Jones, acting director of research for the National Education Association.
Jones said there are about 355,000 teachers for 129,500 jobs nationwide this fall. A recent NEA survey found 19 states reporting the chances for teachers' finding jobs poor, while another 17 reported conditions were terrible. Texas called conditions average.
Budget cuts and the tax revolt in many northern industrial states like Michigan and Massachusetts have contributed to a decrease of 55,000 teaching jobs this year, which Jones called, "the largest one-year drop in American history."
But in Texas, there is a need for more teachers. Last year, schools in the state employed about 161,000 teachers, and that figure is expected to increase this year. "My guess is it might go up 4,000 to 5,000," said Brian Wilson, director of information analysis at the Texas Education Agency.
One reason the state needs more teachers is because it is growing so rapidly. Between 1970 and 1980, Texas added more than 3 million people, a 27 percent increase. To meet the demand, local school districts have started extensive recruiting drives outside of Texas.
The Houston school district has recruited in many northern industrial states, and has taken advantage of the economic problems those states are experiencing.
"We were there when they cut back," said Felix Cook. "We saw it coming, so we were there."
Cook said the Houston schools have hired 700 new teachers this year "and we're still employing because we still have vacancies."
The Corpus Christi schools, which had a serious shortage of special education teachers a year ago, mounted a mail order campaign around the country. "It really brought in responses," said Jessie Goode, an assistant director of personnel. "For the first time, we have had all our vacancies filled in the vision impaired classes."
Goode said other vacancies would exist "had not so many out-of-state applicants" answered the ad campaign.
Teachers who come to Texas face lower salaries than they are used to receiving. Loraine Bodoh, a teacher registration consultant for the Texas State Teachers Association, said the state ranks 33rd in teacher salaries. "There are a lot of other states that pay more," she said, "but there aren't a lot of openings in the other states, so the teachers are going where there are openings."
She compiles a regular list of vacancies in the state and said there are still "a lot of positions" unfilled only a few weeks before the opening for the 1982-82 school year.
These low salaries are a factor in the decision of many Houston and Dallas teachers to quit the schools for private industry. "Some of them are going into computer work, some into real estate, others into other private businesses," said John J. Santillo, assistant superintendent for personnel of the Dallas Independent School District.
He estimated that the Dallas schools will be short 125 teachers this fall and blamed the higher wages in private industry for much of the problem. Teachers in Dallas start at $13,217 with a bachelor's degree and $14,481 with a master's. "Our experience is that many industries are starting them off at $18,000 to $20,000," Santillo said.
As an example of the money available in private industry, he cited one of the secretaries in his office, who is leaving next week to work for an oil company that has guaranteed her a $4,000 raise.
Santillo reported that many more women and minority teachers in Dallas have been lured away by firms with affirmative action programs. "The percentage of them leaving is much larger than it has been," he said.
Among the problems in Houston is a shortage of math and science teachers, many of whom are able to find better paying jobs in the Houston area. But the NEA's Jones said the shortage of math teachers is not confined to Texas. "That's a nationwide phenomenon," she said.
Two other factors have contributed to the shortages in Houston and Dallas. One is the mobility of the residents, an offshoot of a vibrant economy. The second is a court-ordered expansion of the state's bilingual education program, which will require about 1,700 more teachers statewide this year.
Nearly every school district in Texas seems to have hired somebody from Michigan. Bill Mann, superintendent of schools in Earth, a tiny West Texas town so named because of a sandstorm that blew through when the founders were debating what to call it, said that while he has no teacher shortages and rarely recruits outside the Southwest, he hired a band director from Michigan this summer.