PED secretary addresses educator shortage, inequities

Education

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico Public Education Department’s secretary is laying out his goals to address education inequities. A hot topic at a legislative education meeting on Monday was the long-standing teacher shortage.


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It was an hours-long meeting that kicked off with lawmakers asking a student panel what changes should be made to improve learning in schools. They all agreed that teachers need more support. “Teachers aren’t supported by their administration or given any emotional support while in the classroom,” Pojoaque Valley High School Student Joshua Wheat explained.

“I think that takes a toll on them and discourages teachers from continuing to teach or going into the teaching field,” Dylan Lincoln of Santa Fe High School added.

The students also mentioned the need for mental health services, especially after a COVID year that included stress from learning loss and social isolation. They also want better internet infrastructure, citing poor connections in classrooms.

PED Secretary Designate Dr. Kurt Steinhaus then listed the work being done since he took over in August and his ongoing priorities. The former Los Alamos schools superintendent said that includes pushing New Mexico to be the fastest-growing state for academic achievement, with new social studies standards on the way.

Dr. Steinhaus also likes to see the state lead the region for average salaries and working conditions to help close the gap on hundreds of educator vacancies.

“I’m just going to round off here. We’ve gone from 500 vacancies to over a thousand, and that’s not acceptable. We have got to figure out a way to fill those vacancies,” Dr. Steinhaus stated.

The PED has drafted its long-awaited and court-ordered Yazzie-Martinez Action Plan that guarantees all public school students the opportunity to be college and career-ready. The public will have a chance to weigh in on it later this month. The PED hasn’t made the draft public yet but hopes to finalize the plan ahead of the legislative session in January.

There was no timeline given for all of these priorities.

The PED’s current agency budget is about $17 million. They’ll be asking the state legislature for about $6.6 million more for the fiscal year 2023, according to Dr. Steinhaus’ presentation.

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