AFT Legislative Re-Cap On Raising Minimum Wage, Better Funding For Dual-Licensed Educators & Ensuring Universal Healthy School Meals

By WHITNEY HOLLAND
President
AFT NM New Mexico

During each Legislative Session, AFT NM works hard to keep our members and supporters apprised of critical education, healthcare, and labor-related bills. We know activity during the session can happen quickly, and it can be hard to follow all the proposals being considered in Santa Fe.

This is the first update for the 2023 Legislative Session which will follow specific bills, and we generally try to send these updates no less than three times per week. We may send off-cycle communications should there be a timely need to do so.

The bills we include in these communications are not the sole pieces of legislation our union will advocate for or against, however, these represent the bills which most closely align to our AFT NM Legislative Platform, which is informed by rank-and-file members from across the state and the constituencies we represent.

We certainly hope you will find these communications informative and useful to you, and we encourage you to share any parts of these communications with your personal and professional networks.

Below is a recap of action taken on legislation and brief explanations for some upcoming legislation heard Monday, Jan. 23:

House Education Committee

Members of the House Education Committee met for an organizational meeting Monday and no legislation was debated during the hearing.

Senate Education Committee

Members of the Senate Education Committee met for an organizational meeting Monday and no legislation was debated during the hearing.

As part of the organizational meeting, AFT NM President Whitney Holland and AFT NM State Affiliate Political Organizer John Dyrcz were invited to address the committee to share select priority pieces of legislation for our union.

Among the legislative efforts we shared with committee members were our efforts around raising minimum salary requirements for educators holding educational assistant licensure, increased healthcare coverage, modernizing high school graduation requirements, the importance of adult collaboration time in any expansion of school hours, modernizing language regarding National Boards differentials, increased contributions to our Retiree Healthcare Fund, and issues relating to Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

We appreciate the invitation from Senate Education Committee Chair Bill Soules and the warm welcome from committee members.

Tuesday, Jan. 24:

House Labor, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee:

Tuesday afternoon, AFT New Mexico testified in support of House Bill 25, carried by Reps. Christine Chandler, Janelle Anyanonu, Yanira Gurrola, and Patricia Roybal Caballero. HB 25 would raise New Mexico’s minimum wage to $16/hour and then automatically adjust in future years, based on the consumer price index.

This legislation, as written, would represent a wage increase for thousands of classified educators across New Mexico in both K-12 and Higher Education positions.

During the committee hearing, an amendment was offered to implement a graduated increase to $13.50/hour in 2024 and then $15.50/hour in 2025, while maintaining future adjustments based on the consumer price index. While this amendment would not impact as many educators as the original wording of the bill, it still is a positive measure which will ease cost burdens for many educators.

AFT New Mexico supports HB 25 and it next will be heard in the House Economic Development Committee.

Coming Up today, Jan. 25:

House Education Committee

House Bill 39, carried by Rep. Liz Thomson, seeks to align dual-licensed instructional support provides to the existing 3-Tier system of funding currently applied to Level I, II, or III teachers and Level III Counselors.

We know that many educators contribute to the success of our students, and this legislation seeks to ensure that districts receive funding from the state to equitably pay the greater dual-licensed role group, as has been achieved through union-led negotiations in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.

HB 39 would not reduce/override union-negotiated bargaining agreements, but rather establish minimum rates of pay for this critical group of educators. HB 39 also does not institute a cap in earnings for these educators.

AFT New Mexico will testify in support of HB 39 this morning so that districts without a collective bargaining agreements or districts who do not have the resources to pay these roles equitably can begin to benefit from a secure funding source that is statute-based and sustainable. This legislation would help to ensure that districts have the resources to hire professionals to best serve the needs of our students.

Senate Education Committee

Senate Bill 4, carried by Senators Michael Padilla and Leo Jaramillo, would institute the “Healthy Universal School Meals Act” which would provide free breakfast and lunch for all New Mexico students without regard to ability to pay.

In addition to providing free school meals, the legislation would emphasize efforts to reduce food waste, authorize the donation of unused food to local charitable organizations, and prioritize New Mexico-grown food items in our schools.

AFT New Mexico supports SB 4 as we know that hunger and food insecurity impact a student’s ability to learn, concentrate, and succeed in our public schools. SB 4 is a legislative priority of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, and we thank her for her advocacy on behalf of New Mexico students.

LOS ALAMOS

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