SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The president of the state teachers union says the educator shortage in New Mexico is at a crisis level. “There’s a history of low pay. Right now, New Mexico educators make less than the surrounding states,” says Whitney Holland, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico. “I think there’s a workload problem, I think there’s a disrespect problem. You name it, it was the perfect storm – then you add COVID to the mix.”

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Holland says they’re seeing about 1,700 vacancies in schools, which includes teachers, bus drivers, and educational assistants. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a new program this week that encourages state employees and National Guard members to volunteer to become licensed substitute teachers or childcare workers.

Holland says while she was skeptical at first, it will help keep schools open. “We are in such a dire crisis right now, if having a pool of substitutes means that our educators can take time off and take time for themselves, then I’m for this idea,” says Holland.

The governor is also pushing for a 7% raise for all education personnel during this year’s legislative session.