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Superintendent's News

Posted: January 21, 2022

Education in the Legislature

In his weekly message, Supt. Elder writes about the 2022 legislative session.

The next few weeks are going to fly by in Santa Fe, where lawmakers have just started a 30-day session to pass a state budget and any other legislation deemed important for New Mexico’s citizenry at this time. We are fortunate that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and many of our state legislators have declared public education a high priority, with raises for educators and quality instruction for students at the forefront of their agendas.

Those are top concerns for Albuquerque Public Schools, too.

As a longtime educator, I have a genuine affinity for those I work alongside, whether in classrooms or offices, on buses or grounds. In the past two years, my admiration and appreciation have grown immeasurably as APS employees work together to figure out how to best teach and care for our students amid this erratic, seemingly never-ending pandemic. The first couple of weeks of the new year have been particularly challenging as the omicron variant spreads like wildfire, keeping us scrambling to mitigate risks to schools, where we know students learn best. Add a cybersecurity attack that temporarily closed schools, and we’re off to yet another tumultuous semester.     

It makes sense that APS employees and educators across the state be compensated for their hard work, determination, and – especially lately – ability to turn on a dime. They – you, your schoolmates and officemates, your colleagues and friends – deserve to earn a competitive wage, one that not only fairly pays those already working on behalf of our students and families but also attracts future colleagues who can help share the responsibility.

I applaud the governor for recommending a 7 percent raise for all New Mexico education personnel along with increases to base salary levels for teachers in the state’s three-tier licensure system. While APS strongly supports both the salary and base-pay increases, we encourage the legislature to consider a minimum wage of $15 an hour for essential workers. We also are asking for adequate funding to provide fair compensation for longevity and job experience.

As you know all too well, we have struggled to find qualified employees in this historically tight labor market. Our district needs to offer more competitive wages to attract and keep qualified workers, from bus drivers to HVAC technicians to teachers. We have also asked for funding to keep our compensation package, including medical and retirement benefits, attractive to newcomers and budget-friendly to existing staff.

The focus of the 30-day session is budgetary, but we expect lawmakers to also talk about extended learning time. On this topic, we are encouraging legislators to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Simply adding 10 days to the school year doesn’t guarantee improved academics. Districts should be provided the funding and flexibility to create a school day that encompasses enrichment, acceleration, and professional development to improve academic outcomes for all.

There’s a lot to consider during the legislative session that began on Tuesday and runs through Feb. 17. If you have questions or want updates, you are invited to visit with the APS Government Affairs Team during their weekly Zoom office hours from 1:30-2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. You can also get on their mailing list by emailing Heather Bassett, APS Government Affairs Liaison, at heather.bassett@aps.edu.

I encourage you to stay informed. The decisions made in Santa Fe will impact the jobs of our employees and the lives of our students and families.