ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — A new report from New Mexico State University shows that the number of job postings for teachers across the state has dropped over 30% since last year. The data suggests the state is on its way to reducing some recent teacher shortages, but there are some caveats. “Things are starting to level off now that we are hopefully in a state that is relatively stable but it’s hard to say how the pandemic could have impacted these numbers,” said NMSU SOAR Evaluation & Policy Center Director, Dr. Rachel Boren.

Each year, New Mexico State University’s Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation & Policy Center (SOAR) puts out a vacancy report tallying the number of job postings for educators across the state. While the data does not include job openings at private and charter schools, it does show that the state seems to be returning to pre-shortage levels.

While New Mexico’s seen teacher shortages in some districts for years, factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and relatively low pay led to over 1,048 teacher vacancies in 2021, as counted by New Mexico State University. This year, that number has gone down to 690 teacher vacancies.

“The 690 teacher vacancies are similar to totals we gathered before the pandemic,” Rachel Boren, the director of NMSU SOAR said in a press release. “There are still needs for teachers and other support positions across the state; however, a decrease in open teacher positions is encouraging to report.”

Though NMSU suggests recent legislation passed by the state to increase teacher’s minimum base salaries to $50,000 could play a role in reducing openings. “The salary increases that are encouraging the folks to stay in the workforce or perhaps return to the classroom those obviously helped,” said NMSU School of Teacher Preparation Administration and Leadership Interim Director, Dr. Rick Marlatt.

Marlatt says the decline in vacancies points to improvements in the training-to-teacher pipeline throughout the state. “These positive trends in teacher vacancies directly reflect the state’s commitment to improving educational outcomes for all students in New Mexico, as well as the dedication from educator preparation programs throughout the state in carrying out numerous exciting initiatives and engaging in innovative programming to recruit, prepare, support and retain highly qualified educators in high-needs areas,” Marlatt said in a press release.

The report shows that the state’s biggest need is for special education teachers. That’s a trend that is continuing from last year. Elementary school teacher vacancies are also relatively high. “We are seeing continued needs in special education, in elementary education in particular and then in terms of subject areas… It’s consistent. math, science and English language, arts and those are consistent with the last few reports, added Dr. Boren.

In 2019, NMSU counted 644 teacher vacancies. But while 2022 seems to have brought more teachers, the data shows that vacancies for educational assistants have risen. In 2019, NMSU counted 258 vacancies for educational assistants. Now, that number is up nearly 73%. Administrator vacancies are also up slightly from 2019.

Within the central portion of the state, which includes both Santa Fe Public Schools and Albuquerque Public Schools, there are currently over 330 teacher vacancies, the report shows. That’s 172 fewer vacancies than last year. The NMSU report backs this up with numbers showing that more college students are enrolled in educator training programs now compared to last year. And 48 more students across the state completed an educator preparation program this year, the report notes.

The report does show the number of people enrolled in educator preparation programs has increased statewide, but the number of students looking for a four year teacher degree has decreased. The NMSU study does not look at how many teachers are in public classrooms. The study only looks at the number of job listings, not if there are more teachers in the classroom.