Sent: January 21, 2022
education in the legislature
In his weekly message, Supt. Elder writes about the 2022 legislative session.
The next few weeks will fly by in Santa Fe, where lawmakers have just begun a 30-day session to pass a state budget and any other legislation deemed important to the citizens of New Mexico at this time. We are fortunate that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and many of our state legislators have made public education a high priority, with pay rises for educators and quality instruction for students high on their agendas.
These are also the main concerns of the Albuquerque Public Schools.
As a long-time educator, I have a real affinity with those I work with, whether in the classroom or office, on buses or on the campus. Over the past two years, my admiration and appreciation have grown immeasurably as APS staff work together to determine how best to educate and mentor our students amid this unpredictable, seemingly never-ending pandemic. The first few weeks of the new year have been particularly challenging as the Omicron variant spreads like wildfire and we work to mitigate the risks to schools where we know students learn best. Add in a cybersecurity attack that has temporarily closed schools and we’re off to another turbulent semester.
It makes sense that APS staff and educators across the state should be compensated for their hard work, determination, and—especially lately—their ability to make a dime. You – you, your school and office peers, your colleagues and friends – deserve a competitive wage that not only fairly pays those already working for our students and families, but also attracts future colleagues who can help shoulder the responsibility divide.
I applaud the governor for recommending a 7 percent salary increase for all New Mexico education staff and an increase in the base salary for teachers in the state’s three-tier licensing system. While APS strongly supports both salary and base pay increases, we encourage lawmakers to consider a $15-per-hour minimum wage for essential workers. We also call for proper funding to ensure proper compensation for longevity and work experience.
As you know only too well, we have had a hard time finding qualified employees in this historically tight labor market. Our district must offer more competitive wages to attract and retain a skilled workforce, from bus drivers to HVAC technicians to teachers. We have also asked for funding to keep our compensation package, including health and pension benefits, attractive to newcomers and budget-friendly for existing employees.
The focus of the 30-day session is on the budget, but we expect lawmakers to also talk about extended study periods. On this issue, we encourage legislators to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Simply adding 10 days to the school year does not guarantee improved academics. Districts should be given the funding and flexibility to create a school day that includes enrichment, acceleration, and professional development to improve school outcomes for all.
There is much to consider during the legislative session, which began Tuesday and lasts until February 17. If you have any questions or would like updates, you are invited to contact the APS Government Affairs Team during their weekly Zoom office hours from 1:30am to 2:30pm on Wednesdays. You can also subscribe to their mailing list by emailing Heather Bassett, APS Government Affairs Liaison, at [email protected]
I encourage you to stay tuned. The decisions made in Santa Fe will impact the jobs of our employees and the lives of our students and families.