- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada education officials have awarded grants aimed at getting 134 students through fast-track teacher training programs in time for the next school year.

The Nevada Board of Education voted Thursday to award more than $2.3 million in scholarship money to six institutions with Alternative Routes to Licensure programs, which allow people who already have bachelor’s degrees to transition into teaching.

The money was allocated to make the quickest impact on the nearly 1,000 teacher vacancies the state had as of October.

“There’s been tremendous legislative action to address this shortage,” interim state school superintendent Steve Canavero said Friday, referring to $25 million lawmakers approved this spring for bonuses and scholarships to train and attract teachers. “The governor’s been very specific to me - what are we going to do about it, how do we make it work today, not next year.”

While money through the new Teach Nevada Scholarship Program could have gone to undergraduates who are studying education, the state board opted to use the first year’s allotment just on institutions offering the fast-track programs for college graduates.

Participating institutions are Humboldt and Washoe County school districts, National University, Western Governor’s University, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Sierra Nevada College.

Notably absent among the applications was Clark County School District, which runs a sizeable ARL program that costs $450 and lasts five weeks.

“It was the question on everyone’s mind,” Canavero said about the decision from the state’s largest school district, where most of the vacancies are concentrated. “We would’ve liked them to apply.”

District officials didn’t return a message from The Associated Press on Friday seeking comment about the move, but human resources chief Staci Vesneske told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the district didn’t want to take money away from other institutions when its own participants didn’t seem to have trouble paying the fee.

“A true act of negligence is knowing our candidates can afford to pay $450 but then asking for that money to be taken away from freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors (at UNLV) who don’t have the means to pay for tuition,” Vesneske told the newspaper.

Under the bill passed this spring, the state can offer scholarships of up to $3,000 per semester, per student. Scholarship recipients get three-fourths of the award while they’re in training, and the last quarter after teaching in Nevada for five years.

Another $20 million in state money is dedicated to give bonuses of up to $5,000 per person to new teachers. Canavero said the state is taking stock of how many bonuses were distributed and whether the neediest schools benefited.

Sandoval proposed the money infusion late in the legislative session, after the severity of the teacher shortage became clear. Education officials worried that major new school reforms and investments passed by the Legislature and focused on at-risk student groups could be undermined by a labor shortage.

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