Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

The teachers’ union La Cruces advocates higher wages

Onate High School in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in June 2020.

The National Education Association of Las Cruces is campaigning for better wages for educators, arguing that salaries for local teachers have not increased at the same rate as for teachers in other New Mexico counties.

Denise Sheehan, President of NEA-LC, announced a dead end in negotiations with Las Cruces Public Schools in October, the sticking point being compensation. Negotiations began in spring 2021.

“With inflation, everything hurts, people suffer, our teachers are hurt and it leads them to quit the job,” she said.

The school district did not want to comment on the negotiations.

Sheehan and NEA-LC checked the district’s records for data to support their view that they needed better pay. Sheehan said she was shocked by what they found.

Findings of the Union

Over the past five years, the average teacher salary nationwide has increased by about 16%, while the average LCPS teacher salary has increased by about 10.5%, according to NEA-LC results.

In 2017, the median salary for Las Cruces teachers was $ 48,784. That year, the average salaries were $ 44,924 in Albuquerque, $ 44,828 in Rio Rancho, $ 47,399 in Gadsden, and $ 46,328 in Santa Fe. Las Cruces paid more than other large counties.

In 2021, the average Las Cruces teacher received $ 53,896 annually. The average was $ 53,890 in Albuquerque, $ 52,076 in Rio Rancho, $ 55,147 in Gadsden, and $ 54,252 in Santa Fe. The average teacher salary in each district rose faster than that of Las Cruces teachers.

NEA-LC claims the school district has the money to pay the teachers more, but has decided against it. The union’s data found that LCPS has used less of its allocated budget each year since 2017 and has raised over $ 22 million over the past five years.

“Rather than investing in modest salary increases and benefits, the district has chosen to cut tens of millions of dollars in unrestricted cash transfers over the past five years,” Sheehan said in a press release. “Other districts have increased their cash transfers by 75%. Las Cruces increased its cash carryforward by a whopping 208%.

“These funds should be invested in our school locations, our students and in the people who serve our students, our educators.”

Sheehan said educators – teachers, educational assistants, etc. – are not valued for their dedication in the classroom, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said teachers would receive a $ 850 scholarship through December for their work amid the pandemic, but even that was long overdue, Sheehan said.

The scholarship was negotiated the previous year and should be paid out by June 2021. LCPS did not comment on the delays.

“When you think about how we reopened schools, it was pretty abrupt,” Sheehan said, explaining the scholarship. “We’re closed, we’re closed, and suddenly it’s like, ‘Here’s your start date, you’re going back.’ It was kind of chaotic. (The scholarship) should contain all of that. “You made it through. Thank you.” Other counties offered the same and got it sooner than we did. “

Influence on educators

Although schools are mostly face-to-face again, online learning hasn’t gone away.

Amanda Corrales, a third-grade teacher at LCPS, said she can hardly remember a single day this year when all of her students were personal at the same time.

This is the new normal among COVID-19 safe practices. If an unvaccinated student comes in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, they must be quarantined for 10 days from their last exposure.

“It’s a revolving door,” Corrales said. “We not only do our typical duty, we also have to take care of the online components.”

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