Recently, the ACLU filed a lawsuitagainst a New Mexico rule forbidding that school staff say anything negative about standardized testing (KRQE.com, 2016). In addition, NEA –New Mexico has filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s teacher evaluation system. The union objects to the state’s plan to make the system more “uniform statewide,” and to the Value Added Modeling (VAM) focus, which has been proven an unsound method of evaluating teachers (Neatoday.org, 2016). In 2016, New Mexico plans to continue evaluating teachers on “improved student achievement, observations, and teacher attendance or student surveys” (Santafenewmexican.com, 2016).
According to an article published in the Santa Fe New Mexican entitled “Report Details Problems Affecting Teacher Retention,” New Mexico’s teacher shortages are worse than in other states. A 2015 Legislative Finance Committee report showed that Texas, for example, pays new teachers $44,000–$47,000 annually, while in Albuquerque, New Mexico new teachers start at $30,000. During the 2015-16 school year, there was a 27% increase in teachers leaving New Mexico schools. Two third’s of those teachers resigned, 36% of whom went to teach elsewhere. According to Charles Salle of the Legislative Finance Committee,”Overwhelmingly in New Mexico, the most high-need, high poverty schools get staffed with the least experienced teachers” (Wright, 2015, p. 1). NM Political Report reporter Andy Lyman quotes Chalres Goodmacher of the NEA thus: “The policies of the current PED and Governor denigrate the education professions, while also keeping pay very low compared to other professions. This is driving away current and future teachers in every New Mexico ZIP Code…” (2015).
House Bill 145, introduced to address teacher shortages and to improve student perforance in content areas, especially STEM, was introduced in January 2016. The bill proposes a new license for part-timers, a license “outside of and not subject to any provisions in the three-tiered licensure system” (NM Legislative Finance Committee, 2016). The bill passed through the House, but is currently stalled in Senate committees. If passed, the bill would allow part-time adjuncts to teach up to half of a full teaching load, and would allow up to 50% of courses to be taught by adjuncts at any school (NM Legislative Finance Committee, 2016).
New Mexico’s charter school funding system was also evaluated by the Legislative Finance Committee, and plans are in the works to provide more oversight to monitor student performance and assure funding equivalency. While the state’s charter schools received roughly half of the funding increases over the past nine years, they serve only 7% of the state’s students, causing some to object to disparities in funding between the charter schools and public schools (Lee, Abqjournal.com, 2016).
New Mexico’s two virtual schools, New Mexico Connections Academy and New Mexico Virtual Academy, are tied to for-profit organizations. These schools average 41 students per instructor, with middle and high school instructors most heavily loaded (Abqjournal.com, 2016).