SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – School districts across the state continue to struggle with teacher vacancies but the Santa Fe school district has now declared their staffing shortage a “crisis.” The Santa Fe School Board unanimously passed a staffing-crisis resolution on Thursday night. The resolution outlines a number of priorities including higher pay and more affordable housing for educators in Santa Fe.
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They say if something isn’t done soon, the situation will only get worse. “Some of our teachers, if it’s not addressed immediately, are considering not returning back the following school year. It was a 50% return rate of the 400 surveys that were taken by the membership,” said Superintendent for Santa Fe Public Schools Hilario Chavez said.
The Santa Fe school district says staffing vacancies are down about 5% right now, which doesn’t sound like a lot but when the staff that is there gets sick or has to quarantine, it puts a burden on other employees. There are not enough substitutes and other staff members have to pick up the slack to cover classes.
Some schools have even had to combine grades. The resolution would allow for the creation of a task force made up of groups like the Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition to address affordable housing. According to the resolution, Santa Fe rental prices are at least $150 higher than the rest of New Mexico.
“We’re seeing a lot of people moving from the pandemic we’re seeing real estate prices that are going super high and the fact is when we have the mismatch between pay and what it costs to live in a place, it’s making it worse,” said Kate Noble, president of the SFPS Board of Education.
District leaders say they also want to see at least a 10% boost in teachers’ starting pay over the next legislative session. Right now, it’s about $40,000 and the district wants to see it get to around $45,000.
Other priorities outlined in the resolution include no cuts to state education spending, a return to work program for retired teachers and improving child care options for Santa Fe Public School staff. The school board hopes to get approval from the city council and county commission later this month.