New Mexico Governor Pledges to Volunteer Substitute Teacher Due to Staffing Shortage

(CNN) — Facing a serious shortage of staff in schools, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has taken drastic action.

The Democratic governor launched a initiative Wednesday asking state workers and members of the National Guard to become licensed K-12 volunteer substitute teachers and child care workers. Lujan Grisham has completed registering for a substitute teacher’s license, his publicist Nora Sackett confirmed to CNN.

The move is an effort to help fill staffing gaps and avoid closures in school districts and daycares due to increased cases of Omicron.

Volunteers will need to pass a mandatory background check, complete online alternative teaching training, and then go through a typical onboarding process performed by the school where they are placed. The new program speeds the approval licensing process to two days. Officials and members of the Guard who are currently involved in critical health care roles or who administer vaccines are asked not to participate.

Lujan Grisham, who has no previous education experience, expects to be placed in an elementary school next week, she told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield in “Newsroom” on Saturday.

She said her state had no choice but to ask the public for more help to get more substitute teachers into New Mexico schools.

“There are no other options,” the governor said.

If a New Mexico school district accepts her offer to replace, Lujan Grisham says she will donate her services and will not accept payment.

“We will have additional information on his placement next week,” Sackett told CNN. “This job will not require the lieutenant governor to act as governor.”

The governor is among 100 — 50 National Guard members and 50 state employees — who have so far signed up for the initiative, according to Lujan Grisham.

CNN contacted the New Mexico National Guard.

“The goal is certainly not to disrupt the skilled and experienced work that is required in our public schools,” Lujan Grisham told CNN, adding that the goal of the initiative is to “keep schools open and supporting educators, parents and students through the worst of Omicron.

Since the winter break, about 60 school districts and charter schools in New Mexico have been forced to switch to remote learning due to staff members testing positive for Covid-19 or having to self-isolate or self-isolate. quarantined in accordance with CDC recommendations, according to the governor’s office.

Also due to a lack of staff, 75 daycare centers have closed partially or completely since the beginning of the year, according to the governor’s office.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez, whose school district has become remote, noted Wednesday that the initiative will be “instrumental” in helping to continue or resume in-person learning and reduce “the stress on our remaining staff who have taken on additional duties.”

“This initiative will help create a stable school environment, as well as help parents who must balance childcare and work,” MaryBeth Weeks, head of the New Mexico Parent Teacher Association, said in a statement. communicated.

New Mexico Republicans criticized the program and the governor in statements to CNN.

“Given that Lujan Grisham is on her third appointment as Cabinet Secretary for Education, it’s no wonder she can’t seem to find a way to keep our schools at full employment. This governor single-handedly caused an already struggling school system to fall further behind,” said House Republican Minority Leader Jim Townsend.

State Senate Republican Minority Leader Greg Baca said in a statement, “What New Mexico needs right now is leadership, not political stunts. While we appreciate those who are willing to step in and teach, let’s call this “initiative” what it really is: a desperate reaction to the crisis created by this governor.

New Mexico isn’t the only state facing a teacher shortage and implementing extraordinary measures to keep classrooms running, like asking parents or former students to become substitute teachers or dispatch office administrators.

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