Thus far, the economic downturn has had less effect in New Mexico than in many other states. Some businesses are reducing operations or production, laying off employees, reducing hours, or cutting salaries and bonuses. Some state and local governments are laying off staff, and some school districts are laying off teachers. But, for the most part, the worst that has happened here is a slow-down in house sales and residential construction. Still, financial caution is, or should be, the rule.
But when many people are even here struggling to make ends meet, in Santa Fe, New Mexico Education Partners, “A Coalition of Professional Education Organizations,” has been lobbying for legislation to increase funding for education, including a heft increase in support for teachers’ salaries.
Opinions differ about the meaning of the word “professional,” but it does not fit an organization simply because its members may be professionals. It fits an organization only when the primary purpose of the organization is to promote the profession itself (best practices, standards, ethics, etc.), not the benefits to its members. That said, I think it says something about the forthrightness of the New Mexico Education Partners that its “professional education organizations” are unions, trade associations, PTAs, and the other usual suspects—not a “professional” organization among them.
The main argument for higher teachers’ salaries urged in the past and, I presume, in the present is that the state average salary is no longer near, but has slid below, the national average. This argument, which merely urges the state to “keep up with the Joneses,” does nothing to improve education in New Mexico. With state average student performance well below national average, state average teacher salary well below the national average seems a proportionate and reasonable way to pay for this level of (low) performance.
As one would expect of a union-led effort, this so-called “professional” coalition offers no change, no reform, no improvement in teacher or student performance. In return for higher salaries, its legislative proposal offers nothing: no higher standards in education, no stricter evaluations, no public accountability to measure any effects of a greater public investment, or no teacher certification of those who have relevant education and experience in other careers.
The House recently approved the legislation; the Senate has yet to vote on it. You might want to remember your representative’s vote as a clue to his or her thinking about this deal. And you might want to advise your senator about this deal before he or she votes to increase taxes. The bill might make some sense with the teachers’ salaries stripped from it, until teachers offer something in return for more money. But something for nothing—not my idea of a good idea.