Takeaways from the 2023 Legislative Session (So Far)

The dust is settling around the 2023 Regular Legislative Session. We are beginning to get an idea of what the outcomes will be. Many of the bills that are set to become laws mirror or have been suggested by our local union, the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, and/or your state union, AFT New Mexico. We have written about how some of these initiatives would improve public education in publications like the ATF’s Post-Pandemic Public Education: Equity & Excellence, and AFT NM’s A Pathway Toward Educational Well-Being in New Mexico.

We are constantly advocating for professional wages for educators. This year, the Legislature earmarked an average 5% for raise for all educators in the Budget. Because the effort to pay for health care premiums for public school employees did not pass, lawmakers are now working to add another 1% supplemental raise to offset health care premiums.

We are very happy that legislators are giving “all” school employees an equal percentage raise. In the past they have provided a particular percentage for “teachers” and another percentage for “all other educators.” This is progress. Your union has worked for years to ensure “all” public school employees are treated equally. This addition to our raises passed the full Senate and is on the Governor’s desk.

Another important word when addressing raises is “average.” When the Legislature includes the word average, your union has more leeway to negotiate wages based on needs of educators and perhaps address some of the compaction issues that raising the minimums have created.

Raising minimum EA salaries to $25,000 is a step in the right direction for adequately paying our classified colleagues. We are hopeful that this will help attract and retain EAs across the state. This is an annual goal of your local and state unions. We will continue to advocate for increases to all classified staff minimums. This bill is awaiting the signature of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Progress on legislation can take some time. When it comes to lobbying and advocating for the best interests of our educators and students, your union is tenacious. Since AFT NM President Christine Trujillo was first elected to the House in 2013, she has worked to expand the definition of National Board Certified Teacher to include counselors, administrators and other educators who hold NBCT certification. In recent years, Reps. Sariñana, Ferrary, and others have joined her in this quest. We hope that counselors’ and administrators’ ability to receive this hard-earned stipend for their commitment to professional excellence will further enhance our state’s efforts to attract and retain these critical staff. The ATF will continue to advocate for getting educators paid adequately for your advanced credentials. This bill is on its final reading before being voted on by the whole Senate.

HB 126/a that would change High School graduation requirements is expected to come up for a vote on the Senate Floor this week. Your union has long advocated for Career and Technical Education credits to count toward graduation requirements. The inclusion of CTE in graduation credits will help reduce the drop-out rate, and give many students a head start on their careers. The ATF has written and advocated about this need for modernizing our high school graduation procedures. This bill is on its final reading in the Senate. We’d like to thank ATF member Representative G. Andrés Romero for his work on this bill.

We know that it is imperative that students have their basic needs met before they can be ready to learn to their full potential. The ATF applauds Senators Michael Padilla and Leo Jaramillo for their bill to provide “healthy universal school meals” to all students in New Mexico. This bill is on the Governor’s desk.

The Omnibus Tax Bill (HB 547) is still being reviewed in Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee. This bill would provide financial help to New Mexico’s working families. It includes expanding the Child Tax Credit and a tax rebate for low-income workers both of which will improve the lives of the families we serve. There are also some increases in taxes on capital gains and alcohol and tobacco that will help to diversify our state’s revenue sources. However, this bill maintains the current tax rates of the wealthiest New Mexicans and large corporations. We will continue to work to ensure these groups pay their fair share.

We are heartened by the Legislature’s commitment to making our streets and our schools safer by passing Rep. Pamelya Herndon’s HB 9 to hold parents responsible for allowing minors access to firearms. Hopefully, this bill will encourage firearms owners to safely store weapons, so they don’t end up in the hands of our students. The Governor has signaled that she will sign this into law.

As we all know, democracy is built on compromise and none of us gets everything we want. Although your union has made it abundantly clear that we believe the state should consider other spending priorities, like increased staffing, instead of simply increasing the school year, the Legislature passed an amended version of HB 130. It is now on the Governor’s desk.

This bill increases elementary schools to 1,140 hours of instructional time with 60 hours of professional time embedded. The amended version of this bill increases instructional time for middle and high schools to 1,140 hours with 30 of those hours being devoted to professional duties. It adds 30 more hours of professional time to the 1,140. This, of course equals 1,170 becoming the minimum work time for secondary educators in New Mexico.

Now, it’s time for negotiations so that your union can advocate for the most appropriate use of educators’ time under these new minimums. Educators are already inundated with work. Our mission will be to get you paid for as much of the work you’re already doing as possible.


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