Chris Lange, FISM News
New Mexico is asking the National Guard to step in as substitute teachers as schools around the country struggle with staffing shortages made worse by a continued surge in COVID-19 infections.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) on Wednesday announced a “Supporting Teachers and Families” initiative encouraging members of the National Guard and state workers to become licensed pre-K-12 substitute teachers or childcare workers in the state’s public schools hit by COVID-19 outbreaks.
“Our schools are a critical source of stability for our kids – we know they learn better in the classroom and thrive among their peers,” Grisham said in a statement.
COVID-19 cases in New Mexico have increased by 207 percent in the last 14 days. As of Tuesday, the state reported a daily average of 5,557 cases, according to The New York Times. Some of the hardest-hit schools have returned to remote learning as many staff members are either infected with the virus or quarantining due to exposure.
“Our kids, our teachers and our parents deserve as much stability as we can provide during this time of uncertainty, and the state stands ready to help keep kids in the classroom, parents able to go to work and teachers able to fully focus on the critical work they do every single day in educating the next generation,” Grisham said.
New Mexico isn’t the only state forced to resort to unorthodox solutions to unprecedented school staffing shortages. In Oklahoma, where more than half the public schools have either closed or switched to distance learning due COVID-related teacher call-offs, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday issued an executive order permitting state workers to substitute teach, along with assurances they will be able to keep their own jobs with no loss in pay or benefits.
“I’ve said from the beginning that our students deserve an in-person education and our schools need to stay open. The state has a responsibility to do what we can to help make that happen, which is why I have signed this executive order to help schools suffering from staffing shortages,” Stitt said in a statement.
Meanwhile, California is fast-tracking the hiring process for new substitute teachers in the state while Kansas is now permitting adults without college degrees to become substitute teachers, according to reporting by NPR.