Jan 19, 2022 - Politics & Policy

New Mexico asks National Guard to fill in as substitute teachers

Michelle Lujan Grisham, governor of New Mexico, listens during an interview at her office in Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019.

Governor of New Mexico Michelle Lujan Grisham listens during an interview at her office in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Aug. 8, 2019. Photo: Steven St John/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New Mexico is asking the state's National Guard and state employees to volunteer as substitute teachers and child care workers to assist with COVID-driven labor shortages, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said Wednesday.

Why it matters: The move underscores the extreme measures states are taking to keep schools open amid the Omicron surge.

Driving the news: All school volunteers will be required to fulfill substitute teacher requirements, including completing a background check and online training.

  • New Mexico's public education department will waive fees associated with the requirements and expedite the background check process, Lujan Grisham said.
  • Around 60 school districts and charter schools have moved into remote learning since winter break and 75 child care centers have partially or completely closed since the beginning of the school year, according to the governor's office.
  • Each principal will decide whether members of the National Guard appear in uniform or civilian clothes, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

What she's saying: "Parents and educators are going through a constant series of whiplash," Lujan Grisham said.

  • "What we can do is ... establish a healthy number of individuals who meet the criteria and are available to be in the classroom with students for all grade levels."

The big picture: Schools across the country are battling teacher and staff shortages due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

  • Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) on Tuesday signed an executive order authorizing state employees to become substitute teachers without losing employment, pay or benefits.
  • In the the D.C. area, teachers are combining classes or missing planning periods to teach other classes due to a substitute teacher shortage, Axios' Paige Hopkins reports.
  • Massachusetts earlier this year also relied on the state's National Guard to assist with school transportation due to a shortage of bus drivers.

Go deeper: America struggles to keep schools open

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details on schools that have closed or shifted to remote learning in recent months.

Go deeper