SAN ANGELO, Texas -- The West Texas oil boom is boosting school enrollment and luring experienced teachers out of the classrooms, making room for others seeking teaching work.
A sign offering an $8,000 signing bonus to math and science teachers drew a lot of attention to one recruitment table at the annual Teacher Job Fair at Angelo State University here recently.
Jim Workman, principal of Austin Elementary School at Pecos-Barstow-Toyah, said that a lot of the districts at the job fair were affected by the oil field boom.
"The teachers know they can make a whole lot more money in the oil field," he said.
Pecos-Barstow-Toyah has openings for 16 employees of all sorts, from teachers to maintenance workers.
Workman said he hopes to attract applicants with a federal program that helps teachers pay down education loans after they work three years at the same Title 1 district. Title 1 is a federal designation for a district with a high proportion of economically disadvantaged students and comes with a number of benefits such as a free lunch program.
"I just did the paperwork for two of my teachers who have been with me for four years," he said.
On the down side, the oil field boom also affects the availability of housing.
"I've got two teachers that work in my district that commute from Odessa because there's no place to live in our community because of the oil field workers," Workman said.
Hobbs, N.M., is constructing apartment buildings as fast as it can, Pat McMurray of the Hobbs Municipal School District said. Hobbs is just over the Texas-New Mexico border at the north end of the Permian Basin.
"We're opening up a middle school, so we are pretty much hiring every position," McMurray said. "We've been coming here for about eight or nine years. Angelo State has really good students. If we get some, we feel lucky."
McMurray also said he knew of at least seven teachers with eight to 10 years of experience who have left for jobs in the oil filed, where a truck driver can make $50,000 a year.
"This happened before in the early '80s," he said. "Of course, the oil field goes up and down. It's been good for our economy."
Chuck Kautzer, personnel director of an East Texas school district between Waco and Bryan-College Station, said willingness to relocate is key.
"We offer stipends for math, science and special ed teachers, just like most of the districts do," Kautzer said. "(Our district has) been coming about 15 years now and have hired some awfully good teachers from San Angelo, if they're willing to relocate. I would like someone that's energetic, dresses professionally and loves kids. If you don't love kids, you're in the wrong business."
Contact Laurel L. Scott of the Standard Times in San Angelo, Texas, at lscottgosanangelo.com