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With Two Weeks to go, Clark County, Nev., Still Needs 650 Teachers

The clock is ticking in the Clark County, Nev., school district as officials there scramble to hire 650 classroom teachers, with less than two weeks before the Aug. 25 start of the new school year.

School officials lay the blame for the teacher shortage at the feet of the state education department, arguing that the state did not grant them temporary licenses for teachers who already have degrees or experience but have not yet met additional state requirements, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The state granted the temporary licenses to the district last year when it needed to hire 2,000 new teachers to meet smaller class-size requirement and staff ESL programs for students, the paper reported.

This year it is having no such luck convincing the state to give out the licenses on a temporary basis. A state official told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that last year was an emergency situation and so far this year, the Commission on Professional Standards in Education, which sets licensing requirements for teachers, has balked at doing the same.  

School officials tell the local media that the majority of the shortages are in elementary and at-risk schools. At least 32 schools may start the school year in need of five teachers, according to the Associated Press.

The Commission on Professional Standards in Education, on the advice of Nevada's attorney general, has said that issuing the temporary licenses may jeopardize approximately $90 million the state receives in federal funds, the paper reports.

Without the fully licensed teachers, the district, which serves about 300,000 students, will have to rely on substitutes, officials told KLAS-TV Las Vegas. The district employs about 4,300 long-term and short-term substitutes, according to the station.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, states that receive Title 1 funds are required to hire "highly qualified" teachers in elementary schools and core subjects, such as reading, math, science, foreign languages, art, and history.

The act defines "highly qualified" teachers as those who have obtained full state certification, not those for whom licensure certification rules had been waived or those who obtained certification on a temporary or provisional basis, according to the AP.  After NCLB, Nevada adopted similar legislation barring the state superintendent from issuing provisional licenses in core subjects .

The Clark County school district argues that federal law provides some flexibility to issue the temporary licenses, and it has retained an attorney to press the case with the state education department, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

The fast-growing Clark County district seems to be perennially plagued by teacher shortages In 2006, KLAS -TV also wrote about another staffing crunch.

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