New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced Wednesday she will be asking National Guard members and state employees to become certified to fill in as substitute teachers as teacher staffing shortages continue to skyrocket.
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 educators deserve a raise, it's as simple as that – and we're going to deliver it.
I'm proposing 7% raises for all New Mexico education personnel, as well as increasing minimum educator salary levels to $50,000, $60,000, & $70,000 – an average 20% increase. #nmleg pic.twitter.com/Mv2X9iZfUt
— Michelle Lujan Grisham (@GovMLG) January 24, 2022
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.
Meanwhile, a recent poll indicated that a majority (52 percent) of New Mexico voters want to replace Lujan Grisham. Thirty-nine percent say they would reelect her.
A statement by the Republican Party of New Mexico reads in part:
Once again the Governor isn’t putting New Mexico students first. Our children are now being taught by people who are not certified educators. It’s clear that students are not the Governor’s priority when it comes to education. You need quality teachers in our schools. Our education system remains the worst in the nation. This is an act of desperation and poor government leadership.
This Governor has failed our students and failed to invest in our education system. The lack of teachers is a blatant result of the Governor and Democrat-led legislature refusing to address our education crisis head-on. The Governor has jeopardized our children’s future by allowing this teacher shortage to happen and not taking the appropriate actions to fix our education problems.
Lujan Grisham’s office could not be reached by phone for comment at press time.
Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.