August 7, 2015

Needed: Teachers who can start tomorrow

classroomSome school districts are still facing a shortage of teachers just days before the start of the new school year.

Both Rio Rancho Public Schools and Albuquerque Public Schools have had a deficit of teachers in general as well as special education.

Teacher’s unions as well as a representative of APS admitted that part of the problem may stem from a higher demand on teachers and inadequate compensation.

With most schools in the state preparing to begin classes in a matter of days, New Mexico Political Report reached out to three large school districts in New Mexico to find out how many positions are still vacant.

Last month APS held a job fair in order to fill teacher positions. While one representative told the a local TV station that vacancies were related to more demanding working conditions, a spokesman said the number of vacancies was normal for this time of year.

Earlier this week, APS spokesman Rigo Chavez told New Mexico Political Report that the largest school district in the state still had about 250 teacher positions open. Of those vacant positions, about 90 of them are special education related.

“The number changes every day as APS Human Resources fills positions,” Chavez noted.

Beth Pendergrass, a spokeswoman for Rio Rancho Public Schools, reiterated that teacher positions fluctuate, and added that they have about 47 general education positions open and 22 special education that still need to be filled.

“These are definitely higher than what we have seen in the past and what we would like to see at this time of year, especially as high school and middle school starts next Wednesday and elementary the following Monday,” Pendergrass wrote in an email.

In Las Cruces, the situation seems to be less dire according to Las Cruces Public School spokeswoman Jo Galvan. She said the district currently employs about 1,600 teachers and that there are only 12 vacancies that need to be filled by early next week. She said those positions are a “cross-section” of various positions including special education, fine arts and physical education.

“When we experience “shortages” it is typically in special education ancillary positions, such as Speech-Language Pathologists, or when looking for bilingual-endorsed teachers,” Galvan said.

National Education Association spokesman Charles Goodmacher blamed the teacher shortages on the executive branch.

“The policies of the current PED and Governor denigrate the education professions, while also keeping pay very low compared to other professions. This is driving away current and future teachers in every New Mexico ZIP Code, so students are suffering throughout New Mexico,” Goodmacher said.

He also attributed the low number of vacancies in Las Cruces to larger class sizes.

“The only reason Las Cruces has a smaller shortage is because they are tossing larger numbers of students into each classroom,” Goodmacher told New Mexico Political Report.

New Mexico’s Public Education Department could not be reached for comment regarding teacher shortages.

Correction: Headline corrected for grammar.