Correction issued below.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – For the past 15 years, Albuquerque Public Schools has dipped into its own budget to make sure they’re giving more than a basic salary to its 800 school counselors, social workers, nurses, and other support staff. It’s a cost they believe the state should be picking up so they can divert some of that money to other needs.
“I don’t want to be completely critical of the legislature, but this is a serious need,” Barbara Petersen, an APS School Board member said. “And it would let the districts have much more flexibility in implementing the programs we need and giving teachers the time and resources for professional development that they need. All of those things that just become tighter and tighter and harder to fund. It would just open up a door.”
When talking about improving education, most of the talk has been about attracting and retaining teachers. But Petersen says there needs to be more of a focus on the others who help kids each and every day.
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“We already struggle with having full staffing and so if we don’t recognize with salary, the need for counselors, social workers, all of those folks, we won’t be able to hire them,” Petersen said.
She says this has been an ongoing battle. It puts districts statewide in a bind and adds stress to their budgets.
This year, teachers got an average 20% raise but counselors, nurses, social workers, and others only got 7% funded by the legislature. APS has had to fork out 13% to bridge that gap, spending 4 million alone this year to make sure they offered equal wages.
KRQE News 13 reached out to the Public Education Department about this. They said the legislature set the minimum salary for school counselors holding a level 3 or 3A license as the same for level 3A teachers. Beyond statutory minimums, salary decisions are left to each district and charter to determine in accordance with the local budget.
Correction: In a previous version of this story KRQE News 13 reported that the Public Education Department said there is currently no statutory minimum salary for school counselors as there is for teachers. Those decisions are left to each district and it would be up to the legislature to approve more money for those salaries.
The article has since been updated with the new information, they provided the following statement below:
The legislature this year set the minimum salary for school counselors holding a level 3 or 3A license as the same for level 3A teachers. Beyond statutory minimums, salary decisions are left to each district and charter to determine in accordance with the local budget. However, the New Mexico Public Education Department considers school counselors a vital part of the professional educational team at any school. In addition to providing academic and vocational guidance, they help individual students and their school communities deal with behavioral, psychological, and social issues. We believe they should be appropriately compensated for this important work, and we hope every district and charter school will do so.