The Nevada State Education Association has been the voice of Nevada educators for over 120 years. Today we are commenting on agenda item #10 and the upcoming legislative session. NSEA is attaching our Legislative Priorities which was developed over the past year with the direct input of hundreds of educators across the state.
At the top of our agenda for the upcoming session is the crisis of educator vacancies across the state. As we near the middle of the school year, there are still thousands of school vacancies with even more positions being filled by long-term substitutes. Last week, the Economic Policy Institute released a report finding the national teacher shortage is both widespread and especially severe in schools with a high percentage of students of color and from low-income families. They also found the current shortage is not the result of an insufficient number of qualified teachers, but rather low pay and an increasingly stressful work environment.
While we often talk about our educator shortage, we don’t have a severe shortage of teachers – just a shortage of those willing to work for 23.5% less than their college-educated counterparts. Nevada can’t fill vacant positions, because we aren’t paying enough to be competitive.
This is why NSEA consistently articulates what Nevada must do to address this crisis – we say it’s Time for 20! With thousands of educator vacancies and some of the largest class sizes in the nation, Time for 20 means a 20% educator raise, a $20 minimum wage for people who make schools run, and average class sizes of 20 students. We also continue to call on the state to do better to listen to and respect educators, addressing workplace issues like safety and inclusion of educator voices.
In October, the Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation & Policy Center released a report on the teacher shortage in New Mexico. They found that over the last year, New Mexico’s teacher vacancies declined by 34%, while other states, including Nevada, have had vacancies increase. Earlier this year, New Mexico passed a legislative package that delivered an average 20% raise to New Mexico educators. Now that salary package is paying off, attracting more educators to the Land of Enchantment.
NSEA has fielded many questions about how to fund Time for 20. The good news is that resources are available right now. Last month we learned the state has over $1B in surplus revenue this year, and the Economic Forum estimates the budget for next biennium will be $2.3B greater than this biennium. Much of this surplus should be directed to the Education Fund. There are also strong recommendations for additional state revenue from the Commission on School Funding, including closing property tax loopholes and expanding the base on the sales tax.
These revenue sources have the capacity to adequately fund education in Nevada. Now it’s up to the Governor and legislature. The crisis in Nevada schools is dire, and we need bold action now. It’s Time for 20.