We all know someone who has retired early. Every educator has all thought (or are thinking) about getting out as soon as we can. This does not need to be the case.
We love our careers, and we love working with our students. We believe in this profession and in public education. Educators need a reason to stay and keep our public education system moving forward. One way to retain us — substantial raises for all educators this year and meaningful efforts to ensure the well-being of our families and future.
The state of New Mexico has unprecedented resources to invest in education this year: $1.6 billion over what was spent last year, and the Legislature must use these funds to make significant investments in our public schools. There is no better return on investment than education, and we are counting on legislators to fight for positive changes for all educators and students across the state of New Mexico.
No public educational employee should work full-time and still qualify for public assistance; however, this is commonplace for many of our hardworking educators. This is not only short-sighted, bad public policy, but morally wrong.
New Mexico must address the low rate of pay for adjunct and part-time faculty. Like classified educators in K-12 settings, current pay for adjunct and part-time faculty is historically low and forces many qualified instructors out of the classroom.
Compensation for tenured faculty in New Mexico’s higher education community are also not enough to keep highly qualified educators in New Mexico. Recent Legislative testimony has indicated New Mexico struggles with keeping top-tier faculty who leave New Mexico institutions for neighboring states with higher pay.
We must stop the out-of-state exodus of quality educators at all levels. Keeping veteran educators in the classroom and lecture halls is not just about compensation. Every New Mexican wants to be able to provide for their family and have dignity in their later years.
New Mexico should help to contain the spiraling costs of healthcare by assuming a more aggressive approach to consolidating and leveraging their existing health care plans, which would result in a lowering of insurance costs to educators. Additionally, New Mexico should also assume a higher percentage of coverage for healthcare costs. Currently, the lowest-paid workers in our public schools pay a disproportionately high percentage of healthcare costs which impacts their ability to support their families.
Well-meaning raises provided by the New Mexico Legislature and local school districts should not be wholly consumed by out-of-control healthcare costs.
Finally, New Mexico should level-set the historic disparities between the State’s two pension funds. The educator retirement fund, covering a profession which has historically been dominated by women, has not been treated equitably. This has resulted in increases in contributions from educators, but not the State. This disparity takes more money out of the pockets of educators at all levels and all but erodes any well-intentioned raises. Utilized smartly, a well-funded retirement can be a powerful tool for not only recruitment, but critically, for retention of veteran educators.