Each year Nevada’s teacher shortage seems to worsen.
Fewer individuals are going into teaching, and many leave after a short time, citing low pay, long hours, student behavior and politically divisive policies pushed by administrators and teachers unions.
Teacher shortages have led to larger classes and lower student proficiency in schools. In December 2021, Las Vegas-area schools ranked second-worst in the nation for quality. Nationwide, Education Week ranks Nevada 50 out of 51, while U.S. News & World Report ranks it 48 out of 50.
The Nevada State Education Association estimated that there are currently almost 3,000 unfilled positions across the state’s 17 school districts, up from around 1,200 this past February. CCSD, the fifth-largest school district in the nation with more than 320,000 students, reported the most vacancies at 1,300.
Gov. Steve Sisolak recently signed a temporary emergency regulation to address teacher shortages in Nevada. This will reduce the costs of substitute teaching licenses to $100 from $180 for initial licenses and $150 for renewal licenses. The state superintendent of public instruction will also be able to extend expiration dates for up to six months.
This measure should be made permanent. Better yet, Nevada should consider eliminating licensing fees for substitute teacher licenses.
Substitute teachers in the Clark County School District (CCSD) make as little as $110 per day. Paying license fees for what is less-than fulltime work is unnecessarily burdensome. While he is at it, Sisolak should also lower or eliminate fees for regular and professional educator licenses.
Besides paying fees, substitutes are also required to have earned a bachelor’s degree or have 60 credit hours. Arizona, Florida and Utah do not require a certification or license or college courses to become a substitute teacher.
In 2011, Nevada lawmakers passed SB 315, which created an alternative route to licensure for public school teachers. Alternative certification offered by Commission on Professional Standards in Education-approved education and training providers can take two years to complete.
Why not allow mid-career professionals looking to transfer into the classroom the ability to test out of coursework if they can prove proficiency through a subject-matter test?
Most states recognize teaching licenses from all other states. Among states Nevada doesn’t have education reciprocity agreements with are Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Minnesota. Nevada should stop picking which state teaching degrees it approves to bring in more instructors.
The Clark County School District recently raised the starting teacher salary to more than $50,000 to help attract teachers, but more must be done to retain them.
Nevada Policy has recommended using alternate teacher certification and teacher merit pay to attract top talent and retain better educators.
Teacher unions have opposed merit pay and push back by making teachers “broadly eligible to receive modest bonuses with ‘performance’ or ‘merit’ in the title.” In the long run, these so-called forms of ‘merit pay’ are unsuccessful at retaining teachers.
Fortunately, despite CCSD Board of Trustees approving COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the school district decided not to implement them for teachers and staff. Washoe County School District also has no plans to require the vaccine. School districts should avoid mandating COVID vaccines, which could also lead to more teacher and staff layoffs and resignations.
Teacher shortages here in Nevada need to be addressed. School districts and the state legislature need to consider solutions that retain teachers and attract the best talent. This includes rolling back licensing requirements and fees, advancing merit pay without raising taxes and not mandating COVID-19 vaccines.