May 12, 2015

NM faces problems retaining teachers

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The Legislative Finance Committee heard about the problems the state is having keeping teachers on the job.
teacher studentsThe report on the problem was released during an LFC meeting on Monday. Teacher pay was one big reason why teachers are hard to keep on the job, the report said.

The solutions to the teacher pay problem show that there may need to be tough choices made, ones that could prove unpopular.

From the Albuquerque Journal:

The report recommended a statewide stipend of $5,000 to $15,000 in additional annual pay for certain teachers working in high-poverty schools and more funding for a teacher loan repayment program.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, the LFC’s chairman, said lawmakers could consider offsetting further increases in teacher salaries by reducing educator retirement benefits.

“I think we’re proving as time goes on, we just flat can’t do both,” Smith said Monday. “We don’t have the resources.”

The Santa Fe New Mexican noted that there are other barriers to retaining teachers.

These include working conditions, a lack of time to prepare for classes and large class sizes. These, combined with low pay, have contributed to the growing exodus of teachers.

The Legislative Finance Committee Staff surveyed 52 school district superintendents and 40 charter school directors in New Mexico. It found a 27 percent increase in teachers leaving during the past year. About two-thirds resigned.

Only 5 percent were terminated. Seventeen percent quit to pursue another profession, and 36 percent left to teach in other states.

Efforts to raise the pay of teachers overall have largely fallen flat in recent years, though pay for new teachers has been increased. As part of the budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Susana Martinez, starting teacher pay will increase to $34,000 per year.

Teacher’s unions have been critical of the new testing requirements put in place by the current administration. These include the time spent on the tests, the full extent of which is not clear.

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