Efforts by teachers union mystifying - Albuquerque Journal

Efforts by teachers union mystifying

The Albuquerque Teachers Federation (ATF), New Mexico’s largest teachers union and affiliate of AFT NM, constantly beats the drum for higher teacher pay.

This is what any good union does for its members. Included as part of “What We Stand For,” ATF writes, “Educators need compensation comparable to others with similar education and experience levels.”

Teachers work hard and deserve better pay. I fully agree. As a former union teacher and the child of a lifelong ATF member, I’m on board.

Why then has ATF/AFT leadership worked so hard to squash multiple bills that provide our hard-working teachers what they deserve?

I believe unions remain an important countervailing force in our country. I also believe that demanding smarter, better unions is not anti-union. I expect more and better from those I most admire.

This past week alone AFT/ATF leadership went against organizations from all perspectives, including many traditional allies: National Education Association, School Boards Association, Coalition of Charter Schools, Superintendents Association, Teach Plus NM, NMPED, NMKidsCAN, Las Cruces Public Schools, Gallup McKinley County Schools, Farmington Schools, Think New Mexico and Lovington Public Schools.

Are you as confused as I am? OK good, because I’m left scratching my head at yet another regressive stance from a so-called “progressive” organization.

In what universe is a potential raise for teachers (HB 310), an additional pathway for career advancement (HB 177), and directing more money to classrooms (HB 180) a bad thing?

Welcome to the “upside down” that is Albuquerque public education, and the undue influence that it has through the entire state.

On Saturday ATF/AFT leadership stood as the lone opposition to HB 310, which provided increases for starting teacher salaries at all levels, a raise for all licensed and non-licensed school staff, and $5 million for teacher recruitment.

Afterward they issued a statement calling the bill an “unfunded mandate.” More misleading jargon to justify the indefensible. The real problem is their view of education as a zero-sum game and their scorched-earth approach to anyone who doesn’t “fall in line.”

They also stood against HB 177, the “Level Three Teacher and License Salary” bill. Put simply, HB 177 allowed our best educators to progress in their careers without jumping through hurdles that have little direct impact on student learning, like a master’s degree.

This would have been a win/win for our teachers and, especially, for our students.

Lastly, they rallied against HB 180, a bill developed from research conducted by the highly respected Think New Mexico. HB180 called for NMPED to implement an advanced data collection system to save districts time and money.

It also sought to establish voluntary minimums for what percentage of a district’s budget goes to instructional or school-based spending. Both parts of the bill sought to ensure more of the roughly $2.6 billion – $3 billion if you include federal funds – we spend on K-12 education annually gets to classrooms.

So why is AFT/ATF leadership so willing to go against the best interests of its own members?

Efforts to defeat all three of these bills are mystifying unless you understand two things:

First, their undying hatred for our teacher evaluation system, NMTeach. This despite strong evidence that treating all teachers the same is harmful to both educators and students. Good and great teachers deserve recognition; struggling teachers deserve support.

Second, ATF/AFT leadership secures its outsized power by conjuring boogeymen and fighting like hell against anyone or anything that doesn’t fit their narrow, dated ideas.

They have a problem for every solution. And the reality is their views are increasingly ideological and archaic.

Though efforts on these three bills stalled out this year, I hope to see them again next January. And, if ATF/AFT leadership can’t keep up with the best interests of its own teachers and our students, it’s time for new leaders with a fresh vision for the decade ahead.

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