Gov. Martinez seeks to bump low starting teacher pay

classroom

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Starting pay for teachers in New Mexico is among the lowest in the country and Wednesday, Gov. Susana Martinez unveiled a plan to up teacher’s salaries. Some teachers, though, say it doesn’t go far enough.

“Before last year, we had not seen a salary raise for incoming teachers since 2004,” Martinez said Wednesday at Zuni Elementary.

Starting pay for teachers in New Mexico used to be $30,000. Last year it got a bit of a boost to $32,000. Now, Martinez says she will ask the legislature for $6.7 million to make that number even bigger.

“To increase the minimum base salary which will bring those teachers up to $34,000,” she said.

Martinez thinks that will benefit some 2,000 teachers. But for teachers who have been around a while, they won’t see a raise.

“We have to set our priorities for sure,” Martinez said.

A new study put out by the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked Albuquerque just a few spots from the bottom when it comes to teacher pay, with an adjusted lifetime earnings of around $1.4 million.

The study says the average teacher makes about $56,000 a year, but that’s where teachers around the state usually top out.

“We need to increase beginning teachers’ pay, but we also need to retain teachers so we can’t just focus on beginning teachers,” said Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation.

She says she would like to see more money used to help pad the pockets of those who have been in the classroom awhile.

Parents are on board, too, and at the end of the day many of them believe teachers, and the job they do, deserve more.

“I think it should be a little more with everything they do and have to put up with,” one mother said.

“They do a great job with our children and our grandchildren so I do believe teachers should be paid more money,” a grandparent said.

The governor also announced two other initiatives she will seek money for. One would give teachers a $100 gift card for supplies and the other would create a mentoring program where skilled teachers help those who need a hand. The legislature will still have to sign off on the deal.

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