Along with “encouraging” National Guard members and state employees to become licensed substitute teachers, the governor’s “Supporting Teachers and Families” (STAF) initiative will allow state workers to use administrative leave to temporarily fill the vacancies.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, about 50 National Guard members will participate initially, with the plan to add another 50. Licensing fees will be waved for those who wish to participate. The teachers’ unions are also apparently on board with the new plan.
School staffing shortages have dramatically increased across the country due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. Low teacher pay is another factor contributing to the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that there are “575,000 fewer state and local education employees, and 65,000 employees left the industry between September and October.” New Mexico will be the first state in the country to address the teacher shortages with the National Guard.
Lujan Grisham has proposed a seven percent raise for “all New Mexico education personnel” and an average 20 percent increase for minimum salary.
New Mexico Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said in a press release announcing the STAF initiative that “lack of substitute teachers is among the most critical staffing issues right now” for public schools.
Last year in New Mexico alone, teachers retired at a rate of 40 percent and the beginning of the school year saw about 1,000 teacher vacancies. In addition, school districts reported needing about 900 substitute positions, according to the Journal.