Board of Education candidates on the left and right have ideas on fixing teacher shortage

Oct. 21, 2022, 11 a.m. ·

Danielle Helzer is on the left side of the photo with Marni Hodgen on the right.
Danielle Helzer, left, is a Democrat running for central and northeast Nebraska's District 6... Marni Hodgen, right, is a Republican running for central Douglas County's District 8. (Photos courtesy of Helzer and Hodgen campaigns)

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Republicans and Democrats running for the Nebraska State Board of Education differ on how to bolster the teacher workforce in Nebraska. The number of unfilled teacher positions in Nebraska went from 232 in 2016 to 482 last year, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.

Marni Hodgen, a Republican from Omaha, is running in District 8 in central Douglas County. Hodgen said schools aren’t spending enough time on the core subjects.

“We need to look at making sure that we are teaching academics over ideologies,” Hodgen said.

Meanwhile, Democrat Danielle Helzer, who is running for District 6 in central and northeast Nebraska, said teachers need more space.

“Teachers need to be trusted as the professionals that they are prepared to be,” Helzer said. “They need to be given autonomy in the classroom.”

She said parents ask for teacher’s lesson plans months in advance, which leads to stress.

Registered Independent, Helen Raikes is running in District 5, which covers most of southeast Nebraska and parts of south Lincoln. Raikes said raising salaries is another possibility.

“They're all kinds of bonuses that could be initiated, but typically, I believe that it's the ongoing salaries that matter the most. And so that's gonna take some hard thinking,” Raikes said.

Most candidates agree that communication and accessibility between board members and teachers needs to improve to some degree. Other suggestions include reforming the certification process to make it less expensive, faster, and more in line with what surrounding states require.