- Associated Press - Friday, February 5, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Nevada is declaring its teacher shortage as an emergency, a move that now allows vacancy-filled schools to hire teachers from out of state who aren’t yet licensed locally.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a Friday statement that teachers already licensed in another state can now quickly get a provisional teaching license in Nevada. The emergency declaration allows those licensed teachers to start in the classroom immediately while they work through the Nevada licensure requirements within a year.

Schools previously had to refrain from hiring licensed teachers coming from elsewhere until they got a Nevada license. Interim state superintendent Steve Canavero said that forced educators into a waiting period before full employment. Some worked as substitute teachers while meeting Nevada’s specific licensure requirements, such as learning the state Constitution, while others were simply deterred from coming to the state altogether. The state estimates that it lost about 1,000 teacher candidates this school year because of the hurdle.

Nevada has in recent years suffered from an acute teacher shortage as its small crop of in-state graduates becoming teachers hasn’t been enough to meet the rising student population. Meanwhile, a nationwide shortage of teachers, particularly from its main supplier, California, has also crippled recruiting efforts.

Nevada Board of Education President Elaine Wynn in October called the 1,000 vacancies statewide a sinking crisis. The issue has been a key one among Sandoval’s major education reform initiatives, including multimillion-dollar incentives approved last legislative session to lure teachers to Nevada.

But the provisional licenses likely won’t make a dent in Clark County School District’s teacher deficit this year. The fifth-largest school system in the country recently said it had about 700 vacancies.

Canavero said any new bodies - if they can get them in the middle of the school year - could improve the situation, particularly in rural areas where one teacher need met could greatly affect students.

“One or two teachers is significant when they’re the only math teacher in the entire district,” he said.

Canavero said the state had considered provisional licenses before but passed regulations against it after the Nevada Attorney General warned in 2014 that such a move could violate federal requirements for “highly qualified teachers” under the No Child Left Behind law.

But the state is acting now following a sweeping overhaul of the federal education law in December that curbed those requirements. The Nevada Department of Education said it expects to get the existing regulations officially reversed while the emergency order is in place.

“At the end of the day, now is better than never,” Canavero said. “I wish I could have done it at the beginning of the school year.”

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