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New Mexico Teacher Shortage Focus of Forthcoming Report

In New Mexico, there were 466 teachers on alternative licenses in 2014, compared to 2,352 this year, according the state Public Education Department. (ernestoeslava/Pixabay)
In New Mexico, there were 466 teachers on alternative licenses in 2014, compared to 2,352 this year, according the state Public Education Department. (ernestoeslava/Pixabay)
February 25, 2020

ESPANOLA, N.M. -- From the governor on down, everyone agrees New Mexico's kids deserve qualified, effective teachers. But many classrooms aren't filled by teachers who are certified in the content area they're teaching.

Preliminary results from a soon-to-be released report show 89 New Mexico school districts couldn't fill 644 teaching slots this year. That's a 13% drop in vacancies from the previous year, but it still creates a learning challenge for students.

Report author Kersti Tyson, director of evaluation and learning with the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, said if a science or math teacher leaves midyear, it's hard to replace them with a certified teacher.

"When there's not enough teachers at least starting with basic credentials, then already there's a problem," Tyson said. "And then add to that teacher turnover and what happens is then, we just have a less consistent workforce."

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has promised a new direction for public education. State lawmakers voted to increase public school spending by $216 million, or nearly 8% for the coming school year. And salary hikes of 4% were approved for most teachers, public school staff, faculty and state government workers.

Tyson said right now, 40% of New Mexico's teachers are coming from out of state. At the same time, many long-term teachers are looking to retire, and the number of people pursing university teaching degrees has declined. She said public schools need to have conversations with kids in middle and high school to build up the teaching profession.

"What can we do to develop programs that are really supporting kids to start thinking about, 'Wow, maybe I could be a teacher, maybe that's a good way for me to stay in my community and have a really good professional life,'" Tyson said.

New Mexico is currently under court order to provide better educational opportunities to under-served kids in public schools, particularly English learners, Native Americans, special-education and lower-income students.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM