SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico educators are demanding help from lawmakers to address a statewide teacher shortage during a rally held Sunday, Jan. 23 in Santa Fe. Members of the National Education Association Union, parents, students, and community members met outside the state’s capital asking for legislators’ help. The coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on all departments in education. 

Educators say with so many teachers retiring they need better working conditions to get more people into education. Grace Mayer is the NEA Santa Fe president and an art teacher. “Not enough folks are going into the field because of the low wages and the unrealistic expectations and some of the public education mandates that we need to sort of rein in,” said Mayer.

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At the rally outside of the state capitol, teachers called on lawmakers for higher wages, affordable housing and childcare, health care, and resources for their classrooms. Becky Pringle, the NEA president shares, “The educators here in New Mexico love their students and they want to make sure that they have everything they need and deserve so they are safe and they can continue to learn.”

The NEA says there are more than 1,000 vacant teaching positions in the state and a need for more support professionals. One young student from Santa Fe shares what she wants lawmakers to remember the needs of students. “Don’t forget kids need teachers to stay all year long. Don’t forget kids who need bus drivers and nurses,” she says. 

Union leaders say too many students are without access to trained educators. They’re pushing what they call the “three R’s”. Mary Parr-Sanchez, President of NEA NM explains, “We must respect, recruit and retain educators in our state by closing the salary gap between educators and other professions.”

The NEA says the state’s teacher shortage represents more than 20,000 New Mexico students without a well-trained, permanent teacher in the classroom. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is pushing for a seven percent raise for all education personnel during this year’s legislative session.