Nebraska facing teacher shortage, what’s the solution?

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 5:47 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The union representing nearly 30,000 teachers across the state of Nebraska is sending an urgent message to lawmakers: help fix the teacher shortage.

Thursday, leaders with the Nebraska State Educators Association are in the nation’s capital working to solve the critical teacher shortage.

“I believe that our biggest issue right now is how do we retain the staff we have and what needs to be done,” said Jenni Benson, Nebraska State Education Association President.

Nebraska State Education Association President Jenni Benson says the staffing shortage is putting more and more pressure on the staff schools do have.

“What happens is they put more kids in classes, they add more to people’s caseloads because they don’t have the educator to come in and teach that subject,” said Benson.

Deborah Neary is one of the Nebraska State Board of Education members. She says legislation passed in Lincoln last month is opening the door to help fix the problem.

Now student teachers will receive some loan forgiveness, it also loosens restrictions on teachers moving to Nebraska from another state.

“Since there was some legislation just passed now it falls into our lap at the state board of education. We now have the freedom to change some of the requirements that were an obstacle to increasing the number of teachers so that’s our next priority,” said Deborah Neary, Nebraska State Board of Education member.

The state of Nebraska has $65 million in ESSER funds. That comes from the CARES act.

Neary says some of that money can also be used as a tool to help with the shortage.

“There’s a lot of opportunities because of the ESSER funds, in addition, to support for teachers, in terms of compensation, there’s also debt relief which is an enticement for teachers and there are opportunities for increased mental health support that teachers need.”

Benson says there is still more that needs to be done to keep and attract more teachers to the state.

“There are solutions out there. Also, number one, you need to listen to the teachers because they are the ones dealing with this,” said Benson.

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