Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
There are 1,054 educator vacancies in the state, and 644 of those are teacher positions. While teacher vacancies are down 13% from last year, research experts still warn the vacancy levels are substantial.
Rachel Boren, director of Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation and Policy Center, said the teacher vacancy rates have a considerable impact on students.
“That translates to several thousand students who started the school year without a permanent teacher,” she told the Journal.
Last year, 740 of the total 1,173 educator openings were for teaching positions, though the 2019 report didn’t include every position from last year’s.
The state vacancy data comes from the 2019 New Mexico Educator Vacancy Report, which is prepared by the New Mexico State University College of Education Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation and Policy Center.
The numbers, which don’t include state charter or private schools, show openings as of Sept. 23.
Pool of prospects shrinking
Fewer people are going into the profession, which is one cause of the teacher shortage, according to the report.
During the 2018-19 academic year, 746 students completed an educator preparation program – 97 people fewer than last year.
Ten years ago, there were over 1,000 prospective teachers who completed a program.
Susan Brown, interim dean of NMSU’s college of education, said there are several reasons for the decline.
Some salaries were so low that starting teachers went to a school food bank to get by, said Brown, who taught for about 15 years.
She also said a reputation for low salaries, along with lack of respect for teachers, drives people away from the profession.
“It’s scary when you look at 20 years ago. We would have like 150 student teachers and now we have 50,” Brown said. “It’s so low and that’s why we have all these vacancies.”
A boost in teacher salaries and a new wave of education policy are making the interim dean optimistic.
Teacher salary minimums were bumped to $41,000, $50,000 and $60,000 for levels one, two and three teachers respectively; previously, the prior was $36,000.
Elementary, special ed teachers needed
The biggest need was for elementary and special education teachers, according to the report. Out of the 644 teacher vacancies, 173 were for elementary teachers, and 151 were for special education teachers.
Half of the open teaching positions in the state are for elementary and special education
“These were areas of high need in last year’s vacancy report as well, suggesting additional efforts to recruit and retain these teachers is needed,” the report says.
Broken down by subject, the largest needs in the state are in math, English and science. Teachers for these subjects were also needed last year.
Vacancies by region
Boren said the teacher shortage is statewide.
“This is an issue all over the state in every region, even the big and even the smaller ones,” Boren said.
• The central region of the state, which includes large districts such as Albuquerque and Santa Fe Public Schools, had 309 of the 644 teacher vacancies. That’s down from last year’s 400.
• The northeast and northwest – including Las Vegas City Schools and Gallup-McKinley County Schools – saw a decrease from 181 total vacancies to 123.
• The southeast, which includes Alamogordo Public Schools and Carlsbad Municipal Schools, had a 25% uptick in vacancies from last year, with 147 openings.
• The southwest, including Las Cruces Public Schools and the Gadsden Independent School District, had a 59% increase in teacher openings from the year prior, with 65 openings this year.
Source: New Mexico State University