ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Public Education Department is facing a lawsuit over its teacher evaluation system, specifically on the way teachers are penalized when taking sick leave.
The suit was brought by Logan Municipal Schools pre-school teacher Angela Medrow, an educator of 13 years.
The class action lawsuit claims penalizing teachers in evaluations for sick time they are entitled to under their contract is unconstitutional.
Medrow says she’s an example of why the “Teachers are Humans, Too” bill should have been signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez during the legislative session.
“I have a surgery that I need to have done,” Medrow said.
Teachers were being penalized on their evaluations if they used more than three sick days a year, even though they’re contractually given more. Teachers are usually given around 10, but the exact number depends on the district.
Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, wanted educators like Medrow to be able to use all their sick days without being penalized.
“We’re putting dollars ahead of peoples’ health and I just think that’s repulsive,” Sen. Brandt said.
“These days are in our contract and they’re our days to use for different types of emergencies,” Medrow said.
The governor vetoed the bill and backlash ensued, including an attempted veto override.
In response, after the session the governor announced the PED would increase the number of days teachers could use before being penalized to six. However, that’s not what Medrow was looking for.
“I think she just used that as a pacifier to keep everybody hush hush and give us hope that maybe one day, they might change that,” Medrow said.
Medrow has already taken two and half days this year for doctor’s appointments related to her surgery. The surgery itself, which is scheduled for the last week of school, will put Medrow at seven days of sick leave used. That means she will go over the “grace period” and be penalized.
Medrow hopes her lawsuit will put an end to the current system. Her attorney has listed the lawsuit as a class action to represent all teachers in the state.
“I have been given an opportunity to have a platform and a voice, and I just feel like that I need to use that platform to help other teachers also,” she said.
In addition, not only does Medrow want an injunction to stop PED’s actions, she’s also calling for damages. She’s asking to be paid for unused sick days, claiming that thousands of teachers never took them because they were scared of being penalized.