Responding to a court order in the Yazzie /Martinez litigation to take “immediate steps to ensure that New Mexico schools have the resources necessary to give at-risk students the opportunity to obtain a uniform and sufficient education that prepares them for college and career,” New Mexico’s governor and legislature agreed last week on a package of reforms that will increase teacher salaries, extend instructional time at public schools and boost spending on low-income students. However, plaintiff attorneys have stated that they do not think that these measures are sufficient to remedy the problems outlined in the court decision and they intend to ask the judge to order the state to take additional compliance action.
Minimum teacher salaries will increase from $36,000 to $40,000 for starting teachers, and base pay will be set at $50,000 and $60,000 for those attaining higher certification levels. A 6% pay increase for all school staff is included.
The state will also offer $120 million in annual spending for elementary schools that choose to extend the school year by 25 days through a program called K-5 Plus. The program is initially reserved for schools with faltering academic ratings or a high percentage of low-income students, though other districts can apply for leftover money.
The package also includes $113.2 million in additional funding for school districts and charter schools that serve a high number of at-risk students.
And while school districts will still have discretion on how they use money from the per-pupil funding formula, they will now have to explain how they use dollars for at-risk students, classroom time, new-teacher mentoring, and carry out the Indian Education Act, Bilingual Multicultural Education Act and Hispanic Education Act in their annual budgets. These monitoring requirements were developed to respond to the Yazzie/Martinez judge’s criticism of poor monitoring of programs by the state’s Public Education Department.
A proposed Multicultural Education Framework, a centerpiece of the Transform Education NM coalition of Yazzie Martinez education lawsuit plaintiffs and community advocates, was voted down, but the Governor’s proposal to strengthen the state’s community school model was approved.