PED says it issued 4,000+ new teacher licenses. But there are still hundreds of vacancies.

Unpacking the numbers of applications and unfilled positions in New Mexico public schools

By: - December 19, 2022 5:00 am

Classroom barrack at an elementary school in the Barelas neighborhood of Albuquerque (Photo by Marisa Demarco / Source NM)

New Mexico waived fees for teacher licenses for a 60-day stretch during the spring.

Education officials are beaming at the fact that the free window brought in thousands of new applicants to help fill the vacancies in classrooms across the state.

Since the beginning of the year, the N.M. Public Education Department has issued 4,198 new teacher licenses, and those applications spiked during the free period between Feb. 1 and March 31, said Layla Dehaiman, PED assistant director of educator quality.

A little over 900 of those new licenses went to people who are working as substitute teachers, some of them part-time. So plenty would seem to be left to fill the 690 vacant teaching positions in New Mexico — down from a shortage of 1,048 reported last year.

So why aren’t all those new educator licenses turning into full-time classroom teachers? Licenses can be issued to people who may choose to take another job but still retain the license, Dehaiman said. Plus, another 1,770 or so of the new licenses were applications of reciprocity from out of state or country, which means they came from educators who work in other places and decided to stay there.

Some people, like Dehaiman herself, got the license because they do work in education but not necessarily in the classroom.

4,198 new licenses issued since January 2022

Secondary: 1513
Elementary: 1234
Pre Kindegarten special education: 766
Pre Kindergarten specialty: 377
Birth through Pre-K: 30
Pre Kindergarten 3rd: 260
Deaf and hard of hearing: 11
Birth through 12th-grade blind: 7

The office that handles licenses grew this year after receiving money from the state to hire three additional staff members. This helped to streamline the application and process, and establish an online system so educators across the state don’t have to drive to Santa Fe to renew their licenses. Teachers took advantage of the free period to renew their licenses and keep money in their pockets, too.

PED is asking state lawmakers for more money to expand the office so licenses get out the door and teachers get in the classroom.

“At one point in the summer, we had about 7,000 pending applications, which were renewals and initial licensure licenses,” Dehaiman said. “It follows the fiscal year, and so that just becomes a really intense time for our team. And so we kind of have an all-hands-on-deck approach to get those licenses issued, and issued correctly.

A quick and easy process benefits teachers and their students, she said.

“We’ve got anywhere between 20,000 to 20,500 educators across the state of New Mexico that need help. We need to be there to support them.”

Her office is also looking for money to support education fellow programs that are designed as teacher pipelines. The program recruits education assistants, recent college graduates and anyone else interested in teaching to become full-time teachers. Fellows receive financial support and pay while they finish school or work to get licensed.

Fellowships lead to a one-year teacher residency program that can guarantee a job in the district upon completion.

“What we’re doing is making sure that we’re attracting teachers that want to work within their communities and stay within their communities,” Dehaiman said. “Because what we know is that if a teacher feels fully supported during those first three years, they’re much more likely to stay in the field.”

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.

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