Nebraska bill addresses teacher shortage by recruiting veterans

(The Lion) — The Nebraska Legislature is considering a bill that would address the state’s teacher shortage by fast-tracking temporary teaching licenses for military veterans.

LB 188, sponsored by Sen. Ben Hansen, R-District 16, would allow the Commissioner of Education to issue temporary licenses to full-time veterans on several conditions. The applicant must:

  • have at least four years of military service.
  • have at least 60 college credits and a minimum GPA of 2.5.
  • have passed a subject area examination.
  • not have been dishonorably discharged.

Kevin Naumann, a principal and veteran of the Air National Guard, supports the idea.

“There’s a lot of potential coming out of the service and those service members have a lot to offer,” he said 

According to the Pew Research Center, few service members (5%) immediately retire when they leave the military and only 25% have a job lined up when they leave the military.

Enlisted personnel, who make up 82% of the U.S. military, are the least likely to have a job lined up, with 74% having to seek for employment.

But military experience can transfer surprisingly well to education, which has been seen in similar programs, such as the Department of Defense’s Troops to Teachers.

Opponents of the bill worry about veterans who are discharged for misconduct without it being “dishonorable.”

“Having the title of veteran doesn’t mean you are upstanding and trustworthy,” said Nicole Hochstein, a teacher and spouse of a veteran.

Isau Metes, the director of advocacy for the Nebraska State Education Association and a veteran, complained that the bill doesn’t address teacher retention.

“It’s not just about recruitment or getting bodies into the classroom; it’s also about the retention piece,” said Metes.

While good teacher retention is certainly ideal, it’s not the most salient issue, Hansen argued.

“This bill fits the time,” the senator said in defense of his bill. “It’s not just a teacher shortage, it’s a crisis now.”

The Nebraska Department of Education reported a 60% increase in unfilled teaching jobs – over 750 empty positions at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.

Also troubling is the decline in college students seeking degrees in education.  

Despite college enrollment more than doubling between 1970 and 2020, students receiving degrees in education have fallen from 176,000 to 85,000 annually, according to the Pew Research Center.

There is also a notable lack of maturity among new teachers, as 55% start their career between the ages of 20-25. A mere 25% of teachers start in their 30s or beyond.

Military veterans currently make up only 2% of the nation’s educators.

Other states have also passed similar bills for veterans recently, including Ohio and Florida.

Since Nebraska has a unicameral legislature, the bill can be sent to the governor as soon as it is passed.

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