Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2019

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CCSD officials: Emergency measure could reduce teacher shortage by hundreds

Teacher shortage map 082615

Ian Whitaker, Las Vegas Sun

An August 2015 examination of the Clark County School District’s list of vacancies by school revealed that teacher shortages in the valley’s at-risk schools have continued to get worse while schools in wealthy neighborhoods have largely remained unscathed.

Hiring officials in the Clark County School District aren’t wasting any time getting back in touch with hundreds of teachers previously turned away because of the state’s strict teacher licensing rules.

The district said this week that it was reaching out to around 400 educators across the country who, if hired, could start filling vacant teaching positions as early as next school year.

“I think we are going to have a reasonably good chance at success with those teachers,” said Michael Gentry, interim human resources chief for CCSD.

The teachers decided not to take jobs in the district last year due to state licensing requirements that would have forced them to stop working until they obtained a Nevada teaching license. But last week, those requirements were relaxed following an emergency measure approved by Gov. Brian Sandoval and state Superintendent Steve Canavero. Now, educators with teaching licenses in other states can teach for up to a year in Nevada school districts while they work toward obtaining a Nevada teaching certificate.

The move is being heralded as a major victory in the years-long battle to eliminate the state’s massive teacher shortage. Nearly 1,000 classrooms around the state lack a fully qualified teacher, with 700 of those vacancies located in Clark County.

Special education, minority and low-income students have been the ones affected the most by the shortage.

Many of the 400 teachers identified by CCSD come from western states, Gentry said. Before last week’s emergency decision, teachers who wanted to start working immediately would have had to go through the district’s alternative route to licensure program even though they already had a license. ARL programs are meant to give bachelor's degree holders without prior teaching experience a fast track into the classroom.

“We’re in a complicated regulatory environment,” Gentry said. “I think the legislation has provided a more reasonable process for a teacher from somewhere else to come here.”

The previous rules were in place due to federal regulations that disallowed states from granting provisional teaching licenses. States that didn't comply risked losing millions in federal funds. While some states decided to take the gamble and grant provisional licenses, Nevada decided to enact its own rules against their issuance just to be safe. The federal regulations were ultimately rendered obsolete with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama late last year.

The suspension of Nevada’s regulations is set to become permanent following approval by state regulators. The action is part of a broader effort by state decision-makers to address the shortage. Last year, lawmakers approved around $2 million in scholarships for students studying to become teachers.

But even with the relaxed rules and hundreds of potential teachers on the horizon, the district has to contend with a rising attrition rate that threatens to cancel out any new hires. Around 9 percent of teachers left the district last year, up from 7.1 percent in 2011.

In other words, in order for the 400 new teachers to take a bite out of the teacher shortage, the district has to stem the tide of retirements and resignations.

“If we see the same activity that we saw last year,” Gentry said. “We’re going to be in much better shape.”

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