PED Cuts Teacher Shortage With 2,100 New Licenses


The Public Education Department has issued more than 2,100 new teacher licenses since Feb. 1 as interest in filling New Mexico teaching jobs grows following pay raises, higher minimum salaries and other recruitment efforts to address a nationwide educator shortage. 

Another 1,400 teacher license applications are pending approval; if all are issued, the state will have licensed about 3,580 new teachers in the first eight months of 2022. 

“The message is getting out that teaching is a great career, and New Mexico is a great place to be a teacher,” said Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus. “Our goal is now within reach to assure that every New Mexico classroom is led by a certified professional educator.” 

The long-range teacher recruitment effort continues today with the launch of a communications campaign to highlight the benefits of teaching and a webpage where licensed educators can find information about vacancies around the state and others can explore teaching as a career. The goal of the Teaching Is Changing campaign is to increase the number of passionate, highly qualified teachers in New Mexico and to increase the diversity and ethnic representation within the teacher workforce. 

The Public Education Department is enlisting its State Ambassadors to help spread the word about the benefits of teaching careers by providing a toolkit of communication tools.

While the number of teacher vacancies changes from day to day and from district to district, the state has been estimating a shortage of 500-700 teachers over recent years. Some estimates put the shortage as high as 1,000 based on the number of long-term substitutes in classrooms at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

New Mexico has been taking steps to make a career in education more attainable and appealing. Gov. Michelle  Lujan Grisham has delivered teacher pay raises totaling 15.5% since taking office. That includes raising teacher salary minimums this year by $10,000 for each tier – now $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 depending on education level and experience, and raising pay for all educators by an average of 7% in Fiscal Year 2023. Together that legislation raised the average teacher salary in New Mexico to $64,000 — highest in the Southwest region.

Other steps New Mexico has taken to recruit teachers include:

  • Allowing retired teachers to return to work in the classroom for three years without losing their retirement benefits;
  • Requiring that Native American language teachers (who are certified differently) be paid the same as a level 1 teacher;
  • Providing $150,000 in scholarships for teachers wanting to apply for certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a rigorous, multi-year process.

When COVID-19 exacerbated the educator shortage this spring, Gov. Lujan Grisham initiated the Supporting Teachers and Families program, which recruited state government employees and members of the New Mexico National Guard to become licensed substitute teachers.

The Public Education Department added to the recruitment effort by waiving licensure fees through March. The result as of March 25 was a 661% increase in new substitute teacher applications compared to the previous year, and a 302% increase in first-time teacher applications.

The Lujan-Grisham administration also signed these legislative appropriations designed to encourage more college students and teaching assistants to become certified teachers:

  • $15.5 million so New Mexico teacher preparation programs can offer more teacher residencies, a program that promotes diversity in the educator workforce while filling high-need teaching positions around the state. Teacher candidates serve at high-needs school districts, co-teaching with an expert teacher for a full year while taking wrap-around coursework at an approved educator preparation program. After completion and licensure, they have a guaranteed position in the same school for three years.
  • $50 million for endowed faculty positions in teacher preparation programs at New Mexico colleges and universities.
  • $6 million so qualifying universities and colleges can pay a one-time, one-semester stipend to student teachers.
  • $5 million for the state’s Teacher Loan Repayment Program to help teachers pay off federal student loans if they’ve taught in New Mexico for three years and plan to stay for another two.
  • $37 million for the Educator Fellowship Program, which allows school districts to help teaching assistants become certified teachers. 

 In addition to the new teacher licenses, the Public Education Department has licensed 156 new administrators, 40 new school counselors and issued 18 Native Language and Culture Certificates since the beginning of the year.