March 4, 2015

Sen. Howie Morales Fights to Raise All School Employee Salaries

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Sen. Howie Morales

State Senator Howie Morales has been in the news a lot lately. He’s been out in front on a range of education issues, including opposition to the controversial PARCC tests.

Sen. Morales has also now introduced a budget amendment to strip Governor Martinez’s “merit-pay” scheme from the state budget and replace it with an across-the-board raise for all school employees.

Read below to see what Sen. Morales’ amendment is all about (emphasis mine):

Amidst hollow proclamations of moving New Mexico education forward, the New Mexico House of Representatives sent to the Senate a budget for the coming year that provides absolutely no raise for the vast majority of teachers and absolutely nothing for all the other people who help local New Mexico students be prepared for a day of learning every day.

School bus drivers, School Secretaries, Education Assistants, Principals, Counselors, Nurses and others will receive no pay raise at all unless the Senate revises that budget, and it is now considering an amendment to do so.

Democrats in the House tried unsuccessfully to amend the budget to increase public school funding and to deny funding for the Governor’s misguided merit pay plan.  Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe), Rep. Patricia Lundstrom (D-Gallup) and others valiantly tried to amend the bill to put more money into New Mexico classrooms.  The House fell short on party-line votes.

The final budget as passed by the House is essentially flat with a .9% increase in the public school funding formula funds.

The only real increases from last year are to pay for fixed costs (utilities and such), and a base salary for level one teachers of $34,000.  The only other salary increases are a continuation of last year’s merit pay pilot at $9 million which will not pass through the school funding formula; it will be doled out by the Public Education Department, based on applications by districts.

Under that plan, even teachers who are rated as effective by the seriously flawed, student test-based evaluation system will not receive a raise!

“The over-testing of New Mexico students remains at the center of this administration’s efforts, despite its abysmal failure to demonstrate competency in their roll out of this system.  This is not right and the Senate can fix this”, notes Senator Howie Morales (D-Silver City), a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

“Raising beginning teacher salaries is worthwhile, but when taken together with zero raises for experienced colleagues and this administration’s continued fight against annual pay increases, New Mexico will not attract or keep dedicated teachers in the education profession, ” says Betty Patterson, President of the National Education Association – New Mexico.

Fortunately, Senator Morales introduced a budget amendment worthy of strong public support:  increase funding to public schools along the lines recommended by House Democrats and move the money into the funding formula to provide at least a token 0.8 percent salary increase statewide to all employees, instead of so-called “merit” pay for a few!

“We urge all public school employees, and all friends of public education, to call the Senate Finance Committee members to ask for their support of Senator Morales’ amendment to stop the Governor’s merit pay plan and provide at least a token salary increase,” adds Patterson.