Legislative budget proposal a welcome addition

January 22, 2019

Educators across New Mexico enormously appreciate the emphasis on education, student success and other support for our state’s children in legislative leadership’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020. The legislative budget proposal is a welcome addition to the budget debate ahead (“Legislative committee proposes $7B budget,” Jan. 15).

National Education Association-New Mexico’s members in every corner of our state, urban and rural, will continue, as the debate proceeds, to raise our voices for all that our students need to succeed. Members in Shiprock, Loving, Magdalena and Deming, Española and Belen are united in our commitment to continue advocating for even larger steps forward to fully comply with the Yazzie/Martinez v. New Mexico ruling by Judge Sarah Singleton (“Judge: Lack of pre-K access among N.M. deficiencies,” Jan. 9).

The budget proposal supports New Mexico student success with expanded programs and significant pay raises for teachers and other education employees designed to recruit and retain quality teachers and other education employees. The proposed varied percent raises for school employees, along with $40,000 Level I, $50,000 Level II and $60,000 Level III annual teacher salaries, as proposed by our legislative body, are big steps forward.

New Mexico educators in schools throughout our state are petitioning for a $15 minimum public school employee wage and a 10 percent minimal raise for all school employees (nea-nm.org/nea-nm-pay-increase-petition).

Along with the governor’s executive order to remove the counterproductive emphasis in teacher evaluations of standardized student test scores, these higher salaries will encourage many current New Mexico teachers and education employees to continue helping students achieve success. We also support plans to create a fair and balanced accountability system, including developing an improved evaluation system that emphasizes best professional practices, rather than the punitive measures of the last administration.

The legislative proposals will encourage teachers and other education employees to continue serving our students, helping to reverse the current teacher shortage and giving hope to young people for rewarding careers in education.

The era of sacrificing needed student services just to keep taxes lower than necessary is over as funding levels move toward what our students need.

The larger Democratic majority was made possible when those candidates made clear to voters they would help usher in a new direction in education, and New Mexicans responded with their support. We will continue to represent teachers and other education employees everywhere in New Mexico who are ready to work with our state’s leaders to move forward for student success.

NEA-New Mexico also applauds legislative leaders for the $113 million to increase the at-risk index in the funding formula to provide for low-income students, minority students, English language learners and students with disabilities; $120 million for expanding the K-3-plus summer reading programs to K-5-plus and making it more widely available, and financial aid for early childhood educators; and $25 million for instructional materials. These and other new or enhanced funding initiatives will boost student achievement.

NEA-New Mexico will continue advocating for greater funding for those programs, in the hope the state will fully comply with the ruling by Judge Singleton in Yazzie/Martinez v. New Mexico.

Betty Patterson is the National Education Association-New Mexico president.