CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – Immigrants who were brought to this country illegally as children can avoid deportation and get a work permit, but they still hit a wall if they try to apply for a Nevada teaching license.
A bill reviewed Monday in the Assembly education committee could change that, creating more opportunities for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DREAMers.
"These are individuals that were basically raised and educated through our public education system and have paid for their college, and they're not able to fulfill that dream of becoming a teacher," said Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz, a Las Vegas Democrat who is also a teacher.
Existing law allows the state superintendent to give a teaching license to someone who is not a citizen or legal permanent resident but has a work permit, but only if there's a teacher shortage for a subject the person can teach. Otherwise, applicants must be a citizen or legal resident.
AB27, which was requested by the Nevada Department of Education, could allow DACA recipients to get a teaching license if a district has a teacher shortage of any kind. The license would have some restrictions, according to state Superintendent Dale Erquiaga: It couldn't be transferred to another county, and districts would have to inform the state if they fired a teacher who had a license under the bill's provisions.
The measure could help DACA recipients in southern Nevada clear a hurdle. The Clark County School District has about 600 openings for teachers, and it wants to hire 2,600 teachers by next school year to ease overcrowding.
The situation has become so dire that Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky donned a Superman-style cape last month and rode a zip line through downtown Las Vegas in a publicity stunt aimed at recruiting teachers.
Washoe County School District officials said they are currently short 99 teachers and would also benefit from the bill.
Most school and business organizations who testified Monday said they were in favor of the bill, citing the shortage. The lone dissenter was John Wagner of the Independent American Party, who wanted to know whether people covered by executive immigration orders would qualify.
"Would that be someone who was, say, blanketed in by President Obama's amnesty thing? I would not be in favor of that," he said.
The committee's legal counsel said they would look into the matter.