“Round and round, we are pursuing an elusive formula to improve K-12 educational outcomes in our state.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham planted a flag on the issue of teacher pay, calling on the legislature to increase teacher salaries in New Mexico by 7%.
Lawmakers should seriously consider this move, especially given the state’s strong financial outlook. Income growth based on consumer spending and revenues from oil and gas production has led state economists to project $ 1.6 billion in “new” money from spending levels in this country. year.
This would easily cover the cost of the proposed increases and a revised salary scale, estimated at $ 280 million per year. In addition to the 7% increases, the governor’s proposal calls for raising the minimum wage for teachers in the state’s three-tier licensing system to $ 50,000, $ 60,000 and $ 70,000. It is intended to bring NM salaries in line with the national average, making the state more competitive with Colorado and Texas. It also serves a long-term goal of making the profession more attractive to students, by putting more into the educational pipeline.
But let’s not confuse the goals here. Lawmakers shouldn’t expect an increase in teacher pay to be the only answer to filling teaching positions (NM Secretary-Designate for Public Education Kurt Steinhaus recently cited about 1,000 vacancies statewide) and to address the state’s poor academic performance (only one in three students can read at the grade level and one in five can do math at the grade level).
If higher salaries get more teachers through school doors and keep them there, fine. We need this. But it is wishful thinking that a better salary alone will attract more people into the profession, keep them there, or provide better results for students.
NM teachers are leaving the profession at a much higher rate than the national average. The legislature must take into account all the factors that contribute to these early exits. Educators and their advocates spoke to the Roundhouse about the need for better support from school leaders, more professional development and more time to plan. It would be unfair to expect teachers to do better just because they make more money.
Speaking of teacher support, Lujan Grisham’s claim correctly applies to all frontline education staff, from teacher assistants to janitors to counselors. But it makes no tax / bottom line sense to include all central office administrators in the plan.
Meanwhile, if higher pay is on the menu, some accountability measures should be as well. This means continuing education requirements and measurable performance standards to ensure that students do better. This is a sensitive point for some, but taxpayers should be able to see tangible results. This did not happen when we adopted the three-tier licensing system with increases in 2003 – a 2012 Legislative Finance Committee report found that “almost 6,000 teachers have reached new licensing levels, receiving $ 59 million in mandatory salary increases, “but” student performance … has not improved.
As if all this weren’t complicated enough, lawmakers also need to consider extended learning times to overcome the learning deficits associated with the pandemic and find ways to increase per-student funding to provide more resources to students. schools, especially in light of the Yazzie- Martinez Action Plan judgment which guarantees all public school students the opportunity to be college and career ready.
Even if these proposed increases materialize, it will take time for them to have an impact on attracting young New Mexicans to the profession. Thus, other creative approaches will be needed to strengthen the teaching workforce. One of them waives the one-year withdrawal obligation for teachers of double dip (receiving a pension while working) for a few years. In the past, we have also suggested attracting alternative license or J-1 and H-1B visa programs from other countries into the classroom. And the massive publicity of alternative licensure programs that educate qualified people in a second career and in a classroom is already expected to happen.
New Mexico’s K-12 public education has long been struggling, with an insufficient workforce and appalling student proficiency scores. A debate on teacher compensation is a good starting point for a larger discussion of the systemic changes that must occur to get the state’s public education system back on track.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the journal rather than that of the authors.