SANTA FE – American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly released the following statement:
“This morning, majority House Education members made the right call in rejecting House Bill 310, which sought to raise the Level I minimum teacher salary without an appropriation, and also contained an additional – and unfunded – $5 million to so-called recruitment initiatives, which do not adequately address New Mexico’s challenges in retaining our educators.
“While the idea of an extra $2,000 for beginning educators is important and appealing, the reality is this bill was crafted and presented without input or advice from legislators who are actually responsible for crafting our State’s budget. It is irresponsible to represent to the public, and most importantly to new teachers, that this proposed raise was anything other than an unfunded mandate.
“It was crafted as a sound bite, and in reality had little chance of actually being incorporated into the State budget.
“While the bill’s sponsors claimed the measure would help attract educators into New Mexico schools, the reality is without corresponding supports to retain educators in our schools, recruitment bonuses and a small increase in starting pay is a false fix. During testimony, we vigorously advocated for more meaningful approaches to solving our current recruitment and retention problem by emphasizing the return of much needed funding to the State’s beginning teacher mentoring program, which is currently in law.
“The truth is, teachers leave because of an overwhelming workload and an underwhelming amount of support and respect. The NM PED’s unfair teacher evaluation system is demoralizing, yet they testify in favor of more money for beginning teachers as if it excuses the entirety of their past anti-educator policies. Incentives to attract educators into the system, but absent efforts to support and retain those same educators, is like putting a tiny band-aide on a gaping wound and calling the patient cured.
“This bill was actually a move to marginalize and disrespect all the other employees in the system who are just as vital to students’ success; nurses, counselors, educational assistants, and transportation workers, to mention just a few. We cannot, in good conscience, advocate for deeply disproportionate raises for only certain educational employees.
“The bottom line is this – House Bill 310 was inferior to Senate Bill 119, which provides for educator raises at all levels, placing salary minimums of $36,000, $44,000 and $54,000 into statute for Levels I – III, and is currently fully funded in the proposed State budget. Legislators who truly support all educators should drop their political rhetoric and stop using our public educators as props to score cheap points in an election year.”