Teacher shortage: what will lawmakers do? | Education

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A A daunting figure – 1,048 openings – reflects the challenge facing school administrators and lawmakers as the start of the January 18 legislative session approaches.

It represents the number of unfilled teaching positions statewide that were identified by researchers at New Mexico State University in September, one month after the start of the school year.

By comparison, the researchers identified 571 places open at the same time in 2020.

Addressing this shortfall will be a top priority for the Roundhouse.

The Department of Public Education, alongside Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office, has requested $ 280.5 million to increase teachers’ base salaries and provide a salary increase of up to 7 percent for all school staff next year.

Pro Tempore Senate Speaker Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, Sponsors Bill to Raise Teachers’ Minimum Wages to $ 50,000, $ 60,000 and $ 70,000 per Year Through the Three-Way Licensure System state levels.

The decision received support from the Legislative Finance Committee, said Stewart.

“I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to guarantee… the budget that comes out will fully support this,” Stewart said in a recent interview. “I think this is one of the first steps in making sure we can have more teachers in the classroom.”

Other lawmakers are considering longer-term ways to attract graduates to teaching positions and are trying to find ways to keep them in New Mexico.

For Senator Debra Sariñana, D-Albuquerque, that means allocating $ 20 million to pay students who graduate from the alternative baccalaureate route to complete one-year teacher residencies in schools.

Sariñana, a retired teacher, is co-sponsoring a teachers’ residence bill with Representative Joy Garratt, D-Albuquerque; Legislative Education Study Committee Chairman Senator William Soules, D-Las Cruces; and Stewart this session.

She remembers the high turnover in Albuquerque public schools towards the end of her career.

“We had a new hire that lasted a week and another that lasted a month,” she said. “We can’t have that anymore, so that’s one way to change that. “

Residents would be paid $ 35,000 for the year Рwhich Sari̱ana says would help graduate students avoid working in a second job and instead focus on learning in the classroom.

“The problem with the teacher shortage is that this is an immediate problem that we have to face, but we have to fix the ongoing pipeline,” Soules said.

For Derrick Lente Rep. D-Sandia Pueblo, that means putting back on the table in January elements of the Tribal Remedy Framework, a 2019 plan formulated in response to the landmark Yazzie / Martinez decision to attract more Native American teachers to classrooms. rural. .

In the last session, Lente – a member of the Legislative Education Study Committee – sponsored an unsuccessful bill that would have injected more than $ 26 million into local colleges to increase Native American education programs.

“In a district like mine that is rural, which is pretty much based on minorities, largely Native Americans, teacher shortages are easy to find,” he said in a recent interview. “In many cases, no one wants to come and work in a remote part of the state. “

A 2018 report from New Mexico Kids Can showed that in the 2016-2017 school year, 3% of educators in the state identified as Native American or Alaska Native, compared to 11%. of the student body.

In the last legislative session, only $ 15.7 million of a $ 140 million claim from several bills surrounding the Tribal Remedy Framework received funding, according to the Tribal Education Alliance.

Meanwhile, the vice-chair of the Legislative Education Study Committee, Representative G. Andrés Romero, D-Albuquerque, turns his attention to a demand championed by the state’s public school districts: a provision ” to keep harmless ”which would fund them through pre-pandemic enrollment levels while continuing to provide services despite staff shortages.

While the Department of Public Education reported relatively stagnant student enrollments statewide during the 40-day enrollment tally in December, student numbers fell 4% statewide. during the 2020-21 school year.

“Schools and school staff, not just teachers, are still expected to provide the same services,” Romero said.

Romero estimates that funding districts based on student numbers before the pandemic would likely cost the state $ 20 million.

“I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to play out,” Soules said. “I know there will be discussions about this.”

During this fiscal year, the state gave districts the opportunity to receive advance funding for expected enrollment gains, but Romero expressed concern that few districts were participating in the program, forcing them to repay funds if projections were insufficient.

Romero also stressed the need for funding for teacher loan forgiveness programs. The Department of Higher Education’s forgiveness program, which repays up to $ 6,000 in federal loans to state teachers, has had more than 600 participating teachers this year.

The department requested $ 5 million from state lawmakers ahead of this year’s session.

Other bills are likely to be introduced in the coming weeks, including a “choice of school” bill for governor candidate Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences.

At a Legislative Education Review Committee meeting on Friday, staff members presented lawmakers with a plan for a possible budget recommendation that includes a slightly larger demand than that of the Department of Public Education and of the legislative finance committee, Soules said.

This is in part due to a demand for a minimum wage of $ 15 for all school staff, Soules said.

A copy of the recommendations will not be available until the committee approves the budget items.

Soules noted that the budgets of the legislative finance committee and the governor’s office were closely aligned with that of the education review committee.

The legislative education review committee is expected to approve a final draft on Jan. 17, after a December meeting was postponed during the recent redistribution session.

“We are a few weeks late,” Soules said.


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