Many New Mexico children have either just started their school year or are preparing to start soon. This month students will prepare for school, new books, new teachers and their respective dirty looks. The state Public Education Department (PED) rates schools with an A-F grading system to identify which need ones need improvement—and schools with persistently low grades could experience major overhauls. That’s causing alarm among some teachers, especially in rural communities. This week the U.S. Education Department officially accepted New Mexico’s education plan, which is required under a 2015 federal law—and includes provisions that could shut down or revamp schools in remote areas where schools are scarce to begin with.
Some Democratic lawmakers are wearing socks at the Roundhouse that make tongue-in-cheek, some say petty, references to Gov. Susana Martinez’ infamous pizza party. That’s according to a tweet from the Twitter handle of National Education Association New Mexico. The socks feature cartoons of pizza slices and soda cups, a not subtle reference to Martinez’s infamous Christmas party 911 call. The teacher’s union, which has clashed with Martinez in the past, says that some Democratic senators will be wearing the socks while she makes her annual State of the State speech, scheduled to begin any minute now. Martinez got in hot water on Dec.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]BETTY PATTERSON is President of the National Education Association, New Mexico, a statewide union for educators.[/box]
Several of the Governor’s highest priorities for this recently completed legislative session were on education issues. We agree emphasizing public education is appropriate. It is the single issue with the greatest impact on New Mexico’s overall future: public education. We wonder why education is given short shrift in coverage of legislative outcomes. Promoters of the wrongly-labeled “right to work” bills distracted legislators from the important work at hand to improve our schools. If passed, it would have increased the impact of poverty on the readiness of many students to learn, and it would have lessened the impact of teachers and other educators when raising our collective voice on education issues. Teachers and other education professionals should be heard. We applaud legislative champions who defeated the “Right to Work” bill, and laud those who made strengthening public schools their top priority in the first session of the 52nd New Mexico State Legislature. If next year’s session is also distracted by such unneeded and harmful legislation, we will rise again. Elections have serious consequences; the loss of a pro-public education majority in the House meant a great deal of effort defeating other very bad ideas such as vouchers and a budget that falls short. The budget has no salary increase for school employees other than new teachers and merit pay for teachers tied to the highly-flawed PED evaluation system. When teachers compete with each other for higher test-score results this hurts students in many ways. These negative impacts are compounded when schools are also “graded” based on standardized tests. Unfortunately, the Merit Pay plan remains in the budget.