By NEA-New Mexico Executive Director Charles Bowyer
and Charles Goodmacher, Government Relations
New Mexico students, parents and educators have a great deal to celebrate! Stress levels are going down for students, their parents and their educators.
It’s no coincidence to see this happening now, under the new administration of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and her Public Education Department.
“The Governor and many legislators were elected on the strength of commitments to deeply listen to the concerns and hopes of teachers, other education employees and our communities. NEA-New Mexico is very happy to see the administration demonstrate their deep respect for the hard work of teachers and other education employees. We thank Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Public Education Department Secretary Karen Trujillo for the many positive changes, while we hope our state makes even more,” says Betty Patterson, current President of the National Education Association – New Mexico.
Patterson highlights three major areas:
An overall funding increase that pushes resources to schools with the most “at-risk” students, and helps us all transition to honor as assets our state’s multicultural and linguistically diverse students and communities in accord with the landmark Martinez/Yazzie v State of New Mexico lawsuit;
A Teacher Evaluation system that respects our teachers (eliminating the sick-leave penalty), and supports their growth to improve student outcomes; and
Replacement of the shame-based school grade system with one that provides the best support possible for our students.
Overall education funding increased by sixteen percent over last year’s budget! It supports an extended learning program of ten student days and more educator professional development. Despite a bumpy roll-out this year, the summer “K5+” program of 25 extra days will help those who receive it. We hope all eligible districts can roll it out next year! Increasing the salary of all education employees by not less than six percent, plus raising teacher salaries as connected to their level of licensure by an average of ten percent is also included.
Even with those boosts, teachers earn 23 percent less in wages than similarly educated and experienced workers when adjusted for inflation. That’s according to a recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report.
Fortunately, Governor Lujan Grisham suggested raising teacher pay $5,000 more next year! This may attract more qualified teachers to fill the 740 current teaching spots now occupied by long-term substitutes.
“The new, transitional Teacher Evaluation system helps students by putting teachers, not standardized test corporations, back in control over classroom teaching, and it will improve and showcase our teaching,” Patterson notes. “Now, Teachers’ hands-on abilities will be better reflected in their evaluation, so students will benefit from this too.”
The mistakes of the old Martinez/Skandera/Ruszkowski system included ratings based on incomplete or incorrect test data, being marked down for taking sick leave, and missing data from student surveys.
Rather than punishing students and communities by threatening to close schools, the P.E.D. amended the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to scrap the A-F school grading system.
“This is ESSA done right,” says NEA–New Mexico President-Elect Mary Parr-Sanchez.
A “New Mexico Spotlight Dashboard” to ensure the state and local school districts are measuring things that are important and highlight what is good about a school as well as what needs improvement,” Parr-Sanchez says. “Now local schools that have struggled will receive support on things like family engagement and attendance and the emphasis on test scores will be reduced.” It will celebrate the success of the highest performing schools, identify schools that the department will support with federal grant money and other resources, and provide families the opportunity to learn more about their local schools.
All of this is refreshingly good news for New Mexico students!