Since the 2022 New Mexico legislative session opened on January 18, lawmakers have introduced numerous bills aimed at improving education in New Mexico.
Some of the proposed laws address a statewide teacher shortage while others create new educational programs and opportunities for students. Some bills create new opportunities for New Mexicans to advance their education and train to meet the state’s labor needs.
Here are some education-related bills to watch for in New Mexico’s 55th Legislature:
Facing the shortage of educators
Lawmakers have introduced a number of bills aimed at addressing the shortage of educators across the state of New Mexico.
According to the Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation and Policy Center, the number of teaching vacancies statewide nearly doubled from 571 in 2020 to 1,048 in 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here is a breakdown of those bills:
Increase the salary of certified teachers
Senate Bill 1 would increase the minimum teacher salary from $40,000 to $50,000 for Tier One teachers, from $50,000 to $60,000 for Tier Two teachers and from $60,000 to $70,000. $ for level three teachers.
The bill is associated with a general increase of 7% for all teachers in the state. Lawmakers said the increases would help New Mexico teacher salaries to be competitive with surrounding states and help school districts recruit and retain educators.
Teacher increases have been a key focus of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration.
“New Mexico educators deserve better pay – it’s as simple as that,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said when she announced plans for the increase Dec. 1.
As of January 28, the bill was passed unanimously by the Senate Education Committee and is currently before the Senate Finance Committee.
Teacher Residence Changes
House Bill 13 would expand the state’s teacher residency program to include senior students in a state-approved education program. The New Mexico Teachers’ Residency Program pairs students with expert teachers to co-teach in underprivileged districts.
Current teacher residency legislation focuses on alternative licensing, which allows university graduates outside the field of education to become teachers.
The bill would also increase allowances for residents from $20,000 per year to $35,000 per year. Representative Debra Sariñana (D-21) said the increased stipend would help support teachers through the program so they don’t have to find a second job when their residency ends.
On January 24, the House Education Committee passed the bill and it was sent to the House Appropriation and Finance Committee.
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Retired students returning to work
House Bill 73 would change the wording of the Education Retirement Act allowing more retired teachers to return to work without losing their retirement benefits.
Under the current legislature, retired teachers must wait a full year before being allowed to return to work. If passed, the bill would allow these educators to return to work after 90 days.
On January 25, the House Education Committee passed the bill and he was with the House Labor, Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs Committee on January 28.
Public school programs
Personal Finance Courses for Graduation and Personal Finance as a School Option
Senate Bill 177 would require high school students to take a personal finance course — formerly called a financial literacy course — to graduate from high school. If adopted as is, the new requirements will come into effect for students entering ninth grade in 2022.
The bipartisan bill was sponsored by Senator Shannon Pinto (D-3) and Senator Gay Kernan (R-42).
The bill was sent to the Senate Committee of Committees on January 26.
House Bill 130 would also allow high school students to take an elective personal finance course. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-16), Rep. Willie Madrid (D-53), Rep. Candie Sweetser (D-32), Rep. Anthony Allison (D-4) and the representative. Jane Powdrell-Culbert (R-44).
The bill was sent to the House Education Committee on January 24.
School Cybersecurity Program
House Bill 122 would allocate $45 million to develop a statewide network of educational technology infrastructure under the DEP. According to the bill, 87 school districts and 73 charter schools would participate in the program if passed.
The cybersecurity program would include cybersecurity assurance support, planning and management of cybersecurity projects, development of a response and recovery plan and quarterly reviews, strengthening of infrastructure, operations , cyberenvironment processes and systems, monitoring network activity, and training employees and students.
The bipartisan bill was sponsored by Rep. Willie Madrid (D-53), Rep. Rebecca Dow (R-38), Rep. Raymundo Lara (D-34), and Rep. Joy Garratt (D-29).
The bill was sent to the House Education Committee on January 24.
STEM School Pilot Program
House Bill 115 would allow the New Mexico Department of Public Education to create a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) pilot project. The project was an eight-year study that would be used to create a curriculum support model for STEM teachers and students.
If adopted as proposed, the project would be administered in collaboration with New Mexico Highlands University and Western New Mexico University. The bill would create a fund and allocate $5 million to the program.
The bill was sent to the House Education Committee on January 21.
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Outdoor Learning Program Funding
Senate Bill 32 would create an outdoor learning program as part of DEP. The bill would allocate $500,000 to establish the program and hire an outdoor learning specialist. The funds would also be used to build outdoor classrooms.
Student experts who testified during the legislative session explained that an outdoor classroom would consist of a weather-protected outdoor space that could be used like any other classroom.
The bill was unanimously approved by the House Education Committee on January 26 and has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee.
Higher education and adult training
Adult Online Scholarship Act
House Bill 58 would create an online adult scholarship program under the New Mexico Department of Higher Education to meet some of the state’s most critical labor needs. . The bill would create an endowment fund that would distribute $2 million a year in scholarships under the program.
The program would also prioritize scholarships for students from rural areas, minority students, low-income students and students who are the first in the family to attend college.
The bill was sent to the House Education Committee on January 19.
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Develop the nursing program at the College
Senate Bill 50 would allocate $15 million for Nursing Program Expansion Grants in response to a statewide nursing shortage.
According to the 2021 New Mexico Health Workforce Report from the University of New Mexico, the state needed 6,223 registered nurses.
The bill was sent to the House Labor, Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs Committee on January 19.
Claudia Silva is a reporter for UNM’s Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at [email protected], by phone at 575-628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.