K-12 Schools Suffer Staff Shortages

PRESS RELEASE
June 23, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Sharon Kayne, Communications Director, NM Voices for Children; skayne@nmvoices.org

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Decades of underfunding and current shortages of teachers and other support staff are two of the primary reasons New Mexico’s public schools do not fare as well as the rest of the nation in metrics such as high school graduation rates. That’s the main conclusion in a policy brief, “New Mexico’s K-12 Schools: Funding the Education System Our Students Deserve,” released today by New Mexico Voices for Children.

The policy brief was released today to coincide with a series of meetings of the Legislative Education Study Committee that start today. Advocates hope committee members will take the report’s conclusions and policy recommendations under consideration as they meet to discuss education policy for our state

The brief notes that while the Legislature has made some significant increases in K-12 funding over the past three years, schools still do not receive the funding necessary to provide the evidence-based programs, curricula, and support services our diverse student population needs.

“A family’s economic status is one of the most accurate predictors of student success and in New Mexico we know that a very high share of our working families lack the resources children need to be able to succeed,” said James Jimenez, executive director of NM Voices. “Studies show that it costs 40% more to educate a child from a family earning low wages than to educate their more affluent peers. But our highest poverty districts get just 2% to 3% more in funding per student than the average district does.”

The brief also notes that New Mexico teachers earn a weekly wage that is almost 30% lower than what other workers with comparable education earn. This disparity is known as the “wage penalty” and New Mexico has the third highest such penalty in the nation. The brief also looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students and schools.

“July 2021 will mark three years since the landmark Yazzie/Martinez vs. the State of New Mexico decision,” said Patricia Jiménez-Latham, a retired Educator. “Decades of underfunding, coupled with longstanding systemic racism in our society and institutions, have left our education system with some of the worst educational inequities in the nation. Together, as New Mexicans, we must find solutions and create investments to turn this around for our children and families.”

“It’s no mystery why we have such a teacher shortage – it’s the terrible pay,” said Mary Parr-Sanchez, President of the National Education Association of New Mexico (NEA-NM) and a veteran middle school teacher. “Most of the people who teach do it out of dedication, and that’s admirable. But dedication doesn’t pay the bills. If the pandemic taught us anything it’s that teachers have a very tough job. Just ask any parent who’s had to essentially home school their children due to COVID.”

The policy brief is available online at https://www.nmvoices.org/archives/15541

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New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities. 625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org